A/N: Disclaimer. The base characters, names, general characteristics belong to SMeyer, what they do in this story belongs to me.
A/N#2: This fic is wildly AU. Whole new universe sort of AU. For the purposes of my universe, this is the (very very basic) timeline from Bella's arrival in Forks to story open. No, it does not go into depth about why such things are, that's what the story's for :D This should give you an idea, though.
January 2005 – Bella Swan arrives in Forks
February 2005 – Sam Uley marries Leah Clearwater, the newlyweds move to Seattle. Jared is in college in California, Paul is in the military...all of them no longer living at LaPush
Early April 2005 – a few unexplained murders in and around Forks, Washington
Mid-April 2005 – Bella Swan disappears
Mid-April 2005 – Jacob Black disappears, presumably looking for his best friend Bella
Early May 2005 – Jacob returns, but without Bella, he never speaks of where he went
December 2006 – The Cullens arrive in Forks, Washington.
New Years Eve 2006 – Jacob and Billy Black, Quil Ataera and Embry Call meet with Carlisle, renew treaty, life in Forks goes on...
May 2007 – Nomad opens
The electricity of the storm outside prickled along my skin. Each flash, each crash caused another wave of energy to pass over the granite that used to be skin.
These storms were one of the reasons I enjoyed this part of the country so much. They weren't the light shows and tornado whirlwinds of the middle part of the country that destroyed what dared stand in their path. These storms were more subtle in their destruction, inundating the area , drowning out all but the heartiest, and only clearing their throat once in a while.
Tonight's storm was all about the throat clearing.
I watched from the wall of windows opposite my bed. My heightened senses alerted me to the lighting a half-second before it struck and my eyes were always ready on the spot just above the trees.
The greenery outside my bedroom window was illuminated in that blinding flash of light for less than a second, but it was enough for my mind to see every detail. See and hold the picture as if snapped by a camera.
My photographic memory was one of the few things I could stand about myself, and my fate. I took advantage of it as often as I could. Even if it was something as mundane as analyzing every detail of a lightning-illuminated forest. After all, what else was there to do besides listen to the mindless prattle of the woman pretending to enjoy watching the storm with me?
If I gave one hint, one motion to indicate that my study of the storm was over, she'd be crawling over my skin again like a bad rash. As if she was the one reading my thoughts, I felt her hand press against my stomach, shifting just enough to indicate an impending trip south. I stilled her hand by placing mine atop it.
No, thank you.
Predictably, the babbles turned to harping. And blessing of blessings, I was able to hear the harping she spoke as well as the insults she only thought at me. For some reason, my transformation from mortal to immortal had left me with the ability to hear thoughts as clearly as words. Times like this, however, it was more curse than blessing.
Because it would land me in even more trouble if I didn't at least have a semblance of what she was saying, I turned half of my attention away from the storm. I heard the tirade she was spewing at me for stopping her, her disdain for my interest in the asinine weather, and the empty threats to leave as she felt so very underappreciated.
"Of course I appreciate you, Tanya," I lied, knowing this was where she wanted me to interrupt.
"Then why do I rate lower than clouds, rain and a few flashes of light?"
"I wouldn't put it that way."
I felt her shift on the bed to sit up and look at me. The room was pitch black save the infrequent lightning flashes, but that made little difference to us. I could see how pissed she was at me without the aid of additional lighting just fine.
"Then which way would you put it, Edward? You've got a naked and willing woman in your bed and you'd rather look at a bunch of trees? Maybe I should just go back to humans. At least they stayed interested."
"If that's what you want," I said, trying to keep the hope out of my voice.
"It's not what I want, you ass. I want you, I always have done and you know it."
"Yes, I do. And now you have me. But having me comes with my enjoying thunderstorms and literature, music and chess and a host of other pursuits that don't require one or both parties to be nude. You keep forgetting that."
Tanya snarled at me and sprang from the bed. She was back in her clothes less than a second later. "If that's the way you're going to be, I'm leaving for home now rather than in the morning."
"Drive carefully," I added and this time she screamed her frustration at me, along with several very colorful words.
The door had barely shut behind her when my mobile buzzed on the desk. I couldn't read a phone's mind, but I knew who it was well enough. I ignored it. I wasn't in the mood.
