TLS Angst Contest Entry

Word Count: 4,451

Pairing: ExB

Title of Story: Roads Untraveled

Story Summary: There are certain truths you can only bring yourself to say at night, before morning comes and buries them back down. AH, ExB.


Roads Untraveled

He should've stopped a long time ago.

And not just the Jack Daniels. That was stupid. He'd only meant it to be that one drink. But he'd dreamt of her every night that week, and that song he kept hearing everywhere reminded him of her, and one drink turned into where he was now, on the couch with the bottle in his hand.

It was them he should've stopped. This sick, obsessive thing they had, where they were but they weren't, where it was selfish need to begin with, just about using each other because it felt good and it was fun, and why not? But it hadn't been long until it turned into desperately wanting to give the other everything, because just taking didn't feel as good anymore, and that was what he should've stopped.

He was a selfish dick, and before, when it wasn't anything but mutual benefits, if he happened to make her feel good, it was just a validation of his skills. But then it became less about validation, and more about making her feel good for her, and after that, he was screwed.

So he should've stopped them. For real. Just cut if all off, found someone else. But he couldn't, because she was always there, and she was beautiful, and everything he wouldn't let himself have. So he'd tell himself he was stopping, but inevitably, he crawled right back.

It had been three weeks since he'd seen her. Pathetic. The first time they managed four months apart, and now? Now he was on his hands and knees after only a few weeks.

But it was so stupid, that they were even trying. He belonged to her, genuinely. A faithful dog running at her heels, without the need of a leash.

If she wanted it, he'd let her drag him through every imaginable filth, every pain and torment she could think of, just for the sake of seeing her smile. She was a knife whose home was his heart, and he could think of nothing he wanted more than to bare his chest to her again.

His fingers loosened around the bottle. She would come, if he asked it of her. A phone call, a murmured plea, and she'd be there. Because maybe she was the knife, but it was his name carved into the hilt.

He struggled to sit up. The world rocked in front of him, unsteady and swimming. With drunken precision, he placed the bottle in the middle of the table, watching it to make sure it stayed there. He grabbed for his phone, but only managed to drag it over the edge.

It was against his ear now, though, and his eyes were closed as he listened to it ring. The whiskey had done the dialing, but he wasn't worried. Jack had his back. Jack knew who to call.

And maybe that was why he should've hung up. Maybe he should've just left her alone. If he stopped doing this to both of them, she'd eventually find someone else. Then she'd stop answering the phone when he called, cut him off from the very thing he needed most.

And maybe her being happy could be enough. He'd like to think he could be that kind of person, the person who'd let her go if he knew it was the best thing. For her. It wouldn't be the best thing for him, but who cared?

The phone rang only twice.

"Hello?"

"Bella." He was slurring. Embarrassing. "Bella."

"Edward?"

"Bella, I— Where are you? Where… Are you okay?"

She paused. Even her silence over the phone was better than nothing of hers at all. "Yeah? Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know," he sighed. "I don't know anything. What are you… What's up?"

"You're drunk."

"No. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm great, actually. Where are you?"

"I'm at home, and you're drunk." She paused again, and he listened. He could hear her breathing. She should be there, with him, breathing with him. "Edward, are you okay? You don't sound so good."

He snorted. "Because I'm not. I'm not good. I'm an asshole, remember?"

She laughed, and it made him smile. "Yeah, I remember."

"You called me an asshole," he said, grinning. "Last time. You were right. You're always right."

"Am I?"

"Yeah." Silence fell between them again. He could see her, sitting in her bed, wearing that frayed sweatshirt she loved. No pants. She'd have her hair up in a bun, speared through with a chopstick. Probably some herbal tea on her bedside table. She loved that crap.

His entire chest pulsed with how much he missed her.

"You should come over," he murmured, because he was weak. He was an asshole, and he was just hurting them both, but he kept doing this to her, over and over again, because he couldn't stop.

And she never let him try.

Sometimes he didn't know who the bigger idiot was.

"Should I?"

