*3RD Place winner*
"For the Love of a Man in Uniform" O/S Contest
Title: With Every Breath I Take
Word Count: 3411
Summary: On the night of Edward and Bella's third anniversary, Edward, who is a firefighter, is sent into a burning building which collapses with him inside, leaving Bella at home to wonder if he will make it home alive.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Three years. It has been three years since I started dating Edward Cullen. It has been three years since I made the biggest mistake of my life that led me to the greatest man I have ever known.
Three years ago I caught my long term boyfriend cheating on me. For revenge, I decided to burn his clothes, including his favorite leather jacket, in the bathtub. It was an immature move, I know, but I was pissed. I chose the bath tub because I could keep the fire contained and have the water incase it got out of hand. Unknowingly to me, that was the same day they decided to replace some old water lines in the apartment building and the water was shut off.
Get out of hand would be an understatement. The clothes burned much faster than I expected and fire caught the shower curtain, which caught the wall, which spread through half of my apartment. I was scared out of my mind and worried that I would be arrested for arson.
As I was sitting in the back of an ambulance receiving oxygen for smoke inhalation, I saw him. I looked up to see a god of a man walking toward me in what seemed like slow motion. He was wearing a black fireman's uniform, with the yellow reflective stripes across the jacket, yellow suspenders, hat and all. When he came closer to me he took off the hat to reveal his bronzed messy hair and he had black ash smudged across his cheek. His green eyes peered into mine as he asked how I was doing. He introduced himself as 'Fire Chief, Edward Cullen', and I could have melted right there, no fire needed.
After I broke down crying and told him I didn't mean for it to get so out of hand, he assured me that everything would be fine. He told me that the fire got so out of control because of the oil on the leather jacket, I knew burning it was a bad idea. So the reason I started the fire was James' fault, and the reason the fire got so crazy was also his fault. Irrational thinking, but I don't care. He cheated on me, so I can blame him.
After he learned that I had no family here and the only friends I had where friends that I met through my ex, he called his sister who was eager to help me out. That was what led to me meeting my now best friend, Alice Cullen. She let me stay with her until the apartment was fixed up and I was able to move back in. Edward and I started dating a few weeks after the fire and life has been amazing ever since then.
Three years since my dumb idea to get back at my boyfriend, and now I am celebrating my three year anniversary with the man I met through my biggest mistake. I wouldn't take that fire back, even if I was given the opportunity.
That is what currently brings me to the kitchen making all of Edward's favorite foods. We decided that we were going to stay in for our anniversary this year. He told me he has something special for me so I decided to do something special for him and make his favorite meal of hand made Chicken Cordon Bleu, and garlic mashed potatoes. I even made a chocolate velvet cake for desert.
I was just putting the chicken in the oven when the phone rang. I smiled when I saw Edward's number on the caller ID.
"Happy anniversary, baby." I said as a greeting.
"Happy anniversary, to you too." Edward chuckled.
"Are you on your way home?" I asked. "I have been cooking your favorite dinner all day. I can't wait to celebrate with you."
"Oh, sweetie, that makes what I have to say even harder to tell you." Edward sighed.
"You're not coming." I stated sadly.
"No, I'm coming." Edward said. "I am just going to be a little late. There is a fire downtown, and all units have been called in."
"I understand." I said. I truly did understand. Fires happen, and he's the boss, and he loves what he does, so he has to be there.
"Please, don't be mad." Edward said.
"I'm not mad, Edward. I promise." I said hoping he believed me. "I will just reheat everything in a little bit so that it is hot when you get home. We can celebrate a couple hours later, no big deal."
"You're the greatest girlfriend." Edward said.
"Yes, I know." I laughed. "I will see you tonight, I love you."
"I love you, too." Edward said. "Forever and always, with every breath I take." He always says that ending right before he heads into a fire. He says you never know when it's the last time he can let me know how much he loves me. I try not to think of the fact that one fire could be his last, our last.
I put a lid on the potatoes and turned the burner off, but I left the oven on because the chicken would take awhile to cook anyways. I pulled the candles out of the drawer and placed them on the table, and put the flowers that Edward had given me this morning, in a vase and placed it in the middle of the table. I set the table with dishes, along with wine glasses so that it would be ready for when Edward got home.
After I was done setting the table, I cleaned up the kitchen, then moved into the living room and cleaned that also, just to keep busy for awhile. The house was clean before I started, but now it really shined. After I was done cleaning, two hours had passed. I put away the cleaning supplies and went into the kitchen to check the chicken. Since the chicken was done, I turned the heat down to low, just to keep it warm.
I decided that it was time to get myself ready, so I headed upstairs for a shower. The hot water of the shower helped to release the tension in my shoulders. I got tense every time Edward went off to a fire. I tried to keep my mind off it every time, but it wasn't easy. I would find things around the house to keep me busy like cooking and cleaning, which was why Edward usually came home to a five course meal and the cleanest house anyone has ever seen.
