ENTRY FOR THE SUPERHERO CONTEST
Story Name: Collateral Damage
Pairing: Edward & Bella
Word Count: 6,001 (including header and footnote)
To see other entries in the Twilight/Superhero Contest, please visit the following C2:
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The mysterious double life of Renee Swan is the town of Forks' worst kept secret. The television that hangs above the diner's counter is flashing images of "The Whirling Dervish" a masked woman clad in virulent purple. She is flitting from one end of the screen to another, using her remarkable control of the wind to shift the destructive path of a blazing inferno. Of course she is masked, but every head in the Diner is filled with thoughts of Renee.
God, she still has one tight little body.
Way to go, Renee!
I wish I had a super-power!
I hope my tits look that good when I'm old like that.
"Can I get you something to drink, Edward?"
I look up at the waitress as her words cut through the thoughts swirling around in my head.
"Just a water please," I smile politely before turning my attention back to the screen.
I study the image in front of me. The woman is undeniably attractive. The tight clothing leaves very little to the imagination and I can see that she is fit and toned. Her hair is a wild mass of browns and caramels, uncontained and disarrayed. She is beautiful, but all I see is the woman who walked away from Bella.
I am six. It's the middle of summer and I am busy riding my bike up and down the sidewalk in front of Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle's home. It is early morning, before the heat of the day becomes oppressive and I am eager to practice my newfound skills. I can hear Esme humming through open windows; even her thoughts are gentle and easy and I tune them out with little trouble. I am so successful in my task that I fail to notice the drama unfolding across the street until it is almost over.
I look up in time to see a flash of brown and orange as the car shoots forward, the thoughts "It's for the best," repeating over and over until the car fades in the distance. Then a deeper tenor demands, "How could you?" These thoughts are pained and grey and jagged. But it is a little girl's voice, cutting through the quiet of the morning that causes me to fall off my bike and stare. She is crying, reaching out her arms for the woman who is leaving. Her father holds her close. He is whispering into her ear, probably words of comfort, but his thoughts are broken and fractured and I can't piece them together. The girls face is red and wet with tears and snot. She is taking great gasping gulps of air. I can't see inside her mind but I don't need to. I understand what she is feeling.
I am here, in Forks, not just for a visit but to stay. My parents are tired of dealing with my "special needs." They have duties, obligations that must be met and I am an embarrassment…a freak. I understand the flavor of these words, if not the meaning. I understand that they do not want me. Most children go through their days knowing that they are safe, that moms and dads don't leave. But Bella and I, we know the truth. Sometimes they do.
Renee comes back when Bella is ten. She returns suddenly, without warning. She says that she misses Bella and Charlie and I know that this is true. Bella walks around with a smile so wide it nearly splits her face. She bounces. She beams. She is sunshine. Charlie smiles too but he is waiting. He wonders how long it will take before Forks is too small, too constraining for Renee. The townspeople do their part, welcoming Renee home but remaining silent on the subject of "The Whirling Dervish" and superheroes in general. It is at the town's annual Memorial Day barbeque that things fall apart.
I am sitting with Bella. Crowds are still very difficult for me, all the voices and moods and colors swirling around in my head, overwhelming my own thoughts. Bella's mind is still and I grasp at every opportunity to be near her silence.
We are at a picnic table in the far corner of the park. She is swinging her legs back and forth and humming an off-key tune under her breath. Suddenly she stops.
"Is my mother going to leave again?" She is staring straight ahead when she finally speaks.
I don't know how to answer. I am caught completely off-guard. No one is supposed to know my secret. Uncle Carlisle and Aunt Esme have worked tirelessly teaching me how deal with my "gift." His position at the hospital has given Carlisle access to the most current research material and I am learning how to focus, how to blend with my peers. Most of the townspeople think of me as shy, quiet, maybe a little strange but they are content to let me linger in the background. Bella, though, sees me.
I open my mouth to speak but nothing comes out. I can't lie and pretend I don't know why she is asking me; I will never lie to Bella. But I can't tell her that Renee's thoughts are full of wind and action and a golden colored glory that she won't find in Forks.
Bella pulls at a dark strand of hair and winds it around and around her finger. She is watching her mother now.
"I think she will," she says.
I am watching Renee too. People crowd around her, laughing and talking. They are drawn to her. She is Forks' very own hero, even though we cannot say it, and they want a chance to touch something great.
