"I'm standing near the bottom of the steps of the Capital." The reporter looked solemn, sweeping her hand while the camera panned. "The DC police have cordoned off this historic building from the public, including the media, while the only ones allowed inside are structural engineers. Geophysicists have been rechecking their data and instruments, and thus far they still haven't found any seismic activity that would have resulted in the crack in the dome. This iconic structure has stood the passage of time since it was re-built after the war of 1812…"
I sighed and looked at Bella napping on the couch, at the dark circles under her eyes, her mouth pulled down into a frown – the whimpers as she slept tearing at my soul. There was nothing new from the droning reporter in too much makeup and too tight clothes reporting with her frown of concern that argued with her eyes that twinkled in excitement at being able to cover this story for CNN. I sat down heavily, and groaned. Rubbing my face and days-old stubble, I knew I should be napping along with Bella - now I'm starting to think in run-on sentences. By the time I looked back at the flatscreen the cameras had flickered back to the two quasi reporters at the news desk, trying their best to offer the banter of The View but instead doing nothing more than annoy their audience with drivel. I longed for the days of talking heads – at least they didn't roll their eyes on camera.
We were in a bunker under The White House. They didn't call it a bunker, they called it "The Situation Room." But it was what it was, and although I'd yet to meet the President I had to admit I was grudgingly impressed with the depth of Aro's political connections. He and his brothers were off doing God knows what while we sat in this room, guarded just outside the door by the Secret Service. I wasn't sure if we were being protected, or prisoners. In the long run, it didn't make a hell of a lot of difference.
The whirl of a fan cycling on interrupted my thoughts, and I looked up from my cheap coffee mug, decorated with some crap about some Air Force celebration that took place years before, with the molded in stamp proclaiming it was "Made in China" on the bottom, and turned my attention to Ed. For the past day he'd been curled in a chair in the corner, chin in his hands, mumbling on occasion but for the most part looking like the world had ended.
To him, and to other physicists around the world, perhaps it had. No one was taking the news of Stephen Hawking's death well – least of all my son.
"It couldn't have come at a worst time," he tried to explain, after the initial shock of the news worse off enough that he could talk. "There's no one even close to him, no one has a mind that works the way his did. Why?" He looked at me, pleading for an answer, as if somehow I – the only doctor in the family – could explain why Dr. Hawking's body chose now to shut down.
The truth is, I had no idea why he'd lived this long, and I wasn't alone in that opinion. Biographies, including details of how he'd suffered and for how long, clogged the airwaves until the next shiny toy caught the public's eye – like this disaster in Washington. None of them seemed aware we needed him more than we ever had.
"Ed, can you pick up any of his work? Understand some of his more radical theories enough to help?"
He shook his head, as depressed as I've ever seen him. "I don't know, Dad. I mean…"
He was interrupted by the blaring of the TV, announcing another alert. Alerts came often, not always with new news but with the intent of rehashing old shit in a way that kept the populace frightened enough to stay tuned to their channel. I reached for the remote when Ed grabbed my wrist, stopping me, and nodded at the screen.
"Can you tell the viewers what happened, what you saw?"
The camera switched to a young man who towered over the reporter - the picture shaking as the cameraman stepped back, needing distance to get both of them on the screen. Long black hair hung to his waist, his russet face was chiseled, dark eyes flashing between the reporter and the camera. I knew him. I hadn't seen him in over 15 years, but I knew him. He lived on the reservation; he was the kid who refused to allow Carlisle to treat his father. Jacob was his name, Jacob Black. I only saw him once in the parking lot of the hospital as he wheeled his paraplegic father to his car.
"Jacob?" Bella was awake and on her feet, her eyes squinting as she tried to shake off the remnants of her nap, her mouth dropping open. "Edward, I knew him when he was a kid, his father and mine were best friends. " She closed her mouth and gulped. "But Edward…"
Jacob turned away from the camera, scanning the distant mountains before dropping his eyes to the gash no more than 50 feet away from their feet. The ground had given way, trees ripped by the roots had cascaded into the new canyon, and previously hidden earth was exposed to the sunlight for the first time in a millennium. The cameraman followed his gaze, the lens zooming in at what looked like the houses and Matchbook cars, the three of us gasping when we all – as one – realized we were staring at the broken remnants of homes scattered and buried among the twisted trees. The camera cut back to Jacob in time to see him swallow, his mouth a straight line, his eyes narrowed. Without saying a word he turned, bent to retrieve an old, worn backpack at his feet, and walked away from the reporter.
