Many huge thanks to Project Team Beta for their help on this. I couldn't seem to get it right and they read draft after draft without complaint. With any luck I finally got it to where it should be.
Please remember that this is meant to slide right into Breaking Dawn, so if you haven't read it recently, I suggest going back and reading chapter 25 at the least. (And then go ahead and reread the whole book; why not?) I did alter the dialogue a bit from what Jacob told Bella because, hey, can you quote word for word what you said an hour ago?
Enjoy a little taste of being in Charlie's head!
I slammed the phone down angrily. Esme hadn't even answered this time. It was Thursday, and I should be heading in to the station, but I was far too worried for that.
Bella had been sick for a week now, and I couldn't get any answers out of those Cullens. Though I liked them, for the most part, I was downright furious with the lack of answers I was getting.
There had to be something I could do! Bella needed me. True, she was married now, but I had no doubt that as her father I had every right to be at her bedside. Esme telling me to stay home and stay calm just made it worse. How could I possibly stay calm when my only child was halfway across the country, dying from some unknown disease?! The airport was tired of me calling, only to change my mind about booking a flight.
I wanted more information, but no one was telling me anything! I had plenty of connections in the area, but I didn't know anyone in Georgia. Carlisle had apparently been able to get Bella in to see a specialist at the CDC. Esme had said that he and Edward were both there with her already, but I wanted to see her myself. The station wouldn't fall apart without me for a few days.
I was seriously thinking about calling the airport again when there was a knock at the door. I was surprised to open the door and see Jake, standing in nothing but a pair of ragged jean shorts.
"Jake? What are you doing here? You know Bella's not here."
"No, no I know that, Charlie. I wanted to talk to you. Come for a walk with me." He seemed a bit nervous, but also excited.
"Why? What's going on, Jake?"
"Well, it's about Bella. She's home."
"She is?!" Then why hadn't they answered the phone?
"Yeah. That's why I'm here. I need to tell you something. C'mere."
Without another word, he turned and started walking into the woods. Desperate to find out what was going on, I jogged to keep up with him as he strode up the trail. How tall was this kid nowadays?
The whole time he walked, I was firing off questions that he ignored. "Is she at the Cullens'? Is she better? What are we waiting for? Let's go!"
Jacob stopped a short way up the trail, just out of sight of the house, and looked right at me.
"Bella's not sick anymore. Things are a little weird, but good."
I still didn't understand. "I don't get it Jake. What are we still doing here?" Weeks of worry and frustration were threatening to boil over.
I started back toward the house, but before I had taken half a step, he grabbed my arm in his huge hand. I noticed that his fingers circled all the way around my upper arm and that his hand was burning hot.
"Hold up, Charlie. There's something you have to see first."
What was going on with him today? He was acting crazy. If Bella was home, married or not, I would have assumed Jacob would be by her side through her whole recovery from whatever strange disease she'd picked up on her honeymoon in Brazil.
As if to prove that he was crazy, Jake started taking his clothes off.
It took me half a second to realize what he was doing, and then another few seconds to find my voice.
"Whoa, Jake!" I screamed while holding up my hand to block the scene in front of me. "What on earth..."
My voice disappeared again when I saw movement from the corner of my eye.
Jacob was gone.
I don't know how long I stayed there without moving. Eventually I came to the realization that I had fallen to my knees, and that I was gasping for air. My forehead was damp with sweat and my hands were trembling. These small things let me know that I was still awake and alive.
The giant beast in front of me leaped toward me, and I acted on instinct. I reached for my hip – discovering too late that my gun was in the house – and rolled out of the way. I glanced up to judge where I would have to dodge next, but froze again at the stance of what could only be described as a wolf.
It was leaning on its front legs so that its head was almost to the ground. Its back legs were straight so that its tail was wagging high in the air.
Its tail was wagging?!
After another second, the wolf skipped in a small circle and sat down to look at me. It almost seemed like it was waiting for something. It was sitting on its haunches with its head cocked to one side.
My eyes darted back and forth between the wolf and the shorts lying on the ground. I slowly made the connection.
I licked my lips and swallowed several times before I was able to croak out, "Jacob?"
The wolf opened its mouth, revealing a line of menacing white teeth, its tongue lolling out to one side. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was smiling.
Then, as fast as before, the wolf changed. The change was reverse this time – the huge wolf shrinking back into the tan boy with black hair.
I found that I was shaking my head back and forth, as if I could get rid of the images in my head.
When he was dressed again, Jacob crouched down to my eye level.
