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Trigger

Summary:
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.


Notes:
There are a few chapters to this story, but not many. It was just a tadd too long to make a one-shot.


3. Chapter 3

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3226   Review this Chapter



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Bella coughed to clear her throat. It felt suddenly swollen and dry.



“I … we … have something to tell you, Dad. And it’s kind of incredible and you probably won’t believe us. But it’s the truth. And it’s a little scary and you might disapprove … but I have to tell you. You’ve seen too much and we can’t keep lying to you. Not now; not after … everything.”



“Bella?” Charlie’s brow crinkled with worry.



Bella reached up and ran her hand lightly across his forehead, as if to smooth away the creases there. “I’m not pregnant,” she whispered, a small smile tugging at one corner of her mouth; she knew this was one conclusion that her father tended to jump to instinctively. “But this is serious. I need you to listen and please, please just believe.”



Charlie looked down at his feet shuffling on the polished wood floor and nodded.



“Okay,” Bella said, directing him to one of the sofas.



He sat slowly, sinking into the plush cushions. He fidgeted, at first, adjusting his position and tugging at his uniform. He ran his fingers through his hair; scratched the sun spot on the nape of his neck and picked at his cuticles. When he had finally settled and looked up at them, Edward and Bella sat stiffly on the seat across from Charlie. Instinctively, Bella reached for Edward and he clasped her hand protectively. She relaxed visibly at his touch and braced herself for the next words she had to say.



She opened her mouth. No sound came forth. She tried again, but was still struck silent. This was more difficult than anything she’d ever been forced to confess before – to Charlie or anyone. She had done nothing wrong; but she was terrified of his reaction. Horrified, she looked to Edward.



He nodded grimly, minutely. He spoke swiftly and softly to Charlie, trying to be gentle – but hoping to get the words out as quickly as possible. Like ripping the band aid from a healed wound. “I’m not human,” he said. “None of my family members are. And after the wedding, Bella intends to become just like us.”



For an extraordinarily long moment, Charlie did nothing at all. He did not move or breathe or blink. His weight did not shift. Then – eventually, finally – he looked up and nodded. “Okay.” He breathed heavily, not quite a sigh. “Then what are you?”



Edward stared back at him resolutely and spoke calmly. “We’re vampires.”



“Vampires.”



“Yes.”



Charlie nodded again. “Okay,” he said, then went silent. He was not as motionless as before – he blinked; he swallowed – but he remained stoic.



Bella’s heart palpitated with worry and anticipation of his eventual reaction, but Edward – listening to Charlie’s thoughts whirring silently in his mind – squeezed her hand reassuringly. There was no cause for alarm. Not yet.



Charlie, in his own silent way, used the time to process this revelation. He closed his eyes, sinking into the darkness. The silence of the room enveloped him as the others allowed him time to contemplate.



His rational side told him to laugh at them; to scoff and accuse Bella of telling him more lies. But another part of Charlie was not so quick to write them off. His intuition told him they weren’t lying. It was that kind of gut feeling you had to just trust, no matter how crazy it might seem, because if you didn’t just go with it, you’d end up paying the consequences. That was something Charlie had learned the hard way in all his years on the force – to go with your gut. And his gut was screaming at him to believe. There was no proof, of course. But in some way, it made sense to Charlie. All the little idiosyncrasies that had always bothered him suddenly became clearer. Each incident lined up in his memory and he reexamined them with a new perspective.



Every time Bella had come home from the Cullens with a stuttering explanation for their location; for what they’d been doing. How she’d gotten hurt this time. Every time she’d vanished for days at a time or run away or been hurt. And suddenly, Charlie began questioning everything. When she ran away to Phoenix – had there been more to that than just what she’d confessed? When Edward left her in the woods … was there another reason for her heartache? For his abandonment? Charlie was suddenly realizing the truth he’d fought so hard to deny, even after accepting the engagement: this was not just another young love. Edward hadn’t just dumped her; there had been another reason he’d left.



