Age of Edward Contest

Title: Duck and Cover

Your pen name: dellaterra

Type of Edward: 60's Cold War Edward

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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, products, etc., are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.

***

BULLETIN: Monday, October 22, 1962: U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced that he has received photographic evidence of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed in Cuba, stating, "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." U.S. military forces go from DEFCON 4 to DEFCON 3.

BULLETIN: Tuesday, October 23, 1962: Cuba is blockaded as U.S. ships take up positions along a quarantine line 800 miles away, later changed to 500 miles to give more time for the Soviet Union's diplomatic response.

BULLETIN: Wednesday, October 24, 1962: All Soviet ships en route to Cuba reverse their course – except for one. U.S. military forces go to DEFCON 2.

BULLETIN: Thursday, October 25, 1962: The University of Washington Huskies will begin their annual Homecoming weekend tomorrow with the traditional pep rally and bonfire outside Husky Stadium, followed by Saturday's game against Oregon. Go Huskies!

***

Bella Swan sighed as she finished packing her suitcase. What a trivial event Homecoming is, she thought, when the world is such a mess. Like shooting that student who was trying to cross the Berlin Wall, and then just leaving him there to die...

Or people rioting and dying at the University of Mississippi because a Negro started attending classes...

And now all those nuclear missiles in Cuba – only 90 miles from Florida – with more on the way...

She closed her suitcase and sat on her bed for a minute, listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary as they sang harmoniously about hammering out love all over this land.

Bella decided that the world could definitely use a lot more love but she didn't think a hammer was going to help. It reminded her too much of the hammer and sickle on the flag of the USSR.

She lifted the tonearm of her record player and took the album off the turntable. She placed it carefully inside the paper sleeve before putting it into its cardboard jacket and storing it on the shelf with her other albums. She shut off the record player and turned to say good-bye to her roommate, Alice Brandon.

They had been best friends since their first day of kindergarten at Forks Elementary School. It was only natural that they would share a dorm room in McCarty Hall when they came to the University of Washington in Seattle last month.

"Are you sure that you and Jasper don't want to come with us?" Bella asked Alice, who was waving her left hand in the air to dry her latest fingernail polish, Jungle Peach. Bella couldn't keep track of trends the way Alice did; it made her tired to even think about it. She was perfectly satisfied with clear nail polish, even though it drove Alice crazy.

"No, that's okay. I have a lot to do this weekend. And besides, Jasper vowed that he will never again contort himself into a pretzel just to fit into Edward's Volvo." Alice laughed at the recollection of Jasper Hale, her tall, lanky boyfriend, wedged into the tiny back seat, with her sitting on his lap.

"Anyway, my sorority and his fraternity are co-hosting a Homecoming party after the game on Saturday and I'm on the social committee so I have to be there." She paused. "And who knows what could happen afterward?" she added with a coy smile.

Bella's jaw dropped. "Mary Alice Brandon!" she gasped. "You wouldn't!"

"And why wouldn't I?"

"Well, you know why. If you get pregnant, you'll have to leave school."

"Don't worry, Bella. I won't get pregnant."

"I know you think you have all the answers just because you read that marriage manual at the sorority house. But there's no way you can be sure if – "

"Bella, please," Alice interrupted. "I'll be okay. Go. Have a good time this weekend. And say hi to Edward for me." And with that, Alice pushed Bella out the door and shut it behind her.

Edward Cullen was Bella's high school sweetheart. The four of them – Bella, Edward, Alice, and Jasper – had graduated from Forks High School in the spring and had just started their first semester at UW.

After Edward convinced her to sit through the first three home football games just to have "the complete collegiate experience," as he put it, she decided that she had seen enough football for one season. This week, because of Homecoming, all classes were canceled on Friday. They had decided to take advantage of the unexpected three-day weekend by leaving after their Thursday morning classes to go home for the first time since the semester began in September.

Bella stopped at the front desk to sign out for the weekend. She chuckled as she noticed a faded poster on the wall behind the desk. "Isn't that Bert the Turtle?" she asked.

"Yeah, don't forget to duck and cover," the Resident Assistant responded. "As if hiding under a desk could save us from a bomb dropped over the Space Needle," she added sarcastically.

"I remember the first time I saw that film in third grade. My teacher had the same poster," Bella said.

"Well, from the look of it, it's been here so long, it just might be your third-grade teacher's poster," the R.A. observed wryly. "Can you believe we had to watch it again during Freshman Orientation last month?"

"I know," Bella replied with a sigh. "That was ten years in a row for me."

"You know what they say about duck and cover, don't you?" the R.A. asked in a conspiratorial whisper. Bella shook her head. "Bend over and kiss your ass good-bye!"

The R.A. had the decency to look a little embarrassed about the crude language before adding, "Pardon my French!" and laughing. Startled by the unexpected profanity, Bella laughed too, in spite of herself and then, with a wave to the R.A., headed outside.

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon, with clear skies and the not unpleasant scent of burning leaves on the gentle breeze – a far cry from the vicious hurricane-force winds that had knocked down thousands of trees from California to Canada during the Big Blow on Columbus Day two weeks ago. Bella shuddered as she remembered how worried she had been when she heard about the damage around Forks.

Now, as she stood in the sunshine, she frowned as she thought about that stupid turtle. How he cowered in his shell when an evil monkey tossed a stick of dynamite from a tree overhead. How he talked about car accidents and atom bombs. How third grade had been the worst year of her life.

She remembered how she had shivered with fear every time they had to duck down under their desks and cover their heads. How, after growing up in rainy Washington, the rare flash of sunlight bouncing off the big chrome bumper of a car always left her shaking, sure that this must be the bright flash they talked about in the film, the one that made Bert's face crumple in terror.

That poster had brought it all back.

She had been sick a lot that year. First, it was chicken pox that nearly drove her crazy with the itchiness.

