Entry #66 - AH

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: Cadet Cullen

Picture Prompt Number: 42

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Rating: M

Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 8584

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation): Edward Cullen is a first year military cadet. He hasn't seen Bella Swan, his girlfriend, for six months. He gets hurt the day before he is supposed to see her. Will he be able to leave and see her or stay and get treated for his injury? AH

Warnings and Disclaimer:

Everything twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. The lyrics of the songs used here belong to their respective authors. No infringement is intended.

To say I was not having a good night would have been an understatement. I was evidently not thinking clearly when I signed up for Friday's midnight shifts. You see, a regular week here in the Forks Military Academy was intense to say the least, and to end it with a midnight shift was obviously not my brightest move. Tonight was especially bad, and it was mainly my fault. I was rushing back to the living quarters after my midnight shift, and I decided to take the short cut through the construction site. I was jogging my way through the debris, completely spent and not paying attention, when I stepped on what might have been a window or some kind of crystal structure. The glass was sharp, and it cut through the side of my boot. I pulled the glass out with a groan and noticed there was blood on the tip of the glass. I limped to the infirmary and sat outside to wait for the nurse to arrive for the early morning shift.

"Cullen, what are you doing here?" I didn't realize I had fallen asleep until I heard Emmett's voice. Emmett McCarty was one of the plebes in my company; he was also my only friend and roommate. "Didn't your shift end like an hour ago?" Emmett asked, giving me a friendly nudge in the side. I rubbed the heels of my hands on my eyes and sat up straight, trying to wake up. I hated being so fucking tired all the time.

"I'm waiting for the nurse." I couldn't help wincing as I stretched my leg and rested my injured foot on the floor.

"What happened?" Emmett asked, worried.

"I cut my foot," I explained matter-of-factly.

"Shit… do you think you'll need stiches?"

"I don't know… I haven't looked."

"Dammit, right before leave tomorrow?"

"Does that matter?"

"Well, if you need stiches and they have to take you to the hospital, they won't let you leave tomorrow," Emmett informed me, looking at his watch. "Or today, for that matter."

"What?" I gasped, horrified. Saturday morning was our first leave day since we started boot camp in the summer.

"Yeah, 'cause we leave before noon," Emmett explained.

"Shit!" I banged my head against the wall behind me. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. It was just my fucking luck to get injured right before leave.

"Is she coming?" Emmett murmured tentatively.

"Yeah," I started taking deep breaths, trying to convince myself I wouldn't need stitches. Of course she is coming, I thought angrily.

"How long has it been?" Emmett almost whispered.

Maybe it was because I was tired and in pain, but it seemed like a fucking stupid question. We both had been in boot camp for six months. Seriously, he doesn't know how long it has been?

"Six months," I said through my teeth after taking a deep breath, trying not to take my anger out on Emmett. Six fucking months. Ever since the day I met Bella, I hadn't been able to stay away from her for long. I remembered that day as if it was yesterday…

I had just moved to Forks to live with my uncle, Carlisle, and his wife, Esme. Even though they were nice, I hated them. I hated their perfect lives and their perfect daughter, Alice. I hated everything back then. That night, Alice had a friend sleep over. Refusing to go to dinner with them, I stayed in my room. It was my way of avoiding having to talk to anyone, like I did most days back then anyway. I couldn't stand Alice. She was always so nice and so talkative. She was a pain in the ass. And I knew that if her friend was anything like her, I would dislike her too.

At least I had my own room in the Cullens' house. Unfortunately, I had to share a bathroom with Alice. It hadn't really been a problem, since Alice always slept in, and I had trouble sleeping. So I was always done with the bathroom before she even woke up. It hadn't been a problem until that morning, when I walked in the bathroom, with my eyes still closed, and I first heard her.

"…Gee, wheeze, baby please. Let me take you to an island of the sweet cool breeze…" Alice's friend was singing with a horrible Jamaican accent. I opened my eyes, and that was when I first saw her. Well, I could only see her feet since she was behind the wooden screen that split the bathroom. Her toenails were pedicured in hot pink, probably one of the outcomes of her stupid sleepover with my infantile cousin. My morning wood noticed her too, as she was clearly dancing behind the screen. I hadn't realized I had a thing for feet until that day, when I couldn't stop looking at hers.

The bathroom was filled with a sweet smell of strawberries, which eventually became my favorite scent in the world. The girl in the bathroom, who I guessed was Alice's friend, had kept dancing and singing, oblivious of my presence on the other side of the screen. "She call me Mr. Boombastic, say me fantastic, touch me on me butt… she say I'm Mr. Ro...ro… romantic…"

She moved around behind the screen, and I could see a pair of hot pink soft-looking boy shorts dangling from her hands as she stepped into them. She kept on dancing as a pair of skinny jeans followed the sexy boy shorts. I couldn't see what she was doing after that, but I guessed she was getting something on top as well. I knew I should have left, but I couldn't. I was rooted to the floor on the other side of the screen, my feet refusing to move as my brain tried to figure out what color her bra was, intensely wishing I had X-ray vision.

