A/N Oh God, life. Trying to keep bosses happy and running life has been ridiculous. But here. Go read. Thanks for even clicking this and for continuing to read. Greatly appreciated.
Beta B! :-D *blinks* Hi.
|:::::[-]:::i):::| — I can still do this...i think.
Sound: Thom Yorke
Ending of Chapter 30: Guilt
"Everything alright?" Edward asks me tentatively, but he watches the guilt-ridden man who keeps secrets buried inside.
I understand, like blurs morphing to focus, why it's so hard for Carlisle. Why he wants to feel numb—to keep the guilt from killing him. Why he took Edward, Alice, all of them, from under Aro's thumb. He's fixing the monumental mistake he made years ago to run off and grieve for Esme alone. But it's too late. Now, one secret cannot be revealed without the other. He broke his own son in more ways than one.
Empathy flows like a wave. After all Edward has been through, I would...I would keep silent, too if I were him. Because the preying beast that lives in Edward will crawl out, make its presence. He would kill the father he's been searching for in this bed he lies in.
So I say it, because I need father and son, both, alive. "The key is gone."
Chapter 31: Near
"Where is it?" This is the second time he asks. Numbly, I stare. No answer.
My hand in Carlisle's is life squeezing out. Edward's eyes, those green eyes I love so very much, I watch them toggle from me to his father. His father. Not the same color irises, but like his mothers. Red hair, tousled and alive. His family roots lost in a photograph he doesn't notice.
"Where...?" he asks one last time. This time I have to answer. His jaw is setting the way it does when he's just pushed over the edge.
"It's…" I breathe. I look at Carlisle. His eyes on light and not looking away for an instant—he's lost in Edward, flesh and blood. I've never noticed this hope in his eyes before. Always treating Edward with hostility. Always kept him under his thumb. Maybe to keep him distant. To keep him in familiar territory of violence. To keep his shell tough. Because, still, he needed him—to find, to kill, to fix the mess of Aro. I know. I wouldn't have to ask.
I sigh. "His son. His dead son had it." I go to hand him the photo of the child on the blanket. He doesn't take it, doesn't even look at it. His scrutiny on Carlisle still. My hand falls to my lap with the photograph.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asks Carlisle. No response.
"He...no one knew, Edward," I explain quickly. Why do I explain so quickly? The anxiety inside me. Carlisle is in a different light now. I rush to his defense.
"Why?" he asks Carlisle, not me.
"It was safe. To keep all the burden from me. Incase of anything…" I trail off. Edward's hand lifts to stop me. He walks around the bed and stands by him. Carlisle's eyes follow him.
"Tell me the truth," he insists. But Carlisle doesn't respond. All he does is lift his free hand to spread his fingers on Edward's shoulder, where his shirt wrinkles with the grip. Carlisle sighs. He closes his eyes.
"It was important. You have to understand. If they had you," he rasps, looking up at Edward, "I couldn't live with myself, knowing...they would've done anything to take it out of you...the truth."
My heart pounds. Carlisle's words are double with meaning. I squeeze his hand.
"Why didn't you take it out of your son before you buried him?" Carlisle shakes his head as Edward asks, but he doesn't answer.
I stand and walk up to Edward. "Let's let him rest. There's no use now. Nothing can be done."
"I'll find it. Tell me. Where did you bury him?" Edward persists. My blood runs cold. I grab Edward's hand to get his attention.
"It's better this way," Carlisle confesses.
Edward looks at me but his thoughts still in this inexplicable confusion. I shrug and shake my head at him. "At least no one will ever get to it." I try. "I'm glad. It could all be over."
Edward's brows knit. His expression of uncertainty at dismissing this so quickly. "I'm tired." I hurry to explain. But it's true, I am, of everything; the chasing and struggle. His gaze turns to sympathy.
"You're tired, too," I tell him. "Let's go sleep. We'll think of something," I plead with him, trying not to show the urgency.
He takes a step and I can breathe. But he looks back at Carlisle and tries to find reason in his pale gaze again. "What was the point?" He speaks. "Of Bella, of all of us? Killing, hiding, fighting. What was the point if you knew all along?" Edward asks and I want to fall.
Carlisle keeps his piercing gaze without blinking, but has nothing to say.
Edward suddenly tightens his grip on my hand and pulls me towards the door. "You should've let us die," he says over his shoulder. The darkened room providing echo, emphasizing his anger.
I look at him as he pulls me through the corridors. He's breathing heavy, huffs of anger and stress.
"You don't mean that," I whisper. He winces slightly and his head dips. He reaches for the door of our room. "I would go through it again if it meant I'd find you."
He sighs after locking the doors. "Bella."
I pull on his shirt and begin unbuttoning it. I feel his warm sigh on my forehead. "Well, really, you found me but...I wouldn't be the same without you." The shirt tumbles to the floor.
I make my way around the gun halter and slip it off his shoulders. In no time, I have him warm against me. I kiss his collar, his neck, his lips next. I brush a streak of dirt off his chin and the shell of his ear. "We're alive for a reason...because you're strong and fought for it. It wasn't all him," I say.
He drops his head on my shoulder and breathes in. I like how we fit. His arms wrapped around me with fingertips skimming under my bra. Mine tentatively finds his nape, measuring, one, two, three, four fingers—right above where the key should be buried, like mine was. I find the spot, a slight bump I never noticed. I can barely swallow down the ball in my throat.
The photo of a little boy holding my hand as I was sitting on grass, filters my mind. I knew him. He knew me. All along. We were meant to find one another.
He shivers at my touch and squeezes me. "What do we do now?" He murmurs. But I don't know. He's always the one to figure things out. It's over. No more cures from a stem the world seems to need.
"Unless..." I pull back. "What if he knows how to make a second key. If they figured out the formula, I'm sure Carlisle could do it again."
