A/N: Welcome, and thanks for indulging in my first fic! I'm very new to this FF thing, so be gentle with me.
A huge thank you and Emmett-style bear hug goes out to my kick-ass Beta, larin20…or as I affectionately call her, The Beta Master. Check out her fic, Treading Water. She is one awesome chick and an amazing writer.
Also a big shout-out to my dear friend, Kimmy. Thanks for your amazing input and big conversations on a certain actor that I may, or may not be obsessed with. You rock!
Stephanie Meyer owns, I just manipulate. 'Nuff said.
I have been having the same unusual dream for two weeks straight.
I'm lying in a meadow… a flat stretch of land, circular in shape with beautiful wild flowers surrounding the thick patch of grass. A large Maple tree is miraculously shading me, acting as an umbrella from the constant rainfall. My surroundings instantly remind me of Forks, Washington. My hometown. The constant rain and cloud cover is hauntingly familiar. Why the hell am I in Forks? I haven't been back home in years.
I'm just lying there in the grass, tears streaming down my face.
What am I crying about?
I'm watching the scene play out as if I'm an outside observer, intruding on someone's most private moment. I am alone, the ominous silence of the forest surrounding me... until a shadowy figure makes his way through the brush, slow and graceful, almost like a cat. I know it is a man, but I cannot see his face. He kneels down in the grass next to me, and runs his thumb across my cheekbone softly, wiping my tears away. It's the most tender touch I have ever felt. The remnants of his thumb's heat leave paths across my face.
A strong sense of relief washes over me as he pulls me closer to him, until my head is lying on his chest and my hand is on his heart. Upon my touch, his once frantic heartbeat slows to a steady rhythm. He is so calming, which in turn reassures me. He gently whispers a kiss into my hair, and begins to speak.
"Oh, my Bella. It's ok. I'm here, shh. It's all going to be alright. I'm here."
His comforting words and angelic voice halt my tears and fill my heart with more love and peace that I've never felt in my waking life. This compels the outside observer version of myself to be utterly confused. I didn't know I was capable of dreaming up a man as wonderful, as perfect as him. But his face…why can't I see it? I'm close enough to breathe in his heavenly scent, to feel the warmth of his body pressed against me, yet his face is a blur.
Who is this wonderful, faceless man?
I woke up to my phone ringing, still frazzled by the dream. I shook my head and cleared my thoughts again, focusing my eyesight as I blinked continuously in the darkness.
Who could it be at this hour?
I looked at my alarm clock, it was 2:00am. Shit. I felt blindly for the phone on my bedside table, finally picking it up by the fourth ring. This better be good, I thought sleepily.
"Hello", I whispered hoarsely.
"Um, yes. Is this Isabella Swan?" The voice on the other end of the line was solemn…and somehow familiar.
"It's Bella. And who is this?" I said impatiently, fully awake now, and annoyed at the hour.
"I'm sorry Miss, my name is Deputy Edward Cullen, from the Forks Police Department."
I vaguely remembered Charlie talking about an Edward, he was his right hand man at the police department. He'd hired him right after I had moved to Jacksonville, so I'd never met him.
"Yes, of course. Is everything alright?" I asked, a bad feeling creeping into the pit of my stomach.
"Ms. Swan," he said, a startling sense of grief evident in his voice. "I am so sorry, but I have some bad news."
"What is it, is Charlie ok?" I cried. This could not be good. Every negative feeling started to well in my stomach, as I was terrified of what this man was going to tell me.
"There was an accident. Bella, your father…" His voice trailed off into an uncomfortable silence. "He's been hurt."
Just like mom. He's going to leave me… just like mom.
Those words helplessly played over and over in my head as I quickly made the arrangements for my flight, as my tears now uncontrollably streamed down my face. I tried not to think about what I'd walk into when I reached the hospital. I didn't want to expect the worst, but I knew I was lying to myself.
Fucking hospitals, I thought angrily.
I had seen enough hospitals to last me a lifetime when Renee was sick. The hospital smell alone was enough to make me physically ill. But as much as I loathed hospitals, Charlie needed me. At least my mom had Phil when she was sick, Charlie has no one.
I was then hit with a sudden wave of guilt for leaving Charlie six years ago. I began to think about all the time I'd missed with him. Sure, we talked to each other on the phone religiously, but in essence, he was alone. As I hurriedly packed my suitcase, I wondered if I would get the chance to make it up to him.
My flight from Jacksonville took off at 6:20 this morning. On such short notice, I couldn't get a direct flight, so I had to stop in Atlanta before taking the five and a half-hour flight to Seattle. Time to think is not a good thing when you are rushing to your dying father's bedside. It was all I seemed to do in transit, and I couldn't help but remember the voice on the other line alerting me to my father's accident. Edward Cullen. It jarred my mind that this voice was so familiar, but for the life of me I couldn't place it. I don't think I'd ever talked to him before, but I was sure I'd get to know him soon enough back home.
