A/N: This one-shot is written after the song 'Sometime Around Midnight' by The Airborne Toxic event, and the lyrics will be throughout. Flashbacks are in italics.
WARNING: This story contains subject matter that may be sensitive to some readers.
And it starts sometime around midnight…
"Edward, man, you don't even know how much I love you right now. I could kiss you."
That was not my idea of the fun I was looking forward to tonight. That's what I get for having strange friends.
"Emmett, if you do that, I may have to beat the shit out of you." I said matter-of-factly. I don't have problems with gay people, but I am not gay. And even if I was, Emmett wouldn't be my type.
"Emmett, you just made things awkward." Jasper commented from my right side. The three of us were squished in the back seat of a cab. I won rock, paper, scissors and got the window seat while Jasper got the middle. I had my eyes out the window the whole time. It was dark, but I could still see the people of New York busying around. Even after midnight, the streets were still alive with people. Some smiling, some pensive, some sad, and some you just couldn't figure out. You can't help but wonder about people and their lives when you watch them. And you see a lot of people in New York City. This place was full of life, just how I remembered it.
Jasper was typing away on his phone at my side. He was so pussy-whipped it was ridiculous. He had his phone attached to his hand the whole drive texting Alice. He says he wasn't, but I wasn't stupid and neither was Emmett. I caught Emmett texting a couple times also, but he wasn't nearly as bad as Jasper.
Married life. Sounds like a rip-roaring good time to me. Note the sarcasm.
Really, I am just a bitter bastard. It is nice to see my friends with their 'life partners' or 'loves of their lives' or 'soul mates'…whatever you what you want to call it, they were promised to have the girl they love with them for the rest of their lives. I never thought I would be that guy. You know; that guy who wanted to settle down, have a wife, and kids around him that he can raise. That was never me. But being twenty-eight years old and having seen more things during the last eight years, than some men way older than me have seen their whole lives, made me want that.
"I'm sorry, I am just so glad my boy here is back." Emmett said as he slapped me on the shoulder. I laughed. I was glad to be back in my hometown as well. New York City has always been my home and always will be. I haven't been here in a while, but that was mostly because I couldn't. After I joined the army, I was moved from place to place and never made it home.
But I was done serving my time, and now I am lost trying to get back into the swing of things in real life.
"Yeah me too, but you don't want to scare him away." Jasper said. I looked over to him. He was looking down and the light from his phone lit up his face. I rolled my eyes.
"You have better access, Jasper. You could slap a wet one on him right now." Emmett said. Just as random, weird, awkward, and lovable as I remembered him to have been. It is really good to know some things never change.
"Dude, do you have a thing for Edward? It's starting to creep me out." Jasper said dryly, typing away. Damn, doesn't he live with her?
"Shut the fuck up. I have a perfect voluptuous women at home waiting for me. I don't need his ass. Look at him. He looks like he hasn't showered in days." I actually showered yesterday, but whatever. I don't dress up. Sue me. I had on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket. I don't understand how I looked dirty, but he was wearing Dad-jeans and a button up, so I guess in comparison I could understand.
"I'm surprised Rose even let you come out tonight." I said. I wasn't even going to try and defend myself.
Emmett reached across and punched me in the arm. "Rosalie wants me to have fun."
"She was probably just sick of your ass."
"She happens to like my ass for your information. She thinks it's cute."
Jasper was laughing at my side and I winced. I used to be familiar with Emmett's bluntness and sometimes inappropriateness, but I was a bit rusty. I have only seen him a total of a couple days over the last eight years. Jasper however, was used to it. "Too much information, Emmett. I don't want to hear that shit." I said.
I looked back out the window. A man sleeping on the street. A group of women stumbling along the sidewalk laughing and clearly drunk. A group of guys playing drums with a box out for money.
"So Edward, you got a girlfriend or anything?" Jasper asked. I felt his gaze on me, so I looked over at him.
"No." I haven't had one steady girlfriend since my senior year in high school. Unless you count … no, I couldn't go there, not now. I can't think of it…it hurts. Since I have been back in the states, I have been on a few dates. I spent a good amount of my time back in Boston, and I met some nice girls there. Dated some of them, slept with some of them, but none of them did it for me, or vice versa.
"Want me to set you up, bro? Rose has some hot friends."
"Alice's aren't that bad either." Jasper added. I just laughed. I didn't want to go on a blind date. I gave up on the whole institution. It wasn't so bad being single. I wanted to do things. I wanted to travel the world and go to college and get a couple of degrees. I didn't need a girlfriend at this point in my life…I didn't think so anyway.
"Nah, thanks though. I am good with the way things are for right now."
"Yeah, I envy you a little bit, man. You have absolute freedom." Emmett said.
"Yeah I know." Jasper said.
"I mean I love Rosalie more than anything, but a little freedom here and there would be nice."
"That's what tonight is for, isn't it?" I asked.
"Hell, yeah!" He yelled. Jasper was still looking and typing on that phone, but he laughed and shook his head. "Aren't you both as pumped as me?"
I was excited, but I don't know if I was as much as Emmett was. We were just going to a bar to see some of the bands that were playing. I have done wilder, but I guess this is a big deal for him being a married man and all that. Rosalie keeps him in line.
"It is pretty exciting." Jasper said.
Emmett put his hands on Jasper's shoulders and shook him. "Get pumped, bro!" Jasper just rolled his eyes. I laughed. I liked laughing. It hasn't been this genuine in years. Emmett rolled down his window and stuck his head out. "I love you, New York!" He yelled. There were a couple of guys in a car next to us and they cheered with him as we drove by. Emmett used to always be the life of the party.
After his little outburst we pulled up to the bar. I paid for the cab ride and we all went inside. There were a lot of people already there. The main floor was already littered with people waiting to see the bands that were going to be playing. It was open mic night, and a lot of locals came here, and some were really good. At least they used to be. I haven't been in years.
We all went to the bar first to grab a couple drinks. We started off with some beers and went to find a table. As we were walking, Emmett randomly yelled "Ay!" in a very drawn out manner. I looked over to where he was directing it, and I saw a group of guys—maybe five or six of them—sitting all in one general area. They moved the tables around to accommodate them.
"Oh shit, is that Mike?" Jasper asked.
"Yeah dude, come on, let's just sit with them." Emmett said. I didn't know any of those guys. I was kind of mad we were going to sit with them. I thought we were having a night out just the three of us, but I guess that wasn't going to happen now. I wasn't going to tell them though. This was their home, their element; I had no reason to tell them what to do.
So we made our way over there. They introduced me. Their friends all had simple names that were easy to remember. Mike, Jake, Tyler, Eric, Joe, John…you get the point. They were alright guys I guess. They were all talking about stuff I knew nothing about though. I tried to act interested and to fit in I, but it wasn't happening.
Or at least that's when you lose yourself for a minute or two…
So I just watched and listened and drank as a waitress kept bringing beers. They were talking about sports and the guys at their respective jobs that were douches. They talked about their wives and their kids. Emmett and Jasper didn't have kids yet, but you knew that it wouldn't be long now. They talked of old memories. The time Mike's five year old son threw up on Emmett. The day Jake tripped and accidentally knocked Alice into the pool. She punched him. Emmett apparently got drunk one night and streaked.
They had all these memories. All these great times they could share with each other. I tried to think of something of substance to share with them. I wanted to get their attention and have them interested in something I had to say.
The only memories I could conjure up, were memories that haunted me every night in my dreams. Memories that made up the darkest of my days.
Children with guns.
Children cowering away from me when I passed.
Children shooting guns….children being shot.
I would kill the mood of this little get together if I brought any of these things up. No one gets that stuff like I do. Yeah I had friends in the army, great friends actually, but they were at home with their wives and babies. Some were even dead. There was just me now.
My father is in jail and my mother is dead. I have no siblings or family. All I have is Jasper and Emmett, but they also had their own lives. Lives that haven't involved me in a real long time.
"I will be right back." I said to Jasper. He nodded and continued listening to Eric's story of how a guy at his work got his finger cut off. Sounds a little gruesome, but that was nothing compared to the things I've seen. I got up from my chair and walked to the bar in the middle of the room. I saw the first band was already almost done setting up.
"What can I get you?" The bartender asked.
"Just a glass of red wine, please."
As you stand under the bar lights…
I just wanted to have a glass of wine on my own for now. I already had three beers, and I knew I may regret this glass of wine, but I couldn't really find it in me to care right at that moment. I was a light-weight, and I knew it.
The guys would always give me shit because of it. While I was on base in Hawaii, some of the other guys took me out for my birthday to a bar. They were determined to get me a nice girl to have fun with and to just have a good time for once. There were plenty of girls, I had a lot of fun, but I drank way too much. I blacked out before anything too exciting could happen, and training the next day was like hell.