His hands run down my chest as he contemplates. He unbuttons my jeans and pulls my blouse from underneath. "Maybe," he answers. "He's...delirious half the time. I don't know how he would get it together long enough."
I shake my head. His guilt ridden deliria is self driven. Carlisle has been most definitely present in mind all along. I won't say.
"We have to keep him safe. He's all we have left," I say as I step out of my clothes with his help. He pulls me into him and kisses me deeply. My feet are off the floor as he walks into the bathroom where he deposits me. I turn on the shower and watch him toe off his boots and slip off his pants. He dizzies me, anything he does.
Steam rises and warms my bones. I suddenly can't grasp control, I want him. He barely makes it into the tub and I'm devouring him. He eagerly responds, bending at the knees to let me reach his mouth. Burnt rose tongue and lips. I climb his waist, cold tiles on my back, we rush to unwind. A long day.
Across the way I see us, almost blurred with steam over the mirror. His shapely back and scar and ass, moving. The stream ricochets off his back, creating a puddle on the floor. He bites my shoulder and the sounds he makes are deadly, inspiring my own.
I squeeze him desperately, savoring the short moment of bliss, like this, with him. Until we can be alone some day, uninterrupted, focused on gripping love and not war outside our room, I'll take what I can get.
We find our breath through a fog of steam and just be. He pecks at my lips softly but he's hard all over. He holds me up where we finished. I slowly find consciousness. I think I'll die from this, certain I will, as he moves us under the stream. Best way to go.
"I love climbing you," I tell his ear. I feel his lips grin against my neck. "When will it be over? I can't wait any longer."
He shakes his head slightly, not knowing the answer. His teeth pulls lazily on sensitive skin.
The water threatens to cool so I guess I have to climb back down...like a lady. I slide over his chest and get to work on my favorite task of the day—soap in my hand and twirling it all over.
I rub his chest, neck and the dirt still mingling in those ears and face. His nails are helpless, even with a cloth I left here just for this reason. I rub on each of his fingers splayed between my breasts where he roams.
He just stands there watching contently with a smirk. Occasionally he finds something to touch to make me shiver and stop, to accept his tongue in my mouth.
I lift his arm and rub the bar of soap under there, lift the other and do that one. He pushes a laugh through his nose but let's me do whatever I want. His hair is next, I always leave the best for last. His thick mane so luscious. I slow to see the strands so familiar to a photo. I hug him. I forget the bubbles of soap. They run down his face. His lips find my forehead and my heart finds a heaviness.
I hide the tears and climb out to leave him to himself because, honestly, I can't be thorough while distracted with all of that. But I watch him. The curtain is open just enough as I dry my arms and legs. His fingers are through his hair, bubbles descending his scar and back.
God, how will I ever find a way to tell him? That our mothers probably dreamed of this, hoped, prepared everything before leaving this world and let fate take over. It would be so like a woman to couple her son with her best friend's daughter. I'll be eternally grateful of them for thinking of us, making sure we'd have each other.
My mother set me up with a man and a future. The thought makes me want to laugh and cry all at once—because It worked.
The air cuts swiftly. I know what it is. I don't have to be completely awake—especially not this early at dawn. Sheets are over me and a warm bed under. Cold on his side. I feel everything and fatigue from lack of sleep, thinking on photographs and secrets and him while he slept. But I'm awake enough now. All it takes is an eyelid open to find the blade stuck on the wall, inches above my head.
Edward wants to play.
I grab the ribbed handle, a flip and flick. His back slams against furniture at the wall. He looks at me with eyes of disbelief. I sit up.
The blade bobs, stuck through the bathroom door across the hall. It flew past where his head was.
I snort. My hand slaps over my mouth. I compose myself. "Morning, hun." I try to make nothing of it.
His face relaxes to one that knots my stomach, like he'll pounce. He rights himself and the desk chair rattles straight from under his weight. He stands at the end of the bed in just underwear, yet still as intimidating without his gun halter. I gulp.
"So..." I say toying with the sheets and rub my other eye awake. "Can't mess with me anymore, can you?" I press my lips together.
He doesn't say a thing but crosses his arms over his wide chest. I grow giddy but nervous. Shit.
Left, right, no escape. "I'll just uh...take a quick leak and..." I point to the bathroom and slide to the edge of the bed. "You know, get going."
I stand and wrap myself with the sheets like a mummy, awkwardly taking long. He watches through narrowed lids. I reach his side and I want to retrieve through the wall and run for my life...or laugh really hard. Remembering the evil ways he used to wake me, this feels like sweet revenge.
I square my shoulders and lift my chin. "Payback's a bitch with a sharp knife." I walk away.
I scream so loud I swear the whole lab hears. My heart stops and my belly flips. I'm airborne and over his head in no time where he lifts me. I grab his forearm and a shoulder as he growls like a mad man. I flail and grow blue with laughter.
"Your face..." I heave and lose my breath again. I gasp when he throws me on the bed a pulls me by my legs. The sheets are unwound. He flips me from my back to front and again until I'm free from it and hanging off the bed. I'm too weak to fight back, cackling.
"Funny, huh?" he says pulling me. And yes, yes it is. I nod vigorously and try to crawl away. I can't speak as I take a breath and roar with laughter. He bites, all over.
I try to sober but it's no use. This is by far the best feeling in the world. Made him speechless for once. Memories of how he used to be. Cruel and pissed. I love him like this.
I grab his face to slow his attack on my chest. I find composure. He makes it further down and the laughter eases to staggered breathing. He pulls my legs apart. Shit. I moan.
I lift on elbows and watch him. But then I can't. My hips roll. Wide and keeping me open, he licks a bead already trickling out of me. He does this to me, so easily. Warmth pulses with building rhythm. Strands of his hair between my fingers, finding his shoulder with toes, rolling through this thunder. It's unnatural how he makes it feel.
