Author: kdc2239 PM
An influenza pandemic occurs when a new virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness. The story of two strangers surviving when they only have each other.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 26 - Words: 115,848 - Reviews: 3,108 - Favs: 2,109 - Follows: 2,182 - Updated: 11-14-12 - Published: 08-27-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7329957
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Wow! The response to the last chapter was amazing. Thank you all so much. I tried to respond to most people but if I missed you, thank you!
Huge thanks to Jessypt, Nico and WO for their time!
Even in a year when only the garden-variety strains circulate, an estimated 1-1.5 million people worldwide die from influenza infections or related complications. In a pandemic lasting 12 to 36 months, the number of cases and deaths would rise dramatically.
I stumble back from the shock and head straight for the front door only to have Edward grab my hand and pull me back.
"Wait, you don't know where he's been or if he's been exposed."
I want to rip my hand away and scream 'I don't care' but I know Edward's right. Instead I look out the window again to see Emmett unloading bags out of the van. Another man sits on the hood and smokes.
"Where's Claire?" I mumble, searching the van windows but it's useless in the dark.
I feel like I could still be asleep and dreaming all this but the shiver that goes through me and Edward's sure grip on my arm reminds me I'm living in reality—and what an amazing reality it is. Emmett and the other man both have masks on, and I wonder if they're the good ones that keep the virus out. The one's we couldn't get.
Before I can think any further on it the man jumps off the front of the van, flicks his cigarette, and stands in front of the van's side door, his hands crossed over his chest. When Emmett turns back around from setting his bag down, I can see his fist ball up.
I stare at Emmett, my hand covering my mouth, as he obviously chews the man out, his hands flying the air. It looks like a fight's about to break out, and I feel helpless staring out the window. Just when I feel like I can't keep my feet still anymore Edward speaks up.
"Stay here," he says, not looking at me but out the window. Picking up the baseball bat, he goes to the front door.
I nod my head, torn, unsure; I don't want him to join them out there but also do not want Emmett to deal with whatever is going down on his own. As soon as I hear the front door shut, Emmett slams the man against the van with all his might, causing the guy to fall backwards, the van rocking back and forth. Punches start to fly but Edward reaches them—shocking them both with his sudden presence—and gets them apart.
I'm torn between going to the door and staying at the window. Emmett stares at Edward, having no idea who he is but willing to accept the help offered. As soon as he stops looking around trying to figure out where Edward came from I see Emmett shout something at him, pointing with his hand. Edward, stalks toward the other man, forcing him out into the street. You can see in his face he knows he has no chance against two men. Edward's shirtless and barefooted from just waking up. The streets glisten with November frost, making me wince for him. I can't focus on that for long though, because now that the man isn't guarding the van door anymore, Emmett reaches in and pulls a little bundle in a blanket out.
"Claire," I sob, my hand gripping the front of my night gown, my legs almost buckling. Even in the blankets I can tell she's grown. It's been over a year, I think sadly.
Emmett looks over his shoulder, looking like he expects to be attacked, as he brings Claire to the front steps, setting her down. Once she's there, he goes back to the street to help Edward. Claire's crying and screams fill up the living room and virus be damned I can't stay inside.
Rushing to the front door, I rip it open, wanting to get to her.
Before I reach her, I see Emmett livid, storming toward the man in the street. He doesn't even notice me on the porch.
"You think you can fuck with my kid?" he shouts. I don't have time to see what will happen before I pick up the little bundle, cradling her in my arms. It takes me a while to straighten myself. Even though she isn't heavy - feeling much lighter than she should actually—it's difficult with my belly to get her up. Despite the blankets she's freezing.
"Oh, Claire," I whisper, rocking her back and forth. Her little hands claw at my neck as she struggles to look around to find her dad.
"Shh," I whisper, "It's okay." She doesn't respond at all. She doesn't remember me. Not that I expected her too, but it stings all the same. Her weight is getting to me, so I sit us down by the front window. She sounds muffled and I move the blankets around to get a good look at her face. Emmett has two masks secure on her face. I quickly remove them, so she can breath easier. Tears stream down my cheeks as I stare at her perfect little face. She's Rose through and through with her blond, curly hair and bright blue eyes.
"Shh, sweetheart," I say, wiping my own tears away and hers, too. I hear a loud crash, making my heart race. I look out the window and notice immediately the man's van window is smashed, the bat in Emmett's hand.
