Requiem For A Sheriff
If the power of life was in your hands, could you stand by and let your loved ones die? Immortality can be a curse or a gift. Charlie Swan has to determine which he thinks it is.
Yes, I don't own Twilight.
3. Chapter 3 A Fishing Trip
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Bella watched from the window of Alice's room as Charlie and Esme crossed the meadow, returning from the forest. They were talking softly among themselves, and as Esme's eyes flicked toward the house, Bella could see by their color that she had fed. That probably meant Charlie had, too−an excellent sign. Bella took a breath, releasing some of the tension that had keyed her up so tightly. She felt like she'd been walking a tightrope. Bringing Charlie over had been a tremendous gamble and a decision made on a moment's notice. Would he be able to accept his new nature? Would he fit in with the Cullens?
Self-doubt gnawed at her as she tried to review her choice. There had really been no choice, right? She couldn't sit there and do nothing as her father's life leaked out onto the kitchen floor. Guilt raced through her; it tasted like ashes in her mouth. She should have known that he wasn't doing well. She shouldn't have moved to Vancouver with everyone else, or at least should have visited more often. He'd stopped returning her phone calls, and the last time she'd gotten hold of him, he'd sounded drunk−almost unthinkable for the man she thought she knew. She should have known he was close to desperation. A better daughter would have known.
Edward came up behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders. "Stop it," he whispered softly. He might not be able to read her mind, but he knew her well enough now to read her body language.
"I can't help it," she whispered back. She leaned back against him, more grateful than she could express for his presence. "Did we do the right thing?"
He slipped an arm around her shoulders, hugging her from behind. "It's done, Bella. We must look forward now and try to help him adjust." For the sake of his wife, he kept his deep misgivings to himself.
She sighed and turned in his arms. "I need to talk to him," she said.
"Wait," Alice counseled from the bed where she and Jasper were sitting on top of the covers.
"Why?" Bella asked, already on her way to the door.
"Charlie is nothing if not a private man. Give him some time to process things." Alice stopped and her eyes got that faraway look that meant she was trying to see. "You'll want to wait 'til tomorrow to talk with him."
"You're going to bet against Alice?" Edward asked with a smile.
"No, I guess not." Bella moved back to the window. She crossed her arms, hugging herself and thinking.
It was mid-morning of the next day when Bella found Charlie in Carlisle's study, browsing the floor to ceiling bookshelves. "Hey, Dad," she said in greeting, trying to be nonchalant.
"Hey, Bells." Charlie seemed genuinely glad to see her. It was amazing how little he had really noticed of her when he was human. Now it was like he could finally see her for how truly beautiful she was.
"How are you doing?" she asked tentatively.
He smiled sheepishly. "Okay." He paused and Bella suddenly desperately wished she had Edward's ability to read minds. Charlie was an iceberg. One only saw a tenth of what was actually going on with him. "I can't get used to not sleeping."
"Sometimes I miss eating," she said wistfully. "I'll see a commercial for Dove bars, and I remember how good I thought they tasted."
Charlie turned back to the bookshelves, pulling a book down. "You've never…?"
"What?" she asked curiously.
"You know. Drunk. From a human." Charlie couldn't look her in the eye as he said this.
"No. No, oh gosh no." She chuckled slightly. "It smells incredibly good, but no."
"And the others?"
"Carlisle hasn't ever, and Rosalie has never tasted human blood. Jasper was probably the most 'bloodthirsty' among us, but a lot of that was when he was made."
Charlie raised his eyebrows.
"Jasper was turned during the Civil war," she added.
Charlie's jaw dropped. 'The American Civil War?"
Bella nodded. "Carlisle was made in the 1600's."
Charlie's gaze dropped to the floor. "Well, he doesn't look a day over three hundred."
The two of them chuckled, and the tension eased a bit.
Bella took a step toward him. "Oh, Charlie," she whispered. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you. I had no idea things were that bad for you."
Charlie shuffled his feet self-consciously, taking a step away from her. "It's not your responsibility."