Not laughing now. Not when what he started isn't over for a while. His length sheaths over and over, until I'm spent, dizzy and sweaty. Still, he pulls me onto his lap, soaked flesh on his, hooking my knees to deepen after the second time I've unravelled. His hands run up my back and around my shoulders. Flush hips and I can't breathe with him this shallow and these swivels like he's finding something.
His lips are parted, a look, so determined to break me to pieces. But I'm boneless, surrendered. He can have anything. And he knows he's found it. Sharp teeth on his lip, he holds fast with my name and a few other words slipping through. I love when he tells me things. They vibrate from his chest to mine.
The sky grows brighter through the small window above us when he tells me he loves me. "Just in case," he whispers through heavy exhales. Sweat on his chest, lips on my back. I've found myself digging nails into pillows instead of him. I've screamed a different way. He's made it last like it's our last day to live.
The day begins and will bring new challenges. I'm afraid he's right—just in case. I say it back until love fades to sighs in slumber. Five more minutes before bare feet have to hit the cold floor to start walking. Away from this bed.
He hands me the knife when we're dressed. I take it with a grin. But he's suddenly serious. "Aim. Same spot. Not a an inch off." He challenges me. I frown. "Don't think," he orders and steps aside.
I flip the blade in my hand and look at him again. I'm beginning to think he always has an intent, to test me.
So I turn my arm and flick. The blade sticks. He walks up to it and inspects it with his hands clasped behind him like a professor. He turns to me.
"I expect no less from now on. I need you focused at all times if we're going to Japan. Understood?" He's dead serious but I see the underlining of fear—of what will come. My heart speeds. He's giving me permission to go. I nod.
"Promise me," he mutters closely. He runs a hand over my cheek and lifts my chin. And he's pleading. "I can't lose you."
I kiss his lips. I promise him. "But you have to promise me, no risks. Not worth it," I add to this. He nods and I hope to trust in that.
He takes my hand and we head towards the door. He reaches and pulls on the blade on our way out. "Good girl."
Relief. Months of practice, imagining Aro's face. Perfect.
We have a small breakfast with the others and everyone is quiet. Alice quickly leaves to watch after Carlisle. My nerves spike just at the mention of his name. I look at Edward drinking his coffee looking out the window and he knows not a thing.
I think of Charlie. Rose got word early that they're arriving. I wonder what his state is. Carlisle and Charlie under one roof. My stomach stirs.
We need a plane. Aro's isn't fixing quickly. Parts are too large to find them easily. Edward and Jasper go out to work with it as much as they can. I'm left to wander, looking into Rose's office, avoiding the lab and Carlisle.
Rose's eyes look tired but she's in her stylish attire. She looks at my casual t-shirt and jeans. "What? Couldn't stop pounding him long enough to find the closet?" Snarky bitch.
I look at her multiple screens trying to find the basement since she used to spy. Nothing. I breathe a little easier. "Wish Paul was here to up the ante?" I stab right back. I find a sofa and slide into it feeling just the right amount of soreness. I blush to know it's obvious everyone knows what we're doing. "He'll be here soon, don't you worry."
She huffs and taps on keys.
"What's the status on Azar?" I ask anxiously.
"Disappeared into thin air," she explains. I sigh and press on my eyelids.
"Is his club still there?" Hoping at least some trace of him left.
"There's a manager. He's not spilling," she says. "And you know, I'm not fucking Paul, if that's what you think," she defends suddenly.
"You care what I think? I'm...touched," I say grabbing my heart. That pisses her off even more.
"I just...finally have something to enrage him with." She's referring to Emmett. And I get it. I'd be milking it too.
"And Paul treats you like a human?" I offer. She sighs. "I wonder then, why did Emmett bother following you here? He's just torturing you."
"I've told him plenty of times to fuck off. He's had his chances."
I hide a chuckle. "Then there's the makeup sex, etcetera...I get it."
She doesn't make a peep. I let out a loud chuckle.
"We'll if it's any consolation. It worked. That kiss did it. You should've seen his face. It was awkward to watch," I confess.
"You know what's really awkward?" She asks looking up at a screen. She hits a key and a frame expands. "Your father is here." My heart speeds up. I stand and stare at the screen. Paul pulls out a wheelchair and opens it on the helipad.
I head to the door. "You know what's even more awkward? Your boyfriends are here." I sprint out as a coffee mug flies, missing me by inches.
I like her but she seriously needs an attitude adjustment.
I stop at the doors and I can't seem to move. The right side of Charlie's face is disfigured. An eye droops and a gash takes up the side from his temple to his cheek. I remember it was blue and bloody. A permanent scar from Aro, like we all share.
Edward stands to the side and glares. I don't think he knew he was coming. Charlie won't dare to look up at him. His shoulders are caved, skin pale as he slowly walks to the chair and sinks into it. Paul steadies him.
Charlie knows where he sits—in the midst of enemies and all the wrong he's done. He doesn't search for welcoming smiles but tries to look as small as he can possibly seem. But I see it, he frantically searches for me. When our eyes, that are so much alike, finally meet, he visibly sighs with relief. Tears subside instantly.
One step. It's all it takes. The gesture to cut the tension, grudges and regrets. I didn't think through this. I didn't know how this would feel. It's become too real. But he's here and my conscience wouldn't let me rest knowing he was abandoned or dead in a ditch somewhere. One thing he doesn't know about me is I have a heart like my mother's and it would never deceive.
So there isn't a choice when I take a step. It changes everything. Light in his eyes like I witnessed in Carlisle's for his own son. Hope. Desperation. Yearning to be forgiven. Charlie follows my every decisive stride.