I see Edward say something to Emmett before coming inside.
"What's going on?"
"Where's the money?"
"What?" I ask, shaking my head, confused.
"The money, where is it?" He's completely unnerved.
"I put it back in the pillow case." I stutter, still rocking the baby back and forth.
He doesn't respond but bounds up the stairs. He's back down in no time and out the door. Emmett's still standing on the sidewalk, his shoulders heaving with anger, the bat still in his hands. Edward throws the money at the stranger. It flies in the air and scatters all over the street with the man rushing forward, scrambling to collect it, screaming at Edward and Emmett.
The next time Edward comes in he doesn't say anything but goes upstairs and comes back down with some of his clothes in his hands and now a shirt on himself. He also grabs bleach and soap for Emmett to clean with before coming into the house. The two watch the man until he gets back in his car, driving away and flipping them off before Emmett starts to change his clothes. Edward leaves him outside and comes in.
"Are you okay?" I ask, whispering because Claire is starting to fall asleep.
He nods. "Is she okay?" He points to the baby in my arms.
"I think so."
He pulls blankets off the couch. "Here," he says reaching for her. I lift her up a little, her eyes opening slowly and her lip coming over in a pout. Edward holds her awkwardly, like she's a football or something. I know he's never been around babies before, and I have to hide my smile at watching him interact with her. She's quickly annoyed with Edward's inexperience though and starts to cry.
"It's okay," I say, but she doesn't look at me. Edward lifts her up under her arms and she starts to scream. "Claire," I say. "Claire, it's okay," I say louder but she doesn't respond. "Claire." When I touch her leg her eyes finally snap to mine. We work quickly together to get her out of the blankets and clothing and place her back into the clean ones.
"You shouldn't have touched her in these blankets." He continues to clean her little hands with soap and water from a cup, making her scream out before he does the same to mine.
"I wasn't gonna leave her out there."
He nods his head, handing her back to me, taking her old clothes and blankets away. I start to rock and bounce her, and she's almost asleep again when Emmett comes in and slams the door. I wince, expecting her to scream, but she stays fast asleep.
"Emmett," I say, sitting on the edge of my seat, starting to cry. Claire's blankets covering up my belly. He looks ridiculous in Edward's clothes. The pants are inches too short on him, and the shirt fits him like a half top.
Tears fill his eyes too. He stands for a minute staring at me before he rushes over, drops to his knees and pulls both me and Claire into his arms. I sob into his chest. Claire is woken a little by our movements but quickly quiets when she realizes she's back with her dad.
After hugging for a long time Emmett pulls back, his hands on either side of my head, he studies me. Tears stream down his face as he leans forward and kisses my forehead, before pulling me back to his chest. "I wasn't sure if you were alive."
I can't respond because I'm crying too hard, but I nod in understanding.
My hands fist his shirt. "I can't believe you're here," I sob. My arms grip his shirt arms, anywhere I can reach. I'm startled by how much weight he's lost. He leans back again, taking the baby, who is now awake and crying in my arms, and lays her against shoulder, bouncing her.
I've never seen my brother cry before, and the sight of it tears me up. He grips his daughter and my hand tightly at the same time. He makes no sound, but tears continuously stream out of his eyes. Once we've both calmed down and Claire has fallen back asleep, he stands and lays her on the couch, making a bed out of blankets and pillows.
He sits on the couch and rubs his hands over his face.
"Are you okay?"
I ask, the first words spoken after our emotional reunion. He looks up at me, and I see his eyes are hollow and haunted, deep purple colors beneath them. The lines around his eyes show so much sorrow. He's far too young to look so old and tortured. He just stares at me and doesn't respond, then shakes his head, the tears coming back.
"Oh, Emmett," I slip out of the chair, setting the blankets down, and scoot toward him on my knees. He grips me hard and cries. I'm completely overwhelmed. I take his pain as my own. I feel his wet tears on my shoulder and I run my hand over his neck and back trying to soothe him. All my life he's been there for me. Taking care of me when our mother wouldn't. Taking me to school, nursing me when I was sick and drying my tears when I cried. He's the strongest person I know and to see him break down all but kills me.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Edward sitting on the bottom of the stairs, giving us space, but I see him wipe his eyes on his sleeve. The room suffocates with the pain of its occupants, sorrow and joy so strong you can almost taste and touch it.
