This one-shot was written for the Fic-a-Pic contest. All entries and a link to the picture prompt are posted on the profile: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~ficapiccontest.
Much love and thanks to agoodwitch for her beta skills and to 1Lavishone and EmDempster for prereading. I highly recommend that you listen to this song while reading, at least the last half: http:/www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=t1a9hsUsGX4.
It had been eight years since Push was discovered by Aro Demetri. Edward vividly remembered the day that he, Jasper and Emmett had been approached after their set at the small music festival held right outside of Seattle. Their beat-heavy songs and heartfelt lyrics made them an instant crowd favorite. Of course, their looks didn't hurt either.
"A lead singer with a gorgeous face and unruly hair, a drummer with a body that rivals the Hulk's, and a shy, handsome-boy-next door guitarist makes a delicious combination of eye-candy to focus on while watching them tear up the stage," Rolling Stone later described. Even at the time of their discovery, they managed to have a small following of groupies that traveled to the small venues where they played.
Each band member had been a mere twenty years old when they signed their contract with Eclipse Records, blinded by dollar signs and promises of stardom. Not that Edward ever regretted signing, but if he could go back in time eight years, there were a lot of Hollywood activities he would have opted out of.
When they all heard that you can lose yourself in Hollywood, each one of them simply laughed it off, Edward most of all. In his mind, he was way too grounded to fall prey to the sins of Tinseltown. He had good parents and a strong foundation.
That was until the first album came, which led to platinum selling albums, followed by loads of money, followed by girls, followed by booze, and for a few terrifying nights, followed by drugs. He had enough will power, thankfully, to kick himself in the nuts before that particular recreational activity got out of hand, but the rest of it continued for a long time. There was a constant stream of girls in and out of his life and a million others whose claims weren't even true, but with his reputation, how could he prove otherwise? It had all started to wear on him in the past couple of years and he was worried that the members of the band, himself included, were all spiraling out of control. So rather than becoming prime candidates for "Celebrity Rehab," Edward approached Emmett and Jasper, and they all agreed to take a year off to regain control of their lives and to refocus on their dreams as a band.
And now it was time to make a comeback, which led to his current predicament.
After Eclipse Records' massive success with the band, Aro decided to open an office in New York, where the members of the Push were currently spending their down time. In an equally bold move, he also decided to launch a sister label in Nashville, New Moon Music, three years ago. The first person he signed was Bella Swan.
While in town launching the new label and scouting talent, Aro had run across a small bar with a golden voice pouring from the interior. He had begged and pleaded with the twenty-one year old waitress slash part-time singer to give him a try. He often retold the stories about how reluctant she was to sign, not trusting him with her music or career. But she did and the partnership led to another great artist for Aro to list under his belt.
Her completely pure, wholesome vibe, a complete contradiction to her smokin' body, was a breath of fresh air in the country music industry. Her humble demeanor, gorgeous face and sultry voice led her to become an instant fan favorite and she shot to fame overnight. Her fanbase was full of teenage girls wanting to be like her and closet male fans who just wanted to be with her. She was a country princess.
A country princess who was hand-picked to sing a duet with a lead singer of an alternative band.
When he was initially approached with the idea, Edward was not convinced that this "genius idea" Aro had come up with was going to go well. It was a collision of two worlds as different from one another as black and white. He never anticipated that it would go down the way that it did, nor could he have predicted the impact it would have on his personal life.
Edward was completely enthralled at their first meeting a few months ago. He later chastised himself for acting like a love-struck puppy around her, but while in the studio recording their single he flirted and teased and let his guard down. She was so easy to be around and knew how to have innocent fun. They laughed and joked and pulled a few pranks on their managers. By the end of the first day, the rest of their teams had deemed them "the gruesome twosome" because of their shenanigans.
The song was actually written by Bella and he had to admit, it was beautiful. It was so full of wanting and needing and pleading. Something he came to know quite well over the short amount of time it took to record the single.
Aro had planned for the two performers to introduce the song onstage at the American Music Awards. It was not announced to the public that Edward would be performing with her, so it would be a perfect way to surprise and shock the audience.
Now he stood in the control room of the recording studio at Eclipse four days before the awards ceremony waiting for Bella to arrive. Aro had asked that they reunite for one last time before the single was released on iTunes in two weeks. They were rehearsing in the studio today before they each jetted to LA tomorrow and rehearsed onstage Saturday afternoon for the Sunday night show. He was ridiculously excited to be spending the afternoon with Bella. It had been a few weeks since they had crossed paths and with the exception of texts back and forth, he missed talking to her.
When she arrived, breezing through the door with a few girls he recognized in tow, she gave him a familiar brilliant smile and a hug. Edward held on a little tighter and longer than he normally would have, breathing her in and savoring her firm embrace. He groaned slightly as he realized how much he had missed her.
