Age of Edward Contest
Your pen name: Javamomma0921
Title: Revolutionary Angel
Type of Edward: Revolutionary War Edward
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From the Surgeon's Mate's log
Valley Forge, February 12th, 1778
We lost another 12 men today, the most since we made encampment two months ago. Pneumonia and the Putrid Fever are rampant throughout the ranks and are claiming more and more soldiers every day. Rations are low, with the meat being reserved for the officers. One of the enlisted men took down a deer and the quarter master insisted that the meat be divided among the generals, despite the Surgeon's plea to use some of the meat to stew broths for the sick. He would hear none of it, insisting the officers deserved the meat. Only by the grace of General Washington were the bones left to us to make a weak broth for those in need. For whatever good it will do those who can keep nothing in their bellies. It seems a hopeless battle we fight against the cold and the sickness.
Medical supplies are scarcer than meat now, most of the bandages and poultice supplies having been used on those injured in our last stand. We make do with what we have, dirty strips of linen torn from our clothes as well as those bandages we could salvage, clean and boil. They tear easily, but they are coverage for sores that would otherwise remain open to the air.
The surgeon encourages me to work more closely with the camp followers, those women either married to the war or widowed by it who have come to assist the cause. They were fine when they laundered and cooked, but some of the matrons have taken to tending the sick and their ways are not those of any medical text. They rely on their natural remedies and their practices worry me. Dr. Cullen tells me to have faith in them, but I confess my faith and patience run thin when I see mud being smeared upon my patients. However, there is one who is different from all the others …
Edward A. Masen, Surgeon's Mate, Pennsylvania's 3rd Company
Edward closed the tattered journal his father had given him and meticulously cleaned out his precious goose quill pen before slipping it into the binding of the book. He tucked the book under his mattress roll and curled up under his threadbare cloak to attempt some sleep before morning rounds. Though he tried to redirect his mind toward more appropriate thoughts, he continued to be fixated on the image of the young widow Crowley, come to camp just two weeks after her husband died of pneumonia.
She was a fiery young woman who ready to help with everything, and her presence enlivened the men. Edward looked sourly upon her at first; he viewed her as yet another unschooled matron who would disregard his sage advice and ultimately put his patients at risk. Edward also felt it a scandal that she vehemently insisted upon being addressed as Bella Swan instead of by her married name; it was just improper. Edward had thought of her as the widow Crowley regardless of her wishes and continued to do so until the day she called all of his preconceived notions into question.
Though quick to judge, Edward was also quick to reevaluate. It was just a week after Bella came to camp when Edward found himself saddled with her for the day. She was to help him with poultices as well as cleaning any festering wounds. Edward didn't think she'd make it more than two patients before she was losing her breakfast behind a bush. But she had surprised him.
"Widow Crowley," he called to her impatiently, "I need more bandages for this poultice."
He was not looking at her. He waved his fingers waiting for her to hand him what he needed and move on. He heard the telltale sound of fabric being ripped asunder and turned to see her ripping her own apron.
"There are piles of boiled rags behind you," he said quietly. "Why do you rip your own apron?"
"Those rags have been washed in the stream, not boiled. They're filthy. Use this. And please, call me Bella."
Edward sighed heavily, applying the dingy fabric to the poultice and standing upright.
"It is not proper," he said, looking at her tired face for the first time.
She was quite lovely. Dark brown hair, pulled back into an off white kerchief. She wore a yellow shirtwaist with a threadbare brown skirt and a now torn apron. She was comely even; but she was sad and tired and Edward didn't have time to dwell on her beauty for long. Men were waiting on him.
"Proper?" she called as he passed her.
Something in the tone of her voice made him turn around.
"Proper, you say? You call me 'widow' and think it a term of respect? An honor? I tell you, I do not consider it an honor. It wasn't proper for Father to marry me off to Tyler, knowing he was marching off to war the next day. It wasn't proper for me to be sent out of my house when Papa's rations weren't enough to feed both Mama and me. And it certainly isn't proper for me to be toiling away tending other women's husbands now that my own is buried. There isn't a thing about my life that is proper, Mr. Masen, so at least give me the courtesy to call me by the name I choose. I'm Bella Swan, not widow Crowley."
