Punch Me, Love Me, Save Me

Chapter Twenty-Five—The Truth Why

Edward settled behind the driver's seat for the ride back to the facility after Bella insisted. She seemed agitated, but he couldn't figure out if it was something he did. A part of him wanted something from her after what happened at the restaurant, but she only offered a smile.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" he asked, finally when he couldn't bear the silence any longer.

"Inez told me something back there," she indicated, rolling her head from side to side as if she was in pain. Considering she'd done her fair share of work earlier, he wouldn't doubt she was hurting.

He hadn't even touched that damn bottle, and if that woman said otherwise, he'd have a lot to say. "What is it?"

"There's been someone snooping around, asking about our facility."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"It's not a good thing, but she said it wasn't anyone she recognized, said he was American." Bella chewed on her lip, flipping the glove department open. Inside, her hand settled on the heavy weight.

"What the fuck?" Edward growled, his eyes widening as she pulled out a gun.

"Relax, it's a last resort," she murmured as she checked the chamber with practiced ease and slipped it back inside the glove department. "The guy came around two days ago."

"Was he asking for you?"

"No, he was more interested on where we were located. But no one except my group knows exactly where the facility is, and we want it to stay that way. From the outside, it looks like a tiny seismology office, and that's what it looks like to the officials here, on paper."

"So, the fact this man is out there asking questions concerns you," he stated, keeping his eyes on the road. He wanted to watch her as she talked and be able to read her real emotions on her face. But he had to keep them focused ahead. "How could he have found out?"

"Someone said something," she said, shaking her head. "A family member, an addict I treated here, or just rumors. The one celebrity we had here and cleaned up, no one knows where he was treated."

"That might make some nosey reporter itching to find out about it."

"Or it could be someone working for one of the drug runners around here."

"Shit," Edward hissed, his fingers tightening around the steering wheel. "The people that James was talking about the other day, they're fucking cartel?"

"Wanna-be, but he's climbing up there slowly. Carlos has never found the facility, which I think pretty much pisses him off."

"How have you managed to stay alive?"

Bella sighed, wishing she had kept her mouth shut. But the fear was clawing at her again, and the only way to deal with it was to talk about it. She didn't want to fall into the hands of Carlos and his men, because she knew there was very little chance she'd walk away unscathed.

She had her reasons for coming to Mexico for this round. One was because Edward's resources were too strong in the U.S. The other was a rumor that Carlos had been taken down in a bloodbath months earlier; she was starting to doubt that information.

"Paying him off," she stated, as she pulled on a baseball cap on, stuffing her hair underneath. She threw one at him, landing beside his thigh. "Put that on, your hair is a dead giveaway."

Edward cursed and slipped on the cap and used the rearview mirror to see if he covered up most of his hair. It turned out to be a good thing that Bella had cut his hair, any longer and he wouldn't be able to hide it.

"That's why I'm driving, isn't it? It's less noticeable for a man to be driving than a woman?"

"Depends on where we are. I think we're safe for now. I haven't noticed anyone following us and there is no mistaking one of his vehicles."

"What should I keep an eye out for?"

"Black and dirty as fuck."

"Jesus, Bella. That's half of the cars we passed already."

She scooted closer, rubbing his arm for some reason. It was then he noticed how tight he was gripping the steering wheel. "Trust me, you'll notice it. Think big. I mean monster big. He likes to show off."

Edward exhaled sharply, loosening his hold on the wheel. "All right."

"You did good back there," she said after a few moments of silence.

"But?" He looked at her for a moment and saw her eyebrow arch in question. "There's always a 'but,' Bella."

"Why did you walk away?"

"Fuck," he hissed, his grip tightening once again. "I knew I was right. Any answer I give you will only strengthen your doubt. Can't we just leave it where it is?"

"If that's what you want," she stated with a sigh. "You can talk to me, Edward. There is no wrong answer to the question. The only difference will be is how we handle it."

"You sitting there, wondering why I did it makes it feel less significant."

She shook her head. "Don't put words into my mouth. There was nothing insignificant in your actions and what you did back there."

