Pick A Pic Challenge
Disclaimer: ALL THINGS TWILIGHT BELONG TO STEPHENIE MEYER.
Summary: While exploring a cave, Bella runs across something she never expects.
To see all the stories that are a part of this contest please visit: www .fanfiction-challenges. blogspot. com
A/N: This is intended as a first chapter in what will become a multi chapter fic. I will be posting the next chapter after the contest is finished.
A/N: Thank you to my lovely and awesome beta, Justine...you are amazing! Big thanks and love to 'The Girls' for your constant love and support!
"No way! Why do I always have to be the one to climb into these caves?"
I glare at the other girls on my team.
"Come on, Bella. You're the only one small enough to fit," Rosalie tells me, nudging me toward the cave opening.
"Bullshit! Alice is the smallest!" I retort.
"Please, Bella! You know it freaks me out crawling into these nasty, damp caves." Alice makes a disgusted face.
I simply roll my eyes at Alice. We all know the only reason she enrolled in the summer archeology program is because of Jasper Hale - she would follow him to the moon and back.
"Fine! I'll go, but you all owe me big time."
Alice, Angela, and Rosalie give me a thumbs up. Leah and Jessica ignore me, which is totally okay with me - I hate those bitches anyway.
I fish my flashlight from my backpack, flicking it on before I begin my crawl into the cave.
The mouth of the cave is barely big enough for me and my large backpack to squeeze through and I know this will be tough going. My hope is that this will open to a larger chamber soon.
There are a dozen of us enrolled in the program, and today we split into two groups: guys in one, us girls in the other. Our professor, Doctor Carlisle Cullen, assigned each group a grid that we are to explore, looking for any evidence of previous occupants in the harsh environment of the Mojave Desert.
I enter the cave slowly, making sure to shine my flash light all around me - checking for obstacles. The air remains fresh as I make my way further inside, indicating an air shaft somewhere within. This is a good sign – even ancient peoples knew fresh air was essential in any dwelling. Maybe I'll get lucky and actually make a find.
I move along carefully, taking care with my surroundings – you never know what you'll find – when I happen along a chamber. I move my light along the wall, looking for cave drawings or any sign that someone once lived here.
To my disappointment, I see nothing but plain rock wall.
A soft noise draws my attention; it's nothing alarming, just curiosity inducing.
A scream catches in my throat when the beam of light falls on the source of the noise. Instead of the bat or other small animal I expected, I'm met with the most vibrantly green pair of eyes I've ever seen – human eyes.
I'm frozen, my eyes trained on this pair of eyes. They hold no hostility, merely mirroring the terror in my own. Curiosity wins out over my fear, and I widen the beam of my flashlight to get a better view of this mysterious creature.
I gasp in shock when my light reveals the hunched form of a grown, completely naked man. His skin is filthy, covered with a layer of dirt except for several spots where cuts and scrapes show. He is thin, but I can see he has muscle on him as well.
His hair hangs around his shoulders in knotted clumps. His features are chiseled and, if the dirt was removed, it appears he'd actually be quite handsome.
We are locked in a stare, neither of us moving.
"Bella! Hurry up!" Rosalie's voice pierces the silence.
The man startles at the sound, hunching further down and making a growling noise toward the mouth of the cave.
Rosalie's voice shakes my brain from its startled state, and I call out, "One of you radio Doctor Cullen, I need him here now!"
This man needs help. I don't know what to do for him, but Doctor Cullen will.
"Are you okay in there, Bella?" Angela asks, concern evident in her voice.
"I'm fine. I just need Doctor Cullen in here as soon as he can get here."
I don't know why I chose not to tell the girls about this strange man, I just feel a strong need to protect him.
Turning my attention back to him, I see he's still crouched low, watching me carefully.
Still unsure, I do the first thing that comes to my mind. "Hello. I'm Bella."
Everything about his face changes, the fear leaves his eyes, curiosity taking its place.
"Can you speak?" I ask him.
He tilts his head slightly, his eyebrows knit in confusion.
"Do you understand me?"
He continues to stare intently at me.
Very slowly I lay down my flashlight. He seems fascinated by the light, his eyes darting back and forth between the flashlight and me.
With extreme care, I stretch my hand out toward him.
His eyes lock on my searching fingers, and he immediately hunches further down, an almost hiss-like sound emitting from his throat.
For lack of a better reference, I treat him like I would a frightened animal. I show him my palm and speak in my most calm voice. "Don't worry. I won't hurt you."
He looks back and forth from my face to my hand.
With a suddenness that takes me off guard, he pokes my hand with one finger before pulling his hand swiftly back.
We stare at each other for a moment, like we are both waiting for something.
After the shock of the moment fades, I scoot closer to him...just an inch or so...my hand still held in front of me.
