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Chapter One.

The cool metal of the handcuff cut into the flesh slightly.

How did he get to this place?

How did he - a former marine combat sergeant, Purple Heart recipient, honorably discharged - end up locked away like a common criminal?

"She has a pretty big bump on her head and a concussion. There is a bit of bruising on her arm," his father, Carlisle muttered, unable to look at his son in his prison cell. "Her boss is sending her home to get some rest, but she doesn't want to press charges against you."

"It's not her choice. If the DA wants to press charges, he will do just that and then just subpoena her for her testimony," came the whispered interjection from his brother-in-law and attorney, Jasper Hale.

"I just snapped. I just saw her pulling off her shawl and when I put two and two together-" Edward broke off. "All I could see was that woman who walked onto the base, shouting in Arabic, feeling the explosion and then I wake up in a hospital two months later, covered in bandages. To this day, I can't look at my own face."

"But she isn't that woman," Captain Emmett McCarty sighed, looking at his best friend. "I thought you were beyond this. I thought the therapy was working. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this would happen. Every time we spoke, we would hear about Bella this and Bella that. Is your hatred so great that it blinded you to everything that was good about her?"

"Look at what I have become!" Edward roared, ripping off his hoodie, revealing the jagged, raised flesh that even after a year still reflected how ghastly his wounds truly were. "Mom doesn't even look me in the face. Rosalie didn't want me to be your best man so that I wouldn't ruin your wedding pictures. My godson cries whenever he sees me. I am a monster."

"You are not a monster," Carlisle spat out, rounding on his son. "You were a solider, wounded while serving his country. You put your life on the line for everyone. Even her."

"I know that!" Edward threw back. "But, it's a struggle."

"We know that, but there is no justification for what you did," Jasper muttered. "This can very well be seen as a hate crime, Edward."

"How so?" Carlisle asked.

"He called her a terrorist and told her to take her jihad back to Iraq," Emmett answered.

"But, he just snapped," Carlisle stuttered. "He has PTSD."

"And, we know that," Jasper interjected. "But, you have to understand what could possibly happen."

"And, that will be nothing, Jasper," another voice entered into their conversation, causing all of the men to look over to the newcomer in their conversation.

"DA Billy Black," Jasper stuttered, reaching out to shake the older man's hand.

"Mr. Hale," Billy acknowledged before looking over to the man locked in the cell. "You are a very lucky man, Mr. Cullen. I have decided not to press charges against you. You are free to go."

"Thank you." Carlisle could not help the relieved sigh that escaped him.

"Think nothing of it, though I am not the one you should be thanking," Billy shook his head.

"So who should I be thanking then?" Edward muttered.

"My goddaughter. The woman you attacked," Billy whispered, motioning the officer that accompanied him to open the prison cell.

"How is she?" Edward said hoarsely.

"She wanted to come here, to apologize to you, if you can believe it," Billy said, taking a seat next to Edward.


"Because she blames herself. She said that she knew that you had problems and that she should have been more sensitive to that," Billy scoffed.

"That's crazy," Emmett whispered.

"Yes, it is. She loves her version of God, Edward. She prays five times a day. She fasts during the month of Ramadan. She doesn't drink alcohol. She is kind and gives as much charity as she could and now she hides. She hides because of people like you," Billy spat, rounding on Edward. "I understand that you are suffering from PTSD, but to paint every member of a religion as being evil is idiocy at its highest. Condemning every person in a group of people, because of the actions of a few of them, is beneath you."

"How can you say what is beneath me?" Edward asked heatedly, ignoring the dark look of warning Carlisle threw at him.

"Because you have a brain of your own. You lived in Iraq for a year. You saw how those people truly are. Are they monsters? Is she a monster?" Billy muttered before standing, pulling out a picture of Bella and flinging it onto the seat next to Edward.

After that, Billy left the cell. Within minutes Edward was out of the police station, sitting in his father's car. The entire way to his parents' home, Edward was silent, lost in thought. The picture of Bella clenched in his fist.

"Are you alright?" Carlisle asked, switching off the car in the driveway.

"No," Edward shook his head.

"What's wrong?" Carlisle turned to look at his son, his concern evident.

"She's not the monster. I am." With those few words, the tears fell.