I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
The Bigger They Are
Chapter 1: Here's to You, Mrs. James
I sighed as I slid in behind the wheel of my car. It had been a long week, and while I didn't have anything specific to look forward to this weekend, it was still nice to know that I could sleep in if I wanted to. I probably wouldn't, but having the option was nice – a little luxury. I wondered if I was getting old. I already knew the answer to that question, and the answer was yes. Still, I couldn't conjure up too much guilt about enjoying a bit of extra sleep.
Besides, I was still getting used to being stateside again. It was still an odd feeling not sleeping in a tent or hearing mortar fire at night. I almost…missed it, as strange as it sounded. It had been familiar after a while, and the peace and quiet was taking some getting used to.
It was a beautiful North Carolina day, the sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze cooling things down. Sort of zoning out, I was shocked when I heard something that was definitely larger than a pebble from the road thwack against my windshield. I watched the crack splinter across it like a spider web. Shit. "What the fuck…?' I muttered, looking up at they sky. Nope, still clear and gorgeous – so it wasn't hail. In the rearview mirror I looked at the overpass and that's when I saw him.
"That little fucker," I muttered as I took a quick turn onto a service road and doubled back. "Throw shit at my car, will you?" I had dealt with troublemakers my entire adult life, and this one had just overstepped his boundaries. Big time. Payback was a bitch.
To my surprise, the criminal saw me coming and scurried away on a…bicycle? I grinned. "All the easier to catch…" I said under my breath. "Not so smart, are you?"
It took less than two minutes to find the area in the brush where the jerk had tried to find shelter in the woods. That wasn't happening. I had never allowed my quarry to escape me and I wasn't about to start now. I had broken down doors in Baghdad; I wasn't concerned about chasing down some punk in the woods of North Carolina. I jumped out of my car before I could even consider that chasing after the guy might not be the best idea I had ever had. The odds were that he wouldn't have an automatic weapon, so I liked my chances.
I could hear the commotion in the woods and hauled ass in that direction. I might be pushing forty, but I could still run – the military had made damn sure of that. The bike actually slowed him down in the woods and I took advantage of that fact. Another minute and I was grabbing the little shit's shirt and whipping him right the fuck off his bike. He sprawled at my feet and I could only gape at him in surprise.
The body was big, almost as big as me, but the face… Fuck. This was a kid. He probably hadn't even turned fifteen yet. Old enough to be a delinquent obviously, I thought. "What the fuck was that about?" I demanded, angry at him for my windshield and angry at myself for letting my temper get the best of me.
The kid struggled to his feet, panting and red in the face. I felt a little out of breath myself but I'll be damned if I was going to show it. I expected him to show some fear, maybe even a little fucking remorse. I mean, I was in uniform and I was royally pissed. I'd been known to reduce privates to tears and had once made a corporal almost pee himself. But this boy just narrowed his blue eyes at me and spat at the ground.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he hissed. "Maybe you shouldn't fucking assault strangers!"
The defiance was overdone and he couldn't pull off the innocent act. I put my hands on my hips and settled my best "You've just fucked up Private and you're about to reap the consequences" glare. I had years of practice and it was effective. At least, it had been until now. The kid just blinked at me. "All right then, why don't we call the cops and they can help us settle this little dispute." I pulled my cell from my pocket and held it up.
His posture remained stiff and combative for a moment and then I saw the anger seep out of him. He became a frightened boy then, and I had to fight hard to maintain my hard ass expression. Never let them see you waver. "No?" I questioned. "Okay, if you don't like that option, how about we call your parents instead? Then maybe we can all sit down and work out a way for you to pay for the damage you did to my car."
He shook his head.
"How old are you?" I asked.
He pressed his lips together and then hissed, "Fourteen." Just as I'd thought. I sighed. I had seen enough kids just like this one to recognize angry when I saw it. This kid was pissed off at the world in general and me in particular. Of course, I was a little pissed off myself.
"Son, you have two choices here…I'm calling the cops or your parents." I gave him a moment to consider the alternatives. "Which one is it going to be?" I wiggled the phone. "Your call, kid."
