No one ever sets out to be the other woman, always waiting, always hurting. No one ever sets out to get hurt. There are no winners. There are broken hearts, empty promises and too many tears to cry. Edward/Bella Edward/Tanya AH AU

No Strings Attached

You know that this is pointless, but you simply cannot stop. Watching. Waiting. Forehead pressed against the cold pane of glass that looks down upon the street. The rain beats down in a steady drum, dropping and splashing against the cobblestone outside as cold and grey as your heart. Edward's with her again. No question about that. She's given him the child he desired, while your womb remains empty, barren. He's given her his name, and yours remains the same shameful name you've carried all your life. Swan. Everyone knows your mother ran away at the height of your parents marriage and your father took his own life not long after that.

This great big world is scary when you have no one. Maybe that's why you cling to him so hard. Maybe. Or maybe it's that you love him still, despite the fact that he married Tanya. That's it, of course. You know it is. No one wants to be second best, but you know that's what you are. But, sometimes lying to yourself is the only way to make it through the night. Especially a night like tonight, when the rain drops down your tears, and another woman holds the child of the man you love to her breast. He doesn't love her. He says he loves you. He means it. Really, he does.

Only, you know better than that. Somewhere. Deep down. Really deep down.

You sit and wait. It's what you do best, after all. You think perhaps it's what all mistresses do best. You hate that word, but it's what you are. You're the other woman. The one who spends her time watching the clock, praying that his cell won't ring with urgent business that will take him away from you. His visits are so infrequent now.

A soft splash outside and a quick, but quiet rap on your door announces his arrival. You knew he'd come tonight. There was never any question.

"Have you heard?" he asks, sweeping through the door and pulling you to him, so that his rain slicker douses you with water and he flings drops from his damp copper hair reminding you of a puppy, and making you smile. Puppies are far more faithful creatures than men. Perhaps you should purchase a dog.

"Of course. A son. Congratulations." You say the words that your heart doesn't feel. This new addition only binds him to her more, and she's your most hated friend. Right or wrong, you simply cannot stand the sound of her name. After all, she has what you so desperately want. Him. But to her face, you are all smiles and politeness.

You bite your tongue, but ask because you will look heartless if you don't. "And Tanya?"

His eyes narrow at the question, and as hard as he looks at your face you're sure he'll see the deceit hidden there. He doesn't. He smiles at you. You must mask it better than you realize. "You're very sweet to ask. She's doing well. It's what I love about you, you know. You have the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known."

Big, but not big enough to make you leave her. You bite your lip to keep those words from slipping out. He'll leave if your cattiness shows itself, and leaving is the last thing you want him to do. Thus, you say the words that he'll expect. "That's nice."

Sometimes you look in the mirror and wonder where that girl you used to be has gone. Before, you would have snapped out something catty, told him to find the nearest bridge to leap from and slammed the door in his pretty face, and if it hit him in the nose, then all the better. But things have changed. You've changed. Grown older. There are a few more laugh lines and bags around your eyes these days. And perhaps this role of mistress has changed you in ways that are only now beginning to grow tiresome.

You wonder how you got here, but deep down you know. At first this was fun, exciting. The stolen kisses in his office at the Hospital, trysts in the bathroom, lifts, wherever you might not get caught. Every moment precious, exciting, even if it felt wrong. His wife was at home, after all, and there was something that felt oh so very right about its wrongness. And now, it's left you like this. A dish rag. Something to be used and cast aside at Edward's whim. That sad girl in the mirror is so unlike the one who fell in love with him. You wonder if he misses her as much as you do.

"You seem thoughtful tonight, quiet. Not like you at all."

"Things are changing," you whisper, and you hate those blasted tears that begin to gather in your eyes.

He grabs your arms and pulls you to him, his wet slicker still on and making you wetter still. "It's not like that. Not what you think. I don't love her. You know that. I'm going to leave. We'll be together. Everything I've told you will happen for us. I don't break my promises, love. I'm only there for the child. You know that. As soon as she's stronger, I'll force her to leave and you and I will be together. Just like I promised you. Don't I always keep my promises?"

You nod your head, wanting so much to believe the lies that fall from his pretty lips. You even try to forget that this affair (such a dirty word) has been going on far longer than his wife (a word even more detestable than affair) has been carrying his child. The promises (oh, so empty, they are) have gone on longer too. But still, he means them. You're sure he does. He wouldn't lie to you. He wouldn't say he loves you when he doesn't. Right? Right? You need so desperately to believe that. All of it.

He shrugs out of his slicker and looks you over. You love the heat of his green eyes as they travel down your body. "Look at that, I've gone and got you soaked."

In so many ways.

"It's cold outside. You'll catch your death, darling." He passes you and walks to your bathroom. He knows your flat well, knows where everything is kept, and it warms your heart to see that he's so familiar with your place. He brings back your favorite towel and wraps you in it, rubbing it up and down your soaked blouse, and you feel your nipples harden beneath his paternal ministrations. It's nice to be cared for and you relish his touch. It's all those little things combined that keep you hopeful.

Hopeful he'll stay. Hopeful he'll return. And hopeful that the day will come when he keeps those promises that you hold so dear to your heart. That day when you won't be alone any longer. That day always just out of your reach. And oh, how you want it.

