With his daughter’s wedding only a few scant weeks away, Charlie Swan suddenly finds himself in the line of fire. And in the seconds before he’s facing down the barrel of a gun, he is filled with dread that he will almost certainly not live to walk his daughter down the aisle. Not unless someone intervenes; someone strong enough and fast enough to beat a bullet.
There are a few chapters to this story, but not many. It was just a tadd too long to make a one-shot.
2. Chapter 2
Rating 4.5/5 Word Count 2680 Review this Chapter
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The two men stared at each other without speaking for several long seconds – the time beating silently onward like a pulse; the thread of a heartbeat. Their eyes remained locked on each other – a certain understanding passing between them. In that moment, Charlie Swan knew that Edward Cullen was not a normal boy; and Edward Cullen knew that Charlie knew, even without having to hear his thoughts. Even if Charlie did not grasp the full breadth of the truth; the true enormity of the situation.
Edward Cullen broke his gaze only reluctantly, exactly two seconds after hearing the scramble of sneakers on pavement. He turned and darted forward at precisely the moment that Charlie Swan’s daughter pulled herself unceremoniously over the cinderblock wall between the alley and the back of the bank. Edward caught her as her foot slipped from the top of the wall and he lifted her swiftly and smoothly to the ground.
His silence spoke volumes.
Bella Swan turned her eyes from his face – dark and rigid with some uncertain emotion – to the direction of his concern: her father. She nodded solemnly, understanding the situation immediately. Charlie had seen. She looked up at Edward, stroking his cheek. “Are you alright?” she whispered, her voice cracking as she strained for the softest of volumes.
“Yes,” he breathed back to her.
“I don’t just mean physically.”
Edward nodded. “I know.” He opened his mouth again, as if he meant to say something else, but paused – his head turning to hear something much farther away. Then his eyes darted to the police chief, still sprawled on the pavement. “Chief Swan, I need to use your handcuffs. If you have more than one set, that would be helpful. Your officers are getting ready to intercede; they heard the gunshot and are worried for your safety. It would be best if it appeared that you took care of the attackers and that you were alone with them in the alley. I hope you can understand.” He spoke with the authority of age and time, but with a genuine tinge of hope; of pleading. He motioned towards the taser at Charlie’s waist. “That would be helpful, as well.”
Charlie obliged. He nodded, unable to speak, and pulled two sets of handcuffs from the belt at his waist. They were tucked into a holder, just beside the holster for his gun. He held the metal links forward and Edward took them, careful not to make physical contact with the other man. He took the non-lethal weapon from Charlie even more delicately.
Swiftly, Edward cuffed the men together, linking the handcuffs through a metal railing next to the dumpsters to keep them from running in case they regained consciousness too swiftly. Then, pointing towards the men’s feet, he discharged the taser, the pair of electrodes shooting forward – before handing it back to the police chief. He gathered Bella in his arms and turned briefly to Charlie. “Meet us at the house; we’ll explain everything. You have my word.”
Bella looked over his shoulder at her father, her eyes wide and pleading. “Dad?” But they were gone; Edward leapt over the cinderblock wall, the police chief’s daughter in his arms, and disappeared – Bella’s question a ghost in the air.
Half a second later, a trio of officers donned in helmets and Kevlar, came around the corner – guns drawn and ready for battle. Their relief was only muddled somewhat by their confusion and surprise – that there was no longer any danger; that the police chief had, single-handedly, taken down all three armed suspects.
“Chief Swan? Sir?” The officers advanced cautiously, their feet shuffling forward along the pavement. “Sir, we heard gunshots?”
Charlie Swan held up one hand towards the officers – signaling both that he was unharmed and that he needed one moment before answering more completely. Charlie Swan needed to compose himself and he wasn’t entirely certain he would be able to. He hoisted himself unceremoniously from the pavement. “They shot at me,” he said finally, his voice rough and low as if he had not used it in many days. Had only minutes passed?
“Are you hurt?”
“I’m okay.” Charlie nodded his chin towards the suspects. “Somebody go take care of them.”
The officers moved swiftly across the alley to the railing where the three men had been cuffed together between the metal bars. Their heads lolled with the weight of imposed lethargy. The officers paused at this sight, as they tried to make sense of all that had transpired. One of them turned back to Charlie, his question written plainly on his face even before he spoke. “Sir? What happened?”
Charlie looked down at the taser held limply in his hand, the electrodes dangling on the ground. “I used my taser.” The words sounded weak and pathetic, even to his ears.
