Once More, With Feeling
Summary: B & E have always had a spark between them, though they're now ex-flames. But their latest assignment- to investigate the strange happenings in Forks- is about to light a fire under both of them. But it's just the town...right? Canon couples. M. Romance, humor.
This disclaimer will be posted once and applies to the entirety of this story. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. It is not be posted anywhere else without the express permission of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
There are many types of magic in the world. There's the type of magic between a man and a woman—the sparks and stuttering hearts, the sex and the heat. There's the type of magic in a smile between strangers, linked in a moment by their one simple action. There's even magic in a lonesome moment, where a sinking sunset or a beautiful vista births intangible dreams and indescribable feeling.
And there's the type of magic that none of us are quite sure exists. The magic that goes bump in the night. The magic that gives you goose bumps and prickles on the back of your neck. The magic that keeps your nightlight lit well past childhood. You know… not magic but Magic.
It's a debated, nebulous idea, this Magic. Both in its existence and its content. You're not sure it's real and if it is—where does it start? Where does it stop? If there are ghosts in the world, are there zombies? And if there are zombies, are there witches? And if there are ghosts and zombies and witches, then there must be spells and curses and voodoo. Right?
That is to say, if ghosts even exist. If any of it exists. You have your doubts.
There's one very big reason that you—and the majority of the world's population—doubt whether this Magic exists. And that reason is called the Paranormal Investigative and Supernatural Services Division. While part of the FBI, PISSD operates completely covertly—most civilians, and a large number of agents, are completely ignorant of its existence, with good reason.
Think of them as the Mulder and Scully for the new millennium. Minus the creepy music. Okay, maybe more Ghostbusters than X-Files.
PISSD's main goals are to facilitate the existence of supernatural creatures and management of paranormal phenomena in so that they a) do not cause mass panic and/or impending pandemonium and b) protect the rights of the creatures from exploitation for scientific purposes. Their edict on sprite reproduction is the reason leprechauns are confined to Ireland (not by choice for those randy little fellows, believe you me.). Their superlative work in the field of poltergeist communication paved the way for the peace treaty between wraiths and zombies in the Catskills. (Rumor even has it they were the department called in to certify that Miley Cyrus was, in fact, not a banshee.)
We digress. The Division is fairly good at what it does. The PISSD can't fight against religion and beliefs and lore, and it doesn't attempt to. Its point is not to suppress the otherworldly aspects of the world, merely to make sure a harmonious balance is kept. Most interterrestrials, as they are called, are in no hurry to reveal themselves. They prefer to keep their identities and abilities secret, and the Division helps them do that.
Chances are, you name the belief or urban legend, and there's a very real, very fantastic creature behind it. From Big Foot (or Yeti, as he prefers to be known) to that old bat, Vlad, the Division helps maintain an open and respectful rapport with all its subjects.
A subdivision of PISSD focuses on investigative services. These are the brave, smart agents who go out into the field to collect information and if necessary, take action towards a phenomena or creature that has not as yet been documented. Many times, the investigative services do nothing more than debunk myths perpetuated by humans (they're a bit like Scooby and the gang with that). But occasionally, they run into something brand new, the likes of which requires in depth research, new classification and new protocol, among a plethora of other concerns.
Of course, a majority of the agents are still human (though, slowly the bureau is catching up to PISSD's progressive attitudes and agreeing to hire non-human agents). And with these very human agents come some very human problems: love, pride, hurt, happiness—just because these agents deal with the paranormal doesn't mean they are magically (not Magically) devoid of the normal highs and lows of everyday life. PISSD sees more action than just that of the supernatural kind. It's kind of like a soap opera—moments of fantastical reality mixed in with the everyday afflictions and banalities of living.
And so we catch up with our hero and heroine, both Special Investigative Agents. Like centuries for a vampire, like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of their lives.
It's All Coming Back To Me Now
and yeah, I'm still pissed.
Bella Swan slams the folder shut and lets out a huge, irritated sigh. She's been filling out paperwork ad nauseum, and after these last four cases, she's reached her breaking point. All were vampire impersonators, all were false alarms. The nation's latest obsession with vampires has proved to be a pain in the division's ass.
Generally, most pop culture products don't get their stories—be they about witchcraft or werewolves or demons—straight. The misinformation benefits PISSD as it creates a false trail for conspiracy theorists to follow. (A school for witchcraft? Clearly, they've never met some of the witches Bella's dealt with; no one would ever accuse them of being educated.) But as protocol dictates, if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an otherworldly force could be present, the division has to investigate. And damn, if these vampire enthusiasts aren't giving the agents a run for their money. Some of them are actually getting their information right—the pale, sparkling skin, the lack of fangs. The biggest misconception seems to be that all vampires are beautiful—if they'd ever laid eyes on Cauis, they would know that isn't true.
So when she is informed that Director Aronson wants to meet with her, she is doubly pleased. Once, because it means that she can, at least for a few minutes, escape the drudgery of paperwork, and the second time because she's hoping it means that Aro, as his agents call him, is ready to finally give her a new assignment. It's been more than six months since the "incident" and a month since she's been off probation, but she's yet to go out into the field for more than a perfunctory status check on their more well-behaved subjects. Even when she's found something juicy, like that warlock who was cursing his girlfriend's exes with STDs, it's been snatched out of her hands and reassigned to someone else.
She knows everyone is leery of her after the last case. She knows everyone is doubly leery of her since he came back, two months ago. But she is a professional, damn it, and she doesn't think that one mistake, one lapse of judgment should derail what could amount to be a superlative career.
So with every clack of her one-inch heels down the hallway, Bella imbues herself with more confidence. She nervously smoothes out the wrinkles in her uncomfortable yet professional pantsuit as if being un-ironed could be a legitimate objection to her getting a case. And just as she rounds the corner into the waiting area in front of the Director's office, she says a small prayer to a deity she isn't sure she believes in for the strength to deal—and if necessary, plead—with Aro.
No sooner has she finished thanking that deity for listening to her prayers does she look up and mutter an indignant, astonished, "Fuck me!"
"Been there, done that," comes the insolent, drawling reply. There is only one person whose apathy can cause such absolute fury in Bella and, of course, he is sitting on the white leather couch in front of her—well, their—boss' office.
"What are you doing here?" she hisses at him. She knows him well enough to see that, beneath the cool façade of indifference, he is seething at the sight of her. Her hatred is hardly unrequited.
"I work here. You may not have seen me at my desk a lot because I am field rated," he taunts. Bella debates between sticking her tongue at him and giving him the finger. Figuring the former as too childish and the latter as even more unnecessary obscenity, she chooses to combat him with her words.
"I'm field rated, you jackass." So her words include name-calling.
"Funny. Wouldn't have known it from the way you've been a desk jockey for the last six months." She hates him but still desperately wants to be able to imbibe that haughty tone into her every word like he does.
Bella takes a long, good look at the man sitting in front of her. He is a study in contradictions—the pristine, perfectly pressed suit and the messy, almost artful hair. The arrogant slouch that belies his passion for the job. The self-satisfied smirk that—well, okay, that doesn't contradict anything. He is a rather smug bastard.
And the worst thing is that it is with good reason. He is one of the top agents in the division. In fact, before the "incident," he and Bella were locked in a passionate rivalry of one-up-manship. That wasn't the only passionate thing they had been locked in (embraces, cupboards, his car, an ATM vestibule) but that's tangential, of course. Up until he had left for his long-term assignment in Brazil and she had subsequently gotten involved in that hairy mess, they'd been the cream of the crop. A dream team of sorts—if you could call it that with the constant competition, sexual tension and fierce rivalry. Okay, maybe a nightmare team is more apt.
But now she's struggling to prove herself and he's basking in the glow of being the Golden Boy. She may be just the tiniest bit bitter. She's seen him since his return from Brazil. All that did was to remind her of Edward's actions—and one big decision, in particular—before he had left. Each time she's sees him, the hurt decreases but the anger doesn't. This is the first time they are actually talking—if you can call it that—and all that hurt just radiates from her. It disconcerts her, the flicker of attraction she still feels, mixed with the urgent, off-putting flood of hatred. He is, without a doubt, attractive. Anyone with eyes can see that. (Never mind that Gianna, Aro's assistant, who is more legs than anything, is demonstrating that she can see it, too.) No, what irks Bella is that she has no idea whether Edward is still attracted to her. He plays it so cool she could nickname him Iceman. She, in comparison, feels like a goose. Like she is boiling and overheating, hot under the collar and bothered, too. Like he has lit a fire under her, igniting her rage and sparking her arousal.
"I meant, what are you doing here? At Aro's office." She tries to ingrain a sense of icy indifference in her tone, but she simply can't. There's nothing about Bella that is cold. She is earth tones, caramel and chocolate hair, warm, brown eyes. Even her ire is molten, like lava.
