Summary: The hardest decision he ever made was the one to leave her; the easiest decision she ever made was the one to let him come back. A tale of heartache and redemption.
Disclaimer: All hail SMeyer. She owns all. I own nada. Nor do I make a living off this stuff. It's all in good fun. Don't plagiarize, or litter. Not cool.
Warnings: Allusion to past drug use; addiction.
A/N: Based off the following prompt given at LJ's forkshighschool. "E/B Canon (can be AH/AV/AU, whatever the hell you want) one-shot [using] 'When You Say You Love Me'- Josh Groban."
Lots of thanks and love to americnxidiot for the pre-read/beta skills, and for giving me the confidence to post this. :) Without her, this would still be collecting dust on my hard drive. Hugs and kisses to littlesecret84 for listening to me bitch and moan about FFn and for, as always, being honest. ily a million times over. :)
And a special thank you to MJ; without you bugging me to finish it, I might have never gotten this done. Your brother is in my thoughts and prayers always, darlin'.
Part II: When You Say You Love Me [EPOV]
"When you say you love me,
the world goes still, so still inside.
And when you say you love me,
in that moment, I know why I'm alive…"
The blast of air that hit me as the terminal doors slid open was a shock to my system. It was nothing like the cool, brisk, late-fall breezes that I had left behind in New York; this air was thick and slow-moving, saturated with moisture. It was damp, in the way that only the atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest can be; an almost palpable sogginess that you could practically taste in your mouth. It tasted clean and fresh and green…
It tasted like home.
The sound of my name being shouted in the form of a high-pitched squeal was the only warning I received before a tiny blur slammed into me full-force, nearly knocking me on my ass. I automatically dropped my bag and wrapped my arms protectively around the body that had collided with mine, chuckling as deceptively dainty arms seemingly attempted to squeeze every bit of oxygen from my lungs.
"Alice, please! Can't…breathe…"
"Oh! Sorry!" She exclaimed before releasing me from her death-grip. "I can't help it though! I mean, it's the night before Thanksgiving, and you're home, Edward…you're actually home."
Tears danced in her bright green eyes as she gazed up at me, and I grinned. "Yes, twin, I'm home."
I nodded slowly. "For good."
"Dinner tomorrow is at Mom and Dad's place in Forks."
"When should I plan on being there?"
"Some time around one o'clock. We can go together, if you want? I'll pick you up a little before noon?"
"I can drive myself, you know…"
"I know," she declared with an exaggerated huff. My sister pursed her lips as she expertly moved into the right lane so that she wouldn't miss the merge onto US-101 West. "But Uncle E was pretty adamant about the fact that you shouldn't be driving until you're really sure how the suboxone is going to affect you..."
"Ah, I see." I chortled humorlessly. "So, Eleazar debriefed the whole family then?"
Alice narrowed her eyes as she kept her gaze fixed on the road in front of her—it wasn't lost on me that the determined look was not meant for the pavement. "He's just looking out for you. Uncle E said you're doing really well, but that there are certain things we should be on the look-out for, like the suboxone side effects. Just…just come with me tomorrow."
"—it'll give Mom peace of mind, okay?"
I sighed in defeat. "Okay."
The corner of her mouth lifted just slightly. "Okay," she echoed softly.
l 8:59 PM l
The streets were nearly deserted as lights glowed warmly in the windows of the homes that we passed, their radiance illuminating the night as an amorphous blur in our line of sight. The intoxicating scent of wood burning in fireplaces hung in the air and filled my nostrils, making me smile as the aroma brought fond memories rushing to the forefront of my mind.
The ride into Port Angeles had been a quiet one; both of us lost in thought as Alice skillfully navigated the car through the winding streets. I smoked cigarette after cigarette as I stared out the window, and every once in a while, would glance at my twin out of the corner of my eye. It didn't take long before the silence got to me, and I spoke.
"So, um…is everything…I mean, did you…"
She giggled. "Yes, Edward; it's all set. Everything you asked for is in a bag in the trunk." My sister shook her head and smiled as she turned onto the all-too familiar street. She slowly crept the car about halfway down the block before rolling to a stop in front of my destination—a non-descript brownstone apartment building.
Throwing the car into park, my sister flicked on the hazards before turning to face me. "Bella should be getting back from Forks a little bit before ten, give or take a few. Charlie's heading down to La Push for the night—something about him and Billy getting out on the boat early tomorrow before he has to be at our place for Thanksgiving dinner — so Bella decided to come back to PA after she was done baking." Alice chuckled. "She spent the whole day making pies, Edward; every kind of pie you can think of!" She smiled wistfully. "Even pumpkin," my sister added softly.
"My favorite," I rasped.