Instead I watched the storm continue to clear its throat around me, some lightning strikes shaking the very house.
The house was big and open, the back wall nearly all window and all of them looking over the lush, green forest behind us, hints of the river visible if you knew where to look.
It was one of the reasons I went along with Alice's determination that we stay here in Forks even though the old wolf pack, or their descendents, remained in the nearby reservation.
Rose, naturally, had pushed to leave. She'd hated the scent the wolves left behind ever since our first time living here, seventy or so years ago, and didn't want to endure it again. Alice, however, had been adamant. And when push came to shove, we didn't question it when she was that insistent. I'd tried to see why she was being almost pig-headed about it, but I'd never heard anything in her mind to indicate a reason behind her insistence.
Eventually, I stopped looking because I hadn't cared one way or another. Another town, another high school, another stretch of years to endure before moving provided a break in the monotony once again.
Until the day I'd found the homemade poster, seen those haunting brown eyes, and started to wonder what had happened to the girl behind them. Ever since then, I'd been as reluctant to leave as Alice had been. Not that my family knew anything about that.
Five minutes after the first ignored phone call, the house phone rang. A second later, my cell phone trilled at me from the bedside table. As both phones were side by side, I checked the caller IDs – one had my sister's cell phone number, the other listed her husband, Jasper's. Apparently she wasn't giving in until she talked to me and was going to take any means necessary to make sure that happened.
I chose to answer the phone rather than listen to incessant ringing all night long.
"Hello, Alice. You're calling very late."
There was a long pause during which I heard Alice issue a long, dramatic exhale into her phone. "Well, shit."
"Are you just harassing me by phone simply to cuss at me or was there another reason?"
"You said you were breaking it off with Tanya tonight."
"I said I intended to, but it didn't work out that way."
"So I saw. All those happy visions of a Tanya-free future went away. Depressed the fuck out of me."
"Why, Edward? Why won't you just break it off for her and make us all, especially yourself, so much happier?"
"I can't, Alice. She's fancied herself in love with me since the first time she saw me, what? Thirty years ago? She's spent the better part of those thirty years chasing after me every time we've been in the same hemisphere. D'you know how annoying that is? No, you don't. None of you do. I'm the only single Cullen and Tanya's decided she's the one who'll change all that." I paused, sighed. "If I break it off, you know damned well she'll throw her energies into 'winning me back'."
There was silence on the other end of the phone. Alice was only speechless when she knew I was right.
"The only way to be truly shut of her is to wait for her to realize on her own that we're more poorly matched than oil and water."
"Yeah, I'm here. Disappointed, but here."
"It'll work out, eventually, I'm sure. She's already getting irritated with me more and more often, and did, in fact, storm out of here a bit ago. Time's on my side, little sister. Now tell me, how's London?"
The change of subject brightened Alice considerably. I could almost hear her bouncing on the balls of her feet as she told me all about what she and Jazz had seen on their trip, a fourth (or was it fifth?) honeymoon. We were all on Spring Break from high school and my parents and siblings had all taken off for points distant, I'd stayed behind. With Tanya. She'd been excited about the prospect of a week together, without the eyes and ears of our families around us for a change.
That excitement had waned when she found I wasn't interested in spending every second of it seeing to her pleasure in bed.
More out of habit than need, I pulled on a pair of old sweat pants as I got up from the bed. Alice was prattling on about the second day of their trip now and I had returned to watching the storm. We were nearing the end now, I knew and if past history repeated, some of the best lightning strikes would happen right near the end.
Not caring for the feel of wet clothes, I kept on the dry side of my patio windows, staring out at the back lawn while Alice described Hyde Park to me unnecessarily as I'd been there several times myself. Still, it was interesting to see it from her perspective.
As my eyes darted here and there over the forest floor, my attention was drawn to ripples on one puddle near the edge of the where the forest encroached on our yard. There was an odd shape on the ground near it. I focused my eyes more closely. It was a bare human footprint.
On the other end of the line, Alice gasped.
"Alice, what is it?
I knew that sound only too well. The only thing that ever surprised a psychic was a random flash into the future.