The bartender handed me the glass and I took a sip. I watched as the first band came out. People started clapping, but I didn't bother. I sat down at one of the stools with a good view of the stage. This band consisted of only two guys. One, on a piano and the other, on an acoustic guitar with the microphone in front of him.
They had my attention once the first note of the song started.
And the band plays some song about forgetting yourself for a while…
They were really good. It was an original song written by them and it was quite interesting. The guitarist only messed up a couple of times that I could tell, but other than that they were doing great. The song took an interesting change though when the music soon became upbeat. I watched as the people on the main floor started moving with the music.
There were couples dancing. The girls would wrap their arms around the guys' neck and they would just sway. Some were a little drunk and they were dancing obnoxiously. There were groups of girls dancing with each other. They were laughing loudly and having a good time…or just trying to get some guy's attention. Then there were…oh fuck.
I knew it was her. She looked different, but that is what eight years does to a person. The difference wasn't bad at all. She was absolutely breathtaking just like the first time I saw her. Her hair was longer. Her face more aged and less child like but, I met her when she was nineteen so that was excepted. She was a woman now. She was hardly recognizable, but there was one thing that stood out. It was something that drew me to her, and gave me the courage to talk to her in the first place.
And the piano's this melancholy soundtrack to her smile…
She was smiling a lot at that moment. She was facing a man. I didn't know who he was, but I immediately didn't like him. She wasn't touching him, he wasn't touching her, and I didn't even know if they were together, but just the fact that he was talking to her, and he had a nice view of that beautiful smile, made me jealous.
She was so carefree, that much I could tell from where I sat. She had always been carefree; it was just another thing that had drew me to her. I was never really able to be carefree like she was. I was always insecure and shy and felt like an outsider. I had little to no family. My Dad was always in and out of jail which didn't help my image issues. Especially during the time I met her, I was in the Army Reserves. I was scared shitless that I would be called into active duty. I was uptight. She was everything that I wasn't, yet I never felt more myself than when I was with her.
And that white dress she's wearing, you haven't seen her for a while…
She was wearing a white dress. It stood out to me because it reminded me of the first time we made love. She was nervous, I told her we didn't have to, but she said she wanted to feel me and make sure I was real. She said she didn't want anything as much as she wanted me. How could I say no?
She was wearing a white dress similar to the one she has on now. I remember standing with her and kissing her. Her hands were in my hair and mine on her hips, holding her close. She took my shirt off and I needed to get her dress off so I could see her. All of her. Every beautiful and stunning part of her I needed to see. She was absolutely flawless in my eyes.
I watched from a distance a while longer, not even caring that I may seem like a stalker. I haven't seen her face in over eight years. I thought I would never see it again. Like she hadn't been sure I was real, I had the same feelings about her right now. But the feelings I had while I was with her could never be mistaken as imaginary. The amount of happiness and love I felt when I was with her was enough to make me explode. We had so many plans and they all came crashing down around us with a single phone call.
The pain I felt was another unmistakable feeling. The agony, anguish, and the misery that came along with leaving her and knowing I would never see her again was sometimes more than I was able to handle. I had to stop the memories or I might possibly throw up right here. I was a mess and got sick more times than I could count when I thought about the possibility of never seeing her again. That was only the first year though. After a while, I just decided to completely block any memory of her from my mind. It took a while, but it worked for me.
Until, I just couldn't take it anymore and I caved. After a few months in Iraq, I begged for a phone call home. I was able to get one. I called one of my friends that I knew from the base. He was a reservist like I was, he was still free from having to deploy so far. He was a genius with computers and hacking. He could locate anyone's number and address or anything really. I asked him to get Bella's number for me. He had it in less than five minutes. And then I called her…
"Hello?" There was a man on the other line. Edward began to panic thinking that she had moved on. He knew that couldn't happen. He needed her.
"Hi…um…is Bella there?" He asked.
"Who is this?"
"This is Edward Cullen, who is this?"
"This is Bella's father. Please don't call here again, she is dead."
I never could understand why he told me that. It freaked me out, so much that I had a panic attack right in the tent I had made the call in. He was wrong though. I knew he was. I would have felt it if her presence wasn't on the face of the earth anymore. I had my friend do some more snooping and he confirmed her father really was lying. She was alive. When I finally got in touch with her, she cried, I cried. I was about to tell her I loved her and missed her when the phone went dead…
I immediately called her back…
"Edward?" She asked hopefully.
"Yes, it's me. What happened?"
"My father. He doesn't want me speaking to you. He is going to unplug the phone again." She was living with her parents. She needed their financial support if she was going to get through medical school.
"Why? Why is he doing this?" Edward didn't tell her about the previous call and her father saying she was dead. Edward thought that was a pretty sick thing for a father to do.
"He doesn't want me to get hurt. He says dating a soldier will only get me hurt. I don't agree with him though, love, just know that." She said. She was speaking fast so she could get every word she could in. She missed him terribly.
"I know, Bella, I know that. Maybe if I were to speak to him? I want to be able to call you."
Bella was crying. He could hear her over the line. "I want you to be able to call me too. I miss you so much."
"I miss you too, beautiful, so much." He placed a hand on his aching head. He had a bad feeling this would be the last time he would be able to speak with her. He didn't want to make her father even madder at him. "Will you try to talk to him?"
"Of course I will." She paused. "He's coming, Edward. Be safe, okay? Be safe for me. I love you so much. I love you."
"I love you, too." He said. He waited for a reply, but there was none. Only the sound of a click. A final click.
That was the last time I spoke to her. I called her back every time I could, but there was never an answer. I wrote her letter after letter but never received a response. I contacted my friend again, and he searched, and searched, but he couldn't locate her at all. It was like she never existed. Her father must have known how to make her disappear. He was a politician in Missouri. He had higher connections than I had so I never got to hear her beautiful voice ever again. Or see her beautiful face.
That was until now.
She looks over at me. At least, I think she did. She looked in my direction with a curious expression on her face. She probably didn't recognize me…or maybe she did, but didn't care.
She looked over my way again. I think recognized me.
But you know that she's watching…
I don't look back at her. I don't want to put her in an awkward position. For all I know, she could be married to the guy she's standing with. They could have a couple of kids. They could be happy. She wouldn't want me to ruin that. I wouldn't want to ruin that for her. She deserved to be happy.
I knew she had felt the same way about me as I did her…well I at least hoped she had. If I hadn't had other obligations, I would have stayed with her in Missouri in a heartbeat. I would have been able to prove myself to her father face-to-face. I had nowhere else to go. She was where I was supposed to be. Well that's what I thought at least. Actually, I still think that, but I just don't think it is be possible anymore.
She looked too happy.
She's laughing, she's turning, she's holding her tonic like a cross…
I came with too much baggage now. How could I ever taint her beautiful spirit and presence with my fucked up head? I haven't had a decent night's sleep in I don't even know how long. I attend a therapy session twice a week. Some days the memories hit me like a ton of bricks, and I simply can't function. At one point, I had lost tons of weight and had a hard time gaining it back because I couldn't keep anything down. I spent two weeks in the hospital alone recovering from malnutrition and dehydration. The doctors were trying to get my nutrient levels up since I had nearly starved myself to death. I didn't mean to. I really didn't.
I didn't want to die. But eating wasn't an option at one point.
"Edward? Edward can you hear me?"
"No, son, this is Dr. Winters. Can you hear me?" The doctor placed a hand on the man's shoulder."Do you have any family we could call?" The doctor was concerned about the survival of his patient, and didn't want him to be alone if he were to die.
"How is she related to you? She isn't listed on your contact forms."
"She's…she's…" Edward started coughing.
"Let it out. Take your time." The doctor brought a cup of water to Edward's lips. He tipped the cup and Edward drank as the cold water fell into his mouth and some down his chin. He was shivering. "Now, who is Bella to you?"
"She's my life."
I looked back over in the direction of where she had been standing, but she wasn't there anymore. The man was, but she wasn't. This moment was kind of like the first time I saw her. I was out with some of the guys at the base in Missouri. Being in the reserves, I had two weeks annual training, and I was in Missouri. It had been a long day of training, and practically every muscle in my body hurt. I didn't really make any friends my first couple of days because I was quiet and shy, but I wanted to go out and get away, so I went to a bar nearby that I had heard a few of the guys talking about.
There were a lot of people there. There were some guys from my base that I recognized, but they paid no attention to me. I was glad. If I had been with them, that beautiful girl who later in the evening sat up next to me wouldn't have shown me a bit of interest.
"What can I get you, soldier?" The bartender asked Edward.
