So not too long ago, Holly1980 (go read her stuff if you haven't yet!) jumps on Twitter and issues me a little challenge. Knowing my love of the band, the prompt was matchbox twenty's "Back 2 Good"-yeah, I couldn't pass it up. Funny part was that I'd thought the same thing as her many times before, that it'd make a great fic. It wasn't until she challenged me that an actual idea started to form. This is what I came up with. It's a moderately angsty story, definitely not a HEA type of fic (and if you've ever really listened to the lyrics of the song, you understand), but it is my smuttiest work to date ;-)

Big thank you to Dinx for answering my Twitter plea for someone to beta!

And yeah, I don't own Twilight, I don't own these characters, I don't own the song, blah blah blah. You all already know that. Let's get on with it, shall we?


In a place like this, everybody has a story. The more tragic, the better. It's almost a competition—the one who's lived through the biggest hell wins. The stories grow with every retelling so that, before long, it's impossible to discern fact from fiction.

I suppose it all serves to justify spending hours sidled up to a filthy bar every night, draining glass after glass of the cheapest shit you can stomach. When your life is one big clusterfuck, nobody judges you for spending all of your spare time in a drunken stupor… or, at least, it's easier to convince yourself that they don't judge you.

War stories, cheating spouses, lost jobs—all we need is for someone to walk in crying about his dead dog and we have our very own, real life country song.

I have a story, but I'm one of the few who doesn't talk about it. When I first started coming here, I kept quiet simply because I didn't want to be lumped in with this group. Now I find that by not speaking of it, people find me much more interesting. They fill in the blanks, wondering what horrors have driven me to this place—literally and figuratively. They know bits and pieces—it is a small town, after all—but I don't give them the details. Not that the details would matter. Their versions sound a hell of lot better than mine, so I just let them talk.

She has a story, too. Just like me, she never speaks about it. In fact, she never speaks, period. She sits alone and ignores the world around her. The first night she walked through the door, people tried to engage her, but she rejected every attempt. After a few nights, they stopped bothering. Unfortunately for her, this small town already knew her story, and it's one they still talk about almost two years later.

Chief of Police's daughter, straight-A student, headed to college with a full scholarship—she was this sleepy little town's golden child. She was a couple years younger than me; I only knew of her in school. Our school was so small, there were no real strangers. But our paths rarely crossed. She was cute. Quiet. From the little I remember she sort of floated between the cliques—one of the few who was never labeled and, therefore, had this ability to come and go between the groups.

When I graduated and finally moved away from this hellhole, I never gave her another thought. Not until the whispers started. My own story had already called me back here by then, and part of me was happy that there was someone more pitiful to redirect the gossip.

It was big news when Charlie Swan was shot in the line of duty. This place went years without seeing anything more serious than underage drinking. Everyone in town knew what had happened within hours; it was like someone had set off a fucking phone tree the moment the trigger was pulled.

He was the first on scene of a robbery in progress. His life ended that night, forfeited for a 42" television and a duffle bag full of Playstation games.

She came home the next day and was gone by the end of the weekend. Rumor has it she got into the car right after the funeral and drove back to Seattle. Didn't even bother to go home and change out of her dress.

They—and by 'they' I mean the neighborhood busybodies who had decided she would be their next project, the next poor pitiful soul they would fuss over to make themselves feel important while culling first hand gossip—tried to talk her into staying longer, to give herself time to grieve. They told her to take a leave from school and go back next semester, maybe even the next year. She didn't listen. Instead, she went back and tried to pretend like nothing had happened and ended up failing out, losing her scholarship. She'd only had a year and a half to go.

She showed up again with some smarmy asshole named James. I don't know anything about him before he moved into her dad's place with her, but he didn't do jack shit the entire six months he was here. He'd pick up the occasional job here and there, but never stick with anything for more than a few weeks. How someone as smart as she was supposed to be didn't see that this would end badly is beyond me.

