A/N: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I don't own anything. Not even Boozeward. He belongs to the fab ladies at WArehab and they can do whatever they want with him (except allow him anywhere near water or feed him after midnight). Thanks so much for all your kind words and encouragement!
"I called my dad today," Lauren began, her hair almost platinum in the glow of the fluorescent light. She looked down as she fiddled with her nails, shrugging. "He hung up on me, but—I think—well, it took him longer than usual? And I figure maybe I'm making some headway, you know? Does that... does it sound stupid to think that?"
I could recognize her optimistic, yet weary expression. I'd felt it so many times. We all shook our heads silently, a few select people murmuring their customary "give-him-time" and "Rome-wasn't-built-in-one-day" assurances. She'd heard it before, but a weak smile tugged at her lips as she folded her hands in her lap.
The room went silent as we all looked down into our cups of coffee, waiting for the next person to begin.
Jasper cleared his throat, and we all raised our eyes, waiting. "I'm kind of seeing someone," he softly announced.
"Who's the lucky girl?" Lauren asked, smiling excitedly. She loved hearing the happy stories.
He scratched at his eyebrow, unable to fight the badly suppressed grin that spread across his face. I could almost detect a tinge of pink. "Um, just someone I met through a friend. You'd like her. She's a really… happy person." He nodded thoughtfully into his cup of coffee, taking a pensive sip before he added in a lower voice, "She makes me a happy person."
Tyler chimed in, clapping him on the back. "That's some epic shit."
We all nodded our agreement as Jasper shrugged. "I was just thinking how…" His eyes darkened as he shifted in his seat. We were all listening with rapt attention because Jasper was a man of few words. When he spoke, it was significant. "We're keeping it secret. Her family… they wouldn't approve—of me. Not that I could blame them or anything, but—"He halted his ramble with a puff of frustrated air, finishing curtly, "It's sort of frustrating."
Carlisle hummed gently, one arm over his chest, the other holding his cup gingerly. "Of course that'd be frustrating, Jasper—to be happy and have to hide the source of it."
Everyone silently agreed.
Except Jasper, who shook his head, muttering, "I'll probably end up fucking it up anyway. I guess it'll be easier, the less people that know." He looked downright despondent now.
The room was silent for many moments.
Carlisle's sigh was yielding. "Maybe you've learned from your mistakes? Maybe this person just isn't ready to commit themselves to a relationship with someone in recovery? Maybe her family will see you for who you are and not who you once were? Nothing is certain, Jasper. Not even your failure. Don't lose faith so easily."
When Jasper offered only a sad smile and a roll of his eyes, we considered that discussion appropriately fizzled. It'd come up again. It was a shock to me, that's for sure. I eyed Jasper over my cup with a questioning expression, but he was avoiding my gaze. Carlisle then took a deep breath and turned to me, smiling encouragingly as he cupped his jaw.
I didn't mind airing out my shit to these people. I'd been doing it for almost a year now, coming to these meetings and growing familiar with stories that were occasionally worse than mine, occasionally better. It was never a contest. It was usually just discussion with a lot of struggling people. I hated admitting that it helped—at first. But not anymore. I didn't have the time or energy to waste on pride or bitterness.
With a breath, I pondered over my month and eventually began, "Uh, well… I didn't get that job over at Northam's." Everyone frowned sympathetically, but I shrugged a shoulder, reasoning, "Hey, I wasn't even expecting to get it. I'm pretty sure I fucked the foreman's daughter…" I grimaced as they chuckled, Jasper snorting.
Yeah, I'd fucked his daughter, but in my defense, I didn't even remember it—not really. I remembered the way her hair had swept over my face as she rode me. It was blonde and had felt like a silk halo of girl. I actually referred to her as, "Long blonde, John Frieda, straight as a board." Mr. Northam was confused. Knowing her name might have saved me a lot of grief.
God, Forks was so small.
"Anyway, I'm looking into something up here in Port Angeles, so If you know anyone who's hiring..." I flashed them all a wry grin as Carlisle visibly suppressed his eye roll.
He'd been trying to get me on at the hospital for months, but I wouldn't take it. Getting a job was something I needed to do myself, and it had nothing to do with pride. I already lived under his roof, ate his food, and used Esme's car. I'd accepted enough of his help. The point was to use his generosity as tools, not crutches.
Jasper piped in then, finally raising his eyes. "I'll keep my ear out for ya."
I smiled, offering a small, "Thanks."