Emmett calms quickly, scooting back on the couch. Suddenly his eyes fall to my stomach and go wide as saucers.
"What... how... Bella?" his voice squeaks on my name.
"Surprise," I say weakly, cringing.
He jumps up quickly, helping me to my feet, moving me to the place he was just sitting on the couch, taking my spot on the floor. I hold one of my hands and I lay the other on Claire's leg, just wanting to touch both of them and to reassure myself they're here and safe.
Edward quietly walks over to us, handing us both towels to wipe our faces with.
"Thank you," I say, gripping his hand that sits on my shoulder.
Edward leans forward and kisses the top of my head. My eyes close, and a feeling of euphoria overcomes me because I finally have the people I love the most in this world surrounding me. When I open my eyes, I see Emmett's hard, confused ones focused on Edward.
"Who are you?" he asks bewildered, finally getting the obvious question out now that we've settled down.
Edward lets go of my shoulder and walks around the couch while Emmett stands up.
"Edward Cullen," he says, sticking his hand out.
Emmett shakes it, hesitantly, still obviously confused. His hand still in Edward's grip, moving up and down slowly, Emmett's eyes look down to me questioningly.
"Uh," I say, trying to stand up but my stomach tightens again. I manage to keep the grimace off my face, not wanting to alert them. "Edward was my neighbor..." I stumble out. Emmett doesn't respond, his eyes just going back and forth between us so I ramble on. "You know... next door here... he... the one, you know that killed my lilacs." Emmett eyes narrow. He continues to nod but doesn't respond. He still has Edward's hand, and I can see his grip tightening, the handshake becoming more aggressive. Edward tries to pull back, but Emmett just squeezes him harder.
"Emmett, let go of his hand," I say, rolling my eyes.
After staring him down for a minute he does.
Edward clears his throat. "After the earthquake here -"
"Earthquake..." Emmett says, mostly to himself, like he's putting the puzzle pieces together. God only knows what he's seen.
"Yeah, after that... last year -"
"Almost exactly a year ago," I say.
"Yeah, well things got bad. Bella and I relied on each other and felt we would do better if we stuck together."
"Literally, apparently," Emmett says dryly, his eyes going back to my stomach. My cheeks heat, but I don't look away. "You're responsible for this...surprise, I assume?" He doesn't sound angry but very untrusting.
"I love him, Emmett," I interject quickly. I can tell he already thinks Edward took advantage of me. I reach up and slip my hand into Edward's, who grips me back.
Emmett continues to look back and forth between us. "I never would have made it on my own. Ever... so many things happened."
"You don't need to explain," Emmett says, holding his hand up. "You're an adult. I'm just surprised is all." He searches my eyes for the truth, wanting to know if I've been manipulated or man-handled.
I nod my head, looking him straight in the eye. "I love him, Emmett."
Emmett nods then turns back to Edward. "Emmett Swan," he offers Edward his hand again, and they shake normally this time.
"I've heard a lot about you, Emmett. I'm so glad you and your daughter made it safely."
Emmett nods but is still obviously shocked.
"Should we sit?" Edward asks.
They agree, and Edward pulls some chairs closer to the couch before building a large fire.
I have so many questions. It's been a year. A year where I didn't even know if he was alive. I decide to start with the move obvious question.
"Who was that guy? What was the fight about?"
"There's no gas to buy anywhere. Cooperations are hoarding some, the military is too, and then there's some normal people had some stockpiled." I think about my two full cans in the garage.
"We were hearing rumors that if you were out of the cities you could sneak by the military, who are fucking brutal bastards. They're stealing from everyone and have taken over most everything they can with force." He shakes his head. "Anyway, people said that as long as you weren't trying to get in or out of a big city you could sneak by the check points or buy your way through. The local hospital had the masks, and I figured it was best for us to try and stay together. Claire and I, we started catching rides when and where we could. Some people I could pay or bribe and others took pity on me because of the baby. It's taken months."
"Where did you sleep?"
He shakes his head. "Where we could. In forests, cars, abandoned hotels, movie theaters, safe houses... I tried to keep us as separate from others as possible. The world..." He looks at me and Edward in the eyes. "It's unrecognizable."
