Three floors above the street, lounging on a half-made bed, a young man and his girl watch images flicker across a fuzzy screen.
Bella curls into his side, resting her head against his chest. "I missed you," she breathes, fanning his neck with warm, sweet air. "I hated not being with you."
Smiling and leaning down to kiss her hair, Edward murmurs, "I know, sweetheart. I couldn't stand not seeing you."
She takes a deep breath and grips his shirt. "I was afraid."
"That you wouldn't want me… You know, after we–"
"Never." His answer is swift and concrete, coupled with a tight squeeze of his arm, because there is no question whatsoever in his mind. They've not said any vows, but he's known since he was eighteen that she was it, through sickness and health, til death do they part.
Kissing her again, this time on the lips, he smiles. "Yeah."
"Do you still…" His girl pauses. "You know… think."
He swallows because of course he does. "About it?" he finishes.
It's the first time they've addressed the elephant in the room and it feels dangerous, like he's juggling a ticking bomb. "Honest?"
He feels her nod, slowly, hesitantly, and he wants more than anything to tell her no. He wants to be strong and sure. But he's not. Despite what he told the good doctor, as well as his father, he's as fragile as they come. Swallowing again, Edward stammers, "All the time."
Bella's whole frame tenses and she squeezes his middle. "Me too," she finally replies. Her voice is just as soft, just as shaky, just as terrified as his. "That scares me."
"You're afraid that we can't do this?" By this, he means: get a job, make enough to eat, stay clean. It's hard when he can feel the subtle vibration in his bones, the mental tug to alleviate the tension.
"Yeah." She squeezes again, burying her face in his shirt. Even muffled, he hears the shame that riddles her voice. "Because right now, all I can think about is calling James."
Edward closes his eyes. "I know, baby." Gently, he brushes back her hair. "We'll be strong. We don't need that shit anymore."
"Don't let me slip." And it's a plea, not a command.
When she looks up at him, he smiles. "If you slip, I slip. Remember? No matter what, we're together. I won't be away from you again."