"Why do you say that?"

"Three days after your arrival, if I'd placed that bottle in front of you, you would've taken that drink and chugged it without a second thought."

There was no reason to lie; she'd see right through it. "Yeah, I would've."

"Two weeks after you're arrival, with the worst of your withdrawal behind you, you would've taken that drink and slowly enjoyed it while I looked on."

Again, there was no reason to lie. "You're right. At the time, I was pissed off and agitated that I would've done it to hurt you and myself."

"Thought so. Last week, after what happened and the timing, you would've taken it, but I'm not sure why you would've then."

"That kiss, the guilt associated with that and my and Nessie's birthday, I would've taken that drink. And the reason I would have is because then I'd have to leave. The constant need to have you would be easier if I didn't have to see your face again, and it would've helped to not deal with the aftermath of that day."

"That's what I was afraid of."

Edward sighed. "I'm not going to lie. You asked me for the same fucking courtesy and now I'm giving it to you. I know what you want to hear, that I walked away from that bottle because I want to get better. And I do want to get better for myself because I'm tired of the road I'm on. But that's not the only reason. It's utter bullshit for you to expect me not to do it for others, too.

"For Nessie, she would hate who I'd become. If she's really up there watching me, I don't want her to see me like that anymore. For Kate, who loved me at a time I thought I'd never find that kind of connection with another person, the same connection I had with my sister. For Alice, whom I've hurt over and over again because I couldn't handle my own shit. For my parents, who have to look at me daily and think of their daughter that they lost because I wasn't paying attention. And I did it for you, whom I've come to respect and I want at a scary fucking level that scares me."

Bella closed her eyes at his words, tipping her head back enough for it to rest on the seat. A deep sigh escaped her slowly, as Edward's knee bounced beside hers, a clear sign of anxiousness. She needed a moment to come up with right words.

"If you'd only said you did it for yourself, I would've known you were lying," she said after a minute or so. "Thanks for being honest. Can you tell me why you're tired of the road you've traveled on?"

Edward relaxed a little, grateful that Bella hadn't turned into a raging bitch about his reasons for walking away. Though he wasn't sure the calm attitude was much better. It meant she was analyzing everything he said. She had from the start, he told himself.

"I'm not moving forward. I'm fucking stagnant. And now, after everything that I've gone through in the last few weeks, building houses, seeing sick kids and people get medical treatment that I took for granted, I feel like I can't stay idle anymore."

"That's not exactly a good thing, either, Edward."

He nodded. "I know what you mean, like if I don't stay busy and have too long of a moment to myself that I'll want that drink. But it's probably always going to be that way. Right?"

"Most of those that I worked with struggle with that desire every day," she replied, shrugging. "They have good days and bad days, just like you'll have. But you have to understand that there is support there when you need it. Don't be afraid to ask for it."

Edward looked at her for a moment, long enough for him to see she meant that she'd always be there for him. "I already asked for your help," he whispered.

"You remember?"

He did remember, though his memory was spotty. But he remembered seeing her face, blurry from his tears, his back against the wall, and his stomach in knots. How he begged. It didn't bother him that she was there anymore. "I asked you to save me."

"How about we work together to accomplish that and everything else you set your mind to?"

He nodded and pulled off the road. Bella's hand clutched his arm, the shoulder of road rough, causing him to kick up a cloud of dust.

"What are you doing?" she asked, her eyes scanning the area.

"I need a minute, sorry."

"Okay, but we can't stay on the side of the road long." Her hand curled over one of his on the steering wheel, taking it away. The color returned to his skin as she rubbed away the tension in his fingers and palm.

Edward exhaled sharply, cursing under his breath. She had no idea how she unmanned him. "It was a good day despite the heavy subject matter a minute ago," he said after a few silent moments.

She smiled up at him. "Hell yeah, it was a good day. We practically have four houses built from the ground up. Soon, families will be moving in and that will feel good. I meant what I said, Edward. What you did back there was an amazing achievement. Despite all the reasons behind it, you were still strong enough to do it."

"Would you have really sent me home?"

