A/N and Disclaimer: I am usually not one for direct trigger warnings. However, for this particular fic, there are two I'll give up front. You're always free to PM me at any time if you have questions. I promise I won't hesitate to spoil you if you ask.
One character in this fic is suicidal. Another has had an abortion for medical reasons. If you need additional information, don't hesitate to ask. If either of these things offends you, I have almost a hundred other fics. I'm sure we can find something you'd prefer.
Other disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm going to do the best I can to be vague, because I know a heartbreaking number of you have personal experience with disease.
Much love, and take care of yourself.
"How beautiful the body is
how perfect its pads
with what precision it moves
how obedient, proud and strong
How terrible when torn
The little flame of life sinks lower and lower, and with a flicker, goes out
It goes out like a candle goes out
Quietly and gently
It makes its protest at extinction, then submits
It has its day, then is silent"
- Martin Avery
Edward was almost done.
For the millionth time, he considered the concept, turning it over in his mind. Done. Finished. Complete. He set down his pen and nodded to himself, a curious lack of emotion settling like a stone at the center of his chest.
Yes. It felt, if not right, then at least inevitable.
He searched himself, wondering if he should be feeling something, but he found only calm. His hands didn't shake as he put the last letter in its envelope and set it down with the others. There were four, each with a single name written on them in his precise script: Dad. Mom. Alice. Emmett.
They'd be relieved in the end. There would be grief, of course. That couldn't be helped, but they grieved for him now. They worried. There would be no need to worry about him after tonight. He was lifting that burden from them. He'd explained as best he could, and that task was done. He breathed in and out. In and out.
He had a checklist. These four envelopes in their neat line at the direct center of his coffee table was the first item. Straightening up, he mentally added the checkmark. He liked checkmarks. They gave him some measure of satisfaction. He waited for it, but tonight, it didn't come.
Nodding to himself, he took one last look around the house. Everything was picked up and put away. Dusted. Vacuumed. Arranged. Satisfied, he walked out his front door and closed it behind him with a final, quiet snick.
After he'd put all his affairs in order—bills paid and beneficiaries updated—Edward only had three items left for his final checklist. The second was here: Fairhaven Cemetery. Soon to be his permanent home, he mused. Not that he cared at all about that. This place was just storage. A final resting place.
He didn't want to rest. He wanted oblivion. He wanted darkness. Uninterrupted sleep.
Every Saturday for the last two years he'd come to this place. It was routine, and it was on his list. He parked first as he always did in front of the cemetery's florist shop. He paused a beat, amused at the futility as always.
Charlotte hadn't even liked flowers that much. She'd always said if he was going to get her a bouquet, could he make it one of those edible numbers? Pineapples cut into daisies and strawberries masquerading as roses. But that wasn't what you gave a dead person.
Just like most Saturdays, there was only one person in the shop behind the counter. The same person for nearly two years. Edward offered her a smile of greeting.
Then, he stopped short.
The woman looked haggard. She'd been slumped over, resting her head on the counter. She'd straightened up when he came in, but her answering smile of welcome seemed to cost her. Before he could think twice about it, Edward took a step in her direction. "Are you okay?" he asked, stopping himself when her eyes sharpened.
They never really talked. She'd started working here maybe four or five months after he'd begun coming in, and they'd seen each other once a week as long as she was working. Despite that, they'd never exchanged much more than the typical customer-employee pleasantries. Still, Edward knew more about this woman than she'd probably want him to. If there was one thing he recognized too well, it was what deathly illness looked like.
The first time he'd seen her, Edward would have said she was knocking on death's door. She was skin and bones save for her puffy face. Her eyes were sunken, skin ashen, her head covered by a scarf and nothing else. He remembered thinking a cemetery's florist shop was either the best or strangest place to find a walking corpse.
She'd survived whatever she was going through. Over the months, she'd filled out, got some color back in her cheeks and grown a crop of pretty brown hair. He'd been happy for her.
And bitter. He couldn't deny he was a little bitter.
Now, today, she looked like death warmed over. She was bone-pale with dark circles under her eyes. Her breaths seemed labored, and she swayed a bit on her feet when she stood up straighter and smiled. "Probably didn't get enough sleep last night, and I think I'm coming down with a cold. You know how it goes."
He frowned but nodded. Assuming he was right about her, even if she'd beat an obvious bout with cancer, her immune system had to be still decimated. It wasn't his place to mention it, though, and she'd know that better than he would.
"It's that time of year," he said instead and turned to the coolers of pre-arranged flowers.
There was something soothing in this ritual of choosing the right bouquet. There was no earthly reason why it should be so important. Not only did Charlotte not like flowers but, being dead, she wasn't going to see them. Yet every Saturday, Edward occupied a solid half hour looking at each flower on each bouquet. He counted the varieties of flowers, the colors, the spread. He weighed the pros and cons, optimizing for max fullness.
About halfway through his selection process, a crash had him whirling around, away from his task. He scanned the area and found the woman had disappeared. One moment she'd been behind the counter, the next she'd vanished. Edward darted forward, around the other side and found her sprawled on the floor, eyes closed.
"Hey, okay. Don't worry." Edward dropped to his knees beside her, relieved to hear raspy breaths right off. He considered his options quickly as he checked her head and neck for injuries. "Coming down with a little more than a cold, I see. It's never just a cold, is it?"
For one split second, he was annoyed. This wasn't on his list. In fact, this would stop him from completing the list.
Then, the woman wheezed, and Edward remembered his humanity. "Okay, um...ma'am? I guess it's a little pathetic that I don't know your name. My name's Edward. I'm going to help you. I'm sorry for not asking first, but I think you and I should take a trip to the hospital together."
As he spoke, his tone even and, hopefully, soothing, he gathered her into his arms. She was surprisingly warm for someone so pale. She whimpered but didn't wake as he walked with her out to the car. After getting her settled in the backseat, he ran into the main office to let the person at the front desk know what was going on.
The woman was semi-conscious by the time they pulled into the ambulance bay in front of the hospital some minutes later. "Mac," she whispered, her head lolling and her eyes fluttering, struggling to open. "Mac?"
"I'm afraid not. Not Mac," Edward said as he reached into the car to pull her out. "But I'll find him for you, okay? You just concentrate on opening your eyes, and I'll find him."
Nurses descended on him then, shooting the questions he supposed were reasonable when a man wandered into an emergency room with a mostly unconscious woman in his arms. He got her as far as the bay they indicated and laid her down as directed before the questions got around to who the hell he was.
Near total strangers weren't allowed behind the curtain. They also weren't much help to the doctors and nurses who needed to know details about her medical history. Edward was free to leave; his civic duty done.
Instead, he settled into the waiting room. He couldn't leave the woman with no one. He'd brought her purse, and he thought it would be okay if he looked through it, if only to find her identity, her insurance card, and this Mac person she'd asked for.
His checklist could wait.
A/N: This fic is lovingly dedicated to Packy whose thirst for angst only feeds my addiction.
This is going to be a hard ride, my doves. I'll hold your hand if you hold mine. What are your thoughts?