Her voice was muffled by something as she walked out from behind the screen. Shit, move, Cullen, I thought, but then she was already standing in front of me. Luckily, she was bent over with a towel on her head. The next few seconds went by so quickly, I didn't have time to defend myself. Her shriek of horror was earsplitting as she whipped her hair back. Almost immediately, something hard hit me on the face and then fell on my foot.

"Ow!" I complained with a hand on my lip. I looked at my fingers and noticed I was bleeding. Shit. I looked to the floor, and the fucking conditioner bottle that had hit me on the face was still rolling around on the floor. "What the fuck?" I groaned at her.

"You scared me!" she yelped, looking at me. Her brown eyes were deep and sweet. "I'm sorry." She giggled.

"Do you think this is fucking funny?" I snapped at her, looking at her beautiful eyes. My lip was still bleeding, and it fucking hurt.

"I'm sorry," she said again, losing her smile. Then I felt like a jerk, because her smile was beautiful, and I had made it go away. She moved closer to me, and I backed away in reflex, until my back hit the sink. Ouch. "Are you OK? Let me see." Her little hand moved my hand away from my lip. "It's OK, I'm going to be a doctor," she said and winked at me carefully holding my lip between her fingers.

If anybody asked me what the hardest thing of being a cadet was, it wouldn't be the strenuous amount of exercise, or the lack of sleep, or the fucking Drill Sergeant yelling in my face all the time. No, it wouldn't be any of that. The hardest thing of being here was, without a doubt, being away from Bella. There wasn't a second of my day I didn't have her on my mind. And even though we communicated through email, mail or phone as much as we could, I missed her more than I have ever missed anyone or anything in my life. I missed her touch and her scent. I missed her smile and her laugh. I missed how she would caress the hair behind my ear.

"Forget it." I decided, standing up on one foot. "Let's go." I limped away from the infirmary. Emmett stood up behind me.

"What if you need stitches?" Emmett asked, grabbing me by my elbow and helping me walk.

"Once I'm out, I'll have it checked," I replied, holding on to Emmett.

"What is going on here?" We were interrupted by a woman's voice. Shit…

"Sergeant Hale!" Emmett called, turning around to face Sergeant Rosalie Hale who was standing behind us. "You look lovely this morning." Emmett walked closer to her, leaving me to balance on one foot.

Fucker. Ever since the first time Emmett got injured —and had met Sergeant Nurse Rosalie Hale— he always stopped by the infirmary on his way back from his shift, just to wish her good morning. Like I said, fucker.

Sergeant Hale barely acknowledged Emmett, unless you count rolling her eyes at his flirting. She looked at me as she spoke. "Cadet Cullen, what's wrong?"

"No-" I started but couldn't finish due to Emmett's impossibility of denying anything to Nurse Rosalie.

"He cut his foot," Emmett blurted out without thinking.

"Emmett!" I groaned as Nurse Rosalie unlocked the door to the infirmary.

"In you go," Rosalie said, pointing inside. I limped to the door, glowering at my oblivious friend.

"Carry on, Cadet McCarty." Rosalie dismissed Emmett dryly as she turned around and walked inside.

"It was a pleasure to see you this morning, Sergeant Hale!" Emmett called, hanging on the door of the infirmary. "You look lovely, as always," he said louder as she kept on walking. "I hope you have a wonderful day!" He was practically yelling at his last remark, and Nurse Rosalie waved her hand at him in annoyance. Emmett was completely infatuated by Nurse Rosalie; it almost made me smile, almost.

I was sitting on the exam table in Nurse Rosalie's office. I had my leg stretched on top of the table. She took my boot off and arched her eyebrows when she saw my sock was soaked in blood. She cleaned my wound with saline solution and was trying to determine the depth of it. I was trying to remain still and show her no pain to try to avoid the stitches. I was hoping to be able to fool her.

"You need stitches," she announced, taking her gloves off and dumping them in the trash. She grabbed her clipboard and clicked her pen, looking at me.

"But it stopped bleeding!" I retorted loudly, and I was disappointed at how desperate my voice sounded. I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. Nurse Rosalie looked at me, her eyes travelling to my hands which were tightly grabbing the edge of the exam table. I tried to relax my grip and play it cool.

Sergeant Hale had been working here for at least four years. She probably knew I was trying to avoid getting stitches in order to be able to go on leave later today. She would understand, right? She got a new pair of gloves and grabbed my foot again. I held my breath and looked away. My foot was hurting like a mother.

"Edward, look…" she whispered as she grabbed my foot in both hands. She had never called me Edward before. I looked at my foot as Nurse Rosalie used both thumbs to pull apart the edges of the wound. When she did this blood started gushing out. The gash on my foot looked like it was at least an inch deep. I grabbed on tightly to the edge of the table holding back a groan. She let go of my foot and poured saline solution over it again, holding it close. "There is no damage to the tendons, but you need stitches to stop the bleeding."

