A/N: This was written for tby789 and LolaShoes' "Love Through Lemons" one-shot contest. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. Sadly, I own nothing.
Eight months. Eight months since I lost him. My Jasper. My fiance, my partner, my happiness.
We dated for two years before he proposed. After we got engaged, we bought a small house together, not far from my dad's place. We'd been living there for just under a year when it happened. He was driving home from work late one night when his car was T-boned by a semi truck that ran a red light. He was killed instantly upon impact.
Jasper didn't have any living relatives, so I was listed as his next of kin. I'd been pacing for over an hour, glancing at the clock every few seconds and calling his phone every few minutes. Straight to voicemail. I knew something was wrong, so I kept trying, until the moment the police showed up on my doorstep and shattered my world into a million tiny pieces.
Eight months later, I was finally feeling strong enough to pack away his things. I'd spent the morning sorting through his clothes, trying to decide what to donate and what, if anything, to keep. I hadn't been working very long when I'd come across Jasper's favorite shirt. I smiled wistfully as I lay the old, tattered, flannel shirt on the bed in front of me. No matter how much I pleaded, told him how disgusting and hideous it was, he'd never let me throw it out. I brought the soft fabric to my face and breathed deeply. God, it still smelled like him.
After tucking the shirt into my pajama drawer I lifted the heavy box of clothes and dragged it down the steps to the front door. I was just about to make a second trip when the doorbell rang. Wiping the sweat from my face, I tucked some stray hair from my ponytail behind my ear and swung open the door.
Standing on my porch was a handsome young man, not much older than me. Clad in his U.S. Air Force dress blues, I knew him immediately, even though we'd never met, never even spoken before.
"Bella Swan?" he asked. His voice was slightly uncertain, but his face was anything but.
A big smile crossed my lips. "Edward Cullen." Jasper's best friend since childhood, deployed overseas since before Jasper and I even met. The house was full of pictures of them together as they grew up; little league baseball, community theater, high school football, prom, high school graduation, college graduation... their entire friendship was documented in the photos throughout my house.
He smiled warmly at me, though his eyes were full of sorrow. "I'm... so sorry, Bella. I--" He sighed deeply, his shoulders slumping. He looked so incredibly lost that I acted on the first impulse that overcame me. Crossing the threshold, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him against me in a tight embrace. He hugged me tightly, burying his face in my neck as he started shaking in a silent sob.
I lay my cheek against his shoulder and made soothing sounds. I would have joined him in his tears, but I had cried myself out months ago.
A few minutes passed, and Edward composed himself enough to release me.
"Would you like to come in?" I asked, nodding toward the open door.
"Thank you," he said wiping his tear-streaked face and removing his hat.
I led him into the house, kicking aside the box of clothes to close the door behind us.
"Is this a bad time? I can come back later..." he started.
"No, not at all. I was just packing up some of Jasper's things." My voice dropped and suddenly I couldn't make eye contact. "You know... for closure and all that," I added in an uncomfortable whisper.
Edward had wandered over to the mantle, which housed a frame containing a picture of him and Jasper at their high school graduation. He took a deep breath, blowing a thin coat of dust from the frame.
"I just can't believe he's gone..." he said, trailing his fingers over the glass. "I just got back today. It doesn't feel real to me yet. Some part of me was still expecting him to answer the door."
I understood what he meant. Even after the police left the house that night I kept expecting him to crawl into bed beside me with some lame excuse as to why he was late. It had taken some time for it to really sink in.
"How long is your leave?"
"A month," he answered, replacing the picture on the mantle. "Not nearly long enough considering how long I've been gone."
I nodded, leaning my shoulder against the doorframe. "Where are you staying?"
Edward gave a small smile. "I don't know if Jasper told you, but I lost my folks shortly after he lost his. We were already close, but that was a real bonding experience for us, losing both sets of parents around the same time." His eyes glazed over, staring at the wall as he continued. "Now that he's gone too, I didn't really have anything to come home to. So I'm staying in a motel until I have to go back, and just enjoying being home."
My brow furrowed. The idea of Jasper's best friend staying in some sleazy motel because he had nowhere else to go was just unfathomable. Not when I could offer a better alternative.
