Friday, March 4th
Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…
Okay, it's cool. Be cool. Look them in the eye, have identification ready, smile, be cool. And for God's sake, don't say anything unless you absolutely have to.
Edward held Bella's hand too tightly, but she didn't say anything because it was obvious he needed the anchor. On his shoulder was the strap to his duffel bag, and behind him were Alice and Jasper. They stood out of the way while Bella directed Edward to the right line.
He let her go, only because his hand was cramping. He watched her stretch her fingers and said he was sorry for holding on to her the way he did.
"I didn't mind." Bella turned around to push her bag with her foot as the line moved forward in a sluggish zigzag.
When it was their turn at the counter, Bella had every intention of speaking for both of them, but Edward started first. "Hi, it's both of us. I mean we're traveling together – to D.C. For fun. Oh, I'm Edward Cullen, here's my identification. And this is Bella S-Cullen. She's my wife."
The counter agent stared, blank faced, as Bella slid her fake ID over. To her credit, Bella said nothing about his ramble, but whether it was coming later Edward wasn't sure. Bella got her ID back and stuck it in her front pocket.
"Checking any bags?"
"No," they said together.
"All right, you'll be departing from gate 41. The line for security is to your right."
They met up with Alice and Jasper to say goodbye. Alice got on her toes and clutched Edward as tightly as she could, whispering that she loved him and that he'd better stay safe.
She hugged Bella next and in a trembling voice, she said, "You bring my brother back here soon."
When Alice pulled away, she again ordered them to have a safe trip and quick return. Alice held on until Edward and Bella walked to security, and then she turned around and cried.
"I'll get it," Alice said to no one. She went to the door, knowing it was the delivery from Rosalie that Edward was dreading.
He said he would do it, of course. But now he was nervous and when he was nervous, he got agitated. Bella was outside with him.
"You don't have to. We've gotten this far, Rosalie and I can figure out another way." Bella was all but begging him at that point to say no.
"I said I'd do it." Edward snapped, an apology on his lips just as quickly.
Bella sat down next to him and ran her fingers through his hair. He had cabin fever, so did she. They needed to get the hell out of there.
Edward made an appreciative sound at the feel of her hand. "I wish we could go somewhere else."
Bella smiled. "You read my mind."
"Where would we go?"
She looked up, thinking about it. "Mexico? Paris? Milwaukee?"
Bella nodded. "Anywhere."
Alice poked her head out the top half of the Dutch door. "Hey you guys, it's here."
The line at security moved at a snail's pace. Edward had his shoes and sweatshirt off, and his laptop and liquids bag out before they were even in sight of the metal detectors. When they were closer Bella pulled off her boots, using Edward's arm for balance.
They put their things on the belt and she handed her boarding pass to the security guard. Edward wondered how she managed to do it all so smoothly. She passed through, collected her things, and sat at a bench to put her shoes back on. Edward had to be patted down because of some forgotten change in his pocket.
He met her at the bench. "Forty-one is this way." She said. Bella walked fast and Edward had to hurry despite the height advantage.
She was nervous, he realized. This whole thing was how she showed it. She became quiet and serious and solitary. He added it to his Bella list and then caught up and took her hand. It slowed her down enough that they walked side by side.
Bella opened the seal and peeked inside, unsure of what she might find. Right away, she noticed a passport. She pulled everything out while Edward waited next to her, his heel bouncing. On the coffee table, her phone went through its cycle of rings.
"Man, she's fast." Alice commented.
Bella called Rosalie back. "Got it." She picked up Edward's new ID. "Who is Masen Kent? Or do I not want to know?"
"Well, I was using it up until recently. As far as everyone else knows, Mr. Kent is a dot com kid from California that likes to spend a lot of money. Oh, do you get it, by the way? Kent, like Clark."
Edward reached for the passport and when he opened it something else fell out, a shiny black credit card. He handed it back to Bella, who flipped it back and forth in her free hand.
"Why the credit card?"
"Morrissey's gonna have to get a suit and I have a feeling neither of you can afford what he needs for this."
"Save it, will you, just use the damn thing. It's in Kent's name and everything." Rosalie shuffled something around on her end. "Okay, there's a sheet of paper in there with some other stuff – safe hotels in the city, some information for Edward to remember. I have no idea what they'll ask him so make sure he reads it. There's a little bit about the guy that referred him, too. Oh, and then the invite."
Bella picked that up from her lap. It was black and hardly larger than a business card, but carried weight. She ran her fingertips over the silver ink and felt the indentations of the simple font.
The Elite Invites You
This was written at the top, followed by an address Bella didn't recognize.
"There's one more thing…,"
"What's that?" Bella handed the invitation to Edward.
"He's gonna have to go in alone."
"What? Not gonna happen."
"Listen, I talked to my guy. They're not going to let you in; they won't even let Edward in if he brings you. How do you think they keep whatever they're doing a secret? If you want a shot at answers, he's got to do it alone."
Bella mumbled an expletive which got Alice and Edward's attention.
After another few minutes, Rosalie wrapped things up. "Okay, go through everything. Call if you need to, I'll be up. Oh, and Bella?"
"Time to get on that plane."
Bella leaned her head on the closed door of the bathroom stall. There was about twenty minutes until she and Edward were scheduled to board. She counted to four on an inhale, and then another four on an exhale. I can do this.
"What's the one called when you have three that are the same and two that are the same?" Alice asked.
Edward shook his head and grinned. "A full house."
"Oh, well that's what I have."
Bella tossed her cards down. "That's some beginner's luck you've got."
Edward gathered the cards and shuffled. Bella watched his hands.
"I get to pick the next game." Alice said.