"Just a beer, please." Edward said quietly. The man had to strain to hear his words. The bar was alive with people. Some were laughing, some just talking loudly, but most just talking and dancing and having a great time. Edward sat at the bar thinking about the army. He was in the reserves and he was still on the soil of his home country. He was safe, but he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that made him uneasy.
"Well if it isn't Bella times two!" The bartender said jovially. Edward was uninterested until he heard a laugh that sent chills up his spine. Though, he didn't dare look up.
"How's it crackin' Sir Jackin?"A woman replied. Edward smiled, but covered his mouth so no one could tell he was listening.
The bartender laughed. "I haven't heard that one before."
The woman laughed. Edward got a chill. "Sorry, it was the best I could come up with! I will think of something better for next time." She said.
"Whatever you want to call me is fine, pretty lady." The bartender said. He wasn't particularly flirting, he was just really friendly and that is why he was such a great bartender. "What will it be tonight?"
"I'll have whatever he's having." She said pointing to Edward. She sat down at the stool beside him, and Edward felt her presence close in on him. It was like his body was a live wire. He looked over at her and his breath was taken from him when he saw her smiling at him. "Hi. I'm Bella."
"Hi, Bella." He said softly.
Bella smiled fondly at him. "Are you here alone?"
"Uh…yeah, I guess I am."
He looked at her with a quirked eyebrow. "Excuse me?"
"I said liar. You aren't alone. I am now officially your partner in crime at this fine establishment on this fine night."
Edward chuckled. Bella laughed along with him without taking her eyes off of him. "Well that sounds nice…I guess." He said.
"I think it sounds fuckawesome!" She said. Edward laughed and almost choked on his beer at her colorful expression. "Would it be alright if I knew my partner in crime's name?"
"You really shouldn't be sitting here alone, Edward."
"How do you know? I could be a creep."
Bella laughed. "No. You are most definitely not a creep."
"Oh, really? And how, my partner in crime may I ask, can you know for sure?"
"I just know these types of things."
"Like a psychic?"
"I like to think of it as more of a sixth sense. When I think of a psychic, I think of some Madam Cleo chick who is only trying to get your money. Do you see me charging?"
He laughed. "No."
"Well then, sixth sense it is."
"Do you see dead people too?"
She laughed. He reveled in the sound. "Nope. But I can see other things."
"Oh, yeah? Like what?"
"We are going to be great friends."
She was only partially right. We became great friends, but it turned into something so much more. Something that even to this day I held close to my heart.
I was only supposed to be in Missouri for my two weeks, but I stayed after my training was complete. I pushed to transfer bases from New York to Missouri. So I could stay there and not worry about traveling back one weekend a month for duty. Bella and I really were great friends for the two weeks we were together. I smiled more with her in those two weeks than I ever remembered having smiled my whole life. We met at the bar every night after I was done for the day and then we would go for a walk and just talk…
"So why do you want to be a doctor?" Edward asked. They were both walking in the dark around a nearby park bundled up in coats. It was cold out, but that didn't stop the two from enjoying their time together or breaking their tradition of walking with each other.
"I love people. I have always wanted to do something to help them, and being a doctor seemed like the best way for me to do that." The irony wasn't lost on Edward. Bella wanted to be a doctor to save people, and he was in the army where he was probably going to kill people at some point. It wasn't something he technically wanted to do, but it was a necessity, unfortunately.
"That's really nice, Bella."
"Thanks. Plus, I like science, and I am not the least bit squeamish with blood and all of the other stuff. It fascinates me."
"Blood fascinates you?"
She laughed. "Yeah I guess, but not in a creepy kind of way. I mean just think about it, you are filled with blood and your body is able to maneuver it in a way that it doesn't all fall to your feet every time you stand up! That is so amazing!"
"I guess I never thought of it like that." Edward said thoughtfully. He never really thought about the make-up of a human being that much. But when you really sit there and think of all it is capable of, it does tend to blow your mind.
Bella linked her arm with Edward's. "So what about you, my partner in crime? Why did you join the army?"
He sighed. "I'm not going to lie. I mostly did it out of necessity for me and my circumstances at the time."
A look of concern made its way across Bella's face. "What do you mean?"
"When I graduated, I had a full ride scholarship to any school of my liking, mostly based on the fact that I was emancipated, and pretty much alone."
"You were emancipated?"
He nodded. He noticed a bench close by, and led her to it. They both sat down. Bella faced Edward. "Yeah. I chose to be. My mother died when I was eight and my father was in and out of jail my whole life. When he was in jail, I had to stay with my neighbor who was around eighty years old. So when I turned sixteen, I knew I couldn't deal with it anymore, and I went to court to get emancipated, and they granted it."
"Wow." Bella said in wonder. "That must have been hard."
"It was. But I got a lot of help from the government so I wasn't living too badly." He sighed. "Well, like I was saying, I got a scholarship, and ending up going to NYU. I ended up flunking out of my classes though because I was working too much and I barely had time to study so I lost my scholarship. Then right after that, I was fired so I was pretty much screwed."
"I'm so sorry to hear that, Edward." She reached over and surprised him when she grabbed his hand. She shifted herself closer to him and held his hand in both of hers on her lap. Edward looked down at their enjoined hands with a soft smile.
"It's okay. It sucked, but life sucks right?"
"Oh don't think like that." She said. "Life is a beautiful thing. Hard times are inevitable though."
"I know." I sighed. "Well, that was why I joined the army. I joined the reserves for the benefits. They will pay for me to go to school once I am out."
"It must have been a scary decision to make especially all on your own."
"Yeah, I mean I don't want to die, but now that I am in and it doesn't really bother me."
"How can it not bother you?"
He looked up at her, and saw the worry on her face. He reached his free hand up and pushed a piece of wayward hair out of her eyes and behind her ear. She closed her eyes at the feeling of his fingers on her face. "I have gotten to know some of the other guys since I have been here. I don't talk to them much, but I notice things about them. I hear some cry at night at the thoughts of being deployed. They have wives and children and families." He surprised Bella when he leaned forward and kissed her forehead. Edward was always the shy one in their relationship. Bella always started the conversations and Edward just went along with her. He continued, his voice cracked with emotion. "I would willingly give my life for any of them, Bella."
"Shh…" Bella said and put both of her hands on either side of his face. She passed her thumbs over his temples in a soothing manner. "You have to take care of yourself too."
"It's better me then them. That I am sure of."
A tear escaped from Bella's eye, and a whimper from her mouth. She pulled Edward's head towards hers and rested her forehead on his. "Please, don't say that."
"I have no one that would miss me. How do you think I would feel if one of them died when I was alive? A man with a daughter or son. The amount of pain it would cause is not worth my life."
"Please, stop saying stuff like that. I have only known you a short time, and it hurts me to hear you say that, Edward. Please. Stop."
"I am glad you told me what you were feeling, but you need to know that I do care about you. As irrational as it may sound. I care. Probably more than I should already."
"I care about you too."
"Then promise to fight for me, alright? If you get deployed, promise to try and stay alive."
"I will try my best." He said. Bella grabbed on tight to his face and pulled it closer to her so her lips were on his. Edward was startled at her forward actions at first, but otherwise returned the kiss he had secretly wanted to give her for a while. Her lips were soft against his and he savored in the feeling of them. He lightly put his hands on the sides of her face and angled her head in a way that gave him more access. He put his tongue to her bottom lip and she opened her mouth eagerly. She moaned softly and put her hand on the back of his head and felt his soft hair between her fingers.
"Edward…"She mumbled against his lips after she had pulled back for a small breath. He didn't answer, but pulled her face back to his and hummed. She laughed against his lips. "Edward."
He pulled away and sighed. "What?"
"I don't usually do this. You know, kissing guys I haven't even been on a date with."
"Woops. My bad." He said and kissed her lightly on the lips again. "Woops." He said. She laughed. "Would you want to go on a date with me, beautiful?"
She smiled and kissed his lips again. "Well, at this point, I think it goes without saying."
"So that's a yes?"
"That's a hell yes."
That day still remains on my list of top 10 best nights of my life. All of the nights actually involved her except for one. The other one was when I had been officially emancipated. It was hard living on my own, but it was the best decision I had ever made. I didn't need to rely on my dad anymore. Not that he was reliable in the first place.
I looked around the area Bella had been standing, but I couldn't see her. I tensed up. I swear she was just standing there. She was there right? I wasn't having… No, she was alive and she was there. I know she was. I had seen her. Why? Please don't tell me…that was her. She was there. I just know it.
I was on the verge of a panic attack when it all just went away.
The room is suddenly spinning, she walks up and asks how you are…
"Edward. It's really you." She said. Bella was right in front of me. It was clearly her. I hadn't been imagining her. Just her standing next to me put my whole body on alert.
She sat down on the stool beside me. She reached over and put a hand on my shoulder. She took a deep breath. "It's really you."
