If shame had a face I think it would kind of look like mine
If it had a home would it be my eyes
Would you believe me if I said I'm tired of this?
-Lifehouse- Sick Cycle Carousel
Stumbling in at well past one in the morning, tripping on the evenly carpeted floor, and the only sign of life is the sound of his own erratic heartbeats and the roar in his ears that sounded almost familiar at times. All else is obliterated, faded into insignificance.
…such a fucking failure…
He staggers onto the couch and stares at his knees, attempting to refocus. The world is blurred at the edges, his home unrecognizable save for the minor details, the empty box of cereal lying inexplicably on the floor, the wires that ran along the floor like deadly vipers, and the books and CD's everywhere.
He sits, wide-eyed and cataleptic, not daring to relive the night. His fingertips are numb, his throat dry and scratchy, his knuckles white around the material of his jeans. He attempts to relax his grip, but his fingers are unwilling, continuing to squeeze the inside of his thigh with an iron grip. Maybe, if he causes himself enough pain, he will wake up and this ghastly nightmare would be over.
Later, he realizes that he was listening. He almost could hear it, that familiar series of noises; the abrupt cessation of angry drumbeats of a stereo, the creak of the door. Footsteps padding almost silently towards him, and the voice that called him a useless fucker or anything of the sort.
He was still listening when he fell asleep as he was, the silence of the apartment forming a black hole that dragged him in, slowly, inexorably.
Sunlight. Blinding, strangling sunlight, shattering the windows.
Edward makes a small noise of frustration and re-shuts his eyes, but it's no use. The inside of his eyelids are a bloody red. The steady sledgehammer of a first-class hangover was beginning its rhythm behind his temples. His sister's doppelganger – the one who took up residence in his head- crosses her arms. Such a fucking failure, she says. It's a familiar accusation, a drumbeat in accompaniment of the chorus of disapproval that's been crashing against the walls of his mind the past month or so.
"Dude. Do you ever clean this place?"
His eyes snap open, panicky. It takes him the better part of thirty seconds to process what he was seeing. The angel moves so that she's no longer framed by the window frame, and the halo recedes into black hair. He's more than a little breathless.
Leah ploughs on, not waiting for a reply, and he's thankful for the small favor. "It was pristine the last time I checked. And what are you, a nuclear waste dump? What is this stuff?"
He blinks. She was waving his jar of Agar curiously, and in some half-awake corner of his mind, he was pissed. He was possessive of his possessions, particularly those of a scientific bent.
Mostly, though, he needs coffee. Lots of it.
"Um." His voice is raspy, and he clears his throat. "That's, um,"
"Never mind." She stands up, placing the jar precariously near the edge of his table. "You're alright, right?"
He blinks at her some more, then attempts to pull himself together. The drunk of last night still clings hazily at his mind, making him unable to think of anything that wasn't related to caffeine (…please?) and possibly a couple of rounds of aspirin.
His roommate snorts. "Oh, Jesus. If your daddy could see you now."
He pushes himself into a sitting position with his elbows, grimacing slightly. He scrutinizes her critically, the look that she herself named the Lab Rat Stare.
She rolls her eyes. "Dude," she says in that voice, that particular brand of disparaging semi-amusement that is pure Leah. "I'm gorgeous, I know, but subtlety is still the in thing."
He knows. God, does he know. It's only in times like these when he's in the middle of shitfaced and sober that he thinks, fuck subtlety and stares to his hearts content. Other times, he has the will to resist the overpowering urge. Now, he's just a drunk slob with a seriously twisted infatuation with his beautiful roommate.
Leah shakes her head, mouth curved upwards. "Get your act together. You've got lectures, TA boy."
That serves as a cold dash of water, and he all but falls out of bed. He sprints to the bathroom, and on the way, plants a kiss on Leah's cheek. It's instinct, really, muscles straining towards a common cause.
She just rolls her eyes, but there's a faint hint of red on the spot where his lips made contact and the day looks a hell of a lot brighter.
Edward's not surprised when he hears the greeting that spills out of Leah's mouth- she's always like that, like she's continuing a conversation they'd been having for a long time.
Currently, she's in skinny jeans and a black T-shirt that says I'M A BITCH 'CAUSE YOU'RE A RETARD and is reading a book, the cover bent. She flings her bag carelessly on to the couch and looks at him, a familiar blend of humor and irritation in her eyes. He thinks, dazedly, that's what makes life worth living.