A cop—even Chief of Police—in a town as small as this doesn't make a whole hell of a lot, so when Charlie died, he left her with just enough in cash and insurance to cover the cost of his funeral. She started working at the diner, serving slop to the locals, supposedly to save enough to pay for tuition. Somehow this James guy convinced her to mortgage the house for the money so that she could focus on her grades. Just as she was set to head back to Seattle, her check to the university bounced right around the time James skipped town.

It wasn't long after that she made her first appearance here.

I should be embarrassed about how much I know about her. I don't know why I feel the need to listen in on conversations when her name pops up. There's no reason for me to know that she has abandoned all plans for college, that she works overtime just to hang onto that house—the only thing Charlie had to give her. I shouldn't care, just like I shouldn't keep tabs on her in my peripheral vision every time we're in the same room. I don't think we've spoken more than two words to each other since high school.

She sits in the same seat every night. I try to pretend that my preferred spot has nothing to do with keeping her in my line of sight, but I can't ignore the way my attention attunes to her the moment she walks through the door.

I'm always here before her—waiting, drinking—and tonight is no different. I feel the cool blast of air, and though I know that nothing can pervade the musty stench of this old bar, I'm convinced that I can smell her—fresh, clean, almost innocent, certainly too good for a place like this.

It's an effort not to turn my head, but I'm patient. I wait, knowing that in seconds she'll walk right past me, close enough to touch if I wanted to. And I do. Want to, that is. But there are too many eyes right now, too many people watching for something interesting to happen, and I don't want to add to her story by making them talk. It's still early and they aren't drunk enough to no longer give a shit what's going on around them.

Something feels different about tonight, but nothing has changed. The same songs are filtering through the old, beat up jukebox, the crack and clacks every time someone takes a shot at the pool table, the same cloud of smoke hovers above and around us.

It takes an hour for me to realize that it isn't a matter of tonight feeling different; it's a matter of me wanting it to be different. I'm tired of just watching her. I'd say that I don't know what I want, but that'd be a lie. I know exactly what I want, I just don't know if it would be well-received. It's a tricky game; some girls expect more and I have nothing to give. I get the feeling she wouldn't care about any of that anyway. She's too fucked up right now to have anything of her own to offer to anybody else. She doesn't seem like the type to get attached. If that's what she came here looking for, she could have had it a long time ago. There are plenty of lonely people in this room willing to tie themselves to somebody and leech from them for a false sense of belonging.

I watch from the corner of my eye as she drains her glass and gets up to go outside. I know she isn't heading out for good, even though she leaves nothing behind. She does this a few times a night, and usually I stay put, waiting for her to return. This time, the urge to follow her is too much and I manage to hold out exactly two minutes before I'm off my stool and following her.

I see her as soon as I step out the door. She's crouched down, leaning back against the brick wall with her elbows on her knees, arms extended in front of her, and a cigarette slowly burning to ash between two fingers as she gives the end lazy flicks with her thumbnail.

Her body tenses minutely and I don't know if it's a general reaction or something specific about my company that causes it. I fish a lighter out of my pocket and light my own cigarette, and for a few minutes we don't acknowledge each other.

She flicks hers to the ground long after it had burned down to nothing but filter, but doesn't make a move to leave. I wonder if her thoughts are in line with mine and I wait, giving her a chance to distance herself. When she doesn't, I flick my ash and look off down the street, away from her.

"Do you wanna get out of here?"

"God yes," she says, almost sighing the words, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't just mean tonight, even if that's what she's willing to accept. I don't blame her. We're all looking for an escape route out of this hell hole.

"My place is just a few minutes away," I say, finally turning to see her only to find that she still isn't looking at me.

She stands up and brushes nonexistent dirt from her jeans before she nods and finally glances in my direction. "Good."

I start to lead the way and she walks beside me. There is still distance between us, and considering what we both know is going to happen, it doesn't really make sense. But, then again, neither does anything else. Holding her hand or putting my arm around her seems too intimate, and this isn't about intimacy.

We don't speak until we've walked the two blocks and are stopped at my door. I open it and motion her inside with my hand, the one chivalrous thing I've done all night. She probably deserves better—I know she deserves better—but it is what it is. There's no sense trying to pretend otherwise.

"Drink?" I ask.

She's looking around, taking in every inch of my apartment that she can see. "Sure."