Then the measles, with a high fever and a rash.

Then an epidemic of mumps had swept through Forks Elementary School right before Christmas, ruining the holiday with swollen glands that made it painful to eat or drink.

Just before New Year's, a surge in polio around the nation came as close as Port Angeles, where a couple of cases had been reported.

After all that, Bella felt positively giddy when school reopened in January, free at last from days of confinement at home. She had waved good-bye to her mother that morning, warm in her brand-new coat, as she skipped to school, hand in hand with Alice.

When she got home from school that day, she was surprised to find her father there, his face ravaged with shock and grief. He told her that her mother was in heaven now.

As she was driving to La Push that morning, Renee Swan had hit a patch of ice on a winding road. Her sturdy Nash Rambler was no match for the huge lumber truck that was just pulling slowly onto the highway.

After the funeral, Bella had refused to leave the house for the rest of the month. It was only when her father told her that she would be left behind to repeat third grade that she finally went back to school. She hated the way everyone looked at her but was comforted by Alice's lively presence.

Then Miss Dwyer had shown that awful film, full of talk about fires and car accidents and atom bombs. Afterward, she made them all get down on the dusty classroom floor to "practice being turtles," as she cheerfully put it. Bella cringed even further under her desk as she felt tears beginning to spill down her cheeks.

Suddenly she heard a quiet voice coming from the desk behind her.

"Don't worry Bella," Edward Cullen said. "I'll save you." She looked at the boy with the serious face and the clear green eyes and gave him a small, tremulous smile of gratitude before covering her head again.

And now, she mused, here she was ten years later, waiting for Edward, her high school sweetheart. But it had really started that day in third grade, even if it had taken him another eight years to ask her out on a date!

They had been going steady for over a year now and they had recently started talking about what it would be like to be married. It seemed like a lot of girls went to college just to find a husband but Bella hoped to get more than her "MRS degree." She had always wanted to be a writer so she was planning to major in English. Edward was talking about doing a double major of music and mathematics. He had been thrilled to discover that there was a professor at UW who was beginning to apply mathematical theories to the study of music.

They spent a lot of time together, studying in the library. Bella enjoyed other things they did together too: hiking in the Olympic National Forest, exploring the exhibits at the Seattle World's Fair, kissing, touching....

Bella frowned again as she thought about the conversation with Alice. Would she really go all the way with Jasper? She and Alice had been talking about this a lot lately. Although they were both wildly curious about sex, they did agree that it was a good idea for girls to wait until they were married to have intercourse for the first time. Or at least they used to agree....

Alice's sorority sisters had told her about a new medication that was supposed to keep you from getting pregnant. But it was illegal to prescribe it at the university health clinic and no one seemed to know exactly how to get it. One girl had said that her mother was taking "the Pill," as she called it, but that was a real conversation stopper. No one wanted to think about their parents having sex.

Bella was so deep in thought that she didn't even notice the silver sports car when it pulled up in front of the dormitory.

"Hey good lookin', whatcha got cookin'?" Edward called out, startling Bella out of her reverie. "Why the frown? For once it's not raining and we are free to go," he said exuberantly.

He climbed out of the low-slung car with remarkable ease for his lean 6-foot 2-inch frame. She felt her heart speed up the way it always did when she saw him. He towered over her with a huge grin on his face. She laughed at his attempt to be debonair with such a corny pick-up line when there was an ink-stained pocket protector visible in his shirt pocket.

He gave her a quick kiss before taking her suitcase and opening the passenger door for her. He quickly stowed the suitcase in the surprisingly roomy trunk. He ran his hand along the sloping roof of the car as he walked to the driver's side, pausing for a moment before getting back into the driver's seat.

He had been thinking about the storm too, grateful that his father had had the foresight to rent garage space near the campus for his beautiful new car. His father, who was the Medical Director at the Forks Community Hospital, had bought the Volvo P1800 as a graduation present for Edward when he was in Sweden last year for a medical conference. Edward was ecstatic. He had been fascinated by European cars ever since the family had vacationed in Italy when he was a boy.

"So, you couldn't talk Alice into coming with us?" he asked as he put the key into the ignition and started the car.

"No, she's all tied up this weekend with Homecoming. And she said that Jasper wouldn't ride with you anymore."

"In the back seat, you mean."

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry, Edward, but I'm almost a foot shorter than he is and the back seat is too small for me too. So there was no way I was going to volunteer to sit in the back just so he could sit in front with you. Besides, just think of all the fun we'd be missing if I had to sit back there with Alice," she said. "But first, buckle your seat belt, Buster."

"Let me buckle yours," he said suggestively, running his hand across her stomach as he reached over to get the lap belt, kissing her as he did so.

"Wow!" she said as he revved the engine and pulled away from the dormitory. "Is that a tiger in your tank or are you just glad to see me?" She laughed and she wondered if she sounded as sexy as Mae West still did.

"I love this car!" he said enthusiastically, grinning as he drove through the campus.

"I should have known," said Bella in mock despair.

"Did you watch 'The Saint' last night?" Edward asked eagerly. Bella laughed at Edward's one-track mind. Well, two-track, she thought, and felt herself blushing.

"What's that?" she asked, feigning ignorance.

"Oh, come on, Bella. You know, the new show with Roger Moore? He drives the same car as I do!"

"What, this clunker?" laughed Bella, tenderly running her fingers through the short hair at the back of his neck. "Actually, I prefer Corvettes. You know, like the one that Tod and Buz drive on 'Route 66.'" She paused, looking at him slyly, while trying to stifle a giggle. She knew him so well. "By the way, I hope you don't have anything planned for tomorrow night because I don't want to miss the next episode."

