The weekend was one of those rare, picturesque, beautiful summer days. The sky was a bright, clear, blue with only a smattering of clouds to interrupt it. The trees seemed that much greener against the skyline and the pale mountains.
It was the perfect day for a hunt and, had things been different, Carlisle would have eagerly joined his family.
As it was Carlisle remained in the house alone. Esme, a reluctant scowling Alice, and a non-plussed Jasper had all left early this morning. Edward would be joining them shortly, delaying only to drop Bella off with Carlisle for their weekend alone.
They were late.
Edward had wanted Bella here early, by eight o' clock, he'd said. He wanted Carlisle to have time to ease into it if need be or else to properly romance the girl. He wanted the weekend to be a full weekend for the pair of them.
However, it was already nine, something clearly had not gone according to plan.
Had Charlie Swan balked at the idea of Bella spending the night with Alice, Bella's typical excuse for extended stays at the Cullen residence? Perhaps.
Charlie Swan had liked Edward well enough in the beginning, but after Edward had abandoned Bella in the middle of the woods and callously broken her heart in half, telling Bella that "he'd gotten bored", he'd understandably soured on the boy. To this day, Edward was still bitter about the fact that Chief Swan had not let him back into his good graces and thought he wasn't good enough for his daughter. Carlisle could only think that you reaped what you sowed and that he should be grateful Bella had forgiven him if not her father.
As for Alice, the chief wasn't too keen on her either. Alice wasn't hated with quite the same venom as Edward Cullen, who had the nerve to break Bella's heart, summon her to Italy on a moment's notice, and then get back together with her right under Charlie Swan's nose, but Charlie Swan wasn't as fond of her as he once was.
Before, from what Carlisle understood, Alice had been one of Bella's few female friends, perhaps the closest she'd ever had. However, when Alice had refused to answer any of Bella's many emails or phone calls for seemingly no reason—Charlie Swan now tolerated her, but he didn't exactly like her.
Charlie likely imagined that with the wedding so close and Edward conveniently in the same house as Bella, Edward would simply use it as excuse to take advantage of her.
There was a deep, horrible, irony in that.
However, around nine-thirty Carlisle realized that this must not be the issue. Charlie had given up the fight against Edward long ago. Like it or not, Edward Cullen had won, Bella was marrying him, and if Charlie wanted to be a part of his daughter's life he had to grin and bear it.
That meant if Bella was announcing that she was going to spend the weekend with Alice, then she was going to spend the weekend with Alice, even if both she and Charlie thought that "a weekend with Alice" translated to "sex with Edward".
Every time Carlisle thought about it, he just wanted to melt into the floor with mortification. As much as he loved Edward, he couldn't blame Charlie Swan, he couldn't blame him at all.
So, if it wasn't her father, what could be holding her up?
Perhaps it was the explanation, Carlisle thought with sudden amazement. Some part of him hadn't thought Edward would bother explaining. Carlisle could picture all too easily Edward lying through his teeth, dropping the girl off on the doorstep, and then tearing off before Bella could get a word in and leaving Carlisle to numbly explain.
Edward being forced to explain left too much of a chance that Bella would say no.
That would explain the hour and a half delay, Carlisle thought, it'd taken him longer than that to wrap his head around the whole scheme. At this rate, Bella might not show up at all, perhaps Edward telling her would be the cue they needed to actually talk to one another.
Carlisle felt as if a weight had lifted off his shoulders.
He'd give it another hour or so, maybe call Edward to check in, and then he could head out and hunt with the others.
It was right about when he had that thought that Edward proved him wrong.
Carlisle could hear a car flying down the two-lane road at a speed only the Cullens drove at. With Rosalie out of town there was only one person who could possibly be at the wheel. Sure enough, it tore into the driveway, screeched to a halt just before crashing into the garage.
The car doors opened, there was the sound of footsteps, and the excited beating of a human heart. When the door to the house opened a gentle breeze from outside wafted in. The air suddenly smelled of freesias and lilacs, nervous human excitement and the slightest hint of anticipatory arousal.
She'd just showered, Carlisle thought, he could smell the shampoo in her hair. However, it wasn't just that, she'd blow dried it as well and though it was hard to detect from the kitchen, he swore he caught a whiff of mascara, lipstick, and blush.
The hour and a half, apparently, had been spent with Bella giving herself a makeover.
… That probably meant that she and Edward hadn't spent any of it talking.
Carlisle put his head into his hands, forcing himself to wait in agonized anticipation, while Edward and Bella walked towards him.
"Should I put my bag upstairs?" Bella asked, her voice shaking ever so slightly with that barely contained nervousness.
"I can do it," Edward said, far more self-assured sounding than her, as he took the bag from her.
No need for nervousness from him, his role was almost over.
"You shouldn't have to carry my crap all the time just because you're superman," Bella chided, her voice teasing, "I feel bad making you carry everything, carry me, everywhere."
"Ah, but Bella, what else is my superhuman strength good for?" Edward asked, and you could hear the cocky grin in his words.
"I don't know," Bella responded, "Stopping vans?"
An intake of breath as Edward, so softly Carlisle could barely hear it, brushed his lips against her cheek, "I'll take it upstairs, Bella."