Edward stared at her, dumbfounded. No woman had ever talked to him thus. He could feel the hurt and betrayal rolling off of her as she revealed how terribly wrong her life had gone in the past year. He was at a loss, unsure what to do or say to comfort the poor girl and feeling sure that anything he did say would be met with more vitriol.
"I'm sorry," she said, wiping her brow. "It isn't your fault. But I do prefer my given name, if you don't mind."
"Miss Swan," Edward said with a smile. "No apology necessary. Are you feeling well enough to continue, or do you need a rest?"
"I am quite fine, thank you," she said and walked ahead of him toward the next patient.
Edward followed, shaking his head slightly at the strange woman. She intrigued him. He felt bad for her loss and some part of him, even then, had wanted to shelter her from the pain she was in. Instead, he worked quietly by her side for the rest of the day, continuing to be amazed with her diligence and efficiency.
It was nearing dusk when they reached the last patient of the day. The young man, a Private Michael Newton, had come down with pneumonia directly after the camp had been set up and had gotten progressively worse. Edward had expected him to pass during the night. The only thing they could do was change out his poultice and make sure he was comfortable. He wouldn't last much longer.
The sound of his rattling wheeze echoed through the crowded sick room. Edward had expected Miss Swan to stand back and away from the man, knowing that her husband had died of the same illness. Instead, she walked immediately over to him, putting her hand to his forehead and frowning at the high temperature. He applied the poultice while Bella fluffed the pillow for him. Edward was backing away when he saw her kneel back down at the man's side, tucking her skirts under her and stroking his forehead and hair.
"Miss Swan," he called to her softly. "This patient was our last for the evening. We can go to collect our rations."
"I'll stay with him," she murmured back to him. "He doesn't have long now and no man ought to die alone when one is able to sit with him awhile."
She began humming the soft, familiar tune of "Amazing Grace." Edward noticed that the man's breathing became slower, less forced, as she sang and brushed his sweat-soaked hair out of his face. Soon, the rattling began to get deeper and his breaths became shallower. As Newton's breathing became louder, Bella's voice became stronger. In the end, he gave up the ghost quietly and lay still as she arranged him for the man whose job it was to take him out for burial.
She stood, stretching her arms and legs and turned around. She looked surprised to see Edward still standing there.
"You stayed," she said. "I thought you had left."
"That was a great kindness you performed," Edward said formally. "I'm sure your voice was a comfort to him as he passed."
"It is how I'd hoped Tyler was tended," she said stiffly, "and Papa."
"I'm sorry," Edward said immediately. "I didn't know your father had passed as well."
"There is much you don't know about me, Mr. Masen."
Edward saw her determined face beginning to crack in front of him. Suddenly, the urge to protect this strong yet fragile creature was overwhelming. He had almost no experience with women, but he wanted to cradle this woman, show her some kindness. And yet he was frozen where he stood, observing the fissures in her composure begin to take over.
"I am quite tired," she said, arranging her skirts again. "Good night, Mr. Masen."
She breezed by him and he turned to watch her form as she left.
"Good night, Bella."
A small misstep was the only sign she had heard what he had said.
Weeks passed. The snow piled up and blew through the camp while the cold, sickness and lack of supplies took more men every day. By the middle of March, spring still hadn't shown its warming face and men were beginning to lose hope that it would ever arrive. Near the end of the month, temperatures dipped lower than they had even during the middle of winter and it brought a new wave of illness to the camp.
Edward went through days filled with more sickness and more death, moving through the motions and trying not to be affected by all of the loss around him. Bella had quickly become the highlight of his day, though he would never dream of saying so out loud. She was so constant, diligent, and efficient. She made the dreary work go by more quickly.
If Edward was honest with himself, he knew that it was more than Bella's efficiency which made his day brighter. He was happiest when he could draw out her smile or even when she challenged him to change the way he looked at things. He found himself watching for her as he walked through the camp, smiling when he saw her. Bella Swan was becoming essential to him and he could neither explain it nor deny it.
She seemed happiest when she worked with the sick and dying; that suited Edward just fine. She was getting skillful enough that she could apply poultices without supervision, but still he found excuses to be near her. He wondered if she noticed, or whether she cared. But he didn't think on it too often as the thought of her ambivalence stung him.
Edward was working through a nasty headache one day when the surgeon called to him asking for his help with a patient. Gangrene was a common complaint in the wet winter weather with wounds festering and putrefying. Edward didn't relish the thought of being around that smell with his head aching so, but he was flattered by the attention Dr. Cullen showed him.
