A/N Last chapter. Still not mine.
Charlie started the walk towards his car, then stopped as something occurred to him. He looked back, puzzled.
"So, this is not really all that relevant now I suppose, but I am curious Bella. If you never intended to go to that damned girls choice dance what the hell were you so worked up about that night? Something was going on, I'm sure of it."
Bella looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, and Edward didn't look much better.
There was a guffaw of laughter from the front porch. Emmett was still lounging there, looking vastly entertained.
"Oh Chief, you still don't know the answer to that? Did you never wonder why Bella was so tired all the time that she went to bed so early? Every night!? Jeez you were gullible dude! What teenage girl needs that much sleep?"
Bella sent threatening glares towards Emmett while trying to think of something quickly to explain it without lying again. Edward was desperately trying to signal his brother to shut up but it made no difference. Emmett was having way too much fun with this.
"Bella already gave you a clue Chief. She told you it hurt them when they didn't see each other; that they were both uneasy when the other wasn't around – you get it yet?" Emmett was so overwhelmingly smug – very definitely the cat who swallowed the canary, his voice going all high and girly as he imitated Bella's voice, quoting her.
Charlie was still looking confused. He was shaking his head slowly, not understanding what Emmett was trying to tell him.
Emmett laughed again, absolutely delighted to be on the scene to see Charlies face. Bella could see Jasper and Alice upstairs too with their faces pressed against the window to see too. Carlisle and Esme were at the family room window, at least trying not to let Charlie see them. The only one missing was Rose...no there she was, peeking around the garage door still with a gigantic grin on her face.
Bella knew Emmett just loved to drop bombshells. He was waiting for just the right amount of anticipation to build. Oh god, please no! She begged to herself! Help me think of a reason, quickly....
God was obviously out of the office today.
"Who the hell do you think was upstairs waiting for her every night? That window of hers got more traffic than your front door ever did." Emmett snickered loudly, "Tell me Eddie, how do door knobs work again? Ever figure it out?"
Edward's eyes were as wide and shocked as Bella's. What was Emmett thinking?!
Charlie's jaw dropped, disbelief on his face, followed swiftly by fury. Then he swung to glare at Edward, who had let go of Bella, and had his hands up and was backing slowly away.
"Now Charlie, it isn't as bad as it sounds..."
"Tell me Edward, whatever makes you think that your staying overnight in my seventeen year old daughter's bedroom – every night! – could ever be anything but bad?" His voice was rose louder and louder until he was shouting.
"Dad." Bella said firmly. "Edward was only seventeen as well-" Physically anyway...
"How is that even relevant Isabella?"
"But we didn't do anything! We just talked and cuddled a bit. Maybe kissed. That's it." Bella's voice was desperate; this was NOT something she had ever intended Charlie finding out. He'd just started to accept Edward.
Charlie still looked like he was about to explode, his hand reaching for his hip holster. Carlisle and Esme hurried outside to intervene; it wouldn't do for Charlie to shoot Edward after all. That really would be difficult to explain. Charlie spun towards them.
"And you! How could you not know where your teenage son was every night?"
Carlisle spoke. "We knew exactly where he was Charlie. But think for a minute. Put this into context with what you learned today and when you first knew Bella had become like us. And remember that they are married now. Everything turned out just fine."
"What are you talking about?" Charlie was not in the mood to calm yet.
"Come on Jasper, some help here?" Bella begged quietly so Charlie wouldn't hear. She didn't hold up much hope though, he and Alice were in hysterics. He'd have to get a hold of himself first. She turned her hopes and attention back to Carlisle as he attempted to explain.
"Once we fall in love, that's it. For life, Charlie. That's not just a cliché for us. When he fell in love with Bella it didn't matter how old Edward was or how old she was. There was no changing it."
Edward had obviously made the strategic decision to allow Carlisle to argue his case. Charlie wasn't really in the mood to listen to Edward right now anyway.
"Bella felt the same way. Neither one would ever hurt the other if they could possibly help it, and they were both responsible young adults. Believe it or not Edward refused to allow their relationship to progress to the physical level until after they were married. Both Esme and I knew how strongly he felt about that, and so we knew we had no concerns on that front. "
"He was a teenage boy Carlisle. He still IS a teenage boy come to think of it. Don't give me that crap. They have no self control and you know it." Charlie was struggling to keep hold of his anger; Jasper's talent was subtly taking control, finally.