'Bella!" Edward gasped, scandalized by her lack of reverence for this motoring miracle. The P1800 was barely off the drawing board and now was featured prominently on a new hit TV series. Come to think of it, Edward realized, he had started driving one before the Saint did! And of course his mother loved it because of all the safety features.

"Don't tell me you'd rather be sitting at home with your father, watching that tiny little TV set instead of going out with me!" Edward said in mock dismay.

"No, I was hoping that you would be sitting there with me," Bella replied.

"With Chief Swan in the room?" Charlie Swan was the Chief of Police in Forks. "Gosh, that's what every boyfriend dreams of," he said with a swoony look on his face.

Bella laughed. "What if I told you that he's going to be fishing out on the reservation all day, and won't be back until late?"

Edward looked at her with a sparkle in his eyes. "Well, that's a horse of a different color! Bring on the Corvette!"

"Eyes on the road, Mister," she said, laughing again.

He swiftly reached over and tickled her in the ribs. "Hands on the wheel!" she added, squealing, as the new Space Needle loomed in the distance.

"I can't believe the World's Fair is over already," Bella said. She suddenly remembered something and turned toward Edward. "Did you hear Alice's story about Elvis?

"What does Elvis have to do with the World's Fair?" asked Edward.

"Don't you remember? He was filming a movie there during the summer."

"That's right, I do make a point of keeping track of Elvis's whereabouts." Edward rolled his eyes.

Bella laughed. "Just listen for a minute."

"What happened?"

"Well, Alice said that one of her sorority sisters was working at a concession stands at the fair – "

"And Elvis asked her out?"

"No, silly. But – "

"Well," Edward interrupted again. "Rumor has it that he did date a Seattle girl while he was here."

"I thought you didn't keep track of Elvis."

"Hey, I'd do his laundry for him if he would teach me how to swing my hips the way he does." He swung his shoulders in the narrow confines of the front seat, mimicking one of Elvis's famous moves from the waist up.

"Why Edward, I didn't know you were interested in calisthenics," Bella laughed. With mock seriousness, she added, "I myself have been studying the matter in great detail and I think I might be able to offer you a few tips." She wiggled her eyebrows up and down, in a wild exaggeration of Groucho Marx's classic leer.

"I may take you up on that, Miss Swan," he said. "Do I need to make an appointment?"

"Yes," she said. "Please call my secretary in the morning...But first let me finish my story. Alice said that Elvis was filming a scene near where this sorority girl was working. He supposedly tossed his empty Sno-Cone cup into the trash right in front of her.

"Bella, why are we talking about Elvis's garbage?"

"Wait. This girl told Alice that she and four other girls started fighting for the cup until they ripped it apart. She was showing it off at the sorority house like it was the crown jewels or something."

"Five girls were fighting over an empty Sno-Cone cup? That's crazy!" Edward shook his head, chuckling.

"Poor Elvis," Bella said. "Can you imagine what it would be like to have girls screaming and fighting over your garbage?"

"That doesn't sound so bad. Who wouldn't want a few girls running after him?" He leaned out of the window. "Bring on the girls, baby!" he shouted.

Now it was Bella who rolled her eyes as she flicked him on the shoulder. "Be serious! He can't even go into Bob's Big Boy to get a hamburger without being harassed. How would you like that?"

"I guess it's the price you pay for being famous, isn't it?" he said, but he was wavering. Bella knew that Edward was partial to those double-decker burgers.

"Anyway, Leonard Bernstein is famous too, but you don't see girls chasing him down the street, do you?" Bella asked.

"Yeah, but he's old."

"Well, I think he's handsome. And West Side Story is fantastic."

"Someday Elvis will be old too," Edward said. "I'll bet you won't see girls chasing him then."

"Don't you think he deserves a little privacy? "

"Okay, Bella, you win," Edward conceded with a smirk. "When I'm a famous piano-playing mathematician, I'll save all my Sno-Cone cups for you."

"That's right!" she said possessively. "I'd better not hear about anyone else getting one."

"Oh Bella," Edward said softly. "You know you're the only one for me." He reached over and caressed her cheek and she turned into his hand, lightly kissing his palm. Their eyes met for a moment before he prudently returned his attention to the road.

As they got closer to the Olympic National Forest, they could see more of the devastation left by the storm. "This is a lot worse than I imagined," Edward said.

"Have you talked to your parents since Columbus Day?"

"I got a letter from them last week. They knew I'd be worried after the storm and they said they're okay, although apparently a lot of trees got knocked down around the house. No serious damage to the house though. What about the Chief?"

"I called him long-distance on Monday to let him know that I'd be coming home today and he sounded really tired. He said he'd been out with Civil Defense teams every night since the storm, helping to clear roads and stuff."

"Oh! Speaking of Civil Defense, I'm not supposed to tell anyone, but my dad's fallout shelter is finally finished."

"What do you mean, fallout shelter? The one in the basement of the hospital?"

"No," Edward laughed. "He had one built under the garage at home. It's really neat."

Bella patted Edward's shirt pocket, where his pocket protector bulged with pens, a slide rule, and a protractor. "I'll bet you had fun calculating all the angles for him, you little math genius."

Edward shook his head. "No, he hired this top-secret contractor guy. He could only work at night and he had to swear an oath of secrecy before my dad paid him."

"Why? Is your dad working for the FBI or something?"

"No," Edward laughed again. "He just doesn't want everyone in Clallam County knowing that he has this state-of-the-art shelter on our property. With all this crazy stuff going on down in Cuba right now, can you imagine what would happen if the Russians actually did start firing those missiles at us? Everyone would want to get into our shelter if they knew about it."

Bella turned away to look at the storm-damaged forest as they drove further west, but not before Edward noticed that she looked a bit chagrined. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said abruptly, but then seemed to change her mind. She turned resolutely to face him. "You weren't supposed to tell me about this? You mean if Charlie and I showed up at your door, your father and mother wouldn't let us in?"