The officer looked back at the handcuffed men briefly before turning back to the police chief. “All three of them? How?”
“I … ” Charlie looked back down at the weapon held loosely between his fingers. He was at a loss for words – not sure how to proceed. And that was something Charlie Swan normally took great pride in – always knowing how to proceed; the logical next step. But Charlie did not like lying to people on principle – nor was he very good at it. Yet the truth here escaped him. He wasn’t really sure what had happened and yet if he told truthfully what he had witnessed (or thought he’d witnessed) no one would believe him. Even now, Charlie doubted his own recollection. And yet … somehow, he had survived. He’d seen the man pull the trigger – heard the bullet load into the chamber and explode from the barrel towards him. But it had never made impact. Not with him, at least. Had Edward Cullen really leapt between him and the deadly projectile? And if so, why had there been no blood? How had the boy walked away unscathed?
Something was shaking him.
“Sir?” One of the officers nudged gently at his shoulder for attention. “Sir, are you sure you’re okay?”
Charlie returned slowly from the haze of his thoughts. “Yes, I’d just … I’d just like to go home.”
“Can you take care of this please? There was no use of deadly force; I can write my report later.” Charlie relaxed as he spoke the familiar words; they felt natural. These were textbook phrases. Automatically, his brain had taken over for a body still paralyzed in shock. “I’d just really like to go home now … and see my daughter.”
The words came to Charlie easily; not lying, because he realized it was true. As the words passed through his lips, Charlie Swan discovered they were entirely true. He wanted to go home and he wanted to see his daughter.
“Of course, sir,” the officer replied. “Would you like someone to take you?”
Charlie Swan hesitated – not sure, once again, how to reply. Though he longed for the solitude of his cruiser, he was not sure he was quite capable yet of driving himself home. Fortunately for Charlie, he did not have to deliberate for long.
Someone answered for him. “That won’t be necessary.” The voice that spoke was like honey. Doctor Carlisle Cullen followed the voice, stepping forward and clasping Charlie around the shoulders. He led him back to the parking lot gently, but with a subtle force. “Edward called me,” he said when they were out of ear shot. “I’ll take you to the house now.”
Charlie simply nodded, numbness starting to set in. He sat silently in the passenger seat of the doctor’s black Mercedes and contemplated absolutely nothing, letting the soft purr of the engine lull him as the car glided across the pavement.
Charlie only took notice once, when he watched Carlisle turn north onto the 101 in the exact opposite direction of his house; they were leaving Forks. “What are you doing?” Charlie protested feebly. “My house is back that way.”
“I’m taking you to our house,” Carlisle replied, keeping his eyes focused unnecessarily on the road. “It will be better that way.”
“But Bella and Edward, they’re –.”
“Bella and Edward are waiting for you at the house – at our house. They need to talk to you.” Carlisle sighed heavily. “I expect we all need to talk to you, from what I understand.”
Charlie Swan eyed the good doctor critically, but decided against speaking out in further protest. Best save his objections for later, when the intended audience was listening. Instead, he began to press for answers to questions he did not truly understand – more like unformed ponderings floating around in his head but which demanded voicing nonetheless. “Do you know what happened back there?”
Carlisle Cullen nodded and shrugged simultaneously, tilting his head and lifting his shoulders in tandem. “I heard Edward saved your life.”
“Do you know how?” Charlie demanded. “I’m not trying to be petulant or ungrateful … I honestly want to know. How did he do it?”
Doctor Cullen sighed again, heavy and melancholic. He sounded almost regretful. “Well, I didn’t actually witness the act myself,” he began cautiously. “But from what I’ve been told, I believe Edward took a bullet for you.”
“I didn’t imagine it, then?” Charlie asked hopefully. “I really saw him jump in front of a bullet?”
“And you’re not going to lie to me about it?”
“You’d expect me to lie?” Carlisle sounded genuinely surprised.
Charlie Swan resisted the urge to scoff. His voice was relatively calm when he responded, pausing briefly to compose the level and tone. “Yes.” Charlie swallowed before adding, “You’ve already lied to me. All of you have – about what, I don’t know. But I know you’ve been keeping me in the dark about something. I didn’t think it was anything truly sinister, so I never questioned it. I only worry about Bella. I know she’s lied to me, too.”
Carlisle’s face brightened with further wonder. “Bella was only lying to protect us; to protect all of us … I’m surprised you were so aware of it, though I really shouldn’t be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Bella is also extremely perceptive … she must get it from you.”
