Contest entry for the Happily Ever After TwiFic Contest

Title: Nine in the Afternoon

Pairing: Edward & Bella

Rating: M

Summary: Every morning at 9:05, the train arrives, give or take a minute or two. And every morning at 9:00, she's already there. I want to know her, who she is, not just what she does, or where she goes in the black, business casual - but who she really is.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, situations, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.


Nine in the Afternoon

Every morning at 9:05, the train arrives, give or take a minute or two…ten if someone's texting gets the best of them, sending the poor soul straight off the platform, and onto the tracks. And every morning at 9:00 she's already there, sitting in one of the always-taken seats; perfect little nose wedged in the crease of what I can only assume is this week's bestseller.

Uselessly adjusting my tie, I ignore the heat of the deep underbelly of Fulton Street, and watch her brown eyes scan from side to side, a wrinkling rise in the edge of her nude lips when something amuses, a slight dip as she quickly flips to the next page. I wonder what she's reading; I always wonder what she's reading. Is it a romance, a comedy, or perhaps filled with crime; doubtful. Does she read to pass the time she spends riding the subway, morning after predictable morning? Or is it to take her mind off of the monotony of her life, as well as all the lives of us stuck down here.

Every week it's a different book, so I find it highly unlikely that it's a fleeting distraction but actually something she truly enjoys. I want to know more about what she enjoys. I want to know her, who she is, not just what she does, or where she goes in the black, business casual – well, what's underneath, yes. But who is she, really?

All too soon I feel the breeze, warm yet soothing on the sweat, and I know our brief time will soon come to an end. Soon we'll both step onto this train, take it a short distance before she sits up and walks back out of my life, just like every other morning.

The train screeches as it comes to a slowing stop, and like always, the doors slide open, letting few passengers off and even more on. And just like always, the lucky ones that barely make it get pushed up against the indecisive doors; open, close, open, close, until they finally decide, and closed it is.

And it never seems to fail that someone isn't holding on like they should, crashing into an unsuspecting neighbor with the first, initial jolt. But today…well, today it just so happens to be her, and that unsuspecting neighbor – me.

"Oh!" She exclaims, leaning in so I can hear her, her little hand coming up to smooth the gray of my lapel – a gesture I find extremely intimate. "I'm so sorry." Her breath smells of faded mint, and I find myself leaning in as well, drawn to her colorless lips; so different from the painted mouths of the vapid women I'm used to.

"No worries, really, it's casual Friday, wrinkles are a given." I try not to cringe at my lame attempt at a joke, probably coming off as another pompous ass in a fancy suit. But thankfully she laughs, although it's a laugh I can barely hear over the clickity-clack of wheels and track, which is disappointing, given that I really want to hear it.

"That's funny, cause I could've sworn it was Thursday."

And cue the cold sweats.

Was it Thursday?

Thinking over the past week, I actually ponder, now confused as to which day it really is. I'm not sure, not until she laughs again.

"I was only kidding, it's Friday, so you can breathe easy."

I feel myself relax with her teasing, the natural ease of her smile.

"You had me," I needlessly announce, breathing new life into the wide upturn of her mouth, and she nods, causing her long, brown hair to cascade over her shoulders.

"I can see that."

Jerking, the train takes a sharp corner, and she grabs hold of the front of my jacket, her thumb just pushing inside, skimming the skin under my thin, white button up.

"So, it really is Friday, right?" I ask, staying perfectly still, trying to keep her mind off of where she's holding on so tightly, never wanting her to let go. It feels good having her hand on me. But as soon as she's steady it's gone.

"Thank God for that."

Focused on her averted eyes, I feel more alive than I've ever felt before, like every nerve ending is wired and exposed to the rough welding in the track, the muted melody flowing from someone's dangling earbud. And I miss her voice, the one I can barely hear, but hear all the same. And that's enough…for now.