The reporter frowned in irritation before he realized the cameraman had swung back to him, and he was live on the air. Quickly, his expression changed to one he thought looked like contrite sorrow as he stared into the camera's lens and raised the microphone to his mouth.
"Word has just come in that this disaster was caused by what we've all feared since the quake and tsunami that devastated Japan. The Cascadia Fault had given way, resulting in what we're seeing here. At least half of the La Push Reservation has dropped into the Pacific, although the damage south of here, into Oregon and northern California is minimal. Seismologists are on their way, but sources say they don't know why the upper peninsula of Washington State was hit harder than the southern regions. I suppose we should be thankful. Had the full force hit California the potential loss of life would have been…"
Fucking bastards, all of them. No question this reporter was more disappointed than relieved, deprived of his big story about thousands dead instead of the few hundred Quileute Indians that perished, not giving a shit about them. I reached for the remote again but paused before I hit the power button.
All those people… dead. What the hell was going on? The damage to the Capital dome had resulted in some interior damage, but not a single injury. And what about that boy, Jacob? He was taller, much taller than I remembered, and far more muscular. He was a kid when I last saw him, a kid with more growing to do but still. This guy was a mountain on legs.
"Edward, did you see it? I mean… Jacob?"
I nodded. Aside than his ridiculous size and muscles, in spite of the 15 years that had gone by since I last saw him, he looked no older than Bella or I. Thinking back, he was a few years younger than us but that didn't explain why he had the face of a young man in his early twenties. In fact, he looked no older than our son... and what the hell was that sound?
Low and insistent, I first thought the ventilation fan had blown a bearing. I looked at the ceiling, felt the cool air on my face, and focused my hearing. That's when I heard it again, and spun around. Behind us, from his perch in the corner chair, was Ed - unseeing eyes staring at the television, hands in tight fists, knuckles white, eyes wide, nose flaring…
And lips pulled back from his teeth while he growled
A shape shifter?
We were gathered in the study of Aro's country home, watching the news reports of the Cascadia Fault slip in Washington State. Isabella was staring at the television, a look of shock on her face.
"How the hell did he get that big?" she muttered to herself. Stephen was sitting on the couch next to her, brow furrowed and deep in thought. It was one of his quieter moments, and we'd tentatively allowed him back into the study. We'd just had the flat screen replaced. Again.
The good news was, Aro had guards who had tremendous experience handling newborn vampires. The better news was, Stephen was rapidly gaining enough self-control that he had returned to his studies. And the greatest news was, as much as Aro tried to cajole him, tempt him, set gorgeous women ripe with liters of blood in front of him, Stephen requested, and reluctantly got, a herd of fat Angus in residence on the farm.
Aro shouldn't complain – the weekly deliveries of freshly hung and drained beef for the small villages in the area made him the equivalent of a local rock star – not that he fully understood what a rock star was. However, adulation was adulation. Aro was in good spirits most of the time.
It almost made up for his wife or one of his sycophants complaining about the expansion of Stephen's study - which now took the entire second floor of the huge farmhouse. You'd have thought this bunch knew better than to nag at Aro. After particularly rough days, I noticed a regular guard or two would go missing. Isabella and I studiously ignored the occasional reduction in local vampire personnel.
When Stephen wasn't having a newborn fit over something or another, we spent hours discussing the multi-faceted and multi-layered vampire brain - the impeccable logic available to those who put the effort into discipline. The almost utopian peace that came with knowing, as Bella said, we were evolved, many of us highly cultured – with the exception of the occasional stupid but now-missing guard, and the even more occasional bloodthirsty nomad. We discussed the talents that showed up here and there amongst vampires – most notably my telepathy and Alice's ability to traverse the ever-changing web of the future.