Renee is smiling. She tilts her head back to laugh at something old Mr. Clearwater says. The sunlight catches her hair and for a moment, she shines. She looks over at Bella and winks and then Bella is smiling and humming again and I can breath.
Two days later Renee is gone.
We are fifteen and things are different. I am suddenly all legs and elbows and squeaky voiced and so I rarely speak. There is an accident. My parents die. And even though it has been almost a decade since I have seen them, I feel the weight of lost chances.
Bella comes around less and less. Once a fixture in the Cullen home, lazy afternoons and weeknight dinners have given way to other interests for Bella. She has friends and school activities and a life she is just beginning to explore. But Bella's Tuesdays belong to Esme and I can look forward to coming home from piano practice to a house enveloped in the scents of chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and girl.
Esme and Bella treat baking like it is some sacred ritual of womanhood and I think, for them, it is. Sometimes I linger at the door, listening to the cadence of their voices mingling. The soft murmurs, the giggles, the show tunes they sing – those are the sounds of home. And I know that in these moments Esme finds a quiet joy.
Once I announce my presence there are cookies, and brownies and muffins to be eaten and a kiss on the cheek and then Bella and I are at the table doing homework while Esme prepares dinner. Charlie works late at the police station on Tuesdays and Bella always stays. Sometimes we sit and watch game shows with Carlisle and Esme and sometimes we watch a movie. The best though, is when Bella asks me to play for her. I sit at the piano or out on the porch with the guitar and play while she listens and the world becomes just the music and Bella. Tuesdays are my favorite days.
This Tuesday I am late getting home. My instructor delays me with details about an upcoming concert and I get caught in the rain as I pedal my bike the four miles home. I am dripping wet and out of sorts when I finally walk through the door and so it takes me a moment to realize that something is not quite right.
The house is quiet. There's no singing or laughing, only the acrid stench of burnt chocolate. And then I realize I can't find Esme. She's nowhere in my head. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest and my own thoughts repeat a loop. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
This silence, something that I have craved so constantly, is pressing down on me. I tell myself that they've run out of an ingredient, they're at the store, they've gone to a movie, but I know it's something else. I don't know what I expect to see when I round the corner into the kitchen but I am shaking and lightheaded. I take a breath and burnt chocolate assaults my senses, sticking heavily at the back of my throat. I cringe and cough and run to the window, taking in great gulps of fresh air. When I turn back to the room I can see they were baking. The ingredients are out on the counter, an empty bowl in the sink and an unbaked batch of brownies waiting to go in the oven. I move to walk around the island to turn the oven off and there's Esme.
She is crumpled on the floor, a wide pool of blood surrounding her head like a halo. She is not moving and I can't hear her. I don't know how long I stand there. The next clear moment I have, Esme is cradled on my lap while I hold a cloth to her head. I am singing to her and smoothing her hair and there are people and voices everywhere and I can't focus and I just want them all to go away and for Esme to just open her eyes and I need to hear her and where the Hell is Bella? Then I realize Charlie is here. He gently separates me from Esme and leads me outside while the paramedics do their work. He guides me away from the house. When I can finally focus I see that he is rigid, his hands curled to fists, mouth set in a hard line. His eyes though, they are wide and alive with fear.
"Where is Bella?"
"I don't know. She wasn't there. Only Aunt Esme." I watch as the paramedics load her into the ambulance and I want to throw up. Charlie loads me into his squad car and we race to the hospital. He leaves men at the house scouring for answers but he knows his best chance lies with Esme.
Carlisle, still in his scrubs, meets us at the emergency room doors. He pulls me into him and holds me tightly and I feel his barely contained panic. His head is a confusing jumble of medical jargon that I don't understand but I know none of it is good.
We move to the waiting room and Charlie tries to reach Renee. She doesn't answer so Charlie leaves message after message. She doesn't return them. After what seems like an eternity a Doctor comes out the swinging doors and I know right away that the news is good.
"She's ok," I breathe the words out like a prayer. Next to me Carlisle seems to fold in on himself for a moment but then he's standing and moving towards the doctor and they are talking about procedures and after care. Anxiety is pouring off of Charlie in waves and I beckon him to follow me. I know where Esme is now and she'll be awake soon. We move purposefully down a hallway lined with equipment and hospital beds until we reach the recovery room. She'll wake up here and then be moved upstairs to her own room.