"Of course, it's me."
"My partner in crime." She said fondly. I looked at her and smiled. She gave me a watery smile in return. I saw the tears as they began to fall. I reached over and wiped them away. "How have you been?" She asked. There was a sort of deeper understanding between the two of us. Seeing her seemed out of this world, and I think she felt the same, but it was just so right.
I shrugged. "I have been alright."
"It's so good to see you're…you're…"
"Alive?" I asked.
She nodded sadly and looked down at her hands that were now resting on the bar. "Yeah. Alive. Oh man, that sounds so bad."
I shrugged. "It's a logical inquiry."
She laughed. "Always using the big words!"
I laughed. "I'm sorry."
I loved how comfortable and not awkward our conversation was. She walked right over and we were talking like there hasn't been eight years since the last time we saw each other. There was still a little tension though, but it was a tension that was always present. We were connected mentally and physically. I would always want to hold her or be close to her or hear her talk. It was how it was supposed to be. There were a million questions that needed to be asked, but we were content to just be.
"How have you been, Edward?" She asked with a hand on my back.
"Okay." I was getting close to being okay. I wasn't okay for a long while, but it all seemed even better now that I was actually seeing her. I couldn't believe she was actually sitting there in front of me after all this time.
"Yeah? Why do I feel like you're lying to me?"
I smirked. "Because, I am."
"Don't do that. How have you really been?"
"Not so good but I am getting there. I was a bit messed up when I got back from Iraq, but that was to be expected."
She sighed and rested her head on my shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I lived, didn't I?" She lifted her head and rested her chin on my shoulder so she was looking at me.
"You kept your promise."
"Edward, I am going to be honest with you right now."
I turned my head closer to her. My eyes locked with hers and I was lost. I still loved her. I don't know what I would do if she walked out of my life again. I might not have a choice though. The realization made dread flood through me. Life sucks, and then you die. Isn't that the saying? It sounds more like the predetermined destiny of my shitty-ass life.
"This doesn't feel real." She whispered.
She got up. "Come dance with me." She said.
I shook my head. "No…Bella, you know I hate dancing."
She finally smiled that smile I fell in love with all those years ago. She was knocking down my walls with just that smile. She knew what she was doing too. She was evil. She was beautiful. "Come on. I love your cute dancing."
I rolled my eyes. I took the final sip of my wine, and got up. I was right on the edge of being drunk and with her was intoxicating me with just her presence, I was defenseless. "Fine."
She squealed and took my hand in hers. She turned and held my hand from over her shoulder. She guided me to the dance floor. I felt like the luckiest guy in the room. I was not one for attention, but at the moment I wanted all of the guys in the bar to look at me walking with her. She was the most beautiful girl in the bar and I was with her. There wasn't anything wrong with wanting to flaunt that right? It was weird, I wanted everyone to know her beauty and her worth, but I also wanted her all for myself.
Once on the dance floor, she wrapped her arms around my neck, and mine made their way around her waist. We started swaying. We looked in each other's eyes, silently drinking each other in. I had missed her a lot.
So you can smell her perfume, you can see her lying naked in your arms…
"What are you thinking about?" She asked.
I took a deep breath. "I don't know. A lot of things I guess."
"Well, I was thinking of the first night we met."
I smiled. "Great night."
"Agreed." The band that was playing started playing a faster song, but we didn't let go of each other, as we continued to sway. We were too occupied in our own little bubble to notice everyone else in the bar. "Remember the time you tripped getting off that ride at the carnival?"
She laughed and pulled my hair. "You promised never to mention that again!"
"I know, but I lied, obviously."
"Remember that time you went to scare me in the grocery store and scared the cute little old lady instead?"
I laughed heartily at that. "She beat me so hard with her purse."
"You deserved it!" I just shook my head. She put her hands on my face and made me look at her. "Sorry. I just really want you to look at me. I miss those eyes."
I smiled softly and looked at her. I leaned forward and rested my forehead against hers. I shut my eyes. I basked in the feeling of her here in my arms. Something I never thought I would have again. I remember a time when she couldn't bear to look at me. One of the worst days of my life.
Bella danced around the room. Happiness overtook her that day like most days. She cleaned up the apartment that she and Edward had rented together. They had lived in there for a week. Bella was folding Edward's clothes and left them in a basket in front of his bureau. She knew how he liked his. He had his own system for putting his clothes away, so Bella just left them there for him to take care of. She rolled her eyes are the peculiar nature of her boyfriend. But she adored it.
Edward was at training with his new unit. The training caused him to be gone most of the day, coming home at night. He never really did much when he did. He was usually very exhausted.
Bella knew this and that is why she tried to have everything spotless for him. Along with the exhaustion, Edward also got cranky, so Bella wanted to make sure everything was perfect to help avoid an argument or anything. Edward was naturally a sweet person, but he got easily agitated.
The phone started ringing, and Bella turned down the music and ran to get the phone.
"Good evening, ma'am. I am calling to speak to Edward A. Cullen. Would he happen to be available?"
Bella was about to say no when she heard the key in the front door. "Yes, he is walking in right now. One minute, please."
She saw Edward walk into the house. He was filthy and he looked like he would fall asleep on the spot. Bella hated to see him like that. She walked over to him and held out the phone.
"Who is it?" He mouthed. She shrugged. He sighed and took the phone. "Hello?" Bella watched as he face went from tired to alert in a second. "Oh yes. Good Evenin, Major O'Connell…" Edward walked past Bella and into the other room.
Bella didn't follow him. She knew it must have been an important call probably about his training. She went to the kitchen and looked at the Chinese food menu. It was Edward's favorite. She called in the order and started reading the magazine she had on the counter.
She jumped when she felt arms around her waist. She laughed and turned to Edward. "Hey!" She didn't get to say anymore or so much as look at Edward before his lips were on hers. She took the kiss eagerly. Edward put his hands on her face and kissed her deeply. His hands traveled down her body and over breasts. Bella moaned against his mouth. She deepened the kiss and slipped her tongue past her lips.
Edward growled and started grabbing at her shirt. He pulled away and took her shirt off. Bella barely had time to realize what he was doing before he grabbed her by the hips and sat her on the counter. Bella was panting as he kissed her neck.
"Edward…baby, what are you doing?"
"I love you." He said huskily into her neck.
"I love you too, Edward, but what has gotten into you…" She wasn't necessarily complaining. She always wanted Edward, but this was so out of character for him.
He pulled his head away and took his jacket and white, but dirt stained t-shirt off leaving him in a wife-beater. "Just let me make love to you alright?" He said, his voice shaking.
Bella knew something wasn't right by the tone of the voice and by his actions. "Edward, what's wrong?" He didn't answer. He kissed her again. She was temporarily defenseless feeling his lips on hers. Her body always responded when he touched her and this dominant and needy Edward was definitely making resisting him harder, but she knew she needed to. Something was wrong. She could tell by his face. "Edward…" She tried to push him off.
He groaned and stepped away from her. "Damn it, Bella! Am I not allowed to want you or something? Fuck!" He turned away from her and ran his hands through his hair.
Bella was stunned at his outburst. She got down from the counter and picked her shirt back up. She slipped it over her head. "What's wrong, honey."
"Nothing. Just fucking nothing." He started to walk away.
"No." Bella said and pulled on his arm. "You are not walking away from me." Bella was worried. She knew something happened on the phone because Edward never spoke to her that way.
Bella let go of his arm like she was burned. "What do you mean?"
"What? What do you mean?" Her head was spinning. What was making him act like that?
"I got called in."
Silence. Both were taking in the words spoken. They were that, just words, they didn't have meaning until it actually sunk in. First in their brains, then through their bodies, and then into their hearts. The words hit the both of them like a truck.
"No." Bella said when the words finally registered to her. "No! This can't be happening." She leaned on the counter closest to her as the room began to spin.
"I leave in two weeks."
Bella shook her head. "No. No, you are lying." She said in denial. For her, denying it was better than the truth. Anything was better than the truth.
Edward ran his hands through his hair and groaned looking at Bella. "Look at you, you're already hurting. I can't believe I let this happen. I shouldn't have…"
"Shouldn't have what?" She yelled. "Dated me? Loved me? Is that what you think?"
"Right now? Yes."
Bella put her hand over her chest. Her heart aching from all the blows it was taking. "I can't believe you just said that you wished you had never met me."
"Do you really think this is a better alternative?" He screamed. "I am going to Iraq in two weeks and the chances of me coming home aren't good. I could die."
She covered her ears. "Shut up. Please, just don't talk."
"I'm so sorry I did this to you, love. I will never forgive myself…"
"Edward…" She whimpered. She uncovered her ears and reached a shaky hand towards him. He held it gently. "I love you…I…" She looked at his face, but had to look away to save herself the hurt. When she looked at him, she only thought of one day knowing she would never get to see it again. "I can't imagine not being with you. Ever."
