I know I'm still behind on updates for the other two fics - I can't seem to find a good place to continue them. One day. This ideas been bouncing around in my head for some time and I wanted to jot it down. I hope you enjoy it. I love Charlie (or well, Billy Burke's portrayal of Charlie).
No copyright infringement intended. All characters belong to Stephenie Meyers. I just like to make them do my bidding.
Charles Swan watched as the tail lights of the sleek black Mercedes faded away into the woods, the designer heels attached to the bumper of the car clacking along in the gravel. He was aware of the sounds of chatter, laughter, and applause surrounding him. But he couldn't find it in himself to move or hear past the overwhelming pounding of his heart. The noise was muffled, like he was underwater. His chest ached as he accepted that his daughter was now an adult. She was married at the mere age of eighteen. And he knew deep down Bella would be fine. She was always wise beyond her years. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered if Sue would be able to take care of him as well as Bella did. He felt a twinge of guilt and shame at the fact that his teenage daughter even had take care of his basic needs in the first place. He pushed the pain down as far as he could, but was unable to ignore the feeling completely. It danced behind the cacophony of his thoughts.
Renee blew her nose noisily into a handkerchief next to him, interrupting the thumping in his ears and bringing him back to the surface.
"Oh Charlie..." She breathed between quiet sobs. "I can't believe it."
"You were the one okay with this." He replied gruffly, swallowing the large lump in his throat. He didn't mean to sound accusatory, but he couldn't help the betrayal he still felt with Renee.
She sighed, looking out into the giant trees that surrounded the Cullen's massive property. They stood silently, watching the lights in the trees twinkle happily back at them. The crowd around them began to disperse out into their cars or back into the house. It seemed like most people were staying, save for the Quileute elders.
"I know. It just seems so surreal. Our baby girl is married. Married! " Renee sniffled with a nod.
From behind them, Carlisle and Esme made an announcement to everyone that there were desserts and refreshments back inside. Charlie was aware that there was still a slice of wedding cake with his name on it, sitting uneaten on his plate. He couldn't bring himself to have an appetite. He barely ate during the reception. The champagne had tasted like sand in his mouth.
He nodded at the beautiful couple, noticing that Esme had a tone of sympathy in her eyes. She gave him a small smile.
Renee blew her nose one last time and crammed the handkerchief back into her clutch. Charlie gazed at her as she wiped her eyes gently with her fingers and checked the tips for any residual makeup. She looked up at him and gave him a watery smile.
Charlie could see in her eyes the history that they shared together. They crashed into his memory like a wave. He could remember so very clearly, the day they moved into that small white house. And the day Renee surprised him with yellow cabinets when he came home from work, paint splattered on her clothing and the tile floor. He remembered running to the local deli to grab her the pickles she craved during her pregnancy, or how quiet Bella was when she was born. He remembered bringing Bella home and watching her fall asleep for the first time. He remembered the pain he felt, watching as his wife slowly withdrew inwards, replaced by a stranger. The sound the front door made as it slammed in his face. Not once, but twice. He hadn't healed from the wound Renee left as she stormed out. When Bella repeated that cycle in her first year living in Forks, it had opened back up completely. He had spent the night Bella left drinking beers and passing out in his clothing on the sofa in the living room. He had left the television on and turned up the volume all the way to maximum to try and drown the noise out of his head. He spent the night and the next day wondering why this was the cycle he was doomed to live. He had called in sick to work the next day, stewing in his misery. At some point he tried to scrape the remnants of the yellow paint off the tile in the kitchen.
Charlie stared at Renee now. She wasn't the same young woman he had fallen in love with. He saw her age in her skin, the way she styled her hair, even how her posture had changed. But her eyes were still wild and childlike, albeit weathered around the edges. He remembered cold dreary mornings where he kissed her forehead in the dawn light. Or her playful swats on his arm as he gave her a passing squeeze while she tried to do laundry (and failed). He remembered every detail about their life together and about her likes and dislikes. His heart ached still, but to his surprise the ache was starting to feel little more dull.
Charles Swan realized then that he had spent decades hurt by this woman. He had held onto the pain like a safety blanket. He had held onto fear of abandonment only for it to happen again. The truth of the matter was, in life people come and go. His daughter wasn't going to stay under his roof forever. Deep down, Charlie knew this. She was her own person, had her own choices and her own life to live. Either she was going to go to college (which he preferred still), or move out and live as an adult until she got married. And realistically, he knew that one day everyone is faced with death. He knew that this life wasn't forever. But part of him wanted it to be. He wanted to have more time with his daughter. He wanted to have more time in the bubble and safety of a small town, with her there. He hadn't had enough time with her.
He knew he held onto her more than necessary, and he knew that was the guilt that he felt for not being in her life more. He could've followed them to Arizona. He could've ignored Renee's wishes and taken aggressive legal action to gain custody of his only child. But her abandonment had left him feeling weak and deeply insecure. He had resigned himself to his punishment. His terminal bachelor life. He lived in that headspace for far too long. He had convinced himself that he had embraced it. Beers and fishing with the guys. Working with the guys. He had avoided women, convincing himself that no one would be able to fill the void.
Charlie's regret deepened when he realized he was in his forties and finally coming to terms with his ex-wife's abandonment. Granted, the company he had in Sue Clearwater had helped ease him back into the world of attraction and feeling any kind of emotion again. She had been patient with him. Had used kid gloves to ease him back into being with anyone in any capacity. He had once told her he was broken beyond any kind of repair. But he realized now that it was possible to be fixed. He accepted now that no one else was going to fix him for him. He had to do it himself. Sue wasn't going to heal his wounds. Bella wasn't going to fix him. Sue could provide comfort or safety while he worked through his pain, but she wasn't the answer either.