I took a couple deep breaths before speaking. "It had stopped bleeding," I said, trying to remain calm. "Please, can you just cover it up now that it is clean?" I pleaded with her, and she sighed, looking down.

"I could… but it would be at your own risk," she explained, looking at me and arching her eyebrows.

"Ma'am, yes, Ma'am." I closed my eyes, finally getting what I wanted.

"You would also have to sign a refusal of treatment form."

"Ma'am, yes, Ma'am."

Never underestimate your wounds, was one of the many rules in our Forks Academy booklet. I knew this rule by heart. If you underestimate your wounds then you end up being a burden to everybody. I knew this. But c'mon, give me fucking break! We were not on the field. We would be on leave later today. Why the fuck would she care if I get my stiches here or outside? I knew I could get in trouble if one of my superiors found out, but I hoped to get through the morning rounds and then be able to leave with Bella.

Nurse Rosalie gave me a form stating I was leaving without stiches at my own risk. Great. I signed the form and left the infirmary after she bandaged my foot. As I limped to the living quarters, I was careful to not be seen by anyone. Emmett was already snoring on the top bunk as I walked in our room. I needed some rest. I was exhausted. It was 3:00 am already, and 5:oo am first call would come so fucking early.

5:00 a.m. first call was a bitch. We had thirty minutes of personal hygiene before formation and inspection. Then, of course, there was physical training. Any other day of the week, after PT we would hit the showers, have breakfast, and then head to classes and weapon training. But today, after breakfast, we were finally going home.

I sat on my bed and looked at my foot. It was hurting more than before, and it was red and swollen around the bandages. Great. Emmett was already up and getting dressed while whistling. The one thing I didn't like about rooming with Emmett was how happy he was in the mornings.

"Bitch, we are going home today!" Emmett cheered, smacked my back, and left the room.

I struggled to get my foot inside the boot because it was very swollen. I focused on my breathing as I got dressed. I just needed to get through the morning PT, and then I would be with Bella, and everything would be all right.

"Cadet Cullen, what is the matter with you?" DS Hansen yelled at me as we were running laps. Running three miles under twenty eight minutes was the last part of the morning PT. I had sailed through the pull ups and the crunches as I usually did; however, I was having difficulty with running laps. My foot was fucking hurting, and I couldn't run as fast as I usually did.

"Sir, nothing, sir," I said through a tight jaw as I kept running.

"Why are you trailing behind then? Is there a problem?"

"Sir, no, sir," I answered and kept going. I was trying my best not to show him I was hurt, but I usually would finish first on the morning runs, and today I was closer to last. DS Hansen stayed on my back throughout the training, but I was able to finish on time.

Felix Hansen was the toughest drill sergeant in this academy. It was no coincidence we had him as our DS since we were the strongest plebe company at the academy. He would always be on my back because I was cocky but not good enough, in his own words. He was always making my life miserable but hadn't been able to break me yet.

After PT I made it to the showers and back to the living quarters. The bandage on my foot was now wet and dirty. I opened it to realize my wound was bleeding again. I cleaned it with alcohol and was bandaging it again when Emmett came in the room.

"Shit, that looks bad!" Emmett shouted, loud as always.

"Jesus! Emmett, shut the fuck up!" I growled as Emmett closed the door. The only thing I needed was a superior to look at my foot and try to teach me a lesson.

"Sorry…" Emmett apologized, closing the door. We both finished getting dressed in silence. We just had to go for morning chow and one last formation before leaving. "I'll save you blueberry pancakes, bitch," Emmett joked as he left the room. I would have laughed at that if I was in a better mood.

I finished getting ready and struggled again to get my foot inside the boot. It was fucking hurting, and once I finished, I was sweating again. Wiping my face, I tried to appear presentable. In an effort to remain unnoticed, I did my best to walk steadily and not limp on my way to breakfast. Unfortunately, as if waiting for me, Nurse Rosalie was standing next to DS Hansen outside of the living quarters. Shit… This couldn't be good.

"Cadet Cullen!" DS Hansen yelled at me.

"Sir, yes, sir." I stopped in front of him and saluted him. Nurse Rosalie was standing behind him, her arms folded over her chest, looking at me with arched eyebrows.

"How is your foot?" DS Hansen asked, walking around me.

"Sir, my foot is fine, sir," I said stoically, showing him nothing.

"It doesn't hurt?"

"Sir, no, sir."

"And you don't need stitches?"

"Sir, no, sir." I risked a glance at Nurse Rosalie. Fucking bitch sold me out.

"You wouldn't mind running eight more laps then," DS Hansen commanded, looking straight into my eyes.

"But, sir-" I started before I could stop myself. I should have known better.

"Sixteen then?" DS Hansen challenged provocatively as Nurse Rosalie winced, shaking her head. If I complained again, he would surely give me more laps to run. I looked at him briefly. "Now!" DS Hansen charged in my face.