"Talk to her."
Dr. Cullen, the crusty army surgeon with whom he'd worked throughout the campaign, was a man of few words. He tended the sick, performed surgeries when needed, and generally kept to himself. He was perhaps the most brilliant man Edward had ever met and he respected the older gentleman as both a surgeon and a person. He was both surprised and confused by the man's words, spoken over the gangrenous leg.
Both Edward and Dr. Cullen were wearing clothespins to help avoid the stink of putrefaction emanating from the poor man's foot. They didn't help; they only made their voices sound strange and nasal.
"Talk to whom, doctor?"
"Miss Swan," he said. "I see you watch her. Talk to her."
Edward colored at the revelation that someone had noticed his pining glances, but Dr. Cullen continued.
"She watches you too."
"It isn't proper," Edward said stiffly. "She's a widow in mourning and I …"
"I bet she'd thank you to help her forget that sorrow, son."
"Dr. Cullen, I couldn't possibly …"
"Ah, to hell with manners and propriety, man! This is war and it has taken every good thing from this girl. No one would think wrong of either of you for seeking comfort in the other."
Edward curled himself on his pallet that night, lost in thoughts of Bella and the comforts he could seek in her … and those he could offer her as well. He felt anchored in his cold tent with lonely dreams of a girl who barely spoke to him and the things he wanted to say to her.
His dreams that night were vivid and deep, filled with Bella. Her chestnut hair, loose from its kerchief and flowing around her face … her lips parted and wet coming close to his face … her hands – everywhere. He woke, panting and disoriented in the dark tent feeling, for once, hot.
Edward lay back on his pallet, his furtive movements beneath his cloak quiet and hidden from the others in his tent. It was a sad fact of war that men turned to their hands more often than not for release and they all learned to both ignore the tell tale sounds and become more quiet in their pursuits. Edward clamped his teeth around his cloak as he came, imagining Bella's tongue in his mouth. As always, he felt unclean afterwards, though he was more able to sleep.
In the morning, Edward's dreams would not let him be. His head was full of cobwebs and Bella. When he saw her and remembered his dream and the consequences, he turned and walked away. How could he face her when he used her memory so selfishly?
She sought him out, however, while he was in the middle of his rounds, his head still stubbornly refusing to remain focused on the tasks at hand.
"You're avoiding me," she said, her hands on hips.
"I'm not," he said stupidly, childishly.
"You are. Usually we see these patients together."
Her head was ringed in a halo of bright color, probably a reflection from the sun-kissed snow. She was so lovely, almost like an angel standing before him. Her brows were knitting together and her annoyed face was falling in concern. Suddenly, she was reaching out for him and her fingers were heaven on his skin.
"Edward, you're burning with fever!" she exclaimed.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, confused by her words and her touch.
She had placed both of her hands on his cheeks and the halo around her head was becoming brighter.
"So beautiful," Edward murmured, his fingers finally reaching out to free her hair from the kerchief.
And then everything went black.
"Help! I need help over here!" Bella's frantic voice called out of the blackness.
Edward wanted to run to her to help her, but he couldn't make his traitorous limbs move. Images blurred together. He vaguely understood that someone carried him to a hut somewhere, but the faces were hazy in the bright light radiating from around Bella's head. She had eclipsed the sun and her aura was sparkling with fire. He could hear strange, muted voices talking to him and about him, but he couldn't discern where they were coming from. All the while, Bella's cool fingers grounded him. He felt them moving in his hair, around his face, and on his throat.
They were salve on his parched skin; he wanted to hold them and pull her to him and never let her leave.
The voices were becoming more insistent, grating on his fragile nerves. Out of all of the voices, one seemed to come through the blackness with more clarity than all the others.
It was her. His snow angel.
"Edward, look at me."
His voice sounded far away and scratchy. As a surgeon, Edward understood what the sound of his voice meant, and the diagnosis gave him a moment of clarity through the fever.
"I'm sick," he said.
"Very," Bella said.
Edward could hear the frown in her voice and wanted to apologize for disappointing her.
"I'm not leaving," she said softly.
He felt her fingers yet again on his skin, working to loosen the fastenings of his shirt so she could apply a poultice.