They immediately got to work in the studio, but he had a hard time focusing. The phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder" was definitely in effect for him. She was in his every thought and his mind was on a dangerous path that led to dirty, distracting daydreams. Every intake of breath she took made him wonder what it would be like to hear her pant. Every time her mouth formed an "O", he thought about how it would feel to have her lips wrapped around him. Every time she focused her dark brown eyes on his crystal green ones, he wondered what it would be like to hover above her, gazing into her soul as they were both surrounded in softness and warmth.
It was after the fifth time in a row that he missed his cue that they finally decided to take a break. He watched as she walked over to Alice, her stylist, and started looking at something on her phone. He heard her sweet laugh and watched as her face lit up in joy. The youthful innocence of her laugh hit him like a ton of bricks in the gut. He knew right then that he should leave her alone. Pursuing her would be a mistake. She was much too pure…too good for him. Mumbling a gruff, "I'm stepping out for a smoke," Edward stormed out the door with a few curious looks from others. He detoured by the small kitchen and grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the makeshift bar set up in the back corner before trying to find a place to escape.
As he stomped up the metal stairs, his footsteps echoed loudly in the empty corridor. The metal door creaked as he shoved it open and stepped out onto the rooftop. He took note of the heather gray sky and wondered if a rain shower was imminent. It wasn't like he ever watched the weather.
Listening to the busy sounds of the streets below, Edward strode across the concrete and hopped up on the corner of two adjoining ledges, setting the half empty bottle of Jack at his side. He dug out his almost empty pack of cigarettes from the inner pocket of his black jacket. As he lit one, his lungs burned with a sick pleasure from the inhalation of the first drag. The tiny amount of nicotine calmed his nerves quickly and he began to relax. For what seemed like an eternity, he simply sat there and stared out at the city skyline while the hardened pebbles in the concrete wall dug into his palms where they rested.
A horn blared on the street below and brought him out of his trance. He grabbed the neck of the glass bottle next to him and had it halfway to his lips when her voice rang out from the direction of the roof door.
"Is that really going to make whatever it is you're battling all better?"
His eyes cut over to her, noting the way she leaned casually against the door as if she didn't have a care in the world. The thought only prompted the path of the bottle once again. He took a generous swig and sat it back down.
"What are you running from, Edward?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about." He pretended to study an imaginary loose thread on his pants in an attempt to appear uninterested and oblivious.
"Really? Because we were doing great down there besides the rhythm thing and all of a sudden you flipped out and disappeared. We don't have time for this shit." He couldn't help the grin that tugged at his lips as that foul word leaked from those sweet, innocent lips.
"A sweet girl like you shouldn't use such language," he teased. The glare she shot him made it clear that she didn't find his comment funny.
"Edward, I'm serious. This is my career we're playing with here. Yours too, for that matter."
"Bella, I'm very well aware of that. I'm not playing with either of our careers. I just…needed a smoke." He raised the hand that held the cigarette as if to show her what she couldn't see. Her eyes narrowed and she pushed off the door making her way over to him.
"I can see that." She grabbed his wrist and twisted it so that the cigarette filter was turned toward her, and before he could comprehend her intended action, she leaned in and took a long pull off it. He expected her to cough and sputter, thinking her actions were like those of a little girl trying to live in a grown-up world. Instead he watched, fascinated as she swallowed and slowly let the smoke blow out of the corner of her mouth. He was so enraptured with the action that he caught himself staring at the tendril as it slowly dissipated into the air around them.
"Those'll kill you, you know," she smirked. "Plus, they're terrible for your lungs and throat. Two things that are pretty important to your career at this point."
"No kidding," he replied, still slightly baffled by this girl in front of him. Maybe she wasn't quite as innocent as he suspected.
"Listen, if there's something I've done to make you uncomfortable-" He snorted, resulting in her stopping mid-sentence.
"What?" she cried. "What is it? You are so infuriating! Every time we've been together before, you've been fine. Flirty, even. Much different than what I initially expected from 'Edward Cullen, Rock Star Extraordinaire'. What's different about this time?" He could tell she was beyond frustrated with him. Hell, he was beyond frustrated with himself. He exerted a little of this frustration as he stubbed the cigarette out with a little more force than was required.
"What, Edward?" she yelled. "What? Do you want to cancel the performance? Is that what you want to do?"
"Bella, I don't know! No, I don't want to cancel the performance. This is as important to me and my guys as it is to you. It's just…" he trailed off, not intending to continue, but the look of confusion mixed with guilt and sadness in her brown eyes was just enough to open up the dam of words that he was trying so hard to hold back.
