Story Notes:

Co-authored by jakeward aka lindalu (jakeward on twilighted) and the shrew

What happens when the life you know falls apart, leaving you to pick up the pieces when you would rather fall apart? What happens when the love of your life is taken from you, yet haunts your dreams and your soul? How can you ever live when you would rather die? Until you awake from a dream and see your love has returned . . .

What's meant to be will always find a way.

A canon twist

Author's Chapter Notes:

Disclaimer: We own nothing Twilight-related. We are simply borrowing the characters to free our minds from little Canon-AU evils that have plagued us for months!

Please be advised: this story will be rather dark and sad ( assuming we do our 'jobs' right). However, we love a Jane Austen ending and lemons...

Rated NC-17 For MATURE READERS. ADULT SUBJECT MATTER (death, depression, angst)

Twenty-three months. Twenty-three months of feeling like shit every day. Twenty-three months of feeling the deepest despair a human can feel. Twenty-three months of feeling as if I wanted nothing more than the blackness to open up, and swallow me whole. Twenty-three months of being damned sure that I would never feel happy again, never feel the warmth of the sun touch my skin, never feel the soft sigh of a breeze; all from my beloved.

She was on her way home from her best friend's birthday celebration when it happened. She simply lost control of the car; or that is what we were told; the tire marks seemed to indicate to that end. Her body was never found; the police, state troopers, and the men from La Push searched. They searched for weeks, never giving up, and they searched into the night. I was never sure how they could search at night; it was so damned dark in the woods just off their reservation. They found her car, at the bottom of a massive hill, the hood and passenger door crushed like a tin can. The driver's door appeared to have been pulled from the hinges; but my Bella wasn't in the car. She wasn't anywhere near the wreck, which seemed impossible. She had just . . . disappeared. The state patrol had said there was a radius where she should have been projected to, but there was no body. The search teams combed the woods, thinking maybe she had removed herself from the car and walked, or crawled, off for help. But still nothing. After a month, they called off the search. The state troopers called off the search after two weeks. The Forks police and the La Push boys – well, they took a bit longer; two weeks longer to be exact. My beautiful wife was gone, vanished like some mythological creature that had returned to the Gods.

And I had been sinking ever since.

It was hard, watching her father hand over the paper work to the coroner to declare her dead. It broke him. He retired five months later; he had simply had lost his will to live. If it weren't for Charlie's new wife, Sue, and his best friend, Billy, he never would have come back from the edge he had teetered on. I wasn't as lucky. I was still there.

I hated Jacob. I really shouldn't, but I did. I knew it wasn't his fault she was dead, but I felt the deep need to blame someone, and as it was his party she'd attended the night she died, I felt the blame should rest on him. He wasn't the one driving the car when it slipped past the guard rail and careened down the embankment, but I blamed him as if he was. He had been as hard on himself as I had been; saying he should have driven her home; that the snow was picking up and it simply wasn't safe for her to travel alone. She had assured him the snow chains both he and her father had put on would be fine. She promised to call him when she arrived home.

That was when I knew something had happened. Jacob called just after midnight, asking if she had made it home yet. It wasn't possible for the trip from the reservation to take an hour, even with the horrid conditions, and it had been two.

That was when the searching had started, at a quarter after midnight. And it ended a little over a month later, at 2:21 p.m..

That was when I slipped silently passed purgatory and fell straight into hell.

Small noises in the house caused fleeting moments of thinking it had all been a bad dream; that she was simply upstairs, in the kitchen, on the porch, or wherever the noise came from. While that was bad enough, it was the dreams that helped me slip into a dark state - one that I was helpless against.

I barely ate. I showered only when I needed to. And didn't move from the room I had been in when Jacob called that night, unless I had to for reasons only the living needed. I felt my chest burn and ache. I felt my body sing for hers; all knowing the song would never be played in return. I felt a numbness and a deep, searing pain at the same time. I could barely concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time, unless it was on the pain the loss of her had brought. Or on the very thought of her - as she lived and breathed and loved. And I cried. I cried until there were no more tears left, and even then, my body refused to stop. I cried silent, dry tears. And felt my soul slowly ripped apart.

Charlie, Jacob, and our friends from high school all saw to the basic needs of my life; paying bills, cleaning, cooking meals that I would eat only a few bites of. I had no family outside of the one I'd created with Bella; my parents had passed on several years ago. Even losing my parents hadn't come close to the pain and sorrow of losing Bella.

I was fortunate that I was self employed in that I was able to completely check out those first few months. But slowly, with the help of Bella's best friend, Angela, I had slowly begun my retreat from the edge of blackened void the was my life without my love.

Angela never stopped trying; never stopped coming over in the small hours of the night when the dreams were too painful, and too real. At first, I never slept. I couldn't. My mind dare to challenge me with thoughts that she would call while I was asleep, and I would miss the call. Of course, my mind went back to the dark thoughts that so often clouded it. I didn't sleep because I didn't want the phone to wake me and alert me that they had found her body. I didn't sleep for I don't know how long, but I eventually fell into an exhausted slumber.