"This book sucks ass." She complains, marking her place with a bookmark. "It's about a farm, God forbid. Fuck all vegetation kind and God save America, is all I'm sayin'. What's for dinner?"
Edward rolls his eyes, because a reply isn't required, she just comes over and peers at the oven anyway.
"That casserole?" She says, in an awed voice. "As in, your mum's legendary casserole? Jesus fuck, man, should I dress up or something?"
Edward shoves her, grinning. "Actually, I thought it would be nice if we could talk."
Her face tightens. "Talk?"
For a second, his heart seems to leap into his throat, hammering insanely. Weeks of planning, he's even timed the fucking oven right, and she was going to turn him down.
But then, Leah's face clears and she flashes him a grin. "Talking's cool with me. First let me shower, 'kay?"
"Go ahead." He says, his throat dry. She winks, tosses her book on the table and waltzes out.
He's reading her farm book by the time she comes back, and he raises his head to say that it wasn't half bad when he sees her, wet hair framing her face, in an oversized shirt she's stolen from him, and his entire vocabulary narrows down to "um."
She ignores his monosyllabic greeting and bounces on the balls of her feet when she sees the fruits of his efforts of the night. "Alright!" She makes a peace sign and draws out a chair. "I'm starving."
He serves, hands shaking slightly. Leah doesn't seem to notice. She keeps up a steady stream of narrative, about her day, what she said, what he said, and Edward listens but his mind inevitably runs back to the same place.
"What are you doing this Friday?" he blurts, and it's a hundred times rougher than he imagined, continents away from how it was meant to be.
She looks at him, fork raised halfway to her mouth. She sets it down, her smile dying down a little. "Depends on what you mean."
Edward bites his lower lip, horribly indecisive. "Do-do you have any plans?"
Her eyes are very serious, the deepest, questioning shade of mercury. "Not really."
"We could go out."
And there it is, on the table, and he wishes he could say that his heart is lighter from the cessation of the pressure that's been on his mind ever since he moved in, but he's still absurdly edgy, nervous. He shifts in his seat, eyes locked on hers. He realizes that it's not quite over until she accepts.
"On a date." She states.
He nods dumbly.
Then, a smile that's so dazzling it puts the sun to shame curves her mouth and she nods. "Yeah, that'd be great."
He gapes at her for a second, hardly believing it.
She smiles wider, almost laughing. "Did you want me to say no?"
She's joking, but Edward hears the insecurity in the tone just the same, and he shakes his head violently. "No. I mean, yeah. I mean, I want to-" he inhales deeply. "We should go out." He finishes, lamely.
Leah's smile comes back full force and his heart stops for a second. She's so fucking beautiful. "Yeah, we should."
He turns to his food, his jaw feeling like it might crack from the grin that splits it.
"You're such-" Leah gasps, arches into him as his teeth nip at the curve of her throat, "such a-"
He doesn't wait for her to finish the sentence, just moves back up and covers her mouth with his. Her fingers dig into the flesh of his shoulder, pouring acid at points of contact. His hands dance under her shirt, slips under the waistband of her jeans.
He inhales a moan, whether it's his or hers he can't tell, the edges where he ended and Leah began blurring dangerously. He licks along her tongue and she makes a sound that's new, a strangled cry.
They come together, his name moaned into the side of his neck and he's euphoric, universal.
Edward can't stop smiling all the way to the party, constantly darting glances at her, obsessed by the hypnotic quality of her every action. She retaliates with the familiar tilt of her head, half-questioning, the single corner of her mouth curved up.
He rarely is able to rip his eyes away from her mouth. It's very distracting.
But on the whole, he's happy. Like, stupidly happy, like the world was an okay place after all, and that he was in freefall and it didn't matter, and other stupid cliché stuff like that. It was a sense of contentment foreign to him that was like being shitfaced and clear-headed at the same time.
The party isn't as boring as he expected, meeting up with a few of his high school buddies he hadn't seen in a while. Almost every one of them inquires after the 'hot Pocahontas chick' and he shrugs and calls her his girlfriend. Amazing, how it just rolls off his tongue.
Leah hears him one time, and their eyes meet, silver on green, and for a second his heart hammers painfully against his ribs. Then she smiles, exasperated and amused, and the world explodes in a collision of music and light.
His sister's new boyfriend is there, he notes. He's been hearing stuff about that guy, and was planning on having a little chat. Later, he decides. Plenty of time.