After my shower I dressed in the short black dress I had bought for tonight. I spent an hour in front of the mirror trying to get my hair just right. I kept putting it up then putting it back down, half up, swept to the side. Nothing was making me happy. Finally I decided that all up was fine.
I went into the kitchen and turned the oven off so that the chicken didn't dry out. After I had the oven off the doorbell rang. I smiled and headed towards the door.
When I opened the door my smile fell. "Alice?" I said questionably as I took in her appearance, she didn't look her normal made up self. She was wearing sweats and it was obvious she had been crying. Jasper was walking up behind her, with a look of sadness clouding his face.
"What's going on?" I asked nervously.
"Oh, Bella." Alice cried, flinging herself into my arms. "How are you holding up?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked. Alice was making no sense and scaring the crap out of me. Which was odd for the normally, happy bundle of energy that was Alice.
"Haven't you been watching the news?" Alice asked as they came into the house.
"No." I stated. "Should I be? What did I miss?"
"She doesn't know." Alice cried and threw her arms around Jasper who held her up.
"There was a fire." Jasper explained.
"I know that." I said. "Edward called to tell me he was going to be late for our anniversary dinner."
Alice started crying even harder.
"The building collapsed." Jasper said hesitantly. I waited patiently, willing him not to say anything worse. "Edward was…umm…he was in the building."
"No." I whispered as I sunk to the ground. It felt like my whole world crumbled at Japer's words. Alice sat on the floor next to me and we held each other as we cried.
This was the thing that I feared the most, every night while Edward was at work. It's hard not to picture the worst, and the worse is a building that is on fire…collapsing. My nightmares that plagued me were coming true. If only this were a dream, and I could wake up next to Edward, but I fear this isn't a dream. It's a real life nightmare.
We stayed like that, clinging to each other, crying, for what felt like hours, until I noticed Jasper had turned the television on. I jumped up off the floor and snatched the remote from his hand. I turned the TV off and looked at him apologetically.
"I'm sorry." I apologized. "I can't watch the fire on TV. Edward made me promise that I would never watch. I can't break my promise. I have to believe he is going to be fine. He is going to be fine. I know it."
"We have to get back home." Jasper said. "Why don't you come with us? Pass the time with us."
I knew Jasper and Alice had to get back to their son, who was probably sitting with the babysitter. "I will be fine." I assured him.
"No." Alice stated firmly. "We can't leave you alone. You really shouldn't be alone right now."
"I will be fine." I said. "I will stay here and wait for Edward. He will be coming home. I know he will. And he will worry if I'm not here."
Alice had a look of pain cross her face. She knew I was lying about being fine, and she knew I was giving myself false hope for her sake. But I truly did need to believe that he would be alright.
After I closed the door behind a reluctant Alice and Jasper, I turned around and sank down to the floor. "Please, come home." I whispered.
I sat on the floor staring at nothing for a long time. After awhile I stood up and walked into the kitchen. I thought about putting the food I had made into the refrigerator. I decided against it. I didn't want to put everything away and clear the table, like I knew Edward wasn't coming back. I needed to keep believing, and have hope, that he would be back.
I walked up the stairs and into our bedroom. I started picking up the clothes that Edward had taken off this morning. As I picked them up and placed them into the hamper I started crying again. I held his shirt against my chest and broke down.
I bolted off the floor when the phone started ringing. I ran down the stairs, still holding the shirt tightly in my fist. I answered the phone without looking at the caller ID.
"Edward?" I asked hopeful.
"Oh, sweetie, I wish it was." Esme sniffed. I could tell by the rasp of her voice she had been crying for awhile.
"Hi, Esme." I said. "How are you doing?"
"I have had better days." She cried.
"Me too." I whispered trying to keep the tears at bay.
"I can't lose my son." She said starting to cry uncontrollably. At hearing her cries I couldn't stop my own tears from tracking down my face.
I heard the phone shuffling and then Carlisle came on the line. "Bella, are you sure you're alright? We could come over there, or I could come get you and bring you over here with us."
"I'm alright, Carlisle." I lied. "I want to be here when Edward gets home."
"I hope he does, Bella."
"He will." I stated firmly. I had to believe that.
"Alright, well, I have to go take came of Esme, she is having a very hard time with this." He said, sadness in his voice and I could tell he was trying to keep himself together for Esme's sake.
"I understand that." I said.
"I'm sure you do." Carlisle said sympathetically.
After I got off the phone, I walked slowly back up to the bedroom. I sat down on the edge of the bed and broke down again, crying into Edward's shirt.
"Please, come home to me." I cried. "Please. Please, come home."
I chanted that over and over again as I paced the bedroom for what felt like hours.
It was just after two in the morning when I heard the front door slam open and then closed again. I held my breath as I heard someone running up the stairs.
I started crying all over again as I looked up to see Edward standing in the doorway to the bedroom.
"Bella." He whispered.
"Are you really here?" I asked.
"Yes." He said as he came closer.
I stood from the bed and threw my arms around his neck, crying into his chest.