I walk around him and grab the handles to this chair he depends on exceedingly more than I have my own father.
I push. The beginning of hate dissipates.
Everyone watches, trying not to move to seem invisible and witness this. All but Edward who looks away and shakes his head enough for me to notice his disbelief, his disgust even.
Our hurt is the same, but Edward's goes deeper. If I would want him to do the same for his blood, his father if he ever finds out—I would have to set the example. Even if it grinds my teeth and weakens my feet. I'll do it. I am my mother's daughter.
Alice follows me when I go in. She hurries and leads us to a room outside of the lab and opens the door. I look inside and look at her. She smiles.
"I had it cleaned out and furnished with the few things from the basement. It should do," she explains.
More than enough. The bed is full and the weathered wooden chair and closet chest are comfortable. I graciously grow red. "Thank you."
Edward follows behind and lingers at the door. He wouldn't budge, but he can't help but follow.
"Tired?" I speak to Charlie for the first time. He quickly shakes his head and sends a sheepish grin that dies half way. He hides his face.
"I'm fine here," he tries, looking out the wide window. He gets lost in clouds. "More than fine," he murmurs softly. I don't move. I don't know what to do. I occupy myself with the bed sheets and turn them down anyway.
I see the closet chest empty. It's not like he'd bring a luggage. The clothes on his back are borrowed. Then I notice he still has the black shirt and pants Riley got for him at the compound. Seems like years ago. I don't know where the coat that's too large came from. And no shoes but a pair of socks the hospital gave him.
My throat closes. I can't breathe or swallow the lump that has formed instantly at this sight.
From my hero to nothing. How did it come to this?
Without him seeing, I hold back a lament of pain that crawls out my chest. I drop on the edge of the bed and my hands finds my mouth. Desperately I try not to make a sound.
"Go on, Bella. Don't want to keep you. I'll be fine here," he pleads turning his head slightly at the silence. He folds his hands nervously, over and over. He seems a decade older.
I die inside. These words. Knuckles white and I can't any longer. I run out. I crash right into arms and cry on Edward's shoulder. And I'm sure. I'm very sure the thin door does nothing to soundproof the cries coming out of me.
It isn't fair that I'm the one to feel pity when he never did. Flashes of Aro having his way, and he was there. Just sitting there, watching. Nothing. Why do I have to care? Why can't I hate and let it consume me?
"Please, please... Don't hate me. I can't. I can't just...let go," I frantically whisper. "Look at him...I can't."
Edward sighs and pulls on my tears. He brings me to his side and we are walking. I let him lead as I try to breathe and find composure. New tears develop just re-living him sitting there. Just there. Aro's puppet. Made to feel like all of us, killed inside and simmered to nothing.
Edward pushes at the door of Carlisle's room and he's immediately pulling shirts and pants out of a large closet. He goes through drawers and finds undergarments. He stuffs them all in a bag with another bag full of soap, a razor and all the essentials.
He hands everything to me when we're back. I nod and walk in. Charlie's just where I left him. But for his head down now. The clouds are not of interest.
Wordlessly, I begin to pull on the borrowed jacket and he winces after shaking his head to leave it. He pleads he's fine but I say nothing and pull. I grab his shirt next and God—the scars on his back and bruised ribs under the wraps.
He has to be in pain. I bite my lip to not to cry again.
I push him into a bathroom connected to the room. I turn the shower and get a towel. "Can you manage or should I get someone?"
He lifts a trembling hand. "I'm fine." And looks away.
I look up to find Edward handing me the bag with soap and things. He motions for me to leave. Hesitantly, I walk out, but I watch before the door closes as he helps my father out of the chair.
I'm in an alternate world.
I pull out some clothes and get him a tray of breakfast. By the time I come back. Edward is standing by the window waiting. "He managed," he explains.
He sighs and faces me. And I know what's coming. "Anything. Anything off and he's out. I don't trust him."
I nod and assure him, "I'd send him off and leave, too." He rolls his eyes at the dramatics and kisses my forehead.
"I'll get something for the pain." He walks out. Mine or Charlie's? I want to ask but I don't.
I mix the cream and sugar in just like I remember. It's funny what sticks and you never forget. Charlie doesn't look at me at all since he rolled out of the bathroom. The clouds are of interest again.
"What did the doctor say?" I break the silence. He tenses and wrings his hands again. He shakes his head.
"That I'll never be the same. And I'm glad. I don't want to be." I sigh. I see where I inherited said dramatics. I open his hand and tighten it around the mug since he won't volunteer at all.
"Sip," I order. "God knows how long you haven't eaten." He looks down at it and his tears drip into it.
I occupy my hands with preparing the rest of his breakfast but he never drinks.
I slam the fork and it rattles. He startles. "What changed?" I blurt with anger. "What did he do that made you wake the fuck up?" I'm yelling now and the balloon burst.
He wipes a cheek with the shoulder of his borrowed robe.
"How?" I insist when he doesn't continue.
"I didn't know...that..." He sighs. "I didn't know he killed her. When I knew, it was too late."
I sit back. "You didn't know?"
"I..." He gasps and holds a sob.
"Well he did. And you gave in to him for money." He doesn't respond but hangs his head. "He was in love with her, you know. He hated you because you had her and had me. Then you let him have it all," I spit.
He covers one ear with a free hand.
"I can't even look at you without wanting to kill you with my bare hands," I seethe with streaking tears. "What do we do now, dad? What? Pretend you didn't turn your head and let a fucking murderer do whatever the hell he wanted?"
I rub my cheek and, god, I could kill him if he didn't look dead already. "And he did so much, so fucking much," I confess.
I can't speak anymore. Not when I watch Charlie crumble, out of his chair that rolls off. He's on his knees and dissolving on my lap. "I know, Bella. It killed me! Every time, it killed me," he cries.