Esme is resting behind a pink curtain when we find her. She is very pale and the white bandage that frames her head stands out starkly against the caramel tones of her hair. She looks young and frail and I still can't hear her. I experience another surge of panic but I take her hand in mine and start to hum her song and focus all of my attention on her. I am distantly aware of Carlisle joining us. We are not supposed to be here but the hospital is turning a blind eye for Carlisle.
Esme's thoughts return in a burst of clarity. One moment she is a blank void and the next I can see Bella, standing in the kitchen. They're laughing and Bella has chocolate on her nose and then everything is red and her thoughts become a blur of impressions.
"What's red?" Charlie's voice cuts through the images and I realize I've been speaking out loud. We look at each other intently, our gazes measuring. He is asking me to make a choice. He knows there is something different about me. He knows I have a gift and that I work very hard to hide it. But Bella is missing and I can help find her. There's no choice.
"Esme sees red, all around her. No…more like crimson. And there's laughing. She's furious and scared and Bella is behind her. Save Bella. She just keeps thinking that over and over. Save Bella. And there's a…" I scrunch up my face as I try and concentrate on what Esme is remembering, as though this can help me pull it out of her. A metallic taste floods my mouth and I realize I have been biting down hard on my lip. Finally the errant image becomes clear to me.
"There's a fox. She keeps seeing a fox." I shake my head in dismay. "I don't know what that means."
But Carlisle and Charlie share a look and then Charlie is on his phone shouting about "The Vixen" and "Damn Renee" as he strides towards the exit. I look to Carlisle and then Esme, then back to Charlie's rapidly retreating figure. Carlisle lays a hand on my shoulder and gently squeezes.
"Go Edward," he says.
I bend down and press my lips to Esme's cheek and whisper a quiet "I love you," and then I am running after Charlie.
I catch up to him in the parking lot and slide into the passenger seat just as he is clicking on his seat belt.
"Are you sure about this Edward?" he asks as I settle myself into the seat. "We can track her now that we know who took her. If you do this I'm not sure I can keep your involvement a secret."
"I can help. I need to Charlie. It's Bella."
Charlie nods once and then we're racing away from the hospital and out of Forks.
It turns out Renee and I are not the only extraordinary talents in Clallam County. The Quileute tribe has been harboring a secret of their own; they have a talent for transformation. The young men of the tribe can shift into wolf form at will. They are fast and strong, and most importantly, they are incredible trackers. Given a name and a scent they have tracked and captured The Vixen within twenty minutes. When we pull onto the dirt packed roads of the reservation we are met by a group of hard muscled boy-men. They lead us to the community centre where The Vixen is being held. She isn't talking and the Quileute are anxious to test their interrogation methods. I take one look at her and pull Bella's location out of her head.
"She's in the caves down by Point Grey," I tell Charlie. There is a snarl of fury from the dirt streaked, red-headed woman flanked by the two largest men. She narrows rage-filled eyes at me as though memorizing every feature. She is a woman full of hate and despair; bitter thoughts of vengeance and Renee cloud her mind. But I don't have time to waste on her. We hurry back to the car followed by several of the men.
Charlie calls his men and organizes an official search of the area around Point Grey. It's not a popular spot for tourists or hikers. The caves are imbedded in a cliff and can only be reached by scaling down twenty feet of rock face. Below the cliff is the rolling surge of ocean. We have no idea how The Vixen managed to haul Bella there but I do know that she was alive when she left her. Bella is simply bait. Renee is the prize.
We reach the cliffs and I watch as men are organized and pulley systems devised. Charlie wants to go down himself but it's too dangerous. Eventually it is one of the Quileute who is harnessed up and lowered down the face of cliff. The wait seems interminable but finally the men begin pulling and slowly Bella's face emerges. Her eyes are wide and she is shaking with cold and fear as her father pulls her to him. He grips her tightly and she hugs him back but I can see her gaze searching the crowd of people. Her eyes find mine and I can see a final loss in them before they close tightly and she is swallowed up by blankets and a crowd of well meaning people.
Renee calls five days later. She is in Budapest, helping to clear wreckage left by an earthquake. It doesn't matter. By now I realize that for her, Bella's abduction is merely collateral damage.
Bella at seventeen is heartbreaking. She is all soft curves and hard edges. There are no more Tuesdays with Esme, no more game nights or quiet conversations on the porch. Bella is like a ghost to this family, absent but also ever present. She refuses to see us but I can't stop watching her.
