Hope Springs Eternal Contest
Number of Prompt Chosen: Prompt 15
Title: Guns and Needles
Word Count: 4,444
Pairing: Bella x Edward
Summary: A tragedy. A tattoo. An old friend.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended with the following story. The original character names belong to . The story belongs to me.
I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut
My weakness is that I care too much
And our scars remind us that the past is real
I tear my heart open just to feel
Scars – Papa Roach
Six Years Ago
"What do you mean, you are going after Edward?" I asked as innocently as I could manage. Being a sophomore in high school, that was nearly impossible. Everyone at the table knew how loaded my question was.
Lauren shrugged and popped her gum.
"Listen, Bella, you've been making puppy dog eyes at him for two years. If you haven't made a move yet, you never will."
I swallowed hard, and looked around the table. I was met with every expression needed for the moment.
Shock, pity, amusement.
I wanted to tell Lauren to shove off, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. She was right. I'd never be able to go after Edward. He wasn't exactly into the bookworm type.
Five Years Ago
A tug on my hair brought me back to the present, and out of my Lit book. I slapped the guilty hand away.
"Damn, Cullen! You scared me half to death. What are you doing in here?"
A round of hushes assaulted me from the nearby tables. I glanced at them apologetically.
Edward grinned and plopped down across from me, digging his own books out.
"It's a library, Swan. Public use allowed," he whispered in response, a grin tugging at his mouth.
I rolled my eyes and went back to my studies, ignoring the urge to smile.
Four Years Ago
"Forks High School's class of two-thousand and eight!" The principal announced with her arm extended, presenting us to the meager audience. My dad was spotted easily, standing tall in the middle of the crowd and clapping loud. I caught his eye, and felt the sting of tears on the back of my lids.
I wasn't exactly emotional about graduating, but something about seeing my dad proud always got me.
The moments after the ceremony were a blur.
Many people congratulated me and my dad, and there were so many pictures that I'd be seeing blue dots for days afterward.
Through the chaos and excitement, one moment stood out clearly from that day.
Make that two.
Edward asking if I'd go with him to the after-grad party that night, and my dad collapsing on the floor in our living room.
One Year Ago
"What do you mean you're done with chemo?" My voice reached a scary pitch when my dad called me to tell me the news.
"Bella...listen, it's not working. I can't stand the pain anymore. I just need to live out what I have left in my own house, without this poison inside me."
I didn't reply. I didn't know what I could've even said in that moment. Force him through more chemo when I heard the doctor myself say those words? I knew it wasn't working anymore. It'd been three years since his diagnosis and three years since he had truly been himself.
I dropped out of school the next day and drove home to stay with him for every moment of the rest of his life.
6 months ago
I opened the curtains only to be met by slate grey clouds and thunder. I scoffed and went to close them again. A groan of protest stopped my actions.
"Dad, what good will opening the window do if there's isn't any sunshine?"
I turned to look at my father, bedridden and wilted. It took months of building willpower not to cringe when I saw him. He was half the man he was on the outside, ten times the man on the inside. He embraced his final days like a hero, never complaining, enjoying his favorite things before the disease took him.
The stormy skies were the last thing he saw through that window, and what he said next was the last thing I ever heard him say.
"The sun is always rising in the sky somewhere, Bells. And above those clouds, it's shining bright."
I smiled at him, and left the curtains open for what I didn't know would be his final few minutes on earth.
Guns and Needles looked ominous with the darkened clouds looming low above it. Storms weren't anything new for springtime in Seattle, but I couldn't help to smile at the irony of the approaching storm, and my reason for stepping into the local tattoo shop.
I passed by it every day on my way to school, never looking twice. I'd never had a problem with people who had tattoos or piercings, but they'd never particularly interested me either. I paid as much attention to Guns and Needles as I did the shoe cleaning shop next door. I was surprised I even recalled it being here when it came time to pick a place.
A low-pitched bell announced my entry, and the strong aroma of rubbing alcohol assaulted my senses. My eyes burned – only a little – and I scrunched up my nose.