"You're my father," she protested. "Of course it's my responsibility." She looked into Charlie's eyes. Even with the crimson highlights, she could see the affection in them.
"Oh, Bells," he whispered, raising a hand to cup her cheek. "Always the little mother."
She put her hand on top of his. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you, too." He smiled at her for a moment before sighing and pulling his hand back. There was a moment of awkwardness between them; neither one was particularly comfortable with expressing the emotions they felt for each other.
He turned back to the books, scanning the shelves. "Thanks for coming when you did. I guess I've gotten a second chance."
"You have eternity now," she murmured.
He smiled ruefully, but she caught a glimpse of a haunted expression crossing his face. "I can't even…" He paused in mid-action, reaching to place the book back, overtaken by his thoughts. Finally, he turned back to Bella. "So. Vampires." He rolled the word in his mouth like it was a marble. "Makes sense. Jacob's the werewolf."
"That's right," she said, smiling.
"I mean, I knew something was up, but I never suspected…" He shook his head in disbelief.
"I have so much to tell you."
"Wait." He held up his hand. "Before you get started, is there anything else I need to know right off the bat?"
"Zombies, ghosts, Sasquatch?"
She started laughing. "Nope." She put an arm through his. "Come on. Let's go for a walk."
"Santa Claus?" he asked with a smile, dropping the book he held on the table as they passed toward the door.
Her laughter trailed behind them as they left the room.
The book, which had been set precariously on a pile of magazines, slipped. Sins Of The Father landed open on the carpet.
There was a knock on the open door of the room that Charlie was using. It was Edward's old room and had a view that stretched out over the meadows at the back of the house. "May I come in?" Carlisle asked.
"Sure, Doc," Charlie said, putting down his book, The Fisherman's Bible. His eyes glinted with the crimson highlights of a newborn. "Come on in."
"You don't have to call me Doctor, you know. Carlisle is just fine." He took a seat on the sofa across from the chair Charlie was in.
"Well, I don't mind. You'll always be the doc to me," Charlie said, smiling.
"It might be better," Carlisle said slowly, "if you became used to addressing me as Carlisle. When we move on, depending on the social structure we assume, it may be best."
Carlisle's heart sank as he watched Charlie's face fill with uncertainty. It hurt him to see Charlie, who had been so sure of his place in the world as a human, struggling to accept his new circumstances. Perhaps because the others he had made had been younger, they'd been more resilient in their worldview. "You're moving?" Charlie asked.
Carlisle nodded. "We'd been gone from Forks for six months when we were called back for you. We can only stay so long in one place before people question our differences." Carlisle leaned forward. "We should all move soon, you included."
"I'll have to go?" Charlie whirled unnaturally fast from his chair and moved to gaze out the window where the afternoon light was streaming in.
Carlisle noted the speed with which he moved. It would take a while before Charlie learned to 'humanize' his movements. "We can go back to Vancouver, but it will be safer for all of us to go soon. People will notice the difference in you. "
"I guess," Charlie agreed. The sunlight set his skin dancing with prisms, scattering light across the room. He shifted uncomfortably back into the shadows of the room. "Guess people would know something was wrong if I lit up like a disco ball."
Carlisle smiled. "We've been presenting ourselves as an extended foster family, but with Renesmee now among us, we've had to switch stories. I don't think the others will mind giving up having to go to high school again."
"How many times have they gone?" Charlie asked curiously.
"Edward's matriculated from high school at least seven times. The others, not as much. It's just as well. I believe it was a mistake for us to group ourselves in a place like a small high school. Look how easily Bella found us out."
"She's a smart girl," Charlie said, pride tinging his voice.
"Yes, she is."
Charlie crossed his arms across his chest. "There was so much going on that I never even saw," he said shaking his head. "You know, that's what gnaws at my pride−that I never even suspected this stuff."
"It's the subterfuge that has let us live among humans," Carlisle said. "Don't blame yourself for not picking up on it. We've had centuries of practice."
A fleeting expression crossed Charlie's face, too quick for Carlisle to catch. Carlisle stood up. "Esme and I are headed out to the reservoir to hunt. Perhaps you'd like to come?"
