Epic Author's Note (please read):
This was my first published attempt at fanfiction. I'd become hopelessly addicted to New Moon AU's in late 2009 and my favorite at the time, a little unfinished fic called "The Past Comes Back to Bite You" by sillybella, had me practically salivating for a conclusion. A little research gave me every reason to believe that TPCB2BY would never be completed (a fact I still believe to be true more than a year later) and that fact drove me batty enough to try and write my own ending.
Soon after I began writing my "fanfic or a fanfic", I realized that it wouldn't be right for me to share or post my version of the end of TPCB2BY without sillybella's permission. So I tried to get that permission. After failing in my attempts to contact her, I eventually decided to take the basic idea and re-work it independent of TPCB2BY. Unfortunately, I don't think I quite succeeded in that endeavor and the result was this bit of drabble. Need You Now is, unfortunately, a forced attempted to salvage some of my writing –writing that I am very proud of, but do not have permission to share. Additionally, "Need You Now" still leans heavily on sillybella's story ideas and I'm ashamed that it has been posted for so long without me acknowledging that fact.
For those reasons, I plan to pull this story at some point in the near future. When I do so, one of two things will happen: One, I will either get permission and post my conclusion to The Past Comes Back to Bite You. Or two, I will re-work this story completely and remove the elements that should, and do, belong to another fanfiction author.
I only thought it fair to warn you before you begin reading, that this story (as it is now) will likely not be continued. I just cannot exhaust myself trying to fix something that is better left alone. Thank you to all of you who reviewed, favorite'd, and supported me when I first joined the fanfiction community! You guys and gals are the reason I kept writing.
Story Notes: This short story is a New Moon AU that takes place over sixteen years after Bella's fateful 18th birthday. When Edward left, Bella was forced to go to Jacksonville to live with her mother. Years later she finds her way back to Forks but when Charlie dies far too young, Bella finds herself alone in a house full of memories.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot of Twilight are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The original characters and plot of The Past Comes Back to Bite You are the property of fanfiction author, "sillybella". No copyright infringement or disrespect is intended.
I stood in the kitchen waiting for the coffee to brew and stared through the window into the woods beyond. It had been eight agonizingly silent days since Charlie's funeral. Eight days since Alice and Esme departed Forks, taking with them my note for Edward. Would Esme have had a chance to deliver it? Would he call when she had, or would he come? What would he think of me contacting him after so many years? There were so many questions swirling in my head, so much uncertainty and nervous fear welling within me that I literally shook from the thought of that little note.
I wondered now, if it had been wrong to send it. Never mind it being selfish, was it wrong for me to do this to him? Why hadn't Alice seen that it was? Why hadn't she stopped me?
I jumped in the air and felt my heart begin hammering with ferocity. It was just the phone. The phone. Ringing.
I had butterflies in my stomach as I reached for the handset. I eyed the clock; it was barely seven o'clock in the morning. Of course. He usually called a little later in the day, but it must have been Masen.
"Hey, sweetheart. How are you today?"
"Most excellent! And you?"
I laughed silently at his Bill and Ted greeting. "Um, I'm good. Been watching old movies with Phil again?"
"No, not really. We're going surfing today, it just seemed appropriate to use the lingo. I am stoked about surfing in the sun and sand, no rocks or rain!" I could hear the exuberance in his voice. He hadn't been on a board in a long time and had never enjoyed surfing in the cold waters of the Pacific the way he had in Florida. It had been one of my son's favorite things to do when we lived there.
"That sounds great. Who are you going with?" I was still his mom, even three thousand miles away.
"Phil and the Rugrats. Pops said there are some girls my age that go to that beach a lot and think the twins are a hoot. I think he is trying a little too hard to act like he's not a grandfather." Masen chuckled and I heard Phil say something about not being old enough. I smiled. "Anyway, we're in the car right now, I just wanted to call before we go out. You know, so you'd know that I already put sunscreen on, like SPF 250 or something. So, don't worry," he said with deliberate over-enthusiasm.
I chuckled at his teasing tone. "I'll try not to. Just don't forget to reapply in a few hours, especially if you're not wearing a rash guard, and watch for rip currents, Mase. Oh, and pelicans. You know why, right?"
"I know, Mom. Birds mean fish, fish mean sharks. Or, potential for sharks. Whatever, I got it. We'll stay away from the feeding frenzy, I promise."
