Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
He didn’t notice the chill in the air as he walked home. The insulation of beer and scotch kept him warm and numb to everything, everything except Rose not showing up to meet him. He rarely made contact with her, allowing his mask to crack only when his worry surpassed the point of reason. He didn’t bother to zip up his jacket and it flapped around him haphazardly as he faced into the wind. He trudged his way over slick asphalt under the green glow of traffic lights, grumbling to himself about why she hadn’t come. He fucking swore to himself right then to never try again. Never hope again. Never speak to her again.
His drunken stupor inspired ridiculous plans. Move away. But to where? Seattle? He gave up that idea immediately. Not far enough. He knew she’d find him there eventually. Why she would come looking he couldn’t say, but she’d find him nevertheless. She always did. He wondered why she couldn’t just let him go. Why she kept her perfectly French manicured nails embedded in his back like talons. He’d asked her before and she could never say. She just stared at him blankly, searching her mind for a reply that wouldn’t hurt him. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t answer. Her answering silence told him everything he needed to know.
He slogged up the stairs of his new apartment building until his feet brought him to number 328. He pulled out his key and after a few drunken stabs at the door knob, managed to unlock the finicky lock he had trouble with even when he was sober. He pulled his jacket off and tossed it on their couch. His couch. He leaned a palm against the wall to steady himself as he clumsily kicked off his tennis shoes. That’s when he heard the click of the door knob. He didn’t have to turn around to know. He felt her gravity the moment she was in the room. She’d found him, just like he knew she always would. She’d never stop. He squared his shoulders, determined not to let her ruin him.
“Just leave, Rose.” It was hardly more than a whisper, but his exhaustion was obvious in every syllable.
“Edward, wait-” she began, dropping her bag on the floor with a heavy thud and rushing toward him.
He shied away from her. “I shouldn’t have emailed you. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking…” he mumbled hopelessly and started toward his bedroom, peeling off his t-shirt along the way. She followed, of course.
“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked, unable to completely hide the panic in her voice.
“Just leave, Rose. I don’t want you here.”
His dismissal fucking hurt but it only flared her determination. “You’re drunk and I’m not leaving until we can talk. I’ll sleep on our… I mean… on your couch.”
He was too drunk to argue. The room was beginning to spin and he knew he was minutes from passing out. He only shrugged at her and slammed his bedroom door in her face.
She didn’t wait long. She knew he’d be out cold in a few minutes. She let those minutes pass and ignored his request for her to leave. He needed her, and she wanted to be there for him. She walked softly to his door and slowly, silently opened it. His mattress was on the floor, he hadn’t set up the box spring yet. As she suspected he was passed out with his jeans still on and snoring quietly, something he only did when he was drunk. She crept forward and bent over, unbuttoning the button fly of his jeans. She half expected him to fight her off, pissy and belligerent which was typical of drunk Edward. But he didn’t protest as she pulled the waist over and down off his hips; he let her help him. She stripped down to her underwear too and climbed into the bed beside him. She stroked his hair and whispered to him about Mr. Jenks bringing her the report to copy at the last minute and how she’d stopped at Blockbuster. She fell asleep to his deep resonating snore with her arm wrapped protectively around him.
It’s how they used to be.
He woke up just before her the next morning, his head pounding and his mouth tasting like stale beer. Her soft breathing fluttered against his chest, his toned arms encircled her. It’s what alwayshappened. He would fall asleep with her on her terms, and wake up to find himself wrapped around her, trying desperately to declare his own. He wanted to pull away, to extract himself from her embrace and her long blonde hair tangled around him. He started to, but that woke her up. It always did. She knew the instant he broke the contact with her. Her eyes flew open and she smiled brilliantly, overjoyed to still be in his bed, in his arms, in his life. Until she looked up and saw his eyes. They were tortured.
“Why are you still here?” he asked even as he subconsciously squeezed her closer.
“You needed me. You need me.”
“I can’t be your consolation prize anymore, Rose.”
“Consolation?” she asked, confused.
“Why did you have to flaunt it in front of me like that? Wearing some random asshole’s shirt right in front of me?” he questioned her with a stiff jaw as he nuzzled his nose into her hair. He sent her plenty of mixed signals too. He couldn’t help it, he’d steal embraces and offer tender touches, then pull away to protect himself.
Her mind flew back to that day, to the stupid argument over To Serve Man. To how she felt when he’d left the room, the confusion over the future and a sense of loss she couldn’t understand. She’d found his shirt in the laundry and slipped it on to drown herself in remnants of his cologne and steadfast loyalty. She’d fallen asleep in his shirt, but didn’t sleep nearly as well when she was in his bed.
“You think I had someone over that night?” It finally dawned on her.
“You were in his shirt, traipsing around the apartment the next morning like it was the best fucking lay of your life,” he muttered.
Firstly, she didn’t recall any traipsing. Instead, she remembered how devastated she was because he had told her he was moving out. That was the only thing she remembered about that morning. Her heart shattered to realize how much this stupid misunderstanding had ruined everything. But it wasn’t just a misunderstanding that had led them here, it was carelessness on her part and lack of communication on his. She had rubbed her dates in his face and taken him for granted, but he’d hurt her too. Not saying anything can do as much damage as saying the wrong thing.
