Disclaimer: Things I own: Season 1 of Dollhouse on DVD
What I don't own: Twilight (though I'd sell my soul for an hour with Jasper) or Dollhouse. They belong to Stephenie Meyer and Joss Whedon respectively. I wish I were that lucky.
Special thanks to my wonderful Beta, lada_8, without whom, my grammar and mistakes would be glaringly obvious.
As promised, this chapter is a lot faster than the last. Thank you for putting up with me being so slow last chapter.
Chapter 7 – Charlie
Laughing a bit as I was pulled into a hug after Charlie got out of his rental car, "Dad, you're here!" I hadn't been trilled at the fact that he was coming for a visit, I'd have to take the time off work, but I couldn't help but feel sort of glad that he'd wanted to visit.
"Well Bells, I couldn't let you just run away without at least checking up on you just once."
Ducking as he tried to pull on the pony tail I had my hair up in, "Come on dad, let's get you settled into my apartment, then I'll take you out to dinner."
ONE WEEK EARLIER
Running up a couple of stairs, only to pull to a stop and start walking down them, "Adele, we might have a problem."
Shuffling the papers that she carried, not even looking towards him, she'd heard that phrase just a few too many times lately, "What is it this time?"
"That new one you just brought in, Delta," his eyes followed the young woman in question who was walking calmly towards the pool. "It has to do with the cover story you created for her."
Stopping short, she turned to him, "What has happened?" They really hadn't been expecting any problems with the cover story. 'Isabella' had been enrolled in the honor program at Fremont, she was on the payroll (though not working at) for the Labs for Rossum to keep the look of her actually going to school. Since all other students in the program lived in dorms, she was set up with a room there as well, in case someone came looking for her.
"There have been some messages on the machine that you set up for her. Apparently her father is questioning the fact that she hasn't kept in touch and is coming down for a visit."
"Is there any way to stop him?"
"Already looked into that, he's booked a flight and a car already."
"Damn it, she has an engagement booked for the weekend. We'll have to put someone else on it."
"You're not thinking of letting her see him are you?"
"We don't have a choice. It's part of the agreement that her family doesn't question why she's here. Of course all of us thought 1 phone call every couple of weeks would make the man happy." At least that's what all the Intel said. He hadn't even really questioned the fact she'd left town so quickly, just seemed pleased that she was doing something that appeared to make her happy. This was the first indication that he may be thinking something else.
"I'll get Topher to make sure the proper protocols are set up."
"No, I'll speak with him," she turned back to the stair case, looking towards the office, "Let Tousey know that November will be going on assignment this weekend and send Carter to me." Not giving him a chance to respond, she started back up the stairs at a brisk pace. The Swan's were going to give her a migraine one of these days and she really didn't have time to deal with that on top of everything else.
THREE WEEKS EARLIER
"I don't know Billy, she calls every couple of weeks and tells me exactly what I want to hear, then says she has go back to work, or class. I want to believe her, I really do, but none of this sits right with me. The kid told me she was going to a movie with friends, and the next day she was gone."
Casting his line back out and leaning into the chair they'd built into their old boat years ago, "You looked into the school right? Everything seemed legitimate?"
Taking a long pull on his Vitamin R, "It almost seemed too easy to get the information I needed. She was accepted into a program for the gifted, she's got a 4.0 average in their program; working in their labs; staying in their dorms... it's all too convenient."
"So take some of that vacation time you refuse to use and go check it out in person, Charlie. Get your ass down there and make sure your daughter is alright. Bring us back some real news so I can get Jake to lay off. He wants to hear how his girl is doing."
"The same Jake that wouldn't talk to her for weeks before she left, then practically busted down my door he when heard she'd left?"
"He was worried Charlie, he does care for her, you know. He was just sick for a while and then he couldn't apologize for being the jerk that he was."
"You weren't much better Billy, refusing to let her even talk to him."
"He didn't want to talk to anyone Charlie, what was I supposed to do?"
"Tell him to get off his high horse and let his friend know that he just needed a little time to get better?" he sighed, "Sorry, I'm just frustrated. So, vacation time you think?"
"Yeah, now shut up, you're scaring away all the fish."
She lead him into the small apartment she'd acquired a few weeks earlier, it wasn't much, but she could just afford the small 1 bedroom on her salary. Since her classes were covered by the scholarship she'd been awarded for her outstanding grades in the program, beating out her fellow students who'd been there the whole year; she wasn't worried about tuition, just a place to stay. She didn't want to stay in the dorms any longer than she had to.
