Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.

For Lindsey – a kind, generous soul in the business we call fanfic and a friend that I am proud to have broken bread with. I'm proud of your success.

Night of the Butterfly is a 'Drift' outtake I wrote for bronzehairedgirl's LLS fundraising in October and I was proud to participate along with a wonderful group of authors. This short piece takes place the night in which Edward and Bella meet. This stands alone and doesn't require a reading of the original story.


Night Of The Butterfly

oOo

August sets the scene in the hothouse City. The weathermen call it the hottest night of the year.

Windows sweat. Dogs bark incessantly in the middle of the night. The neighborhood sleeps, tossing and turning in the nighttime heat while a crowd at the entrance of the karaoke bar loiters at two in the morning.

The place is closed but the last of the revelers make plans, trading phones, punching numbers, and milking the night for all it's worth.

Two drunken strangers, bound by whiskey and desire, break away and head to a dark curbside where it is quiet.

She waits while he flags down a cab.

Edward Cullen is his name. He's tall and attractive and wears black like a gunslinger. His soulful green eyes make her want to spill all of her secrets and when he addresses her, she is rendered loose and sexy. With him, she's not the newly detached wife with divorce papers in her bag, but a City girl on the town, singled out by the most interesting man in the room – a writer who travels to places she's never been.

He told her to put away the wedding ring she forgot she was wearing. It is buried in her pocket.

A cab pulls up and he holds the door open, folding himself in after her, their thighs touching.

The cabbie writes his location down on a clipboard and starts the meter. His profile is bulbous. "Where to?"

She looks out the window onto the avenue, wet and shiny from the short rain showers that lend no reprieve. The moon sticks out like a busted tooth in the sky.

"Bella?"

She shrugs. "I've never done this before."

"Neither have I."

The cab is as stifling as a confessional. She nods her head minutely.

Edward scoots forward and directs the driver. She can smell the light musk off his shirt – sweat and rain.

"Where are we…"

"I'm not far. The other side of the neighborhood."

A mist swirls across the street lamps lining the avenue, the traffic signals are green for miles, and few cars are out.

The cabbie turns on the windshield wipers and the radio's crinkly static punctures the silence.

Her palms are clammy. "When do you begin your assignment?"

"Next week."

She nods.

"Which school did you say you worked in?"

He listens as she speaks, bland in her telling, filling it with more details than he asked for.

She can't believe she's doing this, acting like an indie movie heroine flirting on the fast lane to sex as if it were rated X.

They've spoken their lines with body language from the moment she sidled up at the bar. It is clear:

Hi

Hi

You're a sexy puzzle

You're more man than I've known

Let's take this someplace private

Let's turn off the lights

I want my fingers in your hair

I want your hand on my thigh

I want your mouth where I need you

I want to straddle you there

I want to kiss you

I want to stroke you

Let's get out of here

She laughs at the craziness. "What?" he asks.

"Us. This."

They've turned onto his street. "What the hell are we do…"

Edward cuts her off with a kiss. She'll overthink it, talk herself out it, second-guess what he has to believe will be the best night of his life. He bends into her, chest against her impossible breasts. He kisses her hard, silently asking questions his mind needs to get rid of: Where did she come from? How did she end up in his arms? Can he keep her a little bit longer?

She sags into him, resigned and heady from being kissed like she's the last girl on Earth. How can she say no to him? Why deny him for the title of 'courteous ex-wife'? She may not be divorced in the eyes of God and man, but the technicality is lost on her as his lips and tongue make a case for being selfish, and for once it feels so good.

They break away panting, and quietly regroup.

His mind is strained, like the rest of him is strained. He is pounding and ready to get buried but can't be sure what she's thinking. One minute she's reserved, and the next she's bewitching him with her pliant lips.

If he's going to do this, he has to forget he's seen the ring. It's as if it never existed.

She's mine for one night, just one night.

The cab pulls over in front of a brownstone. "This is you."

Edward tugs on Bella's hand. "Come."

oOo

They stand in front of his door; a staircase in the foyer disappears to the second floor. All is quiet in his building.

Bella has never had a one-night stand; she knows only what she's seen in the movies. Like a film reel, she can see it: they stumble into his place, undress each other fast and furious, clumsily falling on his bed. She's on top, he's behind her, the shots cut quick, tits and ass, never a penis, and in the morning a slant of light falls across the tangled sheets.

