Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight
A/N: This is a one-shot that I wrote for the Fics for Nashville fundraiser. A big thank you to everyone who donated!
IN A FLASH
"Motherfu-," Edward groaned and pounded his steering wheel with one fist as he watched the beat up Chevy pull into the parking space he had been aiming for. Sighing he drove past the truck, shooting it a glance as the driver climbed out, almost immediately clutching at the door for balance as her feet hit the icy tarmac. She – the thief – had a slight build and Edward only just registered her long dark hair as he drove past in search of another parking space.
The day hadn't started well. He'd overslept for one thing, there was no milk in the refrigerator for his cereal and the coffee jug had been empty. Now as he glanced at the digital clock in the car he realised he had no time to grab anything to eat or drink if he was going to make his lecture on time. He shook his head and was about to give up in disgust when he saw the taillights of a car ahead come on. He slowed his car to a crawl almost hoping against hope and felt a rush of relief as the car began to reverse out of its space. Perhaps the day wasn't going to be so bad after all.
He parked and got out of the car with a slight measure of caution as he remembered the ice and once he got his balance settled his rucksack against his shoulder and set off at a steady loping stride. The chill factor in the breeze registered as it hit his exposed throat and he pulled his rucksack around to rummage inside before grunting in annoyance. He'd forgotten his scarf too. A low rumble from his stomach reminded him that it had been a long time since he'd eaten. How long had it been? His forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember. It had been a late night working on his latest essay and he had a dim memory of his roomie sliding a bowl of pasta primavera onto the desk as he passed.
Neither he nor Jasper could cook worth a damn but necessity had them experimenting in the kitchen with varying degrees of success. Fortunately Jasper's girlfriend Alice took pity on them from time to time and sent him home with generous servings of leftovers and whatever else she happened to cook up. As was everything Alice produced, the pasta had been delicious and Edward had wolfed it down without breaking his gaze from the screen in front of him. He was nearly at the end of his third year at college and the complexity of his workload had increased accordingly. Nights studying were getting later, opportunities to socialise were few and far between, but the saving grace in the equation (such that there was one) was that his grades reflected his efforts.
Another stomach rumble.
Edward began to dig through his rucksack in the hopes that he might have a muesli bar stashed in there somewhere. The unfortunate habit of sleeping through his alarm was alas, a new development. Fortunately Edward had gotten in to the habit of squirreling away the occasional snack, although had learned from bitter experience that bananas and heavy textbooks did not make good bedfellows. He was still digging when he rounded the corner of the building and ran smack into someone.
Edward barely had time to stagger back and look up in shock as he heard an indignant 'oof' as whoever it was hit the pavement in front of him.
Shit shit shit.
"Sorry," he got his balance and automatically bent forward to help up the person who was on their hands and knees shaking their head. "I wasn't looking where I was going, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," the voice was a little breathless, "just a bit shook up."
"Sorry," he apologised again as he put his arms around the figure's shoulders and hauled them up into a standing position. Whoever it was, they were tiny; barely reaching his shoulders.
"It's okay," he heard a resigned laugh, "No harm, no foul."
Releasing the figure Edward stood and watched as the coat hood which had fall forward was pushed back to reveal long dark hair and an embarrassed smile. It wasn't until her smile faltered somewhat and her cheeks began to stain with colour that he realised he had been staring.
"Sorry," he muttered and shook his head.
"I was in a hurry too," the woman shrugged, "so I don't think you can hog all the blame for yourself."
"You hit the deck pretty hard though," Edward commented as he glanced down at her jeans. One knee now sported a wet patch from the cold ground and the other looked a little scuffed.
"You'd be surprised how often it happens, ice isn't really the friend of the uncoordinated," the woman replied as she pushed back her coat sleeve to look at her watch and then moaned in a tone of deep disgust. "Listen, I'm okay, you're okay, and I've seriously gotta run."
"Go," Edward stepped back and made a sweeping gesture with one arm, "hope you get there in once piece."
"You too," she wrinkled her nose at him with a quick grin and then walked away, quickening her pace when she certain of her footing.