Well, at least it was clean in here.
The shop seemed deserted, but the door was open, so someone had to be around. I waited patiently in the lobby, busying myself by browsing through the poster-sized displays of potential tattoos. The pages were filled with mostly trivial things: butterflies, skulls, roses, and hearts. I couldn't imagine walking into a place like this, pointing to a picture on a wall, and having it permanently placed on my skin.
Though, six months ago, I never would have thought twice about getting a tattoo at all. I supposed everyone had their reasons, just as I had mine. My eyes burned again, this time from the tears that filled them when I thought of my dad.
I shook myself, dispelling the thought. This wasn't about being sad. It was about remembering and moving forward.
"Please tell me a girl like you didn't come in here for a butterfly on her lower back."
The voice boomed behind me, loud in the quiet, sterile room. I jumped, turning to face the intruder, and met a set of familiar green eyes.
"Edward Cullen?" I asked, mouth hanging open, "from Forks?"
He nodded slowly, his forehead creased in thought, searching my face for something familiar. I raised my eyebrows and waited.
His eyes went wide after a split second, and I imagined a flood of memories flowing through his mind. We hadn't seen each other in four years. Though we had been close in high school, we had never stayed in touch afterwards.
"Bella?" His grin turned into a full-blown smile, and he rushed around the counter to pick me up in a bear hug.
I let out the most carefree laugh when he spun me, basking in the overwhelming feeling of seeing an old friend. Just being next to him brought me back to Forks High and invoked an old, forgotten happiness inside me.
I wondered, only for a second, what he could possibly be doing working in a tattoo shop, until I thought back to high school and remembered the black portfolio Edward always had with him. He won awards for his art; people had constantly praised his Sailor Jerry-esque style.
I smiled up at him once my feet were on the floor again. "How have you been?" I asked, setting my purse down on the counter. I leaned against it, watching the way Edward blew out a big breath and ran a hand through his mess of hair.
No change there, I still wanted to douse it in dry shampoo.
"Good! Same old, I guess." His voice shook a little.
Ah, there it is.
"I heard about your dad. I'm so sorry."
I nodded. Of course he knew. Forks was a small town, and news travelled fast. Surely his parents told him of the Sheriff's passing.
I nodded and shrugged, not entirely trusting myself to speak without my voice cracking.
He gave me one last sympathetic look and thankfully moved on.
"So, Isabella Swan wants a tattoo, eh? I was totally kidding about the butterfly comment earlier." He attempted to say it with a straight face, but his charming half-smile gave him away.
I laughed. "Oh, well I was actually thinking of getting a tribal across my lower back. Maybe put a butterfly right in the middle?" I asked innocently, accenting the act with wide eyes and a quick bat of my eyelashes.
"I-um...yeah, okay." Edward choked on his tongue, falling for every word I said.
I caught his eyes and winked, letting him in on the secret.
"Oh thank god!" He laughed and opened the swinging door on the counter, inviting me further into the shop. I chuckled quietly, enjoying the candid moment, and followed him back into his room.
It'd been a while since I'd laughed.
I took stock of the sterile environment while we walked, scrunching my nose up at the increased smell of alcohol.
Edward gave me an apologetic look. "Sorry, just got done with another piece. The sanitation process can be a little strong."
I nodded my understanding and shuddered a little when the room lit up with a flash of lightning outside.
Edward glanced out the window and shook his head. "Looks like you came in right on time."
He took a seat on a small wooden stool and gestured to another chair across the room.
"So, what have you been up to, Swan? I've barely heard your name since graduation."
I sat down and relaxed into the chair, sharing the last four years of my life with Edward. We got nostalgic and remembered our days in Forks, gossiped about old classmates, and compared our lives in Seattle.
He lit up when he told me the story of the tattoo shop. How he met his two business partners at another shop, and how they decided to join forces and open this one. We laughed at how we'd never managed to run into each other despite how close I lived to the shop. I told him about my enrolling in school, then taking a break to take care of my father, then coming back a few months before.
