Warning: Find a box of tissues and a hand to hold...

Huge thanks to Nico and WO for pre reading and Jesspypt for editing!

December Air

"I'm married," he says, his finger subconsciously running over his wedding ring. "That's my daughter." Sometimes circumstances aren't what they seem. A story of what one man does just to make it through each day.

"So, Edward, plans this weekend?" Big blue eyes, framed in thick black blink down at him.

"Uh, no," he says to his keyboard, his hands flying as quickly as they can, so he can go home. Friday is always homemade pizza night and he doesn't want to be late.

"No plans, really?"

His fingers pause, he shakes his head but doesn't look up. He knows if he looks up he'll see her practiced flirtatious smile. The one she's given him everyday. She's only been at his company for a week now, and he was all ready wishing she'd disappear.

"Well, if that's the case, maybe... you know, we could -"

"I'm married," he says, his finger subconsciously running over his wedding ring. "That's my daughter."

A simple frame holds a picture of a little girl running through a field, kite in hand, red poppies all around her. Curls that have fallen out of a braid tied with a ribbon fly behind her as she goes. A soft smile grows across his face as he remembers the day it was taken. Her third birthday - her uncle had given her the kite. She was so excited about it she ran off, leaving the rest of her gifts behind. He remembered the small details - how long it took his wife to get the ribbon perfectly in her hair and how impatient his little girl had been for her to finish, so she could play.

"And?" Her harsh voice brings him out of his pleasant thoughts. He looks at her in time to see a shrug and an artificial nail run through artificial hair.

"And nothing." A sharp look that comes naturally is thrown her way. "I'm married." He's not willing to give her any more attention than what's considered polite. In his peripheral vision he can see his best friend and shoots him pleading look of 'help'.

"Tanya. Tanya." Emmett shakes his head and throws his arm around her shoulders. She rolls her eyes but does nothing to remove herself from his grip. "How many times do I have to tell you that Cullen here is no fun. Me on the other hand... if you're free tonight?" With one look Emmett successfully manages to pull the attention away from Edward.

Tanya takes a minute to pretend she's thinking. Her index finger taps her temple making Edward roll his eyes at her dramatics. "Why not."

"Exactly, why not." His smirk is sideways, and his hand plays with the neckline of her shirt.

Edward tries to ignore the two, so he can get his work done and get home. Finally he hears her say, "call me" before she sashays away. Emmett watches her walk away until she's completely out of view, cocking his head to the side as she turns the corner.

"I don't know how you do it, man."

"Do what?" Edward asks half distracted.

"Do what? Say no to that! All blonde and ugh - she's ready to get right at it, too. Probably won't even have to buy her dinner."

Edward pushes back from his desk and sighs, leaning back as far as he can, placing his hands behind his head. "Awesome. Good luck."

"Dude, you're twenty-nine. It's okay to live a little. I'll back off her if you want to -"

"No, you go for it."

"You sure?"

Edward's out of patience and can only give Emmett a hard glare. They've been best friends since college but couldn't be more different. Edward got married to his high school sweetheart, Bella, at twenty and had a child by twenty-five, while Emmett was trying to sleep with everyone's high school sweethearts. He's always been entertained by their differences, but lately he can barely handle them.

Emmett steals a chair from someone else's desk and starts tossing a paperweight up in the air. "Saints playoff game tomorrow." Edward laughs; Emmett's a die-hard fan even though he'd only lived in New Orleans until he was three years old.

"Yeah? Who're they playing?"

"Eagles. We're gonna kick ass. Bunch of us are going to Macs to watch the game, be there at one."

"Nah, man, can't."

"What do you mean 'can't'?" Emmett questions, dropping the paperweight loudly on the desk. "Of course you can."

Edward laughs; Emmett really hasn't changed in all these years. "All right, we'll see."

Emmett goes to leave the office, but when he turns his demeanor has changed. Eyebrows come together and his eyes travel to the floor before making contact with Edward's. "You look like hell. You really gotta get out, bro." He can hear the concern in Emmett's voice.

Edward, instantly uncomfortable with the direction the conversation is heading, stands. He swallows hard and doesn't meet Emmett's eyes. "Yeah, I know. I'll probably see you there."

