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.
4. Chapter 4 Striking Out
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"They're here," Jasper said, something everyone already knew. They'd been waiting for two hours now, and the breeze was blowing toward the house. As a group, they left the house and descended the steps at the back of the house that faced the meadow. Carlisle had asked that all the Cullens attend this meeting that Sam, the leader of the Quileute wolf pack, had called; all the Cullens except for Rosalie and Renesmee who were up in Denali. Carlisle was fairly certain of what Sam had to say, and in truth, Carlisle couldn't blame him. They'd broken the treaty, not once but twice, and although the Quileutes had let Bella's turning slide, he couldn't blame them for being upset about Charlie. Sometimes life forced you to make unpopular choices.
It was nearing dusk, and the sun hung low in the sky, setting the trees on the far side of the field aglow, reflecting the orange light. The deep blue shadows crept across the field like fingers of darkness reaching across the grasses. A murder of crows had nested in the nearby trees and they cawed and cackled among themselves like old women gossiping. The vampires formed a loose line, waiting for the wolves, with Carlisle at the center and Edward and Bella next to him with Charlie. Esme, Jasper. Alice and Emmett flanked them. Bella put her arm through her father's and whispered, "Don't worry, Dad. It will work out."
Edward leaned forward. "Just let Carlisle do the talking. Follow his lead, if he asks you."
Charlie nodded, his eyes round with apprehension. Bella could hear his quick, shallow breathing, an indication of his anxiety, as she was sure the others could. It would be some time before Charlie lost the automatic habit of breathing. The cawing of the crows tapered off and settled into an expectant silence.
First, one wolf pushed through the undergrowth on the far side of the meadow, immensely huge, its head swinging back and forth testing the air. It stopped, its paw paused in mid air as it caught sight of the vampires. Another wolf, then another and another took shape, emerging from the bushes, as silent as fog. Bella recognized Paul and Brady, Seth, Leah and Collin by their markings, their large liquid eyes betraying the human intelligence behind them, insanely quiet for such huge animals. Jacob was not with them, she noted. There was a rustle, finally, as Sam, the leader of the wolves, stepped forward in his human form, striding across the field, stopping half-way. His face was hard, unforgiving and almost disdainful as he surveyed the line of vampires, Charlie in particular.
"Good evening, Sam," Carlisle greeted him, his voice low and modulated.
"I can hardly believe my eyes," Sam answered curtly.
"It was a choice we had to make," Carlisle tried to explain. "I'm sure if you'd-"
"No," Sam said flatly. "There is no choice."
"Sam," Charlie called, stepping forward before Edward could lay a warning hand on his arm. "Please don't start picking fights-"
"I don't know who you are," Sam said coldly. "Charlie Swan has died, and you are just the shell, the virus that animates his cold body."
"Sam," Charlie objected. "I've known you since you were a boy. Just because-"
"NO!" Sam roared. "I will not listen! You are no longer Charlie Swan." Charlie took a step backward, stunned by Sam's denial.
Behind Sam, the wolves flattened their ears and lowered their heads. Lips began to curl, and the low throaty rumbling of growls floated on the air like warning flags. Sam crossed his arms and raised his chin. "The treaty has been broken. You have until sunset tomorrow. After that, if you are still here, we attack."
"Please, Sam," Carlisle pleaded. "For the sake of what has been between us as friends, I ask you to reconsider this."
"Tomorrow at sunset," Sam warned. "We're not going to tolerate your kind among us anymore, threatening our lives, our well-being. Any vampire found west of Seattle will be killed."
"Well, hey now." Emmett took a step forward, protesting. "What makes you think that you could-"
"Emmett," Carlisle said, cautioning him. Carlisle took a step toward Sam. "The Quileutes have always honored the treaty, and it has been my privilege to be their friend. If you wish us to go, then we will."
Sam's stance softened slightly. "I'm sorry it has to end this way. But your presence here has been a continuing problem for us." He looked around behind him at the wolves arrayed in a semicircle. "'I can't speak for Jacob. He may follow you. But you can't stay here any longer." Sam's eyes flicked to where Charlie stood. "I wish you a quick death, Charlie," he said softly, "because I think you'll soon find you'll desire it."
"Sam!" Bella protested.
But Sam's eyes said he wasn't backing down. "Farewell, Cullens." He turned on his heels and strode back across the field where he had come from.
Carlisle raised his hand. "Farewell, Quileutes. Go in peace."