"What did you see?"
"Nothing, Edward. It was nothing."
I snorted, still staring at the small footprint next to the puddle, trying to puzzle out who it belonged to. "Now why don't I believe you?"
"Because you're a horribly mistrusting brother and I'm ashamed to call you family?" Alice actually sniffed in my ear.
"Bullshit," I laughed back, though only a quarter of my attention was on the conversation.
It was very small, maybe Alice-sized? But Alice never set foot outside the house in her bare feet, much less romped around our forest that way. No, these belonged to someone else.
A child? Another young human stupidly wandering the woods without clue of the dangers surrounding them? We were far from the guardians of Forks, but this town had already been victim to one mysterious disappearance, thankfully years before we'd arrived; it didn't need to have that happen again.
"No, Alice," I responded by rote, "I'm not going after Tanya to break it off, so give it up. I was actually thinking of going hunting."
"Have fun with that. It's odd, but I'm actually missing elk."
"You're such a liar," I half-laughed back. I was already debating whether or not I should at least change into more appropriate attire for tramping through the forest, but decided against it. I was too eager to investigate.
"Man, you must be really thirsty, Edward. You're not listening to a word I say," she heaved a dramatic sigh in my ear. "All right then. Have fun hunting and I'll call again tomorrow." She hung up without another word, and without waiting for me to say my goodbyes either.
If I hadn't been so preoccupied, I would have been curious about how easy it had been to get Alice off the phone...or why it had almost sounded like she'd been laughing.
After an hour's fruitless searching, I decided to give it up and troop back to the house. My feet were muddy and my sweatpants near hanging off my hips from the weight of the water they'd collected from the soaked flora around me. Soaking, filthy, and without a clue who could have make that small footprint near the edge of our clearing, I was already thinking of a shower and fresh clothes.
The only thing I knew for certain for all that searching was that it had been a vampire who made the footprint in the mud.
I'd never been much of a tracker, but the vampire's scent was all over the forest, concentrating very specifically around our house. This worried me only slightly – we had visitors occasionally over the years, nomads passing through and curious about the number of us managing to live in harmony. One stray vampire wasn't worry enough to call the family back, but it was enough to keep my extra sense honed. I couldn't hear the mind attached to this sweet scent, but fast as we could run, that didn't mean the vampire had gone away entirely.
I'd call Carlisle when I got back to the house and---
All thoughts cut off abruptly. There was a vampire standing a hundred feet in front of me. She was dirty and disheveled, a mop of brown hair all but obscuring her face.
She was crouched in a hunting stance, a soft hiss was escaping from between her teeth...and I couldn't hear a sound from her mind.
Instinct had me copying her posture, but in defense rather than offense. I wasn't going to attack, but I wasn't going to be taken down standing, either. For the most part, the nomads were a friendly bunch. They might have been a bit bemused by the life we lead here, but content to move on and leave us to our perversions, as one memorable visitor had termed our vegetarianism.
When a full minute passed and the nomad made no move to attack, I slowly straightened from my crouch. I raised my hands, palms forward.
"It's all right, I won't hurt you."
I could have been mistaken, but I thought I heard a soft, delicate snort from the female across from me. She straightened, though, no longer looking as though she was seconds away from lunging for my throat.
I surveyed the other vampire now that my senses weren't honed for attack, a bit surprised at the state of her. While nomads normally weren't bothered with such things as air or water temperatures, or sleep, the creature comforts of a home were rarely missed in their lives. Still, most looked, if still wild, presentable for the most part.
This vampire looked as if she hadn't seen presentable in months, if not years.
The silence stretched between us and I began to wish my father was here – he was a much better diplomat than I was.
"I'm Edward," I said, figuring introductions were as good a start as any. I took a step forward, my hand extended in an age-old gesture of greeting.
She was gone before my foot hit the forest floor.
"Shit. Brilliant, Edward. Smooth as silk, that's you." I could almost hear my sister Rosalie snorting in laughter.
I stood berating myself for nearly a full minute before I realized which direction the female had run.
If she continued on her present path, she'd run straight onto the reservation.