"Yes. I want… You should come over."

"It's late." It didn't sound like an excuse.

"Very observant of you. I'd come to you, but I'm having a little trouble standing."

"I thought you weren't drunk?" He heard rustling on her end. Her voice was much closer now, like her phone was wedged between her shoulder and her head.

"I didn't mean to, but fucking…" He sighed. He didn't even know what he was saying. "I'm a little drunk."

"I'm not coming over to hold you when you puke."

"You know that's not why I want you." He realized too late he didn't finish. 'To come over.' He was supposed to say that, too.

She didn't speak. There was more rustling, and then she cleared her throat.

"I'll be there in 20 minutes, okay?"

She hung up before he could respond.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

A black void filled up those 20 minutes. A vague sense of surprise floated over him when he heard her knock; he'd only just put the phone down, hadn't he?

He definitely should've stopped drinking a long time ago.

She had a key, which was good, because standing was in a realm of activities he probably shouldn't attempt.

She let herself in, and even though his eyes couldn't focus on her face, he knew she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever see.

"You have got to be kidding me." She closed the door behind her.

Resting his head on the back of the couch, he grinned as she came closer.

Stopping in front of him, she bumped his knee with her own. "You're disgusting."

"I know."

"I brought you a burger. I figured you'd be hungry." She put a white paper bag down on the couch next to him before straddling his lap.

He slid his hands up her thighs. "See, this is why I… fucking… What kind? I want fries."

"The fries are for me."

"Give me some fries."

She pulled a wrapped burger out of the bag and handed it to him. "Try not to spill it all over yourself, okay?"

Unwrapping his food, he took a clumsy bite. "Fuck, that's good. Bacon?"

"And cheese. No pickles, extra hot-sauce."

"You're the best." Some salad fell out of his burger, and he looked down at his chest. "Oh, no."

"See? What did I tell you? Disgusting." Shaking her head, she used a napkin to clean him up. He still couldn't focus on her face, but he saw that her hair was up. Chopstick, just like he'd guessed.

"I've missed you."

She froze. The hand on his chest was still. He wished he was sober enough to lift his gaze higher than her chin. Blurting out shit like that didn't do him any good if he couldn't tell what her expression was.

Crumpling up the napkin, she tossed it next to her on the couch and reached into the bag for her fries. "You're the one who hasn't called."

"I called tonight, didn't I?"

"I think your buddy Jack Daniels called."

"No, he just helped," he sighed. Tracing the outer seam on her jeans, he took another bite of his burger.

"Yeah, well…" She shifted on his knees. "You've missed me, but you still wouldn't have called if you weren't drunk, so what am I supposed to get from that?"

"I can't lie when I'm drunk," he said. He dropped his burger on the couch, wanting both hands free. Her sweatshirt was loose, giving him room to explore. Her skin was so soft. "How d'you get so soft?"

Her ribs expanded under his hands. "Eat your burger."

"I'd rather eat you," he said, and the way it slipped out made him laugh. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry, that was very crass."

She didn't say anything, only smirking as she shoved a fry into his mouth instead.

She kept him eating until the last bite was gone, but he couldn't keep his hands off her, so it was an uphill battle. But he just wanted to touch her. Not even in a sexual way. He wasn't trying to get her into bed or anything, although that would've been nice, too. He just wanted…

He slipped his fingers into the back-pockets of her jeans.

"You should go to bed," she murmured, but she didn't make a move to get up. Drunk he may have been, but that much he noticed.

He struggled to shift his weight, using his grip on her to pull himself forward. His nose came to the base of her throat.

"You'll stay?" He breathed the question against her skin. Fingers moved under her sweatshirt, tracing slowly up her spine.

"I don't know if—"

"Please?"

Her exhale warmed the top of his head. "What do you want, Edward?"

"You. I don't know. I want a lot of things."

"Me too."

He felt her surrender in the curve of her back, the slouch of her hips, pressing down on him. She relaxed into him, giving in to him, or perhaps she'd always been there, with him. He didn't know, didn't care, as long as it meant she wasn't leaving.