I nodded and swallowed audibly before clearing my throat in an attempt to dislodge the lump that seemed to have taken up permanent residence there. "So I've got some time."
Alice grabbed the hand closest to her and squeezed. "Yes, brother; you've got some time. Use it wisely."
The two of us exited the car into humid November night, a light mist swirling around us as we trudged up the single staircase that led to Bella's apartment. Placing the shopping bag clutched in her fist at my feet, she turned to face me. "Here are your keys," she began, plunking the familiar key chain into my open hand. "I'm trusting that you know better than to use your car keys, yes twin?" She added; eyebrow arched expectantly at me.
I sniggered. "Yeah, Ali—I'll behave."
"Good," she declared with a satisfied nod. "Now, everything you asked for in your email is in this bag. And Bella—oh! That must be her!" A loud beep interrupted my sister's speech, and she fished through her over-sized purse in search of her cell phone. After a moment or two, she located the tiny device and read the text that was waiting for her. "Yup, that was Bells. She's leaving Forks now, so she should be here in about an hour."
"Or two, the way that old clunker rattles along," I joked.
"Hey! Respect Bertha, Edward. She's still alive and kicking, so don't insult her tenacious ways, okay?"
"Okay, okay," I surrendered with a chuckle.
"Okay then," Alice added with a sigh. "Alright, brother; I'll leave you to it. Just so you know: I cleaned up your place not long after you…left." Her brow furrowed as she looked at me. "I just didn't want any…reminders, of what happened. And mom, dad and I put all of Jas' stuff in storage late last month—"
"—Ali," I interjected softly. "Where'd you guys send Jasper?"
She smiled sadly. "She told you, huh?" My sister shook her head. "I figured she would tell you what she knew about the situation with Jas in those emails of hers…" She sighed. "We sent him to a treatment center in Arizona. Rose knew some people, put in some calls, and got him a bed as soon as we found him in Seattle."
"For how long?"
She shrugged. "I dunno, Edward. As long as it takes."
It was then that I pulled her to me, holding her tiny body that housed such hidden strength close to my chest. She bunched the front of my long-sleeved thermal in her hands as she fought to keep the sobs at bay, and I held her wordlessly until the moment passed.
"Alright; enough of that shit," she declared while gently extracting herself from my embrace. She swiped at her cheeks and under her eyes as she stared up at me. "Mascara?" She asked as she batted her lashes.
"Exactly where it should be," I assured her.
"Well, thank fuck for waterproof makeup then, huh?" Alice quipped before stretching up on her tiptoes to place a kiss on my cheek. "I love you, twin."
"I love you too, Ali."
"You need a haircut."
"I know, sister dear."
She chuckled. "Okay! I'm gone," she declared and with a final squeeze of my shoulder, she disappeared down the hall.
l 9:05 PM l
I found the darkened apartment just as I remembered it. I flicked on the lights after shutting the door behind me, and marveled at how little things had changed. It still looked the same…
…smelled the same…
…felt the same.
Bella was everywhere.
The air was tinged with the smell of her shampoo and burnt coffee, and I quickly jogged into the kitchen to make sure that the coffee pot wasn't on the verge of exploding. Chuckling under my breath, I set the carafe in the sink and filled it with water.
Still can't remember to shut it off before she leaves.
Glancing around the living room, I could almost pretend that I had never left…that that night had never happened. As always, papers were strewn across every surface, clearly evidence of Bella trying to get ahead of her workload before the holiday. Her half-filled mug sat on the coffee table next to her laptop; a partially-eaten muffin lay stale on a plate.
Post-its littered the surface of the refrigerator, filled with tiny reminders and messages to herself…
…a recipe here…
…a phone message there.
It made my heart hurt.
I wandered through the apartment for a few minutes, dragging my fingertips over every piece of furniture, as if I could detect her presence in each inanimate object.
The soft, worn wool of the afghan thrown over the back of the couch…
The cool, firm surface of the bathroom countertop where her toothbrush sat perched in her cup.
I passed my hand over her pillow, imagining I could feel the indentation that her head surely left behind after she slept. However, it was when I ran my fingers along the edge of the pillow that I felt it.
A piece of soft, well-worn flannel.
Yanking it from its hiding spot, I gasped as my fist bunched around the red and black flannel shirt.
My red and black flannel shirt.
With an ache in my chest, a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I returned my shirt to its spot underneath Bella's pillow and headed for the kitchen, intent on proving to the love of my life that her faith in me wasn't misplaced.
l 10:17 PM l
The table was set, the water glasses filled, the candles lit and the baked ziti I had prepared just coming out of the oven to rest when I heard it.
Bella's key in the lock.