"Very funny, Masen."
"Are you going to worry about me all day?" he asked with a groan.
"Not all day. Just until you go to sleep," I quipped.
"Ha, ha... Listen, we're here, okay? I gotta run! Love you."
"I love you too. Have fun, be safe." I felt a small tug of emotion at the thought of him so far away. He was thrilled to be spending an entire month in Florida with Renee and Phil and my ten-year old twin half-brothers. Nick and Joe were a handful, so having Masen around to keep them busy was actually Renee's idea. She insisted and took him home with her when she left the day after the funeral. I thought time away in the sun would be good for him as well.
"Okay, you too. Bye, Mom!" As he was snapping the phone shut I could hear him yelling after his slightly younger uncles.
"Bye, baby boy." I sighed and hung up the phone. Baby boy, indeed. My son was fourteen years old and already five feet, ten inches. He towered over me and despite the fact that his frame showed the awkwardness of gaining that height virtually overnight, he could probably bench press my body like it was a paper weight. He was going to fill out soon and probably be well over six feet tall, I was sure of it. Just like his father. Good gravy, I hoped he didn't decide to do that while he was with Phil and Renee for the next three weeks.
I looked out the window wistfully one more time, noting that the sun had decided to shine brightly today. Of course it would, when this was the day I had dedicated to spending inside working on a specific project. Oh well, it was summer, even in Forks. The sun was bound to show itself at least one more day before the school year started in the fall. For today, it was time to get to work.
The boxes we'd brought home from Charlie's nursing home had been sitting in the living room for a couple of days now. I had gone to the new discount super-center in Port Angeles over the weekend and purchased large plastic storage bins to replace the cardboard boxes. If all went well, after sorting through the few sentimental possessions my father had kept with him in his final years, I planned to tackle the myriad of boxes in the attic. There had to be stuff up there from before I was even born, and I had wanted to go through it for the last two years. It needed to be organized badly and although organization was not my middle name, it would keep me busy.
After eight hours and one trip to the hardware store for more supplies, I not only re-organized Charlie's boxes into labeled bins, but cleared the attic of its contents as well. That morning, I had managed to get everything down without much effort, but underestimated the amount of work it would be to go through it all. It honestly had looked like a tornado blew its way through the second floor at one point, and I wasn't sure if I shouldn't just throw it all out.
Eventually, I sorted through thirty odd boxes of junk, memorabilia, holiday decorations, and household items. In the end, I hauled eight large black garbage bags out to the curb, filled four of the boxes with donations for Goodwill, and organized the rest into the plastic storage tubs. Finally, they were all labeled and stacked neatly back in the attic with room to spare.
I was tired and sore from all the lifting, bending, sweeping, and stair climbing. I was sweaty and smelled of moth balls and cardboard. On top of the physical toll of the day, I was also emotionally fatigued. It had been harder than I anticipated going through my father's things.
Charlie had meticulously kept all of my childhood immunization records, report cards, some papers and projects, and even the stupid mugs and ties Renee had sent on my behalf when I was little. There were photos of me growing up, and some with Renee. There were snapshots of Jacob Black and I when we were kids, and a few of Jacob and Billy in more recent years. I found the framed picture I sent him of Jake, Masen and I all dressed up just after our final adoption hearing.
Jacob Black had legally adopted my son just after his third birthday. Renee and Phil threw us the equivalent of a wedding reception to celebrate, which was as close as I ever did come to actually marrying. She'd called it a Family Commitment Ceremony and even had her new pastor come offer a blessing over the parental union. I am not sure that he was ever truly convinced that Jake and I shouldn't be married instead, but the kind and gracious man consented to my mother's wishes. Jake had, after all, had his name legally changed to Jacob Black Swan to match Masen's amended name. We were as bound together as two people could be without sharing vows or a bed.
I think that Jacob had been happy with me, despite the fact that we never did have a physical relationship. He even once admitted that he couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't fall in love with someone else someday. Though we had discussed this prior to the adoption, he was afraid of possibly wanting to start a life with whoever that would be. His fears had something to do with some Quileute tribal legend that had him spooked. He acted like he wouldn't have a choice in the matter. Not that I would have stopped him if he had wanted a real family. I was only concerned that Masen would lose the only father he had ever known. Jacob swore to me that would never happen; we would make it work and do what we needed to in order to make things right by our son. To this day, he'd been true to his word.