Edward brought his hand to her face. "You don't deserve this, love."
"I deserve you."
I tried not to think of that day anymore. She was here and smiling at me. Her smile made it all go away, all the pain, although the ache was still there.
"How did medical school go?" I asked.
"Amazing! You are now speaking to Dr. Isabella Swan." She said proudly.
I smiled so brightly my cheeks hurt. "Congratulations, Bella!"
She threw her head back and laughed. She wrapped her arms around my neck once again and hugged me tightly. I hugged her back just as tight. I wished we could stay this way forever. There was still so much I didn't know. What if she was in a relationship? What if she had children? A lot could have happened in eight years…
"That means a lot coming from you."
"What did you think I would say? You suck?"
She chuckled. "No, but your opinion has always been the most important."
We continued dancing. She had a tight grip on my neck and I around her middle. I wished the moment could never end, but there was no way of knowing. The thing that scared me the most was the idea that I would have to leave her again. The first time was hard enough…
Edward watched the clock on the bedside table. He needed to get up, he knew this. The plane left the airport at ten that morning; he needed to be there at eight…the clock read 7:20. It took 10 minutes to get there. He knew he had to get up and get dressed. He saw his ACU laid out on the bureau. He tried not to look, but they were his reality and future.
Edward could have got up from the bed, but he didn't want to. He wanted to continue feeling the woman that had her arms and legs wrapped around him. Her naked body flush against his own was too inviting a feeling for him to be motivated to get up.
She slept soundly. They were up for a long time the night before. Edward thought back on their night of showing each other their love before they wouldn't get to anymore. They also made a painful decision the night before.
They were to part ways as single individuals.
The choice wasn't an easy one to make. Bella was against it 100% and put up a hearty fight, but their respect for one another won out. Edward didn't want Bella to wait around for him. He knew the possibilities of him coming back were slim. The last thing he wanted was to give her false hope.
Bella didn't want that at all. She wanted to wait for him. She didn't see how anyone else could live up to Edward. She knew in her heart he was it for her, but she also respected his request. It didn't mean she would give up on him though… no… never… not going to happen.
As Edward watched the clock click to another minute, he knew it was time. He looked down at the woman in his arms and traced a finger over her brow, then her eyelids, her nose, her lips, and finally her chin. He gently took her chin in between his fingers and placed a kiss on her lips.
It took Bella a minute to realize her surroundings, but when she did, she woke with a start. She pulled away from Edward and sat up in the bed, holding the sheet around her. She looked around the room in a panic and sighed in relief when she saw Edward, who was looking at her with worried eyes. She bit her trembling lip and looked away.
Edward leaned forward and kissed the side of her head. He knew it would be hard on her; seeing him leave. He didn't even want to think about how hard it would hit him.
"I have to go soon. I'll just get dressed." She nodded her head without looking at him again. Edward pretended he didn't see the tear fall from her eye, and he kissed her again on the head before getting out of the bed.
He took a quick shower. He just had to wash up his body; he didn't really have much hair left to wash. There were no emotions going through his body. He couldn't let any of them control him.
He changed into his ACU's. He felt himself getting more and more nervous as he put on each part of the uniform. The image of himself in the mirror scared him but also made him proud. He was a soldier in the United States Army. He would be going overseas to protect his country. There was honor in that, but there was also pain. There was pain he didn't think he would be feeling if he hadn't met Bella. She was the only thing that truly mattered to him.
When he was finished getting dressed, he went out to the living room of their apartment. Bella was waiting for him now in pajamas. Edward's pajamas, but pajamas none the less. She wouldn't be going with him to the airport. They both decided it would be too hard on the both of them.
Edward looked at the clock. Only three minutes left.
Bella didn't look at him. Looking at him would only make everything real. He was leaving. She knew that, but it didn't mean she had to like it.
He noticed her distress. He felt it too, but he knew her pain was mostly his fault. She didn't deserve to feel it, and he did. At least, that's what he thought.
"I can't believe this is really happening." She said.
"I know." He said. "I wish it wasn't." He took the few steps towards her. Wary, yet anxious steps.
"Me too." Her voice cracked at the end with anguish. She took a sudden breath to hold in her emotions. She let the breath out slowly. "It hurts so badly."
"I know." He said. Stepping closer and closer. Just a reach of his arms and he would have been touching her.
"I don't like the idea of you thinking you don't have someone at home waiting for you." She said. Two minutes left.
"I don't like the idea of you missing out on life while waiting for me." He said back.
"You are my life."
"That's not true."
"Don't tell me what I should feel." She said through gritted teeth.
He reached for her. He took her in his arms and held her. She bit her lip. The tears were threatening to fall. Tears were meant for later. If she let them fall now, she wouldn't be able to see him that last few moments she had with him. She wouldn't get that last look at his face.
"I'm not telling you what to feel. I just want you to live. You didn't sign up for this…I did."
"Please don't leave me." She said in a sudden panic. She pulled away from him and reached for his face with cold, shaking hands. "There must be some way to get out of this right?"
"There's nothing I can do, love." He said while swallowing past the lump in his throat. He grabbed her wrists at his face. "Come here." He said. He pulled her closer and kissed her on the lips.
She tried. She tried to kiss him and she tried to hold back the tears, but the kiss only lasted a second before her tears started falling. "Edward." She choked out.
Edward pulled her to him. He held her close. "Shh…" He cooed into her ear. He stared at the clock on the wall.
"Be careful." She said.
"I will. I promise." He said; his words final, and meaningful. "I love you. I love you so much."
"I love you, too. More than anything. More than I ever thought possible."
"Just promise to be happy for me. I won't be able to sleep or function unless I at least know you are going to do that for me, love." A new tone of panic laced Edward's voice. The feeling of knowing he was about to leave the only home he knew to go overseas in the middle of a war zonecaught up with him. And the realization that he would probably never see the person that meant the most to him in this world again was killing him.
"I promise. But I will always be waiting for you. I promise to be as happy as I can without you. Don't worry about me. Worry about yourself." She said. Their bodies were as close as humanly possible. Edward feared he was holding her too tight, but she only held on tighter.
"I have to go."
"Alright, do you want to sit down? I know you hate dancing." She said.
I shook my head. "It's okay."
She chuckled. "Who are you and what you done with my Edward?"
And so there's a change in your emotions…
Her words were meant to be playful. Bella had always been so playful. We had spent more time having fun than we ever did fighting. We fought too, don't get me wrong. We argued. We said some mean things to each other. But they all didn't matter in the end. I was used to her playfulness, and it had started to rub off on me all those years ago. I had always been shy. Kind of socially awkward, but she changed that for me.
Now, I didn't know where we stood, and her words struck something in me.
Where did I go?
I didn't feel like myself anymore. Too many things had happened to me over the years. I didn't even know where my head was. In war, I did some things I wish I never would of had to do, but they had to be done. I had no choice.
What did I want to do with my life?
I didn't want to settle down just yet. That I knew. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see my country, for once. I fought in a war for my country and I hadn't even got to appreciate all its beauty. I wanted to see the world I so fiercely fought for and the country I pretty much gave myself to. I didn't regret it. I learned a lot, but the suffering overshadowed that. But it didn't have to. Not if I went and was able to find the good in life.
But what about Bella? She was the good in my life. Well…she had been. I wanted that again. I wanted her in my life again. It would make me incredibly happy to have her, but I just couldn't right now. Too much was going on. She was right…I wasn't myself. I hadn't been since that one night.
And all of these memories come rushing like feral waves to your mind…
"I'm right behind you, Cullen." Wyatt Dekker whispered to his partner. They had only been on tour together for five months, but the men had become best friends. The tour was Dekker's third, and Edward's first. Edward was thankful for Wyatt. He helped him on the nights that he was really missing Bella and Edward helped him when he was really missing his wife and two year old daughter. The men always had each other's back.
"I don't see anything." Edward whispered. They were sent to look for any potential bomb threats. Some were planted in the ground and some were hidden. They were also patrolling for any pedestrians that sometimes hid and waited for soldiers to come by. Some were out to kill and some were just homeless and asking for food. Either way, the men had to check. They had their guns ready for anything.
"Edward! Don't!" Dekker screamed.
It was too late. Edward stepped through a line that was scaled above the ground. Dekker ran as fast as he could and pushed Edward behind a nearby tree. Edward grunted at the force of the other man's body making contact with his. Dekker stayed on top of Edward, shielding his body from the explosion that happened mere seconds later.
Edward yelled in fright when he heard the ear deafening sound of the bomb going off. He could feel the heat of the flames even though Dekker had his body shielded.