I see her at school, where she hides behind her books. She has cut off all of her old friends. Most of them dismiss her easily enough and I hear echoes of "spoiled" and "stuck-up" in the narrow minds of adolescence but there are still a few people who cling to the memory of the old Bella. Angela Weber and Mike Newton, and perhaps surprisingly, Jessica Stanley, worry about her. They still make attempts at drawing her out, invite her to parties and study sessions. It doesn't seem to matter how many times she pushes them away; they are steadfast in their loyalty.
Bella spends most of her time now down at La Push. The Quileute, her rescuers, have become a second family. Charlie is content to let her be, happy in the assumption that she is safe surrounded by the pack of would-be men. But I see what she is doing. I see her provoking hormone fuelled boys, like poking a Tiger with a stick. I see her racing motor bikes and flinging herself off of cliffs. I wonder if she is still waiting for her mother to save her. And I wonder if this is wrong; if I watch her too much. But someone needs to.
We are high school seniors and it is spring, which in Forks means Prom. Even Bella seems caught up in the expectations of the graduating class. I wonder at this new shift in attitude until I learn of her date for the night. Bella has reached a new level of reckless.
James Hunter is older than us. No one seems quite sure of his actual age but it wouldn't be a stretch to guess that he can legally consume the whiskey he totes around in his little black flask. He shows up at the school one day, dangerous in leather and denim and on a bike that is worth more than most of our parents' annual salaries. We watch as Bella slides onto the bike and wraps herself around him. His thoughts are dark and jagged, festering. I want to be sick.
The Quileute seem anxious about this new development as well. Jacob Black seeks me out one day.
"What's she doing with this James guy?" He is demanding but I let it go.
"I'm not sure," I answer.
"Can't you just…read her mind?"
I blink. He asks it so casually. I find it refreshing.
"No, I can't. Bella is a complete mystery to me."
Jacob looks at me, a strange expression passing quickly over his face. "Not a complete mystery, I'm sure."
I shove my hands into my pockets and shift uneasily. I wonder how much he knows. Quite a bit apparently.
"I see the way you look at her. You watch her - you're always watching her. I think it's creepy but Bella said to leave you alone," he shrugs casually, like we are discussing the weather or school and not my stalker-esque dedication to Bella.
I stare blankly at Jacob. I'm stunned by this revelation, by the knowledge that Bella watches me too.
"I don't know what you guys have going on and I don't really care. She says you're cool and that's good enough for me. But this James guy…" Jacob's face hardens and his eyes become stone. "I don't like it."
"James isn't good," I say. Jacob fixes narrowed eyes on me so I continue. "He has dark thoughts. They're…not good."
"Then what the hell is she doing with him?" Jacob paces in front of me. He is muttering under his breath and his mind is an ever- shifting blur of images, all of them Bella. She is dancing by a bonfire. She is drinking corn whiskey out of a jar. She is smoking and giggling and curling herself around another man's body. And then she is flat against Jake and his face is in her hair, and her skin is pressed to his and hands are fumbling and I turn away and try to shut it off because I don't want to see this. Jacob grunts and the images fade. "Sorry," he mumbles.
I take a long look at Jacob. He is huge, tall and muscled, solid. He seems like a good guy. It's clear he cares very deeply about Bella and he makes her smile. But Bella's secrets are her own and if he doesn't understand her I'm not sure it's my place to explain. As he walks away I am hit by one last image. They are standing on the beach, the wind whipping long strands of chestnut hair around them both. Jacob is looking down at her as she places a small object into his hand and gently curls his fingers back around it.
"I'm sorry," she is saying as she backs away and then she is gone and Jacob is left alone. He feels cold inside and out. I understand. I live with the cold too.
James is persistent in his pursuit of Bella, although at this point I'm not sure who is doing the pursuing. Bella's absence has been countered with Charlie's growing presence and it's not unusual to find him standing at the door with a case of beer in his hand. He is lonely without Bella. He feels her withdrawal and doesn't know how to slow it. Tonight though, there is no beer.
"Do you know what's going on with Bella and this James kid?" he asks.
I shake my head and Charlie sighs heavily, slumping against the doorframe. He looks old, dulled and worn.