Certainly, it wasn't that Jacob hadn't wanted me, in fact he had asked me to marry him almost daily for years. He was persistent and left everything behind in La Push just to come to Florida and be there for the birth, and after. From the moment he first found out that I was pregnant, until the night after our adoption party; he had asked me to be his wife every single day. Finally, I guess he'd realized that I had given him everything I had left to give. I'd already given him my day to day life and my son, my most precious possession. Of course, we both knew that the whole 'honor' part of, 'to love and to honor', would be a lie when I still dreamed of somebody else each and every night. Not to mention that my heart was already divided between a memory and a child, something that hurt Jake to no end. But it wouldn't have been fair to offer him something that I could never give again.
Truthfully, holding Masen in my arms for the first time had felt like a lightning bolt that jolted my heart to life for the first real time in nearly three years. It had hurt like hell the first time I let him grab onto my pinky, feeling the rush of love as it forced its way back into my abandoned heart. I honestly had never planned on keeping the baby. His biological father had exited my life months earlier, which was definitely for the best. Neither one of us had been in any real position to raise a child, together or individually. It wouldn't have been fair to anyone involved.
That had all changed, however, in the first two minutes that I'd held that tiny little bundle of humanity in my arms. His life had given me back my own. I'd then watched on in awe while one by one, Renee, then Phil, and even Jake had fallen head over heels for that teeny baby boy.
All of that aside, I would have given the baby up if I had thought it would be the best thing for him. That was, until Charlie had called to check on me. After he'd been assured that I was healthy and on my way to healing after the birth, I'd tried to describe the baby to him. I'd fumbled for words that were adequate; he was small and pink, with brown fuzzy wisps that had the slightest bits of red in them. One feature was easy. He had Charlie's eyes, my eyes.
In describing my baby to my father, I'd begun to realize that I would never have been able to let him go. Even if he had been taken from my arms and raised by another, that part of me would have gone with him. And how would I have coped with one more piece of my heart walking the earth separate from me?
My head had known that the baby may have had a chance for a better life with a mother and father who were more mature or had established careers, but my heart had known that there was no way anyone could ever love him as much as I would, for the rest of my life. Nor was there anyway that I could have functioned apart from not one, but both of the souls that had captured my heart.
Surprisingly, Charlie had agreed when I'd told him I didn't think I would be able to go through with the adoption. My dad put himself on the first flight to Jacksonville to help defend me from Renee. Although my mother had been attempting to think of my best interest, she'd failed to see that I was not her. Even if our situations seemed startlingly similar, we'd always been startlingly different. It had been hard for Charlie and I both, knowing that at times, she'd considered us in the same light as a bad haircut or an impulsive purchase. My father had always loved me and wanted me. We'd been enormously close since Masen's birth and remembering all that he'd given us both over the years had me missing him so much that it hurt.
Getting back to my project at hand, I noticed that most of Charlie's framed pictures were of Masen, so I left those out. I would eliminate any duplicates and reuse the frames later. I smiled at my favorite, the one of Charlie holding his grandson in the hospital the day I'd decided to keep him and officially named him, Masen Charles Swan. My dad's smile was beatific.
There were photos of fishing trips they took together before Charlie got sick. It was an immense joy to him that his only grandson loved the sport as much as he did. Stuck to the bottom of one of the frames I even found an old Polaroid of Charlie and I sitting together at his favorite diner, taken about a week before my eighteenth birthday. I sighed and put that one in with the photos that needed an album.
One thing that I wasn't expecting to find once I moved on to the attic, was a copy of the 2006 Forks High School yearbook. I thumbed the crisp pages out of modest curiosity when I realized why he must have had it. It was mine, from my few months as a resident of the rainy little town my dad called home. Renee wouldn't have taken it back with us to Florida, of course, but my dad must not have been able to part with it. I realized as I put it in the bottom of a new storage bin that I had never even looked at it when I received it at the end of my junior year.
Would their pictures be in the yearbook? Would the Cullen siblings have skipped picture day to avoid evidence of their existence? I wanted to know but was too afraid to find out. Chances were, other than a little note next to my name that read "not pictured", I wouldn't be in the yearbook either because I had moved to Forks so late in the year. Or worse than that, there would have been an entire two-page spread dedicated to the first new student to transfer into Forks High in several years. I thought for a moment about Eric Yorkey and wondered if that were the case. He promised no feature in the newspaper, but nobody mentioned the yearbook. In any event, I wasn't ready to look through it yet.