Other memories filled Charlie’s thoughts. The time Bella left with Alice for days and came back exhausted beyond belief. When the Cullens moved back into town suddenly as if nothing had transpired. Bella’s fights with Jacob – had that, too, been affected by this new possibility? What about her shopping trips with Alice? Had they really gone to the mall in Olympia, or had they lied? Was there another reason for their subterfuge than simply finding girl time?



Finally, Charlie looked up, his eyes snapping to meet Edward’s gaze straight-on. “How old are you?”



Edward fought back a grin, remembering a similar exchange with Charlie Swan’s daughter. “I’m 17,” he said. “But I’ve been 17 for … quite a while.”



Charlie swallowed, not amused. “How long?”



The amusement coloring Edward’s tone just a moment ago faded away and he was suddenly serious again. “I was born in 1901,” he said. “Carlisle … saved me, if you will … in 1918.”

“Why?” Charlie’s voice broke on the word.



“I was dying from the Spanish Influenza and my mother – my real mother, not Esme – asked him to save me.” Edward shrugged. “Medicine could not help me, so he did. I was the first person he changed.”



Charlie nodded, almost a reflexive movement now. “Okay,” he said, another reflex. “And you’re going to do that to Bella? Make her … like you?”



“Yes,” Edward said. “I was reluctant to agree, but she and I have come to a … compromise, of sorts.”



“You mean the wedding? That’s what you want, and this is what she wants?” Carlisle was right – Charlie was incredibly perceptive, a trait he surely passed on to his daughter.



“It’s what we both want,” Bella corrected. “Our compromise was on the timing. I don’t want to get any older; Edward wanted to marry me first.”



“Okay,” Charlie said again.



For a very long time, Charlie did not speak. He sat back against the sofa cushions and absorbed this information – let it all sink in. Everything he’d just been told. The Cullens’ unbelievable secret. His brush with death. His daughter’s fatal plans for the very near future. When he tried to consider the repercussions, his head began to throb and his thoughts became muddled. It was too much; it was all just too much. It was hard enough accepting everything he’d just been told – vampires and his daughter’s desire to become one. Believing was harder still. It hurt his brain. And yet, he wanted to believe. Deep down, it just made sense. Everything that had always left him puzzling things was suddenly lucid; it all fit. There were parts of the mystery that had yet to fall into place – parts that Charlie had not yet even considered, but he knew he would soon enough.



So to make things easier on himself, Charlie did three things. First, he decided that Edward and Bella were telling him the truth. The Cullens were vampires; he believed them. He had to – it was just easier that way. Secondly, he accepted that his daughter was irrevocably in love with Edward Cullen. He’d seen what life without him had done to her and how his return had brought with it her vivacity. And now, she had agreed to marry him. She was giving up life – human life to be with him. And he knew his daughter well enough that he trusted she was not leaping into such an agreement blindly. So, third and last, he must accept her decision. It would not be easy; Bella had made a difficult choice. But he would accept it, nonetheless. Charlie was only beginning to understand the true grief behind this decision and what it must have been like for her coming to it.

When he looked back up at his daughter and her fiancée, his eyes had a new brightness to them; a fresh sort of clarity. “Okay,” he said, his voice sounding too bright even to his own ears. “But … I think I may have some questions.” His brow furrowed, as he tried to sort out his own thoughts and focus on one question at a time – instead of the dozens of questions that were floating around in his head haphazardly, vying for presence.



“I, ah … I can probably help,” Edward said, interrupting Charlie’s frustrated musings. “Though it involves another confession on my part.”



“Yes?” Charlie asked hesitantly, not really sure he was ready for another revelation.



