The smell of hospitals wasn’t new to Edward. He’d been going to them for years because of Carlisle, but he still despised the reason he was there tonight.
It’d been seventy-three years since she’d last seen him, and he was still fighting a war within himself that what he was doing there was the best course of action. To bring up so many memories would be horrible enough for her without having to remember seeing his face one more time.
He loved her with all of his being, had been in love with her ever since they’d met in that biology classroom so long, long ago. He just didn’t know it at the time. What had happened in the few months afterwards had nearly broken him and had nearly killed her. It was why he left in the first place. If any harm had come to her because of him or his family, he would have never been able to function again.
Now he was there to visit her, to see her one last time before …
Carlisle had somehow managed to get the nurse’s station emptied by the time he had arrived, and for that he was immensely grateful. He didn’t think he could stand people looking at him or hearing their thoughts in his head. The only sound he heard on his long journey down the empty hallway was a television. The patient was watching the baseball game, idly wondering if his favorite team stood a chance for this year’s World Series Title. The announcer said, “The Mariner’s are on deck, and the bases are loaded.”
It was surreal—a baseball game, something normal, occurring at a time like this, when Edward’s world was ending.
She had a private room, all of her medical expenses paid for through an anonymous benefactor. It had been that way since she’d been diagnosed.
He stood outside her door, both afraid and eager to see her. It had been so long since they’d had any kind of contact, and he craved her touch more now than he ever had before.
Would she remember him?
He took an unnecessary breath and held it, slowly and quietly letting himself into her room as she slept peacefully on the bed in front of him. She was still beautiful, though her body had changed greatly. Nothing could ever change her in his eyes.
Her once smooth skin was now weathered and wrinkled, and where her rich, chocolate, curly hair used to be was now a light muddy mass of frizz that stood around her face sadly. But her eyes, he knew, would always be that deep shade of brown, no matter her age.
It was what made her his Isabella.
Being a vampire had its benefits; he went to her bedside quickly without making a sound not wanting to wake her. The high-pitched beeping of the heart monitor pinged her pulse into the room, bringing out a memory deep from within Edward. Once again he was at her hospital bed, his life propped up on white pillows and stale sheets as she was connected to tubes and wires.
The monitor had beeped her heart rate, and as he’d kissed her, the machine’s beeping had increased. She had found it incredibly embarrassing, but he had loved the sound. Now, though, he didn’t want to hear the machine. He wanted to hear the real thing. He reached over and turned the volume off on the monitor. Her heart still sounded the way it always had but with a smaller twist. Age had done a number on the important muscle and, Edward knew, so had he.
Sleep was precious to them both. In her dreams she could still escape the reality of their parting while he dutifully, lovingly, watched over her. The Cullens had caught Victoria quickly after their departure from Forks, and Edward had rushed back to Bella without pause. He stayed away from her waking eyes, but while she slept, he was constantly with her. That probably would’ve killed her, knowing how much he still cared for her.
She never married, never had children, and buried her mother, father, and step-father when their lights had faded from this world. Her friendships were nothing compared to what they were before Edward had shown up. She was cordial and flat to others. She had become a shell of herself because of what he’d done to her, but he couldn’t force himself to step in either direction—toward, or away, from her.
And now they were here. No new memories to make and a lifetime of old ones already festering away.
Her eyes darted back and forth behind her closed lids, and he took a moment to just savor her sleeping form one last time.
Leaning down carefully, he pressed his cold lips to her warm forehead. It was the first physical contact they’d had in more than seven decades.
A small smile graced her lips and as he pulled back. Her eyes fluttered open. Deep brown and warm, just like he thought they would be.
She was happy to see him; he was immensely relieved of that fact.
“Edward? Oh, Edward, I’m so sorry!” she said, sounding close to tears.
“Everything’s all right now,” he shushed her as he climbed onto the bed, reliving another memory in present time.
“What happened?” she asked as she cuddled into him carefully.
He played his role perfectly. “I was almost too late. I could have been too late,” he whispered, tormented, as his hands wrapped around her.
“I was so stupid, Edward. I thought he had my mom,” she tried to explain, clutching at him and begging him to understand.
“I know, love. He tricked us all. Alice already called your parents; your mother is on her way. You should get more sleep before she comes,” he said gently, knowing what she was about to ask.
“This is all so much, Edward. How could this have happened to us?” she questioned, her eyes searching inside her memory.
“Things are never simple, Bella. I ask myself that same question every single day.” And it was true. He questioned every move he’d made with Bella, wondering which one had brought the both of them this lifetime of torment. But it would all be over soon.
His silence cut her heart.
“Edward, don’t leave,” she pleaded with tears in her eyes as she looked up into his face.
“I won’t ever leave you. But you need your sleep. I’ll be with you when you wake up and everything will be okay. Renée, and Charlie, and Phil will be with us soon, darling,” he said truthfully, because he really believed it now.
“Okay. Edward, can I ask you for something?” she whispered quietly.
“Anything, Bella,” he replied, meaning it in every way. He would do it, for her.
“Will you kiss me?” she asked.
“Always. I love you,” he answered, his heart breaking.
“I love you,” she whispered as her eyes drifted closed and her mouth rose up towards his.
He slowly leaned his head down, and the music that was her heartbeat picked up its rhythm.
As their lips touched for the last time, Bella's heart stopped.
He stayed connected to her for a few moments, not ready to let go, before a tortured cry spilled from his lips as he pulled away from her.
He ran his palm over the side of her head softly and planted a kiss on the side of her neck where her pulse point used to be.
If he could have cried, at that moment, he would have been sobbing. His eyes burned with torment and sadness.
He hated to be separated from her, but he had a meeting with Emmett and Jasper to follow through on. With all that he’d done for them over the years, it was time to collect on a favor.
Climbing out of the bed slowly as to not disturb her frail figure, he turned the volume back up on the heart monitor and cringed at the flat-lining, high-pitched noise. It brought him deep sorrow at hearing it in the now empty room. He longed to hear the steady thump-thump he was so accustomed to listening for.
He looked back at her one last time, memorizing her peaceful face, and then jumped out of the open window and into the starry night.