"That's not at all what I meant, Bella," he said quietly. "Listen, I was going to show it to you tomorrow. My parents are driving down to Portland for the weekend and I want to give you a little tour. And maybe I could get that lesson you were talking about." Now it was his turn to do the waggling, leering eyebrows. Although her feelings were hurt, Bella couldn't help but laugh a little at that.

"Bella," he said, becoming serious for a moment. "I feel very protective of you. If the bombs start falling, I will do anything to make sure you're safe." He felt a pang as he took in her long brown hair and dark eyes with a swift glance. He would never forget when their casual flirtation in eleventh grade biology class had turned into something deeper. Something, he had eventually realized, that had been there since childhood.

Jasper had been talking at lunch that day about how he and Alice had started fooling around in her family's basement rec room. First base, second base – it was still a complete mystery to Edward. And he was embarrassed to even talk about it very much, afraid that he would display his humiliating ignorance for all the world to see.

And he didn't even have a girlfriend. One date with Jessica Stanley had convinced him that dating was a ridiculous ritual designed to drag unwilling boys into uncomfortable situations.

He had arrived in biology after lunch that day feeling like he would never even know how to step up to the plate, let alone get to first base. And a home run was unlikely to occur in his lifetime.

A few minutes later, Bella walked into the classroom, laughing at Mike Newton, who was following her like an eager puppy, pestering her about going out on a date with him.

Edward and Bella had been friends forever, always with a little competitive edge in the classes they shared. In biology, they easily completed every lab assignment together and usually had fun while maintaining their A average.

Today, for some reason, she looked different. Afterward, he couldn't say if there actually was anything different in her appearance, like a haircut or a new sweater or something. Maybe he was just looking at her differently. Whatever it was, it hit him like a ton of bricks: He didn't want anyone dating Bella. Except him. He was ready to push Mike Newton out the third-floor window but Bella did it for him.

That is, she pushed him into his seat, not out the window, and came over to the lab table that she shared with Edward. She was still laughing as she sat down to tell him, as she did every day, about Mike's chronic stupidity or Alice's latest plan to redecorate the girl's locker room. She always made him laugh. He watched as her sparkling eyes became somber when she noticed how depressed he looked.

"What's the matter, Edward?" she asked, a tiny crease forming between her eyebrows.

"Bella, would you go out with me?" he asked abruptly.

"What?" She looked startled, unsure about whether she had heard him correctly, unsure about whether he was serious. But Edward was always serious. Serious about his grades, serious about his music....

"Never mind," he said quickly, his face becoming beet red as he turned away to hide his embarrassment. This was worse than he had ever imagined it could be. What possessed him to just blurt it out like that?

"Oh no, you don't!" Bella said softly, moving around the lab table to face him. "You just asked me out! Finally!"

Finally? Her exclamation gave him reason to hope.

They finally did go out. And they finally did get to first base, and then second base. Ever since they had started college, they had gotten a lot closer to third base but living in separate dormitories with few opportunities to be alone together had left them increasingly frustrated.

Edward loved his new Volvo. It was great for making out but it wasn't exactly designed for more intimate explorations. That's why he had jumped at the chance for a weekend with Bella away from school, even if it was only to go home to Forks.

When he thought about kissing Bella in the fallout shelter, with his parents far away in Portland, his heart started racing and he squirmed a little in the driver's seat as his pants got tighter. Bella noticed his discomfort and put a tentative hand on his thigh. He jumped at her touch and hit the accelerator abruptly, making them lurch backward as the car suddenly sped up. They both laughed nervously as he eased off the accelerator.

"So, Edward," she said flirtatiously, "tell me about this fallout shelter of yours..."

When they finally arrived in Forks, they pulled into the parking lot of the Forks Diner, where they shared a cherry Coke until Charlie came in.

Edward stood up to greet him. "Hello, Chief Swan," he said respectfully.

"Edward," Charlie said as he shook Edward's outstretched hand. "Will you be joining us for dinner?"

"No, thank you, sir. I'm expected at home," Edward replied. "Bella, I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

Bella stood up. "I'll be right back," she said to her father and, taking Edward's hand, walked out to the car to get her suitcase. Once the trunk was open, blocking the view from the diner, Edward took Bella into his arms.

"I'll miss you tonight," he said softly.

She looked up at him tenderly as he bent his head to kiss her. They were both surprised when Bella pushed her hips into his as the kiss intensified.

After a moment, she pulled away breathlessly. "I'll miss you too," she said longingly as she took the suitcase from him. "Call me later?"

"Okay." He sighed deeply as he watched her walk back to the diner. She paused briefly at the entrance, turning around quickly to blow him a kiss. He grinned and climbed into the Volvo, smiling happily in anticipation of seeing her again tomorrow.

***

Friday was another beautiful fall day. Edward's parents left for Portland before he woke up. After their lively dinner together the night before, it was strange to be all alone in the house. Edward had told his mother about his plan to take Bella on a picnic today if the weather was nice. When he came into the kitchen in search of breakfast, he found the family's old willow and bamboo picnic basket sitting on the counter. He opened the wooden lid and smiled as he saw that his mother had filled it with a delicious lunch for two, just as she had promised.

He had neglected to mention, however, that the picnic was going to take place in the fallout shelter. And now, an hour later, he smiled at Bella nervously as he returned with her to the house.

"Wow, you really did lose a lot of trees in the storm," Bella observed.

"Yeah, I was pretty shocked when I got here yesterday. I loved those trees. But now you can hardly tell how much the yard was dug up while they were building the shelter."

"Where is it, exactly?" Bella asked.

"It's mostly under the garage. The entrance is inside, but you can see a ventilation tube sticking up in the flower bed over there." He pointed to a slender cylinder visible among the pink and white petunias running along the side of the garage.