That is when the dreams started. The dreams made me want to sleep; so that I could be closer to her again. If it weren't for the dreams, I wouldn't want to rest at all. I often dreamt she was next to me, watching me sleep. She would reach out to brush my hair off my forehead, her hands felt cold as ice, and her sweet scent was surrounding me. I would startle awake at her touch, reaching to grasp her but collecting nothing but air, thus ending the sweet and dark seduction those nightmares held. I would call Angela after those dreams, shaking with fear and longing, and she would be at my house only minutes later. She would stay until the fear subsided, then silently, she would let herself out and go back to her family.

Angela was the truest friend Bella had. She was her maid of honor when we married and had never stepped down from that friendship, even with Bella gone. She said that I was the other half of Bella, and she wouldn't leave me just because Bella was dead. Dead. How I hated that word. I knew it wasn't helpful to imagine her off on a business trip, or visiting her mother in Florida, but to actually say the word out loud was something I just couldn't do. I felt if I said it, I was somehow giving up hope that she was still out there. No, I would never give up that single thread of hope, no matter how frayed it was.

Painfully, started to lift the dark shroud that covered me and slowly began to come back to life. It had taken nearly two years, but I was working again. I was going through my day-to-day, barely. The pain was still there, but I was able to work with it; through it. I missed her more and more with each day that passed, and I found I was starting a countdown. Not to the anniversary of losing her, not to our wedding anniversary or birthdays, but to the day that I would finally be with her again, in death.

I was twenty-eight years old and looked forward to dying.

So I drank. A lot. And I smoked. A lot. And I drove the road that had claimed her, every horrible winter day I could, begging the road to claim me as well. Charlie told me to stop, that I was disgracing her memory with such foolish acts. I. Didn't. Care. I only cared how soon I would die. I only cared how soon I would be with my beloved again.

I climbed the stairs to our bedroom and resumed my night time routine. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, slipped on my pajama pants, and tried to fall asleep. It was barely past nine.

Sometime after midnight, I started to have the dream again. In recent months, she stayed in my dreams long enough to actually see her, but never talk to her. She spoke only a few words before I would awaken, leaving me once again.

She entered the room, wearing jeans and a long, red sweater, and slowly walked to our bed. Her hair looked exactly as it had the night she . . ., long and flowing with gentle waves setting off her small and delicate face. She looked pale, well more so than she ever had in reality, and her eyes seemed a brighter shade of brown. Her scent brought me out of the dark haze which even my dreams were victim to, and I inhaled deeply.

She closed the distance between us silently, and sat on the edge of the bed. Her small, delicate hand reached out and brushed my hair off my forehead. Her hands felt cold, but I had come to expect that; just like I had come to expect her scent to be all that much stronger. She held me in her gaze before she spoke.

"Edward…. Edward, I need you to live . . . for us. Please, don't do this to yourself," her voice seemed softer than usual.

"I need you Bell. I won't live without you," I whispered, as I reached out to hold her hand in mine.

"You have to. I need you to," she encouraged.

"I won't. When am I going to die, Bella? I want to be with you," I said, feeling the pain swell within my chest.

"You can't be with me, Edward," she said, her voice laced with pain.

"I can if I'm dead."

"No, not even then," she replied firmly.

"Bella?" I was heartbroken once again. Even in my dreams I couldn't be with her.

"Edward, I love you. I need you to promise me to live, for us," she said as she leaned over and kissed my forehead, her cool lips shot a current of electricity through my body.

"No."

"I can't come back again. I only have tonight. You must promise me."

"Don't leave me again, Bella, please. I can't do this without you. I have tried, and I just can't." I felt my tears slip once again. Even in sleep, I cried for her.

"I know you have. I've watched you, and I know you have tried, but you have to go on. You have to promise me that you will. You will have my love and my heart forever, isn't that enough?"

"No. I want you. I want to feel you and touch you again. I want to have you lay beside me in bed, or curled up next to me. I need to hear you breathe again."

I heard her expel a breath.

"I can't do that anymore, Edward," she said, her voice had taken on a slightly bitter edge.

"I miss you so damned much," I said, as the tears fell freely and soaked my face. I could feel my slumber ending, and I started to fight against it. Even with her trying to leave me in my dreams, at least she was there, and I could see, feel, and talk to her.

"I need to go, love. I miss you. And I love you," she said as she stood up from the be, and turned to walk towards the door.

"Bella! Please! Don't leave me again. I'm not strong enough. I can't do this without you," I practically shouted, knowing if I had to act quickly to keep her in my dream.

"You're stronger than you have ever given yourself credit for, Edward my love. I love you," she said, her face pained and almost haunted.

"Bella!" I sprang from the bed and reached for her. I couldn't let her go, not again.

And then it stopped being a dream.

She was real. For one brief moment, I felt my hand brush her arm she slipped through my grasp. And it was then that I feared I had lost my mind.

Chapter End Notes:

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Next Chapter.. BPOV