When she leaves, he's supposed to be asleep.

But there is no fondling at the door, there is no groping. She doesn't recognize this movie. Time moves thick and stifling, the heat prickles her flesh as she watches him fish out his keys in slow motion.

This is happening.

When he gives her a backward glance and a reassuring smile, she feels alive. She can be anyone she wants to be now. She can be Bella Swan all over again. She can be the girl who once was.

The door unlocks into a wide-open loft. Edward pauses for her on the other side.

She walks in.

oOo

Bella and Rose heard a new band was playing at the Smiling Moose, the all-ages bar on campus. They were ignoring the Ecology lecture and focused on Garrett, whose lisp annoyed Rose but endeared him to Bella. (She had a thing for sweet boyish defects). He told them about a punk show and they agreed to meet later that night.

Bella wouldn't make her date with her friends. She wouldn't don her favorite Mary Janes, the ones with a button buckle, and she wouldn't get to flirt with Garrett and have him slip her drinks because she was underage. She wouldn't shimmy and sing at the top of her lungs as her best friend air-drummed with a beer bottle in her hand.

The studying mixed with weekend ventures and roaming summers would be lost to her. She wouldn't get to live in a scene, and drink coffee until one in the morning while discussing philosophy and rock n' roll. She would no longer plan with a map laid open in front of her.

She would quit school that day and return home an orphan. She was nineteen.

Mrs. Cope found her dad on the floor with his hand on his heart like the very picture of a stroke tragedy. That's how the kind lady described it whenever she told the story.

On the phone with Bella, breaking the news: "I'm sorry dear, but your father had a stroke tragedy. We need you to come home."

At the small church in Forks, Bella heard it again from the front pew, flanked by her dad's friends. Behind her in a gossipy whisper Mrs. Cope said, "We're sorry, too. Bella's hardly been herself. Can't talk, the dear. Not since the stroke tragedy."

And the last time she heard it was at the reading of the will. She couldn't stand her dad's memory to be outsized by the disease that took him. He was the man who taught her life was beautiful and filled with joy. He was proud of her simply because she was his flesh and blood. Bella was the apple of his eye.

Mrs. Cope had said to Jenks, the lawyer: "Can she keep the house? I don't think she wants to stay there. Ever since the stroke tragedy…"

Bella spoke for the first time in a week. "Mrs. Cope?"

"Yes, dear."

"Thank you for helping me, but you can go now."

Bella returned to counting the stitching on her black Mary Janes, once reserved for rock shows and kicking it about campus. She didn't care about the will and she couldn't find a place in her grieving heart for Mrs. Cope or the hurt look she carried as the old woman exited the room and, little by little, Bella's life.

She was left entirely alone.

Bella had been clearing the attic of sentimental value when the doorbell chimed. She dropped the last of her childhood pictures into a storage box and opened the door. It was Jake, her best friend since the days of magical summers and kamikaze cliff-diving into La Push's freezing waters. He had grown into a gentle giant, a man with the brown eyes of someone always in love. She sobbed for the first time since her dad's death.

One day she didn't answer the door, and Jake pushed until it gave. He found her asleep on the kitchen floor, wearing her dad's flannel shirt.

"How did I get here?" She wiped the corner of her mouth. Her shoulder was sore, her back ached, but she was wrapped up in her father. Why not remain curled up for the rest of her life?

"I don't know," Jake replied. He touched the crease on her cheek; her hair was a rat's nest. "You can't keep doing this."

She nodded, crying. Her friend held her, and would always hold her thereafter.

She sold the house and packed what was left of her old self, the vibrant girl with the world at her fingertips.

Jake took her under his care. She had no one else.

He courted her with a motorcycle to distract her from sadness. He was loyal and sweet even when she closed her door gently in his face. He always came back, or maybe he never left. Maybe that's what love is, she reasoned one day. Maybe it means holding on to the one that sticks around, others make do with less. At twenty-one, it was better than having nobody.

Bella Swan became Mrs. Jacob Black.

They lived off the calendar – penciled-in anniversaries, birthdays, and bill payments. In that time, they passed through friends, a cat, two relocations and a teaching degree for her, a lifelong partnership at the auto shop for him. It was comfortable.