He takes you by the hand, slim perfect fingers threading through your own, and brings you to the sofa. The feel of cold gold on his finger as it touches your palm makes you shiver in revulsion. He's careful to pull the window shades before he joins you there, and your heart breaks a little, but not too much. After all, having him there is better than not. Even if he's ashamed to be there. No, that's not it. You tell yourself it's not. He's only being careful. Biding his time. Holding back until he can let the world know he loves you. What you do together is not for prying eyes. It's all the more special because it belongs only to you. That's the biggest lie of all.

"I've missed you," you say, and you hate the way your lip quivers and your voice cracks. You wonder when you became so needy, clinging.

"Not nearly as much as I've missed you." Edward pulls you onto his lap and his lips come toward yours. They capture your mouth and his tongue begs entrance. You grant it gladly, wrapping your arms around his neck, kissing him until there is no air. You've waited so long to have him here that you simply want to kiss him until forever is no more. And maybe then you'd still like to kiss him.

You nip at his lip, biting, tasting, teasing. Doing all the things you think a proper wife might hold back from doing. Showing him everything he misses when he doesn't share your bed each night. It's only when you're in the circle of his arms that you find your spirit; the ability to be that girl you once were so many years ago. Fiery, passionate, full of sparks. You straddle his legs and cup his face between your palms, arching your back and grinding down against him. He's already hard, and your ability to arouse him gives you a feeling of power. Your skirt is bunched up around your waist, your shirt so soaked that it leaves nothing to the imagination and Edward's tongue is wrestling with yours for dominance. A battle he will never win.

You have no control over when he comes around, no control over when he calls, no control over how often he visits or how long he stays, but in this regard you are in the driver's seat. And that's the way you know he likes it. That's the reason he needs you, whether you like to admit it or not. You think, perhaps, it is the only reason he needs you. But those thoughts are too hard to think, so you brush them aside as you push back his damp fringe and capture his lips in a kiss meant to warm him down to his toes.

It's always like this. The soft sounds of clothes landing on the floor, the sharp slap of bodies coming together in a heated rush, ecstasy coming out in moans and sighs, 'I love you's' said without a word spoken. Or maybe that's just you. You rake your fingernails down his back, drawing blood, as he drives into you over and over, the desire to mark him as yours (if just for a little while) demanding that you do it. He gasps, and you wonder if he's thinking of an excuse even as he loves you, for how those marks got on his skin. You'd like to be there when he explains.

It's petty, and you know it. It's wrong, and it gives you just the slightest tremor of happiness to know that he'll have to explain you away. And it hurts you just as much, because you never wanted to be just an explanation.

He brings you to climax. He always does. It's not hard to come undone, not when you're in the arms of someone you love. Your body sings beneath his touch. And nothing that feels so right could ever be wrong.

"Fuck, you're amazing," he says, as he rolls to his side and pulls you near, placing a kiss on your forehead. Men don't do that to people they don't love. You tell yourself that enough times, you might even believe it someday. You cling to the small things. After all, they're all you have.

"Stay," you whisper, because you know all too well what comes next. Next comes the leaving. Next comes the promises that he won't keep. Next comes the tears, and you're oh so tired of crying. And worst of all, next comes waking up alone in a bed that's cold and bare. It wasn't supposed to be this way. You went into this knowing full well that he was a married man, that Tanya existed. It was supposed to be sex, no strings attached. Feelings were never supposed to enter into the equation, they never were, not in situations like this. You never set out to be the "other woman", at least not for so long. A few nights, a few fucks, and you were going to be out of there. Relationships like that were easy. Don't get involved, don't feel anything and don't get fucked over. Only, it never works that way, does it?

"I can't stay. You know that, love. I have to go back. The new baby and..."

You shush him with a finger to his lips. You just don't think you can bear it if he says anything more. "Kiss me," you say, almost ashamed at how much your need seeps through in your voice. Shamed or not, you go on. "Kiss me before you leave me again."

"Soon," he whispers as his lips touch yours. "Soon, it will be you and me, and I'll never ever have to leave you again. I can stay here and love you forever. Just like you deserve."

You know it's simply another of his lies, but you hang on to that one lifeline he throws you because you need so much to believe that there's more in your future than this. Because this, this isn't a future at all. It's a lifetime of waiting for someone to fit you in.

You watch him dress from your place on the sofa, and you smile when he brings a blanket from your bed to wrap round you. "Can't have you getting cold now," he says. Just another little way he shows he loves you. Isn't it? You're certain he doesn't get her blankets or care if she gets cold. Does he? No, he doesn't. He can't. If you allow yourself to think of him being kind to her, it shatters your dreams, so you shut it out.

And then, like the rain, which slowed to a drizzle while he loved you, he is gone and it has stopped. And you, you're alone, clinging to empty promises and wondering where that girl you used to be has gone. And realizing just how much you miss her. That girl with high hopes and grand dreams. She was so full of life.

If you could do it all over again, you'd warn that girl, that young you, that there is no such thing as no strings attached. And you'd warn yourself to listen to Edward's proposition, and then to run like hell.