He buried his head against her shoulder. Fingers curled against the back of his head, and he felt he could fall asleep just as he was. He was hers, so painfully hers, and he couldn't figure out how to put that into words. They'd been down this road for so long now, it was impossible to see how they could change direction.

She was his in the same way a storm owned the sea: undoubtedly, and then not at all.

But he wanted her. It was selfish need, the kind that demanded he was the only one who held her as she slept, so he'd know he could give himself to her just as freely. But their road was unforgiving, constantly seeking to echo what they'd done to each other along the way.

How could he tell her that he loved her, when all he'd ever done was cause her pain?

Slipping his arms around her waist, he held her tighter. Could she believe him? Could he tell her that he fell in love with her when they were still just fucking for the sake of it? That he loved her when he stopped texting, stopped calling, stopped fucking her, turning instead to that girl she worked with who she hated when he wanted release?

Could he tell her he felt sick every day they spent apart that first time? Those four months of constant aching, bone-deep and relentless. He loved her for every one of them.

The second time he repeated again and again that it was just sex, just sex and nothing more, and when she slept with some guy from some bar a month later, he called her names and said she was the worst thing he'd ever done, because the pain wrenching through his chest had been more than he could bear. If he told her he'd loved her even then, could she believe him?

The third, the fourth, the fifth time, either or both had made the other hurt so much for no other reason than their road being too fucking wide. They lacked boundaries, lines that told them where they could and couldn't go, because neither was willing to be the one to ask if the other wanted them.

If he told her he'd loved her through all of that, could she believe him?

If he were brave enough, he'd paint their lines as close to their wandering feet as he possibly could, keeping him next to her for as long as she wanted and allowed.

"Come on, let's get you to bed," she said, pushing him back so she could stand. Through team effort – although mostly just her – he found himself horizontal, holding on to the covers so he didn't fall off.

She tugged off his jeans and wrestled off his shirt, and his eyes were closed and all he felt were her hands on him. Then she was gone, and he heard the ear-splitting whine the top-right drawer of his dresser made, and he knew she was taking a pair of his boxers to sleep in.

When she crawled in next to him, he grabbed her waist and pulled her closer, wanting her. Just wanting her.

When he put his head back against her neck, she twisted their legs together, and combed her fingers through his hair until he fell asleep.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

The room was pitch-black when he woke. He took a minute to assess the situation, and found that he was still slightly drunk. The bed seemed to move under him, like a tiny boat on a lake. It wasn't entirely unpleasant.

Her lips whispered over his cheek. He splayed his hand over her shoulder blade, breathing deeply.

Finding him awake, she let her lips drift across his skin. His own lips felt numb and misplaced, but when she brushed hers against the corner of his mouth, he was quick to realize they worked just fine anyway.

Her arms snaked around his shoulders, her leg rising higher over his hip. The first touch of her tongue against his felt like everything he'd ever want or need.

Rolling them over, he fit himself into the cradle of her thighs, groaning against her mouth. She tugged on his hair, pushing up against him when he rocked into her.

Her sweatshirt disappeared. He dragged his mouth down the pale cream of her throat, across her chest, feeling the beating of her heart trembling under his lips. He kissed the swells of her breasts. She reached between them, knuckles brushing against his lower belly. Slipping inside the waistband of his underwear, she grasped his hardening cock.

Three weeks was too long to not have felt her like this. A groan rumbled low in his throat, and he bit the side of her breast, a playful nip that made her laugh.

Rising carefully to his knees, he steadied himself before reaching for her underwear. Throwing them over his shoulder, he looked down at her, a dark shape against his white linens. Her legs were smooth and soft in his hands, and he bent closer to kiss along her thigh.

She spread her legs to accommodate his descent. Her hand came down on the top of his head, twisting his hair between her fingers.

Desperately hard for her now, he pressed himself against the bed as he tasted her. Every moan and sigh escaping her from above made him ache, but he kept his focus until her thighs were trembling on either side of him, her hips jerking. He curled his fingers inside of her, and she called out his name, body bowing as she came undone.