She measured her day by the sound of alarms – wake up, kiss at the door, rush to school, bells ringing, breakfast-lunch-and-dinner. When he came home, the microwave chimed, the stove alarm dinged, the dishwasher hummed and the bedside clock was re-set for another day.

Life was a litany of lists.

One morning her eyes popped open before the alarm went off. He was snoring softly in her ear. She studied him, tracing his dark face with a pale finger moving over his placid lips. Since when, she asked herself, had her husband become her roommate?

She had become indifferent to him. It was worse, she decided, than hatred.

oOo

In Edward's loft, Bella fans herself with the collar of her t-shirt as he unloads his travel bag. He's been worked up for her since she walked into the bar, and the kiss in the cab has sent him reeling. For his own sake, he slows things down, keeping it light and easy, savoring her presence as if it always belonged in his orbit.

He pulls out a laptop, yellow pads, and pens. "I came straight from the airport," he explains.

"To the bar?" She asks from across the room.

He nods, taking a picture frame out and placing it on the mantle. "Yeah. I had to see my brother."

She walks over, hands stuffed in her back pockets and inspects the photograph. A happy family smiles at the camera in front of the Space Needle. The mother beams in front of three towering men. They own jewel colored eyes and good-natured smiles.

She looks up at the physical rendition smiling down at her. "That's just a stock photo, it came with the frame. I didn't have time to find a better one."

She laughs, remembering the big guy who came and went from the bar. "Sure, sure. You're funny. He was the one who sat next to you."

"That's Emmett, my brother," he says softly.

"And these are your parents?"

Edward nods. "My dad's a workaholic doctor on the fast road to retirement. They all worry too much. And Emmett, he runs out of his house as soon as my plane touches ground. I think it's 'attachment anxiety'." He picks up the frame and considers it fondly. "Guy time."

He puts it back, brushing her arm as he does. "That's the disadvantage of living two blocks from them," says Edward. "Mom's close enough to call on him when she gets into one of her spells."

"Spells?"

"Re-decorating. She's redecorated our family home every year, some new renovation. It's her one vice. She did this place."

Bella smiles, glancing one last time at the loving family. "It's sweet that you travel with their picture."

"It spruces up a motel room." He winks, dismissing the subject.

He returns to the task of picking up, making room for her. A leather couch is revealed under hiking equipment. He sidesteps an oversized chest table cluttered with magazines, moving naturally as if space makes space for him. He flips off the lights and tugs the chain of a table lamp.

She's amused.

He's doing it for her benefit, wanting her to feel at home. She likes that he cares enough to move his things aside for her. She wants to believe he'd do the simplest things only for her.

He turns on the ceiling fan and immediately the air swipes her damp skin.

The big bad bed that hogs the room doesn't escape her notice. It turns her on just as much as watching him get settled in. It begs her to pay attention to it, the imposing wrought iron dressed in white, crisp sheets. She has the sudden urge to mess it up.

He stands in front of her.

"Ready?"

She rips her eyes off it, heart beating wildly, face flushed guilty as sin.

"What?"

His lips have been moving.

"I asked if you're thirsty…or hungry."

"Oh."

She follows him to the kitchen as he speaks. "I've had a lot to drink. I don't ever have that much but..." A glass of water appears before her and she takes it with a nervous smile.

He nears and bends his neck, speaking just above her ear. He smells like bourbon. "A certain pretty girl got my attention."

She is trapped between a wall and a hard place.

The bed is as loud as her conscience: You're going to sleep with this gorgeous stranger. Do you know what you're doing?

"I don't want to come off as cheesy, but I've never met anyone as beautiful as you."

Does he say that to all the girls?

She doesn't answer him and gulps her water.

"Bella?"

She's re-thinking things, he can feel it. He believes her when she says she's never had a one-night stand, and neither has he, but she is a siren whose song he can't get out of his head. She can't leave. He'll never do it again, he bargains, if he could make her his for one night. He promises to give her back if it's not meant to be. He wants her and if she's bored, he will make the night worthwhile for the both of them.

He peels the glass from her grip and weaves their fingers together.

"Do you want to go, Bella?"

She places her cheek to his chest, rising and falling rapidly; she can hear his pounding heart. She wants to stay but she doesn't know how.