He watches me warily, his eyes cautious. Before I get a chance to touch him, he grabs my hand, holding it tightly between both of his.
I'm completely still as the man looks intently at my hand, turning it over and over in his own. His hands are rough – calloused and dirty – but there is a gentleness to his touch.
He holds my hand in his palm, his face inches from my hand, his long finger tracing the lines of my palm.
I'm spellbound as I watch him, and he appears to be fascinated himself. Back and forth his finger traces. Three times…seven times…ten times…
"Bella? Where are you?" Doctor Cullen's voice breaks through the silence in the cave.
I abruptly find myself pressed against the cold stone wall, the man crouched low in front of me, growling toward the direction of Carlisle's voice.
"Be careful! There is someone back here with me. He's frightened," I call to Doctor Cullen.
The man continues to growl, pushing me harder against the wall.
I place my hands on his shoulders and speak calmly to him. "It's okay. Doctor Cullen is a friend, he won't hurt you."
I have no way to know if he understands anything I said, but I continue to speak in a calm, even tone.
When Doctor Cullen makes his way into the chamber, his eyes widen at the scene before him. "Bella? Are you okay?" Doctor Cullen asks.
"Yes, I'm fine. Move slowly; he won't hurt you."
Doctor Cullen heeds my advice and moves as if in slow motion.
"Do you know this man?" Doctor Cullen asks me.
"No. I found him when I came in to explore the cave. We have to help him. I think he might be feral."
I can just barely see around the man's shoulder, but it's enough to see the concerned look on Doctor Cullen's face.
The man is still growling, but quieter now. Doctor Cullen is very kind man, I'm sure he can sense that.
"What do you think we should do?" I ask.
Doctor Cullen seems to consider his words carefully before he speaks to me. "He seems to have formed an attachment to you; he's clearly protecting you."
I know Doctor Cullen is right and, oddly enough, I feel the same need to protect this strange man.
He is calmer now and has ceased growling, though his body is still tense.
I take a chance and lay my hand gently on his shoulder, hoping the action will calm him further. His reaction is immediate. His head whips around till his eyes lock on my hand, and I find myself holding my breath, awaiting his reaction. Once again, he pokes my hand with one finger, watching me carefully. This time I smile at him and watch as his hand travels from my hand and pokes the corner of my mouth. He looks so perplexed, my heart bleeds for him. What must he have gone through to be in the state he is in?
"How involved do you want to be?" Doctor Cullen asks me.
"Whatever it takes."
Doctor Cullen gives me a look filled with pride, which doesn't really surprise me. He's my dad's best friend, so he's known me all my life. I've never been one to get really involved in things...always an observer, but something in me feels so compelled to help this man, I can't even explain it to myself.
"I think the best thing will be for you to see if you can get him to follow you to our camp. From there I can sedate him and we can transport him to my house," Carlisle informs me.
"How are you going to...?" I begin to ask, but Carlisle cuts me off.
"I keep my license up to date; I can easily obtain the sedative. I'm going to clear out the others before you come out. I'll leave my radio here for you. Call me when you are close to camp. Be careful." With that, Carlisle makes his way back out of the cave.
The man visibly relaxes as soon as Carlisle is out of sight and turns to face me.
He looks so innocent as he watches me. It makes me feel bad that he will soon be put through so many challenges. But Carlisle is right, his home is the best place for this man, and I intend to help as much as I can.
Once again, I reach out toward the man and, once again, he clasps my hand in his, turning it over, studying it intently.
I have no idea how long we sit like this, each studying the other. I'm finally pulled to reality by the sound of a growling stomach.
"You're hungry aren't you?"
Of course he doesn't answer me, but the uncomfortable look on his face and his growling stomach tell me all I need to know.
I pull my hand from his and slide my backpack off. The man looks on with interest, even poking at my backpack as I rummage inside for a granola bar. Finding one, I peel the wrapper back and hand the granola bar to the man. He just stares at the food in my hand.
"It's food. See, you eat it." I nibble the corner of the bar then offer it to him again.
He pokes it with one finger – this seems to be his preferred method of exploration.
I keep holding the food out to him, hoping he will take it. He leans toward me slowly, smelling the granola bar. He never takes his eyes off me as he grabs the food from my hand, retreating back as he greedily shoves it in his mouth. The snack disappears in seconds, but he appears to have difficulty swallowing it.
I pull a water bottle from my bag and take a drink before handing it to the man. He takes it from me with less caution. He seems to be growing used to my presence...trusting me more.
The look of wonder on his face when the cool water hits his lips makes my heart clench. My mind can hardly fathom what he must have suffered through to wind up in this state.
I try several times to get my water bottle back, but he seems oddly fascinated and attached to it, so I just let him hold on to it.
The radio's receiver crackles with static when Carlisle's voice sounds through the speaker. "Bella, we're all clear out here."