Bella shuddered. "I just wish we lived in a time when we didn't have to think about stuff like that."

"Bella, people have been finding ways to kill each other since the dawn of time," Edward said stoically.

"But it's different now," she said. "At the dawn of time there weren't a bunch of Communists sitting thousands of miles away pushing buttons to launch nuclear weapons on unsuspecting civilians."

Although the sun was still shining, a pall seemed to fall over the day. Edward couldn't deny that the world was on the brink of destruction as Soviet and American ships got closer to each other in the Caribbean.

Last night he had watched the news with his parents before dinner. As they switched between Walter Cronkite on CBS and the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC, the situation just seemed to get worse and worse. It felt like the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but this time it wouldn't be just a few cowboys who got killed.

Edward reached for Bella's hand. "C'mon, Bella, let me show you the shelter."

As they walked through the open garage door, he noticed several large cardboard boxes stacked at the rear of the garage, not far from the entrance to the fallout shelter. He paused to inspect the contents of the uppermost carton. It appeared to be parts for an electronic device of some sort.

"What's that?" Bella asked, peering into the open box.

"These are components of the shortwave radio system for the shelter," Edward said.

"Wow, it looks really complicated."

"It is. My dad and I are going to put it together after he gets back from Portland," Edward said proudly.

"Well, aren't you Mr. Popular Mechanic!" Bella teased.

Edward blushed and grabbed her hand. "It's this way," he said as he led her through a door and flipped a switch at the top of the stairs to turn on all the lights in the shelter below. At the foot of the stairs there was another door, which Edward held open, gesturing for Bella to go in ahead of him.

She stepped into a small, well-lit room, about the size of the dorm room she shared with Alice. Three of the four walls were lined with shelves, with a round table and four chairs in the middle of the room. The shelves were filled with everything Bella remembered reading about in the Civil Defense pamphlet that Charlie had at home.

With a quick glance at the crowded bookcase on her right, Bella took in titles ranging from the Bible and the collected works of William Shakespeare to medical texts and a Russian-English dictionary.

Next to the bookcase was another wall lined with shelves. Some of the shelves were still empty. "That's where the shortwave radio will go," Edward explained.

Against the wall to her left was a bunk bed with stacks of pillows, sheets, and blankets. At the foot of the bed an open doorway led into a pantry area filled with more rows of shelves, like a library. Through the door Bella could see barrels of water, canned goods, and other foodstuffs filling the small room.

Directly opposite the main entrance were two more doors, with floor-to-ceiling shelving between them. Those shelves were stacked with medical supplies, tools, and other household necessities.

"What's in there?" Bella asked, gesturing toward the two closed doors.

Edward walked over to the door on the left and opened it. Inside was a small chemical toilet and shelves filled with paper products and waste disposal bags. One corner of the room contained a small elevated platform with a drain in it, surrounded by a shower curtain.

He took her hand and led the way to the other door, opening it slowly before stepping inside. Bella followed him in and he closed the door behind her. It was so small that at first it seemed like a glorified closet. But it was big enough to hold a double bed, a small bedside table, and an armoire. Edward switched on the small lamp that was sitting on the table and shut off the overhead light before turning to Bella.

"What do you think?" he asked. He wasn't sure if he wanted her impressions of the fallout shelter or her opinion about what they might do next. She opted for the former.

"It's incredible, Edward," she said, impressed. "Your father thought of everything, didn't he?"

"I don't really want to talk about my father right now," Edward said as he reached for her. She came willingly into his embrace. "I've been thinking about this moment all week," he said in a low voice.

"Me too," said Bella, blushing. "I thought the weekend would never get here."

He sat down and pulled her into his lap. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. She could feel his hands moving up and down her back as he pulled her closer. For a few minutes they kissed with increasing abandon.

"Bella, you know I love you," Edward said in a husky voice. "I want to be with you forever."

"Why, Edward!" teased Bella a little breathlessly. "Are you proposing to me?"

"Maybe I am," he said. "All I know is that this world is insane. Any minute now someone could decide to start dropping bombs and I'm afraid I'll never get to show you how much I love you."

"You can show me now," Bella said shyly.

"But I thought you wanted to wait until we got married."

"Maybe we should," she said. "At least that's what Alice and I used to think. But maybe it's stupid to wait when the world could blow up in the next 30 minutes."

"Bella, are you sure?"

"You can show me now," she repeated. She got up from his lap and took his hands to bring him up to stand face to face with her.

He began to pull her sweater over her head but was frustrated to discover that in his haste he had somehow overlooked a piece of jewelry that was fastened to her sweater as well as the blouse underneath. He took a deep breath and lowered the sweater far enough to see the silver circle pin over her heart. "Will you be wearing this on the right side tomorrow?" he said with a low chuckle as he gently unfastened the pin and set it on the table.

"Edward!" she gasped as she blushed an even deeper shade of scarlet. She looked down shyly as her fingers nervously fumbled with one of the tiny pearl buttons on her blouse. The brief pause made them both self-conscious again.

Edward soothed her with a caress, following the line of her cheek to below her chin, where he gently lifted it to look into her eyes. "I love you so much, Bella," he said before kissing her again. She closed her eyes and leaned into the kiss.

Through the thin fabric of her blouse she felt goosebumps up and down her arms, all along the trail of his touch. Down again, and up, ever so slowly, until his fingers drifted across her collarbones and then began to unbutton her blouse. They moved apart for a moment, breathless from the kiss.

She put her hands on his waist and held them there, motionless, as her eyes followed his long fingers until he reached the last button and delicately pulled the blouse from the waistband of her skirt, opening it as he did so and then reaching up to push it off her shoulders. It slipped down her arms and onto the bed behind her. Edward considerately picked it up and dropped it on the bedside table.

Bella bit her lip and reached behind her to unclasp her bra and then lowered the straps with one hand while still holding it in place in front of her with the other. She looked at him uncertainly.