How will she know what to do? "I'm making this awkward, aren't I?"

"I'm a stranger to you," he admits.

"I want to know you."

Give me a reason.

"We only have so much time," he says.

Why can't they play pretend? Why not convince himself he has fallen for a beautiful brunette with a laugh like a butterfly wing? Why not believe he's spending a hot night with someone his heart has known forever? For the first time in his life, he can have a sweetheart. It is a lonely, and sobering realization.

"We don't have to be strangers," he suggests.

"No?"

"Tonight, there is no awkward between us. Just this once, you know me and I know you, we're already lovers. In fact, we've always been lovers."

He means to act out a fantasy and he's looking at her like she's the lead. She can't bring herself to end the scene – life is getting shorter, all those minutes and days and hours she's frittered away.

If she tells him no, it would be the saddest experience.

"Okay."

She plays along. "You sang me a song when we met." He nods his head, a clever, wicked grin adorning his face.

"I sang you Wild Horses," he says, and she smiles like he's finally made it home to her. He tips her chin up. "We've known each other for years, longer than we can count."

She has to be sure. "Promise me you've never done this before."

"Never. I promise. I only get you one night. I don't want to waste it playing catch up."

"What do we do now?"

"You remind me how we like it."

He tugs the bottom of her t-shirt, in question. She takes it off in answer, dangling it off her finger, pleased that she's managed to surprise him.

A wolfish grin breaks across his face. She is coated in a glossy sheen of sweat the leaves his mouth dry. "You truly are a temptress."

"And you don't like wearing clothes in here," she urges, untucking his shirt. He laughs with his heart. How did she manage to pinpoint the one truth about him in spite of their game? She makes it easy to fall for the charade.

What harm can it do to experience love for once in his solitary life?

"We've already had sex," he insists, kissing behind her ear.

"Yes." Her nose slides across his collarbone, peppering it with kisses.

He will lose his heart to her.

"Will we be lovers tonight, Bella?"

He will never do this again.

"Yes."

He can never do this again.

"Then kiss me."

oOo

His mother wanted to throttle him.

"Stop bringing girls to the house," she scolded. Esme stood at the foyer of his childhood home – four bedrooms, industrial kitchen, a fireplace.

"Mother, it's only because I want them to see what a true woman is like." The cheeky smile curved to the right, unlike his brother's, which dimpled on the left.

They were finished with brunch. His mom peeked through the blinds at the driveway. Edward's latest date waited, checking her hair in the flip visor.

Esme sighed woefully. "You're not bringing her back, are you? She seemed nice, a journalist."

Her son shrugs into his coat. He had been in a relationship for three weeks, they were practically an old couple in 'Edward' years but he was showing signs of wear.

"I don't want you to lead anyone on, son. I didn't raise you like that."

"You wound me. I can't help that she wanted to meet you." It was true, Jane was nice but she had been insistent on meeting his mother if they were to "move on". He was used to it, girls attaching themselves immediately after a first date. They liked that he was close to his family, that his mother was a renowned interior designer. Everything about Edward spoke of status and happiness, definitely passion, if they could get him to open up more. Women wanted to understand him by way of Esme, as if she were the Rosetta Stone to her reticent, mysterious son.

They all craved his stability.

When he was off on assignment, bouncing through the great airports of the world, only his family was programmed to speed-dial. His editor received email missives when he was able, but he saved his breath for his flesh and blood. They knew him, didn't question his motives or seek to decode his innermost desires. He was just Edward, happy and singular, self-assured as a hilltop. His silence wasn't an agenda.

For his eighteenth birthday, he convinced his parents to give him money for a trip to Europe. Without their knowledge, Edward booked a one-way ticket and spent the rest on a rail pass. His mother, fraught with worry and a good dash of anger, disowned him for a full week. She wouldn't pick up the phone when he checked in. Her cold shoulder had the effect of dampening his adventure. But he was obstinate.

He made his own way by taking photographs of tourists and sleeping in hostels or under bridges. When he was lucky, it was from the hospitality of a family, which included a devoted, nubile daughter.

He led no one on. He was brutally honest with women.

His mom did not understand this in her infinite wisdom. He truly felt that the women he chose were thick-skinned enough for a casual situation.