The wolves followed Sam back into the forest, casting an occasional glance over their shoulders. There was the flutter of wings as a flock of crows took flight from the trees, rising as one, unusually silent. Bella put her arm through her father's. "Don't listen to them, Dad."
Carlisle ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I was afraid this might be the tipping point, but don't take it personally, Charlie. We've outstayed our welcome in these parts."
Charlie said nothing, but Bella's stomach clenched as she saw the haunted look in his eyes.
"I think it's really rather arrogant of them to say where we can and cannot go," Jasper said, his arm around Alice.
Carlisle shook his head. "These are their homelands. I don't think any of us want to fight them."
"Damn, I wish I could see them," Alice said, shaking her head.
"They're upset and on edge. Becky Ateara was killed last night," Edward said.
Charlie raised his head. "Killed? By who?"
"They don't know. She was home alone. Logan, her husband, found her."
"What a shame," Carlisle said, shaking his head. "She was due in January."
"She was expecting? Oh, that is tragic," Esme said, snaking an arm around Carlisle's waist.
"Mark Nesbit's been over there, but they're not finding anything," Edward added. Mark had been Charlie's second-in-command on the police force. He'd taken over temporarily when Charlie had been suspended.
"Nothing?" Charlie asked.
"They've been all over it as wolves. There were no unusual scent tracks. It's made them uneasy."
"So they're blaming us?" Jasper asked.
"No, not blaming us, per se," Edward answered. "But they're wondering if this is something else we've brought down on their heads."
"I'm sure after the army of newborns and the Volturi, they're wondering what else is out there," Bella added.
"After who?" Charlie asked.
"I'll tell you later," Bella murmured.
"There shouldn't be too much to pack," Carlisle said, looking at his watch. "Shall we say everyone be ready to go at 3 am?
"Most everything is already in Vancouver anyway," Esme said, as the group turned back toward the house. "I'll miss this house though."
"Perhaps in a few generations we can return," Carlisle said, putting his arm around her shoulders.
Charlie pulled his arm from Bella's. "Alice, can I talk to you a minute?"
Alice glanced at Bella. "Sure," she agreed.
Charlie looked at the curious faces that had stopped and turned toward him. "Alone," he clarified.
"Let's go for a walk," Alice suggested, ignoring Bella's frown.
Bella watched as Alice threaded her arm through Charlie's. Together, the two of them set off across the field.
Edward put his arm around Bella, and pulled her toward the house. "Come on," he urged her. "They'll be back soon."
"What does he want to talk to her about?" Bella asked him, glancing over her shoulder at the receding pair.
Edward sighed. He knew his wife was deeply concerned about his father-in-law, but there was also a time when his ability robbed people of their privacy, a thing he hated about telepathy, being deeply private himself. Still, he answered her truthfully. "He's not sure," he said, watching as Alice and Charlie slipped into the tree line to the west. "He's mostly wondering about himself."
Bella frowned, wishing she could hear.
"Come on," Edward urged. "We should check the cottage for anything we don't want left behind."
"Alright," Bella agreed reluctantly, letting herself be pulled along.
(*) (*) (*)
Five hours later, Bella came bursting into Alice and Jasper's bedroom, where they were sitting on the bed, a photo album between them.
"What did you say to him?" Bella cried, her eyes flashing as she waved a piece of paper in her hand.
Alice stood up and faced Bella. "I answered his questions truthfully."
"He's left us!" Bella cried. "Did you know that? And you said nothing?"
"Bella," Alice said reasonably. "I know you love him. I know you want to take care of him. But he's been miserable here with us."
"So we're supposed to let him just wander by himself out there?" Bella demanded. "God! What if something happens to him?"
"He's a vampire," Jasper said. "What can happen to him?"
"Anything! Everything!" Bella stepped up to Alice and grabbed her arm. "Can you at least assure me he'll be alright and he'll be back soon?"
"Oh, sweetheart." Alice pulled Bella into her arms, hugging her stiff form. "The future isn't written in stone for any of us. It changes with every decision, every day." She pulled back to look Bella in the eye. "But know this. He has more chance of finding himself and his happiness without us than with us."
"I couldn't stand it if I lost him," Bella whispered, the paper she held slipping from her hand.
"I know, I know," Alice said, pulling Bella close and hugging her tightly. "But if you love Charlie, let him find his way, wherever that is."
Bella accepted the hug without returning it, stony-faced. "I can't believe you did this, Alice. I have to speak to Carlisle," she whispered, then turned and sped from the room.
Jasper picked up the note.
I know you'll want to come after me, but please don't.