She stays in the living room while I head into the kitchen, and when I return, she's at my bookshelf, her fingers running over the spines. I wordlessly hand a bottle to her and she thanks me. I watch the way her lips press to the glass and part for the liquid when she tips it back. I lean against the shelves as she scans the titles and I'm not sure if she's really that interested in what she's seeing, or if she's working up the nerve for what we're about to do.

She takes another drink before she faces me. Neither of us makes a move at first; we both just look at each other waiting for some unknown signal that it's time to take things further. She's a strange paradox. She seems so skittish, that one wrong move would send her running out of here, but I can see the resolve in her eyes. She wants this.

I can also see the moment that her restraint snaps and she takes a decisive step forward, grabbing a fistful of my shirt with her free hand. She's able to maintain some amount of self-control, and there's no wavering when she tugs at the fabric and slightly tilts her head in invitation.

I take advantage of the opportunity before she can change her mind and catch her lips with mine. They're soft and taste faintly of the beer I'd just given her. I pull back fractionally to gauge her reaction; her eyes are hooded so I go back for more, this time sucking her bottom lip into my mouth and lightly biting down. An almost silent groan escapes her and she lets go of my shirt to reach behind my neck to pull me closer.

With that one move, all self-control is gone. I manage to turn her slightly so that her back is against the bookshelves and I can hear them rattle. It takes a few tries, but I blindly find a place to ditch my beer. She still has a hold of hers, though, and I can feel a little of the liquid sloshing out and wetting the back of my shirt. I don't care about the damn thing so it doesn't slow me down.

My hands run up and down her sides, teasing her breasts, wrapping around her waist before cupping her ass and using the leverage to lift her up. I pin her to the shelves and I know it can't be comfortable, but she doesn't complain. She just wraps her legs tighter around me and I swear if she doesn't stop moving this will be over before it starts.

I pull my head back and we're both breathing heavily. I push my hips into hers, dropping my forehead to her shoulder, and this time we both groan. We know there's no stopping and, judging by our mutual states of arousal, neither of us wants to.

It's my turn to take initiative. Without taking my eyes off of her, I grasp the beer bottle and set it on the shelf above her head next to mine before leading her to the bedroom. It's nothing spectacular, rather basic and plain, but tonight that's more than enough to suit our needs.

I don't hesitate to lift her hoodie over her head. The tank underneath rises with it, giving me quick view of the flat stomach she always keeps hidden under bulky clothes, before the top detaches itself and falls back into place. I waste no time in divesting her of that as well so that she's standing in front of me in jeans and dark blue, lacy bra. The pervert in me wants to take a picture but I settle for memorizing her, branding the image into my brain, because I know I'll probably never see it again.

She starts to fidget, growing self-conscious under my stare so I step closer while pulling her to me, running my lips, teeth, and tongue back and forth over her collarbone. I can feel her hands tugging at the bottom of my shirt, so I trail kisses up her neck and nip at her jaw before I move away so that she can work.

I help her, too anxious to keep things moving to waste any time. I walk her backwards toward the bed and when the back of her knees hit the mattress, she sits down and leans forward. Her tongue teases the skin around my bellybutton before tracing a path to my hipbone where I feel her teeth nip, causing me to hiss.

At the same time, her nimble fingers work their way though each button on my fly and she pushes my jeans down. When she gets them to my thighs, I help her out, toeing off my shoes and socks and kicking the jeans away.

I lean over her, one fist on the mattress beside her to support my weight while my other hand runs down her thigh and lifts. I stand so that I can work her shoes and socks off, tossing them to the floor somewhere behind me, and then move onto her jeans. She arcs her hips off the bed and I admire every inch of soft skin as it's bared to me.

I take another opportunity to appreciate the vision before me, then hover over her again. For a moment, I look into her eyes, wanting to make sure she really is okay with this. She doesn't seem like the type of girl who makes this a habit. What I see I wouldn't classify as happiness, but there's less of the despondency that is usually there. She almost looks like the girl she once was, before all of her aspirations were ripped away from her.

"Kiss me," she whispers, and I realize it's the first words either of us have said since this started.