"You don't think you hurt them but you do," Esme said at last, shutting the blinds on Jane. Her son opened the door and encountered a revelation. His date – a highlighted blonde with upscale glasses and society manners – was applying makeup. Innocuous enough, but it dawned on him that he had never seen her without it, not even in the mornings. If someone asked him what color her eyes were, he wouldn't have a proper answer.

He turned to say good-bye to his mother but her back was to him, retreating to the kitchen. It was the only time he felt real shame. He was twenty-one.

oOo

"You did not!"

"I did. I ran all the way to the top with the security guard at my heels."

They are topless. He has kept his black slacks and she is left in jeans and bra. He tries very hard to keep his eyes up and away from her tits as a matter of courtesy.

They are eating ramen noodle soup in his kitchen. She's perched on the countertop with his body wedged between her knees.

They've agreed to share a childhood story as part of their new pact. "Here. Eat your food."

He dips a finger in the broth and winds it around a noodle. "You like it when I feed you." She opens her mouth for him and slurps the noodle. He watches her swallow.

"I do, do I?"

He's been recounting a family vacation. They were at the Space Needle, his brother's favorite place, which Edward, at the age of ten, toured in his Superman costume. He was fiercely attached to it and wore it every day and everywhere, to his mother's frustration.

"One day I thought it would be cool to fly. I ran through the lobby of the building, past security, and slid into an elevator."

"You must have been fast."

"I wanted to get to the top before everyone else. It was windy that day. A storm had blown in and I thought it would be cool for my cape to whip around like I was flying. I was hanging off the rail – free – it was the best feeling. When they pulled me down, I was laughing."

"You could have died."

He brings a spoonful of soup to her mouth, lifting his brow when she wraps her lips around it slowly. She's getting the hang of this, he thinks. "I could have flown, too."

She slaps his shoulder. "Don't say that. It was dangerous. If I was your mom, I'd beat you."

"You wouldn't. Do you have a violent streak, Bella Swan?"

"Why don't you tell me?" she challenges, putting her arms around his neck as if he belongs to her. She touches him any chance she gets because by the rules of their game, she can. He told her so.

He scoots her ass closer to him. "You don't have a violent streak," he says, breathing her in.

Their chests touch, re-igniting lust. Her skin has cooled down since they took off their shirts. She's soft and lithe in his arms. He kisses the side of her face. "No, you're not violent, sweetheart."

He gambles. "But you do like it rough," he says before he can take it back.

He wins.

They set a frantic pace filling his loft with the clanging of belt buckles and zippers. Her pants come off and he kicks his own to the side. He puts his hands over her panties and she's a radiator down there – hot and steamy. He's losing his mind.

He pulls her off the counter, making her pause. Suddenly, she stands vulnerable, covering up with her long hair to shield. She's laid bare.

He can see everything.

"You're stunning." Her smile is grateful, but watery. He hugs her. "I don't think anything I say tonight won't come off as a man desperate to get buried in you, Bella Swan. I'll admit, you're driving me insane, but covering up isn't going to stop me from seeing you. I've already seen what I want."

He moves her to the oval mirror standing by his bed. "The rest is icing."

The reflection showcases a couple in their underwear. It jars her to see how good they look together. They could be dancers, she muses, as he stands behind her appreciating the very same thing.

His hands are on her torso and she admires how her pale skin flushes pink against his own body, corded and sturdy. They really could be lovers.

He fingers a scar under her right breast. "A diving accident."

He spins her around and puts her hand on his hipbone. A ragged scar turned silvery white decorates his skin. "A bouldering accident," he shrugs, happy that she's returned to smiling, standing straight and not slouching.

He moves to the couch, surprising her.

The bed remains immobile, waiting.

"Sit on my lap."

"What?"

He pulls her down, situating her sidesaddle. "Gotcha."

"Hey!" she laughs.

"I think I've discovered something else you like."

"What's that?"

"Playing games." He gets really hard saying that. She looks shamed, like it's not something she means to do, not really.

"That's okay, sweetheart. I love to humor you." He parts her legs. The position is intensely nerve-wracking and she thinks he knows it.

Whatever happened to the bed? We can get under the covers and turn off the lights.

"We like to watch each other," he explains, fully committed to his role.