He reached forward tentatively and touched the tiny rosebud at the very center, then the smooth skin behind it. His finger bent over the edge of the pale pink fabric and he gently began to pull it toward him. She sighed as she dropped her hand and he caught the bra and set it aside.

She heard his sharp intake of breath as he took in the vision of loveliness before him. With an awestruck expression he caressed the voluptuous roundness of her breasts. His thumbs moved in ever-smaller spirals until he touched the border between her alabaster skin and the deeper rosy hue of her areolas. He watched in amazement as her nipples swelled under his touch.

It wasn't as if he hadn't ever touched her before but he had never seen her without any clothes and it was like he was discovering her body for the first time all over again. Even as he reveled in the satiny texture of her soft skin, he became acutely aware of his growing discomfort and wished that he could manage to take off his own clothes without losing contact with her body.

Somehow Bella understood. She shyly began to unbutton his shirt and he hastened to shrug it off as soon as he could, along with his undershirt. He was electrified by her touch as she flattened her palms against his chest and moved her hands slowly downward. She took him completely by surprise when she suddenly leaned forward and kissed each nipple, then moved back just as quickly, as if startled by her own audacity.

But their hands did not lose contact as they drifted downward, each on the other's body, in a delicate duet of gradually heightening sensation. Bella's fingers curiously traced the bloom of dark hair that spiraled upward from below his belt buckle. When she reached his waist, she looked at him questioningly. In mute reply he pushed his hips forward and she began to unbuckle his belt.

In the meantime, with his left hand still enchanted with Bella's breast, his right hand had found its way well below her waist. He pulled up the hem of her skirt, grateful that, for the moment, he didn't have to deal with the complexities of garter belts and other such trappings, since Bella was wearing bobby socks and loafers today. For the picnic, he chuckled darkly to himself.

"What?" she whispered.

"I was just thinking about how we were supposed to be having a picnic today. I know it's terrible to say this in a fallout shelter, but I like this so much better." And he dropped his head, first to one breast, and then the other, to return the kisses she had bestowed upon him a moment earlier. At the same time his hand reached the edge of her panties, just as she began to fumble with the waistband of his slacks.

The sensation of her hands rubbing against his zipper, no matter how unintentionally, was more than he could bear. He suddenly felt impatient to be rid of all this constrictive clothing.

"Let me do that," he said in a husky voice, as he reluctantly removed his hands from her body long enough to kick off his shoes and, with surprising speed, unzip his slacks and take them off, along with his socks and underwear.

After such an impulsive move, he felt self-conscious again as Bella stared at him with a look of wonderment in her eyes. He was worried that she might be disgusted, or afraid of him in all his masculine glory but she reached out one finger to touch the velvety skin at the tip of his penis.

"You're beautiful," she whispered.

She looked inquiringly at him, uncertain of what to do next. "Touch me again," he instructed, as he wrapped her hand around him, and then his own hand around hers. "Like this." He squeezed gently and slowly moved her hand up and down along his length.

But the sensation was too much; he didn't want it to end too soon. "Stop...Please," he pleaded as he struggled for control. Believing that she had hurt him in some way, Bella tried to pull her hand away but he held onto it.

"Just give me a minute." And, thinking that perhaps he had better find a way to distract himself, he lowered her gently onto the bed and propped himself up at her side. The movement forced her hand away. He yearned to have her touch him again but realized that he wouldn't last much longer if she kept stroking him like that.

And so he decided to return the favor once again. He kissed her and felt her breath quicken as his hand made its way down her body once more.

Down past her beautiful breasts, down across her smooth stomach, rising and falling with deep breaths as her arousal intensified with his caresses.

Down the length of her skirt, pressing briefly on her mound before pulling up the fabric and gliding up her warm, smooth thigh to the edge of her panties.

He felt her wriggle slightly and then realized that she had unzipped her skirt and was trying to take it off. Immediately he volunteered to help, first with the skirt and then the silky half-slip below it. Now the only obstacle that remained between them was a pair of pale pink panties.

Edward was bewitched by the tiny rosebud that matched the one on her bra. He touched it, as he had its twin, then ran one finger along the waistband before hooking it over the edge and gently tugging at the panties. She obligingly lifted her hips as he took them off and added them to the jumbled pile of clothing.

He looked at her then, his eyes filled with desire. She blushed from head to toe, it seemed, and moved to cover herself a little, embarrassed by the smoldering directness of his gaze.

"No, love," he said softly. "You're so beautiful. Please let me look at you." At which she opened up to him like a flower turning toward the sun. He reached for her as if he were a man dying of thirst, drinking in all the sensations of her scent, her smooth skin, the glistening beads of moisture below the soft V of dark curly hair.

She moaned when he began to explore her there. He was overwhelmed and suddenly felt the pulsing jet of his own release escape his body before he could hold it back with thoughts of mathematical theorems or baseball statistics. First base, second base, third base – it was too late.

He was aghast at this turn of events. "Oh my God, Bella, I'm so sorry. I – "

Before he could say anything else, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close, oblivious to the mess he had made of things.

"It's okay," she whispered as she ran her fingers through his hair, surprised at how relieved she felt that things hadn't gotten completely out of control. "Maybe it's better to wait. I love you, Edward, but I don't know if I'm ready for this."

Edward too was so relieved he could have wept. She didn't hate him. She didn't want him to leave. She...

A low rumbling gurgle interrupted his thoughts. He could feel her laughing quietly as he realized that it was Bella's stomach growling. "Is somebody hungry?" he grinned, forgetting his embarrassment for the moment.

"Yes," she said primly. "I was promised a picnic lunch. So where is it?"

"It's...It's still up in the kitchen. I forgot all about it. I'll go get it," he said as they untangled arms and legs. He went into the small bathroom for a moment and came back with a washcloth. He cleaned himself, and then Bella, paying far more attention to her breasts than was absolutely necessary.