After the explosion went off and all that was left were flames, Dekker moved off of Edward and pulled him by his clothes until Edward caught his footing and ran with him. They ran as fast and as far as they could to get as far away from the site of the explosion as possible. Another explosion erupted and the men could feel the heat of it as the second bomb went off closer to them.
"Edward! Come this way!" Dekker screamed. He grabbed Edward again and took him in a different direction. With it being his third tour, he knew the layout of bombs such as the one going off now. One bomb set off a whole bunch of others in the same general area. Dekker knew a way around them though and he pulled Edward in a direction that would protect himself and his friend.
Edward was on alert, but he was panicking. It was the first bomb he had ever seen go off and he knew he was close to dying only moments ago if it hadn't been for Dekker.
They ran and ran and ran.
"Dekker…" Edward said, his voice out of breath. "I can't…" He stopped and braced his hands on his knees, taking shaky breaths as he tried to get as much oxygen in his lungs as possible. It turned out to be quite difficult for him as he was winded from the running and from the panic he felt knowing he was a few inches from being blown to pieces.
Dekker stopped with Edward. He took deep breaths as he was winded too, but not as much as his friend. "I'm sorry, Edward. I forgot you aren't used to this yet."
"You're actually used to this shit?" Edward asked.
Wyatt nodded sadly. "It comes with the job."
"I'm not cut out for this, Dekker. I almost…oh fuck…" He tried to catch his breath, but it only got quicker as emotion started taking over. Edward had only cried when he left Bella and that was once. He never cried again. He shut down, but everything started catching up with him now. The realization that his life could end in the matter of seconds left him in a state of shock and dread. "I almost killed the both of us."
Edward pulled the gun off of him and threw it to the ground. He squatted down and tried to catch his breath once again.
"You did nothing wrong. You didn't know."
Edward's head snapped up to Dekker. "I should have known!" He screamed. He groaned. "This shit is so fucked up, man." He buried his face in his hands and tried to bite back his tears.
Dekker put his gun on the ground. He walked over to Edward and squatted down in front of him. Edward was still just a kid to Dekker. He knew what he was feeling and he wanted to help him. He put his hand behind Edward's neck making sure he looked at him.
"I know this shit is fucked up. There is nothing glorious about being here. But trust me, when you get home and you see your family and you see how everyone looks at you walking through the airport with your uniform on, everything is just worth it. When I went home from my first tour, I can't even tell you how many people stopped me just to thank me and shake my hand. What we are doing is one of the most honorable things a person can do. Just always remember that, kid. You being here will protect millions. You're job is important."
"But what if I mess up again and I end up hurting someone else...don't these guys matter too?"
"We know what we signed up for. No one will blame you."
"Dekker your daughter! I could have just taken away her father…how can I ever live with myself after…she's so small…" Edward couldn't take it anymore, and he let some tears fall and his body shook. Dekker pulled Edward towards him and brought Edward's head to his shoulder and put a hand on his back.
"My baby girl knows I love her. Just worry about yourself out here. If you can save someone along the way, fine, but in the end you only have yourself. You will do fine, Edward. I know you have it in you." Dekker took a deep breath and rubbed his hands on his crying friend's back. "But Edward, if anything does happen to me, make sure when you see my wife and daughter, you let them know I love them. I love my country, but I will always love them more."
Edward wanted to tell him no. He wouldn't promise that because he knew for a fact that he would get out of it and get to tell his daughter that himself, but he knew that wasn't what Dekker needed to hear. They both knew there was a possibility of them dying, but having that assurance that their families knew the extent of their love was something that got them through.
"I promise." Edward said.
Dekker nodded and patted Edward on the back before getting up. "Oh my God…" He said and Edward looked up just in time to see his friend sink to his knees. Edward saw the back of his head had a crimson red hole in it as the blood poured out.
Dekker fell forward face first into the dirt and the shooter was a revealed.
Edward nearly threw up at the sight of the small child holding Dekker's gun. Tears were falling down the little boy's face as he held the rifle with shaking hands.
Edward got up from the ground. He held his hands up in surrender to the boy. Edward knew he would let the boy kill him before he even thought about shooting the boy. He knew that with being here in Iraq he would have to kill, but he refused to shoot children.
"Hey, just give me the gun. I won't hurt you."
The boy backed up at Edward's words. Edward felt dizzy. His brain couldn't even comprehend that his friend just got killed by a boy no older than probably twelve years old.
The boy was sobbing. He didn't want to kill the man, but he just did what he thought was right. He did as he was taught. He started screaming at Edward in a language Edward didn't understand. Edward backed up slowly, hands in the air.
"I won't hurt you!" He said over and over, but the boy didn't understand him.
Edward stepped forward and the boy shot the rifle, but with his shaking hands, he missed Edward. At seeing his fault, the boy dropped the gun and ran in the opposite direction of Edward.
Edward looked after the boy in shock and debated if he should run after him. He hated children had to be put in those situations and he knew Dekker felt the same way.
He looked behind him at his friend still face down in the dirt. The truth of the situation caught up with him and he ran to Wyatt's side. He rolled him over and had to look away. His eyes were still open with the hole in his head which still had blood pouring out.
He pulled Dekker close to him and held him. He cried, sobbing holding his dead friend close.
"I'll tell them. I promise I'll get out of here and tell them you loved them." He whispered.
"Edward, are you okay?" Bella asked in concern.
"I don't know." I shook my head and held onto her tighter. I needed to think of something else before I had a panic attack. I could feel I coming on.
"Something is wrong, don't tell me there isn't. I know you, Edward."
I shook my head, "No. I've changed."
"I don't think so."
"You don't know anything about me, Bella." I said forcefully. I didn't mean to scare her, but I did. I could tell when she pulled away and looked at me with her eyes lined with unshed tears.
"Don't say that." She said. "You remember what you promised me?"
Of the curl of your bodies, like two perfect circles entwined…
Bella woke up to tapping on her forehead. She tried to act like she was still sleeping, but she knew he would just keep going until she woke up. He did it just to tease her. She told him a story about how whenever she would babysat her younger cousins, they would wake her up by poking her on forehead and it always annoyed her, so he decided to do the same thing when he was feeling playful. She didn't feel so playful though.
She opened one eye and saw the mischievous grin on his face. "Stop it." She said.
He chuckled and wrapped his arms tighter around her. He pulled the covers up more so she wouldn't get too cold.
"Good morning, love."
"Good morning, Edward." She said. She opened her eyes despite her slight annoyance. His smile and soft green eyes diminished all annoyance.
"I would kiss you, but my breath stinks."
"Ew…yeah, we definitely don't want that."
"Wow, you really wouldn't kiss me with bad breath?"
"If I really had to, but right now I am kind of mad at you for waking me up like that, so I shun you and your kisses until you get to brushing." His face fell and she instantly felt bad. "Oh I was just kidding!"
He shook his head. "It's not that."
"What is it then?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Talk about it." She said.
He sighed. "I leave in a week. I just realized how close it really is."
She sighed. "Are you scared?"
"You have been trained so well, and you have good instincts. I know you will do great, baby."
"It's not about dying that I am afraid of per se…it's more like losing myself. I hear a lot of stories about guys who come back and have a hard time even functioning in society. What if I turn out like that? What if I come back a man you hate?"
"You don't know that."
"Edward, it is impossible to lose yourself completely. You will always be in there, if for some reason you come back and you feel lost, just try and remember who you are. Try and remember right now." She got closer to him; their bodies flush against each other. "Just remember, I love you. I always will."
He kissed her forehead. "I'll try."
"I will be here, Edward, so promise me you will always remember who you are, and never doubt that I will stop loving you."
He nodded his head. "I promise." She looked up at him and kissed him on the lips, bad breath and all because it was a part of him. He would always be around. She knew it.
I understood where she was coming from, but it wasn't that easy. When I got back from Iraq, I was a mess. I volunteered for every tour until my eight years were up. I had barely any time in between. After Wyatt died, I only came back to the states for his funeral where I met his beautiful daughter and wife. I relayed his message to them. His wife cried as I held her and his baby girl cried with her mother.
I didn't bother going to see Bella at that time. I didn't know where she was living, and I already felt myself drifting away. I didn't want her seeing that side of me, so I asked to go back to Iraq as soon as I could. I wanted to help fight in the war as long as I could. I did it for Wyatt, and I did it for everyone else in my country. I figured Bella was better off without me, and I still felt that way.
If she knew what I was like a year ago, she would have run away without looking back. I was in a mental hospital. I saw my dead friend everywhere I went and I had panic attacks at the smallest noise. Seeing Wyatt was the worst though. I saw him everywhere. I talked to him, he talked to me, and it was like he was real.
The worst part was that at one point, I truly believed he was real.