"Sir, yes, sir!" I yelled back and started running toward the track field. Only four more miles. I can do this…

DS Hansen and Nurse Rosalie wanted to make a fucking example out of me, but I could play at this game too. I focused on my breathing, on not limping, on not showing DS Hansen any pain at all. I thought of Bella and finally getting to see her, to have my lips on her. I remembered the first time we kissed and how I didn't stand a chance after that…

In my junior year in high school, I had been known to hang out with the pothead losers of Forks. That Friday night had been no different. Even though I had been drinking and smoking, I was not having a good time. I was so fucking tired of Forks and everyone in it. Tanya had offered to blow me yet again, but I wanted nothing to do with her, or with her mouth for that matter.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I saw my cousin, Alice, and her friend, Bella, had arrived. What the hell were they doing here? I thought as I saw them. I knew Alice was up to something. I knew she liked Jasper Whitlock. Could she have any worse taste? Jasper Whitlock was a loser, like everyone else in Forks. Alice was too good for him.

When I saw Jasper give them beer, I lost it. "What the fuck are you doing, Whitlock?" I barked at him, getting closer.

"Hey, Edward, 'sup?" the idiot said to me. I looked at Alice disapprovingly, she should have known better than to be here. I tried futilely to ignore Bella, but I ended up glancing at her, and she smiled broadly at me. Geez, why was this girl always so happy?

"She's my fucking cousin, Whitlock. Get your fucking hands off her!" I spat back at Whitlock, taking my eyes off of Bella.

"Edward, relax… we are just having fun," Alice said casually, holding Jasper's hand over her shoulder. "Why don't you have a beer with me, coz?" she slurred.

I glared at Alice while I debated with myself on what to do. Fuck this shit, they were fucking drunk already. What the fuck do I care? I looked over at Bella and the huge beautiful smile plastered on her face. What the fuck is up with this girl, and why is she smiling at me all the time? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying not to lose it. She is drunk already. I reminded myself, telling the tightness on my chest to calm the fuck down. Without saying anything else, I turned around and walked away.

"Hey, don't be a party pooper!" I heard Alice yell behind me.

Party pooper? Who says that?

I was angry and annoyed. This night had taken a turn for the worse. I felt a sense of responsibility for my cousin and her friend, so I couldn't help looking over at them throughout the night. I couldn't have any fun like that. Not that I was having any fun before they got there anyways. Jasper kept bringing beers for them, and I did my best to ignore them. I was holding it together pretty successfully, until Mike Newton sat next to Bella. Mike fucking Newton, one of the biggest douchebags of Forks. I didn't realize I was walking toward them until I was right in front of them.

"Get lost, Newton," I snapped at the kid, having no patient for this shit.

"What the hell is your problem, Cullen?" he asked, standing up. Fucking loser. He was, at least, a foot shorter than me.

"I said get lost… and take your fucking pot with you," I growled, smashing the bag of weed on his chest. Newton turned his sorry ass around and left mumbling something unimportant. I glimpsed at Bella again like an idiot. She wasn't smiling now, her eyes were wide, and she was biting her lip. It was very distracting. I had to close my eyes again, breathing hard through my nose, to remain in control. The only reason they sent me here in the first place was because of my destructive behavior, and fighting was just one of the problems. I was very close to being put in a foster institution or some shit.

After a moment, I calmed down and was able to open my eyes and address my cousin's suitor. "Whitlock? Can I have a word with you?" I asked through my teeth. Whitlock shrugged like he didn't have a care in the world. Fucking pothead.

"Edward, stop!" Alice squealed, standing in front of me.

"Does Carlisle know you're here?" I asked accusingly, towering over her. She looked down and stepped aside. "I didn't think so."

"You're such an asshole," I think I heard her say but I didn't care. I walked away with Whitlock trailing behind me.

"Dude, what's your problem?"

"Don't call me dude." I breathed hard, turning around. I was close to losing it. "I told you she's my cousin, and you give her pot?"

"You smoke pot too!"

"So what? That's not the point."

"I like her," the fucker started. "I always have… I just wanted her to have fun," he finished with another shrug. His careless attitude was pissing me off. My hands were in fists, and I didn't know what to say or what to do. All I wanted to do was punch him. I really, really, needed to punch him, or at least punch something. But I was trying my best not to.

"I'll walk her home, don't worry," he insisted, and in honesty, he seemed like a decent guy. I was close to relaxing until he spoke again. "Mike likes Bella too," Whitlock announced. "We'll walk them home."

I just saw red while my hand connected with his jaw, and he was on the floor a second later. "Fuck! That was completely uncalled for!" Jasper cried from the floor as I grabbed my hand. My knuckles were hurting but the relief of having hit something was gratifying and completely worth it. I extended my hand to help him up.

An hour later, Jasper and I were walking Bella and Alice home. The newly love birds were holding hands walking in front of Bella and me. I was walking behind Bella, with my hands in my pockets, trying to figure out why I felt so protective of her. I couldn't help looking at the way her hips swayed as she walked. Her tight jeans hugged her curves in a delicious manner. My dirty thoughts were distracted when I noticed she was mumbling something. As I approached her, I had to suppress a snort because, wouldn't you know, she was singing again.