"Don't leave me." Her voice was soft, so soft and light and pleading. How could he possibly deny her?
Edward wavered in and out of a blazing inferno. He felt as if a fire was licking flames behind his eyes, obstructing his vision. Shadows moved around him, all coming and going in a hazy silence that left him confused and wanting.
Always wanting. More. Of her, of course.
Whenever he was lucid enough to know who was with him, she was there. Touching him … grounding him … bringing him back from wherever the fever took him. He always came back to her.
The poultices were heavy and smelled of sickness, turning his stomach with their extra heat. He knew he fought them as they tried to put them on. In his distant, fever-wracked mind, he remembered the men he had tended and how they would fight him up until they were too weak to fight anymore. He wondered how long he would fight and whether Bella would be there in the end singing "Amazing Grace" to him as he left this world.
At times, the fever would blur the lines of reality. One moment, Bella was by his pallet, changing his poultice. The next, she was a writhing fire goddess, naked and dancing in front of the flames before him. He knew these images couldn't be real, and yet to his addled mind, they were everything. He reached for her as she danced and she lowered herself naked to his side, warming him with her heat against the blistering cold winds.
Edward dreamed that she spoke to him, caressed him the way a lover might. It seemed that he lived for these dreams when she would wind herself around his shivering body and call him back from the darkness.
"You can't leave me."
Her voice came in whispered breaths and he dreamt that he could feel her cool lips on his ear as she spoke to him. He turned toward her voice, sometimes he whispered her name, and then she ran her fingers gently over his burning flesh and he finally slept with the sound of her breathing in his ears and the feel of her skin touching his.
Edward woke one morning to the sound of birds outside his tent. The world was real and solid once again and his head ached as though he had suffered a grievous blow. Was it all a terrible, twisted nightmare? He could almost believe that it was that, and yet he ran his tongue over his parched lips and felt the sticky heaviness of the poultice on his chest. He had been sick. But for how long? And … where is Bella?
He looked around the hut, confused because there were no other men around, until he saw her. She was lying curled in a ball upon a rough pallet close to the door of the hut. Her kerchief had fallen askew and her brown hair fell in waves around her face. Her pink lips were parted and Edward could see that she slept lightly, almost like a soldier at attention. Though he was hungry and uncomfortable, he lay still, watching as she slept. Even next to the lurid fever dreams, he had never seen her more beautiful than she was that morning.
The door creaked open and Bella was awake almost immediately, beginning to stand when her eyes met Edward's. Her lips parted when she saw him looking back at her and Edward forgot to look at who might be opening the door. All that mattered was the relief he saw in Bella's eyes; she hadn't wanted him die.
"Mr. Masen," a weathered voice said from the door, breaking the spell between Edward and Bella.
"Dr. Cullen," Edward said.
He could barely recognize his own voice. It ground like sawdust in his throat before whispering out of his parched lips. He furrowed his brow at the strange sound. His throat felt strangely raw.
"Don't try to speak," Bella said, moving quickly across the small room.
She looked sheepishly at Dr. Cullen as she tried to arrange her kerchief, but he only nodded his understanding.
"She's right, of course. Don't speak. Just nod or shake your head."
Dr. Cullen came into the room and began examining him. Edward was embarrassed to discover how filthy and disheveled his clothes had become. Bella clutched a new shirt and pantaloons to her chest as Dr. Cullen completed his examination.
"You're still running a fever, Edward, but it's down considerably. I think you're past the worst of it. Can you eat something?"
Edward nodded, but his eyes kept drifting to the silent, worried figure of Bella standing behind Dr. Cullen. He turned to her and she nodded silently, placing the clothes on the edge of the bed and stepping outside. As the door closed behind her, Edward reached out his hand for her.
"She'll be back," Dr. Cullen said gruffly. "We just need to take care of your personal business."
The old doctor refused to let Edward stand up, instead bringing the chamber pot to his bed. Just from the small exertion of arranging himself in the bed, Edward was covered with an oily sheen of sweat and felt nauseous. He began dry heaving as Dr. Cullen helped him into the new shirt. At that moment, Bella burst into the hut, her arms laden with a wash basin, a towel and a steaming cup of tea.
Her cool hands found their way to his hair, his shoulders, and as their skin met, Edward's breathing settled. Dr. Cullen had stepped back to allow Bella room to maneuver and she sat perched on the edge of the cot, her eyes burning into his.