The doctors said it was a part of the post-traumatic stress disorder and a whole lot of other mental problems soldiers acquired after so many tours of duty.
And now I was back. I was in my hometown with my friends, and the girl I loved more than my own life, and I didn't feel right. I didn't feel I could give her or Emmett and Jasper for that matter any valuable time with me.
I didn't feel like me.
And you feel hopeless, and homeless, and lost in the haze of the wine…
"Edward?" She asked.
"We can't be together again, Bella." I said. My heart broke even more at each word. It was better my heart than hers though. I needed to find myself, like she said.
"No. Don't say that." She said.
"It's true. I'm not the same anymore. It's been over eight years…we aren't the same people."
"Then we can take it slow…I can't just walk out of here and act like I never saw you. I still love you after all these years. I've had a couple of boyfriends, but I always ended up ending it because I wasn't able to give them all of me. It's because I belong to you. We belong together, how can you not see that, baby?"
She put her hands to my face but I pushed them away. "I can't do this, Bella." It hurt to say the words because I did love her. I loved her so much. How couldn't I? I remember the nights I would cry to myself because I missed her so much and I could still remember the utter pain I felt when I thought she was dead. How her father could ever say that, I will never know.
I turned away from her and headed back to the bar. I hoped she would just leave it alone, but I should have known better. When I was at the edge of the dance floor, she pulled on my hand.
"Wait." I turned towards her. She wiped away some of the tears that had fallen. "I think you're just confused." She said. She reached her hand in my jean pocket and took out my phone. "I'll give you my number. I respect your decision, Edward, but I know you will change your mind." She started adding her number to my phone. She handed it back to me and took out hers. "Can I have yours?" She asked.
I felt so horrible. I didn't even know what was going on, but I knew I couldn't be what Bella needed. Not yet, anyway. I just got back out of the hospital a week ago. Who knows if I would relapse or one day go bat shit crazy on her…or if I would hurt her… No. I couldn't let that happen, but I didn't want to hurt her. I nodded my head and gave her my number.
"Will it be okay if I call you sometime?"
She nodded her head and put her hand on my cheek. "I guess I should go. I came with a friend of mine and he is probably wondering where I am." She leaned up and kissed my forehead. "I hope to see you again, Edward."
"I'll give you a call." I said.
She nodded and turned away from me.
And she leaves with someone you don't know…
I looked after her trying to decide if my decision had been the right one. I couldn't give her everything she needed. That wasn't a bad thing right? I just got back from war and out of a mental hospital…I needed time to regroup myself. I knew it was unlikely she would wait for me forever, but I still hoped she would. If it was meant to be, it would be.
I looked over to the direction she had walked away. She walked up to a man who was talking with another girl. When he looked at her, his faded away when he saw she was crying. Crying because of me. He took her in his arms. They exchanged words, and he put his arm around her waist, said something to the girl he was talking to, and they turned to leave. She looked back at me.
But she makes sure you saw her, she looks right at you and bolts…
She blew me a kiss. Her face wet with tears. It killed me to have to hurt her like that, but it was better if we waited. It would be foolish to just jump back into things.
I turned away and headed back to the table where the guys were at. Jasper noticed me first. "Hey, Edward, what took you so long?"
"I went to the bathroom." I lied. I didn't want to tell them the whole story. They knew about Bella, but they probably just assumed it was long over because I never went back to her or spoke of her.
"Oh, alright. Well we were just going to order another round, are you in?" Emmett said. He was already a little tipsy. I could tell from his eyes and the lazy look on his face. I felt that I was a little drunk, but not drunk enough to forget.
"Yeah, count me in." I said.
Anything to take the pain and doubt I was feeling away.
As she walks out the door your blood boiling, your stomach in ropes…
I sat back in my seat. I tried listening to what they were talking about to take my mind off of Bella. Did I make the right choice? Was it really my choice to tell her what to do or make that decision on her behalf?
I didn't know, but I had to do this for me. I wouldn't be able to get back into a relationship with Bella until I knew I would be able to give her all of me. I couldn't keep her around if I knew there was a chance I would hurt her again.
A woman came with all of our drinks. I grabbed a bottle of beer and took a long swig, hoping it would make me forget. I debated on just deleting her number because having it there would be too much temptation. I took out my phone and looked for her number. It was there. I saw her name on my phone and I just couldn't bring myself to delete it.
I put the phone back in my pocket and looked up.
My breath left me.
It couldn't be.
"Are you okay, Cullen?"
"Wyatt." I whispered.
He laughed. "How are you doing man?"
I backed up away from him getting up from my chair and backing away further. "Get away from me." I said through gritted teeth. My heart rate picked up and my breathing became difficult.
"Edward, what are you doing, man?" Dekker asked. He looked hurt. I didn't want to hurt him too…but he was dead. "I miss you, Cullen. Feels like I haven't seen you in a while…"
"No!" I screamed. "Get away from me!" I felt a pair of arms grip around me from behind.
And then your friends say "What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."…
"Edward…" Emmett said as he held me back. "What's wrong, man? You don't see him do you?"
"What is he talking about, Edward?" Wyatt asked. "Why wouldn't you see me?"
"You're dead! You're not real." I brought my hands to my hair and pulled. "Go away… go away… just go away…"
Jasper ran in front of me. "Edward…it's okay…you're okay."
"Edward! How could you just act like I don't exist! I am right here! My daughter…she needs me."
I shook my head. "No, no, no, no…"
"Edward, you see him don't you?" Emmett asked. I looked up. He was right there. The bar was suddenly silent. Everyone was looking at me, looking at him. But there was nothing there.
"Yes." I answered. As much as I knew he wasn't real, in a small way, I still liked seeing him. In the beginning I would pretend he was real. I would make believe that nothing had happened and that he was still alive. He would tell me about his daughter and how she is growing up to be a beautiful little girl. He talked about her dance lessons and how she started playing softball...it was easier to pretend than to accept the truth.
"Edward...don't leave me alone. Don't turn your back on me. I'm alive! How could I be talking to you right now if I wasn't! Please…I just want to talk" He pleads with me.
"What is he saying, Edward? Don't listen to him. He's dead." Jasper said worriedly in front of me. I looked over his shoulder towards Wyatt. I did miss him. I told him more about Bella than I had to anyone else. Maybe he could help me decide if I made the right decision…
"I saw Bella today." I said to him.
"Edward…no he's not there, bro." Jasper said.
"Shut up! He's here! He's right in front of me!" I screamed.
"How did you see her? I thought she died?" Wyatt said.
"This is Bella's father. Please don't call here again, she is dead."
"He's not there, Edward. Please stop, man." Jasper pleaded.
"No." I said.
She wasn't dead. I just saw her.
But I was seeing Wyatt…and I know he's dead.
It couldn't be…
I turned to Emmett. "Emmett…I saw Bella."
"Bella? The girl you dated before you left? When did you see her?" He looked so worried and confused.
"Just then….when I went to the bar…didn't you see her?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I didn't see you with a girl…I saw you at the bar…you were alone."
"No…" I turned and looked back at Wyatt. I shook my head.
"Excuse me…is everything okay over here?" I looked at where the voice came from. It was the bartender.
"You! You saw her didn't you? The girl I was with…" I said.
He looked startled at my sudden outburst in his direction. "I…I don't remember seeing a girl…but I see a lot of people."
She wasn't dead. I knew it. It couldn't be. I took my phone out with shaking hands. Her number was there. I hit call. I put it to my ear.
"The number you are trying to reach is not available at this time…"
"Edward, what's going on, man? You're shaking like a leaf." Jasper said. He reached for my arm but I ripped it away from him.
"Don't touch me!" I yelled. Wyatt took a step toward me. "You stay away from me!" I screamed at him. Why wouldn't he just go away? He wasn't real…but Bella was. She had to be.
"Edward, come on. Let's go home." Emmett said. He looked like he was on the verge of tears. Just another person I was hurting. I needed to patch it up with Bella. She was real. If she wasn't real, than neither was I.
How could I have let her go?
"No! I need to find her. She was here!" I looked around. Everyone was staring at me. I felt embarrassed and scared. I needed to go find her. I ran. I ran past everyone towards the door. I ignored Emmett and Jasper calling after me. I made it outside and sucked in the cool air.
I didn't know where to go. I needed to go to her.
But where did she go?
And you walk under the streetlights…
I went to the right. I tried to look for her on the streets. I had no other idea on where she could have gone. I stopped some girls who were walking.
"Excuse me!" I said. They looked at me weirdly. "Have you seen a woman…she has brown hair and brown eyes. She is small and…"
"Whoa, whoa…dude you need to calm down. How are we supposed to know? We've seen a lot of girls that look like that." One of them said to me. They were right. How the hell would they know?