The two men – Charlie Swan and Carlisle Cullen – fell into silence for the remainder of the drive. Charlie once again allowed the hum of the Mercedes’ engine to lull him into a peaceful, dream-like trance. The car rocked only mildly when they turned onto the winding rocky driveway through the trees. Moss and ferns hung from the branches overhead as they passed, until opening to the clearing just spacious enough for the large white house. Charlie had been here only twice before and he still found the beauty of the scene breathtaking. When Carlisle pulled the car to a stop a few paces from the front porch, Charlie had mind enough to step out and close the door behind himself. He marveled at the stillness of their surroundings, despite the slight breeze that ruffled the leaves overhead and the chatter from the Sol Duc River nearby, the water’s current tumbling over rocks and fallen branches.
Charlie was not sure how long he stood taking in his surroundings. A gentle hand on his shoulder brought him back to the present. Carlisle motioned towards the house. “The answers are inside, waiting for you.” He held out a hand, pausing. When Charlie hesitantly took one, then two, then subsequent steps forward, Carlisle followed, matching his pace methodically.
Inside, the house was bright – soft, artificial lighting reflecting off of glistening white surfaces. Charlie blinked, adjusting to the transition from the dreary and dim exterior to the startling intensity. He followed Carlisle hesitantly into the living room. Charlie first noticed his surroundings – taking in the exquisite artwork hung on the walls, the fine linens draping the windows and the plush furniture scattered methodically around the room.
He then noticed his daughter pacing restlessly back and forth in front of the stone fireplace. On her return pass, Bella Swan caught sight of her father and stopped dead in her tracks, a squeak escaping from her lips. She recovered quickly, however, and darted across the room to him, grasping his arms and looking desperately into his eyes.
“Are you okay?” she begged. “You’re not hurt, right?”
It took Charlie Swan a moment to recover from the shock of seeing his daughter in such a state of distress. He blinked as if to clear his thoughts before looking down at her, his face still registering blank shock. “I’m … not hurt,” he said carefully.
The delicate choice of words was not lost on his daughter. “But you’re not okay.”
He shook his head regretfully. “I’m not sure what I am.” Charlie opened his mouth as if to say something further, but stopped, having caught sight of Edward Cullen standing stoically behind his daughter – looking more like stone than the fireplace beside him. The intensity of the young man’s eyes frightened Charlie, but he wasn’t sure why. “But I want to know what he is.”
Bella sighed, her hands sliding from Charlie’s upper arms to his hands, which she grasped tightly in her own, giving them a reassuring squeeze. She breathed deeply, hoping to draw strength from within. There was no turning back, now; this was something she had to do. She’d begged Edward to save her father; she’d forced his hand.
She remembered the feeling of dread that had overcome her after Alice’s last vision – the way Alice had gone rigid as the vision struck her, then when she’d opened her eyes and looked at Bella with such horror and said, “I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” she asked. “What did you see?”
Alice just shook her head, too horrified to say the words aloud. Beside her, Edward remained stiff and cold, his eyes hard.
“Edward, what is it?” she begged. “Please, just tell me.”
He stayed silent too long, contemplating. When he finally spoke, it was reluctantly. “It’s Charlie. There’s a hold-up at the bank; he’s going to get shot. He won’t survive. I’m sorry, Bella.”
That was when a wave of adrenaline and hysteria pulsed through her and she leapt up from the table, limbs flailing. “No! No, you have to help me – you have to stop them!”
“Bella, we can’t interfere –.”
“I can’t just let him die! Edward, he’s my father! We have to help – you have to help him!”
“Bella, I …” He held out his hands apologetically.
She screamed and kicked at him, then ran to the door. “Fine,” she growled, swiping the keys to his Volvo from the console table. Throwing down the gauntlet. “I’ll go.”
It was a cruel thing she’d done, forcing his hand like that. She knew he would never allow her to put herself in harm’s way; and he knew she was just stubborn enough to try and save her father if he did not do it for her. That’s why he’d taken the keys from her hand and driven the Volvo himself; that’s why he’d gone to the alley and used his own marble, immortal body to block the deadly bullet aimed at Charlie’s heart. That’s why he’d knowingly exposed himself and his secret to Charlie Swan. He’d hoped he would be lucky and that Charlie would be too shocked to realize what had happened.
But luck had not been with him. Charlie had seen; Charlie had seen everything.
It was only after that Bella realized the true cost of saving her father. She had not considered the consequences; had not considered this consequence – telling Charlie the truth. She didn’t realize until it was too late that the reason Edward did not want to interfere was because it would expose his secret. Expose her secret; her true plans. And now it was too late to take it back.
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