I fought the bile threatening to push its way through my esophagus as the tumblers clunked and slipped out of the way, knowing what would come next. I battled to keep myself from hyperventilating, thinking of every technique the good doctor had taught me in therapy to combat the screaming in my body that demanded a release; an escape.
And then came the one thing that worked better than any affirmation…than any behavioral therapy.
"Ali? Is that you? Are you cooking?"
Her keys hit the top of the sidebar by the door with a clatter, and I could hear the rustling of her coat as she slipped it off. "Ali, I seriously hope you bought whatever I smell at Bella Italia," she called out as she made her way towards the kitchen. "Because I swear to God Mary Alice, if you burnt another one of my casserole dishes beyond recognition I will end yo—"
Her berating of my sister ceased as she came through the kitchen doorway to find me standing where she expected Alice to be.
And to be honest? My whole world fucking stopped.
Wide, chocolate-colored eyes filled with tears and disbelief as she stared at me, her gasp caught in her throat as we drank each other in.
My fucking God, she was beautiful.
I swallowed audibly before nodding. "I…I made dinner. There's garlic bread in the oven and the salad's on the table…I was sure that you wouldn't want to make something after, you know, cooking all day at Charlie's, so—"
It was my turn to be shocked as Bella launched herself into my arms, a sob escaping her lips before her body collided with mine. Her arms wrapped around my neck so tightly that she nearly knocked all the breath from my lungs, the force of the impact sending me stumbling back into the refrigerator. I could feel her entire body pressed against the length of my own, and to spite the gut-wrenching sobs that shook both of us and the heavy, wet tears that soaked the skin of my neck as she pressed her face into her spot, only one thought raced through my mind.
I am finally and truly home.
I slid down the refrigerator, settling us on the floor in a tangle of limbs and damp skin. Bella's hands began a frantic perusal of my body: thin, feminine fingers raked through my hair; passed over the length of my arms and across the span of my chest. After completing the circuit countless times, she sat back on my lap and stared at me with tears streaming silently down her face.
And then…she slapped me.
Her hand came hard and fast out of nowhere, the blow stinging a hundred times worse due to the tears that had made their way down my own cheeks. I let out a shuddering breath before speaking.
"I deserved that," I whispered shakily.
Bella nodded furiously before grasping my face roughly between her palms, forcing me to look at her head-on. "Do you…do you have any idea how worried I was? How frightened? I thought you were gone forever…dead in a ditch somewhere…no one would tell me anything, or give me any hint or clue! I thought you were dead…I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!"
Her tone had reached a panicked pitch and she had begun to gasp for air. Pulling her shaking form into my arms, I rocked her back and forth as she cried. "I know, Bella. I know. And I'm so fucking sorry, love. I swear, I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you, I promise. Please don't cry, sweetheart. Please…"
I murmured my promises and reassurances as best I could as she calmed herself, and after a while, the apartment was silent, filled only with the sounds of our synced breathing. Bella had her legs wrapped around me and her head on my chest as her fingers played with the hair at the nape of my neck.
She kissed my throat lightly and sighed. "You need a haircut, Edward Anthony."
I chuckled, knowing my voice would come out just as raspy as hers had. "I know, love. I'm aware." I pressed my lips to the top of her head and breathed her in; pure, unadulterated Bella.
She cleared her throat before speaking again. "You also need to feed me, and explain where the fuck you've been," she demanded, leaving no room for argument.
Leaning back so that I could look down at her, I nodded once more before dipping my head to brush my lips lightly against hers. "I know. How about this: we'll eat, and I'll talk," I proposed as I lifted us both off the floor.
Once standing, Bella stretched up onto her tiptoes and kissed me just as delicately as I had her only moments before. She stepped away from me and arched her eyebrow. "Start talking, Cullen."
The food I had prepared earlier was long gone; the candles were nearly burnt out. Bella and I sat curled around each other on the couch, cuddled under that old-as-fuck afghan as I finished telling her the whole story. She had been quiet for most of my sordid tale, only stopping me a few times to ask for clarification. When I finally fell silent, my throat raw and my voice hoarse from so many hours of crying and talking and explaining, Bella pulled away from me and looked at me quizzically.
"Wait a second. Say that last part again?" She asked quietly, her expression nearly blank.
I furrowed my brow. "Which part? You mean the part where I'm leaving our future in your hands?" I shrugged before continuing. "It's only fair, Bella. You know the whole story now; I'm an addict, and I always will be. This will be a life-long battle for me, and it's only proper and fair that now that you know everything, you get to make an informed decision." I sighed. "I'll accept whatever you decide, love…it's in your hands. Take as much time as you need," I concluded quietly.
Bella's eyes went wide, and she threw the afghan off the couch before clambering to her feet. "But…but I don't need time!" She declared emphatically.