After sufficiently breaking down on the phone with Edward Cullen, he proceeded to tell me some of the details of what happened. Apparently, Charlie was on a routine disturbance call, when someone came up from behind and shot him point blank, in the head. Edward said that he is in surgery now, and I needed to get there as soon as possible.
Now thinking back on our conversation, it occurred to me that this Edward Cullen was very upset, even as much as I was. But he tried to be strong for my sake, I guessed, because he didn't break down like I did. I wondered to myself if that meant that Charlie was better or worse than I imagined in my head. Still, there was something in Edward's voice…it seemed that he cared for my father very much. I think I could tell his sincerity right off but I still wondered how, or why, he placed my father in such high regard. Knowing Charlie, he probably took Edward under his wing. Knowing that Edward Cullen was with him while I was not stilled my nerves and put me at ease somehow. Maybe Charlie wasn't alone, after all.
After the never-ending drive to Forks from Seattle in the crappy rental car, I finally reached the hospital around three, local time. I was running on adrenaline alone after the flight and long drive to get here. I tried unsuccessfully to accept in my mind that Charlie would be ok as I took the elevator to the ICU. I didn't know what I would find when I walked through those doors. I was petrified.
I felt my body moving in slow motion as I quietly opened the door to Charlie's room. I cautiously made my way to his bedside, the tears falling down in streams from my eyes as I gasped aloud to see his head bandaged with tubes and needles piercing my father's skin. It was the most horrifying sight I had ever witnessed. Charlie was always so strong, yet in this bed he looked so weak, crumpled, and broken.
"Dad?" I whispered, my voice cracking as I reached for his hand. "No, no, no. Daddy, please…"
My legs went numb as I slumped down to the floor by his bed, sobbing uncontrollably now.
Suddenly I heard the rustling sound of someone fast approaching me, and before I knew what was happening, I was being pulled up by a set of a man's strong arms, clutching me to his chest. He smelled clean and strong, like bar soap mixed with faint traces of cologne.
"Oh my, Bella." He cried, gripping me tightly in his arms. "It's ok. I'm here, shh. It's all going to be alright." I told myself I'd be strong for Charlie, but I was failing miserably. "He's the toughest and bravest man I know. He's going to make it. He has to make it."
I looked up into the eyes of the man who caught me. His eyes were piercing with a richness I had never seen. They looked upon me, golden brown in color, full of panic and sadness. I tried to speak, but the words failed me. All of a sudden, I felt my breath quicken, my heart pounded in my chest. My head was swimming, the ringing in my ears was deafening. This is too much to bear, I thought, as my mind went fuzzy and my body went limp, and then everything faded to black as I felt my body start to fall.
After working with Charlie for the last six years, I felt like I already knew Isabella Swan. I'd seen countless pictures and heard story after story by her doting father. It always seemed as though I had a kinship with her, like I was part of her life even though we'd never met. Perhaps it was the fact that we had Charlie in common.
After my parents were gone, I had no one, other than Emmett and Alice. But my siblings were so wrapped up in their own grief, I couldn't burden them with mine as well. After their death, I was more determined than ever to find a purpose in my life. To somehow make them proud of me from the grave. Two weeks later, I enrolled in the police academy.
After that, getting the job in Forks led me to meet the most influential man in my life. Charlie Swan. The chief instantly took to me and I to him, and over time he became a sort of father figure. My eagerness to gain his approval was no doubt connected to my wanting to gain my dead parents' approval.
Dr. Phil would have a field day with that.
Charlie was always there, listening quietly if I needed to vent and providing a shoulder to lean on, on my bad days. He was a great man, and a great friend.
The thought of him in the past tense gave me a sudden feeling of emptiness and grief, all too familiar. I had to shake the negative image from my mind before I went insane. When I heard of Charlie's incident, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I mean, nothing happens in Forks! Of all the places, all the times to be on duty; I should have been the one to go out on that call. But Charlie insisted with a clever smile, "I haven't seen any action in this town on a long time, Edward. It doesn't sound bad, and I'll be back to the mundane soon enough."
He cracked one last smile before I watched him exit the front door, to his cruiser parked out front.
I don't think he was counting on this. No one could've known what would happen.
Now it is my job to notify the family, his only family. His Isabella. This will be the most difficult thing I've ever had to do, but I've got to be strong for her. This young woman is undoubtedly the most important thing in Charlie's life. Charlie's baby girl.
She will most definitely be devastated by the news I'm about to share with her. She'll need someone, too. And after the loss of her mother to cancer a few years ago, this will be even harder for her. She shouldn't have to go through this alone.
So, I made a promise to myself that I would look after this girl, because Charlie would want me to. I just hope that I'm strong enough to do this.
I let my head fall back with a heavy sigh as I thought to myself what I was going to say or do. It made me nervous, but really this sort of thing was part of my job. It didn't mean it got any easier, however, no matter who it was. The dreaded phone call was as heart wrenching for me as it was for the family I was informing. But this time the family was closer to my heart than I was used to, and it tore me up inside that I was the responsible party to break the news.