"There isn't even anything there," she said as she laughingly shoved him away. He grinned and got up, pulling on his slacks and heading toward the exit. "I'll be right back."

He bounded up the stairs two at a time and stopped in the bathroom on his way to the kitchen. He pulled a couple of Royal Crown Colas from the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle opener, tucking it into his back pocket. He picked up the picnic basket and had turned to leave the kitchen when he heard the most terrifying sound he had ever heard in his life.

A low wail started in the distance and gradually became louder and louder as its shrill pitch penetrated every cell of his body. He was frozen on the spot, halfway through the door from the kitchen into the mudroom leading to the garage. Although it was probably mere seconds, it seemed as though he had stood there, petrified, for years before he finally found the will to move again as the sound of the air-raid siren continued to shatter the peace of this tranquil autumn day.

His thoughts blurred together in a panicky jumble. Thank God for the fallout shelter...I don't want to frighten Bella...Oh no, my parents!...And Charlie...But surely they of all people – a doctor and a police officer – would know where to find shelter from a nuclear attack, wouldn't they?

He tried to reassure himself that they would be safe but his legs started shaking and he realized that he had to get under cover quickly to avoid the shock wave that would follow an atmospheric explosion of a hydrogen bomb.

The siren was still wailing as he reached the entrance to the shelter. He closed the upper door and then stumbled down the stairs to the lower entrance and stepped inside, breathing heavily as if he had been running.

He shut the door and set the picnic basket and cola bottles on the table. With shaking hands he began lighting candles, hoping to convince Bella that this was some sort of romantic gesture instead of a matter of desperately stalling for time. He tried to act casual as he flicked off the light switch to save generator power but he knew that Bella would suspect something as soon as she saw him. As he turned toward her he tried to affix a reassuring smile on his face but knew that he probably looked ghastly in the flickering candlelight.

"What happened to you?" Bella said with a grin that quickly faded when she saw his drawn features. "You look like you saw a ghost or something."

He didn't reply. He couldn't bear to say the words that would make this waking nightmare an irrefutable reality.

"Edward Cullen! Now you're scaring me. What happened?" she asked as she walked toward him. She had put on his shirt and he couldn't help noticing how lovely she looked. But as much as he desired nothing more than to lie quietly in the shelter of her embrace until his heart stopped pounding, now was not the time.

"Sit down Bella," he said, as he led her back to the bed. "I've got some very bad news."

She stopped. He tried to lead her to the bed but she shrugged off his hand and stood very still, looking as if she was about to cry. "Is it Charlie?" she asked in a tearful whisper. "Is he all right? Are your parents okay?" She knew from his face that it was something awful. Her voice rose to a near-hysterical pitch. "Edward! Tell me what's going on!"

"Bella, it's all over," he mumbled incoherently."The bomb...I heard the siren...." He couldn't go on.

"What are you talking about?" she asked, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him as if he were a stubborn child.

Edward took a deep breath and slowly began to explain. "When I was coming out of the kitchen, I heard the Forks Civil Defense air-raid siren going off. It was a warning. They told us about it at Orientation, remember? The only thing it can be is a nuclear attack. JFK must have attacked Cuba and now Russia is retaliating."

Bella could hardly process what he was saying. "That...that's impossible...They were negotiating...There was only one ship left. All the other ships turned back, didn't they? Isn't that what we heard on the radio on the way over here this morning? And now...now we're all going to die?" She began to cry uncontrollably. Edward took her into his arms.

"We're not going to die, Bella. We're completely safe. My father made sure that this shelter had everything we need to survive for a month without having to go outside for anything."

"Outside?" Bella wailed. "Why would anyone want to go outside? I'll never go outside again." Edward held her as she sobbed. He felt numb.

Slowly her sobs subsided into shuddering sighs. He tightened his hold on her, not knowing who was comforting whom at this point. Eventually, with one last sigh, she looked up at him.

"Thank you, Edward," she said quietly. "I had no idea that something like this would hit me so hard."

"That's okay, Bella. I'm just glad you're safe." And he bent his head to kiss away her tears. She found his lips and kissed him deeply. He felt himself stirring and pressed against her. His tongue probed tentatively between her lips and then her mouth opened and their tongues began a desperate dance that only inflamed him further.

Suddenly, the whole idea of "waiting until they were married," which had sounded so sensible a few minutes ago, now seemed utterly pointless. They both seemed to have the same thought at that very moment. This time, her hands moved more confidently to unzip his pants, and he was grateful that she had buttoned only three of the buttons on his shirt.

He laid her gently back down on the bed and held himself over her, poised to enter. "I don't want to wait any longer, Bella," he said. "I love you so much!"

"I love you too, Edward," she said as she guided him toward her opening. He felt electrified as he pushed in slightly. She was so wet. He stopped when he reached her barrier and felt her tense beneath him.

"Please, Edward," she breathed as he pulled back a bit and gritted his teeth before pushing more deeply into her.

"Oh!" she moaned as he felt her give way and suddenly he was fully sheathed by her body. She was incredibly warm and he could hardly believe how amazing she felt. She lifted her legs and wrapped them around him, pressing her heels into his back as she tried to pull him more deeply inside her. He responded by speeding up his thrusts, until their glistening sweat pooled on her belly. He looked down at her and was surprised to see that her eyes were open – dark, limpid pools of love shining in the candlelight.

"Edward," she moaned again and, with one last explosive thrust, he shuddered and released into her. He felt exhilarated, having redeemed himself after his previous humiliation. And, for just a moment, he forgot that the world above as he knew it had ended because right here, right now, it all seemed brand new and filled with limitless possibilities.