I feel grateful for how sheltered we've been on our little street. I thought what I had seen at the Copes' and downtown was bad, but I can tell by Emmett's haunted eyes it doesn't compare at all to what he's been through.
Emmett continues to share his story of how he made it across the country. He tells of famine, dead and wandering children, fires and destruction, abandoned buildings, people being taken advantage of and being robbed. It sounds beyond terrible, but I can tell he's leaving a lot of detail out. He just keep saying, "It's so bad. It's so bad".
Edward stands, goes into the kitchen, and comes back with the bottle of Jack we got drunk off of last Thanksgiving. He sets down a glass and pours Emmett a healthy portion.
"Thanks, man," he says, taking a long swig.
"This guy." He points outside, referring to the guy we saw tonight. "He picked us up in Vancouver, Washington. He was taking a load to Seattle. I promised him three hundred dollars, giving him one hundred up front and promising the other two when we got here. When he found out I was broke he decided he wouldn't let me have Claire until I came up with the money."
That explains the fight.
"Thank you, Edward, for your help."
"Of course," Edward says, refilling his glass and pouring one of his own.
"What about you? You've obviously been busy," he says, his eyebrow raised. My heart clinches at the smallest glimpse of my old brother and his humor.
I explain to him about the men breaking in, the earthquake, almost freezing, and Edward getting sick. While I talk I start to cry, realizing how lucky we've been - how our isolation has actually been such a blessing for us. Edward joins the conversation when the tears become too much for me to continue, telling him about our garden and food supply. Emmett's eyes meet mine with pride and shock. I imagine it will take time for us to get to know each other again, because there's no way he hasn't changed just as much as I have. Edward continues on about the risks we're facing now, the people in the forest, Peter and Charlotte, and ending with their cabin.
"You should've gone, Isabella," Emmett admonishes.
"Probably," I sigh. "But how can I regret that now?"
"It wasn't just Bella," Edward interjects. "We wanted to try and reach everyone one last time before we just disappeared."
"Have you heard from Alice or mom?"
I shake my head. After hearing Emmett say how horrible things have truly gotten my hopes for my best friend and estranged mother have drastically decreased.
"Alice," I say, swallowing hard in an attempt to keep myself together. "She left a message months ago, but I have no idea where she was going or who she's really with. And mom, we hadn't spoken or seen each other for two years before this all even started."
"We'll find Alice," he reassures me, ignoring any comment about mom.
"What about your family, Edward?"
He takes a long drink from his glass before leaning forward on his knees. The glow from the flames in the fire dance across his cheek, and his sadness so evident. I feel guilty he had to watch my emotional reunion, when I know he wants his own with his parents so badly.
"I have friends in Oregon, but I have no idea about them at all. My parents, they're the ones I've been trying to get in contact with. They were in Seattle when it hit."
We're all silent for a while before Emmett speaks up. "Have you made it in to look for them?"
"We tried once but the military..." He shakes his head. "There was no way."
"I'll help you," Emmett offers quickly.
"Really?" I say, feeling hope for Edward.
"Of course, after all he's done for you." He tips his drink towards Edward. "Thank you for taking care of my sister." Emmett always has gotten overly sentimental when he drinks hard liquor. Edward nods back, obviously uncomfortable with the attention. "Although, you obviously enjoyed the task," he says nodding his head toward my stomach. Both he and Edward laugh. Oh yeah, I think, the alcohol is definitely doing its job.
"Enough," I say dryly. I run my hands over my stomach as another painful tightening comes over me.
"Are you okay?" Edward asks, quickly coming over to me.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm totally fine. Just strained a little from picking up Claire," I lie.
He eyes me wearily but eventually goes back to his seat. I continue to rub the tightness out of my stomach but try to be more discreet about it.
"You sure, Bella?" Emmett asks now.
I nod my head. "God you two," I laugh. "Yes, I'm fine."
They both know me too well though and don't give it up. "How far along are you?" Emmett asks.
"We're not sure exactly."
Soon after the pain fads away, we move on back to the subject of Edward's parents. The boys discuss strategy. Emmett gets loud a couple times, complaining about the soldiers, and I keep looking over to Claire worried she'll wake up.
"Seriously, man, we can go tomorrow and see what we can find out."
Edward waits a long while before answering, his gaze on the blazing fire. He meets my eyes for a long while, searching for my approval, I assume. The last thing I want is for my brother and the love of my life to go into danger but how can I deny him this? I nod my head, encouraging him. After a long beat he sets his glass down.