"Why don't you stay here? The house is big enough, there's plenty of room. And it's certainly more homey than a motel." I wrinkled my nose in disgust. "Cleaner, for sure."
"Oh Bella, I couldn't possibly--" he started, but I cut him off.
"Please, I insist. I will not have you staying someplace where you can get a communicable disease from the sheets."
Edward's shoulders slumped.
"At least let me pay you for--"
I held up a hand, stopping him once more. "Don't even think about it."
I saw the large box of clothes out of the corner of my eye and suddenly came up with an idea. "Tell you what," I began, taking a few steps toward him. "Help me pack up Jasper's stuff and we'll be even. If I do it myself it'll take weeks, and you knew him better than I did anyway. You know what he'd want us to do with it all." I extended my hand, waiting for him to take me up on the offer.
His large hand grasped my petite one in a delicate handshake. "Deal," he said grinning.
Edward brought over his suitcases later that day, and moved himself into my living room and onto my sleeper sofa. Over the next several days he helped me pack away all of Jasper's clothes, agreeing with me it should all be donated to Goodwill. One afternoon, he held up Jasper's worn, vintage brown leather jacket and was about to pack it away when I stopped him.
"Wait a second. That actually looks like it might fit you. Why don't you try it on?"
I'd offered Jasper's clothes to Edward to keep, but Jasper was much narrower through the hips and shoulders, making almost everything too small for Edward.
Edward shrugged and slipped the jacket on. "Hey, I think you're right," he said, standing up to look in the mirror.
The jacket fit him perfectly, complimenting his rugged handsomeness almost as well as his military uniform. Seeing him in it made me realize for the first time how truly attractive he was, and I began to feel a stirring of feelings from low in my body for the first time since I lost Jasper.
I quickly looked away and exhaled sharply, internally berating myself for having these feelings. I mean, it hadn't even been a year yet. Even though Jasper was gone, his presence still felt very much a part of my life. It was too soon, wasn't it?
"Why don't you keep it?" I suggested shakily. "It looks great on you."
Edward grinned broadly, his eyes shining with something I couldn't quite put my finger on.
We finished packing up the clothes that evening. Edward didn't take the jacket off until everything else was boxed up. He reminded me so much of Jasper that it became a little unnerving after a while. It was all so subtle; mannerisms here and there, the way he'd pronounce a certain word... It was all amplified by the sight of him in the jacket and I was unsure if what I was feeling was residual... or new. It was that moment that my internal struggle began.
By the following week, Edward and I had settled into a comfortable routine. I still had to work during the days, but Edward always had dinner ready for us both by the time I got home. Letting Edward do the housekeeping and cooking while I was at work felt strange. I didn't want him to think he owed me for letting him stay with me. Truthfully, I was glad to have some company for a change—even if it was messing with my head a little. More than once I'd come home to find him without a shirt on and covered in sweat while performing some task, whether it was making dinner or changing a lightbulb in the hallway. Usually on those days, I'd spend the rest of the evening overcompensating for being so nervous and on edge by talking too much.
One night, we were sitting at the table after dinner, enjoying a bottle of wine. He'd asked how my day went and I'd just finished rehashing all of boring details when he finally spoke.
"You don't work tomorrow, do you?" he asked. I shook my head, and he looked relieved. He must have been so lonely spending the days all to himself.
"There's a place I'd like to show you," he continued. "It was sort of like mine and Jasper's secret place. I thought maybe if you'd like to come, we could pack a lunch or a picnic or whatever and make a day out of it."
"I'd love to," I responded immediately. I couldn't remember the last time I'd spent the day outside, and I was surprised by how much I was looking forward to spending the entire day with Edward.
His face lit up. "Excellent," he grinned.
The next day, we were on the road just before noon. Edward drove us about an hour away, toward the little mountain town he and Jasper had grown up in. The place he was taking me was apparently in the middle of a forest preserve, and once we arrived, it took almost another hour of hiking before Edward finally assured me that we were close.