Charlie turned back to the window, gazing down at his uncovered arm. He twisted his arm back and forth, watching how it sent scattered bits of light around the room. "No, no thanks."
"Perhaps later, then." Carlisle left quietly.
Bella burst through the front door of the Cullen home. "There's a truck coming!" she yelled at Emmett, who was lounging on the sofa, the TV on.
"Yeah, okay." Emmett shrugged nonchalantly. "Alice probably ordered some stuff−"
Bella cried, "No! A truck, you fool! With a driver. A human driver."
Emmett jumped off the sofa, suddenly realizing the cause for Bella's panic. "Damn!" he said. Through the living room windows that faced the front of the house, he could see a brown delivery van pulling into the driveway.
Edward burst through the front door as well. "Where's Alice? Didn't she see this?"
"They've been gone since this morning," Emmett said.
"Where's Charlie?" Bella demanded.
"Upstairs," he answered.
"What's going on?" Charlie asked, coming down the stairs, dressed in his usual flannel shirt and jeans. He'd been drawn by the shouting voices.
Bella's heart sank as, through the window, she saw a brown uniformed man jump out of the driver's seat and head toward the back of the van. "Where's Esme and Carlisle?" she said, opening her phone. She punched in the numbers for Carlisle's phone.
"They told me they were going hunting," Charlie said. He glanced at the others, perplexed. "What's the big deal?"
Edward ignored his question. "The basement?" he asked Emmett.
Emmett nodded. "That's probably best."
Bella was holding the phone to her ear. "Carlisle!" she said. "There's a delivery truck here−"
Simultaneously, Edward was turning to Charlie. "We need you to go down into the basement now."
"Why?" Charlie asked, trying to make some sense of everyone's seeming panic. In his experience, when everyone was panicking was the best time to just slow down.
Edward already had Charlie's arm in his hands and was trying to guide him toward the basement stairs. "Please, just do as I ask."
They all froze at the sound of the knock on the door. Charlie's head suddenly whipped around toward the door, his nostrils flaring.
"Too late," muttered Emmett, taking Charlie's other arm.
"What is that smell?" Charlie whispered, trying to step toward the door, but held back by Emmett and Edward.
Bella was wringing her hands. "Dad. Charlie. Don't breathe."
Charlie was trying to shake off Edward and Emmett's hands. "I need to answer the door." His eyes had gotten a faraway look in them.
Emmett and Edward were turning Charlie toward the hall where the door to the basement was. "You have to come with us, Charlie," Edward said.
He started struggling in their hands. "Let me go."
Bella approached him, trying to take his face in her hands. "Shhh, Dad. Don't breathe."
He shook her off and started struggling in earnest. "Let me go!" he roared.
"Dad!" Bella cried, trying to pull his attention away from the scent at the door, but he had gotten a full whiff of it and it called irresistibly to him. "Dad! Look at me-"
With a tremendous roar, Charlie pulled himself free of Edward's arms, shoving Edward halfway across the room; Emmett, however, snapped around and caught him in a half-nelson. "Get off me!" Charlie yelled, rocking back and forth and loosening Emmett's grip around his throat.
Edward and Bella jumped on to the struggling pair and managed to bring Charlie down to his knees. Emmett forced him to the floor, as Bella grabbed his legs and Edward leaned on a shoulder. Charlie began yelling and roaring incoherently, his cries somewhat muffled by the carpet. Bella was almost crying, trying to soothe him. "It's okay, Dad, we've got you. We've got you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
Finally, they heard the rumbling of the truck as it started up and headed back down the driveway. Charlie gradually stopped struggling from his position face down on the floor, and they could hear the truck as it joined the traffic on Route 101. Bella sat back first, and slowly Emmett and Edward released him, rising to their feet.
Charlie stayed for a moment face down on the floor. "Hey, sorry, man," Emmett said. "We knew you wouldn't be able to stop yourself."
"What was that?" Charlie asked, not rising, his arms around his head.
