A.N.: Ok, before you start reading, I'd like you to know that, at a first glance, this has already been done, i.e. the core of the idea has already been picked up by some authors here. BUT, since my favorite person on Fanfiction asked me to dig into my memory and bring back the few paragraphs that I wrote on my dad's computer before it broke down years ago, I decided that, yes, she certainly deserves to read another story like this. And so here it is. The idea that I had so long ago ready to develop into something which I hope you'll find enjoyable enough, even though I promised myself that I wouldn't publish anything until I finished my other stories and had this one all ready to be updated regularly. The truth is that I've been waiting to get this out for ages, and really – I promise I WILL finish Mockingbird. There's no way I'd let it hang when we're so near the finish line.
Anyway, people, I hope you enjoy this. This is just the prologue, and hopefully I'll publish the first chapter some time during the next week, but until then I'd be very happy if you left me some feedback.
And as for you, Chloe, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY LOVELY!
As you all know, I don't technically own the characters, though in my mind Edward is more or less my heteronym. Go figure. Oh – you can find the banner on my profile page. And I really think you should go check it.
The road that led to the center of town sailed through a wide expanse of woodland, framed by smothering trees, under a bleak morning sky that wept onto Charlie Swan's forehead a slight drizzle. He stared through the humidity-ridden air at the crowd of firs on the other side of the road and became even more aware of something not quite right about the present atmosphere, felt the raindrops on his skin like the faint touch of something from another realm.
Strange – Billy was the superstitious one. The matinal tiredness that he was still rubbing off his eyes, coupled with the unusual opaqueness of the silver Volvo a few yards away, was most likely misting his access to rationality.
He made the passenger door of his cruiser snap shut, and the sound pierced through the fog in his head, clearing out the feeling of unearthly wrongness that'd been tingling behind his eyes, and then he was back to his coherent self. The car in front of him was immediately associated with a familiar face, one he didn't much like, but for the moment he put his aversion aside, because–
Something was wrong. The car was empty.
Charlie walked around his cruiser with his hand reaching beneath his patrol jacket, into the inside pocket, where he kept his bottle of pepper spray, readying himself for the possible appearance of a wild animal, or a meeting with humanity's personified flaws, even though that wasn't likely to happen. Forks was definitely not known for its high levels of criminality.
He took a few more steps forward, approaching the vacant Volvo. The passenger door was open, allowing in a sudden gust of wind, and though Charlie did not agree with his daughter's choices his sense of decency prevented him from seeing this as a trivial inconvenience, a pointless interruption of his day. The wind rustled through the surrounding foliage again, and it made the spotless leather of the seats seem as if it were dead, like at some point it'd been sentient, looking simply too black and clean for such a situation.
Something had happened to Edward. People didn't just leave their cars like that, in the middle of the road, and disappeared into–
Charlie stalled. He could clearly hear someone nearby, could hear them breathe as if their lungs were filled with fluid. The sound was not unlike a series of shallow exhales in his ear, so near, and instantly he looked around for its source, quickly forgetting about the pepper spray, and when he couldn't find it his body moved towards it. He went around the silver bumper, the (he noticed then) shining headlights, following the noise until his eyes came upon a freezing sight.
He had no idea how he hadn't see him before, through the space between the bottom of the car and the tar underneath. His attention had failed him, preventing him from tending to him sooner, while Edward lay curled up on his side, wheezing, his arm stretched out on the ground like an inanimate piece, incapable of moving, retreating.
Charlie quickly crouched next to him, feeling his heartbeat thud in his throat. Impulsively, he lifted the boy's upper body off the ground and pushed it gently against the metallic grey of the car, where his reflection flashed distortedly.
"Edward!" he said loudly, gripping his shoulder to keep him from falling. His hand found the kid's jaw and held it in place, and he tried not to wince at the blood under his skin. The blood that'd dried on Edward's chin. "Talk to me, son."