Now it was Edward who looked at his watch and cursed. The run-in had cost him precious time and his lecturer was merciless on late arrivals. He took a step and looked down when he heard something skitter away from his shoe. It was something shiny and … what the hell was it? It wasn't until he'd stopped to pick it up that he realised what he was holding; a flash drive. He turned it over in his hands and gave a low whistle when he saw that it was a 32Gb drive with - another quick check – no identifying marks at all.
He dropped it into his coat pocket and then picked up the pace, breaking into a jog when he reached the corridor that led to the lecture hall.
Two and a half hours later Edward dropped his bag onto a vacant chair and took a seat, pulling a blueberry muffin out of a paper bag and eyeing it something akin to adoration before taking a bite.
Edward didn't have time to react before someone swatted him on the back of the head. He looked up to see Jasper give him a perfunctory nod before pulling out a vacant seat on the opposite side of the desk and slumping into it.
Edward was still chewing so offered little more than a nod and a grunt.
"Edward," Jasper shook his head, "we're gonna have to do something about that. You've got your alarm cranked as loud as it will go and you're still sleeping through it."
"Tell me about it," Edward mumbled before taking another bite.
"How late were you up last night?" Jasper pulled out a bottle of water and chugged at it before putting the cap back on and stashing it back in his bag.
"Dunno … maybe two," Edward shrugged. Dropping the muffin back bag on the table he leaned forward and rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Not long now," he uttered in a prayerful tone.
"Just a few weeks," Jasper agreed, "and then it's the sweet, sweet taste of spring break."
"Amen," Edward agreed and then flipped open his textbook.
"So," Jasper leaned back and gave an expansive stretch and then subsided, idly scratching his abs where his t-shirt had ridden up, "you got plans this weekend?"
"You're lookin' at it," Edward grunted as he scribbled some quick notes and shot Jasper a tired smile.
"All work and no play makes Edward-," Jasper began in a warning tone
"Boring as hell," Edward finished, "I know." He stilled his note taking and squinted up at Jasper who was regarding him with a slight smile. "Okay I'll bite, what've you got in mind?"
"Could be nothin', could be somethin' …," Jasper shrugged. Edward would see his roomie was trying to be casual but his smile gave things away.
"Jasper," he growled in a warning tone.
"Okay," Jasper put his hands up in surrender with a laugh. "Alice wants us to go out for a few drinks tonight."
"I don't know," Edward looked down at his notes. He was moderately on track to meet the deadline, and a good push at it this weekend would see him nicely ahead of schedule.
"I do," Jasper went on in a firm tone, "you need to relax." See Edward waver he pressed on. "C'mon, it's Friday. Just one drink," he said in a coaxing voice.
"Fine," Edward tapped his pen against the book, "but just one."
"Deal," Jasper nodded. "Trust me, Edward, you'll have a great time."
"Right," Edward shook his head distractedly and turned his attention back to his book. He gave a brief nod when Jasper repeated his promise to come out for a drink and then turning the page, switched the outside world off.
... decades of green roof design, construction and research has led to an established industry with standards for green roof planning, building and maintenance. Estimates are that 12% of all flat roofs in Germany have some form of vegetation cover. The benefits of green roofs and walls are numerous and include …
Edward blinked and returned to the real world at the sound of a series of muffled thuds. Everyone in his immediate vicinity seemed to be deeply immersed in studies of his or her own and so it took a while for Edward to find the source of the noise.
"Huh," Edward said to himself. It was her again; his morning run in. If he thought she had looked flustered enough when they had literally run into each other, she was looking absolutely frantic now.
She had pulled all of her textbooks out of her bag and had tipped it upside down to shake it over the library table. When her search yielded no results she began to go through her pockets dropping keys, gum and small change onto the table. It wasn't until her seatmates nearby shushed her that she realised she was creating a disturbance. Flushing crimson she mouthed her apologies in a quiet voice and carefully repacked her bag. Edward returned to his studies but when he looked up a moment later he could see her sitting at the table with her head in her hands looking utterly dejected.
Edward got home late that afternoon, kicked the door closed behind him and dropped his keys on the table with a loud clatter. For a moment he did nothing but set down his bag to stretch his arms up over his head and then roll his shoulders. It seemed that he spent much of his waking hours in front of a laptop or hunched over a book. Surely there had to be more to life than this.
"Edward," Jasper appeared in the small living room doorway wearing a broad grin. "Right on time."