When it seemed clear that Edward was past the coughing and retching, Bella rose from the cot and began preparing the wash basin. She wrung the towel out and brought it over to his bed side, reaching out for him. Edward looked at her, wanting desperately to feel her hands on him, and yet disgraced that she would have to wait on him like this. He didn't want to burden her with his sickness and so he pulled away, ever so slightly. But she knew. She saw.
Edward watched as she pulled away from him and he saw the doctor in the background shaking his head. He couldn't speak to tell her that he wanted her there, but that the thought of her waiting upon him like a servant sickened him. He couldn't say a word and so he sat there as she gripped the towel in her hands, her knuckles whitening with the force of her fingers and her mouth turning down into a frown.
"I'll leave you then," she whispered.
As she stood, Edward saw the straight line of her back and remembered the gentle slope above her rear that he saw in his fever dreams. He remembered the brown dot he saw on her hip when he dreamed she lay with him. Was it real? Did she really come to him in his time of need?
It didn't matter now because she was leaving. Edward sat on the bed, his dry tongue moving in his mouth, as she began to walk toward the door. He looked over at Dr. Cullen, the old man silently yelling at him to stop her. Somewhere, Edward found the strength he needed.
"No!" he croaked.
"Please," Edward panted, using all of his strength to choke out the words he needed to say. "Stay."
He should have known she wouldn't make it easy. It wasn't in her to make anything easy.
Her voice was the whispered breath on the wind he remembered from his fevered dream. And he knew. He finally knew. It wasn't all a dream.
"Because I need you."
The words took all of the air out of his lungs and he convulsed again, doubled over in the sweat-soaked pallet. Cool hands were on him again and though his eyes were squeezed shut, he knew it was Bella. Despite his deep cough ringing through the room, when she brought her face close to his ear, he heard her words clearly.
"I need you, too."
Edward's recovery took nearly as long as his prolonged sickness. He had to remain in bed for another week and a half, relying on the help of Dr. Cullen, one of the other surgeon's mates, and of course, Bella. She was a constant in his hut. When he had regained enough strength to be able to talk without coughing after every word, he began to ask questions about the many black spots he had in his memory.
"How long was I sick?" he asked Bella as she tidied the room … again.
He was still unable to get out of bed, having wasted terribly from the sickness, and it made him uncomfortable to watch her clean up after him. But she wouldn't leave and she simply couldn't be still.
"Two weeks," she replied stiffly. "Seventeen days, to be exact."
Her brown eyes held his steadily.
"Do you know the number of hours too?" he teased her.
"Yes," she whispered.
He could see the pale, worn look in her face and he knew it was true. She had likely counted each one and he suddenly felt both embarrassed at having made her worry and strangely happy that she had cared so much about him.
"I brought more of the willow bark tea," she said, shaking her head and breaking their gaze. "I filched some honey for it because I know you dislike the bitter taste."
He barely concealed the frown as she turned away from him to fix the tea. Edward hated the taste of the bitter herb-infused liquid; but even as he frowned, he was touched by the way she cared for him. Honey came at a great price and she risked much in getting it for him now that he wasn't deathly ill. It was a small gesture, one of many, that meant so much to him.
"Save me grief and drink," she murmured as she settled onto his pallet.
The weight and warmth of her body was comforting to him. Her fingers no longer felt cool to his skin; rather, they were natural as she cupped under his chin, tilting the cup to his lips. He had long since given up trying to dissuade her from caring for him in this way. It hurt her when he pushed her away and hurting her was like cutting into his own body. He simply could not do it.
The days wore on, and soon Bella was needed elsewhere in the camp. Dr. Cullen could no longer make excuses for her and she knew that others needed her more than Edward. She would still come in the evenings, always bringing a portion of her rations with her, to see his progress. But during the times when she was gone, it was so easy for Edward to convince himself that her kindness was nothing more than what she did for Private Newton that first night she went on rounds with him. She was simply caring for him the way she would have wanted someone to carry on for her own.
As he grew stronger, he ventured out more. He began seeing patients in the morning during the latter part of April when the first crocuses were finally beginning to poke their purple and blue heads through the melting snow. He had to walk with a cane to compensate for the weakness he still felt throughout his body, but it felt better to be active and not confined to a sick-smelling hut any longer.