"You can take the bed, I'll sleep on the couch, dad." Putting the bag she'd taken from him and placing it on her bed, "I'm going to have to go into the lab to check on one of my projects a couple of times and I don't want to disturb you if I get in too late."
"Don't dad, I'll feel bad if I wake you up. I may not be working, but I still have to keep up with my studies." She picked up several text books and started moving them into the other room, "why are you here anyway?"
"I was worried Bells, you just disappeared."
"I couldn't pass up the offer. I know I said quite a few times how much I wanted to stay in Forks, but..." she looked around her small place, "I was wrong. I actually feel better here. I've made some new friends. I've got a job I love. I'm even doing well in school. As hard as it's been here, living on my own, I've really become my own person. I don't even think of what chased me away any more."
"So you haven't seen any of them? I thought they were here in LA."
"Why would I? There are over 17 million people in this city. Seven of which, I have no desire to ever see again. They had no bearing on me coming here. Actually I had almost forgotten that they had even resided in this city. If I had thought of it, I would have never come here to begin with." She fought the urge to wrap her arms around her mid-section again, she'd finally stopped doing that a couple of months ago.
"No unexpected visits to the ER then?" He shot her a grin, knowing her history.
"Nothing that couldn't be taken care of at the school clinic," she laughed lightly. "Actually, I started taking yoga classes just after I got here, and it's helped a lot. I don't fall down half as often now."
"Yoga? Did Renee talk you into that? "
"Nope," popping the 'p', "Jenny and Ashlee; my roommates at the dorm did. It helps after a long day of class and work. I've even started swimming at the on campus gym three times a week."
"You hated gym, Bella."
"Only because I was forced to take it. They'd always make me do things that would put other people in danger. Now the only person who can get hurt, is me. And trust me dad, some of the moves that I have to do in Yoga... well, I got kicked out of the high end class for a few more months until I can get all the mid-line moves down."
"You hurt yourself?" he couldn't help but grin again at the blush that passed over her face.
Turning into her small kitchen to grab a bottle of water, "Only took out myself, two other class mates and the instructor when I tried to do the Eagle Pose. After that she suggested that I move back a level and when I was ready, I could come back."
Rummaging around her fridge, "I got one of the girls to pick up a case of Vitamin R for you, while you're here. Do you want one now, or when we get back from dinner? I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping yet, so the cupboards are a little bare."
"I'll have one later, Bells. So you're taking me out to dinner tonight are you?" He gave her a wink, fully intending on paying, "Where are we going?"
"There is this great little pub just off campus that I found the first week I was here." Noting his look, "Don't worry Charlie, I'm not drinking anything more than a white chocolate mocha espresso double shot when I get too caught up between classes, homework and my job. Otherwise, it's just water and coke."
"21 Bella, I don't want to hear about you drinking until then. Frat parties or not."
"I don't do Frat parties dad, I don't have time for Frat parties with my schedule. Hell, with everything I do, I hardly have time to do things like get food..." she gulped back the bottle of water she was holding, emptying half the bottle, "I would have done it before you got here, but when I checked the time on your flight, I realized it was running early and I hadn't cleaned up in here."
He looked around, noting a couple of unopened boxes in the corner, "Still unpacking I see."
"Yeah. I figured you didn't want to walk into my clothes sprawled over every flat surface in this place," blushing a bit. "Is there anything you want to do while you're here dad?"
"Spend time with you? Maybe see this place that has you so busy that you can only take 5 minutes to call me every couple of weeks. Not to say I'm not proud of you kid. You've worked real hard, I just worry."
"It's fine, come on, before we both start crying over nothing." She led him out of the room and locked the door behind them.
"Bells, you can't tell me you understand all that stuff you just showed me in there?" He'd gotten up when he heard her puttering around the small apartment earlier in the morning and insisted that he come along with her. His excuse was that they wouldn't have to double back to show him the labs later on.
There really wasn't much to do while he watched her sit on a tall stool hunched over a microscope and jotting down notes and she changed slides. She'd tried to get him to go off and get something to eat, stating she was going to be a while, but there was something about watching her work, knowing that she really was doing the job she said she was.
"Of course, they wouldn't let me play around with the slides otherwise dad." She rolled her eyes and laughed when he shrugged, "You're the one who wanted to watch me work this morning. I told you I was going to be going to be gone at odd hours. I have to go back tonight and check on the growth, , but that won't take as long. It's just a little time-consuming making sure that everything is coming along nicely."
"So what are you doing in there?"
"Nope, sorry dad, I can't tell you that. It might jinx the project and then my partner will kill me," she laughed again. "Actually, I'm just studying how bacteria grow right now. I won't be doing anything really exciting for a few more semesters, when they start to trust me with the really interesting stuff."
