Twilight character names belong to Stephenie Meyer. The inspiration for TLB is credited to Lavender Mornings by Jude Deveraux. No copyright infringement is intended. Thank you Adt216 and u2shay, my amazing betas, for walking me through this process.
This story was originally donated for the Fandom Gives Back Autism Awareness fundraiser. The link can be found on my profile page. Special thanks go out to all readers who's generosity has helped this worthy cause.
This one shot opens in late June, 1944. Bella is an operative working in London for Project Ultra. Edward is a soldier stationed in France. At this time of this story, Allied troops were still trying to break through the German defenses and liberate Paris.
"You'll leave in an hour."
My father's grave face betrayed him. He was worried. He worried for Carson…he worried for me. My temporary partner and I both nodded in response and turned to leave the colonel's office. I worked constantly to keep his name as colonel, or simply, sir, in my thoughts. To repeat his real name, Charlie, father, or dad, would likely get both of us killed. We turned in unison and made way to the door. I slipped through, not wanting to turn back, but my duty betrayed me. I could feel his eyes boring into the back of my head, and leaving without a private glance back at him was unacceptable.
"Bella," my father called out as if he'd read my mind.
"Yes, sir?" I asked, but it wasn't really necessary. I knew what he wanted. I could only tell him I loved him with my eyes. Any other action would have betrayed us both.
I nodded slightly, my signal that I loved him too. My eyes dropped to the floor, and I turned before either of us could give the other away.
The click of the locks of my leather luggage snapped beneath my fingertips. I was fumbling and the clasp pinched down on my finger. The sudden sharp pain caused me to jump. The injured hand went to my mouth while my free hand covered my no longer flat stomach.
I'm sorry I startled you, baby, I thought.
The flutters began in early March. The first time I understood what it was, I nearly spat all of my morning coffee on Victoria. We were reading the paper about an hour before the first report of the morning was due in and the kick just happened. I've heard it described as something like soda bubbles or gas. For me it was nothing of the sort. It was a strong, hello, Mama, I'm here. I'm growing, and I'm just as strong as you are. And she is. I don't know why I refer to the baby as her or my girl. A feeling, I guess. I just always see a little girl in my head. She's toddling around in pigtails and running from my tickling fingers and straight into her father's arms. That's how I see her when I dream. That's how I see her, with sticky fingers from a popsicle treat offering orange slobbery kisses to Edward. The drip from her chin against the flush of her cold lips and fingers makes Edward laugh and shiver all at the same time.
My finger still throbs as I lift my skirt and tie the loose strings of the pillow around my waist. Shelley had spent the last hour creating a false "belly" for me to tie into position. Little did anyone know that it wouldn't be much longer before I wouldn't need a pillow at all to pull of the mission. With the pillow in place, I straightened the wrinkles of my clothing and stared at my image in the mirror.
My God, if Edward knew what I was doing…
I immediately stop this train of thought. This is my job. This is what I'm good at. And most importantly, I'm the only female in the unit who can pull off the cover.
When I first discovered I was pregnant, I sat half the night on the floor of the loo and wept. I'd been sick for days and it was only after a week of intermittent bouts of nausea that I recognized the symptoms were more than a stomach ailment, that I could be pregnant. I prayed, God I prayed for it to be true. Days stretched into weeks until I was sure I was with child. I cried out of happiness and relief, thanking God for my husband and the blessing of his baby. What better gift could I ask for than the knowledge that I carry a very real piece of Edward with me wherever I went?
Not long after I discovered the pregnancy, we started carrying more and more intel on Normandy. It was then that the happiness over my child morphed into new fear for its father. Staying in Ultra was the only way I could keep tabs on Edward's unit and do my part to make sure Normandy was a success. I had to make sure he survived. No advantage for the Allies was too small. No bit of information could be sacrificed. Too many lives were depending on it, including my own. The paralyzing thought of a life without Edward sealed my decision. My pregnancy would remain a secret for as long as I could possibly keep it.
We're going to be fine, I tell myself as I pull on my sweater. We're all going to be fine.
The car lurches and rolls quickly right as Carson maneuvers us around giant pot holes in the pavement. I clamp my jaw down in hope to avoid biting off my tongue. I can barely make out the road before me and have no idea how Carson is managing to not kill us both.
"You okay back there, Bella?"
I must have made a squeak or some other sound to remind him of my presence. Carson has been utterly silent for the first twenty minutes of our drive. We are almost to Harlesden, west of London. The idiocy of the situation is not lost on me. We never do night drops. It's too dangerous. Something must be changing, to require the pass of intel in the middle of the night. Last week's bombings come to mind and I shudder.
"I'm fine, Carson, just keep your eyes on the road; don't pay me any mind. I'm fine."
