Story Name: The Messenger
Rating: M (for language)
Word Count: 3,389
C2 Page: fanfiction. net/community/Superhero_Contest/81828/
A/N: The following one-shot is a complete work of fiction; all character names and personality traits have been modified from those created by, and copy to, Stephenie Meyer.
All chapters were beta'd by Project Team Beta; inspiration for backstory and powers was taken from Sky High, The Fantastic Four, The Incredibles, Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix, True Blood, and Watchmen.
The moment he was shot, I felt it – this stabbing pain against my sternum that had me rubbing my chest so hard I wondered if I'd shock someone the next time I touched skin. Except I didn't know that's why it hurt in that exact place at that exact moment – not until hours later when the police came and told me what had happened. Even when it was too late to do anything, too late to touch warm skin or say goodbye and have him still hear me, I made them take me to the body anyway. I couldn't have the last time I see him be with too many flowers while he's in his wedding tux – not when I wouldn't have a white dress to match – but he wasn't even there when I pulled back the sheet. Just another gray corpse with a bullet wound.
Then I went home to call Emmett McCarty and make him explain to me what the fuck my fiancé was doing around guns at 11:37 in the morning.
He stalls underneath the portico, and I can see his breath cloud up as he exhales into cold January air. Then he looks up and the light casts a sickly glow over his cherubic face, and I want to punch him for simply breathing in a world where Edward doesn't. "Can I come in, Bella?" He pauses, shifting from foot to foot while breathing into cupped hands. "I don't think this is going to be quick."
I nod, step aside to let him in, and then slam the door shut. The Christmas tree I still haven't taken down is now brown and shedding, but I like the way the multi-colored lights shine on the yellow walls and make everything look like it's covered in vomit. I feel the tree's heartbreak this way, its loneliness as its purpose is slowly made obsolete. And I don't think I can take another absence defining what is now normal. If I'm already going to wake up alone, then I want to see that goddamn tree in my puke-colored living room, not an empty spot where something used to live. I already feel empty inside anyway; I don't want the reminder.
By the time I sit one cushion away from Emmett, he's already pouring his second shot of Jameson. I don't blame him; I probably wouldn't want to have all the answers either.
"Did, um–" Emmett starts and then stops, throwing back his shot before rolling the empty glass between his hands. He clears his throat and then looks at me. "Did Edward ever talk about his father's death?"
"Yes." I pause, staring past Emmett's head to the family portrait Edward had always insisted we tack onto the wall wherever we lived, even though he would never talk about his family. I move my gaze back to Emmett. "He died in 1965, icy roads; he flipped into a ditch." There's an uncomfortable silence and my leg starts jiggling; I can't help looking back into the toothy smile of a two-year-old Edward. I'd always wanted our children to look like him. "Why?"
Emmett puts the glass down. "Did you know my father and Edward's father were friends?"
"Yeah," I nod. "I mean, I think Edward might have mentioned it." I rub my forehead and want Emmett to just spit it out. I'm getting rather impatient for this fucking explanation.
"They, ah… they worked together at SciTech." Now Emmett's rubbing his forehead, starting to shift like he can't quite find the words. "They were put together on this top-secret project in 1957 with eight other scientists."
"SciTech, the pharmaceutical company?"
Emmett looks down at the floor and grins. "Yeah, the pharmaceutical company." He shakes his head to clear the thought and then looks back at me.
"What's so funny?"
"I forgot that's what they're known for."
"How can you forget? You work there!" I feel angry all of a sudden, like the one thing tying me back to Edward is now just a fucking joke to the only person I respected enough to treat like family.
Emmett's grin falters and then disappears as he holds out a hand as if to touch me, but then I flinch and it stays there, useless. "So anyway, 1957, ten scientists, top secret. You got that?" I nod, not trusting myself to speak anything without this bitter anger I'm trying to just swallow away. "In fifty-nine, there were eight scientists left; of the two who were gone, one had had a stroke, while the other, the most brilliant, had been terminated." He pulls at his collar and then looks around. "Wow, it's hot in here."