Edward fought the urge to hold back his ace, but thought better of it when he saw the look on Charlie’s face and felt the encouraging squeeze from Bella’s hand in his own. “Well, I’m sure you want to know about my family’s lifestyle. But I must tell you … some of us have certain … abilities … that others do not. Jasper, for instance, can manipulate emotions. He can make you calm when you are agitated, or stir up passion in someone who is lackluster. Alice, likewise, has certain … visions. She can see things that may happen in the future, though her visions are never set in stone. They rely on the choices a person makes. If you decided to go to the mall, she sees that. But if you later change your mind, her vision, also, would change.”



“And the others?” Charlie asked.



“The others are mostly normal, so much as we can tell. But I … I can hear your thoughts, Charlie. I can hear everyone’s thoughts. Everyone, except … well, except for your daughter. I have never been able to hear Bella’s thoughts and the reason for that is still a mystery to me, though I do have my theories.”



“You hear –?” Suddenly, Charlie grasped what that truly meant. That if Edward could hear his thoughts – could have always heard his thoughts – then he’d heard a lot of things Charlie never meant to make known. Musings Charlie thought were private; angry, irrational, spur-of-the-moment thoughts that any person would regret if they were to ever voice such thoughts. Things Charlie thought were safe in his mind. Things he never would have said aloud.



“I’m sorry,” Edward said sincerely. “I don’t mean to make you feel violated. And I never … pried … on purpose. Usually. It’s kind of hard to ignore, though, especially when your thoughts are about me. It’s like you’re screaming my name.”



“I … I’m sorry,” Charlie said, dropping his gaze, embarrassed. “I’ve thought some pretty awful things … especially about you …”



Edward shook his head. “It’s okay, Charlie. I understand. Most people expect their thoughts to be safe and I understand that people often think things they don’t mean. They also think one thing, but say another. Regardless, many of the things you’ve thought of me have been well-deserved.”



“That’s not true –,” Charlie interrupted.



Edward put up a hand to stop him. “Regardless, it’s okay.”



Charlie’s mouth twisted into a grimace, but he relented. “So … you can …”



“Yes,” Edward said. “I can hear thoughts. And all of the questions you have about us … you’re trying to decide which one to ask first.”



The police chief shrugged. “I just don’t know where to begin.”



“It’s not an easy subject.”

“I … uh … could you … I mean, could we … ?” Charlie struggled to voice his question, trying to be polite while asking for privacy.



Edward, of course, understood. “Of course,” he said. He turned to Bella, kissing her knuckles. “I’ll leave you two alone and I won’t listen in – you will have complete privacy. But when you are ready for me to return, I’ll know.”



Bella nodded thankfully and kissed him chastely on the mouth – despite her father’s obvious unease. He touched her cheek – an icy caress – and vanished. She closed her eyes briefly, lingering in the moment. She sighed, finally, and turned to face her father. “So …” she said, trailing off.



“Yeah,” Charlie said, nodding. The silence seemed lighter now that only father and daughter remained in the room. Charlie was trying to decide what he should say next – whether he should say anything at all, or wait for Bella to speak first – when one of the many things that had been nagging him since learning the truth about the Cullens came to the surface. “What did he mean, we’d have privacy – but he’d know when to come back?”



Bella’s lips twisted into a half-grimace. “Vampires have … really, really, ridiculously good hearing. He meant that he wouldn’t listen in on our conversation, but he’ll still keep an ear out, so that I can let him know when it’s okay to come back. He gets antsy.”



“Oh.”



“Yeah,” Bella said, nodding. “They’re kind of perfect versions of humans. Incredible hearing, sight, strength, speed. Perfect grace. Flawless beauty. Makes a girl feel inadequate sometimes …”



Charlie squinted as he stared back at his daughter, his eyes crinkling in the corners as they narrowed. “You’re not … that’s not why you’re doing this, are you? To feel … adequate?”



“No,” Bella replied, adamantly. “Though I feel ridiculously wrong standing next to Edward … I know that’s where I belong, human or otherwise. But I love him more than life itself and I cannot live without him. You know that … you know how I was, when he left.” Bella’s voice grew soft.