"You're just saying that because you want to spread me out like a buffet."

He shifts her on his knee, pressing her closer to the very hunger that's grown mightily through the night. His boxers leave nothing to the imagination.

She bends her neck in private gratitude.

He dips a hand in her panties, eyes latched on to hers. "Ah, but I'm a growing boy, can't you tell? So much of you to sample. I don't know where to begin."

She's never been on display like this and can't help trying to reciprocate. She reaches for him.

"Oh, no you don't." Doesn't he want to? "You first," he says, working his fingers with the same kindness he's shown while feeding her – in small measures, carefully, cajoling her into a rhythm that he can fall into. He runs a finger the length of her seam and finds that bump, turning his hand into a post she can ride on.

She is grateful; he knows what he's doing but she can't clear her head. What if it takes her a long time? What if he gets bored?

She gyrates and squirms, squeezes her eyes shut, anxious, hating the pressure, already blocked. His expectations are too high.

She can't stand it, this position, she budges to straddle him. Maybe more heat. But he doesn't let her.

His hand presses harder and her sweet noises say she'll do anything if he'd let her ride him, where her chances of finishing are better. It sometimes works with her…

Don't go there.

But Edward won't move and she's seconds away from jumping off him.

I have too much shit in my head I can't get rid of and I need to do this my way.

He's losing her, he knows this. "Bella. Look at me. Stop for a second."

She opens her eyes, near to tears.

"What's wrong?" Sex has never been this forward. Do they have to talk about it?

"It's embarrassing. Are you sure you don't want me to…or you know, we can get in bed. I want you inside me."

If he didn't know any better, he is one wrong move from a premature night. He needs her to see things his way, without shame. "Look down."

His hand is pressed between her wide-open legs. "Take off your bra." She does so, fumbling for the latch and chuckling with him as she flings it across the room. "Now look again."

She's the epitome of naughty, practically naked on his lap. Her hips undulate, testing. "I think," he starts, "you're too shy to take what's yours."

Her hips begin again.

She concentrates, encouraged. "I am."

"You like to use my fingers for your pleasure."

"Yes. yes, I do."

"You like to tease me. You know it drives me crazy to watch you take it."

He wants her to be selfish. It turns him on and, dear God, it turns her on too. He's strong, has good arms, he can last it out as long as he keeps doing what he's doing, as long as he talks her through it with the right words, and a healthy dose of French kissing.

It takes her a while, but his objective is to observe and memorize the woman trying to fall apart in his arms. She squirms without regard for him, balancing on his weary arm, attached to the place her blood pumps the loudest after her heart. And no matter how tired he is he never wants it to end, his sublime moment of weakness. He'll never recapture it again.

"That's it, baby."

"Fuck!"

Words, he's happy to note, have the best effect on her. When she comes to, his eyes roam her face for signs.

What does she think of me? Does she believe in our game? Does she want this as much as I do?

She clutches her heart. "That was…oh God, so good and so, so bad." That is not what he's expecting. "I mean, I just twisted around like a wanton and…." She feels dumb as soon as the words leave her mouth. "But it was so good." She frames his face and kisses him stupid.

He breaks away, grinning. "That's a much better review than calling yourself a wanton."

"But."

He rests his hands behind his back. "You say it like it's a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with losing your inhibitions. Guys love it when a girl's dirty, baby. Any guy that says different is lying or doing it wrong."

Then she's been married to him for six years. Jake was so gentle with her it didn't seem possible for her to have it her way. How did she manage to hold back for years? She had forgotten what she was capable of.

Until Edward.

He reaches for her hand and puts it directly on his cock. "Does this feel like I don't like it to you?" She stands, pushing his legs apart with her knees. She moves seductively as she bends down, he is eye-level with her tits, pendulous as pears.

Every minute with him feels like they are playing in Eden. As Eve, she can be dangerous to them both. She strokes him, his head falling to the back of the couch, surrendering.

She understands now the power he's unleashed. He wants her to have it.

"You like this," she says, kneeling before him.

"Bella."

It's her turn to tell him what he likes and how often. She shows him all night how they've always been lovers.

oOo

Morning arrives without regret. In the bathroom, she takes inventory. Her hair's untamed, her skin flushed like desert roses in bloom, and when she turns her head she smells him on her shoulder. The woman in the mirror bites her lip like a schoolgirl, squeezing herself in swoony delight.