Phil, young and handsome in his fitted tuxedo, emerged from the mansion to plant a large smooch on Renee's cheek. His lips smacking against her face. She leaned into him as he wrapped his large muscular arms around her.
"There's cake and pastries inside, honey. I think we should get some food in you and coffee too. It's a long drive back to Seattle." Phil said to her, giving Charlie a pointed glance. "You should eat something too, Chief. It's been a long day for you both."
Charlie nodded and waved them along. "You guys go help yourselves. I'm gonna stay here for a bit."
"Gotcha. We'll save you a seat." Phil's eyes were understanding, even if he had no children of his own. The closest thing to a child he had in his life was his wife. Charlie wondered why they decided to stay in Seattle. Port Angeles was far closer. And even more so, the motel right here in town. Did the Cullens not offer lodging in their large home?
Charlie grunted in response and turned back to the lawn as Phil walked Renee back into the mansion. It didn't matter where she was staying. He knew it was none of his business anymore.
He took a step down to the edge of the staircase and plopped down. He didn't want to go back inside just yet. He wasn't feeling up for company. Even Renee and Phil felt too crowded. He just wanted five minutes to gather his feelings, to let them wash over him, before he turned back into the Chief everyone in town knew him as. He was good at being The Chief. His dry sense of humor seemed to work on everyone. He was able to read people easily. He didn't want to disrupt the celebrations inside with his mood.
He gazed around the yard at the lights and the thousands of flowers hanging from the trees. He had to admit it, Alice and Esme did a phenomenal job. He wondered how many teams they had to hire to pull of an event of his caliber. The flowers looked like they were individually hung along the branches, they were spaced apart in exactly the same amount of space. The things people spend their money on, he thought, shaking his head.
He was happy that his daughter was able to get a dream wedding, even if she fought every step of the way. He smiled to himself, remembering the Vegas wedding he and Renee shared. The poorly impersonated Elvis officiating. The smell of fake flowers and plastic in the chapel. They were young and didn't care. They had no idea what the future held, they just wanted each other. At the time it felt very romantic. In hindsight, he just felt naive. He was glad his daughter didn't follow that route, and that her (Charlie cringed) husband insisted that they do it the traditional way. He also knew Alice had a big part in that convincing. Alice could do anything she wanted in her life, he was sure of it. She had somehow convinced him to wear a custom fitted designer tuxedo right? And it wasn't even a rental! She insisted that every man needed a proper tux at some point in his life.
Charlie heard the quiet plunk of a can setting down next to him, and saw a pale hand dropping down a Rainier beer on the top step. He looked up to see Alice smiling down at him. Speak of the devil! He thought, stifling a smile. He felt his mustache twitch.
"Hiya Charlie!" She chirped. She gracefully stepped around him to sit neatly on his other side. "Are you having a nice time?"
"This is a beautiful wedding Alice." He replied, giving her a proper smile in return. "You did a wonderful job."
"Thank you." She responded politely. "I'm happy Bella liked it."
"You knew she would eventually, didn't you? Somehow?" Charlie asked, nudging her with his elbow. He winced internally at how hard her ribs were. He would have a bruise later, he was sure of it.
Alice chuckled as she nodded.
"Thanks for the beer." He added. She turned and gave him a wink.
"Had a feeling you might need them today."
"As always, you were right." He amended, taking a long sip. The beer tasted cool and refreshing. It was delicious and just the right thing to bring him comfort in the moment. Alice always seemed to know what he needed mere seconds before he even really knew he needed them. As strange as it was at times, he found comfort in this behavior.
They sat together, not speaking but listening to the sounds around them. Charlie watched as Alice settled her head on her knees and traced patterns into the wooden step with a delicate finger. The crickets chirped loudly, almost drowning out the beats echoing from inside the house. The party sounded like it was continuing without the honorary couple. He absently wondered what Sue was doing.
"You know she'll be okay right? Bella?" Alice said, looking at him. Charlie stared into her golden eyes and saw that she was speaking the truth.
"I know." He said, sipping again. "But I always worry for her. She's always going to be my little Bells."
"I understand." Alice said lightly. "I just want you to know that we all love her so much. She's already a sister to me, and Esme attends to her every need before Bella even knows them. She's really good at that. Sometimes it feels like she was born to be caring."
"Good. Bella deserves some taking care of. She's done enough of that for Renee and I her entire life."
"Edward is really good at taking care of her too." Alice said, giving him a pointed glance. Charlie scowled, causing Alice to smile.
"I can see that now." He grumbled.
Alice stood up and placed her cold hand on his shoulder. She gave it a soft rub.
"You can worry about yourself now, Charlie." She said, giving him one firm pat. "You deserve it too."
With that she vanished into the house again.
Charlie watched her walk back into the pulsing lights and music. He felt her words ringing in his ears, and felt them deep within his bones. He felt some energy returning. Or maybe he was feeling a slight buzz, he wasn't sure. It didn't really matter.
This chapter of his life, his daughters life, even his ex-wife's life was coming to a close. Large changes were looming on the horizon, if not already coming to pass. Charlie checked inwards for the first time in what felt like forever. He took a moment to ask himself if he was okay. When he found that he actually was, he finished the remaining dregs of his beer and stood. He looked out at the bright twinkling lights once more, breathing in deep and trying to welcome this new feeling. He took a deep breath.
By the time he had turned around to face the open doors into the house, he felt ready to face whatever was next. He felt like he was even up for some wedding cake. Or maybe even some dancing? Who knew what the night could bring. He had no idea, but could feel the excitement starting to creep into his bones.
It was then that Charles Swan finally took a step forward, ready to live his life once again.
Thank you for reading.