The trees parted and I followed him into a wide clearing where I found myself facing the most scenic, beautiful view I'd ever seen in my life. The clearing faced a small lake, whose water was so clear that it cast a perfect, unmoving reflection of the mountainous horizon and clear blue skies.
My jaw dropped. "Edward, this is..." I trailed off, unable to find the words to justly describe the scene before me.
Edward grinned and spread a large blanket down on the grass. "Jasper and I used to spend all of our time here together as kids. It's so far into the woods that not many people know about it."
"Lucky you. I spent my childhood in a park full of hazardous metal playground equipment," I said, only half joking.
That made him laugh. "Wow. It's amazing you made it through unscathed," he teased. Even though we hadn't spent much time together, it hadn't taken Edward long to see how klutzy and uncoordinated I was.
"Very funny," I said, frowning as I settled onto the blanket.
We spent the entire afternoon on that blanket, talking and eating. At one point, Edward was laying on his back with his arms folded behind his head, looking relaxed at he stared up into the cloudless sky. I laid beside him, on my stomach, and propped up on my elbows when I noticed his wallet laying beside the basket he'd packed.
"Mind if I look at your pictures?" I asked, picking it up.
"Be my guest."
I flipped open the leather to reveal the photos inside. There were some of him and Jasper, a distinguished-looking older couple whom I assumed to be his parents, but the very last one was the one that startled me.
I remembered the day Jasper took that photo. I was sitting in our bay window, lost in my thoughts, and hadn't seen him standing there. He'd said I looked "hauntingly beautiful", and wanted to capture the moment.
"This was Jasper's favorite picture of me," I said quietly, staring at the photo.
"It's mine, too," he said, turning on his side to face me. "He sent me several during the course of your relationship, since I couldn't meet you in person. This one always stuck with me because it was just so... dark. It's a beautiful picture, but I used to look at it and wonder what you were thinking about in that moment. Your eyes look so sad."
"It was right after my parents split up. They were so unhappy together that I wasn't exactly upset about it, but I spent a lot of time being deep in thought. I was glad that they were going to have the opportunity to be happy, but I also felt like I was losing a piece of my childhood, or like the foundation was crumbling. Does that make sense?" I finally lifted my gaze to look at him.
Edward nodded. "You sound like you handled it a lot better than I would have."
I sighed. "Well, it was hard, but you had it much harder. I couldn't imagine what it must have been like to lose both your parents at the same time."
He shrugged. "I had Jasper. He was always my rock."
"Yeah... same here," I said quietly as I looked back down at the photo. Then, a thought struck me.
"Wait, so why do you have this in your wallet? It's on you all the time, isn't it?" I asked, looking back up at him.
If I hadn't been looking, I wouldn't have seen the hesitation flash across his face. It was gone as quickly as it came, and there was no hint of it in his voice when he spoke.
"Well, I need something to discourage those girls that hang around the base, hoping to pick up an American in uniform," he said with a chuckle.
"You turned me into your fake girlfriend to ward off military skanks?!" I said in disbelief.
I rolled my eyes and laughed, but that instant of hesitation felt like it was burned into my memory. Clearly Edward hadn't been telling the truth, or at least not the entire truth. What had he wanted to say before he decided to laugh off the question with a joke?
I knew what I wanted him to say. The entire time he'd been in my house I'd been wrestling with thoughts and urges that felt so wrong at first. But we'd grown closer over time, spending every evening together, whether it was in front of the television or behind a deck of cards. The more time I spent with this man, and the more thoughts I had, the more right they felt. There were moments like today where I swore I saw the same conflict I felt reflected in his eyes—regardless of whether they were real or not, those instances only made it harder to fight. That was the worst kind of betrayal, wasn't it?
Despite the war raging between my head and my hormones or whatever it was I was experiencing, Edward and I continued to spend time together. He was so easy to talk to. At some point I stopped seeing the connections and similarities between him and Jasper and was able to see Edward just for the man he was. In such a short time, he'd become my closest friend. My best friend.
The night before Edward was to leave, the two of us were laying on the unfolded sleeper sofa, watching a movie. I felt comfortable and safe as I laid beside him, something I had sorely been missing. I laid on my back, with him laying beside me, his body turned to face me. His legs had tangled around me as he dozed, his face buried in my hair as he breathed deeply.