"Good." Emmett's stiff posture relaxes. He pats Edward's back as he escapes his office. "It'll be good for you."

Edward just nods, gathers his things and makes his way to the front of the building. He smiles and wishes his co-workers good weekends on the way out. When he steps out the front door the December air invades his senses. He inhales the clean, fresh sent and pulls his coat tighter around him. He regrets not wearing the scarf Bella bought for him last year. He didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her he would never wear a scarf, so he hid it in a drawer instead of telling her he didn't like it.

When he walks into his dark home he doesn't bother turning lights on. Instead, he slips his coat off, leaving it on the bench by the front door and sits with a large sigh on the couch.

Leaning his head back he makes a pact with himself that he'll only close his eyes for a second or two tonight. However, the second his lids close and the world goes black, his body sinks further into the couch. His limbs – heavy – weigh him down, and he relishes the blankness that consumes his mind. He's not sure how long he's been sitting before he hears the patter of little feet flying from the back of the house in his direction.

"Daddy!" Sophie flies down the hall and directly into his arms. The energy he feels as though he's missing throughout the day floods his system. His entire mood changes as he stands, spinning her around like he knows she loves.

"Stop that, Edward, you're going to make her sick; she just ate." Bella laughs, walking over, giving him a passionate kiss, as passionately as she can with little eyes watching, on Edward's lips. "We missed you today," she whispers softly.

"I missed you, too." The glimmer of desire passed between the two will have to wait until bedtime, but he reaches in for one more kiss before his attention is quickly stolen away by the ball of energy running around the room.

"Can we swing?"

He looks out the window; he knows the air is freezing, but there's no snow yet. He looks down at her and sees her signature puppy dog eyes. "Please, daddy?"

He can never say no. "All right, but put your coat, hat, and gloves on." He doesn't even finish his sentence before she's flying down the hallway. Holding hands and walking to the swing set he built her, they both turn to wave to Bella who's watching from the window with a smile. He sits on the swing, and she crawls up on his lap.

"How high do you want to go?" he whispers into her ear, bouncing her, causing her to whip her head to face him.

Excitement dances in her bright eyes, and every little tooth shows. "So high," she whispers back, as if it were a secret they were keeping.

"Are you sure?" he asks with mock seriousness.

She takes a second to think, and he can't help but think how much she looks like her mother when she bits her bottom lip and draws her eyebrows together. She looks like Bella in many ways - brown hair that curls softly at the ends and freckles that sprinkle over her nose – and, if it weren't for her bright green eyes he'd have no representation.

"Yes, I'm sure," she replies, with a soft lisp she's had since she started talking. "So high, daddy."

"So high, it is." He wraps one arm tightly around her tiny waist, holding her back securely to his chest.

Her little hands grip his as they sit on her stomach. She kicks her legs in excitement, her shoes pound against his knees, making them muddy, he's sure.

"Hold on tight. I don't want to lose you in the clouds," he warns, causing her to scream in delight as they move farther and farther off the ground.

They swing back and forth, the cold biting their ears and the breeze blowing burns their cheeks. He closes his eyes and listens to her laugh and giggle, making him smile. The pregnancy was hard on Bella, and she'd been on bed-rest for the majority of it. The doctor had suggested if they were to get pregnant again there was a good possibility that either his wife or the baby wouldn't make it. They weren't taking any chances. They were lucky to have their little girl and each other; it was enough, and life was perfect.

"Coming in for our landing," he warns as he slows to a stop.

She jumps down out of his lap, wide-eyed and out of breath. Her energy, however, is still in full force. She chatters on about the art class she goes to on Fridays on the way back into the house. Once inside, a picture is delivered to him before he even has a chance to remove his shoes.

"Daddy, look! Mrs. Cope says mine was the best in the class."

Edward gets on the floor, so he can give his daughter's art the attention it deserves. "Wow, Mrs. Cope knows her stuff. This is amazing, Sophie-girl."

Her eyes grow large with her smile - she beams - and it's the best part of his day.

"See the tree is just like ours!" Grabbing his hand she pulls him over to the decorated tree that sits ready for Christmas in two weeks. "I have the red ornaments like the ones mommy put here and the star!" Her little finger flies over the crayon drawing, her entire body buzzing with excitement. "Jimmy didn't believe me when I told him I put the star up there, but I told him I did."