"Then why? Why did you do this to us?" I sob through gritted teeth. I grip his hair that is so very much like mine, and I hate it how it makes me feel, like we're connected.
He cries. And I've never seen my father cry.
So long like this, not moving. I wrap my arms over him and bury my face in his scent. I hate it. But the tears won't stop and I can't seem to pull away.
I hear him whisper and I don't understand. I sit up. "I was jealous. Irrationally jealous of your mother. She had a family, a job that came first than anything in her life. I never felt included. Everything was about Carlisle, Esme, her experiments and I barely saw her. I barely saw you. I was angry. We fought so much.
"Aro convinced me of so many lies. That she was in love with someone else, or I wasn't good enough, or she was taking you away...anything. Stupid...stupid things and I believed them. I was full of hate that turned to plans, big plans, to keep you safe from everyone...all to myself. For once it felt like...something. Like..."
I push him away. "I don't like your answer."
He sags on his heels. "And you never will because you're good and you're just like her! You'll never understand the mind of a sick, sick man!" he says banging a fist on his head over and over. I hold him back. He grips my fingers fiercely.
I don't know what to say, so I pull him in his chair as he huffs and puffs tiredly. I hand him the mug again and bring it to his lips. He finally drinks.
Hours seem to pass and I just stare at him. His head barely held up and the plates are still full but for the small bites I forced in him.
I get up and leave everything behind, grab his chair and push. His eyes pull into his sockets and I fear dehydration with the added pain he's still feeling.
Alice looks up and sighs like she's been anxious and waiting to check him. She already knows what to do and gets to it.
I leave him to her and turn to see Carlisle. He's in a wheelchair of his own. His robe tightly knotted around his middle. He turns from looking out a window to watch us arrive.
I grow uneasy and don't know what to do. His chuckle slowly elevates when he looks at Charlie sagged on his chair. He loses his breath and slaps a knee with a hand.
"Is that..." he heaves. "Is that who I think it is?" he manages to say, pointing.
Alice looks up from her working hands. "Carlisle," she scowls. But he doesn't stop. A hint of red appears through the wrap of his neck.
Charlie wakes from his stupor and his eyes flutter to find the noise. Instantly, his jaw sharpens. He looks away angry.
I feel Edward walk in and he stands by the door watching. We all do. Two enemies sitting side by side in wheelchairs, immobile to an ironic circumstance.
"Welcome, Lieutenant. Please, please...make yourself at home." Carlisle flails a hand. "Well, I see you already have." He motions at his borrowed clothes.
"So tell me your adventures. I can't sit still, bursting to know," he continues to taunt. He leans his cheek on a few fingers. "Was he a great lover?" He cackles at that, wheezing.
We're all frozen, watching the awkward exchange. Charlie's chest fills and caves rapidly with anger and fatigue. This just fuels Carlisle.
"I have to say, lieutenant," he says clearing his throat and taking a sobering breath. He wipes at his eyes. "I didn't think you had it in you. Betrayed your wife, sold your offspring, followed an imbecile and still, you're alive. Dignity flown, nevertheless, well. I applaud your art in fucking up your life." He giggles like a lunatic.
Charlie shrinks in his chair further if possible.
I step towards Carlisle but stop. He's had his past with Charlie, how do I begin to intervene?
"Kids," Carlisle waves. "Exhibit A: Let this be a lesson to you all."
I want to speak up and remind him of all the wrongs he's done. The result of it all stands by my side, holding my hand. I look up at Edward and sigh.
"Where's your car?" I ask quietly. Edward questions me. I have plans. My anxiety is spiking and I can't stand still. "We have to find Azar." He looks at the debacle still playing in front of us in thought, but he knows I'm right. He pulls me out of the lab, a laughing Carlisle forgotten, left to his disturbing amusement. Charlie has a bully now and no one can help him but himself.
"You're not going with me," is the first thing Edward tells me down the hall.
"You know what you always get wrong about me? That I'd sit and obediently wait. That's cute. Now take me to your car, hot stuff, and I'll make it worthwhile." He glares. I kiss his nose and he catches my lips.
"Evil runs in your family." I gasp. He hurries away to get a head start.
The Aston is so out of place in a dingy garage. Shiny and black. He opens the door for me. "It's too pretty. What if we crash it?" I pause at the door.
"Fastest getaway," he says and then scoffs. "And pretty isn't the word." He nudges the crown of my head, guiding me into the seat like a suspect.
He comes around and slips in like he has fit in this luxury all his life. I've never been in a car like this with him. Motorcycles are our thing.
"Handsome. Manly. Excessive," I offer other words instead.
He grazes my boob as he reaches for my seat belt. He locks me in and adjust the straps as if I'm invalid. But he keeps close and I forget to object. I feel the warm electricity everywhere.
"I'd give you a word but we don't have time." He nips my lip.
I think I moan out loud. This man...
We peel out. I stare at his every move. His grace with the stick shift, the length of his arms moving and folded fingers over the wheel. The car smoothly sails on road. His profile just the perfect angle against the interior sharp lines. I lounge back and enjoy the view.
"Let's just...go...somewhere far and forget," I suggest. I can't contain myself. I skim his neck and ear. He presses my palm to his lips for a moment in thought. I try not to skerm. After a kiss, he holds it over the stick shift and under his hand. He sighs and won't answer. Silly suggestion. Depressing even.
I watch the forest sail by out the window and daydream. Where would we go if this was over? Where would we be if none of it existed? Then I remember, through those woods, when he came for me, we'd live there. No one would find us.
The city appears in increments. Buildings here and there. Then there are people. Real people with routine and normal lives. I envy them as I watch. Freedom is a gift. They don't know what they have.