"That's what humans smell like," Edward said.
Charlie rose to his feet and brushed at his clothing. The silence stretched until Charlie spoke. He didn't look at them. "They all smell like that?"
Emmett nodded, smiling. "Some of them even better." Edward and Bella exchanged a quick glance and a brief smile.
"How do you ignore it?" Charlie asked, finally raising his eyes to Emmett's face. They burned with intensity. Charlie desperately wanted to understand. He felt so lost; everything he knew had been turned upside down. He was starting to become comfortable with the speed and strength, and−Jesus Christ−the not sleeping, but the impulses he'd just had were completely out of control. They were right, he suspected. He'd have killed whoever had been at the door, with no more thought than a hungry cat dispatching a mouse.
"It's hard," Emmett said, for once all humor removed from his face. "Sometimes it's really hard." Emmett knew Charlie wouldn't want his pity, but he could barely stop himself. He'd woken up to an angel at his bedside; what had Charlie had? He could understand Bella's wish to save her father when they'd found him bleeding on his kitchen floor, but now Emmett wondered if it had been the right decision.
"Dad," Bella said, obviously casting around for some way to lighten the mood. "Why don't you come by the cottage? The game'll be on soon." Bella didn't even know which game, or when it would start, but it seemed like something was always on. She just hoped it was one of the teams her father followed.
"No," Charlie said, shaking his head. "No thanks. I'll go finish my book."
Behind his back, Bella looked pleadingly at Edward. Edward shrugged but took a step toward the staircase Charlie was climbing. "Maybe we could go swimming later?"
"Later, maybe," Charlie said, without looking back. He turned into the hall at the top of the stairs.
Bella waved to the two men and the three of them stepped outdoors, where they could speak without being overheard. They stopped under one of the huge pines that harbored the house.
"He's unhappy," she said, hugging herself and speaking softly. "He's desperately unhappy."
"Give him time," Edward urged. "It doesn't help that you are constantly hanging over him. He's got to come to terms with it himself."
Bella's eyes widened. "So it's my fault now? I'm hanging all over him?"
"No," Edward said placatingly. "But Bella, we're over here constantly. He can't take a step without you watching him, worrying over him."
"And it's a good thing I do!" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing. "What if he had killed that driver?"
"But what about Renesmee? We're her parents. She needs us, too." Their daughter was still in Alaska, and Edward was missing her fiercely.
"I miss her too," Bella hissed, "but Charlie needs me right now." Bella inhaled to take a breath and Emmett could see she was going to get herself further worked up.
"Listen, you two," Emmett said. "Why don't you just chill a moment? Go call Renesmee and say hello. I'll check with Alice when she gets back and take Charlie fishing. It'll be good for him, he likes that."
"You'd do that, Em?" Bella asked.
Emmett nodded. "Sure. I used to be quite a fisherman, myself."
Bella stepped toward him and rose up on tiptoe to give him a peck on the cheek. "Thank you, Em."
He shrugged. "No problem."
Bella started down the path, while Edward bowed slightly to Emmett, a hand on his heart. "Thank you," he mouthed silently, before turning to catch up with his wife.
Emmett watched them as they disappeared among the trees. The sooner Charlie settled down, the sooner Edward and Bella could go be with Renesmee, which meant Rosalie could come home and things could get back to normal. Damn, he missed that woman when she wasn't around. He shook his head and climbed the steps back into the house.
(*) (*) (*)
Emmett pulled the jeep to the end of dirt road and turned it off. They were deep in the woods next to a little used access path to Bogachiel Rearing Pond.
"We'll walk from here," Charlie said, getting out of the jeep, more confident and directed than Emmett had seen him since he'd been turned. It was obvious Charlie felt good being outside after so many days inside the house. Alice had given them the go-ahead, and Emmett was happy to take him. It was a good time for Charlie to take the next step toward his independence, and he and Emmett had always shared a love of sports; they'd been doing a bit of male bonding over the last few days.