"Sorry for the shock, Charlie, but I need to tell you a bit of what's going on. If I don't tell you this now, Bella and all the Cullens will leave and never come back."
I still couldn't form a coherent sentence. I think I managed to say, "Wha..." before he continued.
"See, you don't live in the world you thought you did. The good news is that nothing's changed. Now you know what's been going on, and life'll go on like it always has. You can go right back to pretending that you don't believe any of this. But, if you don't want Bella to leave, you're going to have to take in some weird and new things."
I think I stared at him for several more minutes. I blinked, taking in his tall frame; the same one I had thought was unusual a few minutes ago. Unusual, but not unnatural. Suddenly the rug had been pulled out from under me.
When my thoughts became coherent enough for me to realize that he was waiting for me to say something, I pulled myself together as much as possible.
The first thing on my mind was the most important. "What does this have to do with Bella?" My voice came out in a croak.
"Bella was sick. Very sick. She was dying, actually, and the only way to save her life was for her to...change a bit."
The image of Bella turning into a giant wolf was suddenly the only thing in my mind. What had become of my daughter?!
"What do you mean by change?" I didn't think I wanted the answer. I was relearning that ignorance is bliss.
Jacob laughed. "She just looks more like Esme than Renee now."
More like Esme? Then...there really was something different about the Cullens. What were they? My mind started racing through crazy impossibilities, from aliens to mutants to government experiments to elves...
"Does she...turn into a wolf too?" My voice came out in a squeak.
He just laughed again. "She wishes she were that cool!"
Another thought suddenly occurred to me. I remembered Bella with Edward, the way she looked at him. How did anyone marry someone who possibly wasn't human? Unless he had never told her. If he had been lying to her this whole time, I'd kill him.
"Did Bella know what she was getting herself into when she married Edward?" I demanded.
This time Jacob's laugh was irritating to me. Why was he not taking any of this seriously? "Oh sure, she's known about all this forever. Since she first came to Forks."
This was just too much.
"What?! What has she been thinking? She's been lying to me for years?! How dare you all sneak around my back this whole time! I have a right to know what's going on in my house! She thought she could just run off with...with whatever he is and leave me behind like it doesn't matter at all. She knows better than that!! Now I have to wait all this time and there's nothing that can be done about it and then she doesn't even tell me herself!!"
I was fuming. I could feel how red my face was.
"I think she was trying to protect you, Charlie. See, the whole thing's kind of complicated with the were-"
"I'd rather not know the specifics!" I could not bear to hear him say a word that only belonged in movies and books meant for teenagers.
Jacob just sat and looked at me for a minute while I collected my thoughts. What was the point here? Bella wasn't sick anymore. That was the big one. She was different, though. How different? I suppressed a shiver at knowing more than I already did, and decided that I had learned quite enough.
"Okay, Jake, I have two requests."
"I want to see Bella."
"No problem. What else?"
"No one is to tell me anything I don't need to know, alright? I would like to stay as far removed from all this madness as absolutely possible, got that?"
"Sure, sure." He was grinning broadly.
"Good. Can I see my daughter now?"
He hesitated. Now what?!
"Almost, Charlie. There's something else that you need to know. See...there's someone else at the Cullen house. An orphaned baby girl. Nessie. Bella and Edward are adopting her."
I think I blinked a few times.
"And if you think I'm special, just wait till you see her. It might be a little weird, but she's more special than all of us put together."
"Adopting? A daughter? Like, I'm a grandfather?" How much more could I handle today?
"Yeah, congrats, Gramps!" and he pounded me on the shoulder. He was beaming so widely that I think I smiled back.
"So, you want to meet her?"
I took a deep breath. If it means I can see Bella… "Definitely."
He nodded. "Great. You should probably give me a head start, to warn them that you're coming."
I could do that. I started to walk back to the driveway to get my cruiser, when I noticed that Jake was taking his clothes off again.
"What are you doing that for? Again?!"
Jacob grinned at me while tying his shorts to his ankle. "Because running is a whole lot faster than driving."
Before I could wrap my head around what he had said, he exploded for a second time and ran off faster than I could blink.
I stood under the trees for several long minutes. What had become of the world? My mind didn't even want to put words to what I had just seen.
Forget it, I told myself. Everything is just the same as it's always been. You want to see Bella, so just keep an open mind. Pretend that it's all normal, and it will be just fine.
I wondered how long of a head start Jacob needed, and this made his last words run through my head. Faster than driving? My eyes narrowed as I glared at the spot where he had disappeared. Maybe I would need to remind Jacob often of my conditions, because knowing how fast he ran was definitely not on the list of things I needed to know.