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Horripilation

Summary:
Finished. Six years after Breaking Dawn, a brutal murder is committed near Forks. When called in the middle of the night, Charlie Swan rushes off to do his civic duty and protect the public. Three hours later, he returns home with a new ward: the only survivor of the double homicide. From the beginning, it is clear that the poor thing needs a new start, a new life- and someone to save her from her old one, especially when ghosts from the past resurface. And, with Nessie determined to overcome her own demons, the two realize that friendship can come from the strangest places.


Notes:
All of this belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Duh…


22. Chapter 22

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3213   Review this Chapter

Chapter Twenty-Two––

Iris had forgotten what it felt like to be happy, but now that she remembered, she never wanted it to end. It felt good. It was not the last time they had sex. They just had to be careful, so that neither mother nor father would catch them. Neither knew about the relationship, and for now, it was best to keep it that way. Parents just complicated things, especially when there was such an age difference between the two of them.

They started to spend every waking moment together, and were joined by Brady, Collin, Cheyne, and unfortunately Germain. If the two twins were uncomfortable with the much older Seth’s arrival, they said nothing. Seth was just one of those people who made everybody feel welcome, so life was pretty great. They went to the beach, they hung out and watched Brady and Cheyne were at football practice. They saw almost every new movie in theaters, and rented every scry movie they could think up in celebration of the upcoming Halloween. For the next to weeks, they were just kids, and it was great. Iris even stopped loathing Germain with every fiber in her body. The simmering dislike the settled in her stomach now allowed her tolerate the four-eyed girl most days.

If she was not with Seth, she was with Brady. Because of school, and the abundance of wolves to run patrols, Brady was often free to hang out with her. It was not uncommon for him to replace Seth at dinner, and then stay late to work on homework with Iris. He slept over a bunch too, staying in Seth’s room or on the fold out couch. Occasionally, Iris spent the night at his house, too. Chief Swan was not thrilled by that, but Brady’s parents assured him that everything was on the up-and-up. Their friendship had gotten to the point where Sue was always asking about him, and when he would be coming over. If she said he, Iris knew instantly whom she was speaking of. Often, one was not seen without the other. Kids at school teased them, calling them Siamese twins, but they didn’t care. There were worse alternatives.

Iris still hung out Nahuel a lot, too. He would meet her at odd places, and just talk with her. Every morning, he would walk her to school. Sometimes, he brought her lunch if she forgot hers at home and could not stomach the school lunch. When there were pack duties to be attended or patrols to run, he kept her company at night, especially if Sue and Chief Swan were coming home late. In those few hours, Iris felt she learned more about him that most everyone in his life knew combined. He certainly learned a lot about her. It was amazing just how easy it was for her to open up and talk with him. It was Seth’s influence; Iris was positive. Nahuel had calmly, even agreeably accepted their change in relationship. But Iris could see the apprehension in his eyes as he congratulated her. He did not think it would last.

Still, she was happy and nothing could change that.

Chief Swan was happy too. Three days after his announcement, the two of them were alone in the house. It had been an awkward time at first. Neither knew what to say as they stood around the kitchen table, watching each other with guarded expressions and closed eyes. She could tell that he wanted to apologize again, to try talking about it with her one more time. Chief Swan, too, however, knew that talking about it was the last thing she wanted to do, and that if he pushed her, she would walk away from him forever. So, he just watched and waited for her to make the next move.

“It’s going to be okay,” she suddenly said, surprising both of them with her openness. She was grabbing a Diet Coke out of the fridge, thinking it in her head as she walked past him. She had no intention of actually saying the words, but they somehow managed to slip out. Like his confession did that night. Like father, like daughter.

Chief Swan looked at her with startled eyes. “I know,” he answered her warily.

She flushed and looked down at the floor. It felt good to talk to him, to not shun him completely, so she kept going, “We just need to give it some time.”

Chief Swan nodded. “I agree,”

“Okay then,” Iris gave him the biggest smile she could manage, which was still infinitesimal.

He saw it, though, and that made him smile widely in return. “Okay,” he answered.

Having nothing else to say, Iris had walked out of the kitchen, pleased that the silence was no longer oppressive. Now it felt natural. Life was starting to get back under control. So naturally, she started looking for ways that it could all go wrong. Her life wasn’t supposed to be perfect.

When it finally came, she was not surprised.

“Iris,” Sue said one morning before school, “We need to talk tonight. Don’t make any plans.”

Iris stiffened. She had not fully forgiven Sue or forgotten their pointless argument. Sue seemed to have though, and it was baffling. “About what?” she asked, not quite certain she wanted to know.

The parents of the house shared a look. Chief Swan sighed and finally answered, “It’s about your old house,”

Iris flinched. The big elephant that was always sitting quietly in the corner had been let out for some fresh air yet again. She supposed that she should have been quite familiar with it now, but it still startled her every time. Sometimes, she wondered if she would ever be free of her mother’s legacy.

“What about it?” she asked.

“The police have released it from evidence,” Chief Swan explained. “It’s yours do with it as you wish,”

“Except I can’t go back home,” Iris reminded them. “I’m too young.” And her family was in La Push now. Only, she never said that out loud.

Chief Swan nodded. “We know. Sue and I have discussed it at great length because we knew that this would be coming soon, and we think that you should consider selling.”

It made sense, but the words still stung. “Why would I sell?”

“It only has bad memories for you,” Sue told her gently, “And you won’t be using it for several more years. It was a large house, far too big for one person. Those are two very good reasons,”

Translation: it’s not doing you any good and you can’t leave La Push unless you want to Volturi to come and eat you. Iris got it, but she did not like it. Licking her dry lips, she said, “What about all of the furniture, the cars, Harley?”

“Harley will stay here, of course,” Sue quickly told her.

“Everything else, though, should be sold. It would be better to have the money growing interest, then sitting in something that you are not using,” Chief Swan added on.

Iris nodded. “Okay,” she whispered.

“You don’t have to make a decision right now,” Sue assured her. “This is a big decision, and you certainly need time to think it over. Your father and I––” now that Iris knew, Sue was sure to refer to Chief Swan as her dad, no matter how uncomfortable it made them both, “––wanted to talk with you about it tonight, and maybe discuss some pros and cons of it. But we aren’t going to be hasty in anything,”

“Thanks,” she said, and meant it. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the time and turned on her heels. “See you tonight,” she called over her shoulder as she raced out the door. Into the arms of Nahuel, who had overheard everything, and realized how upset she was.

*

She skipped school that day, and after Nahuel called the school pretending to be Chief Swan informing the principal that Iris had one of those twenty-four hour bugs and would be back in school Monday, they ran to Amsterdam. Well, Nahuel ran; Iris got to ride on his back.

“This was your home?” Nahuel asked her as he stared up at the great white columns in awe.

“Yeah,” Iris nodded, looking at the familiar facade of the old Victorian house. “Home, sweet home,”

“I think this is bigger than any other house I have ever seen,” he told her.

“Nah,” she shook her head. “It’s only about four thousand square feet, not too big. A.J., one of my best friends, his house is almost six thousand square feet. That house is huge.” She cocked her head to the side and mused, “I guess that’s what you get if your dad is a boob doctor,”

“A what?” Nahuel asked.

Iris blushed. “Nothing,” she quickly reassured him, not really in the mood to get into the details of plastic surgery with an ignorant hybrid vampire.

Nahuel took her word for it. “How long has it been since you were last here?” he asked.

“Months,” she told him. “But it feels like years,”

Nahuel nodded. “Much has happened since then,” he said.

“Tell me about it,” Iris groaned “Way more than I ever though possible,”

“Show me the inside,” Nahuel instructed.

She did not hesitate. Twisting the faded gold knob, she pushed open the door to her old life. The hallways smelled like stringent cleaner, like someone she did not know had been in there cleaning. The pictures that lined the hallway, glassy faced protected by translucent lies stared down at the two strangers as they walked through. The walls could not tell Iris from Adam at this point; even they could not tell truth from lies.

Straight down the hallway was the kitchen. The lights were all off, but it still glowed from the morning light. It was so clean that it literally glowed. Iris took one step and then faltered. Nahuel bumped into her, not realizing that she had stopped.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“I can’t go in there,” she shook her head. “Not yet,”

“Okay,” Nahuel rubbed his hands up and down her shoulders. “Let’s go upstairs,” he suggested.

Iris licked her lips and nodded slowly. “Okay,”

Upstairs was a long hallway. Two rooms branched off the hallway, one was a dark navy with white racing stripes painted up the walls. The other was a pale yellow that was large enough to have a sitting area and a suite bathroom. Nahuel did not have to ask as she brushed by those two rooms, her gaze to intently focused on a room at the end of the hallway to be accidental. That room was a lavender. Someone had taken the time to paint small, intricate swirls in opalescent white. Tarps still covered the furniture; tape lined the walls. She had not had time to clean up.

Beneath the tarps, Nahuel saw teddy bears and unicorns. Sharpies littered the floor, all inkless if the doodles on her shoes, binders, shelves and brickabrack were indicators. She liked pillows, too. He counted at least four. The books that hid the graffiti were thick and dusty classics, with their spines broken and their pages yellowed and torn. He did not have to see red to smell the bleach that lingered in the air, nor the blood it tried to erase.

“Here we are,” she tossed her hands up into the air, and let them slap back down on her thighs. “Home in all its glory,”

“It’s quite grand,” Nahuel told her.

“I don’t know,” she disagreed. “Hulien seemed pretty cool,”

Nahuel grinned. “She is amazing,” he told her. “But your stories of Brent were quite impressive as well,”

“He was pretty cool,” she told them. “I learned to draw here,” she said as she traced the long dried paint. “I fell out that window when I was seven and broke my leg. In that tree out back,” she looked out the wide window towards the old live oak, “My favorite dog’s buried in the yard. Micah fell out of that tree one summer and broke his arm. Fell out of it again two days later and broke the other one.” Iris cracked a smile as she looked at him again. “He beat the shit outta this Jamie Styles who was picking on me,”

“You have a lot of good memories here,” Nahuel said.

“I know,” she cracked a grin. “It was easy to forget all the good times,”

“I’m sure you had many wonderful times here,”

She sniffed. “I really did,” she looked at him with shiny eyes.

Uncomfortable, Nahuel looked around the room. “Is there anything you want to take back with you? Things you can’t let go of?”

There was so much she could not let go of unless she forgot. She did not want to forget screaming at Micah to stop playing his guitar. Back then, it seemed like he was strumming on it all the time. Now she would give anything to hear him play that stupid guitar one more time. “Yeah,” she nodded. “My brother’s guitar,”

“That sounds good,” agreed Nahuel.

She couldn’t take the tire swing with, or every sketchbook that her pencil ever touched. There was no need for any of her old clothes since Nessie had furnished her wardrobe superbly. Those were better than anything she could afford. She did not need all of Harley’s old toys, and she could not keep her bed. But she would keep her mother’s jewelry, Micah’s guitar, and Daddy’s autographed football. The special things to her family were now special to her.

Arms loaded, the two walked back down the stairs. “Thank you so much, Nahuel,” she said to him. She smiled shyly, beaming with her new treasures. She would never let them go. Dropping the treasures by the front door, Iris stared down the endless hallway.

Following her gaze, Nahuel grasped her shoulder. “You don’t have to go down there,” he told her.

She sighed. “Yes, I do. Besides, I want to take the photo album…” That way, she would never forget.

“Then go through the living room,” he urged her.

“I can’t. I have to face this,” she took a step forward.

“Iris,” Nahuel stopped her. “You’re shaking,” he told her, and she realized that he was not fighting to hold her back. She was struggling to get away from the kitchen.

“I have to face this,” she repeated.

“Yes, you do,” Nahuel agreed. “You just don’t have to now,”

“Yes,” she broke out of his grasp. “I do.” When he reached for her, she pulled her hands away. “I can’t sell until I let go. I know it’s only been a few months, but I have to let go. I have to stop living in the past. I have to move on. It’s part of growing up, and I can’t stop time because I’m sad or because I’m angry. It’s time,”

Nahuel nodded. “Okay,” he conceded softly. “Okay. I’ll wait right here, unless you need me,”

“I’ll be fine,” she promised with a sniff. “They’re just memories,”

Resigned and determined, Iris slowly started off down the corridor. The hallway that had always seemed so short grew to nearly twice its size. Her footsteps echoed like roaring thunder, pounding on the wood and on her nerves. The light at the end of the tunnel only grew brighter as she walked resiliently onward. What she told Nahuel had been the truth; she was ready to let go.

In the kitchen, everything was perfect. The CSI team had cleaned up nicely. Everything was meticulously in its place. She had not realized that they would do that for her. Half of her feared that she would come back to pools of blood, and smeared red handprints climbing up the wall. Instead, everything was perfect. It was as if her family hadn’t died her; as if they never existed in the first place.

She did not fight the tears as she walked on through. Her fingers slid over the old table, and she remembered every dinner they had ever had. The happy Thanksgivings, the merry Christmases where the table was groaning with Mom’s great cooking. Dad’s laughter and stupid jokes that were so immature but even more hilarious. Micah’s impression of the Thanksgiving Pope. The holiday wouldn’t be the same if the turkey was not worn as a hat first. Her fingers brushed over the tooth impressions in the table. She had knocked out four of her baby teeth when she accidentally ran into the table while playing tag with Micah and Kacey. The dentist had to give her fake teeth for almost two full years. Mom had been furious; Dad thought it was hilarious when he came back from his tour.

All of these memories would stay she realized. The furniture, the table and the cabinets, the photographs and even the guitar weren’t important. It was the memories. They were important because they could never be taken away or sold. That thought comforted her as she kneeled down, and gently eased the family photo album out from its place on the bottom bookshelf. She did not need the photos to remember the good times, or the bad times. She needed them for no other reason except that she wanted them. As she walked out of the house, Iris felt empowered and in control. The bad had come, and she had handled it. Perhaps life would stay good for a while.

“It’s okay,” she told Sue and Chief Swan when they came home. “I don’t need the house,”

“Iris,” Chief Swan said slowly, “Are you sure? We don’t want to force you into anything,” he said as he took Sue’s frail hand.

“I’m positive,” she answered. “It’s time to let go,”

“Very well then,” Sue said. “I’ll have a friend get started on the process,”

Iris nodded, “That sounds good.” Lip bit, she looked up at Sue through her clear, black lashes, salt free for over a week. “Thank you,”

Sue’s entire face lit up. Glowing, she smiled at Iris. “You’re welcome,”

Upstairs, Seth was sitting on her bed, waiting for her. When she walked in, he immediately pulled her into a tight hug. “I’m so proud of you,” he said. “You did amazing today,”

Iris grinned. He didn’t know the half of it. Hugging him back just as tightly, she replied, “I’m just trying to grow up,”

“You are doing a phenomenal job,” he told her.

She could have purred. Soon after, Seth kissed her goodnight, and Iris watched him walk out her door with a remorseful smile. Stripping down to a ratty old tee-shirt, she climbed into bed. She did have school the next morning after all.