I discovered Charlie's eclectic taste in music while I was sorting through attic contents. He had an entire range of music up there, from Willy Nelson to The Cure. I wasn't surprised by any of the classics like the Beatles or the Stones, but I wondered if any of the rest of these had been confiscated in his job as a police officer. Had he really liked all this stuff? I listened to a few of the cassette tapes that I found before deciding that most of them were beyond listening condition. Throwing my father's music collection out with the trash really hurt. There was just something so personal about a person's taste in music; it was like a little window to the soul. It felt like I was losing part of him all over again. I did keep his CD's and I knew that I could download most of the albums he'd owned on cassette, but it still felt like a loss.
I finally finished sorting then swept up the last of the dust and trash in the attic, turned the light out and went downstairs to make sure I'd gotten all the storage totes. After my walk through, I closed the attic up and noticed my stomach protesting against the day's exertion. I knew I needed to eat after skipping lunch.
Walking into the kitchen, I groaned out loud just as my stomach rumbled. I didn't feel much like actually cooking tonight. As I turned around, I noticed the formal portrait of Charlie we'd used at his memorial sitting on the kitchen table.
Okay, Dad. Pizza it is. I smiled to myself, remembering his old standby and grabbed the phone.
I had thirty to forty minutes until dinner arrived, so I climbed the stairs to take a shower and put pajamas on. I wouldn't be able to linger in the hot water very long, but I couldn't wait to get cleaned up. Just as I stepped onto the second floor and turned for the bathroom, there was a polite knock at the door.
Oookay? It was either Wally West with my pizza, or another neighbor possibly stopping to offer their condolences. I assumed it was the latter as I couldn't see a car outside from the upstairs window.
I skipped quickly back down the stairs, hoping that my disheveled appearance and probable body odor would indicate that it was not a good time for social call. I was definitely a sight with my hair piled in a scraggly knot on top of my head, and dirt or dust covering every inch of my torn jeans and faded police department t-shirt.
As I reached for the door handle, there was an audible sigh on the other side of the door and I felt a pull in my heart. Since his death, I'd been overwhelmed by the number of people that Charlie had influenced and helped in his life. I wondered if it would get easier to meet them as time went on. I placed a neighborly smile on my face and opened the door.
My heart began beating wildly and I stared at him. I didn't move or blink, I was barely breathing. I just stared at what was, still, the most perfect creation I had ever laid eyes on. My dreams did him no justice. Except that his face looked a little worn and tired, if that was possible, he was more brilliant and beautiful than any dream could possibly be. Like he had time and again, he literally took my breath away.
Edward smiled halfway and lowered his head a but as he took me in. I thought he started to say something, but instead glanced down once at my note in his hand before locking his liquid gold eyes with mine. Although I must have looked a mess, his eyes stayed focused on my own rapidly filling eyes. In that moment he looked just as vulnerable, scared, and unsure as I'd ever seen him. He looked the way I felt inside.
I wasn't sure what to do. I thought that when I saw him, I would know what to say and how to act. I thought I would know how to explain why suddenly, after more than a decade had passed, I couldn't stand the thought of another day without him. I knew it might be impossible for him to give that to me, but I needed to be near him again. Even if it was for just a moment. Even if it didn't mean the same thing to him, as it did to me.
Looking into his eyes, I felt dazzled by him. A feeling absent from my life since the day he walked away. No one had ever made me feel the way he had. The way he made me feel now was brand new too. I didn't have the words to describe it, except that it felt somewhat hopeful. There was something in his expression that gave me hope as well, a sense that perhaps he felt a little dazzled too.
There was a slight expression of disbelief on his face, as though he knew that I would be here, but that he wasn't actually sure it was real. I watched as his gaze seemed to grow somewhat unfocused, as did mine when the rest of the world around us fell away and all I could see were Edward's eyes.
We stood there, eyes locked in silent wonder. The faint echo of electricity began flowing between us once again and my heart sped up in my chest. Then, I did something that neither of us expected.