"Good…I don't want to make it all the way to my office just to find out I was double-duped by a beautiful woman, one I have no way of getting ahold of at that." I blurt, needing to keep the conversation going; if not, I'll blur into her busy background, while she'll continue to shine bright as an unobtainable beacon through mine. And I can't have that, not after having this.

"And why would you need to get ahold of me…" She pauses, head tilting expectantly, and I realize I don't even know her name, which also means she doesn't know mine.

Right…

Shit.

"Edward, sorry." Briefcase propped between my feet; I switch hands, holding onto the bar with one while offering her the other, which she firmly shakes. "And you are?"

"Bella."

"It's nice to meet you, Bella." I tell her, hoping she'll just forget all the embarrassing things I just said. But then again, I don't. I want her to know that I like her, that I find her attractive, that I want to see her again, and not just in passing, but outside, on the street – with me. I'm sure she's something to see in the light of day. I'm sure her hair isn't just brown, but a mixture of brown, red and gold. I bet it dances with the shine of the bright, warm sun.

Why is this so hard?

I talk to women all the time, every day. I schmooze, I flirt, and I've always been good at it…that is until now, now that I've swum in the depths of those deep, brown eyes, the most beautiful I've ever seen. But it could be worse, I guess. I could be stuttering like a fool.

"So, why would you need to get ahold of me, Edward?" She asks again, hand still firmly placed in mine and my mouth drops open, and I'm struck speechless. I hadn't thought past my initial comment, gaping like a damn fish, trying to think of something suave to say.

"Well, ya know, April Fool's Day is coming up and I owe you one."

Seriously, that's the best you can come up with, payback for some day-of-the-week confusion?

Fucking idiot.

"Oh, right…" Nodding, she smirks, dropping the sweaty appendage and looking out the mirroring window. "Right."

The proceeding silence is somewhat awkward, me not knowing what to say, her not being able to look me in the eye. And I'm not sure if I'm thankful she's completely ignored the fact that I also flat-out called her beautiful.

Approaching Spring Street, I focus on the passing pillars out the opposite window, not sure how to proceed, but needing to figure it out quickly. With only a couple more stops, she'll be getting off and forgetting all about the weird guy on the crowded subway, which were a dime a dozen in this overpopulated city.

Briefly, I consider just taking her hand and jumping out at the next stop, taking a sick day and getting to know her a little bit better, like I've wanted to do ever since that first day I saw her. I would take her anywhere, everywhere, wherever she wanted to go.

We could catch a cab up to Time Square. I'd buy her a camera to archive our adventure, an adventure she's probably already been on, but an adventure just the same. And besides, she's never been on one with me.

Walking hand in hand, I would let her hold the capturing Kodak, stealing it every once in a while, quietly catching her in just the right light. And we'd zigzag our way over to Rockefeller Center; take that NBC tour I've been meaning to take ever since moving here ten years ago.

Ten years.

Wow.

I hear they have a pretty good gift shop selection, stuff you'd never think of, and I would buy her a Bayside Tiger's, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, because yes, growing up, I did have a sick obsession with Kelly Kapowski. And with Bella's long, brown hair, and her sensuously, slender shape, she would fill it out perfectly – not just the sweatshirt, but the position of my new obsession – Bella.

Beautiful.

Next stop would be the Empire State Building, where we'd stand in line, hand in hand, playing twenty questions, whispering the answers in each other's ear. And while I have no desire to guess at what she would say, I hope she's a firm yes on marriage and kids. After all, time is catching up with me and I find myself thinking more and more about these things, how I want them and how I want them soon. And I've only just met her.

Am I really considering marriage and kids with this woman, a woman I just met and know nothing about?

Glancing back over at Bella, I think that maybe I am. I'm thinking that those things feel right, not crazy at all. I hope we have all little girls that look exactly like her – long, mahogany hair and dark, brown eyes – they would be beautiful, just like their mother.