She gathers her hair in a ponytail and considers the rest of her weekend. She pushes him out of her thoughts; she must practice.

First order of business is a phone call to Rose, arrive home, and shower. Although it makes her sad to think of washing away the last of him, she can't show up to the realtor's office smelling like she rolled around in sex all night. Her naughty side thinks this wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Next week she signs her lease, an apartment all to herself, with her favorite pictures on the walls the way she likes them and morning coffee on a balcony and silence, and she can dance without being seen, turn up her music and never turn on the sports channel again.

She doesn't think about Edward. For her own good.

It's her time to fly solo if just for a little while. To be on her own.

She does not think about Edward's hands. She shakes it off. It was a one-time thing. Last night was a fulcrum launching her into her new life, sure and true. There is no chance of going back, no matter that her ex wants another round of counseling. Too late.

She does not think about Edward's arms spooning her in the middle of the night. She doesn't think of him sliding in from behind soundlessly and sweetly like a dream. She tasted passion and she's too love-weary to believe it was anything more than the best reproduction of love he could give her.

She uses a washcloth to scrub between the places that he touched and her mind idly thanks him for taking the time.

"I hope he hasn't ruined me," she says to the woman in the mirror, eyes aglitter. A dollop of his toothpaste on her finger makes her feel like such a slut.

She rolls her eyes.

oOo

He washes his face in the kitchen sink while she uses the bathroom. He's haggard from no sleep and a night of rambunctious sex. He palms his junk through his boxers, ignoring the tightness in his chest. She's leaving in a few minutes, their unspoken rule, like a ribbon, chokes him.

He can't help replaying the rest of their night – the couch sex, bed sex, wall sex. He is amazed the kitchen was left unchristened. They had barely a minute's rest touching, laughing, and teasing.

Sex and laughter – two of his favorite things.

"Ride it. Don't be shy," he said while she bounced on top of him. "Pretend you're on a pony."

She shook, laughing so hard, she nearly pushed him out. "God, do you always talk this much?"

No, he doesn't. He succeeded in making her comfortable. That's not a virtue he's been known to have. He was surprised by the guy he became when he played the part of being in love. It was easy, something he wanted to do, give her access to a side of him no one has ever been privy to, and stripping the mystery of sex until they were just two people looking out for one another.

In bed.

He has had plenty of experience with pure sex – sex without love – sex to come, and come, and come, until he was a dot in the darkness. It was take and be taken with women, pleasurable but not as fun as with Bella.

"Fuck it. Don't think about it." He pulls a carton of orange juice from the fridge. After a long swig, he gargles and spits it down the drain. He reeks of sex and with that thought he flicks his dick. "Playdate's over, buddy. Settle down."

"Did you say something?"

She's dressed, hair in a ponytail. Disheveled in places only a shower can get to, and he's to blame. She'll walk out of here for good, and he'll return to the road, focus on his upcoming assignment.

I'll give it all I have, trek mountain after mountain until she fades.

"Are you okay?" she asks. He's in his boxers. Last night's game unearthed some truths – Edward truly hates walking around clothed. She makes a note to only remember him that way.

"Yeah. I'm good. Drinking juice."

"I called a cab."

All goodbyes are awkward yet tolerable with people you're trying to get rid of, but he's finding this to be torture. He doesn't want her to go and his pride's too deep to ask her to stay.

She's not mine.

The ring, the ring, the ring.

She hugs him in gratitude. "I don't know how…"

He kisses her one last time. "Did you enjoy it?"

He means it sincerely. If she's to go home to her inattentive husband, then so be it, but let her not regret the night.

"I did," she assures him, pressing into his hug a final time.

She can't stay. She has a new life to lead, an independent one, free of obligations. Free of being anyone's obligation.

They say good-byes at the door like old friends.

"Good luck."

"You, too."

She doesn't look back when he shuts the door behind her.

oOo


A/N:

Joyous thanks to the ladies who helped me with this outtake – WriteOnTime, faireyfan, and littlesecret84 are true friends who are generous with their time and talents. Any mistakes, weirdness is all mine.

Please say hello. If you've read Drift, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this one. Thanks for reading.