"No, it's not," I state. "It's twenty fucking degrees outside and I don't have enough money to make it feel like a sauna."
"Well, I'm fucking sweating," Emmett mumbles, shifting around while taking his beefy arms out of a fitted leather jacket. When he's finally free, I spy his underarm sweat stains and let him win this fight. He wipes his brow and then rests his forearms on his knees; I sit up straight and wait. "They were doing chemical reactions, cell division, shit like that." Emmett looks over towards me, this pained look on his face. "Really fucking heavy stuff for fifty-nine."
"So the fired scientist was royally pissed for having been fired off of his own goddamn baby of a science project – and he tampered with the data."
Emmett looks at me and then breathes heavily out of his nose. "Bella, he went into the lab when no one was there and fucked around with nuclear physics." I try to look away, anywhere but at eyes that I don't want to recognize as this kind of messenger. "Do you understand what happens when you do that? There are explosions, fatal chemical reactions, cell division." He stops, shakes his head like he can't quite believe it either. "Molecular mutation."
"Molecular mutation?" I parrot, the words feeling heavy and foreign in my mouth. "What the hell does that mean?"
"There were four scientists there that day, okay? Add in one lab assistant and a janitor and you have six people who witnessed this rather benign explosion. It was a small fire, really, easily extinguished by the lab assistant and then forgotten by the four scientists working that night. The cleanup quietly disposed of by the janitor." He stops and scoffs, like he's back in that room with those men reliving it.
He snaps out of his daze and looks back at me. "Yeah?"
"What does this have to do with Edward?"
He smiles real wide, his dimple boring a hole in the left side of his face. "Everything."
"But this happened in 1959."
"Exactly." He pauses, shifts again so he's more comfortable on the couch. "Like I said – six people. Aro Valenti, the janitor," he holds up his index finger, "Garrett Kennedy, the assistant," adds his middle, "John and Margaret Hale," ring and pinky, "Jonas McCarty," his thumb, "and Carlisle Cullen," he finishes with his left index finger. He waggles them a little before dropping his hands completely. "We don't know exactly what happened, but it's commonly accepted that these six people contracted some sort of potent virus that then latched onto their cells and heavily altered their DNA."
"Molecular mutation," I mumble distractedly.
"Right," Emmett adds. "It was like this slow-spreading cancer that went undetected for years until…" he trails off, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Until what?" I jump in.
"They started showing effects." Emmett shrugs.
"What do you mean effects?"
"Their powers, Bella." He says it so plainly, so obviously, that I fall back against the cushions and try to concentrate on my breathing. "Sooner or later they all realized that they'd each developed some sort of supernatural ability." I just stare at him until he continues. "Garrett could touch fire, um, John could blend into his surroundings, you know, like a chameleon. Margaret had this aura-thing that she could kind of, like, touch people and it would surround them. My dad had incredible strength and then Edward's dad had speed, faster than you could even see."
"And Aro?" I swallow, needing to know all the details even though they don't make sense.
Emmett's gaze hardens and I see his jaw come out like he's biting down really hard against his teeth. "Aro started to de-age."
"Every day that passed made him a day younger."
"But how is that possible?" I can hear my voice getting frantic, but I can't stop the question.
"How is any of it possible?" Emmett laughs, but I don't understand what's funny. "How should I be able to do this?" He lifts up the coffee table and then holds it mid-air. Both shot glasses are perfectly stable, no ripple in what's left of the whiskey. When I look back at Emmett, there's no strain in his arm, no neck veins popping out with the exerted effort. I hear the soft thud as the table hits the carpet and then my mouth pops open. "DNA is powerful, Bella. Whatever the parent has is then passed onto the offspring."
He nods. "The offspring."
"But how? What?" I grab the Jameson and take a huge sip before wiping the back of my hand against my mouth. The whiskey burns as it falls down my throat. "Edward's a… whatever you are?" I don't even hear the slip as it comes out of my mouth.
The dimple comes out and then disappears just as quickly. "We like to call ourselves supes."
"Yeah, supes. You know, supernatural, superhuman, superhero?"