Carson doesn't reply, and for this, I'm grateful. He needs to concentrate on the road. My effort not to throw up in the back of the Packard is more than I can manage at the moment, let alone adding polite conversation to the task. I allow my eyes to close and think again of Edward. My memories of him help me relax or at least take my mind away from the moment at hand. In my mind I see his beautiful green eyes pin me as he strolls through our bedroom in the old vicarage.
It's our wedding night, and I'm standing in my garter and nothing else. He's there, breathless, carrying two dishes of wedding cake and an armful of other food items. He skids to a stop, taking in my lack of clothing. I inwardly smile as I know his reaction better than he does. I want to say something witty or rude, but my mouth won't form the words. His eyes, God, his beautiful eyes stare through to my soul. My mouth dries, and I can only hope he likes what he sees or moves before I die of embarrassment and run to hide beneath the covers. I want him to want me. I need it. I crave it.
The dishes and the food he was carrying are gone. He's moving too fast for me to comprehend. I hear the clang of the dishes. Before I can look to see if they've fallen on the floor, his mouth is on mine and my mind goes blank. I can only feel. His lips are insistent, his movements frantic. He's whispering words in my ear of love and affection. I know I should be paying attention to what he's saying, but when his lips reach my neck and trail down my chest, all conscious thought goes out the window.
My feet have left the floor and feathers are floating around me like snowflakes made of down. My head is cradled in his hands as he makes love to me. We are not yet joined as husband and wife but he is making love to me all the same. His mouth, his hands, his breaths, all call out to me, they tell me he loves me. They worship me with the beauty of his gentle touch. Gentle? He's being gentle? I should expect no less from the lover than I do the man. He is gentle with me. That's not to say he doesn't challenge me, but he is gentle when I need him to be. There are topics he doesn't broach because I cannot answer them, my family, my mother, my past. I've decided I do not want gentle. That's what I should want, but I don't. I want to feel. The push and pull I have with Edward makes me feel alive. We have right now, this day, this moment. Nothing else is guaranteed and I need to feel it, remember it, for the fears that crawl in the back of my mind tell me that someday this memory will help me survive. I lace my fingers into Edward's wavy strands and pull. I don't need to pull hard for him to respond. I see worry in his eyes, that he was doing something wrong. I hate that my insistence is making him second guess himself. I say the words that will help him understand. I love you. I need you. His mouth is back on mine and our push and pull begins again. I am alive. I am lit up by his touch. My body arches into him begging for more. He is on his forearms; his hands cradle the back of my head. He pauses. I can feel the tip of him, but it's the look in his eyes that undoes me. He's asking. I nod. He pushes gently. His forehead falls to my collar bone, his body shakes above me. He feels me tense and he stops. He's trying so hard to control everything when in fact there is precious little we can control. I wrap my calves around the back of his thighs and pull. He relents. I break and swallow my scream. It hurts, but I am alive to feel it. I am alive and wanted in his arms.
Our chests both heave but for different reasons. He's grasping to maintain the threads of his control. I'm putting all of my effort into relaxing. The pain recedes. My hand's shake, but I am determined. I move slowly over his hair, his nose, his lips. My right hand trails down over his Adam's apple while the left drags my fingernails across the clipped hairs at the back of his neck. My right hand travels down his long neck, over his collar bone. My fingertips trace his tensing muscles that hold him over me. I stop when I reach his heart. I can feel it pounding beneath my fingertips.
"Mine," I whisper.
Edward moans again. His head falls forward and I feel his whisper upon my lips.
The car lurches again and this time I'm violently thrown left into the glass of the rear passenger window. I'm snapped from my dream and back into reality with the crack of my skull. My mind whirls as the pain echoes in my head. Once more, my hand rests on my stomach and I use the image of our daughter to settle me. Sticky fingers and juicy orange lips are offered from a two year old little girl in pigtails. Her father laps each of them laughing and tickling her until the remnants of the twin pop falls from her fingers and onto the boiling sidewalk beneath her sandy toes.
God, Edward needs this. He needs her. We'll survive for him, little one. I promised.
Edward would have tried to ship me home if he'd been in London when I discovered I was pregnant. But he's not. He's in France pushing forward after D-day. I've heard nothing. Nothing in months, but still I write. Nearly every day I write. I tell him of our child, how she grows and kicks inside me. I pray the news gives him strength.
We've passed the outskirts of Earlsfield and have begun to file through the streets of town proper. The outline of a large building with a steeple and then a playground come into view. Finally, I see people spilling out onto the street from a building near the top of the street. Carson's nerves are already as tight as piano strings. Avoiding pedestrians in a blackout was not part of the plan. I'm so struck by the sight, wondering why all of these people are out at eleven o'clock at night. The streets are dark as they should be and yet there are enough folks out here that it appears as though they are leaving some social event. The faces I can see appear to be happy, if not smiling. Then one after another, I see the faces turn skyward and the smiles that had graced their faces only seconds earlier turn to panic. I can see each person we pass, the moment the recognition hits their faces. I turn the crank and roll down the window until I too hear the noise. It's as loud as a motorcycle engine and growing louder by the second. People are running, fleeing in all directions as realization turns to chaos. I listen hard above the shouts and watch the pedestrians. They appear to be running in the same direction our vehicle is moving. As if the danger will fall behind us.