"... Even my mama thinks that my mind is gone…" she chanted as I stood next to her. I looked at her in mocked shock, scanning my brain for the lyrics of the song she was singing. She looked at me and blushed, probably embarrassed that I was listening to her. She then smiled and, to my surprise, continued singing. "But I ain't never crossed a man that didn't deserve it. Me, be treated like a punk… You know that's unheard of…" She pointed a finger to my chest, coming closer. "You better watch how you talkin', and where you walkin'… Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk."

Bella stopped singing abruptly, and her eyes widened as she looked into mine. We had both stopped walking, and I was just looking at her. She was wearing her favorite hoodie, the yellow one. This girl fucking loved hoodies, and she was always wearing one. But this yellow one was, by far, her favorite since it was the one she wore most frequently. Jesus fucking Christ! Why am I rambling about fucking hoodies?

"Oh my god! Did you just smile?" she quipped with a broad smile.

Was I smiling? I immediately frowned.

"What's with you and '90s songs?" I said evasively, trying to forget the fact that it was probably the first time I had smiled since the morning I said goodbye to my parents. Bella shrugged and turned to look Alice and Jasper, who had kept walking, and were now a block away. I looked at my shoes nervously, trying to avoid her, still a little shaken about the whole smiling dilemma. And fuck me sideways, she started singing once more.

"I really hate to trip, but I gotta loc'- As they grew I see myself in the pistol smoke, fool…" She was now attempting to dance and rap, looking at me, but as she walked back, the sidewalk ended, and she lost her footing. She almost fell on her ass, but I caught her arm and pulled her close to me. She looked up into my eyes through her lashes. And I didn't know what got into me, but feeling her breathe so close to me, I had an unbearable need to kiss her. Until she opened her mouth again, that is. "I'm the kinda G the little homies wanna be like. On my knees in the night. Sa-"

"Please stop singing," I groaned, annoyed, still holding her close to me.

"Make me," she dared, looking at me, and that was it. My lips were on hers consuming every bit of her mouth while my hand seized her hair, pulling her face to mine. Her little hands were on my neck as she pressed her body against mine.

When I finished running the sixteen laps, there were already people waiting in the parking lot. The track field was across the lot, next to the park. I knew somewhere in that parking lot Bella was waiting for me. I straightened my posture and tried to control my panting as DS Hansen approached me. He stared at me for some time, waiting for me to break down, but I was standing strong.

"You may go get your bag… Carry on," DS Hansen said sternly, dismissing me.

Well, thank fuck!

I walked back to the living quarters, carefully avoiding not to limp, knowing that DS Hansen was probably watching me. As soon as I walked in my room, I released the weight on my injured foot and limped to my bed panting. Exhausted and needing a minute to breathe, I sat on my bed and stretched my leg. I didn't even try to get the boot off this time. I skipped breakfast altogether, knowing that Bella was probably waiting for me already. As I limped to the door carrying my bag, I kept telling myself, this will be over soon, and I will be with Bella. Once at my door, I paused to take a couple long breaths, wiped the sweat from my face, and walked out.

I walked slowly toward the parking lot, trying not to limp, my eyes roaming the crowd, looking for my Bella. Next to the wooden panel which covered the construction, wearing jeans, her classic black Chucks, and the blue hoodie I gave her last Christmas, was my sweet Bella. I smiled at the fact that she was wearing that hoodie. She had the hood up, and her hair was flowing from underneath the hoodie over her chest, looking exquisite. As soon as I spotted her, I dropped my bag and sped up toward her. When Bella saw me, she beamed and started running over to me. Tears were streaming down her face as she ran into me and hugged me. I buried my face in her neck relishing in her scent. Strawberries…

"Are you OK?" she asked, grabbing my face in both hands. I nodded and closed my eyes, finally kissing her. Her lips were anxious against mine.

"Cadet Cullen?" I froze as DS Hansen yelled behind me.

"Please don't say anything," I whispered to Bella. I turned around and stood up straight, facing DS Hansen. What now?

"Were you limping, Cullen?" DS Hansen asked.

Shit… Was I limping? I didn't even know I was limping!

"Sir, no, sir," I replied tiredly. For the love of all that is holy! Would this guy ever give me a break?

"Are you calling me a liar then?" He challenged.

"Sir, no, sir." I started taking deeper breaths. I knew what was coming.

"Is your foot hurting, Cullen?"

"Sir, no, sir," I said through my teeth.

"How about eight more laps then?"

I fucking knew it. Before I could say anything, Bella moved from behind me and stepped closer to DS Hansen. "But it's his leave day!" Bella yelled angrily, looking up at DS Hansen. He was towering over her, grinning, getting just what he wanted. I looked down briefly and breathed hard.