With that he rushed upstairs, dropped the bag in her bedroom, and rushed back down. To Bella it'd seem like nothing more than a sudden gust of wind. She giggled when he arrived back downstairs, sounding charmed, and asked, "So, what do we do now?"
And here, finally, Edward paused, "Bella, there's—there's something we need to talk about."
Carlisle looked up from his hands in horror. Oh no, Edward really hadn't told her anything.
"Don't tell me you're backing out now," Bella said, her tone switching to one of anger, exasperated frustration, and just a hint of despair, "We've been over this a billion times. You sucked venom out of my wrist for god's sake, you can do this! I know you can do this!"
"I can't do this! Trust me, I know what my limits are, and I can't—"
"We don't even kiss!" Bella shouted, "You peck me on the cheek sometimes or let me kiss your closed lips! The most we ever do is cuddle and sometimes hold fucking hands in public. You've gone to high school forever, Edward, I am not more fragile than your number two pencil!"
"You're not asking me to do something you would do with a pencil—"
"Yeah, I'm not, because that pencil gets more action than I do," Bella retorted.
They fell silent, Bella's clothing rustling as she crossed her arms. Carlisle could imagine, as she let out a sigh, her looking at the wall, "Edward, why did you invite me over here for a weekend? Victoria's ashes and you know the pack won't hurt me, so what is it this time?"
"I—" Edward cut himself off, audibly swallowed, and then said, "I think we should talk in the kitchen."
Carlisle let out an unsteady breath, that was his cue, he supposed.
Unfortunately, it seemed Bella wasn't willing to play along with Edward, "I think we can talk right here. Because, I'm warning you, Edward, if I don't like your answer I am grabbing my bag and walking out that door even if it means I have to walk all the way back home."
"Bella, don't be absurd, it's a two-lane road that barely has a shoulder, you can't—"
"I mean it, Edward," she insisted.
Edward paused for a moment and then decided to throw caution to the wind, "Bella, I agree that sex is a vital human experience and something you should know before you turn."
"Great," Bella responded dryly, "Glad we cleared that one up."
"It's a vital experience that I can't provide you," Edward continued, "I—I know I make it seem easy, but it's not. The slightest bit of carelessness on my part could leave you with a devastating injury. Sexual intercourse is not an activity known for its restraint. I could crush you, Bella, in an instant. There would be nothing left of you, just mash of broken bones, torn skin, and blood leaking out of you."
"All it would take," Edward concluded, "Is one single mistake. Just one, and you'd be gone, and I would still be here."
"Edward," Bella said softly, "Isn't that how we live already? You're so tempted by my blood, you've told me so. Even just sitting next to me in Biology could be enough. But where would we be if you weren't willing to try? There are things, Edward, that are worth risks."
"I shouldn't have tried," Edward said in growing despair, "I should have stayed away, then you could have had—"
"Enough about what I could have had!" Bella said, "I don't want that, I never wanted that, what I want is you. I'm joining your family, Edward, and I'll become just like you! We won't have to worry about my blood or about sex or about anything anymore. We'll be perfect."
"Vampirism will not make you perfect!" Edward hissed, "You are willingly turning yourself into a monster and—"
"You agreed to turn me! You agreed—"
"You could try to be a little less eager about it!"
"And what, be eager to slowly grow older while you stay the same, to end up your creepy cougar wife?"
"No, Bella, it wouldn't be like that—"
"How would it not be like that?" Bella asked, "You'd be off in high school and I'd be Stacy's Mom having it all going on. Living the dream with Esme, unable to even hold hands with you in public before someone calls Charlie for statutory rape."
"Bella, you're not thinking about this clearly—"
"All I know is that you don't seem to want me!" Bella shouted back.
Both of them seemed to be stunned into silence by that. As if Bella had just said something she wasn't supposed to say.
With the pause in conversation, Carlisle was beginning to feel like a voyeur. Edward knew he was here, but he was sure Bella had no idea. This wasn't a conversation he should be present for.
Carlisle eyed the backdoor, wondering if he could take the time to exit, if Edward would even let him.
Before he could move Bella was speaking again, "Edward, if I stay human, I'll die. Someday, I'll die, and I'll just be this brief moment in your life. Don't you—I thought you said you wanted me to stay forever."
"I do," Edward assured her, "Bella, I do, but—I would give anything to hold onto what we have now. You would stay as you are, human, your soul whole, but that doesn't mean I want you to become like me. Our lives are hard and lonely, you know this, and I'm touched that you've chosen to embrace life with me anyway. I'll turn you because I promised, because I have no choice, but I want a better life for you than this."
Bella said nothing but from her sniffling Carlisle could tell she was crying.
"I promise, we'll still be together after you turn, I will never leave unless you tell me to. But this wasn't why I brought you here."
Bella laughed through her tears, "Yeah, I guess we got a little off track, huh?"
"Just a little," Edward agreed.
"God," Bella said, "My mascara must be a mess. I never should have tried; I probably look like a clown."
"It was an admirable attempt," Edward consoled her.