His pale forehead wrinkled slightly under a disarray of red locks, while his eyelashes fluttered weakly over the dark circles below. Charlie's hope that his words were making any difference wavered dangerously inside his thundering chest. He nearly tore his jacket pocket open while he retrieved his cell phone, navigated through his contacts with trembling fingers, brought it up to his ear wondering what in the hell had happened to Edward's mouth for it to be covered in blood.
There hadn't been an accident and the rest of his face was intact, so–
"Hello?" Carlisle Cullen's voice punctured his swelling bubble of stupefaction. "Charlie? Is everything alright with Bella?"
Always so quick to offer their help, to show their concern. The Cullens were a family too good to be true, and the manner in which they'd embraced his daughter as if she were one of their own was at the same time comforting and terrifying.
"Yes," he said, and because with Bella one just never knew he muttered, "I hope so."
Edward's lips shook against each other, in what Charlie assumed to be an attempt to speak, and he focused on the matter at hand, the reason why he'd called.
"It's your son." For the first time, it was someone else's kid. A kid who – Charlie had to admit – clearly had a sense of responsibility, especially over his daughter, whose tendency to search for danger seemed startling and dizzying, like neon lights in the night, against his obvious preoccupation with safety matters.
Which just made the situation even more confusing.
"Jasper?" The golden smoothness of Carlisle's voice bore a fearful stain.
Charlie blinked in surprise, and his feeble attempt to remember exactly which one of them was named Jasper fell exhausted before it could reach success. He blinked again to clear out his thoughts, face contorted upon the realization that whatever worries Carlisle had been facing regarding his other children would be joined by this.
"No, it's Edward. He– I found his car in the middle of the road, but he wasn't inside and… He's here with me. I think he needs help."
A moment of silence ensued. Edward's face ensnared a flickering frown, as if he were trying to respond to Charlie's voice by crawling his way out of the abyss that unconsciousness had thrown him into. Charlie's thumb pressed against a spot on his throat, and he felt, relieved, a steady pulse kicking his flesh.
"Could you please pass him the phone?"
Charlie sighed. It'd be better to tell him right now, and he'd probably hurry up or perhaps tell him what to do. Edward was alive, breathing better, incredibly, his heartbeat strong and certain, but he clearly wasn't okay and Carlisle needed to do something soon.
"Well, you see, he's not really conscious, and his mouth is covered in blood–"
"Where are you?" Carlisle cut him off, and the urgency of the question yanked the information needed out of Charlie's mouth. Meanwhile Edward's lashes trembled in a sudden spurt of drowsy energy. "I'm on my way," he assured then, and a click signaled the end of the call. Somewhere in the distance the sound of twigs cracking pulled Charlie's head towards the looming forest, an agglomerate of trees drenched in cold steam and darkness, and he had to wonder who was out there. If they were responsible for this.
"Edward," he called lowly, needing to ask, needing to know, edging towards the thought that maybe he should drag the boy into his cruiser and drive away, someplace safe. The woods emitted through an odd croaking a spine-chilling hostility. "Edward, can you hear me?"
The eyelids that'd been creasing and flattening as he spoke lifted almost too abruptly, too quickly – or perhaps Charlie had just been expecting to see a pair of familiar brown eyes (either too light or too dark), and the auroral green with which he was faced instead forced him to lean back in surprise.
It vaguely occurred to him that something about the boy himself was different. He didn't try to figure out what it was exactly, because the green eyes had regained focus and were now poised over his face, like searchlights, framed by a pale face seemingly trapped in a state of languid confusion.
"Son, do you remember what happened?" Charlie's hand on his shoulder was not an anchor anymore, but more of an invader of his personal space, judging from the way he subtly tried to shy away from it, an edge of indiscernible unease present on the slight redness of his cheeks.
A first – he didn't remember having seen Edward Cullen blush before. Ever. Not even when Charlie's questions held a provoking tone behind them. Not even when he stopped watching a game and almost twisted his neck to glare at the kid when he stepped into his house. His polite grace seemed to be almost ingrained in his nature, never faltering, never skipping a beat of Charlie's sense of time. Always kept intact, in a ceaseless state of perfection.
