Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.
Thank you to 2brown-eyes and Fyrebyrd for pre-reading, and to SunflowerFran for editing. All remaining mistakes are my own.
A/N: Please bear with me, but PLEASE READ! (And a special bonus at the end of the chapter.)
This is the first chapter of a story I've written for the Babies at the Border Fiction Compilation. This is the only chapter that will post to FFN until weekly posts begin in late December. To read the entire, completed story before then, please donate $10 or more to one of the approved charities before October 5, 2018 to receive your copy of the compilation.
Well over 100 authors, from several fandoms as well as some original fiction, have signed up to contribute their work to this, what I'm sure will be an amazing compilation. To date, it's raised over $6,000 and that number continues to rise daily. Please go to BabiesattheBorder dot blogspot dot com, as well as the Facebook group, Babies at the Border Fiction Compilation, for more information.
While many feel it's a political issue, I personally feel reuniting children with their families after being separated is not political, it's a human rights issue. For that reason, I've chosen to be part of this fundraiser.
Thank you for taking the time to read! ... or not. ;)
Summary: Separated by time and space, lost loves find their way back to each other. They thought their journey was over, but it had only begun.
**WARNING: Dark themes in later chapters.**
We were told in our preparation class on Cordia that coming out of stasis would be a difficult transition. A journey of four years to our new home on Phoenix in suspended animation would be less of a hardship if we took the class, preparing ourselves for what we should expect.
But nothing can prepare you for the actual moment your eyes open.
Awareness comes to me slowly. My hearing is ... off. It feels almost as if I'm submerged; like I'm hearing muffled voices from under water. I can hear them, but not the actual words, only murmurs. My mouth is dry, my tongue feels thick; as if I have a cotton ball in my throat. Suddenly a strong smell, something like an antiseptic, wafts past my nose. Knowing I'm coming out of a four-year sleep, the need to be medically examined isn't unexpected. Perhaps I'm being looked over in a sick bay.
Though my eyes are still heavy, I can sense someone nearby. Maybe, I'm expecting it to be Dr. Banner, my father's personal physician, who's attending to me. I was told I would likely see him when I woke.
I'm becoming more aware of other scents. There's a faint smell of engine oil. It reminds me of the repair bays where I would often go to visit Edward and Emmett as they worked. Thinking of them makes my heart sink.
I was told by many that they were traitors, murderers who killed a group of innocent people to steal a ship and its cargo of weapons. I could never reconcile what I was told with what I knew about the boy I thought I loved. I know what I saw with my own eyes that day.
A noise to my right gets my attention. I slowly turn my head, trying to open my eyes and focus on what I see. The lights are dim, but there's a figure standing in front of a monitor, appearing to track what looks to be my vital signs. It's a man, dressed not in a physician's uniform, but what seems to be civilian clothing. It almost appears to be tactical gear. I must have made a noise, or maybe my movement is what gets his attention.
"Well, hello, Miss Swan." His smile seems kind, unthreatening, even if he isn't Dr. Banner. "We were hoping you'd wake soon. How are you feeling?"
I open my mouth to speak, but the dry cottonmouth sensation won't allow any words to come out.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Miss Swan. Let me get you something to drink." He retrieves a metal cup from the overhead cabinet, fills it from the water dispenser unit and hands it to me. "Careful; not too fast," he says as I try to gulp it too quickly. I turn to my side, coughing and sputtering in my haste to quench my thirst.
"Better now?" he asks after I've caught my breath.
"Yes," I rasp.
"Now, how about that status report?" he asks with a wink. "How are you feeling?"
I pause to think for a moment. "Um, sluggish?" I say, my voice still raspy. "My brain feels like it's kind of misfiring. I know we were told it would be disorienting coming out of it, but I didn't really know what to expect."
"Yes, I can only imagine. Seven years is a long time to be in stasis," he says casually.
"Seven years? No," I say, shaking my head, my voice becoming clearer. "That's not right. We've only been in stasis for four years. Check your records again," I insist.
"Miss Swan, I know this may come as a shock to you, but there are facts you aren't aware of just yet." The rapid beeping coming from the monitors gets his attention. "Miss Swan, I need you to calm down."
"I will not calm down until I know what the hell is going on! I need to make contact with my father, immediately." I fight against my weak and tired limbs, struggling to sit. I'm suddenly thankful for the advancement of the automated muscle stimulation system they installed on the transport ships. Even if they're weak and tired, my muscles still function. But the struggle to sit up makes me dizzy. Falling back on my pillow, I squeeze my eyes closed, willing away the nausea.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is that you stay calm. Now, you will be informed of all the necessary details once you're feeling well. Please rest, and I'll be sure to send in some food. Perhaps some sleep—"
"Sleep?" I scoff, a scowl on my face. "I've apparently been sleeping for seven years. I just need to get my strength back."
"Then just rest and someone will be in to speak to you shortly."
The closing swish of the automatic door leaves me alone with my thoughts. My mind is racing with all sorts of reasons as to why I would have been left in stasis as long as he said I was.
I realize I didn't even get his name. And automatic doors? Am I still on the transport ship? The sudden thought that I could have fallen into rebel hands while in stasis makes my heart race, and the monitors are now blaring.
"Miss Swan, you need to relax. You're not gonna do anyone any good getting all upset." A different man, blond-haired and blue-eyed, approaches me slowly as if he were encountering a frightened animal. "I brought you something to eat, but I need you to calm down first."
I try to slow my breathing, inhaling deeply and blowing it out, my eyes locked on his. "Am I still on the Phoenix transport?"
"Well, you're still on the transport, but you're not going to Phoenix anymore," he says slowly, carefully.
"Then where the hell am I?" I ask angrily, my hackles rising.
"Your transport ship was intercepted, and we'll be landing on Aurora in about twenty-four hours."
"Aurora?" I squeak. "That means I'm ... "
"Yes, Miss Swan, you're enjoying the hospitality of the Coalition Forces."
"Where ..." I clear my dry throat. "Where is my mother? The rest of the crew; the other passengers?" My voice rises in panic with each syllable.
"Well, everyone else's stasis is being maintained until we land. The commander of our unit wanted to make sure you were awake and briefed before we arrive on Aurora."
"Yes. Commander Cullen."
He was three years older than me, and we were in love ... or so I thought. Looking back, maybe it was foolish, childish infatuation. The boy I gave all my firsts to, the boy I gave my heart to, and he gave me his in return. The man who would have given me the world, and tried to, if only I had taken what he offered me. But he left me alone with nothing but heartbreak and the inability to open my heart to anyone else.
We grew up together, raised in the embassy, both of us children of government officials. My father oversaw many of our troops, an Admiral, and Edward's father was a medical ambassador. When Dr. Carlisle Cullen was accused of stealing medical records and other information, he was charged with treason. He escaped before he could be executed. I'm personally grateful. He was a good man, and I don't care what anyone else says.
After Carlisle escaped, along with his wife, his sons were moved out of the embassy and into a room in the lower level of the shuttle dock. They were put to work in the repair bays, working on cargo ships. I spent most of my free time there, talking to Edward, watching him work. He said he didn't mind the hard work, that it kept him busy, his mind on things other than his father and mother.
On that fateful day, I happened to be visiting Edward, just wasting time before my afternoon shift in the embassy's dining hall. He was working on one of the small engines of one of the shuttles. It all happened so suddenly. There was an explosion, and soon the repair bay was full of what we, from that day onward, called rebel troops, their guns firing. They stormed the shuttle dock, killing men whose job it was to defend it. Edward covered me, shielding me from the gunfire, but he was soon pulled away and out of the repair bay. The look on his face as he was dragged off has always troubled me. It wasn't a look of fear, or uncertainty.
It was a look of regret.
In the chaos, the last words I heard him say to me were "I love you, Bella. I'll find you."
After that, a blast shrouded the bay in darkness. I lost my hearing for hours. When the dust settled, a cargo ship, hundreds of weapons, several men, including Edward and Emmett, were missing. The collateral damage also included a dozen dead men and a docking bay that would be rendered useless for months afterward. Supply ships couldn't dock, and we had no way to send troops or supplies to the space station.
The years to follow were difficult. Things grew increasingly strained on our planet, not knowing if there were traitors still among us. Many of our supply ships and shipments to us from other planets were being intercepted, and we lived in fear of more attacks. There were no more on the scale of what happened in the docking bay, but smaller ones. It led us to believe that the rebels were behind them; people were going missing, and there was general discord in the Allied Federation meetings. There were calls for the resignation of several ambassadors, and tensions ran high.
Many chose to leave and try their luck on the planet Phoenix, where they had established a new colony. People left in droves, even if it meant they would spend four years in stasis to get there. My father was among the first in the embassy to volunteer to lead the interim council on Phoenix. He left my mother and me to sort our affairs and join him in a year's time. When I stepped onto the transport ship on my twenty-fifth birthday, I was leaving behind sad memories of my lost love and looking ahead to the possibilities of a new life.
Waking and being told that you'd been asleep for seven years was not part of my plan.
And neither was finding myself seated across the table from the man I thought I'd never again lay eyes on. Even if it only feels like three years since our last meeting, I can see the mark the past ten have made on him.
"Bella," Edward whispers, his fingers twitching. "I can't tell you how happy I am to see you."
"I'm not exactly sure if I can say the same yet, Edward. I have no idea what's going on here." I'm fidgety under his intense gaze. While I spent the last seven years in suspended animation, he has not. Though I may be chronologically thirty-two, I'm physically still twenty-five, and I can see the years, while not unkind, have aged Edward. He looks every bit his thirty-five years; the round, softness of youth replaced with the sharp edges of maturity.
His smile takes my breath away. "I'm sure you have questions, Bella. I wouldn't expect any less."
While I have so many, I first ask what I feel is the most urgent question. "Why was I kept in stasis so long?"
He nods as if he was expecting this. "Because the transport ship you were on wasn't really going to Phoenix."
"Not going to ... Then where the hell was it going?" My head is pounding, the effects of my extended rest still lingering.
"You need to stay calm, Bella. You just woke up and—"
"Would everyone stop telling me to calm down?" I yell, trying to get to my feet. I regret it the moment I do, my vision blurring, and the room swirling around me. I'm caught in Edward's arms, his familiar yet different scent overwhelming me.
"Okay, I knew this would be difficult. You always were so damn stubborn," he says with a huff. I'm soon being carried, though my eyes are closed, and I then feel myself being lowered onto a soft bed, a blanket being pulled over my shoulders.
His warm, comforting hands are smoothing over my hair, his fingertips tracing over my cheeks.
"Still so beautiful," he murmurs. "Bella, I have so much to tell you, but I need to know you aren't going to work yourself into a frenzy."
"I'll try," I whisper. Opening my eyes, I stare into his; concern shining through jade irises.
"I've missed you."
"I can't tell you how much I've missed you, Bella." His fingers trace a path through my hair, pushing some behind my ear. "I didn't want to leave you when I did, but I didn't have any other choice at the time. My father sent for Em and me, and it was the only shot we had to get off Cordia. Bella, there's so much going on that we had no idea about." His eyes are pleading for my understanding.
"Will you please tell me what's going on? Why I was in stasis so long?"
His eyes search mine, likely looking for any hint of my inability to hear what he has to say before telling me what I want ... need to know. His eyes tell me before his lips do; that I'm about to be disappointed in his answer.
"I think ..." He hesitates. "I think you need to rest a while and then—"
"No, Edward," I beg. "Please tell—"
His fingers cover my lips, silencing me. "I will." My mouth opens to object, and he presses his fingers more firmly. "I promise," he says with a determined look "But you've been through enough for one day." He releases my lips from his gentle touch. "We'll talk as soon as you wake up."
He moves to stand, and I reach out to grab his hand before he can step away. "Stay," I whisper.
"You're sure?" he asks, his steps halted.
And even though I've spent the last seven years in stasis, the stress of the day is finally taking its toll. I close my eyes and allow the sweet escape of sleep to claim me.
And now, here's a small peek at my second contribution to the compilation! This will be a first, single chapter of an upcoming fic.
Red Wine and Whiskey Smoke
Summary: She's turquoise, sun-dried cotton, and red wine. He's grease, pickup trucks, and whiskey smoke. Edward Cullen does his best, living in the shadow of his family's sordid past, while still being the son they need. Bella Swan blows back into town and is the epitome of all things good ... all the things Edward's been told his whole life he isn't. Will he let her smooth his rough edges?
Walking down the path toward Pop's work shed, I pass one of the happier remnants of my childhood. The tree house Pop and I built may be over twenty years old, but it's still holding up, perched in the limbs of the big oak tree out back.
It's where Emmett and I got to be more than just friends. It was a safe place for us to get to know each other, away from the prying eyes of folks around here.
The entire town knew our family's business ... knew my momma slept with a married man who already had a family. But up in that tree house, in the years to follow, it was just us. And when Emmett's momma, Pop's first wife, Elizabeth, was killed in a car accident, our place was where he was brought. That treehouse was where he could put away all the anger he had with our Pop, put our guard down—the one we both had up for everyone else—and just be two boys ... brothers.
"Pop?" I always call out when I walk up; worried he'll hurt himself because he's surprised.
"Yeah?" His raspy voice calls out from the corner of what Emmett and I deemed his playhouse. The workbench is covered in parts and pieces, none of it organized in any rational order, except to the man who guards this place like it's Fort Knox.
"It's Edward. Momma wanted me to let you know supper's about done."
"Supper?" He mindlessly scratches at his head as he searches for the clock. When he turns to face me, it takes more than a blink for recognition to set in. "Oh, hey, son. What brings you by?"
His blue eyes are clouded, not at all the sharp eyes of the man who raised me, and he looks every bit of his sixty-eight years.
"Just wanted to stop by and see if you or Momma needed me to do anything."
He waves me off. "Naw, I got things under control."
I look back over my shoulder, at the grass that could've used a cut days ago. "You sure you don't want me to cut the yard, Pop? It looks like it could use it."
"Well, I reckon you could. You want to come on inside and have some supper first?"
"Naw, you go on in and eat with Momma. I'll get the yard cut then come in and maybe take some home. I doubt she wants my smelly ass at the supper table, anyhow."
"You're probably right." The smile I remember graces his face for just a moment before it's gone, and he turns back to tinkering.
"You gonna head in, Pop?"
"What for?" he asks absentmindedly.
I sigh and reply softly, mindful I need to be patient. "Momma's got supper ready, Pop."
"Well, why didn't you say so?"
See you all soon. Xoxo