AN: Beta'd by Itsange and VictoryLayne. Banner done by ipynk.
All things Twilight belong to SM.
This is a o/s written for Sydney_Alice
Prompt: A soldier writes a letter home.
It was the middle of the night when I awoke, my forehead drenched with sweat, to the sound of a bomb going off somewhere far, but still too close for comfort.
Truthfully, it wasn't really the bomb going off that startled me. It was sad to say, but I had gotten used to that sound and could sleep right through it on any other night.
I sat up from this sad excuse of a bed and turned on the lamp that sat on the small bedside table. I rubbed my hands over my face trying to fight the anxiety that I could feel creeping back in. It could probably be considered more of an oncoming panic attack than simply anxiety. I tried breathing evenly, and it began to work after a few deep breathes.
I heard one of my bunkmates groan and roll over. "Still can't sleep, huh, Cullen?" Newton asked, looking over at me.
I shook my head.
Newton didn't say anything but didn't move to go back to sleep either. That's what I liked about Newton – never told me everything was going to be all right, because who the hell knew?
Out of nowhere, my other bunkmate, Weber, came to sit next to me.
"Still thinking about Evan?" Weber asked, knowing full well that I was.
"Yeah," I replied, running my hand through my messy bed head, trying hard not to cry in front of them.
"I know you don't want to hear this, but you're alive and that's all that matters. You'll be going home to your family soon."
I thought back to only three nights ago, when I thought I wouldn't step foot in Washington again.
I was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. An F-15 Eagle pilot, to be exact. No one was prouder than I was when I had been promoted to fly the Eagle. In the simplest explanation, it was my responsibility to make sure nothing shady was going on in the air, and if there was, to put a stop to it.
That night everything had seemed okay. The skies had been clear of enemy aircraft, and it was reported that nothing suspicious had been detected on land. After my squadron was given the okay to start descending, I had gradually lowered my altitude in preparation to land at the base.
Everything happened so fast that some pieces of what happened still remain blurry. As soon as my craft's computer system had identified an enemy aircraft, said plane fired a missile, just barely missing Yorkie's, another pilot, Eagle. I had fired back at the direction the attack came from using the 20mm Gatling gun located in the right wing root, hoping that I would make a direct hit. I was literally shooting blind since that night had been nothing but cloudy.
Another missile fired, and my right wing had been clipped. The warning alarm immediately had begun sounding in the cockpit. I was trained for these types of situations, and I knew that I had a few minutes before I needed to exit the aircraft. Quickly, I launched an AIM-120 missile.
The plane was going down faster than I had anticipated, and I knew that I had to eject myself…now. However, the craft hadn't been cooperating. The eject lever wasn't budging no matter how hard I had pulled. I began to panic, one of the first things you learn not to do. I was freely crying behind my helmet.
As I began plunging closer to the ground, only one thing came to mind – my four-year-old son, Evan. I was going to die, and I hadn't seen or held him in since his last birthday, almost a year ago. I remember his smile and laugh at his birthday party. His grandfather, Carlisle, had replaced the regular candles with trick ones, the kind that never extinguish. Everyone had a good laugh at Evan's expense, and he was a good sport about it, too.
That memory had filled me with a renewed vigor. With both hands on the lever and a prayer up to any deity that was listening, I pulled with all my might. It had been as if the sky opened up and engulfed me. I pulled the parachute open and freefell to my freedom, my life.
Since that night, I hadn't been able to sleep through the night. I would lay awake thinking of everyone I left behind in Washington – my parents, my in-laws, my brother, Emmett and his wife, Rosalie, my best friends since high school, Alice and Jasper.
Most importantly, my better half and our son, Evan.
I shot both Newton and Weber appreciative smiles.
"I think I'm going to write a letter home then try to get some sleep." They nodded and returned to bed.
I got out the stationary that was supplied in the desk and began writing.
3 weeks later in Forks, Washington
I loved Evan, I really did, but it was mornings like these where I just wanted to ignore him. It was a Saturday morning, which, in my book meant freedom. I was a college English professor and probably looked forward to the weekend more than my students did.
Evan started Pre-K this year and still didn't understand the concept of sleeping in on the weekends.
Of course, he woke me up early to serve him cereal while he perched his little butt on the couch and watched crappy cartoons. Every Saturday, I thought the same thing- what is the appeal of these cartoons? They were trash. What happened to quality cartoons that I used to watch like Bobby's World, Beetlejuice, The Muppet Babies, or Looney Toons? And every time I voiced my opinion, Evan shushed me, so eventually, I gave up.
I placed Evan's cereal on his small Mickey Mouse table and returned to the kitchen to start the coffee. As I mindlessly put the coffee grounds and water in the coffee maker, I realized that I hadn't checked the mail yesterday. Quickly telling Evan to stay put because I was running outside, I grabbed the mail and dashed back in the house to avoid get drenched in the heavy rain. Although it was always raining in Forks, the past couple of days had been downright nasty.
I had the stack in one hand and grabbed my usual blue coffee mug with the other to have it ready when my coffee was. I looked at each envelope and tossed them on the counter not really ready to deal with bills at the moment. The second to last envelope was the letter I had been waiting for.