"Superhero? You're telling me that my dead" – I choke up and then keep going – "fucking fiancé was a superhero? That he wore spandex clothing and a mask?" My voice has gotten higher and higher with each accusation until I slam the whiskey against the coffee table and push my finger in Emmett's face. "That he fought for justice with his superhuman abilities?" I am not at all drunk enough for this and don't quite know how to approach this new information without blatant hostility. Except I can't muster up enough anger to stay angry; instead, I feel dizzy and allow myself to fall back against the sofa. I wishfully wonder what the hell I could have taken for this kind of bad dream to play out in such a fashion.
"Bella?" Emmett questions.
"This isn't a joke," I say after thirty seconds of awkward, heavy silence. It's not a question because I already know the answer.
I rub my forehead and grit my teeth. "Why are you telling me this now? Why after so much silence would you–" I feel this sob come up through my throat and drop down like I'm having a panic attack to stop whatever's going to happen. I wish the solution was that simple.
I hear Emmett shift closer, hear his heavy sigh, and then feel a warm hand rub up and down my back. "You have to understand that being a supe is pretty damning information." His voice and ministrations pause for just a second before he finds the right words and continues. "The fact that we have enemies while masked is practically inconsequential when we hide so much of ourselves so that we're able to walk around and live normal lives." He pauses again and then his hand slips completely off my shoulder. I look up to find him staring at the wall. "We can't choose who we are, or what we can do, but we can choose who gets hurt in the process." He looks back at me and shrugs. "Maybe it sucks and maybe it's fucking unfair, but like hell am I not going to do everything I can just to make sure my family is safe."
I feel myself nod, then blurt out something just so Emmett will stay on the couch, even though I don't even know if he's thinking about leaving. "How come you told me all this? Now, I mean, when Edward's already," I wave my hand in front of my face, not ready to say 'gone' even though the silence won't bring him back.
Emmett rubs a hand down his face before sighing loudly again. "Do you remember when I said that it took years for everyone's powers to show themselves?" I nod. "Well, by that time, Aro had already gone rogue – ran away, went into hiding, whatever. What's important is that no one knew that he'd been effected until late sixty-five, when he suddenly re-appeared and kindly" – he sneers that word, almost spits it out – "informed us that he had taken action towards his own personal retribution over the 'terrible' effects he had 'suffered' at our expense." He mimes those words and I wonder if it's what Aro actually said.
Emmett takes a deep breath before I prod him along. "And?"
"He cut Carlisle's brakes, Bella." And then I get it, start to understand a small part of just what the fuck is going on. "It was pretty clear that something had to be done." He shakes his head. "It suddenly became bigger than the four of them, bigger than some freak accident that could be brushed under the carpet and discussed in private amongst the people that it had happened to." He looks straight at me. "It was personal; Esme had a right to know what had happened to her husband."
"So… it… just happened after that?" Everything I thought I just understood has now been erased again. Emmett doesn't focus on the 'it' that I'm referring to, doesn't question or ask me to explain what the hell I think I'm talking about.
He shrugs. "Like I said, it was personal."
"And?" I prod, desperate for anything to tie the story Emmett's telling back to my present, a place where everything is now in past tense and wanted to's. He has a way of working around the answer, telling related facts that I don't really need to know at this exact minute. And right now, I just need to know why my almost-husband isn't the one telling me all of this.
"Oh, right." He has the decency to look sheepish. "For one, Jonas sat down with Esme the way I'm sitting down with you right now, explained everything – the experiment, Carlisle's speed, Aro's message, everything. She was the one who actually thought up the idea for the coalition." Emmett chuckles and absentmindedly scratches his chin. "Garrett's wife, Kate, was brought up to speed and, little by little, the six of them took over SciTech."
"Wait," I stop him, throwing my palm up to emphasize my point. "They took over SciTech? Why?"