"Edward," she began as she spun to face me, "what you went through was horrible. I wish you would have told me from the start what was going on, but I understand why you thought you couldn't. But you have to know that I never gave up on you…I never gave up on us…"
Bella's voice hitched as she fought to keep her voice steady. "Edward, I now know what it's like to live life without you, and I don't want that ever again. Without you, I can't eat, I can't sleep…I can't do anything without thinking about you. Whenever I'm awake, all I can think about is you, and how I let you throw what we had away. When I'm asleep, I dream of you, and only you…my heart hurts all the time, and no matter where I go or what I do, I can feel you right there with me!"
Bella had worked herself up into a veritable frenzy and was gasping for air. "Sweetheart, please calm down," I begged, but my plea just seemed to spur her on.
"I don't care what anyone thinks; I don't care what crazy shit we need to put up with in order to make this work…I just don't care, because all I care about is you! I love you goddamn it, and it's killing me!"
Her chest heaved with the force of her declaration, and I struggled to breathe as my own tears make their way down my face. "It's killing me…" she repeated, softly this time, and as she buried her face in her hands, I flew off the couch and wrapped her in my arms.
"Shh, Bella; shh. It's okay. We'll figure this out together. I'm not going anywhere," I cooed softly in her ear as she wept. "Isabella, you have to know what you mean to me. When I hear you say that you love me, everything else fades into the background. Every moment I was away, when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I thought of you and it made it better. When the pain became unbearable, I would think of your voice, and it all went away. You're my anchor; my reason; my very soul, and I swear on everything that I have that we're in this together."
I reassured her as best I could, and sealed my words with a kiss. "I love you with my whole soul, Bella. You believe me, right?"
She nodded before gracing me with a watery smile. "Yeah, I do," she said before kissing me once more. "You know, it's like that for me too."
"When I hear you say 'I love you?'" Bella clarified. "It makes me feel like I'm safe…like I can do anything. It reminds me that you're my home Edward, and that no matter where we've been, or where we're going, as long as we love each other, we can deal with any shit the world throws at us," she proclaimed softly.
I grinned at her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I love you more than my own life, Bella."
"I love you too, Edward," she replied. "Now," she continued as she blew out what remained of the candles. "It's time to go to bed," she declared, and with a tug on my hand, led me towards her bedroom.
"Sounds good to me, love."
"You know Alice is going to be here at the crack of dawn to cut that mop you call hair before we all head over to your parents, right?"
I chuckled. "Of course I do. I wouldn't expect anything less from my darling sister."
Bella turned to face me as we reached her bedroom door and on impulse, I swept her up in my arms. She smiled up at me before resting her head on my shoulder and letting out a contented sigh.
"Welcome home, Edward."
From: Isabella M. Swan [ellisbell913 (a) mymail . com]
To: Eleazar D. Cortez [dreleazardcortez (a) steppingstone . com]
Sent: 22nd November 6:29 AM
Subject: Thank You
For taking him in when no one else would.
For believing in him when others would have considered him a lost cause.
For pushing him when he wanted to give up.
For never giving up on him.
For sending my Edward home to me.
I can't wait to meet you and give you all the gratitude, relief and admiration that you surely deserve.
I am indebted to you forever.
Do you think I could pay you back in pies? What's your favorite?
We'll see you at Christmas. I'm looking forward to it.
All my best,
Isabella M. Swan
PS: I know that you're getting updates from Carlisle, but just so you know, he's doing wonderfully. And I can't thank you enough for that.
-Serenity Prayer - Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
- 'Like Knives' – music & lyrics by Dallas Green
-'When You Say You Love Me' – music & lyrics by Mark Hammond, Robin Scoffield; performed by Josh Groban.
-Some people may be interested to know how I came up with Bella and Edward's email addresses. 'Ellis Bell' was the androgynous pen name that Emily Brontë (1818-1848) used prior to publishing Wuthering Heights. La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral) is a prelude for solo piano by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), published in 1910. I studied the work extensively during my Master's; I found it fitting to use the title for this purpose as the major motive, or 'theme,' is a series of chords structured to mimic the tolling of a cathedral's bell tower.
Substance abuse is a very real, very terrifying disease, for all those involved. If you, or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse addiction, visit http :/www . addict-help . com/ for information regarding intervention, rehab, treatment, and other support services.
To everyone who has alerted, favorited, reviewed or just plain read this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to me. Although Edward and Bella are done telling their story, I am toying with the idea of doing a side-shot that would be a sort of glimpse into Jasper's mindspace over parts of the time period that Serenity covers. If you're interested, be sure to add me to your author alerts so you'll know when it's done. I also anticipate other projects to follow in the future. :)