It felt like the world had stopped turning and everything ceased to exist. It was like that every time I received a letter stuffed in an Air Force issued envelope.
Ever since Evan could understand, I never opened these letters alone. I walked to the living room, noticing that Evan had finished his Fruity Pebbles and was now using the spoon to drink the milk, slurping every time the spoon touched his lips. I smiled every time I saw him do that; it was a habit he picked up from me.
"Hey Buddy," I called as I sat behind him on the sofa.
"Yup," he replied, never taking his eyes off the screen or slurping his milk.
"We got a letter." There was no need for further explanation; he knew what I meant. As proof of that, he dropped his spoon on the table, jerked up from his little matching Mickey Mouse chair and ran over to where I sat holding the unopened letter.
He looked as if he was scared to read it. I knew what he was thinking before he even said it. He said the same thing every time.
"I miss Mommy."
"I know, Buddy. So do I," I replied in a sad tone, matching his.
I knew Evan missed his mother, but I missed Bella in a way that Evan couldn't understand.
I met Bella through her brother and my personal trainer, Emmett. Emmett and I grew as friends while working out at the gym.
Emmett had invited me over for a welcome home/celebration dinner his family was having for his little sister. Bella had just graduated from boot camp and had a little leave time before she was to be stationed in Alaska.
We had hit it off almost immediately. She was funny, or maybe corny was a better word.
The two weeks she was on leave had been wonderful. We talked to each other on the phone the days we couldn't actually see each other.
I had been getting ready to start my last year of graduate school when she was readying to leave to Alaska. We shared a very passionate goodbye kiss and a promise to call whenever possible. I would call her everyday if she could accept calls every day, but I understood, or at least tried to.
When she left, we hadn't defined our relationship; both of had been thinking it was too soon. However, as time progressed, we eventually labeled what we had.
She had been stationed in Alaska for just over a year, and it was the longest and hardest year of my life. I missed Bella something fierce, and it had sucked not having her around to celebrate things in life, like graduating or my job offer to teach at Forks Community College.
When she had finally been granted another leave, I wasted no time in telling her how I felt - that I loved her more than life.
Before she arrived home, I had tried talking to my friend Tyler about it, but he didn't understand. He didn't know why I would want to commit myself to someone who could be deployed for months and years at a time. He had a reasonable point, but it didn't dissuade me.
Right in the airport, before she was even able to claim her luggage, I had gotten down on one knee and proposed. My heart pounded in my chest as I waited for her answer. It wasn't until she said yes that I was able to breathe easy.
We didn't waste a second. Our parents had been waiting for us at Bella Italia. It was the first time my parents were meeting Bella. Our parents had met each other while Bella was away. We had driven straight to the restaurant from the airport, much to Bella's protest – she wanted a shower first. We announced our engagement within the first ten minutes of arriving. Luckily, everyone was happy for us.
The next day we filed for our marriage license and married thirty-six hours after that. We had consummated our marriage that night...all night.
Understandably, our parents were upset that we couldn't have the elaborate wedding they dreamed of. But Bella being the most wonderful person in the world, allowed our mothers to plan a wedding while she was gone, to be held the next time she returned. And we did just that, fifteen months after we had already been married.
Evan came along four years later. Nothing could top the happiness we both felt. Bella was obviously granted maternity leave and even considered not returning to the Air Force when her time was up.
It was hard on both of us, but I knew that Bella had to go back. It had been her dream to be a fighter pilot since she learned that they were basically nonexistent in the Air Force.
She left, albeit hesitantly, and with tears that could flood an ocean.
Three years later, she had called me from Japan, crying almost as hard as she was when she returned from maternity leave. When she finally able to speak clearly, she told me that she had been promoted, or something like that. She was now going to be flying an aircraft called the Eagle. She tried explaining to me the importance of her role and how instrumental this aircraft was during wartime. When she realized I hadn't really been catching on, she said that all I needed to know was that it was badass.
"I'm ready if you are, Dad." Evan's voice brought me back to the present and the weight I held in my hand.
I smiled at my eager son then flipped the envelope to open it. I slowly opened the letter, just like I did every time. I was savoring each moment. I began reading it aloud.
To my beautiful husband and precious son,
Can you believe that in a few short months all of this will officially be over? My tour will be over, and we can all finally be together like the family that we should be.
I have good news: I'm not returning! Edward, before you say anything, I have thought about this since my last visit and finalized my decision a couple of nights ago, or weeks ago since you won't be getting this right away.
Let me explain. A couple of nights ago, my life literally flashed before my eyes as my aircraft was going down, and I was sure I was about to die. I prayed that I made it out alive and relatively unharmed. My prayers were answered, and I lived to see another sunrise.
I know what I want, and this isn't it anymore. I think back about the decisions I made and nothing but my own selfishness comes to mind. I left the two most important people in my life to chase a dream. Even though I accomplished what I set out to do, what does it matters if the people that I want closest to me aren't here to share it with?