My hands began to tremble as I dialed Isabella's number. I almost hung up on the fourth ring, but then the tired whisper of a female voice answered.
"Hello", she breathed, sounding groggy. My heart was beating out of my chest. I can't do this, I can't do this, I kept thinking to myself. My palms were sweaty as I held the phone firm to my ear. I cleared my throat to begin. I have to do this.
"Um, yes. Is this Isabella Swan?" I asked, knowing it was her on the line, even though I've never heard her voice...but trying to delay the inevitable. This was the worst phone call I ever had to make.
After giving Bella some of the details of Charlie's condition, she informed me that she would be on the next available flight. I bid her a safe trip, and told her I would be here with Charlie when she arrived. She seemed to be grateful that I was here for him. She had no way of knowing that I couldn't be anywhere else. I had to be here for my dearest friend. And by association, I would be here for her, too. I let out an exasperated sigh, sliding back into the chair by Charlie's bed. I was exhausted, but fighting it, thinking I could just wait here quietly until they wheeled Charlie back into the room after surgery.
Of all the fucked up things about this situation, the worst part was the waiting. A wave of worst case scenarios crashed in and out of my mind. How could he possibly survive this? Would he be the same Charlie I'd grown to love and respect? What if he has permanent brain damage because of this? The thought of him being helpless and dependent on others to sustain life was ripping my heart out. Charlie would never want to be a vegetable or a shell of his former self. It just wasn't in his programming. Picturing him like this made me clench my eyes shut to rid my mind of such intrusiveness.
I tried to think positively, as Charlie always advised me to do when I was at my weakest. I found it eerily ironic that the one person I could always lean on in a time like this was down the hall, fighting for his own life. As I drifted off into a restless sleep, my mind wandered to what was in store for me when Bella arrived. I hoped that I could make him proud by doing what he couldn't right now; I was being here for Bella, to bring some comfort to his only child. I'd have plenty of time to drown in my own grief later.
When I opened my weary eyes a while later, I saw that Charlie was lying in the bed next to my chair. I felt my breathing speed up erratically as I rubbed my eyes, letting them focus. He was very still, with his eyes shut and a large bandage around his head. It was tearing my heart apart to see the tubes and needles keeping him stable; this once strong man lay there, so vulnerable.
I got up slowly, needing to stretch my legs for a bit. I decided that now would be a good time to find the doctor, to get as much information as possible about his condition before Bella arrived. A cup of lousy hospital coffee wouldn't be a bad idea, either. While walking down the long corridor to the nurse's station, my mind started to wander.
He would have a fit over all this, I thought to myself. I recalled a time at the PD's annual blood drive, where we had to practically pin Charlie down for him to donate his blood. After over an hour of the nurse trying to convince him that he would be fine, he relented. But not before rattling every curse word in the English language. Then he looked to me and said, "You know, I don't know why they need my damned blood! Everybody in the whole goddamned town is here!" I couldn't help but laugh. Big, bad Chief of Police…was scared of needles. The guys at the station still gave him a hard time about that.
When I got to the nurse's station, the charge nurse informed me that the doctor was with a patient, but would be in shortly to talk to me. I got a cup of coffee out of the vending machine, and walked back to Charlie's room. I silently wondered how long I'd have to wait for the doctor to arrive. I sluggishly entered the doorway to Charlie's room, and froze.
A girl… a woman was there, sitting on the floor beside Charlie's bed, her head in her hands, crying without restraint. Her dark brown hair surrounded her face like a curtain, her body shaking uncontrollably as she wept. The realization hit me like a tidal wave.
Without thinking, I ran to the other side of the bed and scooped her up, my hands trembling. I clutched her to my chest, wrapping her in my arms. I felt helpless as I tried to think of something, anything that would console her.
After a few moments, I decided to just stop thinking about it, and be there for her. I whispered words of comfort, praying that it was even slightly helping her. She lifted her head like it weighed a hundred pounds, and looked into my eyes for the first time. What I saw almost took my breath away.
Bella Swan was beautiful, more so than anyone I had ever seen. Her long brown chestnut hair cascaded around her shoulders. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying, but there was no masking their haunted beauty. They were a beautiful chocolate and toffee mixture with hints of gold flecks that seemed to bounce as the light touched them. She wore the most heartbreaking expression on her face as I held her. And although the situation shouldn't warrant this reaction, I was in complete awe of her. She allowed me to see someone so unguarded, so childlike I almost got lost in the emotion she seemed to pour into me.
My need to console her was no longer simply out of obligation to Charlie anymore. I wanted to be here. I wanted to see her through this. I wanted to know all about her. How is it that we'd never met before? My heart and mind literally ached with the thought that I went my whole life thus far, and didn't share it with her.
Then, before I could say or do anything else, I felt her breathing speed up erratically, her eyes glazed over. Panic shot through me as I spoke her name. I caught her limp, fragile body in my arms as her body fell limp, and her eyes suddenly rolled back, then closed.
And for the second time that day, I felt my heart being ripped out of my chest.