I waste no time and immediately my tongue is pushing against hers. I feel her arms wrap around my shoulders and her leg hook over my thigh as she urges my weight to rest on her. Though the fabric separating us is minimal, it's still too much. I work a hand behind her back and grin in accomplishment when I feel it let loose and I lift myself off of her just enough to remove it from her body entirely.

She immediately pulls me back down and the feel of her breasts against my chest, skin to skin, is incomparable. I shift my weight to one side and my left hand skims up from her hip to cup her. She arches her back to press more fully into my palm and when my thumb passes over her nipple, I feel and hear her breath shudder. Needing more, my tongue replaces my thumb followed by the faintest pinch of teeth. Again, her breaths tremble so I move to the other breast while my thumb resumes where it had left off.

Her hand clutches at blankets and I feel the other thread into my hair and tug. I look up at her, my mouth never leaving her skin, and I'm not sure she even realizes she's doing it, but it's clear to me that she's enjoying things so far. I take that as my cue to keep going and my lips trail down until they meet the lace of her panties. I lightly bite at the skin before bringing my hands to her hips, curling my fingers around the fabric and tugging. Again, she lifts her hips and the lace is tossed haphazardly behind me.

Kissing up the inside of her thigh, I can see and smell just how much she wants this. I push at the inside of her knee to open her up to me, nipping at the skin over her femoral artery. She gasps then stops breathing entirely for a moment. It isn't until she feels my tongue reach out to taste her that she gasps again and resumes breathing.

I push at her leg some more and settle in, running my fingers up and down to find her most sensitive spots and enjoy the sounds I'm eliciting, like each one is my own personal trophy. I slip one finger into her and feel her body clench down at the intrusion. She squirms the harder I work at her, and when she starts to stiffen and her back arches off of the bed, I watch her, not wanting to miss this moment.

Her breaths are heavy as they try to return to normal. "Jesus," she says and a small breathy laugh escapes, like she's thinking of some private joke.

I hold myself over her again, waiting for her, and she reaches a hand up to cup around my neck and pulls my mouth down to hers. Her other moves down to massage me through the boxers I haven't yet removed, and before I can do anything about it, she takes matters into her own hands and starts pushing them over my hips. Together we work them off and I gasp into her mouth when her hand finds me again.

She pushes up with her right hip, a nonverbal request, and I roll onto my back. I groan in disappointment when she lets go of me, but she follows and straddles my thighs before grasping me with both hands. I squeeze my eyes closed for a moment because the image is almost too much. When I open them, she's still working me but with a smug look on her face. She inches her way backwards and before I can think about why, she's leaning forward.

"Oh, fuck," I grind out between my teeth. This girl is a test of my willpower. It's only the slightest touch of her tongue to my tip, merely a tease, but it's overwhelming.

I struggle between wanting to watch her and needing to look away if I want to prolong this. My hips arch involuntarily and I curse again when her tongue runs base to tip without warning.

I let her work me for as long as I can stand it. I don't want her to stop, but I need to get inside her. I scramble to the nightstand and find a condom. She yanks it from my hand and rips it open, rolling it on without breaking eye contact. I never would have figured her to be the aggressor, always so quiet and timid, but I like it. Fuck that, I love it. Most girls are too theatric, too fake to really pull it off, but I can tell she's in the moment; she isn't thinking, planning, or trying to impress me and that only makes it hotter.

I'm sitting in the middle of the bed and she swings one leg over to straddle me. With my hands on her hips and her hand on my cock, we guide her body down. There's resistance, she's tight, and I wonder if she's done this since the asshole jumped town with all of her cash.

The moment I'm fully seated inside of her, I stop thinking about everything else. She feels perfect and I want to move, but I know she needs time to adjust. I wait for her cue, and as soon as her hips rock, I start to thrust. Her head is slightly above mine due to our position, and she leans forward to rest her forehead against mine. Her eyes are closed, but I look up and watch her, study her. I can see how much she's enjoying this and I try to remember what draws the best reactions from her. We're only a few minutes into this and I'm already learning what speeds, depths, and angles she likes. Her eyes flutter open and an unsure smile crosses her face. I don't want her to question herself so I pull her lips to mine, offering just a small amount of assurance.