She lay limply, catching her breath as he got out of bed, shedding his underwear and grabbing a condom.

He crawled over her, and her kisses were hungry, her hands desperate and hard as they pulled at him, scratching nails across his back.

He'd missed her. This too, of course, seeing her in his bed, feeling her skin against his, but her most of all. He never felt this way with anyone else.

Aligning himself, he buried his head against her shoulder. The heat was overwhelming, and as he pushed forward, he felt like he was sinking, drowning willingly in everything that was she was, and god, she truly was everything.

Everything, everywhere, all around him and he gasped against her skin, pleasure curling through his stomach. How had he ever managed to convince himself this wasn't everything he wanted and needed? That she wasn't the only thing in his life that truly mattered?

Time and time again, he let her go, and each and every time she left him with a new scar across his heart.

Why couldn't he just let himself keep her?

He took her now, three weeks of constant longing snapping up his spine, burning through his mind as her panting breaths became the only thing he could hear. He was hers, so completely and utterly hers, and every time he thrust himself home he reveled in it, in knowing that she owned him. No one else had ever had such a hold over him, and no one else ever would. Even if she left tomorrow and never came back, he'd always be too busy being hers to fall for someone else.

"Bella," he gasped, against her neck, into her hair, brushed against her lips as his forehead pressed into hers. There was sweat across his hairline, cooling on his back as the cold air swept across him, but he could feel it now, growing, building in his muscles, heating under his skin, and he thrust harder, needing more of her, needing all of her, and she held on so tightly, held him like she'd never let go.

A curse died in his throat as the feeling overwhelmed, turning his mind white and blank, his whole body freezing inside of her as it crashed over him like a breaking wave. A harsh groan left him, his entire being in complete surrender to the pleasure slamming through his nerves.

Slowly, slowly, he came back to himself, every tightened muscle trembling as he relaxed. She pulled him down, wrapping her legs around his hips, cradling his head against her shoulder as she encouraged his collapse. Blindly he followed her lead, willing to do whatever she wanted. Maybe he was crushing her as he let himself go limp, but she'd told him she liked that, that she didn't care if he was too heavy.

He closed his eyes, his too quick breaths blooming across her neck. She painted tiny circles on his side with her fingertips. The world rocked gently beneath him, but he knew she'd hold on. He was safe there, heart pressed against hers and the scent of her in the air he breathed.

Bone-tired, he eventually rolled off, eyelids almost too heavy to lift. He put the evidence of what had happened in a tissue, and made a promise in his whiskey-soaked mind to throw it away properly in the morning. She slipped away to the bathroom, making him drink a glass of water when she came back.

Lifting his arm, she climbed in next to him, shuffling as close to his body as she could. Arm across her ribs, and hand resting at the back of her head, he held her just as tightly.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

He felt like shit. Death warmed over, but worse. Bella sat next to him on the bed, a glass of water in one hand, a couple of aspirin in the other.

"You shouldn't have drank that much."

"Thanks, Captain Obvious," he muttered, swallowing the pills down. His hands felt clammy, sticking with pins and needles.

"You did this to yourself, dum-dum." Patting his knee, she rose from the bed. She was wearing his boxers again, and one of his t-shirts. It was the only thing about the morning that didn't suck. "I'll make some breakfast. Go have a shower, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled, bracing himself for the headache he knew would strike when he sat up.

Showering properly was out of the question. Soaping up meant bending down, and he couldn't handle that, so he just stood under the water for a minute.

When he was done, he didn't feel any better. Getting dressed actually made him feel worse. He shuffled out of the bedroom, following the scent of coffee.

Pausing in the doorway, he watched Bella by the stove. Her feet were bare, and her hair was loose, tumbling down her back in waves. The sight of her made him ache. It felt so right for her to be there, treating his home like her own. Even though he usually made them breakfast after nights like these, she knew where everything was, and how he liked his toast and his coffee.