"You did," Edward agrees, lifting her up again so her little fingers can run along the edge of the star."

"I told him so, too," she says, her head bobbing up and down emphatically.

"Sophie," Edward hears Bella call from the kitchen. "It's bath time. If you hurry Daddy can read you your new Christmas book before bed."

Sophie squeals, in the way only a little girl can, and squirms out of her dad's arms running to the bathroom.

"Meet you in my princess room, daddy!" she shouts as she disappears down the hallway.

Bella quickly follows her, knowing she'll need help with her bath. Edward admires the lights on the tree before following the scent of homemade pizza into the kitchen.

As he pulls a beer out of the fridge he feels two soft arms wrap around him. He turns, pulling his wife to his chest, kissing her. When he pulls back he's rewarded with her beautiful smile.

"I kept your pizza in the oven."

"Smells amazing. Sorry I'm late."

"No worries. How was work?" Always so forgiving of his demanding schedule, she places his dinner on the table and sits next to him.

"Fine." He sits and shares his day.

Sophie calls him from the bathroom but when he stands to see what she needs Bella places her hand on his shoulder. "It's okay. You finish up; I'll see what she needs."

He's so hungry he eats his pizza without really tasting it. By the time he's done Sophie is in her bed waiting for her story.

Bella and Edward curl up in their little girl's twin bed to complete their nightly routine. By the time Edward is three pages into the story of the Grinch, who wanted to ruin all of Whoville's Christmas, they hear a soft snore in between them.

Bella looks at Edward, and her eyes spark with the promise of something special for the two of them. As carefully as they can, they slip out of Sophie's bed. Holding Bella's hand tightly he feels the excitement that hasn't changed since they were teenagers. He looks back at his little girl, lying in her pink bedroom, and everything feels complete. He can't help but feel how lucky he is and how impossible it would be to live with out them.

He feels his wife's soft lips on his cheek at the same time the phone rings shrilly. His body and mind are starting to slip, dragging him back into reality. He fights the feeling, gripping his wife harder, begging her not to disappear. He looks down in panic and sees her hair start to move as if a strong breeze invaded the room. Sophie screams "daddy". Her arms reach out for him as her pleas become more desperate, but there's nothing he can do to get to her. His feet cemented to the floor he watches as she melts into her covers, disappearing from this world. He squeezes Bella tighter but can't feel her body any longer. He begs her to stay - to not disappear. But disappear she does, like always. His heart grows heavy and his head spins. He reaches his hand out flicking the light switch, making his world go black.

It takes him a second to adjust and he wishes the phone would stop ringing, so he can be left alone in the silence. He didn't even realize tears were falling while he was daydreaming, until the salty liquid hit his lips. With a shaky breath he finds the courage to open his eyes and lifts his head off the back of the couch. His stomach plummets when he's greeted by a dark room with no life. He hears the voice of his wife's best friend on the message machine, checking on him, pitying him. He ignores it, and his eyes travel across the room. Even though he expected nothing more, he feels sick by the emptiness. His wife's touches are everywhere. In the curtains she sewed, the furniture she picked out. He can't even sleep in their bed. Sophie's Barbie dream house sits abandoned in the corner. The swing moves gently on its own with no one to entertain. Her bedroom has been left untouched. Every corner of his house is haunted by the past.

Finally, painfully, his gaze falls to the two boxes that hold what's left of his wife and daughter - his life. It only took one second, one accident to ruin all their lives forever. When the phone rang a year ago and he got the news he crumbled.

He pleaded.

He bargained.

He offered his soul to anyone willing to take it in exchange for them.

No one listened.

No one accepted his offer.

He promised himself he wouldn't do this anymore, but these fantasies – these perfect memories of what used to be – are all he has left. His stomach growls, but he has no will to move. Still in his suit, he kicks his shoes off, pulling the blanket off the couch, and lays down.

There's no moving forward.

There's no moving on.

Nothing can break someone who is completely broken.

They will always be everything. Closing his eyes he focuses on his beautiful memories to get him through one more night.

I wrote this for a class of mine. I'd love to hear what you think!