But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:17


Preface

Beau never gave much thought to how he would die—though he had reason enough in the last few months—but even if he had, he would not have imagined it like this.

Beau stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and the hunter looked pleasantly back.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone he loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

Beau knew that if he'd never gone to Forks, he wouldn't be facing death now. But, terrified as he was, he couldn't bring himself to regret the decision. When life offered a dream so far beyond his expectations, it was not reasonable to grieve when it came to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill him.


"Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent into Port Angeles. Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until we reach the gate."

The pilot thanked the passengers for joining her on the flight. She added that the temperature was a crisp thirty-three degrees and a thunderstorm was expected later in the afternoon. No one seemed bothered or perplexed by this information, no one but the tall boy in the fourth row of the plane.

Beau peered through the window at the tiny airport below and shivered. Thirty-three degrees was a world away from the dry heat he left behind. He pulled the zipper up to his chin. The cold was tangible even through the thick layers of his parka.

His mother eyed that parka all the way through Sky Harbor International, her gaze flickering restlessly between it and the vintage blue and gold Mariners cap on his head. When the two reached the security line, Renée let out a long sigh.

"You look like Charlie with that hat."

"Might have to change my look," Beau said in mock seriousness. "In a town that small, people might get the two of us confused."

"You have no idea."

"Ha ha."

In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that Renée and Beau escaped when he was only a few months old.

It was to Forks that Beau now exiled himself—an action that, once upon a time, he took with great horror. But in the past year, the memory of the isolated Forks had become a tantalizing oasis. His own personal escape route. Past Beau detested Forks; today, it was a layover to the rest of his life. The town was to be his hideout for the next eighteen months. It was in Forks that he could put the past behind him and start again.

"Beau," Renée said—the last of a thousand times—before he got on the plane. "You don't have to do this."

Beau had stared into her wide, childlike eyes. He wasn't sure exactly when he outstripped his mother in height, but now, he towered over her. His stomach twisted with indecision. How could he leave his loving, erratic, harebrained mother to fend for herself? Of course she had Phil now, so the bills would probably get paid, there would be food in the refrigerator, gas in her car, and someone to call when she got lost, but still . . .

"I want to go," he told her. "It's just something I have to do."

They both knew it had to be this way. But knowing that didn't make this goodbye any easier. It felt so final—it felt like an ending. Renée pulled him into a hug, her blue eyes shut against his chest. Beau knew it was so he couldn't see the tears in them.

She carried a lot of guilt these days, despite his best efforts to convince her otherwise.

"Mom," he said gently. "Don't worry about me. It'll be great. I love you."

"Love you more. Call me when you land, okay?"

Renée had hugged him tightly for another minute, sighed, and then she was gone.

It was a three hour journey from Phoenix to Seattle. Beau had a short layover until his next flight to Port Angeles, and dutifully found a payphone bank to call his mother, as promised. He knew she planned to spend the afternoon packing up their house.

Beau almost smiled. They both were fleeing Arizona.

He dug through his pockets for change and dialed their home phone number. It rang and rang until the machine picked up. The new message—the one that now included Phil—chirped in his ear.

Beau hung up and carefully replaced the receiver. He could not afford to lose his nerve.

The passengers exited the plane directly onto the tarmac. Above, the overcast sky rumbled, hinting at the thunderstorm to come. Beau didn't see it as an omen—just unavoidable. He'd already said his goodbyes to the sun.

Beau found his father in uniform and leaning against the cruiser. Charlie Swan was the police chief to the good people of Forks. Beau threw him a salute before the two exchanged an awkward hug. When they let go, Beau realized he'd grown past Charlie, too.

He only had a few bags. Most of the clothes he brought from Arizona were too light for Washington. Renée and Beau had pooled their money together for the parka, but he would need more options if he planned to survive the rest of the winter season. Everything fit easily into the trunk of the cruiser.

Charlie had been really nice about the move. He seemed genuinely pleased that Beau was coming to live with him full time for the first time ever. He'd already registered him for high school and was going to help Beau find a car.