The slap of Carlisle's hands against his thighs signaled the end of the meeting, and we all stood, stretching our limbs and cracking our necks.
After a quick recital of the Serenity Prayer, we all disbursed, with some going to the refreshment table to devour the surplus donuts, some meeting with their sponsors, and others simply leaving with amicable nods.
This was a good group—definitely the best I'd been to. It was solid and dependable, and Jasper, my sponsor, was good people. Sure, he was as fucked up as the rest of us, but if I ever found myself stuck on Second and Lafayette, parked in front of ABC Liquor, he'd be there to talk me down before I could even hang up the cell phone. Those favors were always returned in kind, of course.
It was all Carlisle, really. He'd set these meetings up in the basement of St. Mary's for every Tuesday. He was devoted to seeing it through, to helping people. Carlisle had never been an alcoholic himself. In the past, people had looked down on this particular group for that reason alone.
They wondered how he could preach to them if he'd never experienced the addiction. But what they didn't realize was that Carlisle had experienced the effects of addiction, just from the other side. He probably knew it better than most of the addicts. Addicts were assholes who rarely stuck around to witness the destruction they caused anyway. Carlisle had seen how alcoholism could violently rip a family apart. He knew because his son was an alcoholic and had spent years upon years of his life causing those grey hairs by pushing him around and making his life miserable.
It could have killed Carlisle. Hell, it probably did to an extent—not that he'd ever allow anyone to actually see. But Carlisle wouldn't just lie down and accept defeat like that. Unlike Lauren's father, he never gave up, and as a result, he was more than qualified to be leading these meetings. He knew just as much about the monster as anyone.
He knew because he was the monster's father.
He knew because he was my father.
I used to loathe waking up. I was a hangover magnet. No matter how hydrated I'd always kept myself, I'd always ended up feeling absolutely miserable come morning—or afternoon—or evening. Those were probably some of my darkest moments: waking up in some random woman's bed—or in my own bed with said random woman next to me—head throbbing, muscles aching, wondering what the hell I'd done the night before and knowing that I'd probably pissed someone off in the process.
The sex was usually mediocre—I think.
Hair was all I ever remembered about it because it felt feminine and delicate, and I'd never in my entire life had sex sober. How sad was that? After so long, it was impossible not to immediately associate hair with sex, so it was the only feature of a woman I ever cared about. Sadly, when I'd awake sober and begin actually meeting the faces the hair belonged to, I'd be disgusted with myself for not being more discerning. Those thoughts always left me impossibly more depressed.
You had your angry drunks (Jasper), your silly drunks (James), your promiscuous drunks (Lauren), and your depressed drunks (everybody). I just so happened to be all of those types of drunks, depending on the time of day. Nothing was worse than mornings, though. I used to hate them, so fucking much.
Of course now, I woke up completely refreshed and clear-headed. It was like night and day, black and white. The first time I ever woke up without a hangover, I knew I was on to something. It was pretty pathetic that it'd taken me so long to realize that my one source of true joy was also my one source of true misery.
Energized by the time my feet hit the carpet, I'd left mornings like those behind. I had taken to doing push-ups when I woke up, and after weeks of the routine, I was now up to fifty. I liked feeling productive and helping around the house, looking for jobs during nine-to-five. I liked making Esme smile.
I owed her twelve years' worth of them.
I made my bed afterward because even though I was thirty-year-old man, I could always expect Esme to want to come in here and pick up after me. Sometimes, I'd let her because she didn't have anything else to do. She also enjoyed getting some of those years back that I'd selfishly stolen from her.
I stretched as I traveled to my closet and opened the door, examining the black marker scrawled over the entire length of the wood. I scratched my jaw absently as I removed my Sharpie from the shelf, searching for one Mr. Jenks. Once I found his name, I crouched down, uncapped the marker, and reverently eased the felt tip over it.
There was no better feeling in the world than crossing out someone on my list in the morning. Sounds cheesy as hell, I know, but making amends over the last twelve months had been a lot like healing one wound at a time—wounds I hadn't even realized existed. All those mornings I'd spent in bed, waking up feeling like shit, convinced that it'd never be possible to get back in anyone's good graces, and here I was, crossing out Mr. Jenks since I'd finally grown the balls to call last night and apologize for breaking into his first law firm office. It'd been a rundown little establishment, and James and I had really done a number on it. I'd known Mr. Jenks since I was little, so it'd always kind of stuck with me that I'd managed to cause him trouble with my reckless behavior.