He was quiet during that story, not pushing for information. I silently thanked him with a smile.
When he started explaining exactly how he turned to tattooing after high school, the familiar, boyish grin returned to his face. It made me smile when I listened to his story. I took the time, while listening to his voice, to truly look him over.
He seemed the same, in so many ways. His eyes were still a vibrant shade of green, framed by lashes that would make any girl jealous. His hair was still an unruly mess of auburn.
But his skin was marked now, by intricate designs I had no doubt he drew himself. I wondered who he trusted enough to tattoo his skin. He had no piercings that I could see, which I thought was smart. I imagined the flash of metal would take away from the beauty of his ink.
He had also bulked up since high school. He'd always been a tad lanky, limbs slightly too long for his torso. But the evidence of weight lifting was obvious to me, especially through his snug black tee.
I remembered instantly why I had such a crush on him in school, and blushed when a familiar feeling coiled in the pit of my stomach.
"So, I suppose now's as good a time as any to get down to business?" His question brought me out of my stupor. I hoped he hadn't caught onto the fact that I was gawking over him. I chalked my attraction up to him being from Forks. The guys I'd been with in Seattle weren't anything to write home about. But Edward represented home.
Of course, his looks didn't help the case any.
"Right! I almost forgot!" I laughed and took my sweater off, revealing a tank top underneath. I turned around and pointed to a spot right over my shoulder blade.
"I want to get something right here. It's really simple, just a quote."
Edward nodded and rolled his chair forward. His fingers swept across my back, moving my curtain of hair aside.
"Do you have the quote with you?" he asked.
I nodded and handed him the piece of paper from my purse.
"About this size?" He looked from the paper to my shoulder, then up to my eyes.
"Yeah, that size would be fine. I trust you on the font. Something simple."
He nodded and rolled his chair over to a desk to begin the stencil. The small size of the piece had him done in only a few minutes.
"Ready?" he asked, turning back toward me.
I could only nod.
I started to get nervous, remembering that tattoos often came with...well, pain.
He patted another seat for me to sit in, and turned the stereo on low.
I sucked in a breath and sat backwards in the padded chair he directed me to. Taking the hair tie from my wrist, I secured my hair on top of my head and out of his way.
I focused on my breathing and tried to ignore the noises of him setting up. Packages opening, ink being poured, more rubbing alcohol.
When his fingertips touched my shoulder, I gasped and jumped.
He chuckled softly. "Nervous, Swan?"
"A little," I laughed back, "how could you tell?"
"I won't lie to you, Bella, it's going to hurt. But I can assure you it won't hurt nearly as much as you think it will. You're psychin' yourself out here."
I nodded and focused again on my breathing.
He pulled the straps of my shirt and bra down, exposing half of my back to him. I shivered from his touch and he laughed softly again. I hoped he thought that was from nerves as well.
I felt him spray some liquid on me, and then the scratch of a razor.
"Are you shaving my back?" My face flushed with warmth – embarrassment. I tried to crane my neck to see.
"Everyone has hair there, Bella. Tiny, fine hairs, I promise you don't have back hair. I shave everyone."
I hummed in response and turned around, thankful for the break of my nerves.
"I'm going to put the stencil on now, then let you have a look to see if you like the placing."
I felt the cold mist hit my skin again, then the paper press against it, and pull away.
Edward rolled his chair back and paused, probably checking the placing for himself. When he was satisfied, he handed me a small mirror and pointed me in the direction of the full-length mirror.
I gave him a tight smile, hoping it was enough of an apology for my near silence. Between the severity of the tattoo I was getting, the nervousness of the pain it would bring, and harboring feelings for Edward that were brewing inside of me, I couldn't find it in me to chat.
I glanced quickly at my reflection, trusting Edward's judgement, and then returned to my chair.
Another flash lit up the sky outside, and the boom all but shook the building.
Edward took his seat behind me and leaned in to begin. "Let's get this done before the power shuts down on us, shall we?"
I laughed slightly, not completely hearing his words, only waiting for him to begin and end my anxiety of wondering how it would feel.
I felt his breath fan across my back, and his hands sitting firmly against me.
"Ready?" he asked as the loud buzz from the gun erupted in the room.
I nodded and managed a small, "Ready," in return.
I cringed and waited for the needle to touch down.
"What do you think?" Edward asked my reflection as I checked out the final piece.
I wanted to say so many things. It was perfect. Beautiful. Everything I wanted and needed it to be. He had chosen a soft, elegant script, and now my dad's final words would be with me forever.
The sun is always rising in the sky somewhere was now a permanent part of me, and it literally felt like a weight had been lifted from my chest.
Every day I worried I wasn't giving my dad enough of my thoughts, and every day when it hurt less that he was gone, I felt more guilt.
But now, he was with me. Always. I could move on, but keep him there. At my back, pushing me forward.
Tears were streaming down my face as I looked at the ink. I lifted my gaze to meet Edward's in the mirror. I couldn't find the words, so I simply nodded.
He squeezed my arm and led me back into the room to dress the tattoo and go over the healing procedure. When he was done, I dug through my purse to find my wallet, but Edward's hand stopped me.
I looked up at him, and he shook his head. "On me," he said with a soft smile.
I set my mouth into a hard line, and tilted my head. "Ed-"
He gave my arm a light squeeze. "No, really. On me. Consider it a late graduation present."
"Thank you, Edward, truly." I held his stare for a moment longer than necessary. The ember of feelings that were building for him erupted into a fire.
I reached up and put my arms around him in a tight hug. "It was so good to see you, Edward. Thank you for doing this for me," I spoke into his neck.
"Well, you know where I'm at now, Swan. Come back and we'll grab a drink or something."
I nodded in agreement and wrote my number down for him.
He walked me to the door, where I was met with a heavy downpour of rain.
"Are you parked far?" he asked, looking out at the weather with a concerned look.
"Not at all," I responded, pointing to my car. "I'll see you soon!" I yelled out over the sound of the rain.
I kissed his cheek and ran into the weather towards my red truck. I was instantly soaked, and cursed myself for not digging out my keys before I ran into the storm.
I fished around absently, blinking the rain from my eyes, when I stopped.
I could not have cared less about the damn keys.
All I could think about was Edward.
My steps faltered, and I paused near my truck, turning around to see him retreating into his shop.
The fire inside of me was still burning hot. It felt like Edward had opened up a dam of emotions with that tattoo gun, and now that I'd finally let go of my guilt, I was remembering all of the other feelings I had pushed away.
I wanted to laugh, smile, date, kiss...love. And maybe Edward was only in the right place at the right time, but I couldn't force myself to believe that.
Somewhere, someone had arranged this all too perfectly.
When I looked up and saw a break in the clouds, a small sliver of sunlight peeking through the storm; I forgot the truck...I forgot the cold and the rain. The tiny patch of light looked like a peephole in the clouds, made by somebody above who wanted to look down on me.
I laughed, and looked back to the shop.
Before my inner voice could stop me, I was running.
Edward must have been watching me, because before I could reach the door, it swung open for me. What must have originally been a stance of question on Edward's part – since he was standing in the open doorway, his arms out – became the stance to catch me in.
I launched myself into his arms, and pressed my lips against his.
His surprise lasted a half a second, and then he welcomed the kiss and pressed back with his own. He carried me inside, and locked the door behind us, never letting our lips pull apart. My legs were wrapped tightly around his waist, and though I must have been freezing, he never shied away from my cold body.
He walked us backward into the store, stumbling blindly. His hands were strong and sure on my back and his lips were soft and insistent. I murmured soft moans every time he pulled away to intertwine our lips in a different pattern; I didn't want him to stop.
The fire was burning hot now.
I needed Edward more than I think I'd ever needed another human being. I needed him because he was home to me. I needed him because everything about him spoke to my body in the perfect way. And I needed him because he was the one who had just freed me from everything holding me down.