Adjusting in place, Bella sways, switching to lean on the opposite leg, and I clear my throat, wondering what those legs look like out of those black slacks. Long and lean I'm sure, giving just enough grip when wrapped around my waist.

Damn.

I need to stop. I need to stop thinking about her bare legs, how they would look and feel before I enter the point of no return.

Damn.

Peeking up, she smiles and I smile back just before she looks back down, to the side, back up, and then right back out the window.

Trying to calm the stirring in my slacks, I wonder how she feels about barbequed kabobs, or if she is opposed to street vendors. I walk by them every single day and while the mouth-watering smell wafts, sending my eyes rolling into the back of my head, I've never stopped, never had the time.

I want to make the time; time for fun, time for food, time for life…with her.

Closing my eyes tight, I roughly wipe them with my thumb and pointer finger, pinching the bridge of my nose, considering this completely, different life with this completely, unsuspecting stranger. I wonder if she would think I was crazy; if I were to just come out and say it, would she think I was crazy?

Probably.

Most likely.

Definitely, yes.

"Could I..." I pause as she looks back up, waiting patiently for me to finish, but I'm not sure if I should, not sure if I'll make it through the weekend without seeing, hearing, or touching her, so how could I not…right?

With my stomach in knots, I run a hand over the length of my silky, black tie, leaning in, to hover above her parted lips. "Can I have your number?"

A glowing blush lights up her face, and she nods before looking away to open her purse and fish for a pen and piece of paper. Amused with her colorful reaction, I watch her struggle for a bit, scanning the contents of the massive bag, noting that the current book she previously had her nose wedged into was not a bestseller after all, but a timeless classic – "The Importance of Being Earnest."

Yes, very important.

Placing a hand over hers, I still her circular movement, pulling my phone out of my pocket and handing it to her. "Here, just put it in my phone, I'm sure I'll lose it otherwise, and that's the last thing I want to do."

The very, last thing, I think, more excited than I can remember ever being, as I watch as her lithe, little fingers type in the number. And as soon as she hands it back over, I push send, waiting for her to fish out her long, lost cell. "So sorry, this'll just take a sec. I can't believe it's even ringing down here."

Nodding, I smile as she digs, waiting for her to pick up before bringing it to my ear.

"Hello?"

"Bella?"

"Yes, this is her."

Adorable.

Trying not to laugh, I keep up the charade, amazed it's gone this far.

"What are you wearing?"

Mouth dropping open, she pulls the phone from her ear, looking it over before finally looking up to see my incriminating stance, and an unapologetic, sly smile.

Adorable.

"Wha-," she squeaks, playfully hitting my arm and I let it go - the amused chuckle I'd been holding back.

The subtle crease in her brow deepens, setting into a slight pout, and it's the cutest thing I've ever seen, and I want to kiss it off of her pretty, pink lips.

Just, utterly adorable.

I wonder what she would do if I did – kiss her. Would she kiss me back? Would she hit me again? Probably, and in a more pertinent place, I think, internally cringing, trying to calm the urge to find out, certain that whatever she did couldn't dampen the sensation of her lips against mine.

Tempting.

Too tempting.

"Now you have my number, and you can use it anytime – day, night, whenever you want, Bella." I use her name, knowing for a fact that women like that, knowing for a fact that she really likes it, given her deepening blush. And I wonder how deep it actually goes. "Feel free to ask what I'm wearing. No reason to be shy about it."

Deeper still.

"Shy, no. Shrewd, yes." Giving me a sexy squint, I'm sure she thinks she's being intimidating as she throws her phone back into the pit that resembles the inside of her bag. "Tell me, Mr. …"

"Cullen," I offer, while she continues with the presumed intimidation, and I'm finding it harder and harder to fight that burning urge to kiss her. That sexy squint wasn't intimidating at all. It was…inviting.