"I'm going to miss having you around," I whispered, turning my head to look at him. Our faces were inches away from each other.
His eyes slowly fluttered open and a tired smile crossed his face. "You're not gonna miss having a houseguest who empties your refrigerator and commandeers your washing machine."
I chuckled quietly. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah." His face grew somber. "I do."
I glanced over at the TV to see the beginning of the credits rolling.
"I guess I should let you get to sleep. You have an early flight," I said softly.
"Bella..." he started, but trailed off. He hesitated, as if trying to decide whether or not to say what he was thinking.
"Edward?" I said questioningly. "What's wrong?"
His eyes looked like they were full of sadness as he sighed and finally replied, "Nothing. Sleep well. I'll see you in the morning."
I untangled our legs and stood up from the couch, slowly moving toward the staircase.
"Goodnight, Bella," he called after me.
I glanced back over my shoulder, but didn't look at him as my hand hovered above the light switch. "Goodnight, Edward," I whispered softly, and flicked the switch.
Once upstairs, I stripped down to my underwear and opened my dresser drawers, searching for something comfortable to sleep in. My gaze landed on Jasper's ratty old shirt. It felt scratchy against my bare skin, but the scent of him that lingered was oddly comforting.
Thoughts of Edward filled my mind as I slipped into bed and attempted to sleep. This last month had been the absolute happiest I'd felt in such a long time, and I just wasn't ready to let that go. I tossed and turned for what felt like hours as I replayed our time together in my mind. It was different than what I had with Jasper, yet... similar. I saw flashes of laughs and tears, conversations and comfortable silences.
Finally I sat up in bed, having made up my mind. I couldn't let this night pass, couldn't let him leave. Not without...
My thought process came to an abrupt stop as I heard a noise in the hallway. Throwing the covers off, I slid out of bed and walked briskly across the cold hardwood floor, not caring that I was wearing only my underwear and Jasper's shirt. I flung open the door to find Edward standing there in boxers and a t-shirt, his hand raised and poised to knock.
Neither of us spoke as we stared at each other. His intense green gaze burned into me and I couldn't control myself any longer. I launched myself at him and he moved as well, his hands cupping my face firmly as our lips met in a frenzy.
He kissed me hungrily and I mirrored his movements with equal fervor. His arms slid down my body and wrapped around me, lifting me from the floor. I immediately wrapped my legs around his waist, eliciting a groan from him as he carried me to my bed, and fell down on top of me and settling between my legs.
The impact of my back hitting the mattress broke our lips apart, and I began kissing his neck and nibbling at his ear. His body suddenly went stiff above me and he sighed loudly into the curve of my neck.
"Bella..." he groaned as I continued my trail of kisses, "Are we... is this wrong? I want you so badly, but I..." He lifted his face to look at me and his eyes were full of pain and torment.
"I know... I feel the same way," I said, running my fingers through his hair. "But I have to believe that Jasper would want me to be happy; would want us to be happy. He'd want us to go on living our lives and find joy... even if that means we do it together." I laid a soft kiss on his cheek.
"You're right... I know you are. I just feel so conflicted. I've wanted you for so long, ever since I first saw that photo of you... but you still feel like his," he whispered, resting his forehead against mine and closing his eyes.
I brushed my lips against his in the barest of kisses. "Then make me yours," I whispered.
All the hesitation that was written on his face melted away at my words. He captured my lips once more with a low growl, and I cried out as his hips pressed forcefully against mine. My fingers tangled in his disheveled bronze hair as I felt his tongue exploring my mouth hungrily.
The kiss broke and he trailed his lips down my neck, quickly unbuttoning my shirt and exposing my bare breasts. Edward took one of my nipples into his mouth, eliciting a low moan from me. I pulled frantically at the hem of his t-shirt, craving more skin-to-skin contact. He pulled away long enough to pull the short over his head and discarding it beside mine before lavishing more attention on my breasts.
"Edward," I breathed, arching my back up to meet him.
He responded by hooking his fingers into my panties and tugging them down. I lifted my hips and he sat up on his knees to remove them the rest of the way. I laid in front of him almost completely nude and exposed, and he paused, his gaze moving over my form with a mixture of wonder and appreciation.
"So beautiful," he murmured. "Exquisite."
I sat up and kissed him once more, breaking his trance. With some gentle prodding, he laid down on his back, looking up at me.
"You have too many clothes on," I whispered, tugging at his boxers until they fell to the floor, freeing his erection from its cotton prison.
He chuckled and it was a low, throaty sound that was all male and entirely sexual. Almost instantly I felt my center grow moist.
I crawled up the length of his body, trailing my lips and tongue over his chest. His rough hands grazed over my body as I hovered above him, straddling his hips. I smiled down at him as I shrugged the shirt off of my shoulders, discarding it with the rest of our forgotten garments.
"Bella..." His voice was a strained whisper as his hands finally settled on my hips, gripping them tightly.
I reached down and gently removed his hands, entwining our fingers as I gently lowered myself onto him.
"Oh god, Bella..." he groaned, once he was fully sheathed inside of me. I whimpered softly as I began my rhythm, grinding my hips against his. His hands reached up to cup and massage my breasts, and I closed my eyes, letting my head fall back. I moaned, quickening my pace and he kept up, meeting each one of my movements with his own.
Edward sat up suddenly, wrapping his arms around me. The movement pressed us together and his mouth crashed against mine. His hands tangled in my long, brown locks as he pushed himself into me, and I closed my eyes, losing myself in him.
Suddenly, I was beneath him. He'd rolled us over so quickly that he was still inside me and I hadn't even realized it happened until he stopped moving.
He paused for only a moment before slamming into me again. I moaned, reaching behind me to grip the metal bars of the headboard and wrapping my legs tightly around his waist. The action forced him deeper, as he filled me over and over again.
Edward held himself above me, but buried his face in my neck as his pace grew harder and faster. The feel of his teeth grazing along my skin was driving me crazy. I wanted more.
I turned my head, exposing the long line of tender flesh to him.
"Do it," I panted, hoping he understood my meaning. Coherent thoughts and sentences were too far beyond me at this point. "Please," I whimpered.
Edward ran his tongue along a small path of skin before biting down on it, and sucking firmly. I cried out at the sharpness of the sensation, releasing the headboard and raking my nails down his back. He growled against my skin and drove into me, his thrusts becoming more powerful and less controlled.
That infinitesimal bit of force was all I needed. My whole body tightened around him as the orgasm crashed over me, drowning me in a wave of pleasure so strong that for a moment I was certain I would die from it.
Edward released my neck and gripped the sheets as he shuddered above me, climaxing seconds after I did.
"Bella," he whispered, rolling off of me and kissing my lips tenderly.
"Mmmm," was all I could manage. My eyes fluttered open and I turned to look at him, a completely satisfied smile on my face.
My gaze traveled past Edward, however, and landed on our pile of discarded clothes. It was then that I noticed for the first time that the shirt Edward had been wearing had belonged to Jasper. The sudden realization made my eyes widen. I stared at that shirt lying next to the one I had been wearing; also Jasper's.
The symbolism was overwhelming and suddenly, I was crying.
"Bella?" Edward asked, his voice frantic. "Oh god, I went too hard, didn't I? I hurt you..."
I shook my head and sniffled.
His face fell. "You regret it don't you? It was too soon..."
I shook my head again. "No, Edward. It's just..." I weakly pointed towards the clothes. "I just realized we were both wearing his clothes. And we had to take them off to be together... I just feel like were finally able to let him go, and that it's okay."
I turned my whole body toward Edward and propped myself above him, trailing my fingers down his arm until our hands met.
"Edward... please tell me that when you leave tomorrow, you're not going anywhere dangerous. I couldn't take--"
He quickly shook his head and touched my cheek tenderly. "Danger free, I promise."
"Good. I'll be waiting."
I laid down, settling in beside him and resting my head on his chest. The rhythmic pulsing of his heart was soothing. I wanted to memorize how it sounded for when he would no longer lay beside me. To remember it until he returned and I could hear it once more. My best friend. My life support.