"How could you, all of you, been so foolishly reliant upon it?" he'd asked, when I attempted to explain why we thought there'd be no risk sending the message through the accelerator at CERN. I watched the flat screen, thinking about that conversation and how utterly moronic I felt under the stern gaze of the learned doctor. All of us were glued to the television, the camera panning the destruction. But playing in my mind, like film caught in a loop, was the tall, handsome shape shifter and how the fuck does Isabella know him?
My impeccable memory took inventory of the image of the man they'd just interviewed on the blasted television. Long dark hair, sparkling black eyes, high cheekbones and a nose that was reminiscent of the finest ancient Roman breeding – high bridged with a small hook. Full lips, russet skin – just the sort many women of the current generation would think of with an exaggerated mental gasp of, "Hawt!"
I shook my head. Certainly my Isabella wouldn't be amongst them. Isabella, with her refined taste in music and literature, her mature grasp on life even when she was still human… no, I'm being as Emmett might say, an idiot. Even without reading her mind I'd know that Isabella never had any interest in a dog like this. My eyes darted to her face as she waited for them to rerun the story, her eyes lighting up and rushing to the laptop when she realized the interview video might be available on CNN's website. I sighed and followed her, shuffling through the deep carpet, watching her excitement and wondering why the more she smiled the more I wanted to fling something at a wall.
And what the blazes was this odd pain in my chest? I considered phoning Carlisle as it got worse. My breathing appeared a bit out of control as well. Could there be something in the local fauna?
I casually stood behind Isabella, my eyes surreptitiously glancing at what was on the laptop screen, and the small smile on her face as she looked at photos of the mutt seemed to coincide with my additional increase in respiration and the increased pain around my solar plexus. I wondered if Aro was spiking the deer.
Isabella whirled in her seat to face me, her mouth dropped and her eyes wide. I suspect I may have, without my knowledge, given voice to that sentiment.
"Excuse me?" she asked.
Best to deflect. "Pardon me?"
"Why did you say that?"
She narrowed her eyes and turned back to the laptop, pulling up Google, and searching on "Jacob Black." The odd pain near where my heart used to be got worse.
Trying to sound casual, I cleared my throat. "Isabella, how do you know this… boy?"
"We played together as kids," she responded with a dismissive wave of her hand, focusing on whatever she'd found.
They were childhood friends?
"I thought you lived with your mother?" I can control myself. I've inserted just the correct degree of sorrow in my tone since I referenced her departed mother.
This time she turned around and looked at me quizzically, head tilted, like I was a specimen under glass. "Edward, I did visit my father on occasion, and Jacob's dad was my father's best friend, so even though he was a couple of years younger, we played together." She shrugged, still giving me that puzzled look. "Why are you concerned?"
I didn't know, why was I? My reaction was visceral, an odd clenching in my abdominal muscles, a slight acceleration of my breathing, a general sense of discomfort I'd never felt before. Turning back to the television, without really seeing it, images started to play out in my mind, scenes I was certain couldn't have happened. Isabella and this Jacob, perhaps before I met her, during one of the times she had visited, a young man's surging hormones as his body entered puberty, the availability of a beautiful girl, a friend, watching her blossom to womanhood.
Doubling over, the ache exploded like lightning just as felt a gentle hand on my arm, and while image after imagined image played in my head I was lead outside, across a meadow, and into an airy barn. Shafts of light poured onto the bleached wood floor, dust motes floated and glimmered as I allowed myself to be lead to a corner, to a stack of fresh and fragrant bales of hay.
I turned to my wife, my Isabella, and all of my focus narrowed to her face, to her eyes. She wore a gentle smile as I gazed at her, trying to still my runaway imagination. I could see she was puzzling out my behavior, my bizarre reaction, and then there it was… that flash in her eyes, that flash that was there regardless of whether she was human or vampire. That flash like a deep spark when she made a connection, when she understood something - that flash was one of the first things I saw in her that sent me head over heels in love 15 years ago.
Her eyes softened before she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a tender hug. "Silly man," she teased. "Jacob meant nothing to me then, and means nothing to me now."
"Well, I know that," I huffed, unsure why I was reacting this way, the pain in my body slowly subsiding.
"Then you have no reason to be jealous, my love."
Jealous? "Isabella, I'm not…" Was I? I scoured my memory, trying to remember if I'd ever felt jealousy before. I'd had decades of reading the minds of others, of knowing they believed themselves to be jealous, of understanding pain accompanied their thoughts, but I'd never… felt their thoughts, their emotions. I wasn't Jasper, it wasn't my talent.
"Of course you are," she whispered, her lips grazing my neck. "It's okay, although I promise, you have no reason to fear."
I nodded and hugged her tighter to me, trying to examine my emotions. Was it because he was now a handsome man? Perhaps it was because he had unfettered access to her while she was a blushing youth. Perhaps it had to do with the simple fact he was a mutt.
"Were you close to him?"
She shook her head and kissed my neck softly. "Two weeks a year doesn't make a friendship. He was a convenience for my father, a built-in playmate for my visits."
I exhaled and she shivered when my breath blew down her blouse, her tongue joining her lips on my neck, taking long licks, caressing and tasting. I opened my eyes long enough to take a quick look around, scanned for any thoughts that might intrude, and when all I heard were the faint whispers of distant minds, I reached down and slowly, one by one, unbuttoned her silk blouse – reaching through the opening to caress the skin of her firm breast, stroking the tip of her nipple.
Isabella moaned, the vibration a surge of electricity with a single destination in mind as I hardened to stone. Groaning, I released her breast and helped her unbutton my jeans, trying to keep from destroying them as we both tried to free my aching member.
"You," she cooed into my neck, her hand wrapping around me, sliding her smooth palm up and down my length. "You are the only man I've ever wanted, ever thought of this way, ever will want," she emphasized with a squeeze. "You were my mate before I knew what it meant," she breathed into my mouth, her hand reaching under her dress to slide her panties down her smooth legs. Still tasting my breath she teased my lips as she straddled me, sliding down onto me with a growl.
"In fifteen years I haven't grown tired of your body, your mind… jealousy doesn't suit you."
I grabbed her hips and pushed her down, my lips moving across her neck, my hands reaching to knead her firm breasts, my teeth grazing along her satin skin.
"I'm yours, Edward," she sighed, increasing her speed. "I've been yours from the day I was born; I'll be yours when the stars fall from the sky."
I squeezed my eyes shut and thrust up into her, our whimpers echoing through the cavern of the barn, the dust motes bouncing in the beams of sunlight. And as Isabella and I moved faster and faster the dust motes closest to us were caught by our breaths, dancing to the rhythm of our lovemaking and exploding outward as I cried with release just as she clamped down hard.
Crushing her against my chest we held each other, listening to the last of the echoes of our bliss fade from the room. Caressing the gentle curves of her back, my mind wandered to Washington, to La Push, to the image of Jacob Black walking away from the reporter. He'd reached to the ground, outside the range of the camera, and as he walked away he'd adjusted a backpack, slipping the straps over his huge shoulders. It was a common act – made even more so in the past 40 years as rucksacks were popularized by the hippies, only to be followed by their children relishing the convenience of carrying schoolbooks on their backs rather than in their arms or in heavy briefcases. In fact, I'd paid so little attention that I'd failed to notice the pack was unzipped, allowing it to gap open. And as my mind's eye, with its perfect recall but unfortunately, less than perfect initial observation, I saw the unmistakable upper edge of a scarred, brown leather journal
A/N Beat me, beat me! I know you want to do it!
I can no longer write at work, which has taken a huge chunk out of my available writing time. Then, just when I sit down and open Word and settle down, someone tells me about this great new fic and, before I know it, I'm reading and reading and, once again, I've written no more than a paragraph.
Honestly, there's no writer's block going on here. I know what I want to say, I know where this story is going. But god damn, there's such much good stuff out there to read!
And that, my friends, is a 100% honest answer. Let's hope the next chapter isn't as late. In fact, let's hope you're still out there, interested in this little ditty.
I'd like to take a moment to thank all those who have rec'd the parent of this sequel, and all the new readers that came to both stories through RAOR. You guys are a hoot And just so you know, I broke my personal rule about watching Network television last night, so I could see a young Rob in Goblet of Fire. Again. So tall… so fresh-faced…