They played two hands of Bullshit and another four of Gin before Jasper came back. He'd been gone for most of the day, off to get Bella's new ID. In the interim, they'd gotten tickets to a flight landing in Dulles the next day.
Bella had taken Edward aside to tell him what Rosalie said and his reaction was surprisingly placid. He went back to the couch and grabbed the license, passport, invitation, and fact sheet and started reading. Within the hour, he had it all memorized. He asked Bella to quiz him like he was preparing for an exam.
After a while, Alice couldn't stand it anymore so she pulled out the cards.
They boarded the plane and Bella took an inventory of all the faces to see if there was even one she recognized. There wasn't. And no one appeared to recognize her. Regardless, she lowered her eyes until she'd taken her seat by the window. Edward sat next to her and for the moment, the aisle seat remained empty.
"Are you all right?" He asked, knowing she wasn't.
"Mm-hmm." Bella looked out the window at the people driving and running around in orange vests. She wondered what their lives were like.
After a while, the flight took off and she pushed the window shade down. Edward watched her struggle to get comfortable for a minute until he realized what she was doing. "You can use my shoulder, if you want. If you're trying to sleep, I mean."
Her eyes moved from his face to his shoulder and then she said thank you.
Edward tilted his head back against the rigid chair. "I've never really been able to sleep on planes, too many people."
Normally, she couldn't either, but his sweatshirt smelled good and she was so tired. She pressed the side of her face into it and then, blessedly, fell asleep.
Bella Cullen lived in Newport Beach, California. She was married and an organ donor and had never been on the run from anything in her life. She also took a nice picture.
"The holograph is there and it'll scan too, so you shouldn't have any problems."
"Thanks, Jasper." She looked at it again. She wanted to be this Bella.
They went to bed not long after, and not long after that, there was a soft knock on Bella's door. She opened it and found a very nervous looking Alice. "Hey, is everything okay?"
"Can I talk to you?" It was clear she was pretty far from okay.
Alice sat on the bed and spent a lot of time folding a crease into the front of her pants; they had butterflies on them.
"Bella, I -," she fixed the crease again and then let go. "I want you to tell Edward he can't go with you."
Alice was crying now, Bella could see the shine of tears on her cheek.
"Oh God," she mumbled, twisting her pant leg again. "I'm such a shitty person -,"
"No, you're -,"
"I am, Bella. I just – I don't want him to go. Please, please don't take him with you. I'm sorry, I hate myself for asking you to do it alone, but I can't lose my brother. There's got to be some other way, something that'll keep you both safe?" Her question was desperate and she knew it didn't have a happy answer. She kept going anyway. "He's not like you. He'll get hurt, or -," or other things she couldn't voice.
Bella couldn't find it in herself to be upset because she would do the same thing if their positions were reversed. She'd always thought that Edward was too good to be around her. Bella cleared her throat. "I can't make up his mind for him."
Alice looked up, about to beg.
"But I can try, okay?"
Alice leaned forward, hugging Bella tightly. She left tears in her hair. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry."
When the house was quiet again, Bella got up. She was going to wait until the morning, but found the hours until then too long. She left her room and found herself at Edward's door. He answered quickly enough that she guessed he wasn't sleeping either.
The guest room was small, with a daybed half the size of the one Bella slept on. But it had a green bedspread that matched Edward's eyes and there was a big window that let in enough moonlight to see by.
He sat near his pillow and waited for her to start.
"Edward, I've been thinking. And…I think you should stay here." She put a hand up when he tried to protest. "I'm going to need help from someone that's not in the thick of it," she lied. "I'm not saying you can't help, you can – just not from D.C."
"This doesn't sound like you."
Shit. She wasn't adept at lying to him. "It is. You can do more from here -," shit, she thought again. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"You can't promise that. Edward, you have things here and people that love you and I won't take you away from that." She tried not to imagine the life she'd be taking him away from.
"Bella, did you know that aside from Alice and Jasper, I don't know another person in this state? I don't have this life you think I have. I'm either in the lab, or I'm home. There's not much in between. You aren't ruining anything."
"What about the possibility of something? I could be ruining that."
"You're talking like we aren't going to make it out of Washington."
She swallowed, shrugged.
"I'm coming with you."
"Yes." He'd decided to go with her the moment she kissed him in the university quad.
She tried one more time, but she could feel herself losing already. "Edward, Alice and Jasper love you. I know they don't want to see anything happen to you."
"Well, I don't want to see anything happen to you. We'll work better in the same place." He looked down because he couldn't say the next thing and meet her eyes. "Besides, you need me."
Bella smiled, though he wouldn't see it. Yeah, she thought, she did.
They talked for a while longer until Bella gave up the hope he would stay and her vision started to go fuzzy. Edward memorized everything she said about what to expect; she said it to deter him, but he used it to learn. He wanted to be an asset and there was no way he was going to be the reason something went wrong. But he was getting tired now and found it more and more difficult to tune in.
Apropos of nothing, she said, "You're very stubborn." Her eyes were closed and she was leaning back against the wall enough that she was almost lying down.
"You are too," he remembered it from his Bella list. "You should go to sleep; you're going to have a back ache if you stay like that."
She hummed and her muscles burned as she sat up.
His sleepiness made him bold and he asked her to stay. She crawled under the covers where it was warm and brushed his hand by accident, but didn't move away from him.
Someone was saying her name too close to her ear. Go away, she thought. Leave us alone.
"Bella," he tried again and this time, she opened her eyes. "Hey," he said. "We're here."
Author's Note: Thanks to my pre-readers, present readers, and to the ladies at the Fictionators for their awesome review and the subsequent bump in readership. I heart you guys.
They're in D.C. now; Rosalie's in D.C. Hmm...