He drinks much less than he usually does at this type of thing, content to sit back and insult the other attendees under his breath as Leah quietly giggled beside him.
Only a couple of girls make passes at him, and Leah gives them both a look that makes them change their mind about the bronze-haired god at the bar, and he's never been more peaceful.
Edward Cullen doesn't do long-term. It's one of those irrefutable truths of life, like the fact that the sky is blue and the stars shine at night and that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is a cure for every pile of shit the world throws in your way.
He used to try –so fucking hard- to fall in love, settle down. He was a spectacular success at the former and sucked ass at the latter. There was something, almost an individual curse, that made a longing to be free scratch under his skin every day he woke up next to the same person he did the day before.
He's blamed it on a lot of things: mainly, the way the girls he dated seemed to change for him, try too hard, become neurotic, paranoid versions of themselves where he was concerned. He knows better now: it's just him. He's just a fuckhead with commitment issues.
So it doesn't make sense why it works out so perfectly with Leah.
They've been going steady for weeks now, waking up tangled in each other, meeting up between lectures, sex on both their beds, the kitchen table, on Edward's research papers and on any other available surface and he feels a constant itch on his skin, like Leah's fingers ghosting over it the entire day even when she was away. It's strangely addictive, and even after hours of being holed up together without so much as going out for food, he's used but ready for more.
He drinks less, much less, and doesn't suffer for the lack of it and that's a miracle in itself. He even has a day or two when he doesn't need it at all, can manage without the pleasant haze that makes the small, vicious worries less potent. They've stopped scratching at his skin like this fragile, delicate, beautiful thing Leah and he share is the cure for his greatest weakness.
Leah takes every opportunity to call him a sex addict, like she's so much better and he still hasn't called her out on it.
They both still act embarrassingly like infatuated teenagers, trailing off mid-sentence to stare, spending the rest of the time fighting down the urge to turn their heads and stare some more. Edward's obsession with Leah doesn't bother him anymore, the fact that her emotions lead him through the secret map of the world becoming accepted in his subconscious.
"-her face!" Leah buries her head in his shoulder and giggles helplessly again. He grins, joy shooting through his veins like bittersweet poison.
They'd come to Washington, to Edward's birthplace, and had been caught by his mother having sex on the dining table. Leah couldn't get over how close-minded his family was, medieval, she called it. She was like a small-scale explosion in their midst, shameless, flamboyant and like a beacon of light that drew eyes magnetically.
The Cullens were the premier family in their small town, and still had a standing in every event and Leah found it hilarious. She re-defined memories for him, of the place he'd dreaded and feared and loved his entire life.
Esme is shocked and offended, but Alice and Emmett take to Leah instantly. Alice and Leah don't quite hit it off –they're too different for that- but Alice sees the spark in her and appreciates it from afar. Edward's thrilled about that- Alice is the only part of his family he still gives a flying fuck about, even though it's her voice that keeps the incessant hymn in his head, like the ticking of a never-ending clock: you're such a-
"I'm glad we came." Leah says, softly.
Her cheeks are red from laughing, eyes alight with amusement, but her attention is fixed on him.
He nods, and tightens the arm he has around her shoulders.
"I love you, you know." She says, matter-of-factly, and his heart stops for a crucial second, fireworks clouding his vision.
He looks at her, eyes wide, and she smiles seriously.
He kisses her then, and for the time being, the sense of doom is dispelled; he is complete, mayv\be for the first time.
The thought terrifies him.
Six months into the new way of the world, he freaks out.
He sidetracks from the path home on a Monday night, steps into his old bar. Just one beer, he thinks.
The atmosphere is like stepping out of a perfect, protected glass, the patrons neither content nor happy, the two things he's been telling himself he was. The air carries the raw edge of bitterness in it, and he sinks in with perfect ease.
The punch line, the absolute kicker is, he's been happy, he's been content. He's been fucking head over heels in love with the girl who shared his bed.
But the mantra that started when he was seventeen doesn't desist in his mind, not for a second: you're such a fucking failure. And that's how he knows. Knows that no matter what he does, it's all fall down around him and Leah will walk away. He'll become what he was meant to be – a fucking failure- once more, and for that reason he doesn't deserve to walk on air.
So he slips into his old bar stool, the bartender calls his name and he repeats his normal order and it's as if no time passed at all. After all, nothing ever really changes.
A/N: Await Part Two…
Oh, and review. Because that'd be cool.