It also helped that the statute of limitations prevented him from pressing charges.
I stepped back and assessed the list written across my door. I did this every morning, but on the ones where I'd manage to actually cross someone out, it felt as if another piece of my individual self had settled back into place. The pieces were jagged and not always familiar, but they were there and, fuck, that was something.
Really, the size of the list was a little laughable. Just because I couldn't remember many of my indiscretions didn't mean that I never found out about them. Like I said, Forks was a small town. Ever wanna feel awkward as shit? Go up to a complete stranger and say you're sorry for stealing their money after you'd fucked them, but do so only being able to recognize their hair. Then call them something like, "Pantene Pro-V, shiny, brunette with annoying ponytail." I'd had more of those interactions than I'd thought possible.
I sighed as I reached the bottom of the list. Every other name had been crossed out, but this one… this one was special to me. It went back to the roots of that fork in the road. I can't say exactly where it all began, of course. Few could explain what put them on a destructive path because they were too busy taking the path to stop, look back, and even consider it.
I'd had a privileged childhood: great parents, awesome sister, boatloads of friends, and a good support system. Carlisle once mused that I had an addictive personality. Maybe that's true, and there was no stopping it—I don't fucking know.
But I do know when it all went downhill, and the final person on my list suffered for it.
I suffered for it.
Everyone suffered for it.
That one event could have pushed me in either polar direction. If I'd been a better person, had been a better man, I could have used that experience to sober myself up then. That was what sobering experiences were meant to do. But it didn't. I pushed myself farther down that other, darker path, because it was where I'd been convinced I had belonged—among the monsters of the world.
It was an instinct I still struggled with, to this day.
With a huff, I capped the Sharpie and closed the door. That was something that would likely never get crossed off my list, however, and for good reason. Chief Swan's daughter had moved to Jacksonville after that day, and for the last twelve years, he'd refused to cough up any kind of contact information.
"She just wants to move on," he'd said once. "And you're going to let her."
After so long, I'd given up. I accepted that which I couldn't change. Isabella Swan was probably living her life, married with kids or something, and perfectly happy. Believing this made me happy, and so I'd let it go.
But she'd never be crossed off my list, and even at that moment, as I stood under the shower and felt a sense of completion for having crossed out the next to last name scrawled on my closet door, hers would always remain there—a reminder of that piece of myself that I could never reclaim.
"Why won't you stop being so proud?" Esme asked, pouting at me gently over the breakfast bar as I guzzled a glass of orange juice.
I rolled my eyes. "It's not pride," I promised, shoving a spoonful of cereal into my mouth.
"Not to say that he'd be putting any pressure on you, but he trusts you with the position," she persisted, eyes hopeful.
"See," I began, pointing the spoon at her dramatic frown. "You think that I think that you two don't trust me, but it's not about that." I already knew they didn't trust me. "Finding a job will mean more to me when I do it myself. And I will," I added, "do it myself."
She harrumphed and spun on her heel, halting at the doorway when the phone rang. She picked it up and mock-glared at me as she answered.
I just smirked. Carlisle knew better than to pester me about the job at the hospital. He knew that sometimes, a man just needed to have that peace of mind. Esme, however, was not so easily deterred.
"What?" Esme's stricken voice drew my attention. Her hand flew to her chest and she stood, phone to her ear, face pale as she gasped. "Oh, Carlisle—that—that's so awful!"
"What?" I asked, seeing her eyes sparkle with tears. It was like getting punched in the stomach. I hated seeing Esme cry. Even at my worst, that secretly did me in. I couldn't handle a crying woman period, but when it was my own mother, it was like… damn. Just stab me in the chest, why don't you?
She put her hand over the receiver and whispered to me, "Chief Swan died last night."
My orange juice caught in my throat as I swallowed, watching her cry over the phone. I listened as she made floral arrangements for the service that was to be held the following afternoon, my cereal marshmallows bobbing morbidly in my bowl of abandoned milk.
I felt sick.
My parents had been somewhat close to the Chief after the incident in high school with his daughter. They felt responsible, since they were responsible for me, and had made it a point to keep in close contact with him after she'd left. I'd resented them for it for a long time because I could never really get far enough away from that one mistake. It was always right there, staring at me through the faces of my family—a flash of their eyes or a tightening of their lips.