One of his first orders of business when he was up and about was to seek out Dr. Cullen and thank him for the kindness of the private hut. Though small, it was a blessing to him not to be surrounded by others who were ill. Edward knew that the private hut, as much as Bella's single-minded devotion, likely saved his life.
Edward found the surgeon one early morning in his own quarters, holding an unlit pipe in his mouth as he wrote out records.
"An old habit," Dr. Cullen said, shrugging his shoulders. "Even though tobacco is in short supply, the habit dies hard."
Edward smiled at the older man as he gestured to a chair.
"Sit, son. What can I help you with?"
"Dr. Cullen," Edward said, leaning his cane against the chair.
"Call me Carlisle," he said. "We're colleagues in this battle, even if our ranks do not match."
"Thank you … Carlisle," Edward said, trying the name out for size and finding that it fit well. "I actually came tonight to thank you for your kindness during my sickness."
"That's my job, Edward."
"Your job doesn't include setting up a lowly surgeon's mate with a private hut," Edward argued with a faint smile. "It was a kindness … and it likely saved my life."
Carlisle shrugged again.
"That was for Miss Swan as much as it was for you," he said, a faint bloom of color touching his cheeks. "It was clear the woman wouldn't leave your side. I saw no need to have her surrounded by a bunch of men both day and night, thinking lascivious thoughts and taking her time away from you."
Edward bristled at the thought of anyone thinking about Bella in an inappropriate way. Strange as it may seem, it was his first realization that he didn't simply need her or enjoy her company … but rather he loved her.
"Well, I thank you for that as well."
"What are your plans, Edward?"
"Plans, sir? I apologize … I'm not up to date on General Washington's latest plans."
Carlisle chuckled at Edward's words.
"I don't mean with the army; I mean with the girl."
The older gentleman looked harshly at his younger counterpart before setting his pipe aside and leaning over the desk to get closer.
"Don't be a damn fool, Edward. She's not one to stay around while you figure things out. I've seen her kind before, hurt so many times you think they might lie down and give up from all the pain. But no … women like her never give up. And if you're not smart you'll lose her to someone who is."
There was a distant look in the old man's eyes, a look of pain and regret that Edward couldn't mistake. The man spoke from experience, not conjecture. Edward could almost see a future version of himself in the man's regret … a version he preferred not to see become reality.
"I don't intend to lose her," Edward said quietly. "But …"
Carlisle's voice had grown impatient, bordering on angry.
"I have no money, nothing to offer her. And it doesn't seem fair to saddle her to this life."
"She's married to the war already, son," the older doctor said, sitting back. "You both are, at least until General Washington gets us out of this mess. Keep her safe. Give her your name and then after the war we'll see what can become of you both."
Carlisle's wrinkled eye dropped into a wink and Edward thought about what the older man could mean. He knew that Carlisle was a well respected physician in Philadelphia before the war. Could he possibly be willing to give an unknown a chance at a lucrative practice? Edward wouldn't push him on it now, but the thought gave him hope. And with that hope, came the burning desire to finally make Bella his.
He walked away from the surgeon's quarters and towards the river where he knew he would be able to walk and think without disturbance. He took pleasure in seeing the buds upon the trees and the tender blades of grass breaking through the damp ground. It meant that the winter that wouldn't die was finally fading away and the sickness winter brought with it would hopefully abate as well. The weather itself was quite warm and Edward thought that if the temperature held, most of the leftover snow banks would be greatly reduced by evening time.
He was paying careful attention to where he was walking, trying to step carefully lest he trip upon a loose rock or slip on some ice. He felt sure that both Carlisle and Bella would give him a tongue lashing if he injured himself after finally beginning to feel better. So it was with great surprise when he looked up and saw the woman he had been thinking about lying upon a rock, naked after bathing.
Edward's heart rose into his throat and immediately his body responded to seeing her flesh on display. She was too thin, the delicate lines and curves of her hips and ribs all too visible to his greedy eyes. Her hair was still damp and hanging down over her shoulder, curling in tiny tendrils at the ends. He wanted to twine the chestnut lengths around his fingertips and feel the way her smooth hair would feel against his palm.
Bella's clothes hung, still wet, from a tree branch. Always efficient, she had washed her clothes as well as her body on her morning off. She was looking lazily up at the sky and he wondered what, or whom, she was thinking about. Her fingers played gently in her hair, curling and twirling the ends as she went.