"For what?" Edward grunted as he rolled his shoulders, wincing as he heard the tendons crack and pop. That wasn't good. He was going to have to do something about that before he began to seize up more than he already was. Most evenings he seemed to go to bed with a headache, or wake up with one. Not good.
"Drinks, remember?" Jasper chided him as he strolled into the room and picked up a leather jacket he had discarded on the sofa to begin pulling it on. "C'mon, we're meeting Alice at the bar in twenty minutes."
"Jasper," Edward began in an awkward tone, "I don't know if-,"
"No buts," Jasper cut him off with a frustrated scowl. It was Edward realised, one of the rare times that he had seen his friend look genuinely annoyed. "Get that stick out your ass and get changed. You're coming."
When Edward hesitated Jasper sighed and went on in a gentler tone.
"Edward, I've watched you disappear into your workload for the last few weeks. You've gotta take a break and get a life now and then before you burn out."
Jasper stepped forward to put a friendly arm around Edward's shoulders and steered him towards the hallway that led to his room.
"You don't have to stay out all night, just enough to relax."
"You're the boss," Edward sighed.
"Oh hey," Jasper's eyes widened, "say that again."
"Say what?" Edward was confused.
"That bit you just said," Jasper nudged him.
"You're the boss," Edward repeated dutifully.
"Oh man," Jasper slumped theatrically against the wall, "yeah that's the good stuff."
"What's all that about?" Edward shook his head and laughed as he walked into his room and pulled off his shirt.
"Something I haven't heard much since Alice and I have been together."
Edward gave a muffled laugh. "Glad I could help."
The music wasn't enough to be deafening, but it was still loud enough to aggravate the headache that had taken up residence behind his eyes. Edward sipped at his beer and wondered when he could make his escape. He looked up and forced a smile when Alice appeared beside him with her hands full of drinks.
"Here you go," Alice smiled as she set down another cup of beer next to the one he had nearly finished.
"Thanks, Alice," he tried not to groan.
"Ha," Alice sat down and gave him a broad smile, "Jasper told me how much fast talking he had to do to get you here tonight, so you needn't think that you're going to gulp down that drink at light speed and get outta here." She waved an imperious hand at his two drinks sitting in front of him. "Take your time, and then we'll get you another."
"Listen, I really don't know that I-," he began and stopped when Alice gave a huff of irritation.
"Edward, I'm not setting out to get you drunk. We just want you to spend time in the real world for a while, deal?"
Edward looked at Jasper's girlfriend who made up for any lack in height with sheer force of personality.
"Deal," he sighed, shaking his head with a tired grin as Alice clapped her hands.
"I swear you're as bad as Bella," Alice muttered.
"One of my classmates, I've managed to pressure her into coming along tonight too," Alice explained. "Oh get that panicked look off your face, it's not a setup."
Edward tried not to let his relief show.
"Relax," Alice leaned forward to pat him familiarly on the shoulder. "She's another sad sack with no life like you, and totally uninterested in set-ups so there's no way I'd go there." Alice checked her phone and sat up straighter as she peered over Edward's shoulder. "Jasper's meeting her outside and … there they are." She gave an exaggerated wave of her arms until Jasper saw her and waved back.
Edward watched how his friend's face lit up when he saw Alice before turning to say something to the person behind him. Whoever it was they were short, and Edward lost sight of them a few times as they fought their way through the crowd towards the table where Edward and Alice were sitting. He turned back and had taken another sip of his beer when Jasper reached them.
"Made it," Jasper announced as he paused beside the table, "but I should go get-,"
"Drinks are here, Babe," Alice nodded at the collection of cups on the table.
"God I love you," Jasper said in a heartfelt tone as he leaned forward to give Alice a quick kiss before taking a seat beside her.
"Now Bella," Alice began, "No setups like I promised, but this is Jasper's roomie-,"
"I know you," Edward exclaimed. It was the woman he'd seen twice that day.
"You again," Bella smiled at the same time.
"You know already know each other?" Alice asked in unaffected surprise.
"Oh we go way back," Bella laughed as she shrugged off her coat and dumped it beside Edward as she took a seat in the booth. "Swept me off my feet."
"Really?" Jasper asked in a calculating tone.
"Oh yeah," Edward replied, playing along, "we've known each other for whole hours."
"Do tell," Alice was intrigued.