"Call my mom," he muttered under his breath. Okay, so dad was out of the picture. Figured. When would guys learn that they couldn't make kids and then walk away? How many times had I seen a young man struggle to reach his potential when he'd never had a male figure to look up to – to learn from? I thought of my own father and I realized, yet again, just how lucky I was.
"Her number?" I prompted.
He murmured some digits and I pressed them into the phone. Before I hit send, I asked, "Her name?'
"It's Mrs. James to you," he snapped. I rolled my eyes at him just to let him know how unimpressed I was. Stupid little punk…
"Hello?" A soft, husky voice came over the line and I felt a small tingle run down my spine.
"Uh, Mrs. James?"
"Yes," she replied cautiously. She sounded young, too young to be this behemoth's mother.
"I'm here with your son…" Shit, I didn't know the kid's name.
I looked at him questioningly and he shot back with "Emmett." His tone was surly, his expression even more so.
"Uh, with your son Emmett," I repeated. I wasn't going to let this punk kid make me lose my temper… I wasn't going to let his punk kid-
She heaved a deep sigh. "What did he do this time?" She sounded resigned and weary.
So, the little punk had a history of doing stupid shit. Figured. Someone needed to teach him some manners. I wondered if his dad lived close enough to take care of his responsibilities. Or maybe he just didn't give a shit. Then I realized that I might be wrong. This was a military town, after all, and his father might be deployed. I hoped that was the case. Maybe I'd even give his father a little call to set him straight on what his son was up to. Calling in a military dad was bringing in the big guns, and usually the moms were more than capable of handling kids that got out of control. They were used to it. There was no tougher job in the military than being the spouse – whether it was being the husband or wife. That was one reason I'd never settled down. I knew how unfair it could be to the one waiting at home. Still, something needed to be done about this kid. I'd see how the meeting with mom went before I considered having a little chat with the father.
"Well, he threw a rock or something off the overpass and cracked my windshield." I heard kids yelling in the background and she covered the phone for a moment and spoke quickly. I couldn't tell what she said, but it was obvious she had her hands full. "Listen, it's not so much the damage, but he could have really hurt someone-"
"No, no, you're absolutely right to call me," she said quickly. "Uh, listen I can't leave right now. Is there any way you could bring him home and we'll settle up the damages?" She paused. "I hate to ask, it's just that-"
"Sure," I agreed, for some reason I was way more eager to see the owner of that sweet, husky voice than I should have been. We said good-bye and I grabbed the boy's bike and put in the trunk. "Get in," I ordered. He got in sullenly but that didn't bother me. "Where to?"
Giving me directions, he tried to put his game face on, but I could see him swallow hard when we pulled into the driveway of a small but beautifully kept home with bright yellow shutters. His nervousness was actually a good sign. He didn't want to make his mother angry, which meant he respected her on some level. How deep that respect went, and how much control his mother actually had of him remained to be seen.
The front door crashed open and three more boys came tumbling out. They all had dark hair, though only the oldest seemed to be sporting the curls. Suddenly I wondered if his mother had curly hair and if it fell down over her shoulders. Quit it, I reminded myself. She could be married. In fact, she probably is. And to a fellow soldier. No one likes a Jody.** Besides, she could look like Medusa. It might only be her voice that's attractive and then won't you be embarrassed? Lusting after a honey-voiced Medusa isn't your style, Cullen.
"Ohhhh, Emmett's in trouble!" The youngest crowed. He had to be a little brother. No one gloated like that unless a sibling was in deep shit.
A boy of about twelve just shook his head as Emmett stepped out of the car. The youngest one looked to be about eight and was jumping around calling Emmett a stupid head. He was laughing a lot and pointing. Emmett scowled at him, but I noticed that the littlest one didn't seem to be worried that Emmett would hit him. That revealed something about the boys and their upbringing. It was a good sign. They knew that hitting wasn't tolerated. I was beginning to feel more optimistic. The fourth boy seemed to be about ten years old and hung back closer to the house, seeming to wait for something – or maybe someone. I recognize the protective stance that some boys get when dad isn't in the picture for whatever reason. He was his mother's guardian, at least as far as he was concerned. The door opened again and out stepped…
Well, well…Medusa she ain't.
**Jody – a guy who steals your girl while you're deployed, or otherwise taken away from home by military obligations.