Edward's breath caught in his throat as her fingers drifted over her collarbone, gently tracing the line between her breasts. His own fingers gripped his cane, itching to follow the same path along her body. Her fingers swirled along the swell of her breast until she caught the pink nipple between her fingertips. Edward stifled a groan as her hand palmed her breast and her chest began to rise and fall faster.
His name floated across the distance to his overly sensitive ears and the weight of the word hit him with a crushing blow. She was thinking of him as she touched herself. The cane fell out of his hand clattering against a rock, startling both Bella and Edward. He bent quickly to pick it up and froze as she quickly drew her legs up to her chest and grabbed her legs with her arms.
She was compact and beautiful sitting exposed in the sun, her cheeks crimson and her brown eyes wide with terror and leftover lust. Without thinking of the consequences, Edward took a step toward her. Her lips parted and he imagined at he could hear the increased speed of her breath. He reminded himself that she wanted him and so pushed away any thoughts of hesitation. There was no need to remind himself how long he had wanted her; he imagined it had been from the moment he had first laid eyes on her.
"Please don't be frightened," he said softly. "I was only taking a walk and happened upon you …"
"Why did you stay?" she asked, her head falling to the side so that her heavy hair fell over her shoulder.
Edward's fingers itched to touch it, to smell the clean scent of the river on her hair and her body. Instead, he moved slowly, cautiously.
"You … said my name," he murmured, taking another step towards her.
She didn't recoil, but she did look down.
"How many times did I say yours?" he asked gently.
When she looked back up at him, her eyes were sparkling with unshed tears and burning with desire.
"When I was ill. How many times did I call your name?"
Her lips lifted in a small smile.
"Often," she said.
"You were all I saw or heard, Bella," he admitted. "And I'm not ashamed."
Slowly, at first moving only her hands, she began to uncoil again. Her hands moved up her leg until they rested upon her thighs. She let her bare feet travel gradually down the rock until her chest was exposed again. Again, Edward's breath caught in his throat.
"So beautiful," he whispered.
"You said that before you fainted, the day you fell ill. I thought you were talking about the sun in the snow."
"It was you," he said. "It's always been you."
She held out her hand to him and his cautious steps could not move him quickly enough. When he stood by her side, his fingers trembled as he finally reached out for her hand and brought her upturned palm to his lips. She tasted of river water and sunshine and he could not stifle the groan of satisfaction at finally feeling her skin against his lips.
When he looked up to where Bella was perched on the rock, she was smiling at him.
"Aren't you going to chide me for my impropriety, Mr. Masen?" she asked.
He brought his other hand up and touched her cheek before kissing her palm again.
"No. Only thank God for it."
She giggled before tugging on his hand gently. He leaned against her leg as he reached up to where she was perched. Her face was inches from his own and he was bathed in her breath, her scent, and her warmth.
"Kiss me?" she whispered.
She bent her head lower and when their lips brushed against each other, Edward felt his knees give slightly from the force of emotion. For months, he'd been imagining the feel of her lips against his. The hand on her cheek finally found its way into her damp curls and he pulled her gently down the rock until she was leaning against him. Nothing had ever felt this good to him in his life and he wanted to savor every moment of her body touching his.
Her lips parted as his tongue traced the line of her mouth. She met his tongue with her own, both of them gasping in pleasure of the feeling of finally giving in. She rested her forehead against his as her hands found their way around his neck. The feel of her fingers in her hair was a gentle reminder of how familiar she was with his body and he tried to remember every touch.
"So long …" she murmured.
"Yes," he agreed.
Bella trailed her fingers around his neck to the loose tie of his shirt.
"Don't make me wait longer," she said.
His hands moved around her waist, learning the curve of her body as he kissed her again. She began loosening his shirt and when her small hand splayed against his chest, feeling the steady thrum of his heart beat, he moaned her name and pulled her forcefully to him.
"I need you to know…" he panted as continued to kiss her cheeks, "that I do not wish to take advantage of you. I – I…"
Her lips and hands and fingers were heaven against his skin and he fumbled with his words as he tried to tell her what he so desperately needed to say.
"You what?" she gasped as his hand found the soft curve of her breast.
"I love you," he said.
"I know," she replied.