"He called me up here for a meeting."
"Well, he called me up here for a meeting," Bella replies. The petty, childish part of her that seems to rear its head whenever Edward is around hopes that her meeting is first. Just so she can win this set of the mind game only she and Masen understand. Edward is about to open his mouth—no doubt to retort because whether in war or love (and those lines are very, very thin), these two can never resist each other—when they are interrupted by a slow clap that emanates sarcasm.
"Well, congratulations, geniuses. You've figured it out! I've called you both for a meeting." The voice is silky slick and carries the force of the snap of whip. Director Aronson is standing at the door to his office, eyes roving between the acerbic aggression of Bella's stance—hands on her hips, facing Masen—and the sardonic, feigned nonchalance of Edward's slouch. "Get your asses in here."
They both rush toward his office, Edward's height affording him enough advantage to catch up with Bella. They reach the door at the same time and wage a silent war over who will go in first. Finally, Edward stands to the side to let Bella and chivalry win this round.
Aro rolls his eyes. Life would be too simple if his two top agents actually acted like adults instead of competing alpha dogs or, worse, children. It is a good thing he relishes challenges because these two can make even someone as imperturbable as Aro crazy. He has never seen two people more ill-fitted for each other—Edward with his tendency to charm the pants off, well, anyone, Bella with her sleeve always wrapped around her heart—and yet, they had still been more bearable when they had been ripping each other's clothes off. But no, they had to have gone and ruined that, too.
But Aro is not Director for nothing. His eyes don't twinkle for lack of knowing every single thing that is going on with every one of his agents—sometimes before they themselves know. He has observed enough of Swan and Masen since the day they stepped into training that he can read them like the bad romance novel they are. And so, while others—particularly the man and woman seated in front of him—might call him crazy for his next move, he is merely setting up the pieces on his chessboard. Aro is a grandmaster and his people are his pawns. If he knows his game—and he prides himself on knowing his game—Edward and Bella will be king and queen soon enough.
He grabs the file on his desk and tosses it toward Edward. "Masen, this is your new assignment. Case #3025. It's something brand new; we've never seen anything like it and so we're going to need our best to investigate." As Edward practically preens under the praise, Aro watches the two carefully, eyes darting back and forth between the two. They're his best and brightest—he's just waiting for them to figure out just what's going on.
"Thank you, Aro. But with all due respect—why is she here?" Edward asks. This is what makes Edward a good agent. His ego is insufferable around Swan, but that's to be expected with all the open wounds and salty comments being flung between them. But his instincts are great and more than running headfirst, looking for answers, he asks the right questions. Aro glances at Bella. She has her own strengths. She's tenacious and, despite that one episode, demonstrates good judgment. Her strength is that she does care and it makes her passionate and thorough. But she could use a good poker face. It doesn't take someone as skilled at reading people as Aro to see that Bella wants to punch Edward, and the more damage done to his pretty face, the better.
She is seething. The ass couldn't pass up any opportunity for a jab at her, could he? And it isn't like they have anything to hide from their boss—all know that Aro knows all, in an utterly terrifying way. With his aged white hair, parchment-like dry skin and twinkling eyes, he is like Santa Claus' evil twin. And she is pretty sure Aro sees his agents when they are sleeping and knows when they're awake. And he definitely knows if they've been bad or good. As she turns to Aro, she begrudgingly admits to herself, that she, too, is wondering the answer to Edward's question. Aro would never have called her to the meeting just to throw a case at Edward and, by extension, in her face. So that has to mean that…
"No!" Both Bella and Edward reach the same conclusion in unison and explode in a flurry of protestation.
"After everything that's happened—"
"You've got to be kidding me!"
"Is she still even field rated?"
"I just told you I was!"
"Yeah, because I'm going to believe what you say."
"Yes, well you do have a tendency to underestimate my capabilities."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Enough!" Both bickerers fall silent immediately. "Yes, Agent Swan and Agent Masen, you will be working on this case together." He holds up his hand and glares, squelching their protests just as they start. "Speak. One at a time. Like rational adults and the fully trained agents you are. Otherwise, you're off the case and on paperwork duty."
"Well, we all know Bella's good at that," Edward hisses.
"Masen! Watch it. I said act like adults, not assholes," Aro admonishes. Edward takes that as his cue to speak first. His chivalry is selective to doorframes, apparently.
"Seriously, Aro, we can't work together. We can't even sit in the same room without wanting to kill each other. We're just going to get in each other's way and hamper the investigation."
"For once, I agree with Edward. We're incompatible. And since Edward has just returned from a long-term assignment a little while ago, I think I should just take this case, get another partner and go with it."
"Hey, why do you—" Edward began.
"Swan, the only thing I should be hearing coming out of your mouth is an astounding amount of ass-kissing. You've been off probation for a month—I could have waited longer to send you back in the field, but I need you, specifically, for this case." Bella shoots a taunting smile at Edward and gives herself a mental thumbs-up. "And Edward is the best agent we have, so he's on this case, too." Which turns into another finger, aimed at the man sitting next to her. "What I don't understand is why you two seem to be under the impression that anything I say is negotiable. Has it ever been?" Both agents shake their head like students admonished by their teacher. "That's right. My word is law. Masen, Swan, you're on this case, together. If I hear even one syllable of something that sounds like a complaint, I'll have you both on desk duty—together. Am I being clear here?"
"There's something strange going on in this town," Aro explains. "It's got no precedent, no visible causes and this could either be something completely new or nothing at all."
"What kind of interterrestrial genus are we talking about here, Aro?" Edward asks.
"None. We're dealing with humans," Aro tells his two surprised underlings. "Just some strange patterns in behavior that were significant enough to raise red flags. Like I said, it could be something paranormal, it could just be a bunch of people acting like idiots. You two are rather good at the latter, so I figured this was well suited for you."
Bella is confused. Interterrestrials are her area of expertise. That's why she had been assigned to the case that had led to her probation. She hasn't dealt with paranormal phenomena in a long while. "Not that I'm complaining or negotiating," Bella hedges, "but is there a particular reason you've finally decided to let me go back into the field with this case? You said you needed me specifically, but apparently not for my specialty."
"Sure is, Swan. Masen, open that file and tell us where you two are going. And then tell us who your on-site jurisdictional contact is," Aro instructs. Edward flips through the first few pages inside the files, frowning as he quickly locates the requested information.
"Our site location is Forks, WA. And our contact is…" Edward trails off as he looks at Bella, for once no challenge in his gaze, just incredulity. "Charlie Swan."
Bella's mind reels. "My father?" Her long-estranged father, whom she has seen maybe ten times since her mother divorced him when she was three?
"Yes. I thought your familiarity with the location and a connection would help you blend in and extract information more easily. Small town folk, they don't like strangers, but they only need to know you're distantly related to someone they know for you to stop being one. Use it to your advantage. And your father—from his records, he's quite an upstanding officer. He's definitely an advantage."
"But… how…" Bella sputters and then shuts up before any syllable of dissent slips from her mouth. If she turns this case down, Aro will make sure she is filling out paperwork for the next six months. But it's going to take her a few minutes to get used to this. She's going to be seeing her father. She doesn't know whether she's more nervous about that or the fact that the reason is because of work, as opposed to daughterly affection. She can barely remember Charlie from the handful of memories she has of him. What she can remember is that he has never missed a birthday or a holiday, always sending cards and presents. He endured two of the most awkward weekends in history when he flew down to Arizona for her high school graduation, then California for college.
All signs point to Charlie being a good guy—so why on Earth has his daughter inadvertently ignored him for most of her life?
Edward notices the look of disbelief and deep thought on Bella's face and decides to leave her alone. It's not just because Aro will have his ass if he makes anymore smart-aleck comments, but he won't admit that to anyone—even himself.
"Identity details, cover stories, background on the investigation, accommodation and arrangements, everything's in there. Read it, learn it, burn it. We'll debrief this afternoon, and you two are off to Forks in the morning." Aro looks at the pair of dumbfounded agents in front of him. "Did I stutter? Get out of my office!"
And so they do, Bella clutching the pencil in her pocket so hard she snaps it, Edward holding on the folder that will now dictate the next few weeks, if not months, of his—their—life.
Between his and Bella's rather torrid past relationship, their icy-cold current one and her issues with her father, things are complicated enough—and they haven't even looked at the details of the investigation. Edward shakes his head as he and Bella make their way down the hallway.
This case is going to be interesting, to say the least.
giant thanks to: quothme & moonlightdreamer333 for betaing, daisy3853 for pre-reading, all three for putting up with me (and everyone else who does).
and you for reading. do share your thoughts. if I can keep all my a/ns this short, it'll be a miracle.