I took a quick step and launched myself at the demigod standing in my doorway. I threw my arms around his neck and lifted my legs up and wrapped them around his waist. I buried my head in the crook of his neck and held him with all the strength I could muster. I began to whisper to him, my lips brushing the cool skin of his neck.
"You came. You're here. You're really here." I chanted, as the tears began to fall.
Though I was sure he must have been surprised, Edward responded generously to my assault. Wrapping one arm around my back to hold me tightly, his other arm slid under my hips and lifted me securely to him. He walked into the house and pushed the door shut with his foot. His thumb rubbed the back of my head gently and he was mumbling soft, incoherent words when we stopped moving after a few shorts steps.
I tried to stop my tears and willed myself to look him in the face. I took a deep breath and squeezed my arms and legs around him before I leaned back to find his eyes. As I turned to look at him, he met my gaze suddenly with a panicked expression before reaching back with both hands to loosen my arms from his neck.
I thought I understood what was happening; he didn't want to give me the wrong idea. I thought for a moment that he still didn't want me the same way I wanted him, until my body shifted against his. My legs were still wrapped around him, and my weight settled lower than it had before causing me to feel his body's physical response to mine. I sucked in a harsh breath.
"Bella, please," he whispered a moan. I unhooked my legs and allowed him to put me down.
He held me at arms length, his hands softly around my biceps. His head hung down with his beautiful eyes clinched shut. I was suddenly horrified of my behavior for two reasons. First, I remembered the affect that my blood had on him, having forgotten that it caused him physical pain. Second, I could have sworn I saw a flash in his eyes that made me think he felt as though he'd done something wrong, when I was the one, literally throwing herself on him.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Edward. Forgiv-" not sure what I was apologizing for first.
"Please..." he interrupted me, his breath shuddering. The sound of his shaky voice made my heart lurch.
I waited for him to finish. I tried to encourage him to continue, or at least, to look at me. So, I placed one hand over his still heart. "Please...?"
"Please, Bella, I can't do this." My heart stopped at his words and threatened to shatter into a million pieces.
He looked up at me, with a pained expression and continued, "I cannot be near you and then leave you again. I'll give you anything. If you need me, I'm yours. I always have been. But please. If you are just going to send me away? If this is only a one-time thing? I'm not sure I can do this. I could never walk away from you again. I won't survive. I won't." He dropped to his knees in front of me, burying his face in my navel and wrapping his arms around my knees desperately.
I gasped at both his words and the feel of him holding me in such an intimate and vulnerable way. Tears flooded my eyes and spilled over, my breathing accelerated and I trembled with emotion. How many years had I longed to hear his velvet voice, to feel his strong arms around me, to run my fingers through his hair? Yet for all my longing, the reality was that Edward was here now begging me to let him stay. How could I ever send him away?
I decided in that moment that I didn't want to send him anywhere, but upstairs. As far as I was concerned, he could stay there with me until the end of time. I didn't know how I would handle raising my son, what I would tell him or how we would live. I didn't even know how in the hell I was supposed to explain this to Jacob and the rest of our extended family. I didn't know anything, except that the one thing I'd wanted since I was seventeen was now on his knees in front of me, begging me, pleading with me, to let him stay.
I slid my hands into his hair, running my fingers from his perfect forehead, over his scalp and down his cool neck. My hands followed the contours of him, from the nape of his neck, to his shoulders, and then down his back until I had to bend at the waist to continue. He moaned into me as though it were causing him physical pain. I placed a kiss on his gorgeous bronze hair and then slid my hands back up to cup his face. I wiggled in his arms until he loosened his hold enough for me to slide down to my own knees.
As I dropped down, he started to protest. "No, Bel-"
"Shh." I put one finger over his lips and found his eyes through my tears. "Please, Edward. Please," It was my turn to beg. "Whether or not this is a one-time thing, is up to you. I needed you here and you came. What more can I ask of you? But... if that's what you need, to be asked not to leave... then stay. Stay with me? No matter how difficult things will be, don't give up on us ever again. Don't leave me and I won't send you away. Don't deny me, just forgive me and love me. Please? Be with me in any and every way that you can. You have no idea how much I've missed you, how I've needed you. Stay." I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against his chin, feeling breathless and completely vulnerable. There it was, all of it, laid out between us.