It looked to be a typically overcast day, and the grasses and leaves still dripped with the remnants of last night's rain. Emmett unlashed the fishing poles from the roof of the car as Charlie grabbed the tackle box from the back seat.
"It should be a good morning for steelheads," Charlie said, starting down the meandering path among the trees. "They like this kind of weather."
"I used to do a lot of fishing with my brothers back in the day," Emmett said, "but I haven't been in decades."
Even the waders couldn't make Charlie clumsy as he picked his way around tree roots and branches. "Where was that?"
"Sevierville, Tennessee. We used to go for bass on the Little Pigeon."
"Bass, huh? Well, you give steelheads a try. They're fighters." The enthusiasm in Charlie's voice was evident.
The woods were illuminated for a moment with a burst of sunshine slanting through the morning clouds. The dappling of the sunshine through the trees made the leaves glisten, still wet from the rain. Charlie took a deep breath, relishing the damp, green smell of the forest. "Thanks for bringing me," Charlie said.
"Thanks for coming," Emmett replied. This had been a good idea. Charlie had been locked up in the house long enough; the man needed some chance to get out and breathe. They were all a little bit concerned about how Charlie was adapting, but Bella most of all, of course. Hard to say with a man like Charlie, but he'd been quiet, more so even than usual, Bella said. It was difficult to tell he was even in the house most times, quiet as a ghost. He spent most of his time in Edward's old room; doing what, Emmett couldn't say.
They came to the pond's edge, just a small, rocky beach with vegetation surrounding them. The calls of a duck echoed across the water. The far edges of the lake were hidden by the mist but the water was calm and flat, broken only by the occasional flip of a fish catching an insect that had settled on the surface. "Nice," Emmett conceded, setting the poles on the ground.
Charlie opened the tackle box, took out a leader and corky and began tying them to Emmett's pole. "This is one of my favorite spots."
There was silence as Emmett watched how Charlie tied the parts together. It was a companionable male silence, unbroken by the need to fill up spaces with conversation. Charlie's hands moved quick and sure with the delicate parts and the slender fishing line, until he went to pull the knot tight. Then the 20 pound line broke in his hands like a strand of hair. He sighed exasperatedly and began to undo the knot he'd just tied.
"Takes a while with the small stuff," Emmett observed.
"Yeah." Charlie worked on the line, getting it this time, before turning to his own pole. "Do you ever miss it, Emmett?"
"Miss what? Being human?"
"Yeah." Charlie peered up at him, his face inscrutable.
'Not really." Emmett gazed across the water. "I missed my family for a long time. It was hard getting news of their deaths."
"Did you ever go back?"
"Once. Back in '63. I caught sight of my sister, Janine, in town. She still lived in my parents' house, had taken care of them 'til they passed." Emmett paused for a moment, and Charlie could see pain crossing his face. The very faint Appalachian accent Emmett had thickened as he reminisced. "I sent them some money anonymously every so often, but there really weren't nothing I could do. I'd've just scared 'em." Emmett sighed and crouched down by Charlie. "Rosalie and the Cullens. They're my family now."
Charlie nodded, glancing over at Emmett, who was smiling. "Well," Charlie said, standing up with the poles in his hand, "let's see if they're biting."
They waded in the water and began to cast their lines. They'd been at it for a while, watching the sun rise in the sky and the mist being burned off. On the far side of the pond, there was a landing area where boats could be launched and a dock that protruded into the water.
"See that dock there?" Charlie asked, reeling in to cast again.
"Me and Billy were fishing off the edge of that one time. It was a good place to go for a quick session because of his wheelchair." Emmett nodded in understanding; Charlie's face was alight with memories. "Well, he must have forgotten to set the brakes on his wheels, because bam! He got a hit like there was a tiger on the other side of his line. He's yelling at me, and fighting the damn thing, and it's dragging him in his wheelchair closer and closer to the edge. I'm running as fast as I can, but there's no way he's letting go and sure enough, he and that chair go right over the edge together. I go diving into the water, and fish him out of it to the shore and he's laughing like a son of a bitch, still got the damn pole in his hands. Took the two of us twenty minutes to haul that sucker in." Charlie chuckled. "Biggest catfish I'd ever seen, must have been thirty-five pounds. Ugly as all hell, but boy, good eating."