"I don't know what to do about this. If I tell her she can't see him she'll just start sneaking out. If I let her go on like this…" he stops and I see flashes of crime scenes flickering through his thoughts like a film strip on a loop. Flashing lights, still images of broken bodies and then Bella in pigtails and gap toothed, running breathlessly into his arms so he can swoop her up into the air and fly her around like Mommy.
Charlie covers his eyes with his hand, pinching his temples then rubbing at his forehead. "I don't know what to do, Edward," he says heavily. "She says they're going to Prom. Any truth to that?"
"I've heard they are," I say.
Charlie grunts and nods his head. "Not much I can do, I guess. Except put an extra car on duty." He grins at me and I find myself smiling back. Charlie can be sly.
Prom night comes. I watch out my window as James pulls up to the Swan home in a surprisingly discreet sedan. Bella emerges from the house in a dress that hugs every curve, long legs bare to the world, and I feel my nails dig into my palms as I watch James' hand covering the pale cream skin at the small of her back. He seats her carefully in the car before hurrying around to the driver's side. "Tonight is special." It is there in his thoughts. Tonight is special.
School is not easy for me under the best of circumstances. Prom is quite literally painful. As soon as I enter the pink and purple chaos that was once a school gym, I am besieged with images I immediately want to forget. The music is too loud, the bass thumping off the walls and reverberating through my body. Expectations and anticipations are high. When I close my eyes all I see are flashes of skin and echoes of moans and breathless hungers and I just want to go home but Bella is here somewhere and I will keep her safe. I search the crowd and find her leaning casually against the far wall, James at her side. He is bored but Bella is watching the others dance and there is a wistfulness there, I'm certain of it.
I step out of the gym for a break and when I return Bella is on the dance floor, spinning madly in circles with Eric Yorkie. Her head is thrown back and she is laughing. The lights reflect off the shimmering strands of thread in her dress and she is a kaleidoscope of color and light. This is how she should always be, I think. But then James is pulling her away and she moves easily with him. They slip out the back door and I stumble as I push my way through to the exit. Their car is turning out of the parking lot even as my feet are pounding across pavement.
I spend too much time driving aimlessly, slowing as I pass parking lots and motels. A growing tension is building in my chest. I search my memory for any stray thought James may have had but his thoughts shift like quicksand and I am never able to read more than impressions from him. He is dark; he is moody; he imagines pain and terror. He wants tonight to be special. I think of places he could take her: the woods, a basement, maybe the caves. And then I remember the lighthouse.
The lighthouse stands at the end of Point Grey. It was once a beacon for ships lost in stormy waters. Now it is decrepit, weathered and rusted, forgotten by all but a few overly hormonal teenagers looking for a thrill. My foot stamps down harder on the accelerator and I will my little car to go faster, flying around bends and racing towards Bella.
I see James' car well before I reach it and I pull up in a spray of gravel and screeching tires. I collide heavily with James as he bursts out of the lighthouse. He snatches violently at me, clutching my arms fiercely.
"I didn't do it. It was an accident. It's not my fault." His eyes are wild as he looks frantically around us.
"Where's Bella?" I am shouting into his face but he just looks past me, scanning the dark. He is shaking, a fine tremor that runs through his entire body and then his mind is flashing and I can see Bella. She is gazing around the debris filled tower, examining the discarded remnants of another time. She turns to smile at him. He has lit candles and they flicker and glow and warm her face as she stares up at him. Then she is spinning away from him, terror etched across her face as she falls backwards, arms flailing for support of some kind. He pictures her falling. He pictures her broken on the rocks below. There is a strange noise and I realize it is coming from me. I have James pressed to the cold wall and I'm snarling into his face and then I'm slamming him over and over against the cement as I shout.
"Where the fuck is she?"
"It was an accident," he is sliding down the wall and there is blood on his face and some on my knuckles but I don't care. I am through the door and running up the stairs and shouting for Bella. My voice cracks as I reach the top breathless and terrified.
"Bella, please. Please be here. Please. Please. Please."
There's not much space up here. Most of it is taken up by the giant light that fills the centre of the room. It takes no time for me to realize that Bella is not up here. I see a door to the balcony that surrounds the top of the tower and it's open. I can see the railing beyond is broken and twisted. The candle light flickers and catches a glimmer from the patch of shimmering material caught against its edge.