"Not in the way you're thinking," she said, looking back down at their hands. "I would've come with you, probably gone to The Ranch for a few months and intensified your therapy before we headed to Washington. Then I'd be in your face for months after that."

"Damn, that shit sounds scary."

"I'm still thinking about it, though," she said, shrugging. "I need to make a choice soon. Do we stay in Mexico or do we head back to the States now?"

"You're afraid of moving, aren't you?"

"Pretty much. If his men are out there looking for me, or whoever this guy was who was asked about me, they might have someone watching the borders they know I use."

"You have an exit strategy?"

"I have a few emergency ones." She sighed. "Try not to dwell on it, we'll keep you safe."

Edward rubbed his face, scratching at the scruff on his jaw. He hadn't shaved in a few days. It was easier to think of that kind of shit than the dangers of rural Mexico. "Are you afraid I'll run once we hit the US?"

"If you had asked me that last month, I would've said yes."

"And now?"

"I don't think you'll run, but I'm not sure why you'd stay."

"It's the same reasons why I didn't take that bottle."

She looked out the window and nodded, releasing his hand. He stretched out his fingers and raised his eyebrows. "Damn, how the hell did you take care of my headache with a hand massage?"

"Reflexology," she stated. "James studied to be a masseur for a while. He taught me. We should go before someone sees us."

"All right." Edward started the truck and hit the road within seconds. "Any chance we can hit the river again?"

"Maybe this weekend."

"Sounds good to me," he said. "So what are our plans while everyone is working?"

"I'm not sure yet. We won't be alone."

"Aw fuck, who's staying?"

"Everyone will take turns. You know it's for the best."

He did know, just didn't like it. "Whatever you say, 3B."

They arrived at the facility, and this time, Edward took the opportunity to really look. Bella was right, from the outside and from the road, it looked plain, the area made up of a couple of tiny non-descript buildings. Unassuming was the best word he could come up with. He passed a grouping of rocks after he turned into the gravel driveway and then he could see the other building and the courtyard. All that wasn't seen from the road, he was impressed.

"How long did it take you to build this place?"

"What you see from the road is what I started out with," she said. "We've slowly added more over the course of six years. I wasn't the therapist on hand then. I was just the one that delivered the tough love."

He rolled his eyes. "How can someone so small pack such a punch?"

She batted her lashes at him, grinning. "Practice, practice, practice." Her eyes widened. "Oh, I figured out what we can do while everyone is away. Besides exercise, the swimming sessions and therapy, I can teach you how to cook."

"The guys are never going to let me live it down," he groaned as the secret garage door to the tunnel opened up. He parked a minute later and jumped out of the truck.

"They should, since they all pretty much had the same lessons," she said as she led the way out of the garage. "James cooks a mean risotto and Jasper is awesome at breakfast stuff. Emmett is practically king of the grill. Though Jasper's sauce is better."

Good to know. "3B, I should warn you, I've been known to burn water. Cheese sandwiches are about the only thing I can cook."

"You're in good hands."

"I wish."

She punched his arm, rolling her eyes. "Let's wash up and then meet me in the kitchen in thirty?"

"Sounds good."

Within in a few minutes, he was in the shower. As the water cascaded over his head and shoulders, Edward realized he hadn't lied to Bella, but he had omitted something. He was tired of standing still. Once, he had a future set out before him and it derailed when he became too attached to a little girl that reminded him of his sister. She died, taking another piece of his soul with him.

Not only was his mind and body battered, so was his heart. As he helped others over the last few weeks, he was slowly being patched up. It was up to him to salvage it, not Bella or his family. Him.

However, he wasn't stupid enough to believe he could do it alone. Like the houses they all built from the ground up, their support would help him put himself back together. In the same way they'd help those families get back on their feet.

There was one thing about him he hadn't told Bella. His heart, mind and soul might still need mending, but that didn't mean he loved any less. Loving her shouldn't make his recovery any less significant, but he doubted she'd see it that way.

So for now, he'd keep it to himself.

AN: Sorry shorter chapters for now, it's the only way I can write with my busy life. Don't hate me! Thanks everyone for your continued support.