I lay back and she follows me. When we break the kiss, she sits up and leans backwards so that her hands are supporting her weight on my legs. The angle makes both of us groan, and as much as I'm enjoying it, I don't want this to end—especially if this is my only shot with her.

I sit up and nudge her off of me, turning her around until I'm behind her. I push into her again and she groans, throwing her head back onto my shoulder. My lips latch onto her neck as one hand finds her breast and the other travels lower. Her breath catches at the added stimulation and I remember how she likes to be touched.

She starts to squirm and I know she's close, but I'm still caught off guard when her body falls forward so I fall with her. She flattens onto the mattress as she rides out her climax and I try to move my weight off of her, not wanting to crush her, but her right hand reaches back to grip my ass and hold me in place. I keep moving, knowing it isn't going to take much more for me to join her. Her body arcs and contorts in pleasure, the smallest movements and changes bringing me closer. I move faster, and she turns her head to rest her cheek against the blankets. It's enough that I can see the small smile gracing her lips. It pushes me over the edge and I bite down on her shoulder as my release hits.

It takes a few moments, but I find the energy to roll off of her and onto my back beside her. I try to catch my breath and my head lazily falls to the side to look at her. She's watching me, the smile still there.

"Thanks," she whispers, her voice hoarse.

"Would it make me an asshole to say 'any time'?"

She laughs and it's carefree, not forced. I smile and lean over to kiss her. Just a small one before we pull away from each other.

It's quiet, both of us trying to get our bearings. I find the energy to sit up and she follows.

"You don't have to go," I say, not wanting her to feel obligated to do the walk of shame right now.

She laughs lightly and shakes her head. "Yeah I do."

Silent communication passes between us, both acknowledging exactly what this was and understanding there is no point in pretending otherwise. I nod and she smiles shyly.

I head into the bathroom to clean up and put the boxers I'd swiped off the floor back on before returning to the bedroom. She's already dressed and working one shoe on. It's a little awkward, but not like I'd expect.

"You going to be okay?" I ask, and I realize I don't mean just about tonight. Part of me actually cares about this girl and hopes she finds her way before she's trapped in this town, and I think she knows.

She sighs and it's almost wistful. "Yeah, I'll be all right."

I reach for my jeans as she finishes the second shoe, planning to walk her home, not wanting her out there alone this late at night. She reaches a hand out and stops me.

"I already called a cab, I can see myself out." She waves her cell and bites her lip. "I meant it earlier, thank you. It was kind of nice to not feel completely alone for a little while." She blushes and looks away, like she's said more than she intended. I know I should say something but I don't know what, and it seems like she'd rather ignore her confession.

I walk her to the door and she turns around, awkward. "I guess I'll see you around."

"I'll see you around," I echo and lean in to kiss her one last time. She walks away without another word, and I wait until the cab pulls away before I close the door.

I do see her around. She still comes to the bar and sits in her same seat. My ass is still planted in the one that gives me a perfect view of her. We don't speak and we don't acknowledge each other. To the outside world it's like it never happened. I don't know if anyone noticed that we both left earlier than usual that night, but nobody has said anything to me. I like to think it's our own little secret. I don't know if it'll ever happen again, but I can't say that I don't think about what it would be like. On my more hopeful days, I wonder what might happen if the two of us ever got our shit together, but reality sets in and I realize it'll probably never happen. In real life, things aren't tied up with a nice little bow. We let our stories define us and convince us that we're the most miserable bastards to have ever walked the face of this planet. Accepting that there is no fairytale ending for two people who can barely call themselves acquaintances who just happened to have hooked up one night makes me the most realistic asshole in this dump.


A/N: Thanks for giving it a read! If you notice, Bella & Edward are never mentioned by name (Charlie is the only reference identifying Bella). It was deliberate to keep it impersonal, but for you non-canon pairing fans, I suppose the narrator could be whoever you want him to be.

For my Empires of the Mind readers, an update will be along soon. Chapter is done and in Natty's hands!