Evan, I haven't been a very good mother, and I hope that you'll forgive me for that. I missed your first word, first Halloween, and your first day of school, and I can't ever take that back. I can promise you this, though, when I return I'm going to be there for everything. I'm going to kiss every cut better and rock you back to sleep when you have a nightmare. I'll make your favorite breakfast of pancakes and eggs.
If you join t- ball, I'm going to take you to all the practices and games and for pizza afterward. From now on, I'll be there for every birthday candle that you blow out. I'm going to give you driving lessons and buy you your first car. You're going to see; you'll get sick of me.
I'm going to be the mother that I always should have been.
I stopped reading the letter when she began addressing me. I looked down to the unusually quiet Evan. Some time while I was reading the letter, he had laid his head down on the sofa and curled into a fetal position. I saw a single tear glisten on the side of his face. Although Evan was only four, he knew more than what people thought was capable.
I began stroking his hair in what I hoped to be soothing manner. "What are you thinking?"
He sniffled and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "I'm happy…but I'm sad, too."
I helped him sit up before talking to him again. "What do you mean by that?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Mommy's saying all these nice things, and I just know she means it, but I want her here now. I don't like that we need to wait for her to come back," he finished, his tone a little angry at the end.
"Are you feeling anything else besides happy and sad?" I wanted him to admit that he was angry.
"No," he answered defensively, but began shifting his eyes.
"Oh, well, I'm happy and sad, but I'm a little mad, too," I said, hoping that would give him the push he needed.
"Really?" he asked, looking at me this time.
"Yeah. I'm happy and sad for the same reasons you are, but then sometimes I get a little mad that she left in the first place," I half-lied. I was happy and sad for the same reason, but I wasn't angry. I chose this, chose Bella, knowing what I was getting into. There were times I became frustrated, but then I remembered that I'd rather have her in my life every so often than not at all.
"I'm a little mad, too," Evan whispered.
"Why are you mad?"
"Because she keeps leaving us. I know she loves us, but I don't know why she keeps leaving. You said it was her job to fly planes, but why can't she get a job like Jacob's mom. His mom cooks food at the diner and then cooks food when she goes home. Jacob sees his mom every day. Sometimes…" he stopped as he began crying. He wiped at his nose again before he started talking once again. "Sometimes I think that Mommy doesn't want to come home and that's why she goes to all these places but doesn't come home." He was still crying, but trying to fight the tears, like the big boy he claimed he was.
Big boy or not, my heart was breaking for him. I scooped him up and sat him on my lap. With no hesitation on his part, he wrapped his arms around my neck and placed his wet cheek on my shoulder.
"Buddy, you were too young to remember this, but when you were a little baby your mom didn't want to leave you. She cried so hard that I thought she was going to drown everyone who lived in Washington." I heard his muffled giggle. "I was the one to tell her to go back."
Evan head shot up so fast that he almost knocked me in the chin. He had fire in his eyes.
"Let me explain," I blurted out, trying to avoid the anger that he was ready to throw my way. "Before you were born, you're mother told me how badly she wanted to fly special planes; it was her dream. When you were born, she still didn't get that chance. I knew that if she didn't go back to try to see if those people let her fly the plane then she never would. What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked, fully knowing that whatever he wanted to be right now would change by next week.
"A garbage man," he said proudly. I knew the reason he choose a garbage man was because he wanted to drive the big truck that made a lot of noise.
"Okay, so let's say you were so close to being able to drive the garbage truck but someone stopped you. Wouldn't you be upset about that?" He nodded his head. "Well flying planes is what your mom wanted, so I told her to go so she could fly the plane, just like I would help you so you can be a garbage man and drive that truck." I hoped that Evan understood what I was saying because I didn't know how else to explain it to him.
"Evan, it's okay to be mad, or sad, or happy, but you have to remember that Mommy loves you." He nodded his head but still continued to sniffle.
"Hey, I got an idea." He looked at me with curious eyes. "How about you start making a list of the things you want to do with her when she gets here. That way you can start right away."
He immediately perked up. "That's an awesome idea." He jumped off my lap and ran to the crayons scattered on the floor- the ones I told him to pick up yesterday.
While he was distracted, I turned my attention back to Bella's letter.
Edward, I could not explain how much I miss you. Newton (Jessica) understands since she's married, but it's still hard to talk about it with her. How do I tell someone else that I miss the way you caress every curve of my body when we're making love? Or about the way you bite my lip right before you release them from a kiss.
The feeling of you inside of me is a sensation I can't recreate no matter how hard I try. My own memories don't do you justice. Rest assured that the first night I am home will be dedicated to reacquainting myself with every part of you. I hope that you are just as eager to feel me, as I am you.
I love you both more than any words could describe. I can't wait until I have both of you in my arms, knowing that I don't have to say goodbye again.
Please remember that everything that I have done thus far was done with you and Evan in mind.
The luckiest mother and wife in the world,
As I wiped away my last tear, I heard Evan say something.
I looked to Evan, confused as to what he just said. Instead, he was looking past me.
I turned and looked into the deep brown eyes I knew so well.
Bella was home.