"I knew you would come home." I cried.
"I had to come home; there was something I wanted to give you." He said.
I untangled my arms from around Edward's neck and furiously wiped the tears from my eyes. Edward turned around and dug through his dresser drawer.
Edward turned back around with his sexy half grin. "I wanted to do this a little differently. I wanted to be clean." He laughed. At his words I noticed his clothes, his shirt was filthy, his pants singed, his face and hands were black from smoke and ash.
"I wanted to do this on our anniversary, which I didn't make it back for. I'm sorry." He looked so sad.
"It's alright. I'm just glad you came back." I said.
He smiled and said, "After the night I have had, I need to do this now. There is never any better time than the present. And if I have learned anything today, it is don't waste the time you have."
I gasped as Edward dropped down on one knee in front of me. "Isabella Marie Swan, you are my best friend, my lover, my sole mate. You make me the happiest man in the world. You stand by me when I risk my life doing what I love. I would never, could never see myself with anyone else, and I see myself with you forever. I can't guarantee you how long forever is, but I promise to make you the happiest woman in the world with the time we do have. Will you marry me?" Edward opened the little box in his hand to reveal the most beautiful diamond ring I had ever seen.
I wanted to tell him how he had already made me the happiest woman, how I couldn't picture myself with anyone else either, how I saw myself with him forever also, but all I could manage was a squeaky, "Yes."
Edward slid the ring onto my finger and then stood scooping me up, wrapping me in a hug. His lips met mine and I was whole again.
"You scared me." I cried.
"I know." He whispered against my neck. "I'm sorry."
"Are you alright?" I asked while looking him over.
"I'm fine." He answered. "The paramedics wanted me to go to the hospital, but I told them I had somewhere better to be." Edward smiled a mischievous smile. "I really love this dress you are wearing." He said as he unzipped the back of it and slid it down to the floor. Edward sucked in a breath as he saw I had nothing on under it. "You are going to be the death of me."
"Don't say that." I said panicked.
"I'm sorry." Edward said while rubbing his hands up and down my arms. "I can't apologize enough for what you have gone through tonight."
"You don't need to apologize. All I did was worry; I couldn't even begin to image what you went through. What happened?" I asked as I rid Edward of his clothes.
"A rookie ran into the building after I told him not to." Edward said fiercely. "After I got to him, the left side of the building collapsed. His leg was trapped under a beam. After I got it off of him, I had to carry him to find a way out. I was having a hard time breathing because I ran into the building without my mask, which was a stupid move on my part, but I was in a hurry to get him out.
"We knew the building was going to fall before he ran in so I should have been prepared, but nobody foresaw him trying to be a hero that needed rescuing. I found a safe place for us to sit, well as safe as you can find in a burning building. After about an hour or so, I'm not really sure, I kept losing consciousness, they got the fire down enough so that the guys could come in and get us."
"That guy that ran in sounds like a real asshole." I said.
"He will be dealt with." Edward said. "He put not only himself, but the entire station in danger."
Edward lifted me up and laid me down on the bed, covering me with his own body. "I don't want to think about that right now. I just want to think about you and me."
I was going to respond until Edward covered my lips with his own. The kiss started soft and gentle at first and then becoming more frantic and heated. Edward kissed across my jaw and then down my neck as I tried to catch my breath.
Edward kissed down my chest, down to my belly button and then back up, taking my hardened nipple into his mouth as he reached my breasts. As he licked and sucked on one breast he cupped the other one in his hand and then switched, giving both the same attention.
"When I was in that fire, wondering if I was going to get out alive, it was like you were there with me." Edward said as he settled himself between my legs. "I swear I could hear you begging me to come home."
"I was." I said as a tear rolled down my cheek.
"See." Edward smiled. "We are sole mates. Destined to be together, and linked forever."
"Promise me you will always come home." I begged.
"If I could promise you anything, it would be that, but I can't." Edward said. "But, I will promise you that I will always do everything in my power to come home. I will never give up."
"I promise to always be here waiting for you." I said as I wrapped my legs around Edward's waist.
"I would do anything for you." Edward said as he pushed himself into me. We both moaned at the feeling of being connected mentally and physically. "If you asked me to quit and get a different job, I would."
"I could never ask you to do that." I said as I lifted my hips to meet Edward's thrusts.
Suddenly Edward sat back on his legs, pulling me up with him, our chests flushed together. "I need you closer." Edward said against my neck. "Always closer."
I smoothed my hands up and down Edward's back as I bounced on his lap. I avoided touching his neck once I saw the angry red welts he received from the fire. Edward's head bent down as he took my nipple into his mouth.
"I love you." I said as I got close.
"I love you, too." Edward said as he captured my lips with his and we came together.
I snuggled against Edward's side as he pulled me closer. "Thank you for coming home." I whispered.
"I will always try." He whispered back. "There is nowhere else in this world I would rather be."
"I love you." I said as I started to drift off to sleep.
"I love you, too." He said. "Forever and always, with every breath I take."