Please thank the Cullens for all they've done for me. Let them know I'm heading north, and will be out of the area by dawn, like the Quileutes asked.
I love you. Please don't look for me.
Jasper looked up. "What did you say to him?"
Alice looked at him seriously, her finely drawn, petite features making her look almost like a china doll. "I said that with eternity stretching in front of him, he should follow his heart on how to fill it."
"Good advice," Jasper said, sitting down on the bed and drawing her onto his lap. The difference in their heights made it easy for Alice to lean her head on his shoulder. She is like a china doll, Jasper thought, my fragile, beautiful china doll.
Alice leaned her head against his shoulder. "I hope it takes him where he needs to go," she whispered.
"Me, too, darling," Jasper murmured, stroking her hair. "Me, too."
Charlie was in his jeep, just twenty minutes out of town, when he became aware of something in the woods that was pacing him. It wasn't until 101 took a turn east that he realized it was a one of the shape shifters in wolf form. Coming around a turn, his headlights caught a figure standing in the middle of the road. It was Seth Clearwater, barefoot and dressed only in cut-offs, his chest heaving with exertion.
Charlie pulled over to the shoulder of the road, sending gravel spinning. He jumped out of the car. "Damn fool!" he shouted, slamming the car door shut. "I could have run you over."
"I wanted to make sure you stopped," Seth said reasonably.
Charlie had a hard time staying mad at Seth. The kid was always so open and amiable; it was like getting mad at a puppy dog. "By using your body as a wall? The jeep would have won, son."
"You're not leaving with the others?" Seth asked.
Charlie sighed and ran his fingers across his mustache. "No. I'm heading out by myself."
"It wasn't my idea to-" Seth started apologetically.
Charlie held his hand up. "I never thought it was. You know, with everything that had gone on before, even before this-" He indicated himself with a wave of his hand. "I needed to get away for a while."
"Things haven't been easy, have they?"
"Not for any of us," Charlie said, thinking that Seth had lost his father and his mother in pretty quick succession.
"Not for any of us," Seth echoed as they each saw the pain of loss in the other's eyes. Loving and losing the same people gave them a bond that was beyond words, a bond of shared grief that would lie at the bottom of their hearts like a still pond.
There was a pause as a solitary car passed them on the other side of the highway.
"Did they…force you?" Seth asked.
"No, no, it was nothing like that." Charlie scuffed his feet. "It's just…" He looked up at the horizon. "I've got to come to terms with what I am now. By myself."
"And if I have to practice controlling this thing, I'd rather do it far away, from where there's people I know."
"Makes sense," Seth agreed.
It hurt Charlie to have to walk away, just when it seemed the Quileutes needed him. The news of the murder weighed on him. "How are Quil and Logan doing?" Charlie asked.
"It's hard. It's hard on all of us." Seth stared at the ground for a moment. "I can't hardly believe one of our own would do such a thing."
"What makes you think it was one of your own?"
"Who else could it be? There wasn't any scent around, no unusual cars. Only thing around was Quileute."
"How was she…?"
Seth grimaced at the ground. "Looks like a stabbing, almost like an ice pick." His face turned uneasy, as if he was feeling physically ill. "Both eyes."
"Were there defensive wounds?"
Seth nodded unhappily. "Scratches on her face and arms."
Grisly, Charlie thought. "Did the feds show?"
"Mark was calling them in. They've got to go through Indian Affairs, since it's on the rez."
"Well, that's good."
Seth snorted derisively. "They're useless. We're better off without them around."
"Well, you should take what help you can get."
They paused as another car approached, its headlights creating twin cones of light that sped past them. "Where are you headed?" Seth asked.
"I don't really know. North, I guess. Somewhere uninhabited. I always wanted to climb Mt. McKinley."
"You got my phone number, right?"
"Yeah, I got it." Charlie shuffled his feet. "Take care of your sister."
"I will. Good-bye, Charlie."
Charlie stuck out his hand, but Seth bypassed it completely, enveloping him in a hug. Charlie was not a small man, but it just pointed out how much Seth had grown as Charlie barely came up to his shoulders. Charlie's nose wrinkled at the smell; yes, there was a faint whiff that called to the bloodlust, but the acrid, slightly sour smell of wolf overpowered it.
"Take care of yourself," Charlie said hoarsely, stepping quickly out of the hug and turning back to the car before his face could reveal the pain he was feeling.
As he drove away, Charlie could see Seth, barely illuminated by the taillights and standing in the middle of the road again, his hand raised in farewell.
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