"I guess you could say we ran into each other earlier today," Bella said. "I was late for class and ran around a corner without looking."
"Ahh, so that's how you-," Alice gestured at Bella's hands.
"What?" Edward leaned forward a little and watched as a sheepish Bella showed him the scraped heels of her hands. "Hey you said you weren't hurt."
"Well it didn't hurt at the time," Bella clarified, "and I was running seriously late."
"Me too," Edward nodded.
"Did you make it on time?" Bella asked as she pointed at the drinks and picked one up when Alice pointed out which one was hers, taking a sip as she looked back at Edward.
The music was still loud but Edward pushed his headache to one side.
"Just," he smiled.
The four of them fell into an easy conversation, discussing their studies and the questionable music choices that the bar jukebox seemed to keep producing. Alice groaned when another boy-band heavily produced synthetised production began to pound from the speakers. Even Edward winced and raised a hand to his temple.
"Oh screw this," Bella shook her head and reached for her wallet. "I'll be back in a minute."
"Bella?" Jasper was surprised, "what are you going to do?"
"Just wait," Alice said with a nod at Bella who flashed them a knowing smile before disappearing into the crowd.
It took a few minutes but the music suddenly switched off for a moment to be replaced with the latest Radiohead album.
"There is a god," Jasper proclaimed as he stood up and punched the air in triumph.
"What did she do?" Edward asked Alice who was laughing at Jasper's obvious delight.
"I'll let Bella tell you," Alice shook her head.
Bella appeared not long after bearing another tray of drinks and a very pleased expression.
"Okay, I'll bite," Edward commented as he accepted a beer from the tray, "what did you do?"
"Just a bit of trade," Bella replied with a smile that tried and failed to be modest. "I made the barman an offer he couldn't refuse."
Edward regarded her over the rim of his cup as Bella gave a gurgle of laughter.
"Not that kind of offer," she corrected. "We've done a trade."
"Which was?" Jasper asked as he picked up his drink and leaned back in the booth to put his arm around Alice's shoulders and pull her to his side.
"Bella's studying OT, Occupational Therapy," she explained to the boys, "best in her class too."
"Really?" Edward was impressed. That was a notoriously hard course.
"When we got here I saw the guy behind the bar was favouring one shoulder, so I've offered a treatment session before his shift tomorrow in exchange for turning off the shit music and playing something better."
"I like your style," Edward nodded.
"You could do with some treatment as well, how much study time have you been putting in?"
"Almost as much as you from what Alice tells me," Jasper called to her across the table.
"Oh hush," Bella waved him off and then looked at Edward with slightly narrowed eyes. "You've got an elevated shoulder as well. Turn your head to the ri-,"
"Bella," Alice said in a sharp voice and Bella looked across at her with a resigned smile.
"We talked about this, stop working and relax," Alice instructed as she slid Bella's drink towards her.
"Yes Boss," Bella sighed as she picked it up for a sip.
"Oh that sounds good," Alice beamed. "I could get used to that."
Two drinks turned into three.
Three drinks turned into four.
After that things got a little hazy.
Edward was aware enough to know that he wasn't entirely toasted, but he certainly felt more relaxed that he had in a long time. It was a good feeling, one that he'd nearly forgotten about. He gave an expansive sigh and stretched out, resting his arm along the top of the booth seat. Bella shifted a little on the seat so that she could sit facing Edward as she tucked some hair behind her ears. Her face was a little flushed now but she was looking as relaxed and happy as he felt.
"So go on," she encouraged, "what are your studies turning up?"
"The green roof movement has really gathered speed in Europe, and it's gaining traction over here," Edward replied. "Once some building owners realised they could reduce their heating and cooling overheads by as much as twenty percent things really started to get moving."
"If I fall asleep don't let me drool," Jasper muttered in an undertone to Alice.
"Shhh, just look at them," Alice whispered as she watched the couple engrossed in each other's company.
The conversation went on, the music got louder and the bar got louder. It seemed only natural that Edward and Bella should shift closer towards each other as their conversation continued.
"Are you nuts?" Edward gave Bella an indignant look, "there's no way in hell that they could have gone with that."
"Oh c'mon," Bella mocked him, "after the last guitarist they had they had to take a new direction."