"Well," he thinks a moment, "it's like being an agent for, like, the FBI or CIA or something. They" – he holds up air quotes – "work for the federal government, but if anyone lacking the appropriate clearance were to ask about said person, they would immediately cease to exist. You get what I'm saying? They're two different people. One person leads a normal life, has a wife, maybe some kids, works in, I don't know, real estate just to pay the bills. And the other knows how to fire a gun, has a codename, has probably killed another person so that they weren't killed first." He looks me straight in the eye. "And those two identities can never mesh."
"But–" I start to protest.
"But nothing," Emmett cuts me off, shaking his head. "Even in sixty-six when we started going public, not everyone was happy about it. We were seen as an interference no matter how many dollars saved or lives spared." I hear him breathe out through his nose. "But imagine going public? Then people know who's saving them. And when they're not happy, guess who's getting blamed?"
"You." My voice is resigned, quiet.
"Exactly," he waves his hands in front of his body in a 'duh' gesture. "And not just our masks, either. Us, me. Emmett fucking McCarty. Who has a wife, children, parents. Who has friends and neighbors."
"So you took over a company?" It's still not making any sense to me.
"They needed a cover." Another simple statement that suddenly throws things into perspective. "And when the four of them made it to the top, Kate and Esme were hired in order to make the company appear more family minded."
"But wouldn't that have made it more obvious that something was up?" Emmett's description just makes me think of cattle: corralled and easy to catch.
"Yeah, I guess." He looks thoughtful and then shrugs. "John sold most of the company overseas in the late seventies, and then downgraded and moved SciTech to the building where Edward worked everyday."
"So, SciTech's a real company?" I can only envision spandex powwows amid ringing telephones and a Xerox machine.
"Well, yeah," Emmett laughs. "We all have legitimate jobs from a real company."
"But," I hedge.
"But we all work there for a specific reason. We're a family, Bella, we stick together. And no matter how much Edward hated himself for not being able to give you a normal life," he shrugs and shakes his head. "He did it because he didn't see another choice. If not for you, then for his father." He looks down at his watch. "Shit, it's late."
I don't see him look at me, but he's already up and pulling on his jacket when I speak. "Emmett?"
"Thanks." I can't even look at him when I say it, just twirl my engagement ring around my finger as he leans down to kiss me on the forehead.
"We're family, Bella."
I look up and nod as he walks to the door, smiling faintly as he throws one last glance over his shoulder as a temporary goodbye. I think we both know there are only questions from here on out, that I'll keep wanting to know more and more until I find all my answers, but that they'll have to wait until after I stand with people who've kept a secret for the five years I've known Edward, stand with them and watch as the only link between us gets lowered into the ground next to his father.
I don't know it then, but twelve days later a little blue line would change everything. I would cry for the first time since Emmett McCarty rang my doorbell the day Edward was killed and told me what Edward couldn't. After he explained who Victoria really was and why she shot Edward, and then after I'm given one of his Lycra uniforms in a private ceremony wrapped up like a veteran's flag. After I'm let in on who my friends really are and what they can do, and then after I walk to the closest comic book store and see that the only issue of Super Human Heroes™ is #7, The Messenger vs. Marathon Man. Only after all that would I finally sob for the person who I'd lost, for the future I would no longer have, for the baby growing inside of me that meant I was really, truly alone.
All because of a fucking drug store pregnancy test.
And after I cried so hard my chest hurt, I gave myself a headache, and then found snot all over my face, I would call Edward's mother to tell her the news. And then I would try to keep it together on the phone – even after I'd just cried so hard that I figured I didn't have any tears left – because I would realize that Emmett's right – we are family now, bound together because of revenge enacted twenty-nine years ago. Even though Edward's gone, even though we never married, I am carrying his child. And that has to mean something, or I don't have anything left.
But I still don't frame Edward's uniform when I can finally look at it without holding my stomach and gulping in air, red like the comic showed with a giant 'M' sewed onto the chest. In twenty years it might just get a new owner; The Messenger might just come back from the dead. And added to the yellow 'C' I will add a second letter – to remember.
Voting starts July 15th and runs until July 22nd on the Superhero Contest page (fanfiction. net/u/2379475/). If you liked this, keep it/me on alert, as I'll be posting short companion pieces once the contest ends.