"Never thought you'd go into sciences, Bells," it was one of the reasons this whole thing bothered him so much.
"Neither did I, but as I got into the classes, I found the writing courses really weren't what I wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I still love writing. Next semester I'm taking every 101 that my scholarship will cover while keeping up my GPA. If you think I'm busy now, just wait till the fall classes start. This will seem like a breeze."
"You think you'll be coming home anytime soon Bells? Everyone's been worried about you and I know Jake would love to see you again."
"No dad, I'm not. Getting away from Forks was probably the best thing I could have done. I'm going to put all my focus on school right now. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to go back without it hurting my heart too much, but right now... it's best I stay here. Where I can forget being a zombie. Where people don't look at me funny because the doctor's son left me. No one here knows that Bella, dad. Oh, I was a bit of a mess for the first little while I was here, but the girls wouldn't let me wallow. I'm getting to learn who I am again." She sighed and sank further back into her second hand couch, "I'm sorry, I know you want me there, but if it's any conciliation, I don't want to go to Phoenix or Jacksonville either. I don't want the reminders of him or his family."
"And yet you moved to LA."
"Again; a city of 17 million people; I'm sure even if I see one of them, I could lose them again quickly. He made it rather clear that they didn't want to see me anyway. I'm not going to search them out and I know they won't come looking for me. So, drop it. Your flight leaves early tomorrow morning and I don't want to spend the time fighting."
"Alright, alright, I believe you," he finished off his beer and sighed, "If you won't come home, you think maybe Jake could come down here for a visit so…"
Jumping up and storming over to the window, which only showed the next building, "NO! God damn it Charlie! I don't want to hear about either of the assholes, okay? Just leave it the hell alone. You can tell him I'm fine. That I'm happy, working hard and that I don't want to hear from him again. Got it?"
"Okay, I've got it. No talk about the guys back in Forks." He stood up as well, approaching her slowly, trying not to startle her, "He knows he's an ass you know."
"I don't care, I really don't..." she scrubbed at her cheeks.
"Any guys out here?"
"Like I have time for a love life, Charlie. No, nothing."
"Got it... leave it all the hell alone right?"
"So, I'm guessing since we never got to the store, we're eating out again."
"Shit, I'm sorry dad. I've been a horrible host: taking you to work with me, not having any groceries in the house. "
"If I remember correctly, I wasn't any better when you moved in with me and I hadn't just moved into a new place. Let me take you out to dinner and then we can hit a 24 hour place. The Walmart should have what you need right?"
"Yeah, let's get out of here for a bit and enjoy that rental you got. A Lexus dad? I didn't know you realized what kind of car that even was."
"Bella..." he shook her shoulder gently; she was sprawled face down on the couch, snoring slightly. "Bells, come on, I want to at least get a hug before I have to go."
"Mmm, dad," she yawned, stretching, "what?"
"Time to get up sweetheart, I've got to leave for the airport in a few minutes," he couldn't help but smile again as she sat up, running a hand through her hair, a couple of creases on her cheek from where she had been pressed against the pillow for so long.
"But you don't have to leave until 10..."
"It's almost 10 now."
"What? Oh dad, I'm so sorry, I slept through our last few hours together." She reached out and hugged him tightly.
"I didn't want to wake you, you take care of yourself, okay?" he squeezed her back, not wanting to leave, but feeling better than he had in a long time about her being here.
"Only if you do," she yawned as she pulled away reluctantly, "sorry."
"You got yourself a deal there and don't worry about it." He laughed softly; the weight that had been on his shoulders before he came out this past weekend had lifted slightly. His little girl was doing well for herself. "Love you Bells, I expect another call in a couple of weeks."
"Of course. I love you too."
"Hello Delta. How are you felling?"
"Did I fall asleep?"
"For a little while."
"Shall I go now?"
"If you'd like."
ONE WEEK FOLLOWING
"So how was she, Charlie?"
"Really good, busy with school, work and everything else in her life, but she's living again, Billy. Never thought I'd see it after all those months she was a mess here." He tugged at his line a bit, while taking a swig of his beer.
"She coming back?"
"Nope, and doesn't want to hear from Jake either. Damn near kicked me out when I suggested he come down for a visit."
"That pissed off?"
"She swore at me. Sounded just like her mother." He smirked as Billy laughed.
"I'll tell Jake to lay off then."
"Good, now you shut up, you're the one scaring the fish away."
"Shut it, Swan."
"Make me, Black..."
They both laughed and settled in for a relaxing day of fishing.