I just turned away from them and ran. "Bella!"
And you're too drunk to notice that everyone's staring at you…
I ran. I had to find her. She didn't leave the bar that long ago, so she had to still be walking. No one really uses a car in New York and Bella doesn't feel comfortable with public transportation.
I thought about being with her. She had held me. I had danced with her. I had felt her hand on my cheek and I had seen her tears. How could that not be real?
Edward curled into a ball on his side. He hated being in this place. All the walls were white and padded like he was some kind of crazy person. He must have been. The straight jacket made it impossible for him to move. He had a head ache. Having just gotten in a fight with one of the other patients, he was left feeling tired and ready to just give up. They gave him medication to calm him down. It didn't work.
"Are you comfortable, Edward?"
"No." He answered coldly.
The nurse sighed. "Dr. Wilson will be in shortly." She said sympathetically. Seeing soldiers like him so messed up hurt her heart.
"I don't care." He said.
She nodded and walked out of the room.
Edward stared at the wall opposite of him. All he could think about was wanting everything to just end. He hated his life. He wanted to go back to Iraq just so he felt he was doing something. Without the war, he felt he had no other reason to live. Everything just seemed so wrong.
"Edward, are you okay?" His head shot to where the voice was coming from.
"Dekker…" He said in relief.
Dekker walked over to Edward with concern on his face. He put his hand on Edward's shoulder and knelt down in front of him.
"You shouldn't be in here, Cullen."
"They won't let me out. I just want this all to end, Wyatt."
Dekker's face fell. He patted Edward's shoulder much like he did the day he died, but Edward fought back that memory. It couldn't be real if since Dekker was standing in front of him and touching him.
"I love you, man. Everything will be alright."
No. It doesn't matter if I could feel when Dekker had touched me. It was different with Bella. It had to be..
"Bella!" I screamed. I needed to find her. If I couldn't, I would lose my mind. I needed her. Why the hell did I let her go?
You don't care what you look like; the world is falling around you…
She was alive. I didn't see dead people. Only Dekker. But I had seen him get murdered right before my eyes. Bella wasn't dead. Her father had just said that so I wouldn't call back, but I did anyway. She had answered and we had spoken. She told me she loved me and missed me and needed me.
You just have to see her…
"Be safe for me. I love you so much. I love you."
"Bella!" I ran down another street. Something told me I was headed in the right driection. She had to be alive. I needed her back. I shouldn't have let her go. I was stupid to think I would be able to live a life without her. I wasn't myself because I wasn't with her.
When I was in the hospital, I thought I had no reason to live. I saw so many of my friends die while I remained alive. I think I now know why. I needed to stay alive for Bella.
You just have to see her…
"Edward! Stop man!" Emmett called. They had found me. I ran even harder. They would just make me stop. But I couldn't. I didn't care how crazy I looked. All I knew was if I couldn't find her and I discovered that she was dead…I didn't know what I would do. I couldn't even think about it because it just wasn't true. She was alive. She had to be.
You just have to see her…
So what if no one else saw her in the bar. I had seen her. That's all that mattered. She made me promise that I would fight to stay alive for her and I did. There was no way she would do that to me. She would have fought with everything inside her to stay with me and I know she did. There is no way in hell she could be dead.
You just have to see her…
But what if she was? A voice inside of me asked. It was a possibility. I was a mess when I got back from Iraq and all the doctors said it had all started when I set foot on Iraqi soil for the first time. I was paranoid just being there and I saw people get shot and killed all the time. I could have imagined our conversations just like I imagined my conversations with Dekker.
"You realize now that he isn't real, don't you?" Edward's psychiatrist asked.
"Yes. I know." He answered.
"Do you still see him?"
Edward shrugged. "Sometimes."
"That concerns me."
"I know he's not real it's just…"
Edward shook his head. He was embarrassed to even say the words. "I want him to be real. I miss him you know."
Dr. Collins nodded his head in understanding. "There comes a time, Edward, when you need to differentiate what is real and what is not. It's only then that you can move on. Dekker may not be real, but your love and respect for him is. I'm not saying to let that go, but let go of the idea that he is alive. It will only hurt you more in the long run."
My love for Bella was real though. I needed to go off of that. I was stupid to think that letting her go would be the best for us. If she was real, I needed to bask in that. I shouldn't be wasting my time thinking that it would be best if we were apart.
I was obviously still fucked up if I was seeing Dekker, but it didn't mean I didn't need her. I would always need her.
I just hope she was really alive and I wasn't crazier than I already thought I was.
You just have to see her…
I turned another corner. Emmett and Jasper were still calling after me. I ran down the street pushing past people. My running meant nothing. She could have been anywhere in New York by now, but something told me to keep going. I turned one more corner and ran straight into someone head on. I fell back and heard a startled yelp from the person I ran into.
I looked at the face across from me.
She had fallen as well.
Tears were on her face.
She looked beautiful.
"Edward…" I got up from the ground and pulled her up. I took her in my arms as my body shook. I wasn't crying. I was just shaking. I felt her warmth and smelt her all too familiar scent. She had to be alive. There was no way for me to really know. Did I really care though?
You know that she'll break you in two…
If I could hold her like this, I didn't care if she were dead or alive.
"Bella, I'm sorry." I mumbled into her neck.
"Baby…what's the matter?"
"Please don't leave me. I was stupid." I could barely breathe. I held onto her tightly. If it turns out she wasn't really there, I would have to deal with that later, but I needed to hold her as much as I could while I had the chance. Especially, if I was never going to be able to see her again.
"Shh…I was just heading back to you. I didn't even try to fight for you." She said sadly.
"I love you." I said.
"I love you too, my partner in crime." I looked over her shoulder and ran my hand through the back of her hair. I felt each strand slip through my fingers. I was convinced she was really there at least until I saw Dekker standing behind her.
"People are staring, Edward. You aren't holding onto anything. She's dead. You're holding the idea of her." He said.
"No!" I yelled. "You stay the hell away from me!"
"Edward?" Bella tried to pull away, but I wouldn't let her go.
"Don't go." I said.
"I'm not going anywhere, Edward. But baby, who are you talking to?" She asked. She tried to pull away again. I let her. She turned to look behind her. She looked back to me. "Who was there?"
She can't see him.
"You don't see him?" I asked.
"No…Edward you're scaring me. What's going on?" She said. I held onto her hand and pulled her to my side.
"I'll tell you about it later. I promise." I said to her. I kissed the top of her head.
"Edward, who are you talking to?" Dekker asked.
Wait…he can't see her either. So that means…
"Edward!" I looked behind me to Emmett and Jasper both looking at me out of breath from running after me.
"Emmett! Jasper! Please tell me you see her. You see her don't you?" Tears started falling from my eyes. It was the first time I have cried since Dekker had died. If they answered with a no, my world would cease to exist. I wouldn't be able to go on.
"Is that Bella?" Jasper asked. They walked closer and I could see them better. He had his eyes on her. He could see her.
I let out the breath I didn't even know I was holding and pulled Bella towards me again. She held onto me tightly.
"What's wrong?" She asked. I couldn't answer her. I was crying. I was so relieved. She was alive.
"Excuse me? Are you Bella?" Emmett asked.
"Yes." She answered. "What's wrong with him?" She asked.
"He's still pretty messed up. The war took a lot out of him." Jasper answered. I could barely hear him. All I felt was Bella beside me. She was all that mattered now.
"It's okay, baby. I'm here for you."
"I was so stupid Bella." I said.
"What do you mean?"
I pulled away from her and held her chin between my fingers. Her eyes stared at me and I leaned forward until her lips met mine. I kissed her softly. It was small, but it was enough for me to have no doubt in my mind that she was real and she was my reason for living. The reason I stayed alive through that war was because I needed to be with her. I belonged with her.
"I was stupid to think I could ever find myself without you." I said.
And then she smiled. Her beautiful smile that drew me into her since the day I met her.
She put her hand on my cheek lovingly.
"Thank you for coming back for me." She said. I kissed her again.
"You can't fight fate, my love. I was meant to come back to you."
I wouldn't fight this. In honor of all the men and women who lost their lives, and the families that lost the men and woman so dear to them, I needed to live my life to the fullest.
I had to live the life that they died to give me.
Thanks all for reading. Again, the song used for this one-shot is 'Sometime Around Midnight' by The Airborne Toxic Event. Go check it out, it is an amazing song that I never get sick of.
Special thanks to Kris (PrincessKris) for her beta'ing expertise! Thanks so much for doing this for me!
And of course a thank you to Alexa who pre-read this, and who is a real good friend to me. I love you homeboy!
I really hope you all liked this. This one-shot is a little over a month in the making, and I and so glad to finally share it with everyone.
Please leave some feedback and again, thanks so much for reading.