Emmett chuckled with him, thinking that was as a long a speech as he'd ever heard from Charlie. Emmett watched Charlie's face, seeing the joy in the memories. He wanted to tell him to write it down, that these human memories would fade over time. But then Charlie's face changed. "Damn, I miss him," Charlie said. He turned to shore and waded back out of the water.
That's when Emmett caught the first taste of the acrid scent. "Shit," he muttered under his breath, taking in his line.
"What?" Charlie asked.
"We've got company."
Charlie froze in surprise. He had agreed to go because Alice assured him that they wouldn't run across any humans. The thought of being so out of control that he might attack somebody, might kill somebody, scared Charlie right down to his bones. The close call when a UPS deliveryman had come to the door and his own uncontrollable reactions had horrified him.
But as the rustling in the bushes got louder, Charlie could tell it wasn't completely human; there was a sharpness to it that made him wrinkle his nose. He was pleasantly surprised when Leah Clearwater stepped out into sight, and he breathed a silent sigh of relief. She was dressed in a simple tank top and shorts, and barefoot. Emmett suspected she had just phased and dressed to speak with them.
"Hey, Leah," Charlie called amiably.
Leah's face was hard and cold as she picked her way toward the beach where Charlie and Emmett stood.
"You fucking assholes," she said to Emmett. "Gonna turn the whole town?"
"Leah," Emmett said placatingly. "It's not what you think."
"It's not what I think?" she spat out. "I think you turned another poor soul into a bloodsucker. Tell me I'm wrong!"
"They were doing it for me, Leah. I was dying," Charlie explained.
She looked at him furiously. "So you let them do it? Let them turn you into a monster? Is it life at any cost?" She spit disdainfully at his feet. "You'd be better off dead."
Emmett stepped forward. "Now, wait a minute."
"No!" she cried, her black eyes flashing. She started waggling her finger at Emmett, scolding him like a schoolboy. "You wait a goddamn minute! We sat by on our hands while you turned Bella, that was bad enough. But now you've turned," and here Leah's face twisted horribly with pain, "Chief Swan and you think we're just going to stand by? You Cullens, so damn arrogant. Well, there's hell to pay this time. The treaty is done for sure." She turned to Charlie. "You probably don't even know what you're in for, do you?" Charlie gaped at her, uncertain and abashed by this show of anger. She shook her head, and her mouth turned down. "I'm glad Mom's not alive to see this," she said bitterly and spun on her heel. She bounded back through the bushes in a few quick strides.
"Leah," called Emmett, taking a few steps after her, before glancing back to see Charlie's face. Charlie was stock still, frozen to the ground, his expression absolutely stricken. "Don't let her get to you, Charlie. She's just..." Emmett ran his hand through his hair.
"What did she mean about the treaty and hell to pay?"
Emmett glanced at Charlie, wondering how much to reveal. Charlie was one of them now; he deserved to know it all. "The Quileutes, the shape shifters like Jacob." He stopped, checking on Charlie's understanding, who nodded at him. "They are natural enemies of vampires, the ones that feed on humans. We made a treaty with them years ago that as long as we didn't hurt humans, and stayed off their lands, we were safe on our own."
"So what changed? Did you hurt someone?"
"She means you," Emmett replied softly
Charlie let out a choked sound and turned away from Emmett. Emmett waited while Charlie stared up at the trees. After a long pause, Charlie turned back to him. "Do you mind if we get back to the house?"
"Okay," Emmett said uncertainly, angry at Leah for ruining Charlie's time out. "Are you sure you don't want to stay until we catch something?"
Charlie dropped his pole, and with the speed of a newborn, strode into the lake. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared from sight under the water, only to reappear a moment later. He walked up on the beach, dripping, with a wriggling fish in his hand. With no expression, he dropped the fish at Emmett's feet before heading up the path to the car.
Give him some time, just some time...
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