"Oh, God. Bella." He pulled me to him, one of his arms sliding up my back, his hand holding my head while the other arm tightened around my waist. He stood up with me in a single motion. "My Bella. I'm yours, always."
Our lips melded together as he kissed me passionately, desperately. It was unlike any kiss I could remember, ever. It was more passionate, spiritual, and intimate than anything we had ever shared before. I felt his mouth open to mine and his sweet breath washed over me. I relaxed completely and felt like jello in his arms. As if in a dream, his cool tongue grazed my bottom lip and I realized this kiss was an entirely different kind of kiss, more about two souls communicating a silent plea. He needed me just as much as I needed him. He wanted me the same way that I wanted him.
I knew that what I was about to do would probably end the fantasy and send him across the room, if the rules from our past encounters were any indication. But I didn't care. I may not get this moment back, but I was going to make the most of it. I used my arms to pull my body closer to his then opened my mouth to him and pulled his bottom lip inside, grazing it with my tongue. He groaned loudly and as expected, disappeared.
My legs sagged from the suddenness of my own weight on them. Before I could fall or regain my balance, or even see where he'd gone, he was back. His hands flew to my hips and steadied me. I chuckled silently and saw him smirk.
I shook my head in quiet disbelief at the intensity of our exchange and smiled my own crooked smile at him. I inhaled and exhaled slowly. "Wow."
"Yeah." He pinched the bridge of his nose before running his hand through his hair. God, I missed that!
"Edward." I looked up into his eyes again.
"My love." He crossed the space between us carefully and stroked the back of his hand lightly down my cheekbone, just as he'd done the first time he touched my face. I suppose my face was a little different now, but he seemed just as genuine in his affection as he was then.
I bowed my head, feeling a little awkward, especially at the thought of my older face and corresponding age. I was now twice his age physically, and in many other human ways I supposed that I was now the wiser of the two of us. The idea made me feel somewhat ashamed of my hasty actions at the door. "I apologize for that. I just reacted. I wasn't expecting you, I'm filthy and I haven't brushed my teeth in about ten hours, and I wasn't prepared to see you. Not that I had some big plan. I didn't even know what I was going to do if you called, let alone what I should say when you possibly showed up. I wasn't even sure it was right of me to ask you to come."
He placed the palm of his hand on my face, cupping my cheek. "Bella, how could you possibly think that? All I have thought about since that day that I left you standing behind this very house, was getting back to you. It was all that fought for and lived for was you. I imagine that that doesn't make much sense at this point, but I need you to know that I would have waited another fifty, seventy, even a hundred years for you. I would wait to find you in another life, but you've given me a far greater option. One I never thought I would have. The chance to speak with you might have been enough, but to have the chance to hold you, to touch you, to kiss you..." He brushed his finger over my bottom lip, causing my heartbeat and my breaths to stutter. "I'm here now because you've asked me, and I will take any and every sacred moment that you will give me."
My body fell against his chest, my arms wrapping around his waist and clutching his shirt. "Edward, you have no idea how much I have ached for you. Sixteen years and it never went away. I dreamed of you almost every night. I can't tell you how hard it has been to live without you. There are no words. I know that what I am doing now is wrong; calling you here because my life has changed so drastically and now I don't want to be alone anymore. I know that I am being selfish and unfair. I am so sorry for that, I just-" Edward cut me off.
"Stop, love. You are many things, but never selfish. You are the most selfless, giving and thoughtful person I have ever known to exist. As for not being able to tell me how it has felt living without me... I think I have some idea what you may have gone through. If it's anything close to how I feel without you, it's unbearable. You are right, there are no words for that." He brushed his thumb along my cheek bone, sending chills down my spine and fire through my veins. My eyes met his and the butterflies in my stomach almost made me visibly shudder.
I knew my body was betraying the strength of my desire for him. I needed to calm down or I was likely to attack him again, putting him in the inevitable position of having to draw the boundaries between us. It seemed very unfair of me, all things considered.
He'd come because I needed him. In the first minute of our reunion he'd given me more of himself in one kiss than he had in all our time together before.
"Edward." I paused briefly and smiled up at him, "Do you mind if I go take a shower? I am seriously covered in filth. I just want to hold you forever, but I need a human moment or two."
He laughed one of those amazing musical laughs I thought I might not ever hear again, and pulled at a piece of hair that was falling down from the bird's nest on my head. "It's not so bad."