Beau was eager to tackle this problem before it started. He'd sooner walk in the rain than get dropped off with the red and blues flashing. Nothing slowed down traffic like a cop.

"It's good to see you, Beau," Charlie said as they got on the road. "You're taller. How's Renée?"

"Mom's fine. It's good to see you, too, Dad." He wasn't allowed to call him Charlie to his face.

"Phil having any luck getting signed?"

"Not yet, but they're going to Florida soon. They're hoping to meet some scouts there."

"Scouts be coming to your games before long," Charlie was confident in the way only a father could be. "Now that you've recovered, anyway. The season starts in a few months."

"Right." Beau stared at his lap as he spoke. He flexed the fingers of his right hand, experimenting, and felt the slight answering twinge of pain. The bones had long healed, but the memory of the break remained.

"I found a good car for you, really cheap."

Beau was wary. "What kind of car?"

"Well, it's a truck actually, a Chevy."

"Where did you find it?"

"Do you remember Billy Black, down at La Push? He used to go fishing with us during the summer."

La Push was part of the Quileute Indian Reservation on the coast. Beau remembered the painfully boring hours spent in a Boston Whaler watching his father and Billy wait for fish that never seemed to bite. That all came to a stop when Beau put his foot down at fourteen. These past three summers, father and son vacationed in California for two weeks instead.

"Sure, how's he doing?"

"He's in a wheelchair now so he can't drive anymore. He offered to sell me his truck cheap."

"What year is it?" Beau could see from the change of expression that this was a question Charlie hoped he wouldn't ask.

"Well, Billy's done a lot of work on the engine—it's only a few years old, really."

"When did he buy it?"

"He bought it in 1984, I think."

Beau never thought he would long for the Valley Metro system. "Did he buy it new?"

"Well, no. I think it was new in the early sixties—or late fifties at the earliest," Charlie admitted sheepishly.

"Ch—Dad, I don't really know anything about cars. I wouldn't be able to fix it if anything went wrong, and I couldn't afford a mechanic . . . "

"Really, Beau, the thing runs great. They don't build them like that anymore."

The thing, Beau thought. It had possibilities, as a nickname, at the very least.

"How cheap is cheap?" He had some money left over from the summer, but not much. Not enough for a car, even one as old as that.

"Well, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming gift." Charlie peeked sideways at him with a hopeful expression.

This unexpected kindness was almost too much. It had been a long few months of anxiety, frequent debating with Renée, and mounting panic at the thought of moving in with a man he saw just once a year.

"You didn't need to do that, Dad," Beau said when he found his voice again. He hoped he did not sound ungrateful. "I was going to buy myself a car."

"I don't mind. I want you to be happy here." He was looking ahead at the road when he said this. Like a lot of men, Charlie wasn't comfortable with expressing his emotions out loud. This, other than their looks, was something the Swans had in common.

"That's really nice, Dad. Thanks. I really appreciate it."

"Well, now, you're welcome," he mumbled, embarrassed by the thanks.

They exchanged a few more comments on the weather, which was wet, and that was pretty much it for the rest of the ride. The two stared out the windows in silence. Renée was the chatty one, the yin to the Swan yang. Beau missed his mother. She'd know exactly how to move past the uncomfortable moments.

Forks was beautiful, of course; Beau couldn't deny that. It was just as he remembered. Everything was green: the trees, their trunks covered with moss, their branches hanging with a canopy of it, the ground covered with ferns. It was the complete opposite of the arid Phoenix climate he used to love.

The town was too green—it was an alien planet.

Eventually they made it to Charlie's. He still lived in the small, two-bedroom house from the early days of his marriage to Renée. Those were the only kind of days their marriage had—the early ones.

There, parked on the street in front of the unchanging house, was his new—well, new to him—truck. It was a faded red color, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab. To his intense surprise, Beau loved it. He didn't know if it would run, but he could see himself in it. Plus, it was one of those solid iron affairs that never got damaged—the kind one saw at the scene of an accident, paint unscratched, surrounded by the pieces of the foreign car it had destroyed.