She'd set the table, her phone lying screen-down on his electricity-bill. It was playing music from a band he pretended to only tolerate for her sake, but secretly had on his own playlists.

He wanted to go to her, place a hand on her hip, brush her hair back and kiss her neck. He wanted to murmur something funny against her ear to make her laugh. He wanted to distract her with his hands and his lips until the scent of burning eggs made them break apart.

He wanted so many things he had no right to take.

"Hey," he said, his voice too abused by last night's whiskey to be more than a throaty rumble.

She glanced at him over her shoulder, smiling, but not speaking.

He helped himself to a cup of coffee – noting her own already next to her by the stove – and when he walked past to get the milk from the fridge, he had to hold back from brushing his fingers against her arm.

They ate their breakfast in easy silence, only speaking now and then. She told him about the new assistant in their office who'd managed to make such a mess of the copier on his first day that the repair-guy almost cried. He told her about the business trip he had to make next week, whining slightly and feeling pleased when she expressed an appropriate level of sympathy.

It was so easy. So good, and just right, and he didn't know how to make it his forever, because their fucking road was so fucking long, and how the hell did he let her know he wanted to get off?

How did he make her stay?

She got dressed after breakfast, and he wanted nothing more than to convince her to hang out, to get her to sit down on his couch and watch a movie, her feet in his lap while she twisted her hair into a bun and released it, again and again.

But he knew that eventually they'd drift closer, and hands would end up on thighs, fingers sneaking under clothes, and they'd fuck each other on his couch, on his floor, or maybe he'd carry her halfway to his bedroom but end up pinning her against a wall, because that's what they did. And she'd moan his name and look at him in that way she had, like she couldn't see anything but him, didn't want anyone else, only to walk out the door a few minutes later, the scent of him clinging to every part of her skin, a flush still in her cheeks, and her lips still puffy and red.

Nothing he said had ever made her stay.

And as he watched her now, sitting on his couch to lace up her shoes, his chest burned. He wanted her more than anything, but he knew he couldn't stand to watch her leave like that again. He was already on the verge of breaking, and seeing her walk out the door while his dick was still half-hard would be more than he could take.

So what were his options? Did he tell her he loved her, hoping she'd believe him even after everything he'd done that'd argue otherwise? Did he try, one more time, to convince her to stay, only for her to leave anyway? Or did he let them continue down their road until they'd walked as far as they could, feet bloody and aching, until one or both of them fell to the ground and gave up?

Only the last option ensured that at least he'd have her, in some capacity. Even if it killed them in the end, at least he'd have her until that very moment. Wasn't that better, than risking it all on the off-chance that she didn't react with horror if he said he was in love with her?

He could hear her, so clearly, see the expression on her face as she asked him how he could love her when he didn't speak to her for weeks at a time, when he treated her like shit, when he got too drunk at her birthday party and made out with some other girl right in front of her. Even knowing it was true, saying it was because his heart was breaking and he didn't know another way felt like an excuse less solid than smoke.

She stood up, and her smile was that dagger straight through him, cutting him open.

He walked her to the door. Placing a hand on his chest, she rose on her toes and pressed a kiss to his jaw.

"Don't ignore my texts this time, you jerk," she said, and he tried to laugh in a way that would be convincing.

He wanted to grab her hand, keep her there, envelop her in his arms and never let her go.

He felt empty as she stepped into the hallway, like he couldn't breathe as she fished her car keys out of her bag and headed for the stairs. He opened his mouth, words crowding his throat as she skipped down the steps, but nothing came out, not a protest, not a sound of the pain lashing through him, and then she was gone.

He closed the door. Turned the lock. Grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels and poured it all down the sink.

He changed his shirt, put on the one she'd been wearing. He made another cup of coffee.

Sitting on the couch, he stared at his phone, at the words he'd typed out to her so many times. Just a few simple words, an explanation, a plea, all the things he couldn't tell her when the mornings came and stole his nerve.

He wondered if he'd be brave enough to send them, this time.