Now comes the tricky part - trying to convince him to follow me.
I get my backpack on and crawl toward the passage leading out. The man makes a low humming noise in his throat and grabs me by the ankle. His face is distressed when I turn to look at him. I reach back, grabbing his hand and try to pull him with me. He won't budge. He's amazingly strong for being so thin.
"Please come with me... I can't just leave you here."
Again he cocks his head to one side, his eyebrows furrowing.
I tug his hand again, but he still refuses to move.
I wrack my brain for anything I can use to bribe him from this cave. I suddenly remember that I have a bit of chocolate in one of the pockets of my backpack. Perhaps that will entice him.
I fish the chocolate from my bag, breaking off a small piece. He takes it from me eagerly as soon as I offer it, shoving it into his mouth. His eyes become wide as he chews, a twinkle lights his eyes, and, to my immense surprise(,) a small laugh erupts from him.
He scoots closer to me, one hand still on my ankle, the other held out in front of him. I see an opportunity. I try moving a little further down the tunnel. The man's strange humming sounds again. Slipping him another piece of chocolate, he pops it right into his mouth, following it with another laugh, and then he inches closer to me again. The bribe seems to be working as we make our way through the small opening.
I stand as soon as I'm able, taking full advantage of the ability to stretch.
Turning my attention back to the man, I see him still crouched on the ground near my feet.
I reach down and offer him my hand. He looks at me for a moment, confusion evident on his face. He finally sets his fingertips lightly in my palm. I give his hand a tug, hoping it conveys my wishes.
Slowly he makes his way to his feet. At first his posture is quite hunched, like he isn't used to standing up straight. He cautiously stretches his muscles to stand at his full height. When he does, I'm surprised to see how tall he is – a head and shoulders above me.
To my complete embarrassment, I realize he is still quite naked. Of course I knew this from the beginning, but it is so much more obvious now that he is standing next to me in the rose tinted light of twilight.
I avert my eyes from him, blushing furiously and begin the three-mile trek back to our camp - naked wild man in tow.
"Well, we're finally here," I say to myself.
The man has followed me dutifully the entire way, his fingers still held in my hand.
Pulling the radio from my bag, I flip the switch on and listen to it crackle.
The man jumps beside me at the sound of the radio coming to life, the odd hissing coming from his lips again.
"Hey, it's alright. It won't hurt you."
He quiets, though still glares at the radio.
"Carlisle, this is Bella." I listen, waiting for him to respond.
"Are you close by?" Carlisle's voice crackles from the radio.
The man leans close to me, confusion written on his face.
"Yes, we're about a half mile out."
"Alright, I'll be there soon," Carlisle says before the radio goes dead.
After returning the radio to my back pack, I hand my last piece of chocolate to the man and watch as he munches it happily.
Carlisle calls out to us from a distance; the man's response is immediate. He grabs me around the waist and pulls me underneath his crouched form, once again growling furiously.
Carlisle comes to a stop and lowers himself to his knees, making himself less threatening. We both start speaking to the man in a soft tone, and to my great surprise, he begins to calm quickly. He must remember Carlisle; hopefully that's a good omen.
The man moves to sit next to me, becoming docile. I feel slightly guilty, knowing he is soon to be drugged.
Carlisle finally reaches us and shows me the syringe. I nod slightly, letting him know I'm ready. I reach for the man's hand, trying to draw his attention away from Carlisle. To my relief, it works. He begins tracing patterns on my palm again, ignoring Carlisle as he inches closer.
Carlisle readies the needle, and, striking fast, he sinks the sharp metal into the man's arm.
I expect the man to lash out in anger at Carlisle, but instead he lets out a strangled cry and scoots closer to me. He lays his head in my lap, curls his long frame around me and begins to cry.
I look up at Carlisle, completely baffled. Carlisle merely shrugs and turns his attention to calling for help on the radio.
I do the only thing I can think of; I place my hand gently on the man's hair, stroking it softly. This seems to calm him and his crying lessens. His tears have made tracks down his face, allowing me to see his pale skin beneath the grime. I drag a finger along one of the tear tracks, following its path down his face.
His vibrant green eyes lock with mine for a moment and something passes between us.
I can't put my finger on the feeling, but it's real and it's strong.
His eyes glaze and flutter shut, the sedative taking effect.
I brush my hand once more over his matted hair, "Sleep well, wild man. You have a lot of changes ahead of you."
"Now what?" I ask Carlisle as we stand in the door way of his spare bedroom, surveying the man as he sleeps peacefully.
It took three guys from the archeology program, plus Carlisle, to get our wild man into a jeep and then transported to Carlisle's house.
"I'm not sure. He can't really be left alone...not till we are sure how he will cope with the new environment," Carlisle tells me.
"I can stay here with him till he adjusts enough to be left on his own."