Baby, I told you to stay quiet…

"Sixteen, then," DS Hansen ordered as Bella covered her mouth. Knowing how feisty Bella could get, I decided to stop her before she said anything else. I grabbed her hand in silence and pulled her behind me, giving her a little squeeze, begging her to keep quiet. I released Bella's hand and walked back to the tracks followed by DS Hansen.

I couldn't believe I was fucking running laps again today. I was trying to stay focused on my breathing and on counting the laps. If I broke down now, it would all have been worthless. I needed to focus on the positive, on the fact that Bella was here, and on all the things I was going to do to her later. I could still taste her in my mouth and smell the strawberry scent of her conditioner. I focused on Bella to forget about the pain in my foot and how tired I was. As I kept going, I stole glances at Bella who was back at the wooden panel, waiting for me, sitting on the ground. She had her head rested on her knees, and I knew she was probably crying in frustration. It tore my heart to watch her like this, hunched over her legs, so small and so sad.

As everyone else started leaving the parking lot, I focused on Bella and tried to keep going, remembering last Christmas when I gave her that hoodie...

Bella and I had become inseparable after our first kiss. Even though I still had anger issues, and I was a jealous bastard, somehow she still put up with me. Bella was an amazing girl, she was funny and quirky and beautiful, and she made me so happy. She made everything better about being in Forks.

It was Christmas Eve, and Bella and her father, Charlie, came to spend it with the Cullens and myself. Bella didn't usually wear dresses, but damn did she look beautiful in the green dress she was wearing that night. It wasn't without difficulty that I was keeping my hands to myself. After dinner, Bella whispered in my ear to go to her room afterwards. This had become a ritual for us. I would climb to her bedroom window at night, and we would make out. Charlie was, thankfully, a deep sleeper and a loud snorer, so when he was out, he was out. I was happy to just make out with Bella. We were just kids, and I wasn't about to push Bella into something she was not ready for. I'd had my share of experience with the slutty girls of Forks, as well as in Chicago before I moved to Forks. But when it came to being with someone that you cared for, I was as much of a virgin as Bella was. And truthfully, it scared me shitless to be her first. I had no idea how to make it good for someone; I had never worried about that before. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I thought about it a million times per day, and I had even done some research over the internet. Little did I know, that night I would put my research to good use.

After Bella and her father left the Cullens' house, I went to my room, packed her present, and I was climbing her window a few minutes later. Bella was still wearing her dress when I climbed into her bedroom. She beamed at me and ran to meet me. She kissed me sweetly, grabbing my neck.

"I.. I got you something," I stammered, unzipping the backpack, nervousness reaching me all of the sudden.


"Yeah…" I felt so silly my ears were burning as I got the wrapped package out of my backpack.

"What is it?"

"You'll have to see for yourself," I said softly, and she smiled at me as she proceeded to desperately tear the wrapping paper. She looked at the blue hoodie I got her and squealed while turning it around. It was a Beastie Boys' sweatshirt. The front had a radio in yellow which said Beastie Boys. The back had a Venn-diagram of two circles. The left circle said "things I can't stand." The right circle said "things I know you planned." Where the two circles met it said "it."

I knew she was into '90s music, and "Sabotage" was one of my favorite Beastie Boys' songs. Maybe she could improve the collection of random '90s songs she liked to hilariously perform at the weirdest times. She giggled when she looked at the back. "It's dumb…" I said, embarrassed, grabbing the sweatshirt from her hands.

"No! It's perfect!" she chirped, smacking my hand and hugging the sweatshirt to her chest. "Thank you so much." She pulled me close and kissed me, hugging the sweatshirt between us. She broke the kiss and looked at me. "Can I go change?" I shrugged and, after she left the room, sat on her bed completely relieved that she liked her present.

Bella was back a few minutes later, wearing the sweatshirt and her pajama shorts. I smiled at her, delighted that she was wearing her present already. She closed the door behind her with a devilish smile. I heard the bolt of the door lock as she looked at me and pulled the hood of the hoodie over her head.

"IIIIIIIIIIIII can't stand it, I know you planned it… I'ma set it straight, this Watergate…" She started singing, exactly as I knew she would. I groaned melodramatically and covered my face with her pillow, pretending to dislike her singing, but I was really just hiding my stupid grin. She giggled and kept going with the song, trying her best New Yorker rapper accent. I flopped on her bed on my back and kept groaning, hiding my chuckling with her pillow. Her pillow smelled like her, like her strawberry conditioner.

I felt her weight on the bed then, and she was straddling me, while she kept on singing. "So, while you sit back and wonder why…I got this fucking thorn in my side…" She giggled again, pulling the pillow from my face. "Oh My Gawd, It's A Mirage… I'm Tellin' Y'all It's Sabotage…"

I was trying hard not to smile when I looked at her, but when she started making scratching noises, it was too much, and I was laughing. She folded her arms over my chest and lay on top of me, satisfied with the outcome of her singing. She put her chin over her forearm and looked at me.

"I love you, Bella," I said for the first time, pulling the hood from her face. The words just came out without warning, but they were true and had been true for a while. I grabbed her cheeks with both hands and tried to convey how much I meant what I had told her. Her eyes watered and she breathed deeply before she smiled and kissed me.