"Carson, step on it!"
I know the words come out of my mouth. I hear them in my ears. I feel the rev of the engine and the force of my body being pulled further back into the seat bench. The urgent need to pick up the pace is paired with the feel of my sweaty hands gripping the seat cover. I hold on for dear life.
In the end it is all futile anyway. The new pace only speeds us closer to the falling munition. My grip becomes useless against the impact of the car flipping on its side. The explosion is loud, white hot and nearly incomprehensible. Carson swerves. The car jumps a curb, hitting a lamp post causing us to both spin and flip simultaneously. I'm thrown against various surfaces of the interior of the cab until the grinding and glass breaking finally ends. Conversely, the fire has only begun.
I scream Carson's name but nothing moves. Ash and burning debris rain down on the vehicle. I cough and spit as I try to rouse myself and determine what side of Hell's end, or what used to be the vehicle, I'm resting against. Its hard surface is pushed up and something is painfully jabbing my side. I press my hand flat against the door and try to sit. I immediately regret moving. My stomach lurches until the contents spew against the floor and the back of the seat in front of me.
"Carson," I try again as I moan in pain.
My senses are coming back slowly. The pain hits first, followed second by the smell. The acrid scent of burning wood and rubber fills the cab. My eyes blink in a futile effort to focus and ward off the smoke. It's my hearing that is the last to come back to me. I am almost grateful for this. Right now I can barely hear the screams surrounding me. I crawl forward wincing in pain as I put pressure on my hand. My wrist is surely broken. I look for Carson in the front seat. He is nowhere I can see. I feel for him, lest the smoke play tricks on my mind, but there is nothing of him here. A gaping hole in the windshield is stark evidence confirming my fears. I climb, grasping the steering wheel with my uninjured hand for support. I need to be sure he's not beneath the floor boards. Somehow I know he's not there, but I need to be sure before I fully give in to the idea that he's been thrown from the Packard and is likely dead. Instead of finding my partner, my fingers feel the false floorboard.
My mind scrambles to adapt to the situation. I need to get the intel out. The hidden latch is slow to turn beneath my fingertips. I pull myself higher trying to get just a little bit more leverage to open the lever. My torso strains against the bench as I inch forward…then I feel her move.
In that horrible second I'm caught between the job as operative and the role of mother. God answers my silent prayer, the lever releases. The intel is pressed against my bosom as I strain to crawl through the hole in the windshield. I feel the glass scrape my fingers and my forearms, but the sweet breaths of fresher air call to me.
Come on, Bella, I urge myself. We've got to get out of here.
Despite the false pillow beneath my skirt, I remove my sweater and press it against the broken glass give added protection to my baby. New pain hits me as I manage inch by inch through the shattered ring. It is not in my hands. It is not in my forearms or even my head. Sweat pools between my shoulder blades, but the cause of it is not the heat of exertion or the late June temperature. The heat and the pain are one. I ignore them for now; I have to get out. I need fresh air or we both will die. My body lands hard on the sidewalk. My shoulder hits first, followed by my head and finally my hip. The pain is worse now, so much worse, but I'm too dizzy and disoriented to do anything but blink against the darkness flooding my vision.
"She's on fire!" a nearby voice screams.
In my haze I realize the screaming woman means me. The nauseating smell is my own flesh. There is a crowd. There are blankets. There is a flurry of patting and pounding, and it's all I can do to wrap my arms protectively around my stomach. One man realizes what I'm doing and I hear him call out for help screaming.
"She's pregnant. Get her to the ambulance first!"
I'm desperately trying to hold onto the image of her pigtails and Edward's happy face, but they slip through my fingers like smoke, until it all goes black.
A/N: Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.
Surrender Historical Research and Reference Guide:
Story reference: Bella envisions a little girl with sticky popsicle hands running to her father.
Historical Significance: Popsicles were invented in 1905. Twin Popsicles (two popsicles sticks together) were invented during the Great Depression.
Story reference: Bella's Packard, carrying intelligence information is struck by the remnants of a V1 flying bomb.
Historical Significance: The first V-1 bombing takes place one week after D-day, June 13, 1944 and continues at a rate of up to 1,000 per day in SE England.
Story reference: Bella and Carson are traveling through Earlsfield in South London when a V-1 hits the town.
Historical Significance: German V-1 planes came straight across the Channel over Croydon, Tooting, Earlsfield, Putney and Wandsworth, and into central London, this area became known as Doodlebug Alley