"Thank you. I really appreciate it, but I don't think it's a good idea."
My mouth opens in shock.
"Edward—" I start, but he cuts me off, lifting his hand.
"No, it's not smart. We said two weeks, and our two weeks are up. Tomorrow all four of us head to the cabin—to safety." I search his eyes and find nothing but sorrow.
His head snaps to Emmett. "I'm sure."
I hear the resolve in his voice, and although I'm grateful for him putting everyone's safety first, my heart aches for him. His grief shows now more than it ever has before. The night before we slip out of society he had to watch my reunion, knowing he could be leaving his family behind forever.
"They'll be okay with Claire and I coming?"
Edward shrugs. "It doesn't matter. And if they're not then we'll find somewhere else. We can't stay here."
Emmett does what he does best, making some smart-ass remark, lightening the mood.
The two are going back and forth bonding over their experiences and a bottle of Jack. I'm extremely relieved to see they'll be good, easy friends. In all my searching for Emmett I had never really thought about how he might take the pregnancy or if he'd get along with Edward.
While the two talk about some sport, I lean over on the couch and softly run my hands through Claire's curls. I hear them talking about all the details of what to pack and how to take certain items to the cabin. They speak of taking two cars now, to bring more things. The whole situation feels so surreal having my brother here. I know them both well and can tell they're both feeling pretty good from their drinks. While they needed the break from reality, I know we need to be ready to go tomorrow and we've been up all through the night talking.
"We should try and get a few hours of sleep," I say, still cuddling my niece. "I bet you're beat, Emmett."
He nods. "I am. Okay, Edward, you can sleep on the couch and Bella upstairs."
We both stare at him shocked. I'm about to explain to him that he's gonna have to deal with Edward and I sharing a room when he busts out laughing. "I'm just fucking with you guys."
I shake my head and laugh, and Edward's look of shock slowly fades as his addled brain slowly catches up.
"I'll go get some more blankets," he offers, standing going to the stairs.
"She's beautiful, Emmett," I say.
He nods, emotion taking over his expression. "She's amazing."
"She looks so much like Rose." I regret the words as soon as they leave my lips when I see Em's face crumble into grief. "I'm sorry, Emmett."
He shakes his head, trying to compose himself. "No, she does. She's beautiful like her mother was."
I can't stand to see him hurt like he is, his pain so raw and fresh.
Edward comes down, setting the blankets on the floor before sitting back in his chair.
"Rose..." he chokes up on her name, his eyes watering. "She uh...her mom... She killed herself after Rosie..." He wipes his eyes and looks down. He runs his hands over his daughter's head as she sleeps. "After Rose and her dad passed, her mom killed herself."
"Oh my god," I say, my hand covering my mouth.
"I couldn't stay. I had to get back here, to you. We needed you. Claire, she needs you." I reach out and grab his hand, and he wipes his eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing, Bella. I'm at a fucking loss."
"You've done amazing, Emmett," I insist. "Claire is obviously healthy."
He shakes his head but can't speak, because he's so overwhelmed with emotion. I look over at Edward who looks really concerned but shakes his head and mouths, I don't know.
"What is it, Em?" I'm getting worried. This is so unlike him.
"God, I'm sorry," he says, trying to pull himself together. "I just..."
"Shh, no, it's okay."
"Do you want me to step out so you two can talk alone?" Edward offers. I give him a soft smile, appreciating him all the more for being so understanding.
"No, man." Emmett shakes his head, pulling himself together. "Sounds like we'll be spending a lot of time together from now on," he laughs.
"What's wrong, Emmett?"
"Claire...she's got the flu about eight months ago."
My eyes flash to the little girl on my couch, and I struggle to understand how she survived without a scratch. "But look at her, she's fine," I say, struggling to understand why Em's so torn up.
"No, Bella...the fever. It was so bad—" He claps loudly, startling both me and Edward and making us jump. I immediately go to soothe Claire, but she doesn't stir at all. With wide eyes I turn back to Emmett, my hand over my mouth in understanding.
His sad bloodshot, teary eyes meet mine. "She's deaf."
kdc2239 on twitter!
My article on "Writing Dialogue During a Sex Scene" for PTB's Smut University is going up soon. Check out my profile for details and links to the other articles.
See you all soon!