"I know…" she spoke between kisses, "as I love you." She smiled, looking at me. "Can I ask you something?"

"Anything," I blurted out and then regretted it. I knew where this could go.

"Edward, I want you to tell me about them…" she whispered, looking at me with eager eyes.

"Bella… please." I released her face with a sigh, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose.

"I want to know about them," she insisted.

"Don't do this…" I warned, sitting down and bringing her up with me. The holidays were difficult enough without having to talk about my parents. The year before, I had spent Christmas and New Year's Eve in my bedroom, refusing to interact with the Cullens. I knew it had hurt Esme, but it was my first Christmas without my parents. I deserved a fucking break. This Christmas was different though; Bella was in my life, and she made it bearable, barely. I lifted Bella off of me and she sighed as I got off of the bed. I stared at the window with my hands in fists while anger consumed me. I was trying hard to keep it together and not ruin our night.

"Edward… please…" she continued, coming closer. Her little hand caressed my back from my neck down. Her touch was soothing, but it wasn't helping much. "You've got so much anger inside of you… I want to help you."

"What do you want to know, Bella?" I snapped, turning around. Her hand dropped to her side. "They were great people! My mom was beautiful and caring, and my dad was smart and funny… they were great, OK? They were fucking great!" I snarled at her, and she backed away from me. Great, now I was going to lose her too.

"Calm down…" she said softly, taking a step closer to me.

Why wasn't she running away?

"I just… I think it would be good to talk about them… to get it out," she explained, getting closer still, placing her hand on my chest.

Bella knew very well what had happened to my parents. Everybody fucking knew. I understood she wanted to know what they were like before they were killed, but it was too painful to think about them. I breathed hard, running a hand through my hair, trying to calm the fuck down. I could feel my heart beating hard against her hand. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed her wrist in my hand. "What do you want me to say, Bella? Shit happens… even to good people." I released her hand as I walked to her bed and sat on the edge. I tried rubbing my knuckles on my thighs to fight the need to punch something.

I remembered the morning I saw my parents for the last time. My mother kissing my cheek, saying she wouldn't let Dad and I gang up against her on Risk that night. She was the first one to lose yet again the night before. My mother was terrible at strategy games; she never wanted to kill anybody. Dad and I teased her about it constantly. Little did we know, they would get on the unluckiest train ride of their lives, and we would never play Risk again. "Fucking terrorists," I murmured, dropping my head in my hands. Bella approached me quietly, standing in front of me, and caressed the hair behind my ear as I rested my head on her stomach.

"You know what the worst part is?" I asked, looking up at her. She remained silent, caressing my hair, knowing how much it calmed me. "Just… not being able to do shit about it."

"Well, then let's do something about it."

"There's nothing to do, Bella."

"My mom died of cancer, Edward… I'm going to be a doctor, and I will save other people," she said enthusiastically. Bella was the most optimistic person I knew. She believed she could make a difference in the world. I doubted it, not because I didn't think she was capable, but because the world was too much of a shitty place. I was a pessimistic prick after all.

"What do you want me to do? Join the fucking military?" And I had never thought about it until I said it that night. I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I was going to be eighteen that June, would have graduated from high school, and I hadn't applied to any colleges yet. I decided it then, after talking that night to Bella, I was going to join the military.

And so here I was, a year later, running fucking laps for the third time, under the scrutiny of DS fucking Hansen. I looked at him and huffed as I kept going, counting the laps as I went. My brain drifted back to that Christmas night again, trying to give myself something to think about other than the pain.

That night Bella had given me a present too. She wasn't wearing anything under the sweatshirt. I almost had a heart attack when she took the hoodie off. We ended up making love for the first time that night. I tried my best to not hurt her, to make it good for her, even though I was nervous as fuck. We had gotten much better at it since then, and I couldn't fucking wait to be with her again. Six fucking months...

I looked at Bella again. Just one more lap. I was running on fumes, trying to push through. She was still sitting on the ground, hunched over her legs, holding her knees from underneath with her hands. I hated that she had to be waiting there for me. I hated making her suffer.

Once I finished the last lap, I was completely out of breath and had to hold on to my knees. DS Hansen was walking toward me, so I needed to get it together soon. Once the DS was near, I had to stand up straight. I was still panting but trying to stop breathing through my nose.

"Are you OK, Cadet Cullen?" DS Hansen challenged.

"Sir, yes, sir," I said panting, still out of breath. Fucker...

"Is your foot OK?"

"Sir… my foot is fine…. sir," I answered between breaths.

"Do you think you should leave?"

"Sir, yes, sir… Please sir," I pleaded desperately. I didn't know if I could hold it in anymore. I was exhausted and in pain. DS Hansen looked me in the eyes.

"One of these days, Cullen… One of these days…"

"Sir, can I be excused, sir?"