She ran her fingers along his ribs as she lifted his shirt over his head. He wondered how many times her fingers had played upon his chest without him even knowing. Never again. He'd remember every touch. He pulled her naked body against his, finally feeling her breasts against his bare chest.
He felt no more shame. There were no more questions or worries. Their hands and bodies moved together as though they had been made for each other. When her trembling fingers could not unfasten his pantaloons, he helped her. When he felt the air upon his skin and wondered what she might think of his nakedness, she touched him in wonder, grounding him in her love for him.
He lay his cloak down upon the hard ground and then held her against him. Their bodies fit together perfectly along every curve, and he knew that he had finally made the right choice in not running from her.
He laid her gently on the makeshift blanket and lay beside her, running his hands over her body as he memorized every curve, every freckle. When he reached her hip, he ran his fingers over the brown spot he knew he would find there and leaned over to kiss it.
"I remember this," he whispered.
She froze and then he looked up at her through his lashes, waiting to see what her reaction would be.
"Remember? Tell me what you recall," she said.
He ran his nose along the line of her hip, kissing every freckle, every unique mark on her skin.
"You came to my bed," he breathed, watching her skin erupt in gooseflesh as his breath covered her thigh. "You were naked and I saw the mark on your hip. I thought it was a dream, a beautiful gift from the fever, but it was real." He kissed the freckle again. "This is real."
"The nights were frigid," she explained. "I feared you'd die of the cold despite your fever and so I stripped down and warmed you with my body."
Edward's fingers moved along the back of her thigh, asking her to roll over and she complied with a sigh. He trailed his hands along her legs and memorized her body with his fingers, his mouth, and every part of him.
"Those were the best and most frightening nights of my life," she whispered as his lips pressed against her inner thigh. "I prayed that you would forgive me for my wanton behavior, or better yet, never remember it."
"I was too fevered to be frightened," he whispered as he hovered over her, "but those were also the best nights of my life."
Her back arched up and her body met his as she wound her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth to hers. As he kissed her, he lowered himself down to her. He felt her hips rise to meet him. She gasped and he froze.
"You told me you loved me during the fever," she whispered.
"I did, even then."
She angled her hips higher and he slid into her with a groan of pleasure. Her warmth, her acceptance, surrounded him and as they moved slowly together, learning the feel of each other as they went. Nothing had ever felt more right than the feeling of her quickening around him, pulling him closer to her, loving him with her entire body.
"Edward!" she cried as he moved faster.
The sound of his name on her lips brought him close to the edge. He could feel himself about to fall over and wanted her to come with him. He kissed feverishly along her chest until he reached the tight peak of her breast, the one he saw her touching earlier. As he swirled the nipple with his tongue, he felt her tighten around him. He sucked her flesh into his mouth and she came undone beneath him, pulling him with her as she fell.
They lay beside the laughing river longer than they should have; Edward knew someone would come looking for them before long but nothing could make him move from her side. He traced patterns along her sun-dappled skin and watched her react to his touch, fascinated with the way her body responded to his.
Edward knew the future was uncertain. General Washington had not made the decision to move his troops yet, but he would. They had a month, maybe two, before they either left the safety of Valley Forge or were driven from it by the Red Coats. Maybe it was the uncertainty of everything around them that made Edward wish for some stability with this woman he knew he could not live without. He knew he could not walk away from her without some making some promise to her.
"Marry me," he whispered, nuzzling her neck with his nose.
Bella pulled away from him for a moment so that she could look into his eyes.
"You sure you aren't trying to cure me of my impropriety, Mr. Masen?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him in the sunlight.
He swung his head back and forth, brushing her nose with his as he moved.
"Never," he whispered. "Though I'd love to see your name entwined with mine."
Bella smiled, a lazy, deeply satisfied look upon her face.
"I think I'd like to see that as well," she murmured, pulling him over to her and kissing him deeply. Finally releasing his mouth, she whispered against his lips, "yes."
That one small word opened up Edward's world, eclipsing the war with hope.
A/N: I hope you enjoy RevWard and will check out all of the amazing stories entered in this contest. Thanks so much to my beta team: Savage Woman, bookjunkie1975, and swimom7, you ladies rock! There will soon be a banner for this story up in the banner competition of Age of Edward. I will link to the banner competition when it is up. Again, thank you very much for reading and remember to vote when voting begins! ~Jen