Edward pulled his knees up, his hand curled into a fist by his side, fingers pale and thin and tightly coiled against the asphalt. During his training to be a police officer, Charlie had attended enough lectures to now infer from the boy's posture that he'd gone into self-defense mode.
His green eyes darted between a spot inside the woods and Charlie's expectant face. At last his head moved from left to right, ever so subtly, and he had his answer.
"Okay, then…" Charlie nodded, still needing to know, because the woods were foggy and dark and the strangest smell permeated the air. "What's the last thing you remember?"
It probably wasn't very good, judging from the troubled frown that fell like a tombstone onto his face.
"I remember– I was in the hospital…"
Charlie patiently waited for him to continue, but apparently Edward was the one waiting, eyes so wide and green – a green alight with anticipation, with a sort of ragged innocence which flickered there like a candle flame in the pitch dark – that he had to look away, uncomfortable, for just a second.
He thought about the answer for a moment and became confused.
"Alright. Were you there to see your father?" he asked, because it was the most logical explanation. Edward, the four-point-oh student, had somehow stumbled over his grammar knowledge.
"Yes." The dense air pushed violently through the trees and overrode the minute sound of his voice, but Charlie heard a scintilla of uncertainty there. "I suppose– yes."
A tremble rocked the boy's body, and then he was curling in on himself, bright eyes bouncing from place to place until they landed on Charlie's. That raw vulnerability had faded amidst their width, behind the wariness that returned to them, and Charlie was thankful for that but didn't know why.
"Are you cold?" he asked. Edward glanced down at his gray shirt, like it'd been put there suddenly, and shivered through the small nod that he gave him. Charlie removed his jacket quickly and held it up rather awkwardly. "Here. Put this on."
Edward eyed the piece of clothing like it was a golden box keeping locked a bunch of snakes, guardedly fascinated by the offer, and after a moment of hesitancy he slipped his arm through one the sleeves.
"Thank you," he said quietly, his tense posture unraveling under the dark blue jacket, and Charlie heard an unnatural amount of gratitude in those two words. Unnatural because – in the times that ran kids had a god-awful tendency to take things for granted, and their thank-you's were more often than not a mere forefront for a general lack of feeling.
But obviously Edward was not like most kids.
Charlie scratched the side of his face, feeling a blur take over his mind. Now that the adrenaline had worn off and Edward was out of visible danger, he sensed a change in his relation to his daughter's boyfriend, his annoyance gone small amidst the confusing smear that replaced the rigid architecture of his opinions. Of course – he didn't want the kid hurt, no matter how much he'd hurt his daughter. But, there was something more.
It was just that the look Edward had given him, that scared expectation burning in all that green, made him wonder if perhaps he hadn't suffered just as much.
But then Bella's screams reverberated through his head, howls splintering inside his skull like glass shards, and this guy was the one at fault, the one who'd caused her that much pain, the reason why Charlie had sat awake night after night wondering what in the hell a father was supposed to do.
Perhaps Carlisle had wondered the same thing.
His black Mercedes rumbled in the distance, and moments later appeared around the curve of the mostly deserted road and stopped a short distance from them with a dry screech. Charlie blinked away the glaze that'd fallen over his eyes.
"Your dad's here. Come on," he said, slipping his hand under Edward's arm. They stood up in tempo with Carlisle's immediate appearance – Charlie didn't remember seeing him walk in their direction, but suddenly there he was, standing so close, eyes wide and bright against a white face caught in a sort of fearful shock.
The boy turned around like a spintop set in motion and then held in place, freezing upon the sight of his father, and the two stared at each other as if–
As if it was the first time they'd ever done it, until a spark of recognition flashed across Edward's face, setting ablaze the hope that Charlie had seen there before.
When he spoke his voice was a confused mumble: