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Summary:
Bella is an artist who is trying to recover from a tragedy in her past. Edward Cullen is a fire-fighter who is running from a dark past of his own. Their paths cross...


Notes:
If you've read my other fics, you'll notice that they're nothing alike. This one is also completely different. I like to try new things. This is my first AH/AU. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you'll tell me if you do... or if you don't. I need to know these things. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I own a small slobbery one-year old boy, a mortgage, a black 10 yr. old Acura, and a massive box of art supplies.


2. Blank Canvas

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1559   Review this Chapter

Blank Canvas

Charlie Swan was a man of few words. He didn't like to be the center of attention, he didn't like crowds, in fact, he didn't really like being noticed at all.

Today he'd put all of that aside. Today he'd sat next to the judge and testified against a killer; a heartless murderer. Charlie had been calm, direct, simple, and honest, though he was hurting inside. It had been a long morning, a long afternoon, and he had a feeling as he sat on his porch and replayed the day's events in his head, that he was in for a long night.

He nursed a beer and sat listening to the familiar sounds of the evening. At least he wasn't losing sleep out of guilt, he reassured himself. He'd told the truth, the best he knew how. That man's alcohol level had been five times the legal limit. He had ignored his ex-wife's pleas not to drive home, and had gotten behind the wheel of his oversized white pick-up, turning it into a deadly weapon. His mistake had cost someone else their life, had cost someone else their best friend, had cost someone else their child.

Charlie twirled the unlit smoke in his hand and sighed shallowly. Now the man would pay. Fifteen years in prison was supposed to make everything all right. They called it justice. Charlie shook his head and took another long drink from the bottle. As sheriff, he should've known all about justice... but this time it didn't feel like quite enough.

The courtroom had been crowded. Everyone in the small town took notice of this case and wanted to see it through. Tragedy was something that the town of Forks didn't have to face very often, but when they did, they dealt with it together.

"It's my understanding, Chief Swan, that you were the first emergency responder on site. Is that correct?" Heanly was pacing before him in a gray suit, looking very lawyer-like and professional.

It was a far cry from the way he usually looked in Charlie's presence, wearing a fishing vest and an orange bucket hat.

"That's right," Charlie replied quietly, but clearly.

He was used to being questioned in court, it was part of his job, but this time was different; so horribly different. Everyone in the room, in the whole town, knew it. Many of them, though, especially the lawyers, had to pretend not to.

Heanly stopped pacing and looked Charlie in the eye. Charlie couldn't miss the sympathy in the man's expression as he asked the next question.

"Can you please describe for the court, what you encountered when you first arrived on the scene?"

There had been a lot of discussion on both sides about whether or not it was a conflict of interest for Chief Swan to testify. Judge Bennett had decided though, that with the police force as small as it was, Charlie‘s testimony was key, both as an expert witness and relative to one of the victims. The court needed his testimony, and Judge Bennett trusted his ability to be straightforward and clinical. He knew there would be difficult emotions. He also knew that Chief Swan wasn't the type of man to let them get in the way.

Charlie took a deep breath and detached himself. It was something he'd trained himself to do when he had to examine a corpse or investigate a missing child case. He pretended he was an outsider. He pretended that he didn't want to leap over the stand and strangle the middle-aged man that was sitting with the defense, looking calm and smug and disgusting. He pretended that he didn't know any of the russet faces sitting in the crowd, the young woman crying on the shoulder of his best friend because her wedding day had been ruined by a tragedy none of them could've imagined.

He cleared his throat and forced himself to look into the pitiful eyes of the attorney. He spoke slowly and clearly, visualizing the scene, but refusing to see any of the faces.

"I got the call at eighteen hundred hours, I was at a wedding, but I was nearest to the scene. It happened right at the border of the Quileute Reservation. I responded to the call immediately."

Heanly nodded, "According to the reports, Chief Swan, you were scheduled to be off duty at the time of this incident. What prompted you to respond?"

"As sheriff, I carry my radio with me at all times, even when I'm off duty. I recognized the description of one of the vehicles by the witness who called 911. It belonged to a friend of my daughter's, it belonged to Jacob Black." His voice didn't waver, and he was grateful. There was still a lot more that had to be said.

"And you knew your daughter was with Mr. Black, is that correct?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"Go ahead and describe what you saw when you got there, Chief Swan, if you would."

"I arrived at the scene roughly six minutes after the initial call. There had been a car accident, um, a head on collision. There was a lot of damage to both vehicles so it was difficult at first to determine what had happened."

Charlie paused and sucked in a breath. "Mr. Black's car was completely crushed and off of the right shoulder in the brush there. The defendant‘s, Mr. Guild's, pick-up was also in the right lane, facing on-coming traffic. The first thing I did was call for back-up..."

Charlie took another shaky breath and kept going. "Mr. Guild was standing outside his truck yelling incoherently. He was holding onto the driver side door, and seemed to be having difficulty with his balance. At first, I thought he might have suffered a head injury, but later we determined that he was, in fact, severely intoxicated."

"What about the victims in the other car?"

"There was evidence that the car had rolled over, the top was crushed, but the most extensive damage was to the driver side door. That was obviously the point of contact in the accident. Both passengers were unconscious and had suffered head injuries, neither responded to my voice." He swallowed hard. "I managed to get the passenger door open and found that the passenger," his voice was getting thick, as he fought the lump in his throat, "the passenger was still alive, though severely injured. There were extensive injuries to her legs and head trauma." He tried not to study the image in his head, tried not to remember the smothering emotions in his chest. "By this time I had back-up on the scene and we called for Life-Flight assistance."

Heanly had lowered his voice and couldn't quite look Charlie in the face as he asked the next question.

The courtroom waited in silence.

"And the driver?"

Charlie wasn't looking at Heanly when he answered. He was looking into the eyes of best friend, the eyes of a heart-broken father.

"Jacob Black died at the scene."

Heanly walked forward, and if it was inappropriate, no one objected. He placed a hand on Charlie's shoulder and squeezed.

"Thank you Charlie, er, Chief Swan." Then he turned to the Judge, "I have no more questions at this time."

Charlie came back to the present, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. At Bella's urging, he had given up smoking almost three years before. He didn't keep cigarettes on hand anymore; he'd bought this pack on his way home. He didn't light the one he pulled out, but placed it between his lips and held onto the pack like a child being comforted by a teddy bear.

They had known this day would come. He had protected Bella from the exposure, refusing to allow her to be questioned in court. She hadn't been asked to testify, and he didn't bring up the trial. They never discussed the accident, the funeral, the loss; they never discussed her injuries unless they had to.

He walked to the edge of his porch and looked across the yard to the darkened windows of his tool shed. It had been four months since anyone had set foot in that place. Four months since the day of the accident, the day he lost his little girl. He desperately missed her smile and enthusiasm. He missed the way she would study the world around her, they way she wore her heart on her sleeve, and the way she forced him to notice the beauty of the life they led and the place they lived. She wasn't here anymore. Her eyes were empty; her heart buried somewhere deep inside where no one could touch it. The spark had gone out of her and no one knew how to bring it back. The only person who could've reached her was gone. Her body was asleep upstairs in her bedroom, but her heart had been gone for a long time, and her father missed it desperately.

Memories of the funeral flooded his mind, and he wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand as they flooded too. Only one body had been buried that day, but two souls had been lost.