She pursed her lips at him. “It was your shirt, jackass. I still have it if you want it back.” She shook her head, deciding that she wasn’t going to make it easy for him to push her away again. “No. You know what? On second thought… if you want it back, you’re going to have to come and get it. It’s the only thing I have left of you.”
Edward listened to Rosalie’s words and clearly heard her heart clogging up her throat. In the past, her coming to him like she did would have been enough reward for his years of patient obedience. He couldn’t ignore that fact that he’d never seen her more beautiful. Her agitation colored her cheeks a lovely peach and he bit his lip, frustrated by the effect she still had on him.
“What are you talking about? For the past fifteen years, all we’ve had was each other. You owned me, Rosalie. And I owned you, though not to the same extent. That’s why I had to leave. We weren’t living any more and the energy wasn’t there. We used to burn together. Why don’t we burn anymore?”
She moved toward him. He moved back. She visibly winced at his reaction, but shrugged her shoulders slightly in a show of determination. She wasn’t going to let him go. She kept moving toward him until he was flat on the bed. Her hands reached up and her slender fingers twisted possessively in his hair. His jaw clenched even as his knees went weak. He hated this duality, this constant warring of what should be in opposition to what was.
“We can still burn. It will be different than before but it’s right here. God, Edward, you must feel it.” She placed her hands on his chest, the thrum of his heart pounding against her hand. She grabbed his, placing it over her left breast. “It hasn’t gone anywhere, we just can’t ignore it any longer otherwise it will consume is.” She moved closer still, her chin touching his, the unshaven whiskers digging in. The resolution of the year dug its heels in her mind, determined not to make her stop running. “I’m going to fight for you, Edward,” she whispered against his lips. He whimpered hopelessly still fighting the overwhelming urge to seal their lips in a kiss.
“Rosalie, please…don’t,” he whispered back desperately. There wasn’t any part of his heart she hadn’t used up already.
“I have to. You have to. It’s the only way. And I know I’ve been cruel,” she admitted.
“Fucking heartless,” he agreed, his lips still right there. Right where they both needed them to be.
“You should have told me.” The words she spoke held so many different meanings. She meant them all.
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” he countered. The hand that didn’t hold his heart pushed into his hair, tilting his head further into her, she moved her nose slightly to the left, making room for his. They shared breaths.
“Yes, it would have. I would have told you, too.”
He pressed his head against her hand, opening his eyes to look at her. After a bleary moment, he focused on her and saw that she was telling him the truth. It was there, right in front of him, staring at him in blue.
His brow furrowed deeply. “I can’t give anymore, Rose.”
“I’m not asking you to. Let me give to you until you fill back up.” She lowered her head, her nose skimming his chest, her lips pressing firmly to where his heart thudded wildly. He wanted to let her. He wanted to believe her.
She inched her way back up, her eyes meeting his. “Are you happier now? Satisfied?” She meant here, living without her.
“I’m miserable now. You were the air I breathed, the reason I was. But somewhere in the last few years, we stopped being good for one another. You had to see that. Please tell me that you saw that.”
“It’s because we weren’t honest. We were holding back. That’s what caused the toxicity.”
“Maybe,” he murmured. He wanted to believe her words. He needed to because he knew that there was no way that he could survive in this world without her right by his side. It might be painful but damn it, he needed her.
She kissed him and there was no point in resisting. He silenced all the voices in his head telling him it was mistake and allowed himself to enjoy this for what it was, because it might never happen again. He knew if it meant nothing to her, he’d be paying for it tomorrow. But now, in this almost perfect moment, he just lived. Her kiss felt real, full of passion and desperation that made him grind his hips into her without realizing it. Edward pulled away from her when she moaned in his mouth, he could only take so much.
“Rose, please…” he begged. “I’m not sure that I can…”
“I love you,” she said plainly, ignoring his pleas.
Even if it was a lie, he’d been waiting half his life to hear her utter it. He grabbed her face forcefully, his fingers wrapping around strands of blonde hair, his mouth on hers again before she had time to take her words back and this moment from him. He kissed her deeply and slowly, memorizing her taste and searing this moment into his memory forever.
She had to break the kiss to breathe, but he was having none of that and he leaned into her, his forehead still resting against hers. She laughed huskily. “I’m not going anywhere, Edward,” she promised. He only squeezed her tighter.
Their limbs tangled and they spent the rest of the day in his bed. He found that he had much more to give her after all. The hours slipped past and they were lost to the world, too consumed with each other’s quiet laughter and satisfied groans to be bothered with reality. And later, much later, they went back to the couch to watch not only To Serve Man but her favorite, too. The couch still held their shapes, as if it had waited for this moment. It had never given up hope.
When they returned to his bed and drifted off to sleep, he cradled her in his arms, stroking her hair and murmuring in her ear.
He was finally holding her.