"Goddammit, I really do look like a clown!" Bella cried out in despair, her voice muffled, as Edward undoubtedly handed her a tissue to dab the tears and ruined makeup away from her eyes.
There was a long pause as Bella tried to correct her makeup. Too long of a pause, as Edward was undoubtedly gearing up to one thing.
Carlisle stiffened again, here it came, his cue.
"I've thought about sex and—and I believe I have a compromise," Edward finished with growing confidence.
"A compromise?" Bella laughed, "Does that mean what I think it means?"
Carlisle was sure that Bella was imagining the intimate contact and foreplay that often led to sexual intercourse. In which case, no, no it did not mean what Bella thought it meant.
"Perhaps," Edward said coyly.
Carlisle nearly hit his head on the counter.
No, Edward, no, Carlisle found himself thinking in despair. You know what Bella's thinking, you know exactly what she's thinking, and you can't build her up and then drop what you really mean on her.
Either Edward didn't hear him or chose to ignore him, "Come with me to the kitchen, Bella, and I'll explain everything."
"The kitchen, eh?" Bella asked with growing, sly, mirth, "Is this going to involve chocolate sauce and whipped cream?"
Carlisle was choking on his own despair.
Edward paused after only taking a step towards the kitchen, "I suppose it could."
"You were right," Bella said as she started walking to the kitchen, "I don't expect you to do anything like that with your number two pencil."
"I should hope not," Edward said, a shudder of disgust running through his voice, "Not to mention chocolate for me is not the same as chocolate for you."
"Hey, that just means more chocolate for Bella," Bella said.
And then, finally, the walked into the kitchen.
Carlisle lifted his head and tried to offer the pair a smile and a wave.
Bella, did indeed, look something like a clown. More accurately, she'd overdone it with the blush, mascara, and deep red lipstick and looked more like one of the women you'd see selling herself on a street corner.
To Carlisle's knowledge, Bella had never done her own makeup before, and it showed.
Edward smiled at the sight of Carlisle, Bella, however, gaped at him in shock.
She lifted her hand numbly to wave, "Hello Dr. Cullen."
Carlisle felt his smile become even more strained, couldn't help his eyes wandering to Edward, who tried not to look surprised by Bella's greeting. Oh god, was Edward going to try and get her to sleep with a man she called 'Dr. Cullen'?
"Edward," Bella said quietly through her smile, likely hoping she was quiet enough Carlisle wouldn't overhear, "What is this?"
"The compromise," Edward said, motioning to Carlisle in all his glory.
Carlisle really felt he was missing that birthday cake entrance.
"I don't get it," Bella responded, giving up on the pretense of being quiet as she looked between Carlisle and Edward and back again.
"Bella, I can't sleep with you," Edward assured her, taking her hand carefully in his, "But there's someone with even better control than I have, someone who will treat you—"
"No," Bella said in horror, repeating, "Oh my god, no."
"Bella, please listen—"
"Bella, you told me this was the one experience you wanted to have human! You didn't care about high school, college, marriage, or anything else except this one thing—"
"I thought about this a long time—"
"I even talked to Alice, and she said the chances with me were—they're not good, Bella, in fact they're so terrible your survival would be practically a miracle. With Carlisle though—"
"—The chances are much better, in fact, he likely won't even bruise you. Carlisle can give you what I can't, and I don't trust anyone more."
Bella seemed to be out of words, instead, she looked over at Carlisle in dull horror. Carlisle was sure he was mirroring her expression. This was so much worse than he could have ever imagined.
"Both Carlisle and Esme agreed to it," Edward piped in with a smile, "They even agreed to our wedding night and honeymoon if all goes well."
Bella kept her eyes on Carlisle and simply asked, "Did you agree to this?"
Carlisle rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, desperately looked out the window, and murmured, "Yes."
Even though what he meant, of course, was "Unfortunately."
Edward glared across at him, undoubtedly having caught that last thought, but pushed a numb Bella over towards Carlisle. He sat her down in the seat next to him at the counter and backed away slowly, hands held in front of him as if framing a picture.
Bella said nothing, just kept staring straight ahead, looking far beyond Edward and the rest of the kitchen.
"There, you'll enjoy this, Bella, I promise," Edward said gleefully, "Carlisle can give you everything I can't while you're still human."
He started walking away, backing out of the kitchen so he could keep his eyes on her as he went. When he was just at the doorway, he stopped and asked, "You do know I love you, don't you?"
Bella said nothing.
Firmly, Edward said, "Bella, I love you."
Then he was gone. In only a second, the car was tearing out of the driveway again, leaving Bella and Carlisle behind while Edward drove off to join the rest of the family for two days.
When it was clear he was gone, that he wasn't coming back, Carlisle turned to look at Bella.
Quietly, he offered her a towel for her face and makeup, and asked, "Would you like some water to drink?"
Bella numbly took the towel but didn't move it to her face, made no move to stand and go to the bathroom. Instead, still staring ahead into the kitchen and not at Carlisle, she said, "Edward doesn't love me."
Author's Note: What a cliffhanger, how will Carlisle talk Bella through this one? Also, I hope you enjoy Bella's expectations as much as I do. Oh Bella, you're not in the story you think you're in.
Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight