Hello, darling readers, here I am again. This is another one of those random things I think of and cant get off of my mind, and so, a story for you all. I intend this to be a short story, so it wont be quite as epic as my other stories, haha.
Just so you know, this is set in the long ago past, mostly just so I could explore something. In a lot of AU stories, Edward is described as the hardened, sometimes jaded, world wearied man, with experience and knowledge, and of course Bella is the innocent young thing. But I felt like swapping the roles, flipping it a bit so our beloved Bella would be the knowledgeable one, and Edward would be the epitome of innocence. Because of course, I get curious about these things as a writer, and my imagination goes out of control, and there you go, seven thousand words of curiosity.
I hope you enjoy this tale, my dear readers!
"You do know how incredibly improper it is for two, young, unmarried, innocent women to be sitting here in a pub after nightfall with all the drunken men and harlots about, don't you?" Edward asked. But it was in jest, clearly, with the smile that was plastered across his bewitchingly handsome face. He was a young man, a quarter of a century under his belt, unmarried, with a career and two lovely sisters to whom he catered. Rosalie and Alice were beautiful young women, twenty and nineteen respectively, and were already being perused by almost any man lucky enough to have lain their eyes upon the pair. And since their parents had died—their mother of a terrible fever, their father of grief not long after her—it had become Edward's job as man of the house to keep an eye on them.
But try as he might, being only five years older than Rose and six older than Alice, he sometimes could not resist their pleas. On this particular night it had been their fancy to take a stroll about the shops as evening set in, and then into the pub for some supper. Edward had a pint, in celebration under his sister's insistence after a particularly lucky day in the trade business. He had facilitated the trade of expensive antiques between brokers who meant to sell them, providing safe transportation for the cargo and a guarantee it would arrive to each party in the exact manner it left its owner. Each broker paid him handsomely, and with the money he had earned this final day of the dealings, Rose and Alice insisted he buy himself a drink.
"If I become too intoxicated to care for my lovely sisters, however would I forgive myself?" he queried them before taking the first swig of his pint. They laughed.
"Do you think, Edward, we would really allow you to become such a lush in the public eye?" Alice asked. "Between Rosalie and I we have more pride than could be considered healthy, if you think you are going to make a fool of yourself and sully our good name before any of us are even married, you are quite mistaken."
And so the night began in laughter and goodwill, brought on by the turn of good fortune and a little more money to weigh down their pockets. Edward drank his pint with care and he and his sisters sat and talked, enjoying the company of one another and the feeling of camaraderie. On most nights the pub would be filled to the brim and fights would interrupt the feeling of helpfulness. But not this night. Edward would have been shocked to even hear unkind words between the fellows drinking down their ale. Although it was for good reason.
News had reached the town by way of messenger as Edward was buying both Rose and Alice a trinket at the shops that a major battle, one that could turn the war, had been won the day prior. The war was one that had been weighing on the minds of the soldier's families and dipping into most everyone's pockets in taxes for unending months. It was with utter joy and relief that most families received word that some of the soldiers would be moving through their small town on their way to rendezvous with larger forces. For some, that meant the return of loved ones, even if it was only for a short time. Because of the good news, there was not a single malignant word said through the night, not one aggressive gesture made nor fight started.
Festivities continued well into the night, much after Alice and Rosalie confessed fatigue ad wished to return to the home their parents had left them. Edward walked with them, one linked into each of his arms, a proper escort if there ever was one.
When Edward was certain the doors had all been locked and most the lanterns turned off, Alice and Rosalie safely in bed, he retreated to their father's study, pulling one of the many familiar books from the shelves, forgetting the world in lieu of words the words, the reality created within its pages entrancing and engulfing him. He enjoyed his time there, in the realm of fiction, becoming a character, an observer of other worlds and finding himself, not for the first time, wishing he could live an adventure of the like he found himself reading so often in the small hours of night.
It was there at his desk that Rosalie found him early the next morning when she woke to make breakfast for the three of them. They were self sufficient, each of them, time and good parents had raised them to be so, but it was with pleasure they found themselves helping each other. Rose paused a moment to gaze upon the visage of her brother, bronze locks spilled upon his brow as he slept calmly, peace finally finding him if only in his dreams. He was young, and innocence was as much a part of him as the startlingly bright emerald color of his eyes. He had taken up the trade business Carlisle had begun before he and Esme passed away, beaten back suitors with all but branches as they vied for his sisters' hands in marriage, helped run a household, make money, be a supportive brother and attempt to care for his family, but he was still so young.
He had managed to do all the things required of him with little hardship, somehow slipping into the role of diplomatic trade facilitator and businessman, as well as caring for his sisters. They were almost adults themselves when Carlisle and Esme had died; Edward had been twenty-three, Rose eighteen and Alice seventeen. They were capable of caring for themselves most days, but when they had gotten ill with what Edward had feared was the same fever that had claimed Esme, or after the initial shock of loss when it had pained them all so deeply, Alice most as though she would never recover, it was upon his shoulders to make sure they were taken care of.
And yet, it seemed though the hardships he had faced since his parents deaths over two years ago, he had managed to maintain his innocence. Rosalie both envied him and worried for him. To know that he had not let hardship harden him, it also made her fear for what would become of him if he was left to live his life with such youthful optimism. The world was not just or fair, Rosalie knew this, if it was Esme and Carlisle would yet live, but Edward was determined to see the world as he wanted it to be, not as it was. The injustice of reality would break him if he remained so naïve.
She let him sleep a while longer while she roused Alice and they made breakfast. When it was done Alice went and woke Edward, who started awake abruptly, spilling the book, still open and in his lap from the night before, onto the floor.
"Breakfast is on the table, Edward. You really should sleep more, you know. Falling asleep in the study with a book in your lap can't be very comfortable, neither would a woman find it charming after too long of sleeping without her husband," Alice chided. Edward was about to argue groggily until he noticed the sparkle of mischief in her eyes and decided to let it go. Edward was scarcely at the table when there was a knock on the door, which Rosalie promptly answered, retrieving a message and setting it before him as they continued their meal together.
The message was from a trader who had heard of Edward's most recent business affairs with one of the brokers he had assisted, and was looking for his assist in a dealing of his own. He had a shop not far from Edward's home and asked for his presence right after midday. Edward discussed the matter with his sisters, an uncommon practice to involve a woman in business dealings, but done because he trusted them and they were his closest confidants, his only confidants really. They never made decisions that impacted the family alone, even if in most social circles a man asking a woman's advice would seem ludicrous.
After very little talk—after all there seemed not to be a downside of another business offer that could be incredibly profitable—they decided to accept the offer as long as it seemed fair upon Edward's meeting with the man. After breakfast, Alice and Rose disappeared out the door to go to town to buy material for new dresses that they had been begging for since before Edward could remember. Edward washed the dishes with a smile on his face and joy in his heart. Things were looking up.
After time spent finishing some of the reading he had fallen asleep too early to complete, Edward headed out to the market to find the shop of the man who was asking for his assistance. It was really Edward's connections that business men needed. He was well connected in several surrounding towns, able to procure dealings with traders that most people would not even have known of if it hadn't been for him, people he had met through Carlisle. It was in that way he found himself to be useful, hooking up brokers and traders with others like themselves to give them healthy business relationships and help them ship their merchandise. It was for these services he was paid. Though he wished he weren't away from Rose and Alice so often. It made him nervous.
But he wasn't thinking about his nerves as he strode down the cobbled streets, smiling at people he knew as he made his way to a prospective employer. When he reached the edifice he was looking for the door was open, and without a moment's hesitation he stepped through the door.
There was no one in the shop so far as Edward was able to see, but he waited a moment, looking at the wares. They were outdoors equipment, sleeping packs, flint, heavy coats for cold weather, lighter jackets for when it was fair, clothing, tools and all other manner of things that would be useful to one if they had not a steady home and found themselves traveling more than most. Edward reminded himself when he was done with his business dealings to perhaps stop here to pick up some supplies for his next trip out of town.
"Ah, Edward! I am delighted you have come!" a man called. Edward looked up from his inspection of the wares offered in the shop to see a portly older man, about how old Carlisle would have been if he had lived. He had thinning brown hair that matched perfectly the color of the jacket he wore, and he smiled at Edward with familiarity. Edward could only guess that he had known his father.
"It is a pleasure, Mr. Newton," Edward replied smoothly.
"Your father was a good man, and excellent in his business dealings and friend in foreign markets, it should not surprise me you followed so closely in his footsteps."
"I can only hope to live up to his memory," Edward responded quietly. Before Mr. Newton was able to launch into some story about Carlisle, Edward directed the conversation to the business at hand. An artisan who worked under the employ of Mr. Newton had made many beautifully crafted sets of knives, such as one might need in the wilderness, to cut leather bindings, skin animals, cut meat. But they had not sold within the predictions Mr. Newton had made, and he was left with an over abundance. He was asking if Edward knew of any traders that would be willing to take them off his hands, for a price of course.
He knew a few. He could ask them all that they could pay for such sets, or what they had to trade in return. He was offered thirty percent of the total income from the trade, be it from an outright payment or sale of other goods after, and besides that a sum of money upfront for his troubles. It was without hesitation that Edward accepted, and after not much longer, he left the shop, whistling happily, and stumbled upon a sight he was completely unprepared to see.
Rosalie was talking, nay, flirting with a man at least three times her size, dressed like a soldier. In the time he had been talking with Mr. Newton, the town had been invaded. There were soldiers everywhere, talking, laughing with friends and family, or amongst themselves. But this one, this monstrosity of a man, was talking to his sister. And by God, she was responding! Never before had he seen her chat so purposefully to a man other than himself or Carlisle when she wasn't telling them she was far from interested. But this was different. She was flirting, coquettishly laughing with a smile and a knowing look in her eyes. When she spotted Edward she waved him over.
He approached them with something like apprehension.
"Edward, this is Emmett McCarty; Mr. McCarty, this is my brother, Edward Cullen. Edward, Emmett is a soldier in the army, passing through as we were told they would be," she said with a smile. Edward looked at her questioningly. She smirked with mischief and Edward fought the urge to laugh. She had always been headstrong to say the least, able to get whatever it was she wanted from anyone she pleased, and Edward found himself fighting to keep his cool as he reached his hand over to this man to shake in greeting. His hand was engulfed inside that of Emmett McCarty the soldier's, but he shook it with a proper how do you do.
"How long do you expect to be here in town, Mr. McCarty?" Edward inquired.
"First of all, call me Emmett. I don't answer to Mr. McCarty. And how long we remain here all depends on how long it takes the other forces to converge at our rendezvous point. Could be days, could be weeks depending on how far away they are. I'll ask the boss," he said. Edward assumed he meant he would wait until he saw their commanding officer and ask the man then, but was shocked when Emmett shouted rather loud, loud enough in fact to still all conversation and movement for a whole moment when he shouted 'BOSS!' across the open square.
Edward turned his head and looked for someone to reply. He saw a man, graying at the temples look up at Emmett, and take a single step. Edward thought he seemed a little young to be leading such military forces, but Edward had little knowledge of the inner workings of the military, he could not judge.
But when that man stepped aside, and a distinctly feminine voice called back, "How is it that even when you can't see me, you find a way to pester me, Emmett?" Edward almost didn't manage to bite back a gasp.
A woman, who looked a few years older than himself at most began walking toward the group to which Emmett had called her attention. She was lithe, built to be fast and strong, not plated in more muscle than seemed healthy for a human being like Emmett. She had long mahogany hair that was plaited down her back and kept tied so it stayed out of her eyes, and there was something so pleased in her deep brown eyes. There was a scar on her left cheek, a fresh bruise on the upper part of her arm that showed with her light clothes and her lower lip was split, but she was still the most indescribably beautiful woman he had ever seen.
But once he got past the original shock of her beauty—it took him more than half her walk to them to do so—he was shocked again. A woman had answered Emmett's outrageous call, a woman. So far as he knew women weren't allowed to fight at all, let alone lead military forces! But there she was, walking toward them, a short sword at her hip, an air of victory about her very person, wearing pants for God's sake. He almost didn't manage to close his mouth when she stopped before them, right hand resting lazily on the hilt of her blade. Edward would warrant a guess she had several more hidden somewhere on her body.
He found himself thinking, before he could stop himself, that he would be more than happy to discover the location of each and every one of them.
He shook his head at the mere thought, and silenced both his mouth and his thoughts.
"What do you need, Emmett. I was in the middle of arranging somewhere to stay for the likes of my soldiers with the local innkeepers, and then you interrupted. What is so important?" she asked. Her words were meant to sound annoyed, but her tone was light, gentle, teasing. Her voice was beautiful, charming, soft but low.
"I was having a conversation with Edward here and his sister, Ms. Rosalie Cullen, and they wanted to know how long we planned on staying. Since I didn't have that particular information myself and found myself curious to know the answer, I though I would ask you," he answered with a grin. She sighed and shook her head, wiping her brow with the back of her hand.
"I should be in touch with Jasper soon, and he can tell us how far he is and how far Laurent is. Once we know their respective distances from the rendezvous point, I can give you a better answer. My estimate as it stands at the moment is at least a week," she answered, looking up and blinking into the sun.
"Thank you much, Boss," Emmett said with a grin.
"If you cost us lodging at the inns because the owners think I was rude, I will have your head, you know," she warned him. Edward took this as his moment to interject into the conversation, make himself noticed. Her eyes had flickered to him once or twice during hers and Emmett's interchanges, but nothing more than a cursory glance. Edward himself hadn't been able to stop staring since she stepped out of the crowd.
"If it is lodging you seek, I know all the innkeepers in the area. I could persuade them if they give you any trouble," he interpolated. The woman looked at him, her brown eyes settling on him conspicuously for a long moment. And then they hardened.
"I doubt I will have much trouble, Mr. Cullen. Thank you for the offer, but it isn't my way to name drop and let the reputations of others do my work for me," she replied coolly. Edward was taken aback by her forwardness, and how offended she had seemed by his trying to make a kind gesture.
"Then, pray tell, what is your way?" Rosalie asked. Her voice was sweet as honey but Edward saw the falsity of her tone immediately. She saw that her brother had been insulted and she wouldn't stand for it. Not Rosalie.
"I make my own reputation," she answered with a smirk. She nodded at Emmett who saluted her with a laughing smile in his eyes, and she walked away with not another word.
"What an unpleasant woman!" Rosalie remarked, not bothering to hold her tongue even though both she and Edward were still in the presence of her inferior. But Emmett only laughed.
"Bella is a hard woman to like, but once you understand her, get to know her, she is not half bad," he said.
"She insulted my brother and she hardly met him," she refuted.
"If every time a man made a backhanded offer to help her when he really meant to undermine her authority she didn't respond in the same fashion, she wouldn't be a commanding officer."
"She wears pants!"
"She surely can't fight in a dress."
Edward laughed. Rosalie said nothing but crossed her arms in annoyance.
Shortly after meeting Bella, a name that matched her in every aspect of the radiance Edward had found her to possess even if her personality was a bit grating, Emmett excused himself from their company to see to some of his fellow soldiers, some of the wounded, and the families of the dead. Rose put her arm through Edward's and began walking him toward the shop she said Alice must still be in.
"You are taken with that woman," she said casually as she found him staring blankly ahead of them. It was true, he was thinking about her, how beautiful she was of course, because she was lovely, the most ridiculously beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life and if he ventured a guess, he ever would see. But what he was really focusing on was how outlandish the situation was. How could it be that she was a commanding officer? She led a military force to victory early days before, brought down enemies, won battles, held the respect of at least one of her inferiors, and from the look of it as he caught a glimpse of her talking with some of the other, many of them as well. She had strength, courage, and gumption to take a position that was solely a man's, something he was sure he would need to ask Emmett about later. It fascinated him. And though she had all but insulted him, he was curious about her. He wanted to know her, understand her.
But of course he refused to acknowledge this revelation out loud, and so he changed the subject swiftly.
"Speaking of being taken with someone, what were you doing with that Emmett McCarty character?" Edward inquired with raised eyebrows. Rosalie then gushed about how she had told Alice she was going to go buy some ribbon for the dresses Alice was going to make, and on her way she had managed to drop her coin purse. Emmett, being a gentleman, saw her drop it and brought it to her. They had struck up a conversation shortly thereafter and then Edward had come upon them. Edward smiled at his sister's obvious infatuation, and when he accused her of it she laughed, but did not deny it.
Alice was walking out of the shop Rosalie had left her in as soon as they came to the threshold, and upon the meeting Alice piqued an eyebrow at the two of them, and Rosalie set into the telling of hers and Emmett's little intrigue once more, in much more dramatic detail for her sister. Edward tuned out and thought once more upon Bella. He was determined to find out more about her. And it occurred to him that he knew just how to do it.
As predicted when Edward had set foot back in town that night he heard a ruckus at the largest pub, and tellingly the sound of Emmett's booming voice and laughter. He entered the pub practically unseen and sought out Emmett himself. He was sitting at a table with three other men, who with some stroke of unforeseen luck, vacated the surrounding seats and went to talk with some others as soon as Edward had located his destination. He made his way through the throngs of people, those from town and soldiers alike and sat himself at the table without a single word. Emmett looked at him when he sat and a shocked smile crossed his face.
"Edward Cullen! Fancy seeing you here. I didn't think you much of a pub goer, but I am happy to find myself to be wrong. As long as you aren't here to lecture me on your sister's virtue as a woman," he said with a suspicious glint in his eyes. Edward shook his head. Rosalie was more than capable of taking care of herself in most cases. He protected her because he was her brother and worried about her, not because she necessarily needed him to.
"Not at all, Emmett. I came here for something to do tonight. I saw you sitting here alone and though I would come have a pint or two with you," Edward equivocated. He didn't mention that while having said pints he intended to get some information out of him, but he didn't think now was necessarily the time to mention such things. Emmett raised his cup in a welcoming gesture and then a waitress came and handed Edward a pint as well. He gave her some money and she disappeared again.
"To victory," Edward said raising his glass.
"And beautiful women," Emmett replied.
They drank together for some time before Edward was able to steer the conversation toward Bella. But in that time he came to find that he rather linked this Emmett fellow. He looked like a brute, but there was something kind about him. Not to mention he was uproariously funny, genuinely intelligent, honest to a fault, and all around entertaining. He thought to himself that if Rosalie had to pick a man to be infatuated with he did not mind that it was Emmett.
But a few hours into their amusement another soldier, Eric his name was, reminded Emmett that he should drink too much. If Bella found him hung over in the morning she would give him a black eye. Emmett nodded and put down the freshly poured pint he had just received, pushing it away. Apparently it had happened before.
"Bella is hard on you then?" Edward asked, taking a cautionary sip of his second pint of the night. He didn't drink enough really, he thought, because he already felt the first one. He resigned himself not to drink much more that night. Emmett nodded.
"Bella does things her own way, and if you are under her command, you do them her way too," he replied rubbing the back of his neck slowly.
"I will admit, I am surprised at the situation," Edward confessed. Emmett smiled.
"A lot of men wouldn't follow a woman. But she has saved my sorry ass more than once on the field, and countless others."
"Can I ask how it came about? Her position, I mean," Edward said slowly, trying to sound casual. Emmett settled back in his chair and Edward had the feeling it was going to be a long story.
"I've known Bella for ten years now, since we were both eighteen. She was married at that age, to her best friend, Jacob Black. Not really sure how that happened, or why. I think it was mostly because she knew she was going to have to get married some time, and she would rather it have been to a man she knew than a man she didn't. Besides, Jacob treated her like an equal, not a servant. As far as Bella tells it, he taught her what she knows about swordplay, hand to hand combat, everything there was to know about being a soldier. He was in the military even then, back before even the Westwood Wars. But when the fighting did start, he knew he would have to leave to join his fellow soldiers.
"She refused to let him go without her. She even pretended to be a nurse so she could go with his ranks through the battles. She wasn't ever really the kind to let things happen, more like she caused enough trouble and dealt with the aftermath. She didn't want Jacob going off and fighting or dying without her. So she went with him, in whatever capacity she could.
"The story goes that one day, Bella was waiting in the nurses tent for the wounded to arrive so she could tend to them and at least pretend she was satisfied with it when they brought a man, already dead to the tent, saying they were being slaughtered on the fields. They also said that Jacob was injured and they couldn't help him because they would be killed. Bella was…incensed. She got the word Jacob had given her and went back out with them not even hearing their protests, and went to find Jacob herself. The men were all shocked seeing a woman coming out on to the field in the first place, let alone a woman wielding a weapon. I heard she killed three men before they even understood what was happening. She saved Jacob that day, dragged him all the way back to the tent and patched him up."
Emmett paused a moment, shrugged, and reached for his pint, taking a short sip before continuing. Edward took this moment to realize that a lot of the pub had become quieter than before, as though severl of the people in the pub were listening to Emmett's story.
"I met Bella the next day when I met up with the soldiers. I had been part of a smaller force that came to bolster their numbers and walked in right as she was being screamed at by their captain. Half the men at the camp were impressed as all hell that she had managed such a feat the day before, using a blade with skill enough to kill, dragging Jacob back all that way. But the other half were enraged that a woman had come out on their field of battle. It undermined them they said. The captain was one of the latter men. He told her if he ever saw her on the battlefield again he would kill her himself, loyalties be damned. Jacob was furious and so was Bella, as for as I could see, but she didn't say anything.
"It was a couple days before any more fighting broke out and Bella wasn't anywhere near the field, likely because Jacob had told her if the captain killed her he would be hung for treason for murdering his commanding officer. But the captain was killed that day, beheaded if I remember correctly, and a new commander came into the scene. He was a more forward thinker than the last one, and he had actually seen Bella on the field the day she went to rescue Jacob. It took some bargaining from Jacob, a little weaseling from Bella, but he eventually allowed her to fight with them. He told her he wouldn't be able to stay by her to keep her safe on the field. I was there when he said it, and I don't think I will even forget the look on his face when she patted his arm and said 'Don't worry Captain, if things get out of hand, I will come save you.'
"She had half the camp in tears of laughter as she walked away, myself included. Bella always acted like one of us, never prissy or difficult to deal with. But let me tell you, it was definitely not in your best interest to get in her way, on the battlefield or anywhere else. It was scarcely a month into the Westwood Wars and she had already saved my hide at least twice. She was a furious soldier. It was actually a little frightening to see a woman so…ferocious."
A few of the men in the pub mumbled in agreement, and Emmett took another swig of his pint. It was totally silent at that point. Everyone, even the barkeep, was listening.
"But it was really strategy that Bella was good at. She came up with battle formations and tactics that were not only shockingly brilliant, but incredibly effective. It was really because of her that the Westwood Wars were won. We gained on the battlefield, and her strategies were spread to the other commanding officers, who used them on the other forces until we finally achieved complete victory. Of course no one outside our units really knew where the tactics came from, and we certainly weren't going to tell anyone where we were getting the ideas.
"Another year passed with scarcely a whisper of a threat. There were no fights, no battles, no wars. Until..."
There was more silence, stiff with waiting and uncertainty, this time Emmett took much longer to continue. Edward couldn't understand why he would stop in the middle of a sentence. But it made sense when he finally continued.
"The Portertown Massacre caught us all off guard. No one was prepared for it. Many men died, men I knew, brave men, good friends. Jacob was murdered that night, trying to protect Bella as soldiers broke into their house. Not like she really needed him to protect her, but he always did anyway. I…I have never seen Bella like that, the way she was that night. She walked right through their lines, taking down soldier after soldier, walked right up to their commanding officer before he even knew what was happening and slaughtered him on the spot, and then walked right back out. It might have been because they weren't expecting a woman to be armed and capable, or maybe it was just that she was enraged, I really don't know. But whatever it was, she saw to it herself that every man left alive from the attacking force was killed. She didn't cry, hardly seemed to grieve in the way one expects a woman to, of course that being said she never does anything you expect a woman to do, but she disappeared for a while, in the aftermath of that night.
"When we all assembled for the defensive forces to go to Killingly, she found us again. She looked beat to hell, but she was there. The two years that followed the massacre, with the riots and skirmishes were tough on everyone, but Bella took it in stride. She was resented by many of the other men because our captain favored her. But he couldn't exactly help it, she was smart, gave them ideas and strategies to win wars. We all tried getting though to her when it came to Jacob's death, but she doesn't talk about it. Ever. Time passed. The resentment faded, and we all just banded together to get through those tough months at the end of the riots and turmoil. When it was over, our captain got promoted, and his direct inferior took over his post. He was one of those men that didn't like Bella on the field, but tolerated it because his captain told him he had to. When he was appointed head of our units, he told Bella she was no longer needed, and that she should go mourn her husband like any proper woman should. He thanked her for her services and sent her away.
"There aren't many of us left that were there five years ago when we walked out with her, but those of us that were still hold to that decision. Bella was as much a soldier as any of us, had saved our lives on the field and back in the nurses tent, she was smart, fast, relentless and she knew what she was doing. Being discharged from her post in such a way was dishonorable. I didn't care if it was treason, and neither, it seemed, did half of the other soldiers, because we walked out. She told us to go, of course, go back to our commander before we were hung for treason, but I refused and so did everyone else. If it hadn't been for her, those of us that came with her wouldn't have been alive at that point. We worked as a separate force from our original unit, and appointed Bella our captain. She would have refused such a thing if we hadn't told her we wouldn't have it any other way. Our ranks have grown over the years, depleted of course with time and death on the field, but many more joined us. There have even been some other women in our ranks at times.
"The word spread, you see, of who she was. Everyone finally found out that she was the one who had come up with the battle tactics that won the Westwood Wars. Her strategies had become classic moves in battle. No one could believe a woman had come up with such things, but we were all there to verify the rumors. She became renowned in a way, and from then on we had a stream of men who have joined our ranks. We have even been assigned men and units below us under her control. We called her general for a week or two before she threatened to behead each and every one of us if we didn't stop. She's a fierce woman, that Bella. But she takes care of us. The day she retires I think my career as a soldier will end. I don't think I could follow anyone else after five years under her."
No one spoke. What a tale! Edward's head was spinning form the ale or the story he wasn't quite sure which. A woman who had made herself known with her excellence in battle strategy, and through several acts of treason had gained a force of men who refused to anything but follow her. There was loyalty in them all, he could see, Emmett especially. He had spent ten years with Bella, knew her more than anyone else Edward would guess. But all of them followed her blindly, because she took care of them, as Emmett so aptly said.