My knees give out and I am sitting in the dust and grime and I am staring at that damn piece of sparkly material twisting and turning and I want to howl into the night but I can't find the breath. The wind picks up and it rushes through the open door, scattering paper and creating strange, human like noises. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine that it's Bella, calling to me. And then it is Bella.
I am hurtling through the glass door and sprawling precariously across a shaking and shifting balcony, then grasping two impossibly, beautifully scraped up hands that are clinging desperately to the rusted iron as she hangs there. I am pulling her up and through and into my arms as we fall backwards into the tower.
We sit for a moment, heaving chests and wide eyes. I hold her tightly. I want her as close as possible. I wrap my arms around her and bury my face into her hair. I am crying because this is too much for a seventeen year old boy.
"Stop Bella," I breathe into her neck. "Please stop. She's not coming back. Nothing you do can bring her back. Renee's not worth this."
"I don't care about Renee," she whispers. Her cheek is pressed to my chest and she burrows a little further in to me.
"Then why? Why are you doing this? Why James, Bella? Tell me, please!" I beg.
She shifts in my lap and for the first time in a long time we are looking into each other's eyes. She looks lost and I wish, yet again, that I could see inside of her; I want so desperately to know all of her.
Bella takes my hand in both of hers and stares intently at it. She bends her head down and gently, tenderly, kisses the scrapes and marks left from my struggle with James. She lifts my hand to her cheek. Her skin is cold. Her voice shakes as she speaks.
"James…he doesn't mean anything. Can you understand? If something happens, if I get hurt…if he does…it won't matter." She looks back up at me. "If someone comes for me…if it happens again…I can't have the people I care about …I won't…" she breaks off. She curls herself into me and she is shaking in my arms, crying and clinging to me. I am lost. I don't know what to do. So I hold her and I whisper soothing nonsense into her ear and finally she is quiet.
I move her away from me, just a little bit. I smooth her hair back and wipe at her face with my shirt sleeve. I leave smudges of dirt across her cheeks and her nose and eyes are swollen and red. She is so beautiful.
I lean forward until our foreheads are touching. She smells like salt and sea and rust as I breathe her in until I am filled with the scent of her.
"It doesn't work that way, Bella," I say, sighing. "Ignoring your friends and family, pushing us away? That only hurts us. It hurts watching you tear yourself apart. It hurts seeing you miserable. It's terrifying watching you do these things that can only end badly." I pull my face away and she is looking up at me.
I grip her arms, probably harder than I should. I need her to know; need her to finally understand completely what I feel.
"You have to stop." I say. "You have to stop Bella. Because no matter what you do, no matter where you go or what happens…we love you." I take a deep breath.
"I love you, Bella."
Bella inhales sharply. She tilts her head and moves closer. I can feel warm puffs of air caressing my lips as she breathes slowly out and whispers, "I know."
Her lips are on mine and we are kissing. It's not like the movies or in books. I think she is crying and maybe I am too and her fingers are gripping and clutching and it hurts just a little but it feels so good too and I want this moment, this perfectly imperfect kiss, to last forever.
We are 18. I am sitting in the Forks Diner watching the mother of the woman I love flit carelessly across the tv screen. My lip curls up in the ghost of a smile as I consider the path she has made for herself. She is famous. She is beloved. She is special. But she doesn't have Bella.
A bell dings at the front of the building and my smile widens as I watch Bella move towards me. She rushes forward and there is a lightness to her, an easiness as she reaches my side. She tosses her book bag onto the bench opposite before sliding into the booth next to me, leaning in for a kiss. We talk about her classes and my music and we kiss and touch some more because we are young and we are in love.
I will never have fame like Renee's. I will never don a mask or a cape or answer to a silly name. There will likely be very few people who will ever hear of Edward Cullen. But I do have this girl in my arms. I will do everything in my power to make her feel safe and loved. I will be her Superhero every day. And that will always be enough.
This story could not have been completed without the help and encouragement of some very incredible women.
venti_turtl, TwilightJemS and Amelie Gray are the best cheerleaders a girl could ask for.
fngrcufs and Word Ninja put the swing in my step and the sparkle in my eye. They are the yin to my yang, the Buffy to my Willow. They are also seriously talented writers. Please check them out.
And finally, I have the best beta's in the fandom - no lie. They make my work look pretty. They clean up the heinous crimes I commit against punctuation. And they stop me from running on and on and on…Thank you so much javamamma0921 and Just Shireen. All mistakes are mine and mine alone.