"I can't ask you to do that, Bella. He may never adjust. Who knows how long he has been out there alone."
"You don't need to ask, I'm volunteering. I'll be here as long as it takes." I tell him.
"Charlie won't be happy."
I sigh loudly, knowing the truth in Carlisle's words.
"No, he won't, but it's my choice. I want to help. Charlie will understand." At least I hope he will. I know my dad will be upset about me quitting the archeology program, but surely he won't be that mad... After all, I will be helping someone; he can't really fault me for that.
"I guess we can figure more of this out tomorrow. Goodnight, Bella."
I wave my goodnight to Carlisle and turn to go settle myself on the couch in the living room.
I don't realize my level of fatigue till I lie down. It has been a long day...sleep takes me quickly.
I'm woken by a loud thud. It takes me a moment to clear my head and get myself into a sitting position. Carlisle is coming to a sliding halt in front of our wild man's room. I jump up from the couch as fast as my half-asleep state will allow, and run toward the guest room.
I peek in the door to see Carlisle talking calmly to the man where he is lying on the floor.
It appears our wild man has fallen out of his bed and is a bit stunned.
I tap Carlisle on the shoulder, making my presence known. "Now that we're all up, what do you boys say to some breakfast?" I ask.
Carlisle smiles widely. "I'll set the table." With that, he turns and leaves.
I approach the man, extending my hand to him. He grabs my hand with no hesitation, causing me to smile brightly at him. I guide him easily to the kitchen, motioning toward the small table in the corner where Carlisle is sitting. The man stares at the table, making no move to sit down. I pull the chair out and take a seat; the man follows my every move. I stand back up again and motion for him to sit down. He looks back and forth from me to the chair to Carlisle and slowly slides into the seat.
I watch the man as I begin to scramble eggs. He is pushing his fork across the table till it falls off and hits the floor, watching in fascination as it falls.
"How long do you think he was out there?" I ask Carlisle
"For a while. He seems to have very few civilized behaviors."
"You don't think he has always been on his own do you?" The thought of a tiny child being alone sends shivers down my spine.
Carlisle looks thoughtfully at the man before he answers me. "No, I think at some point he must have been around other people. Walking upright is not something he would have learned on his own."
I consider Carlisle's words. It makes sense that this man must have belonged to someone at some point. "We should try and find his family, Carlisle. There has to be someone."
Carlisle looks at me, sympathy shining in his eyes. I know we are in this together.
After an entertaining breakfast where our wild man grabbed eggs by the handful, Carlisle has decided to take on the monumental task of attempting to clean up our wild guest.
I get as much chocolate as I can find in Carlisle's house. I figure it worked well yesterday, and hopefully will help Carlisle now.
Two hours after Carlisle started, I hear him call for me. I have been a nervous wreck, afraid that at any moment the man might become frightened and lash out, but thankfully that hasn't happened.
"Are you ready to see him, Bella?"
I jump up from the couch where I have been mindlessly flipping the pages of a magazine.
I'm completely unprepared for the sight that meets me. Gone is the naked man with the matted hair and scraggily beard. Before me now is a man of unspeakable beauty. Carlisle has cut and washed his hair – the bronze locks are in disarray atop his head. His skin has been scrubbed to a glowing peach, but it's his face that really draws my attention. His face is achingly gorgeous, chiseled and masculine, like a sculpture out of Greek mythology. I try to speak, but no words are forming, all I can do is stand and gawk at him. To further the effects of his devastatingly handsome face, Carlisle has dressed him in a blue t-shirt that clings snugly to the lean muscle of his torso.
I swallow hard, willing myself to speak. "He looks great, Carlisle."
Carlisle just gives me a nod and a smirk; he must think I've lost my mind.
"I'm going to clean up."
I nod in acknowledgement of Carlisle's words as he leaves the room.
My brain is recovering from the shock of this man. I want to find a name for him. I hate referring to him as "the man".
I guide him to the living room. He sits after I motion toward the couch. He remembers; that seems like a good sign to me – he is obviously intelligent. I look into his intense, wide eyes as he watches my every move.
"You need a name," I tell him.
Even though he never answers when I talk to him, I get the oddest feeling that he is listening, trying to understand.
I opt for talking out loud, hoping one of the names I think of will catch his attention. "Aaron...David...Greg...Jason...Steven…"
His expression hasn't changed. Perhaps something less common. "Blake...Francis...Henry...Nelson...Tristan."
Hmm, this could take a while. Maybe something more old-world and classic. I mentally sort through literary works for more old fashion names. "William...Philip...Edward..."
His eyes become even wider and excitement is written on his face.
His lips turn up into the most enchanting crooked smile I've ever seen, causing my heart to flutter strangely in my chest.
"So you are Edward," I say.
But who is Edward?
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know what you think!