"Wow, Dad, I love it! Thanks!"

Beau meant it. He never had a car in Phoenix; he almost always rode the bus and borrowed Renée's old Nissan only when necessary, never putting more than five bucks in the tank at a time. He thought this beast might need a little more than that.

"I'm glad you like it," Charlie said gruffly, embarrassed again.

It took just one trip to get all his stuff upstairs. Beau got the west bedroom that faced out over the front yard. The room was familiar—the light blue walls, the peaked ceiling, the gingham curtains around the window—these were all a part of his childhood. The only changes Charlie made were switching the crib for a bed as Beau grew and adding a desk. The desk now held a secondhand computer, with the phone line for the modem stapled along the floor to the nearest phone jack. This was a stipulation from Renée so they could stay in touch easily. The rocking chair from his baby days sat in the corner. Even his aluminum bat from Little League was still tucked under the bed, undisturbed.

Beau went into his duffel bag, rescued the two plants he brought from Phoenix, and set them on the windowsill. The rosette succulent and tiny cactus wouldn't get much sunlight in Forks; he'd have to buy a fluorescent lamp to keep them alive. He was determined that something from the desert would thrive here, even if he didn't.

He and Charlie would have to share the small bathroom at the top of the stairs. Beau worried about this at first, but he found it to be neater than the one he shared with his mother at home. This sink looked empty without her makeup and hair products. Beau was forever organizing and reorganizing their bathroom; he supposed that responsibility would now fall to Phil.

One of the best things about Charlie was that he didn't hover. He left Beau alone to unpack and get settled, a feat that would have been altogether impossible for Renée. It was nice to be alone, even for a few moments, to study the sheeting rain now hitting the windows, and prepare himself for what lay in store for him at school.

Forks High School had a frightening total of only three hundred and fifty-seven—now fifty-eight—students. This number was staggering. The junior class back home in Phoenix had more than seven hundred people alone. All of these Forks kids had grown up together. Beau would be the new kid from the big city, a curiosity, a freak.

Come Monday, Beau would be the newest addition to Forks High School, and most likely the only gay one for miles.

Small towns and the rumor mill. Beau knew this the moment he decided to move here. Maybe if he was fully out, like the guys on Queer as Folk, he might have developed a thicker skin. Out and proud, as they say. Maybe if he had the courage to come out earlier, make a big thing of it, the news wouldn't have come as such a surprise to his teammates. They wouldn't have done what they did and he'd still be living in Phoenix.

It was a gamble, coming to Forks, but he had nowhere else to go.

Beau didn't relate well to people his age. Maybe the truth was that he didn't relate well to people, period. Even his mother, who he was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with him, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes Beau wondered if he was seeing the same things through his eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in his brain. But the cause didn't matter. All that mattered was the effect. And tomorrow would be just the beginning.

It was only for eighteen months. After graduation, he could flee to a D-I college in Florida, be scouted for the big leagues, then play for the Rays or Marlins. He just had to get through eighteen months. Eighteen months of rain in exchange for a lifetime under the sun.

Beau was too nervous to eat the pizza Charlie ordered and excused himself for the night. True to form, his father left him alone. A few minutes later, the sound of 60 Minutes drifted up the stairs. Beau closed the door to the noise and sighed.

All the important tasks were done. The bags were unpacked, clothes laid out, car keys waiting on the old pine dresser. Even the handful of books he brought were put away. There was nothing else to do but sleep.

Beau tossed and turned in the too-small bed, his feet hanging off the end. Finally, when the rain at last quieted to a drizzle, he drifted off.


A/N: Hey y'all! I'm back!

It's been quite a long time since I've posted a story. To fill you in, I graduated college, got a big girl job, made questionable choices - you know, the usual life stuff. During that time I was also reading fics, while trying to write both fanfic and my original works. Twific and the recent fandom renaissance has been a real comfort to me, and I'm very glad to be posting again. This story is 100% prewritten and will post every week. Please enjoy this Twilight retelling with a few twists. ;)