"Tell me, Mr. Cullen, how many unsuspecting women have you already corrupted with your perversion today? Hmm…" Tilting her pretty head, she spills some more of that long hair over her shoulder and I smooth it back, lightly running my thumb along the side of her slender neck.

"You're the only one, Miss…"

"…Uh." Her shaky voice vibrates my roaming finger. "Swan."

Leaning in further, my jaw just skims her cheek, and I'm wondering if she prefers a clean shave to my slight stubble. Does she like the cool burn of the chafe? In my hurry, I didn't even think about shaving the five-o-clock shadow, and was now regretting it…until she shivers, that is.

"You're the only one, Miss Swan…ever."

I feel her pulse quicken under the pad of my thumb before she swallows. And I wonder if she believes me. Even though it's not exactly true, she is the only one I've ever asked that specific question. And that counts…right?

Right.

Breathing in her light, saccharine scent, I'm reminded of blooming honeysuckle, randomly wondering if she would like Shakespeare in the Park, given her assumed tendencies towards the classics. And I wonder if I asked her, would she want to go.

Was that even happening in March?

I don't know, which is really pathetic; pathetic that I've resided here for ten years and still know next to nothing about this city, except the name of my stop and a few in between – Bella's included. But that was no matter, I would learn, we would learn together, side by side, hand in hand – together. And if it was too cold for Shakespeare, she would still be there; I would still be there to hail a horse and buggy, help her climb in and cuddle up, and keep her warm under the cover of thick, red velvet. We'd see Bill another day, every day, any other day.

I realize I'm still fingering the side of her neck, still breathing her in and have no intention of stopping. If she let me, I would be this close at all times, showing her how good she makes me feel by making her feel good.

God.

Licking my lips, I think seriously about doing it.

Just do it.

Just kissing her, telling her every, last, crazy thing I've been thinking and then…just kiss her.

Do it.

Heart pounding, I pull back, brushing my lips along her rosy cheek, skimming the edge of her mouth. Her fresh breath feeds my faltering bravery, and I just get a taste before the train hits a bump in the track, jerking us both in opposite directions.

I try not to think of it as an omen, in no way was I not meant to be with this woman – no way. But as I reach out, holding her tightly around her middle, I hear the screech of the rusted brakes, feel the train slow, and I know that our time is chugging to an end.

I know I have her number, I know that she has mine, but it doesn't seem like enough. It doesn't feel right letting her get off at this next stop, not without me – hand in hand, side by side. What if she changes her mind? What if she loses her phone? Shit, what if I lose mine? What if this isn't just a casual see you later, but a permanent goodbye?

Holding her closer, I brace us for the jolt of the cart, and maybe a little for the impending departure. I'm not ready, I know that much; not ready to let her go, not ready to give up what I just got. It was too good; too, too good. But after the cart comes to a harsh halt, I do; I hesitantly let go, letting her collect her things, waiting nervously for the sliding doors to open. And when they finally do, I move out of her way, simultaneously grabbing her wrist to stop her from going any further.

Don't go, just say it.

Tell her.

Tell her how you see her, watch her – how she shifts and moves – month after month - morning after gloriously, torturous morning.

Just tell her.

Just do it.

Tell her how you've wanted to approach her, ask her what she's reading, if you could help pass the time with her instead, and then maybe take her out, out on the town that you've never come to know.

Just tell her.

Just ask her.

Just do it.

Silent, I wage an internal war while my hold on her tightens; while she gazes down, her deep, brown eyes following the length of my sleeve, up, up, all the way up to meet my desperate green. And I want to; more than anything I want to tell, ask, and do.

I want to know her; I want her to know.

I want to tell her how 9:00 isn't just a time, but a meaning, a meaning that grows - anticipation, reliability, and most of all hope.

I want, need to tell her not to go.

"Don't go, not now, not today."

Not ever, I think, as the flutter of my heart falters, as her beautiful face gives nothing away, as she makes no move to leave, letting the indecisive doors close, open, and then finally close…for good.


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