"Yes Charlie, a teenage boy. But not to point too fine a point on it, he is hardly the typical teenager is he? And I assure you, he has more self control that anyone else I have ever met – and most particularly where Bella is concerned. She was never in danger of Edward taking advantage of her. He only wanted exactly what he wants now; to protect her and keep her safe and loved."
"Huh! Only wanted to protect her! Sure he did." Charlie's sarcasm was wasted on Carlisle who simply stood and smiled calmly at him.
"Truly Charlie, he did. And many, many nights she needed his protection. Against dangers you would have been unable to stand against, even with your service revolver and all the love you have for your daughter. She would not have been safe without him, and I would never have condoned leaving her alone without one of us present. His presence was protection for you too, I might add, though I won't go so far as to say that was Edwards first thought!" Carlisle spoke calmly and logically and Charlie began to see the funny side to it – no doubt helped along by Jasper's own amusement at the situation.
"I never needed to protect her from anything at all once she met Edward did I?" Charlie shook his head disbelievingly, his anger finally waning and morphing into a mild and rueful amusement thanks to Jaspers nudging talent.
"He had her protection all wrapped up from day one. I just never had a chance to protect her from him. Hell, I didn't even know about him being an issue when he was sleeping in her room! And nothing I ever did was ever going to keep him away from her was it?" He snorted under his breath.
"No Charlie, it wasn't. Not when she needed me. It hurt us both too much to be apart. I couldn't let you keep me away from her. But she did need you too. When I left she needed you badly. I will never be able to thank you enough for looking after her so well then, when I ... didn't." Edward spoke up hesitantly, his topaz eyes lightening and hopeful.
"I'll always need my Dad you know." Bella sounded shy as she walked forward to take Charlies hand.
"I will always love you Dad. I'm sorry I grew up quicker than you were ready for."
"It's ok Bells, I love you too." The words were still a little grudging. "Just don't disappear on me, ok? Tell me what you can, just say so if you can't, and don't disappear from my life. That's all I ask. Hell, that all I can ask, apparently."
One last hug, still shaking his head ruefully at the thought of Edward staying in his daughter's room at nights, and Charlie hopped into his cruiser and backed out, turning into the driveway and giving a jaunty wave.
Bella watched him go, leaning on her husband. "Thank goodness. I think he's going to be ok with that. Looks kind of shell shocked though, doesn't he?"
Edward looked down at her, tapped her nose lightly with one finger and said, "Can you blame him love? In actual fact he's trying as hard as he can NOT to think about it. He's concentrating on the game tonight. But I think I'm relieved that he knows most of it now. So is he, you know – except for the staying in your room bit of course. He never could understand how I could leave and you could just accept me back so quickly." Edward shook his head slowly.
"I have to admit, the explanation you gave him that morning after we got back from Italy was just a bit thin. It's no wonder he's been so suspicious of me. I think the only reason you got away with it is that the cliff diving thing had him in a state of shock!"
"Yeah, I know. But none of you were any help with an excuse. I didn't think I did too badly considering how long I had to come up with it!" Bella grinned up at her husband, who had pulled her out of the deep shadows under the trees once Charlie had gone out of sight and was now sparkling away in the late afternoon sun with her.
Edward chuckled. "He was thinking as he drove off that maybe I'm not the monster he thought I was. He just doesn't need to know exactly what kind of monster I am!"
Bella grinned up him, feeling that everything was now right in her world.
"That was fun! So, the only thing he doesn't know yet is Edward's age, right" questioned Emmett mischievously from the end of the porch. "I might enjoy seeing his face when we tell him that one!"
Edward and Bella swung towards him, identical looks of disbelief on their faces. "You wouldn't!" they snarled in unison.
Emmett grinned and bolted for the forest, Edward and Bella close behind.
A/N Thank you again all of you who read, who added me to your alerts and favourites lists, and most of all thank you to those who reviewed – I never thought I'd ever put a story on here at first, I was way too chicken. Thank you for making it fun!