But I guess I was a little close with the Chief, too. Not in a friendly, buddy-buddy sort of way. He never would have even allowed me through his door. But there were those days where I'd be sober enough to draft a letter to his daughter in hopes that it'd make it to her, desperate for her to at least know that I was sorry. I'd camp out his front stoop and wait for him to emerge, usually armed.
I'd pretty much beg and grovel at his feet for a good ten minutes until I'd give up and wander away, leaving the letter on his steps. I'd then find the nearest bar and wallow heavily in my guilt amongst the monsters that surrounded me, where I belonged. Those stints were always pretty bad.
Chief Swan found me on his steps one Friday night—probably all gross and disheveled, I don't even know what I looked like, but it must have been pretty bad because he said to me, "Son, I don't know why I even bother bringing my gun out here. You're already doing a pretty good job of killing yourself for the both of us." Then he'd slammed the door in my face.
He'd been right about that.
He'd been right about a lot of things.
"Do you believe in signs?" I asked Carlisle the next afternoon as we ate a quick lunch, winding down from our day. Mine had been spent in a bit of a stupor as I'd followed up on my final employment prospect in Forks. I'd already exhausted all the others. Luckily for me, Mike Newton didn't have a wife. What he did have was a sporting goods store that needed a stocker.
"Signs? Like divine intervention?" he clarified, taking a bite of his sandwich.
I nodded, wondering aloud, "I was just thinking about Chief Swan yesterday morning and how I'd never get to cross his daughter off my list. Then—well, maybe it could be a sign. She'd come for the funeral, right?" I looked to him, hopeful and anxious as fuck all. It was one thing to write letters and another to come face to face with her.
Carlisle frowned thoughtfully. "Of course she'd come to the funeral, but, Edward, I really don't think that's the time and place for you to—"
"Oh, no," I interrupted. "I get that. I wouldn't bumrush her or anything. Maybe she'll stick around town for a day or so," I pondered.
He simply hummed in response, but I could detect the tightness around his eyes as he avoided my stare. I knew my own father well enough to realize when he was hiding something.
"Don't make me ask," I implored with a sigh. "You know what this means for me."
Finally meeting my gaze, he palmed his cheek, assessing me. "You know how your sister gossips, so it's information that I'd take with a grain of salt." I nodded. Leaning forward, Carlisle informed, "Word has it that she refuses to sell his house. One could venture that she plans to move in, but…" He let his words permeate the air with uncertainty.
My stomach was already in knots.
"Grain of salt," he warned, returning to his meal and eying me sharply. "Even if she did move, it doesn't mean that it'd be a good idea. Remember? Make direct amends to such people wherever possible—"
"—except when to do so would injure them or others. I get it," I finished with a scowl at my plate.
"One day at a time," he reminded, wiping his mouth and swiftly changing the subject. "How'd Newton's go?"
I puffed out a hard sigh and cocked my head, listing off, "Application? Check. Driving Record? Check. Awkward conversations with people who hate me? Check, check, and check." I ignored his blatantly disapproving expression. It wasn't that I was being pessimistic, it was just that—Newton only knew a different version of me. I couldn't blame him. "I don't think I'll wait by the phone, if you know what I mean." Then it was my turn to change the subject. "Jasper said he'd come to Sunday dinner."
As expected, Carlisle was easily distracted, and he smiled. "That's good. You know how Esme worries about him." He was relieved, so I figured that my mom had been harping about Jasper since the last time he'd been invited to dinner.
He was, according to her, "Too skinny."
A/N: Heh. Probably not the time leap most of you were expecting, but age was the main request of the prompt, so… the HS scene was my way of cheating. ~looks innocent~ Everyone's asking about length, and I'm pretty confident this'll be 13 chapters.
Also, I must address that this chapter uncovers some similarities to TalulaBlue's, With Teeth. I'd written most of this story before it was brought to my attention, but after much correspondence, TalulaBlue (who is so incredibly sweet and awesome omg) and I were confident that, though our stories shared the AA/Jasper-sponsor thing, our plots were light-years apart. Definitely check out her fic for a different and truly captivating take on Rehabward. Remove Spaces: twilighted viewstory . php?sid=7061
Thanks to Pastiche and FrenchBeanz for the beta and Angel for, not only bringing With Teeth to my attention and being present for my freak out, but also for being her awesome self. If you're looking for a creepy DarkVampward AU, read her fic, Daedalus in Exile (listed in my faves on my profile). It's getting soooo good, guise.
See y'all Sunday!