The debate took seconds only. She was a vampire, and by rule very fast, but mind-reading wasn't my only skill. I was also very, very fast. I was running after her in the next unnecessary blink of my eyes, following her scent trail as easily as if it had been marked with neon lights.
She was fast, I gave her that, but I still caught her easily. She put on an extra burst of speed, my only indication that she knew I was following her, but I matched it easily. The problem was we had covered a great deal of distance in the pursuit and we were dangerously close to the reservation.
Thankfully, her instincts served her well and she slowed her run when the first whiffs of the wolf stench reached us. Not wanting to spook her further, I slowed my pace as well. I thought I heard another laugh carry on the wind towards me and then she was off again – straight for the reservation.
"No!" I called out.
Her footfalls continued. The wolf stench was growing; we were getting closer. I increased my speed and changed my course. I was close enough that it took only seconds for me to move past and intercept her. My speed, and my familiarity with the forest and its shortcuts, gave me the edge I needed.
I didn't know this woman from Eve, but no one deserved to meet up with a trio of werewolves with an overblown sense of duty If she didn't have any fighting skill, she'd be kibble before the moon rose.
"Stop!" I said it louder this time, planting my feet directly in her path, my hands upraised and outstretched. "You cross their border, they'll kill you."
She stopped running.
For the first time since becoming a vampire, I squinted. When I heard her feet stop their run, I looked up, expecting to finally see the face behind the quiet mind. I was disappointed. All I saw were the tattered remnants of a pair of jeans and a sweater and a head full of dark, disheveled hair that totally obscured the face beneath it.
"Who what?" I asked in return. I wanted to hear her voice again, but I was disappointed. Only silence greeted my question. I tried again.
"Who will kill you?" I asked, clarifying for her.
Disappointment again when she only nodded in response.
"Just past that line of trees? That's the La Push Reservation, small tribe of Native Americans with," I snorted out a laugh, "a few hidden talents and no tolerance for our kind. You cross that border, it's open season."
She scoffed, a snort that sounded more like a symphony.
"I've seen what they can do, and we're child's play for them. Believe me on that, nomad."
Something about her silence seemed skeptical, so I continued. "It's true. Another nomad crossed through here about eight months ago. Hit the area around dusk. He was in pieces before the moon rose and ash by midnight. "
Her head was turned towards the reservation, body still poised to run there.
It was easy to hear that beautiful though her voice was, she didn't use it very often.
"Werewolves," I said succinctly. With her posture still indicating she meant to go forward, I thought it best not to beat around the bush.
"Impossible. Europe," she said, then paused. It was as if she was trying to remember how to talk. "Was told, stay away Eastern Europe. Not America."
She was told? By whom? I quelled my curious mind from forcing my lips to ask the question. Now was very definitely not the time. I could only hope that there would be time later.
"That type are, yes. The Children of the Moon, they're called. These are more shape-shifters, but their speed and their teeth, serve the same purpose. If anything, their deadlier as they're not ruled by instinct, but by intellect."
Our impasse stretched, the nomad looking towards the reservation with something almost like longing and me standing ineffectual and filthy, blocking her way.
If I'd been able to hear her mind I could have stopped her. If Alice had been here, she'd have seen the move before it happened.
Instead, the nomad darted past me, her slender hand knocking into my chest. A second before her fingers made contact, I was brought to my knees by an infernal scream that had me clapping hands over my ears. A simple scream wouldn't have been enough to even give me pause, normally, but this one echoed through my mind like crushing metal.
By the time my mind had cleared of the sound, the nomad was gone and I was alone in the forest.
Frustrated and angry, I picked myself up and turned to run back towards the house. I needed time to sort through what had happened, what it meant, if it meant anything at all.
If the wind hadn't picked that minute to rustle around me, I might not have seen the flutter of material. I stopped and turned on a dime, reaching up to pluck the bit of fabric from the branch.
I brought it to my nose and inhaled, confirming my suspicion that it belonged to the nomad female. It did. Her sweet scent was all over the material.
I slipped it into my pocket and turned towards home. Only to be stopped dead in my tracks once again, this time by a half-naked Native American and horse-sized wolf blocking my path.
"Evening, Quil. Walking your dog a little late, aren't you?"
My laughter almost drowned out Jake's growls.