Edward maneuvers his way around streets like only he can. The roar of the engine turns heads. And maybe this was a bad idea. "Everyone is looking," I say slouching deeper into my seat. The day has gone quickly, evening is soon, but the light of day is still over us for everyone to see.
"Rare sight of a rare car," he explains. I look out. Young and old men turn heads watching us pass by.
Edward enters a dark tunnel under a building. The parking lot is full with idle cars in parking spaces. He pulls into a spot and climbs out. I follow, dumbly, wondering where we are.
He's digging in the trunk, the lid open, blocking us from the open lot. I watch him pull on a felt cover. It reveals a case. He opens that. Guns of different sizes are snug in foam. He grabs the medium size one, it's like the Ivory but has a bigger barrel, flat on the sides. The magazines are stuffed beside it. He grabs two.
"What the hell is that?" I whisper. I look out, and no one is around. My heart eases a bit.
He snaps a mag in and slides it into his jacket. "My little friend," he says with a smirk. I can't contain an eye roll.
He pulls the Ivory that lost its spot in his jacket and hands it to me. "Back of your pants," he says pulling me. His hand creeps down my spine to my waist. He slips it in...then grabs my ass.
"These get you all hot and bothered, don't they?" I look up at him. He's not looking at me but down my shirt.
He nods. "They do." I flush. He pulls me to a door as I pull on my shirt to hide the cleavage.
He picks the lock. The emergency alarm doesn't even make a sound. He pulls on the door and we walk in. I immediately know where we are. And if I would've known that night I was alone, I would've picked the lock, too.
Azar's club is still the same. The banging beat of music pulses through the black walls even from where we are in this dark hall. A bulb is dim above a door and he walks to it. Locked but the knob is flimsy and old. Edward stands back. One kick. A woman yelps from the other side.
I remember this hallway where I changed my shoes once. A couple looks on as we pass them by.
I cringe at the volume of music and atmosphere. Speakers are loud and people party like its two in the morning. No windows letting sun tell time, or reality set in. This place never sees a closed sign. Men in drag. Glistening women with clouds in their eyes in a whirl of drugs and men. Clothes aren't required.
Edward doesn't walk straight to the target—the window. I stay close behind him where he slowly moves around, hoping to remain unnoticed. We stand still for moments as he takes in the scene. Doors are guarded. Men in black coats stand in dark corners. Security is heavy. I've never seen them before. Almost impossible to get close to the wide windows overlooking the dance floor.
"I have a bad feeling," I say in his ear. Edward pulls me tight as he leans on a column. He knows. We move towards a bar close by.
Women do double takes as they walk by. Some watch from far and get a full head to toe scan of Edward before they shift on their heels.
I'm invisible—a plain brunette who trails behind him in t-shirt and jeans. I regret nicer clothes like Rose pointed out. They stare but not at me. He, on the other hand, completely oblivious. So much for being inconspicuous.
Edward leans on the bar and I find a stool to climb on as gracefully as I can. I cross my legs, jut out my chest and flip my hair. He doesn't even notice, no one does.
He shakes his head at the bartender and looks around over my head. The bartender moves away and I suddenly need a drink.
I want to tell Edward this shit isn't going to work. People watch him like he's the last martini in an ocean of Shirley Temples I gulp, finding eyes that wander our way. I lean into him and call, "Edward..." He doesn't respond. I try again and reach for his shirt to curl my fingers over the cotton. Nothing. He's watching all movement far away.
I begin to call him with maybe a shake this time, but I never get the chance. A tall blonde dares to step between us and smiles up at him. Her hair fans my face and I cringe at the sudden whiff of perfume. I've never felt fury like this when she touches him.
"Buy me a drink," she tells him. So lost in his focus and the loud music he moves his arm around her and pats her back like I've felt him do when he's not really listening.
"No time for that, Bella," he says with a bite.
Her hands move to his neck and up his hair. I sit back and I won't even say anything. Let him figure it out.
A waitress passes by and I grab a drink from the tray she's holding up. She doesn't notice. I take a sip watching another chick climbing the stool behind him and this should be fun. I mean, I can't blame these bitches in heat. His chest is defined, the sharp face, visible scars looking vicious under strobe lights.
The new leech's arms reach around his front, too low for my comfort. She bites his lobe. "You can call me whatever you like," she says to him.
That's when he gets it. He looks down and he's confused. He snaps out of it and flinches his hands away as if burned with flames.
The straw rests on my lips and it's a delicious drink. I sip and watch his wide eyes find mine. I wiggle my brows and smile.
"Alright," he says angrily. He swats her hands like flies. He goes to my side and lifts me off the stool.
The drink is half full and I do what the Ivory against my back definitely shouldn't. I shoot it to the ear biter. She gasps. Red liquid and ice over her white skin tight dress. No one gets to bite him but me.
I hand the empty glass to the blonde. "Your drink," I spit. She gapes. I follow this time when Edward yanks my hand.
"Seriously? Trying to get us noticed?" he asks annoyed. Me? I snort. Definitely oblivious.
People surround us dancing. A few get too close and he has to push along. I twirl to his front and lock my arms around his neck...maybe do a little dance. He glares. "Gotta blend in," I tell him with a cleavage rub against his chest.
He's not having it. He continues to walk me backwards through gaps between people and looks around. I close in as tight as I can and snake my arms inside his jacket. Perfect height to reach his throat so nicely exposed. This place really does something to people's senses, I wonder, as I glue my lips under that bobbing Adam's apple painted with a scar. It takes a while, lots of pecks and some delightful effort but I finally see it. A bite at his skin and a ghosted smirk pulls at his lips. They descend, giving in. Handsy and running his tongue over my lips.
"They're looking, aren't they?" he asks. I wipe his ear with the sleeve of my jacket pretending it's not what I intended. But I take a peek over his shoulder anyway.
"I'll have to cut your ear off now. Too bad, it was my favorite one." He grins and pulls on my hair to dip my head back. He dives in for another kiss. What I wouldn't give to have him like this on a normal day, no mission attached. I can't get enough.
"Let's move," he says after making me dizzy for a moment. We push through the crowd some more. I don't know what he's planning.
A partial wall separates the dance floor and the doors to Azar's office far away. Definitely black coats guard the premises. But why? Azar never made business with the army. Something is wrong.
I pull on him until he stops. He already sees and turns around. His arms move around my waist and he kisses me again. I watch his eyes close as I cup his face. Panic. "What? Are they looking?" I ask this time.
"No, just wanted a taste. Cherry was it?" He licks his lips.
I sigh. "Forget the cocktail. What are you going to do?"
"Just stay like this," he says, turning me against the wall like we're a couple lost in heat. He opens his jacket and pulls out the gun. I definitely panic.
"No, damnit, not here!" But he pulls the Ivory from behind me and cocks it for me.
"Bella, remember what I said, focus. Do as I say." He gives me the gun and instructs me to aim right, over his shoulder. He's serious now. He glares until I nod. I breathe. Black coats are everywhere, something's really wrong. We need to get to Azar if he's here and still alive.
"Ready?" he asks. I nod again. Just then, the music pulses to its climax and he takes the aim.
People duck. Others scream. The automatic in his hand doesn't halt for a second. Pop after pop tears through the bulletproof glass over us. He aims for the top edge that begins to give. It can only hold so much and he knows the weak spot.
I cover my ears and everything slows. Go-go dancers run about half naked, falling, covering their ears or crawling away. Everyone scrambles like ants towards the exits.
I spot a figure to my right and a guard stands where he crouched. I pull the trigger before he even tries to aim.
Another to his right crawls behind the partial wall far away. He thrusts his arm out. A glock. Two shots and he falls.
Behind me the glass finally cracks with Edward's persistent shots. It falls in loud chunks to the main floor. Without a pause he turns on his heels, getting every guard moving in to his right. I aim for mine.
In no time, all of them are out. The silence is ear splitting, but for remnant screaming. Partiers safe but shaken. I'm left the same, heaving, being pulled by Edward's insistent hands. He climbs a metal beam with a makeshift ladder and ascends to the gaping window. I follow.
I almost drop when I hear gunshots above. "Edward!" I scream for him. But he shoots until everything goes silent. He hops onto the platform and looks down.
"It's alright," he reaches. I take a breath and finish climbing. He pulls me up.
A man is down by the mini bar. The room is shredded with bullet holes. I run to the room Azar locks securely, but it's intact. Moans come from another room to the left. Edward tries the knob but it doesn't budge.
"Stand back," he instructs. One shot, two, the door splits ajar. The room is dark. Edward pushes me back. His aim ready for any surprise. He steps in slowly and finds the switch. I almost scream at the sight.
Azar is bruised and bloody, tied to a chair. His chest bare and cut. His eyes, they're wide and frantically trying to speak for his muffled mouth. His head moves from left to right.
A dead man lies in the back of the room. His guard. All his men are out.
Edward doesn't hesitate. He pushes me to crouch behind him and aims left around the wall.
"Shit." He steps into view. The cool of the night seeps in through an open window. Whoever was here, left...leaving a detonator behind.
Azar screams through the rags around his mouth. I run to him and pull them off. The wired ties next.
"It's gonna fucking blow!" he shouts. Edward lifts a hand. He inspects it and looks behind the black box on the floor with wires around it. "Masen!"
"I know this. Hold on."
"Fuck!" Azar curses. He picks me up and runs out the door.
"No. Edward! You get out, right now!" I shout over Azar's shoulder. I frantically try to get back through the door. Azar pins me to the far wall and covers me with his torso. I'm yelling out for Edward, but he doesn't listen. My heart is in my throat. I scream and fight. Kicking and pushing at Azar's chest.
After an excruciating moment, Edward walks out. "All set," he says nonchalantly. He looks around at the mess. I pull away from Azar. So infuriated, I punch Edward right in the chest. "Do that again, I'll kill you myself!" I yell. He closes his eyes and sighs.
"We would've all died if I didn't get it, alright? C'mere," he pleads softly and holds out his hand. When I don't move he pulls me in. Stupid tears brim my lids. He kisses my hair. "Sorry, alright?"
"Fuck." Azar mutters from behind us. I pull away and run to him. "Look at you two," he says. He touches a gash by his eye and winces. "There goes my chances, Mi Bella." I chuckle through tears and hug him.
"I'm sure you have plenty of choices. And you look like shit."
"Just what I've been waiting to hear from a gorgeous lady."
I grab his face and kiss his unscathed cheek repeatedly. "Thank you, thank you. For all you've done for me," I whisper. "I've missed you." He smiles widely and elongates a kiss on my forehead.
Edward stands back patiently, but I sense discomfort. The familiar fidget, he combs his fingers through his hair. He can wait. I guide Azar to the sofa and find water and a rag.
"What did they want?" Edward asks interrupting Azar's lips from descending on my wrist. Every which way my arm goes he follows with a kiss. He holds me tight around my middle as I inspect his cuts. He's always been like glue.
I look from the corner of my eye and Edward is glaring. "Cuidado," I whisper a warning in Spanish. Azar rolls his eyes and nuzzles my belly. I can't help a snort. I'll let it slide. I've truly missed him. He could've been dead...all because of this mess I've put him through.
"I've been hiding," he explains. "I just got back. After I found you, I knew I had to stay away. But...It was like they were waiting for me. These fuckers came in asking for Carlisle. They took all my men out." He shakes his head and it dips on my stomach. He looks up at Edward. "Punctual motherfucker." He nods once in thanks. "You always were."