"Bravo, Emmett; I don't think I could have told it so well myself."
Edward glanced behind him, horrified, to find Bella sitting a corner with a pint of her own, looking at Emmett with a pleased grin on her face.
"Why is it every time we go somewhere you find it necessary to spread that tale?" she inquired. Emmett laughed.
"Well, for one, I am trying to recruit for us. Nothing drums up interest in being a soldier like some sort of intrigue. And second, I am practicing my story telling abilities, if I retire from being a soldier when you do I will need some other profession to keep myself occupied. I don't think I would be suited for much else. I can talk and I can kill, that's about it," he replied lazily. This time it was Bella who laughed. The sound practically filled the silence of the pub, and shortly after she began, almost everyone joined her laughter. It was as though she had given everyone permission to find it amusing. But Edward only listened. Her laughter was beautiful. He thought perhaps it would do her well to laugh a little more often.
She seemed a much more fearsome creature now than she had before, now that Edward knew what it was she was capable of. Of course being a soldier, and a commanding officer she was capable of killing, something Edward found disturbing in the first place. But to know she planned battles, had practically single-handedly ended the Westwood Wars with her mind, that she was as ferocious as any man…it was slightly terrifying. He glanced down at the table and then back at her, the light of the flickering candle on her table throwing her face into sharp contrast of shadow and light. Her eyes seemed to glow with mirth as her laughter faded but the smile spread on her face evenly. The scar on her cheek shone a light pearl color, but it seemed to give her character and add to her beauty, not detract from it. When she met his eyes with a smirk he made himself look away. He had been staring.
He looked up at Emmett who was looking at him very seriously.
"You aren't going to lecture me on your sister's virtue, and I'm sure whatever virtue Bella had she threw away at some point in the last ten years that I have known her. But I will warn you right now, Bella is a hard woman to know, she is straightforward, tougher than a lot of men that I have met. But she is still a woman, still a person. She has been through more in the last ten years of her life than you will likely experience in the whole of yours. She deserves to have someone who cares for her, and you don't have to act all embarrassed like you aren't infatuated with her, because you stare at her like you haven't even seen a woman before in your life. She can take care of herself and she will hit me if she finds out I said this to you, but I am going to say it anyway," Emmett dropped his voice low, and it dipped down an octave, "if you hurt her, at all, in any way whatsoever, I will kill you. Do you understand?"
Edward swallowed hard and nodded. He didn't doubt for a second the sincerity of Emmett's threat. He looked like he could crush Edward's skull with one of his large hands. But when Emmett noticed Edward's expression, what must have been a severe and sudden blanch and shocked, terrified look on his face, he laughed, clapped Edward on the back and told him to lighten up. Edward smiled halfheartedly and took another swallow of his pint. He looked back over at Bella's table to find she was already gone, money for her drink glinting in the light, but empty of the real radiance that had occupied the corner.
Edward stared at that emptiness longer than necessary, and then finally said goodbye to Emmett and made his way home. He knew he was going to be ambushed by his sisters, wondering where he had been for such a long time, but they would be rewarded with gossip and so he could appease them.
Before he opened the door to be bombarded by an inquisition he thought once more about the smile on Bella's face, the genuine amusement and happiness, and how he had wished in that moment that he could make her smile that way every day of her life. Of course what followed was Emmett's threat and the knowledge that he was stepping onto dangerous ground if he chose to find a way into Bella's life, something he had no doubt would be much easier said than done.
"Just to make her smile," he said quietly, under his breath. Then he shook his head, acknowledging that he had just talked to himself.
The woman was making him crazy already, he mused as he heard Rosalie and Alice bound down the stares. But he thought of her smile again and sighed.
Crazy or not, he meant it.
Like I said, this is going to be a short story, but it will have a few updates. Im not sure how long this will be exactly, but we can figure that out together, hm? Hope you liked it :)
ps. Who loves Emmett right now? Because I do.