"Carry on, Cullen, you are dismissed," DS Hansen commanded and I breathed hard in relief. I saluted him and walked to Bella. I avoided limping as best as I could, but it was becoming harder and harder not to. My foot screamed in protest every time I put it down. I picked my bag from the floor wincing and walked to Bella. She got up from the floor and walked to the car. She was crying and biting her nails; she probably didn't know what she could do.

"Bella… don't help me…" I warned, coming closer. "Just get in the car, please." I wanted to be sure I wasn't stopped again. Bella obeyed and got in the car. As I got in, I took off my hat and laid my head back, trying to take deeper breaths.

"Edward, I am so sorry," Bella apologized, still crying.

"It's OK… I'm OK." I looked at her, grabbed her face and pulled her close to mine. Our lips touched and I was home. I kissed her passionately, my breath coming hard through my nose. "I am so happy you are here," I whispered, still holding her face with both hands. I kissed her softly once more and sat back, taking my handkerchief out and drying my face. I unbuttoned the first few buttons on my uniform as she started the car. She looked at me and I tried to smile.

"Are you sure you are OK?" she questioned again, grabbing my hand.

"Bella… I'll be fine… I have a cut on my foot… He was trying to get me to admit it and stay."

"Is it deep?"

"I'm not sure… Bella, can we just go home? Please… I want to go home with you."

"OK… but you'll let Carlisle take a look at it?"

"Yes…" I grunted and rested my head back again. "Where's everybody?" I asked. I thought Carlisle, Esme and Alice would come to pick me up too.

"OK... so, don't be mad... but... um they think your leave starts tomorrow," she murmured, lowering her voice and looking at her hands.


"Well, Charlie is out of town... until tomorrow... I wanted to keep you to myself," she confessed, looking at me through her lashes. "But-"

"Fuck! Bella, I missed you so much!" I said, attacking her mouth with mine.

Bella drove me to her house as she had originally planned. I convinced her we didn't need to go to my uncle's to get stitches. I promised her I would let her look at it and clean it. She had volunteered this past summer at Forks Hospital, and she said she had learned how to change bandages. Once we were at her house, I limped upstairs and to her bed where I crashed while she went to get the first aid kit.

"Edward…" she whispered, touching my shoulder with her finger, as I opened my eyes. I had quickly dozed off while I waited for her. "Let me take your boots off," she said as she undid the laces on my boots. I took a deep breath as she grabbed the boot, knowing she would get nervous if I showed her it was painful. She had said on her emails that when she volunteered at the hospital she had struggled with witnessing patients in pain. I closed my eyes as Bella tried to get my foot out of the boot.

She grabbed my foot and set it carefully over her lap. "Let me know if it hurts too much."

"It's OK," I reassured her, playing it down. I exhaled in relief as soon as the boot was off.

"Oh my God, Edward!" Bella cried out worriedly as she looked at my sock which was completely soaked in blood.

"It had stopped bleeding," I explained, taking longer breaths and trying to remain calm. She started to take the sock off carefully since dried blood had stuck the fabric to the skin around the wound.

"Edward… please, are you OK?"

"Yes, Bella… just keep going… get it cleaned," I groaned with my eyes still closed.

"OK... I guess…" She started to cautiously clean the dried blood from my foot with a damp towel. "Edward, I don't know if you need stitches."

"C'mon… I don't," I repeated, ready to have this over with. Bella grabbed the alcohol and cotton.

"This will sting," she warned and I nodded her to continue. Bella disinfected the wound and used adhesives to close it up. "Done…" She said proudly and kissed my forehead. She must have guessed I was hurting because she offered, "I'll get you some ibuprofen," before she walked out of the room.

Bella came back shortly after, holding two pills and a glass of water which I took immediately. I lay back down again, and she started helping me out of my uniform.

"Edward, c'mon! Let's get this off of you," Bella suggested, tugging at my jacket. I sat on the edge of the bed and let her undress me. I had my eyes closed while she undid my belt and made me lay down so she could take my pants off. After she left me in my boxers only, I sat again and held her by her waist, pulling her closer between my legs.

"You're bigger," Bella whispered shyly while running a finger on my chest. I looked up at her, and the fact that she was blushing, had me smiling in no time. I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her closer to me. Her chin dropped on top of my head as she spoke, "I can't believe what they did to your hair." She ran her hand on my shaved head, and her fingers caressed me behind my ear. I fucking loved it when she did that. I rubbed my nose against her neck, and in one swift move, I rolled her over so I was on top of her.

"I thought you might be too tired," she said, giggling.

"I'll never be too tired to make love to you," I promised, kissing her neck and losing myself in her.

I was lost from the moment I first kissed her, and I knew in my heart that I would never cease to want her by my side. Seeing her laugh filled me with joy whilst seeing her waiting for me, crouched on the ground in tears, had filled me with such sorrow. Was it going to be like that every time? Was I being selfish? I never wanted to see Bella like that again. I wanted her happy, laughing and singing dreadful 90's songs. I swore to myself that night, I would do right by Bella, and make sure she lived a long and happy life.