I look at Edward. "But...Jelena, they know where Carlisle is," I state confused. "Why wouldn't they go straight to the lab?" His jaw sharpens in thought. His phone makes a sound. It echos through silence. He pulls it out of his pocket. An alert. It's Rosalie.
"They did," he says. His lips grow white. His face pales suddenly. "This was a diversion."
My stomach drops. "What?"
Azar stands and runs to the secured room.
"What do you mean a diversion?" No one answers. Edward runs after him and helps Azar unhook things off the wall of guns. They begin to pile ammo on the bench.
"Bella, love, do me a favor," Azar yells from inside and points. His station of monitors are at the far wall. "Send it in."
I already know what he means. But it's been so long I'm shaking. Years ago he spilled how much the black market has worked in his favor. He might have lost his guards here, but there are hundreds more who would flank him with one call alone. Azar has an army, too.
I hit some keys and the screens come to life. The black window pulls up and I type in 'Xanthus' and the location. The white letters blink and suddenly they stop.
Replies appear in a list beneath it, reading 'Received'. My blood runs cold when it stops after a dozen lines down reading, 'War.' Men and armory will come.
"It's in." I shout over my shoulder.
Edward stops for a second to place his phone between his ear and shoulder. "Rosalie. Get him in the cellar, now! We're on our way." I run and grab the phone off his shoulder for him.
I watch them stuff rifles in duffle bags and enough ammo to nuke a small country.
"You see this?" Edward points as he loads a rifle with a magazine quickly. "Hit the latch here when you snap a new one in. Pull here and it's ready. Got that?" I nod. But why is he telling me this?
He stops suddenly and pulls my chin up as if reading my mind. "Focused, alright? I don't want you to have to use it but you might." He waits for my reply when I nod. He gives me one hard kiss and I don't want to ever let go of these lips. His eyes move around my face before he lets go. He whispers, "I love you."
I hold back a sob and swallow it down. "Love you more."
He shakes his head. "Not possible."
He grabs a black belt off the wall behind me. It has blades all around it. They're bigger than the cute blades. He kneels and wraps it around my thigh. It's snug and fits perfectly. He grabs one and shows it to me quickly. "They cut through six yards easily. If anyone gets close, stab and twist. Got it?" He turns his wrist to demonstrate. I take in the lesson. He knows my strengths.
Azar looks over and watches our exchange closely. He grins. He's strapping on a bullet proof vest and pulls a shirt over his head. He throws a vest over to Edward who catches it. I'm instructed to take my leather jacket off. He slips the vest on me. It's big but he pulls until it's snug. He zips up the jacket over it and it's practically unnoticeable.
"Damn, Bella. Fuck hot." I roll my eyes but can't help sending Azar a sheepish grin. Leave it to him to make this moment light.
Edward continues to strap a new belt around my waist hastily. This one holds both Ivories and extra magazines at my hips. He shows me how to pull them out quickly.
He's finished with me and does himself. His jacket and shirt come off and I'm staring shamelessly. How many times has he done this? Getting ready for battle. All on his own. I'm suddenly so grateful I can be with him this time. The last time. I wouldn't be able to stand it if we were apart through this.
His abdomen twists, revealing ripples of abs as he works to get the vest on. In a blink of an eye, he's loaded with every gun and blade off the shelves. It looks good on him. Like second skin. I could stare at him for hours.
Azar rushes by me to get more equipment. And of course he doesn't skip a beat. "You got a little something..." He wipes my lip. He pushes a laugh through his nose. Fucker. I blush. Thank god Edward didn't notice. I'd die before we get there.
Azar runs out and leads us through the back corridors to the garage. The Aston is there and so is a black truck. Azar drops in the biggest bags in the back.
"Eduardo," he says stopping in front of us. Edward looks up from helping me into the car. "You don't need any luck..." And he looks at me. "But I damn well hope you make it." Edward nods once.
"You, too. Please, be careful," I say from my seat. He reaches out his hand and I grab it. "And thank you." He nods and runs to drive away.
I try to breathe, but it's hard. Edward drives like hell has rumbled and is chasing us. He's in his zone and I dare not interrupt. But I'm terrified.
A plane above us flies so close, we look up. Not a commercial airline. It's headed towards where we need to go. We look at one another and words aren't enough. I could die here of terror for what's to come.
Edward reaches over for a second and lays a hand on my chest. I didn't notice I'm hyperventilating. "Baby, please. Calm down. I'm right here." He assures me. But he doesn't know, not an idea, he's the one they're looking for. The second key. I nod but I don't know if it's convincing.
He pulls my hand under his again and the car shifting takes me out of my head for a moment. I take in the road he peels over like a panther finding it's kill.
He calls me baby. I watch him with tears in my eyes and wonder if this is the last time I lay eyes on him. Maybe it is. But I know, at least I've got a part of him. I'll take it with me for all eternity. I'll die at his side and him by mine. He's mine.
The forest appears in increments and we can see smoke from afar away. I can't hold back a staggered breath. "God."
"It's fine. Emmett, Paul and Jasper are there. They're soldiers, Bella." He looks over at me. "It has to end."
He's right. I'm sick of running and hiding. Like a flash before my eyes I see my life. Aro in it. Stained it. Made this. All our lives ruined because of this. And I'm angry. It has to end.
Azar keeps up behind us. And when the lab is in view, I already hear him pulling the trigger. The rifle in one hand and the wheel in the other. I see it from the rearview mirror.
Resigned I tell Edward, "Ok." And it's enough. He squeezes my hand and presses on the ignition.
This is it. I will face my longing and my fear. The end has come.
A/N Hold tight. More soon and thanks for your patience! Let me know if this is still valid, if you still care (s'ok if you don't!) and if you're still out there. Thanks for sticking by. Heart you. Ending soon.