Alice and Jasper made their apologies and got up to leave, watching with mild amusement as the other couple paused long enough to bid them a good night and went back to their conversation.
"It's not textual poaching, and they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Bella argued.
"If that's the case then what's cloning?" Edward countered, watching as Bella threw her head back and laughed. Her enjoyment was contagious and he found himself chuckling too.
"So," Edward shifted his arm a little on the backrest so that he ended up clasping Bella's shoulders. She didn't move away which he took as an encouraging sign.
"So," Bella agreed as she shifted a little closer.
"You were really in a hurry this morning, huh," he said.
"Overslept," Bella nodded as she looked up at him, "You?"
She felt nice and warm, and she had a scent that was sweet and musky that wove itself around him. Funny that they had bumped into each other that morning as strangers and had just spent the last four hours debating and sometimes outright arguing over a huge range of subjects.
"Same thing," Edward shrugged with a wry smile. "Did you make your class on time?"
"Yeah," Bella nodded, "but the rest of the day went to shit in a pretty dramatic fashion."
"How so?" Edward looked down at her in surprise.
"Present company excluded," she amended hastily.
"Nice save," Edward nodded.
"You think so?" Bella grinned up at him, "not too obvious was it?"
"I hardly noticed," Edward assured her in a grave tone as he watched her smile. "So, what happened?"
"I lost my notes for two of my classes, a bundle of music that I've spent a small fortune on and haven't had the chance to backup properly, and my final paper that's due next week."
"Man," Edward breathed, "that's harsh. How did you lose it?"
"That's the thing," Bella threw up her hands before leaning against him again, a little closer this time. She was almost nestling into his side now. It felt nice; in fact it felt pretty damn good.
"I had it all on a flash drive," Bella went on, "and Alice was always telling me not to put all my eggs into one basket but did I listen? Hell no," Bella groused. She was trying to make light of it all but he could see that she was devastated. "I'm so far behind schedule now that it's beyond a joke but-," she stopped and ran her hands through her hair, "Alice said that if things were as bad as they could get I might as well come out for a drink."
Flash drive …
A vague memory stirred.
"What sort of flash drive?" Edward asked as he patted his pocket.
"Expensive," Bella pulled a face. "Blue casing, 32Gb with … and Alice has been nagging me about this … no-,"
"Identification," Edward finished for her as he produced the drive from his pocket.
He watched as Bella's eyes widened and she reached for it with trembling hands.
"Where did you …," she looked up at him and looked like she was about to cry with relief.
"You must've lost it when we practically knocked each other over this morning," Edward explained as Bella turned the drive over and over in her hands before putting it securely in her wallet, zipping it shut and patting it for good measure.
When Bella looked back at him her eyes were shining.
"You've saved my life," she said simply. "I could kiss you."
"I'm not going to stop you," Edward assured her.
They stared at each other for a long moment, Bella considering the situation before she leaned forward to give him a gentle kiss. They parted and looked at each other.
"I really should be thanking you a lot, that drive practically has my life on it."
"Right," Edward nodded.
"I mean … that is to say," Bella looked down at her lap and then back at Edward, "if one kiss equals one thank you then I should really thank you a whole lot more."
"Interesting," Edward pretended to consider the situation carefully, all the while trying not to smile. He hadn't even noticed that his thumb was rubbing lazy circles on her upper arm. "Well when you put it that way …."
"Oh I do," Bella assured him as she leaned forward, her lips already curling into a lazy smile.
They kissed again, longer this time.
"You should really-,"
"some kind of payment-,"
"plan or something."
"Mm-hmm," Bella reached up to curl her fingers around the nape of his neck.
This time the kiss was very leisurely indeed as they gently explored each other's mouths.
"It could take a while," Bella admitted when they both came up for air. "How much time do you have?"
"As much as it takes," Edward assured her.
This time as they leaned in for another kiss they were both smiling.
It had turned into a remarkably good day.
A/N: You like? I think I could be getting the hang of this one-shot business now. I'm so sorry that it has been a while since I've updated my other stories. Work and study commitments have been absolutely killing me lately, suffice to say I think I was getting pretty burnt out. Worryingly, ALL of my characters have gone quiet lately so I've not been able to do any writing. Having said that, I'm on the mend now and hope to get stuck into the next chapter of Songlines very soon.