“Why did he leave?” Charlie asked. “I mean, really.”



Bella chewed her lip. “Remember when I came home from my birthday party last year with those bandages? Well, I got cut when Edward knocked me into a pile of crystal plates. And before you get mad at him, the reason he knocked me into a pile of crystal plates was to protect me from his suddenly ravenous siblings. Jasper, in particular, tried to … er, attack. I’d gotten a paper cut. I guess it was a bit too much for him. Anyway, Edward decided that he was putting me in too much danger and left for my own good. He didn’t realize that I’m just a danger magnet and that I’m better off with him around to keep an eye on me. That, and I can’t live without him. For all of his life – which, as you now know, is a very, very long time – he says leaving me will always be his greatest regret.”



“I see,” Charlie said, though his face was still twisted in thought.



Bella stood suddenly and crossed to sit beside her father. She plucked up his hand from his lap and held it tightly in both of hers. “Dad, I know this isn’t easy … do you really believe us?”



He shrugged, his gaze focused on the hand his daughter was clutching. “It makes more sense than anything else, I guess,” he said. “Besides, I always suspected there was something different about the Cullens. And I always thought you were lying to me about something where they were concerned. I never imagined it would be something like this … but I think a part of me always knew. I just don’t understand … I mean, why didn’t you ever just tell me the truth?”



Bella laughed morbidly. “Well, for starters, you never would have believed me. Not without something like what happened today … you know, proof. First-hand experience. But more importantly … it was too dangerous. It is dangerous even now that you know. There are … other vampires in this world … and they would kill you if they ever found out that you know of their existence. They’ve already threatened to kill me because I know – and have only waited because they know my intentions.”



“You mean … to become …?” Charlie couldn’t finish the question, but even without Edward’s talent, she understood.



“Yes.”



“So when … I mean …” Charlie coughed, clearing his throat. “Well, what are your plans for the future, then?”



“I thought we went over this?”



Charlie waved his hand in dismissal. “No, I mean your real plans. You told me about a wedding and Dartmouth. What are you really doing?”



“Oh,” Bella said, understanding. “Right, well … there’s still going to be a wedding. And I will go to college … eventually.”



“Eventually?”



“Well, see … I kind of have to go away for a while after the honeymoon.”



“What do you mean?” Charlie asked, concern coloring his voice.



Bella bit her lip and looked away. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “After the wedding, we’re moving away. And then Edward will … change me … and then, they have to keep me away from people for a few years.”

“A few years?”



“At least.”



“But … why?”



Bella sighed, facing her father once again. “So that I don’t hurt anyone … or worse. As I understand it, the bloodlust … it’s somewhat uncontrollable those first few years. Edward says I’ll get used to it eventually; that I’ll be able to control it – like he does. But at first, it will be very difficult. Which is why I have to stay away. That means I can’t come visit you for a while. And I’m sorry about that. But at least now you know why I have to disappear. I’m still not sure what to tell Renée. I considered faking my own death … Alice liked that idea; she had some very dramatic ideas … but I don’t think I can do that to her.”



Charlie nodded and squeezed Bella’s hand. “I’ll take care of Renée.”



“What?”



“Don’t worry about it,” he said reassuringly. “I’ll take care of her.”



Bella felt tears forming in the corners of her eyes and she wiped at them futilely with the back of her hand. “I love you, Dad,” she said. “And even though this has been one of the hardest days ever, I’m actually really glad that you know. I’m scared for you. But I’m glad I don’t have to lie to you anymore.”



“Me too, Bells. Me too,” he said. He sighed, then, and let out a morose chuckle. “God, I still have so many questions …”



Bella smiled back at him. “I know. I think I questioned Edward constantly for at least a week after I found out. And I only stopped when he insisted it was his turn to ask me questions. But it’s okay. We’ve got time. You can ask me all the questions you want.”



“Thanks.”



“Um … there’s something else.” Bella fidgeted in her seat. “It’s … about Jake.”



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