A/N: I gave this prologue and the first chapter to the LLS compilation. I'm posting about six hours early. Twilly said I could blame her, so there you have it.
Just so we are clear on this - this is an AH story. No vamp Jasper. Promise.
When he was a little boy and, as little boys were prone to do, got into mischief, his father's threat was always the same. "Edward Anthony Cullen, you're going to be in a world of hurt."
It was a mostly empty threat, as Carlisle Cullen had never so much as raised a hand to any of his children. So Edward hadn't understood what a 'world of hurt' was until that very moment.
And oh, holy God, he knew the meaning of those words. He knew nothing besides the incredible pain.
In school he learned the Greek myths, including how the goddess Athena was born fully formed from Zeus's head. That was the only thing he could think to explain his headache – that there was a full grown woman with a hammer banging, banging, banging to get out.
The only thing that could distract him from his brain trying to throb its way out of his skull was the shooting, stabbing agony along his side. He was only vaguely aware that his body was being propelled forward – dragged perhaps as every once in a while there was a bump that, though he wouldn't have thought it possible, doubled the throbbing in his head and dug the knife deeper into his side.
"Come on, mister. Just stay with me. We're almost there."
His befuddled mind wrapped around that voice, trying to comprehend what was happening. It was a woman's voice. For a moment he thought it might be an angel, leading him to a place without pain. But, replaying her words in his head, Edward could hear the strain in her tone. She was worried. Very worried.
Forcing himself to concentrate was difficult as the agony in his side increased at the same pace as his awareness. Though Edward was typically pleased when he found an indicator of self improvement, he was quite certain that he could have lived his life without pushing his threshold for pain to its limit and been quite satisfied. Edward gritted his teeth, realizing he was skirting the edge of consciousness. Some primitive survival instinct told him that if he let go – and part of him desperately wanted to – he wouldn't ever wake up.
"Bella!" a faraway voice called.
"Jasper," the voice – Bella – sounded relieved. "Thank God. You have to help me."
"What in the name of God is this?" The second voice – Jasper – sounded aghast.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, what's it look like?" Bella asked, her voice impatient.
"It looks like you've gone and lost your mind, that's what," Jasper retorted.
Bella made an exasperated growling noise. "We've got to get him inside."
"Bella, that is a Yankee." Jasper said the word like he'd just found a spider in his food and had to spit it out quickly. "The world will be a better place with him out of it."
Edward's muddled brain took great offense and he wished he could defend himself. He was, however, fighting a greater battle. He figured surviving would probably be the best way to show up this Southern 'gentleman' anyhow.
"This Yankee saved my life, Jasper." Bella's voice was hard. Despite his distraction, Edward got the impression she was no wilting Southern belle. "The war is over. I don't give a lick what you think of the Yankees, you're either going to help me get him in the house or you're going to get out of my way. He didn't survive the war just to die for me. Now, move."
"Ah, hell," Jasper muttered, and the next second Edward felt his body being hauled upward with a little more force than he would have wanted. If Edward could think beyond the pain, he would have been indignant at the idea of being carried by another man, let alone a Southern one. But as it was, as Jasper began to walk quickly, the bounce of his step sent fresh waves of agony through Edward's body, and his pride was a secondary concern to holding on to his consciousness.
"Thank you," Bella's voice said from off to the side, a little breathless as she was walking fast to keep up. "Take him to the kitchen table and then go get Doc Berty."
Getmyfather, he wanted to tell them. His father was a doctor and he would make it better. Carlisle would know how to help him.
But then he remembered, his father had been dead for over a year. He hadn't lived to see the end of the war he hated.
"You're going to be fine, soldier. Don't you worry," Bella said.
He wanted to believe her.
The world became a nonsensical place for a time. There were bright lights and urgent voices. Edward was introduced to the entire spectrum of pain – sharp, blunt, stabbing, throbbing, total – as he writhed on the makeshift operating table.
The one thing, the one good thing, that Edward remembered was the voice. Bella. He imagined that the gentle hand he sometimes felt – stroking his sweat slicked hair or pressing a cool cloth to his forehead – was hers.
"You hang on now. You're going to be just fine."
Finally all the pushing and pulling was done. "Let him rest. I left something for the pain. There's nothing more we can do. He's in God's hands now," said a voice that Edward had come to associate with the doctor.
"Thank you, Doc," Bella said.
The doctor grunted. "You know I only did it because I owed a favor to your daddy. I wouldn't have done it for anyone else. As far as I'm concerned, every one of the damn Yankees can burn in hell. Pardon my language. And you. You make sure you don't leave her alone with this man in the house."
"I'd sooner die," Jasper vowed.
"Thank you, Doc," Bella said again, her voice harder.
Edward heard footsteps and then the sound of water splashing in a basin. "Gracious, you're a mess, aren't you?" Bella said softly though he couldn't answer. He felt a cloth against his cheek and water rolling down his neck. It felt good – streaks of cool across his heated skin.
She worked, her voice soothing and soft as she spoke to him. She told him to sleep if he could, but only if he was going to remember to wake up.
Then her hand paused.
"Oh my word…Jasper!" she cried, her sudden frantic tone startling Edward. His heart began to pound.
"What, what is it?" Jasper's voice was hard and urgent. It was a tone Edward had heard so often during the war - the tone of someone looking to the horizon, expecting trouble.
"We know him." Bella's voice was awed. "We know this man."
Heavy footsteps approached and then he heard Jasper gasp. "I'll be damned… Edward Cullen."
A/N: Thanks to my team!