"Ha! If you like the smell of stale cardboard, maybe. You can only imagine how much dirt and grime I encountered today. I was on my way to clean up when you knocked."
"I did notice the trash bags outside." He raised his eyebrows.
"You must have smelled the must and mildew a mile away." I looked up at him, while he continued to hold me against his chest.
"It is a little strong, but it pales when surrounded by your own intoxicating scent." He shrugged and held me closer.
"Ah. I am sure my scent is lovely right now." I laughed. We were settling into an easy banter almost like the pain and separation we had gone though had never happened. I wanted to pretend that was the case.
"Bella, you know that's not how it is for me. You always-"
"Smell delectable to you?" I interrupted. He smiled, looking rather bashful. "Well, I would like my whole body, rather than just my blood to be appealing if it's all the same to you."
I probably shouldn't have added that last part, and felt a growing unease in the pit of my stomach. Edward seemed to have closed his eyes when he laid his cheek on the top my head, though I could not see him from where I was held tightly to him.
We were quiet for a few minutes. I eventually pulled away from his chest to look at his face more fully. I tried to think where I should start, what we should talk about first. Instead I found myself searching the intricate details and inflections in his beautiful eyes. Marveling in the way they were almost fluid, flowing and changing in both depth and color with each new thought or emotion. I thoroughly starting to feel slightly lost in them when he finally spoke.
"Your pizza will be here soon. If you want to get cleaned up, I can wait for the delivery person. You can take your time." Edward leaned away from me and nodded towards the stairs.
"How did you know I ordered pizza?" I stared at him stunned, but smiling.
"I was in the woods behind the house when you called. The sun was still a little high to come to the door."
"How long have you been here?" I asked, surprised.
"An hour or two. I suppose I should have called. Or waited until the sun was gone. Are you upset?"
"No. I can't believe you were out there and I didn't know. I mean, I can only imagine what you must have heard going on in here but, I'm not at all upset with you."
He sighed and slid his hands down my arms into my hands, and twined our fingers together before lifting one hand to his lips. "Go get cleaned up, I'll wait for the pizza. Take your time, I can tell you're tired. You did quite a lot today." He paused seeming to think about what he was about to say, "It was not easy sitting out there listening to you struggle with those boxes."
"How long is an hour or two, exactly?" I asked with an eyebrow in the air.
"Bella, don't be silly. Go have your shower. We can talk all night, if you insist on details."
I let go of his hands reluctantly and headed for the stairs, "I do insist on details, but I'm not sure that I want to talk all night." I almost purred.
I turned without looking back at him and went up the stairs, but then stopped at the top. "Oh, and Edward?"
"Yes, love?" He looked like I'd found him with his hand in the cookie jar. I was sure he was watching me, just like I hoped.
What has gotten into me?
"Thank you for coming. I can't tell you what it..." my voice broke and I stopped, lowering my eyes.
"What is it, Bella?" He started to move towards me and I held a hand out shaking my head.
"Nothing. I just, I believe everything you told me a moment ago. But, I still want to ask you..."
"To stay?" He was there on the step in front of me. Lifting my chin until my eyes met his. "I am not going anywhere, Bella. I will be here even when you don't want me anymore. Would you like me to sit outside the door? I will."
"No, I believe you. I'm sorry." I sniffled.
"There is nothing you need to be sorry for. There is nothing to forgive," he said lovingly, stroking my hair and I felt my knees starting to weaken.
"Maybe not. But, I think... I think there will be." I opened my eyes and looked down at him with a seductive smile. I chewed on my bottom lip a little, watching his eyes grow dark and surprised when I raised my brow suggestively and quickly backed into the bathroom.
I was pretty sure that I heard a hiss and a loud snap when I closed the door.
Oh, my gosh! What has gotten into me?
Oh, that's right, sixteen years of dreaming about this day...and night.
Thank you so much Essay33 for taking me on in early 2010 when I couldn't even remember how to use punctuation in dialogue. She was an amazing beta and teacher, and encouraged me to continue writing when some of the wind got let out of my sails in the early days. Without her, the rest of my stories may have never come to fruition.
Also, Project Team Beta was instrumental in editing this fic for me when I overwhelmed Ann with too much work! SecretlySeverus and Lezlee from PTB beta'd this chapter while Essay33 was busy with my other fiction, "What Drives Her".