Then he remembered where they were. And why. His earlier notion of showing off his father's hidden shelter with the hope of an uninterrupted make-out session now seemed ridiculously immature. He had to be strong for Bella now. Suddenly, he missed his father very, very much.

He reached down and pulled up a sheet from the folded stack that had been kicked off the bed, covering both of them as he moved to her side. Suddenly, he sat bolt upright and reached for his slacks.

"The radio!" he groaned as he stood and started getting dressed.

"What about the radio?" Bella asked as she slowly came back to herself. She had been wondering where Alice and Jasper were, if they too had done what she had thought was so scandalous less than 24 hours ago. She hoped that they were together when it happened, and that somehow they had survived.

"What about the radio, Edward?" she repeated, as he pulled his undershirt over his head and ran his fingers through his unruly hair.

"Without the radio we have no way of knowing what's going on out there," he explained. "I have to go up and get it. I think the instructions for assembly are inside one of the boxes. Maybe – "

"You can't leave!" she cried, grabbing his arm. "You can't leave me! It's not safe! You said so yourself. We can't go outside again for at least three weeks."

He slumped back down onto the bed and she wrapped her arms around him. "Please don't go out there, Edward," she pleaded.

"Okay," he mumbled, not knowing what to do next.

They sat together like that for a long time, bereft, lost in their own thoughts about how they would face this brave new world. They took comfort in the knowledge that they wouldn't have to face it alone and tried not to dwell too much on the loved ones that they would probably never see again.

One by one, the candles guttered and began to go out. Edward tried to remember where the flashlights were. He had just decided to get up and look for one when they heard a muffled thud. A moment later, the lights came on and they squinted at the sudden brightness.

Bella shrieked and clutched at the rumpled sheet. As Edward leaped from the bed and grabbed his shirt, he realized with a jolt that he hadn't locked the doors behind him in his mad rush to reach Bella after he heard the siren. He quickly pulled on his shoes before glancing back at her, sure that his face was as startled and as pale as hers.

"Get dressed, Bella," he said. "I'll see what's going on."

"But Edward," she whispered in a tight, fearful voice. "We're not supposed to open the door for thirty days. What about the radiation?"

"Just wait here," he said abruptly before he shut the bedroom door and walked cautiously toward the shelter entrance. Bella scrambled off the bed while trying to hold the sheet around her trembling body and started sorting through the garments piled up on the bedside table.

She opened the door slightly, watching Edward while she put on her skirt and blouse. He was leaning with his ear against the door, listening with a frown. She quickly picked up her bra, panties, and slip, as well as Edward's socks and briefs, then stuffed them all under the pillow and straightened the bedding a little.

She stood up and Edward heard a long, deep sigh as she turned resolutely and came around the table to stand behind him near the entrance.

Suddenly the door swung open. They both took a step backward in surprise.

"Edward!" exclaimed his mother, bursting into the room. "What are you doing down here? And is that Bella with you? I thought you were going on a picnic."

"Hi, Mrs. C.," Bella said weakly as she stepped out from behind Edward.

"Mom, what are you doing here? Where's Dad? I thought you went to Portland," Edward said with a bewildered look on his face.

"Oh, we stopped at the hospital on our way out this morning and your father got called into emergency surgery," she explained. "I volunteered in the hospital gift shop for a couple of hours and then had lunch with Alice's mother."

Then she turned to Bella. "Your father is worried sick about you, young lady," she scolded. "He's waiting to go to that new restaurant in Port Angeles with you and – "

"What are you talking about, Mom?" interrupted Edward. "Don't you know what's happening?"

"Well of course I know what's happening, Edward. I'm making spaghetti sauce for dinner and I forgot to get canned tomatoes on my way home, so I came down here to get some."

"Didn't you hear the siren?" He thought that perhaps the shock of the bomb had addled her wits.

Bella moved quietly to his side, her face pale and drawn. "Maybe we should close the door again, Edward," she said quietly. "I'm worried about the fallout."

He reached for her hand, wondering how they were going to cope with his obviously demented mother. He recalled that there were a number of medical textbooks in the bookcase and he hoped that a psychiatric treatment manual was among them.

"What siren?" his mother asked absentmindedly as she walked into the pantry area and started rummaging among the canned goods in search of No. 2 cans of whole tomatoes.

"Mom!" Edward said sharply.

"Yes, dear?" She turned quickly at the sound of his voice, with a look of surprise on her face. "Oh, are you talking about the Clallam County Civil Defense siren?"

"Yes, mom, I'm talking about the siren," Edward said with consternation.

"That's right, they tested it today, didn't they?"

"Tested?" Edward looked at Bella. "What do you mean 'tested'?"

"Well, that's what they do every month, Edward. Don't you remember? They test it for 60 seconds at noon on the fourth Friday of the month."

"What?" Edward and Bella yelped in unison.

"Oh, I forgot. They just started doing that last month, after you and Bella went to Seattle. Now could you help me find those tomatoes please?"

***

BULLETIN: Saturday, October 27, 1962: With almost 58,000 fans in attendance for Homecoming at Husky Stadium, the 8th-ranked University of Washington Huskies football team battled to a tie, with a final score of 21-21 against Len Casanova's University of Oregon Ducks.

BULLETIN: Sunday, October 28, 1962: After President John F. Kennedy agreed that the USA would never invade Cuba, Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union announced on Radio Moscow that he has ordered the removal of all Soviet missile bases in Cuba. The crisis has ended.

***

A/N: Couldn't have/wouldn't have done it without the generous feedback and much-needed encouragement from OCD_indeed. If you are as intrigued by apocalyptic scenarios as I am, you will love her awesome story, "The Fallout." Be sure to check it out – right after you leave me a review, please!

Thank you to everyone who read and supported "Duck and Cover" in the Age of Edward Contest. Congratulations to the winners! If you like stories with a slice of history and a lemon twist, be sure to visit www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/1939261/