He kissed me back with every ounce of need that I gave him.
One day, I'd ask him why he'd also needed me so badly at that moment, in his tattoo shop, soaked and shivering from the rain.
Lightning flashed bright, illuminating the room more than the overhead lights, and with an abrupt boom of thunder, they went out completely. The sudden darkness caused us both to pause. Edward had me pinned against the wall, with his hands under my thighs. His mouth was on my neck.
He started to pull away, probably to ask me if I was sure.
I didn't give him the chance.
"Please don't stop," I whispered, and leaned against the wall fully, cringing when I put too much pressure on the freshly tattooed spot.
My whispered request was enough for him. As soon as the words left my lips, he squeezed my legs and picked me up again to bring me back to his room. He hadn't cleaned it yet, so thankfully the smell of alcohol wasn't strong anymore.
He laid me down on the tattooing chair and stepped back.
He removed his clothes, and though it was dark, the outline of his slim but sculpted body flashed in and out of view every few seconds with the persistent lightning. I couldn't make out what his ink took the shape of, but I could see that it covered most of his torso.
He caught my eyes, and smiled. When he was down to his underwear, he leaned forward to start removing mine. I lifted the appropriate limb for the piece of clothing he was peeling off at the moment. I closed my eyes, bathing in the heat his fingers brought when they brushed against my skin.
When I remained only in my underwear, Edward lied on top of me, holding himself up with his knee placed between my legs and his elbow next to my head. He gave himself enough room to roam over my body with his free hand. He placed it against my cheek, and stroked it softly, moving down; across the line of my collarbone, down in between my breasts, around my belly button, then finally under the hem of my underwear.
His lips found mine the same second his fingers delicately traced the spot I needed him most. He pressed gently against the most sensitive part of me, causing my back to arch and a guttural moan to escape.
"Edward..." I managed to whisper against his lips, "I need..."
He moaned in agreement and lifted away from me.
He grabbed my underwear at each side of my hips and pulled down.
All sensuality gone, we both knew what we wanted.
He stood to dispose the rest of his clothing and I stood as well. I was eager to get off my back and ease the throbbing from my shoulder. Before my underwear even touched the ground, Edward picked me up, guided my legs around his waist again, and sat carefully in the chair, cradling me on top of him.
I balanced myself up on my knees, one on either side of his hips. He reached down and grazed his hand along my thighs, sliding two fingers into my wet folds, causing me to suck a breath in between my teeth. He pushed two fingers inside of me, only briefly, then took them away and used my moisture to wet the head of his cock.
I dug my fingernails into his shoulders when he lined himself with my entrance. Knowing it was up to me from here on out, I didn't delay it any further.
I sat down quickly, sheathing him inside me in one movement.
"Fuck, Bella," he gasped out, digging his fingers into my hip bones. I sat still for a moment, allowing myself to adjust to the feeling, to enjoy the overwhelming pleasure. Edward couldn't stand the feeling long before he started pushing and pulling at my hips, desperate for friction.
I moaned out, and allowed the rhythm that he created.
Once he was satisfied, and confident I'd keep the movement going, he let his hands roam free. One travelled down my thigh, then up again, catching my breast in his palm.
The other only moved slightly, enough for his thumb to press against my clit, and, in turn, cause my movements to become more and more erratic.
It didn't take long for me to find my release. In mine, Edward found his.
Almost as soon as we came down from our euphoria, the lights hummed back to life.
We both squinted at the sudden brightness in the room, and took inventory around us. I was still on top of him, and he was still inside of me. Our clothes were tossed around the room, and my bra had somehow found its way to the hallway.
I felt Edward's hands making slow, lazy circles on my hips. I looked back at him, and found his boyish smile. The one he had when he spoke of things that made him truly happy. I smiled back, perhaps the most genuine smile I'd given anyone in six months.
I leaned down and pressed my lips softly against his.
Something told me I would always notice the tattoo shop.
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