"The first few times we were together were great. Even when we recorded the single, it was more fun than I expected. I enjoyed doing it even more than I thought I would. But that back there? It started to stir up some things inside me, and even though I'm not even really sure what that was, I'm afraid of never feeling that way again. And that scares the hell out of me." His voice sounded small and weak, even to himself, as he ended his outburst. She turned and silently leaned back onto the concrete wall beside him.
She was quiet and he was afraid that he had really screwed up now. She'd probably go running to her manager, who would in turn contact Aro. She'd cancel the performance, cancel the release of the single and have it removed from her upcoming album. He could see a downward spiral forming in this imaginary world he concocted within a few seconds, and the end wasn't pretty. He was practically hyperventilating when he heard her timid voice.
"Would it make you feel any better to know that it scares the hell out of me, too? You scare the hell out of me, but it's a fear that I welcome and embrace, one that holds the promise of a better tomorrow and maybe even a better future." Her admission poured a combination of hope and anxiety into his heart. He ducked his head and smiled, thinking to himself that this thing they have might actually have a chance to work.
Maybe it wasn't all black and white. Maybe they could meet halfway in the gray area.
He slid his hand a foot across the rough surface and connected his pinky with hers, making her glance sideways at the place where her body joined his. He watched as a grin tugged at the corner of her rose-colored lips and after a few seconds, no matter how hard she tried to control it, an enormous smile stretched across her face.
"Look," she started, "we don't have to define anything right now. Let's just see where this leads us and go from there, ok?" A sense of peace fell over him for the first time in a month as he agreed.
"What do you say we get back down there and get this rehearsal done and over with? That way, maybe we can get out of here, have some lunch and talk a little bit?" He asked, hoping that they could spend some alone time together after the events of today. She nodded her assent and linked her hand casually through his elbow as they walked back toward the door.
~ G ~ G ~ G ~ G ~ G ~ G ~
Backstage at the awards show was organized chaos. People were running all around Edward as he stood in the back, waiting for Bella to join him. She had just won the "Country Music Favorite Female Artist" award and had to rush backstage after her acceptance speech to change outfits before their performance. As much as he loved seeing her float around in that white dress that made her look like a Grecian goddess, it was obvious that there was no way she could perform in it, plus he was terrified of tripping over the damn thing himself. How she kept from getting tangled in it so far tonight, he would never know.
Obscured by a drop screen, their bands were assembling together on the far side of the stage. It was an all-around collaborative effort. He was too caught up watching Emmett and Jasper goof around in their normal way to notice when Bella snuck up on him.
"Hey, handsome," she whispered seductively in his ear, deliberately laying the southern accent on thickly.
He whipped around to see her standing in her performance attire and was slightly amused to see that her ensemble resembled his, jeans and a fitted white t-shirt. The only difference was that he was wearing a black blazer and she was wearing a dark green leather jacket and sky-high heels, ones that brought those dirty thoughts back to his mind.
"Hey, yourself. You ready for this?" His words held a deeper meaning and he could see by the look in her eyes that she understood.
"Absolutely. I'm game. See you out there." She winked at him and walked toward the stage while adjusting her earpiece. He fitted his own and waited for his cue.
Their performance had been kept a secret from the audience, so when she took the stage, he held back, waiting for the perfect point in the song to grace the stage. A mastermind plot on behalf of both their managers.
From his standing point, he could see her profile illuminated by the stage lights. She was absolutely glowing in her element and he felt his heart swell with pride as he watched her almost hypnotize the mass of people in the Nokia Theatre.
The audience went wild when she started the song. Her eyes were closed, a small smile stretching her lips as she sang the first verse. She captivated every single person in the building, including himself. They hung on every word she sang. She was magical.
Once she began the chorus, he snuck into the shadows and sang a quiet harmony to her melody, gearing up for when the audience took notice of him. The adrenaline started pumping through his veins when a second spotlight outed his hiding spot. He strolled across the stage as he began the second verse, trying to contain the huge grin that wanted to make its way across his face. Not only because of the vibration of applause and screams that were buzzing their way through his veins, but also because of the fact that he was making his way toward Bella, who was watching him with that same small grin.
They continued their song together, a slow dance of harmonies and melodies. An unseen force drove their bodies toward one another while they sang, and by the time the song started to come to an end, they were so close that the chemistry between them was palpable.
On the last refrain of the chorus, while they sang the words, "But with you I feel alive again," she reached up and placed her hand on his heart, to which he responded by closing his fingers around her wrist and holding her there. Once the last notes rang out through the air, the audience found their second wind and cheered with such intensity, it normally would have startled even the most seasoned performers. The duo on stage stayed locked in their stance, remaining motionless as they absorbed the ignited atmosphere burning between them. The screen lowered back to the ground, bathing the stage in a gray darkness, yet shedding the light of a new dawn on its main occupants.