This is fresh and I will probably come back to edit. Which I have now done, Yay!
I stood to the back of the crowd beside some of my Quileute friends, friends I hadn't seen in a long while. Embry had his arm around a girl I hadn't gotten a chance to introduce myself to at the chapel. Sam and Emily, Kim and Jared, Paul and Rachel. Claire was crying into Quil's shoulder. Claire reached out to take my hand. I sent her an image of her and I playing as all looked so much older. I'd forgotten how long we'd been away. How long since some of them were wolves. We had visited Forks and Charlie for a week the year before last, but we hadn't made it to La Push for more than an afternoon. It had been 5 years since Quil and Seth, the last to leave Jake's pack, had given up their wolves, Quil to age with Claire and Seth to be with his mother and sister.
Thinking of Leah drew my eye to her standing next to her mother, holding an umbrella for the pair of them. There were lines at the corners of her eyes too, and the edges of her mouth, though I could just barely see those fine traces from here. Had it been fifteen years since she left Jake's pack? And poor Sue, burying a second husband. I had always thought of death as a possibility, but I was just beginning to realize that for my human friends, and now my wolf friends that were no longer wolves, death was more, it was inevitable. I'd known that, but until the news of Charlie's passing it had just been a fact, not something that impacted me. Tears began to leak unbidden from my eyes.
My eyes left the mourning pair to see the casket being carried in. Seth and Mark, Charlie's long-time deputy and later successor, now retired himself, were at the head. Mark looked far too frail for the load, but with Jacob behind him, and three more younger friends of Charlie, his share was more than compensated for. I saw a tear glisten on Jacob's cheek too as he dropped his hold on the casket. He'd lost his father years ago, but Charlie had been quick to fill even the small hole left by a father you couldn't come home to visit. I hadn't been as close to Billy, and his death had been more sudden. Charlie hadn't been taken by a heart attack; he hadn't fallen ill. He had lived a long, full, happy life. I'd noticed more grey in his curls, more lines on his face. But he still jumped up to hug me. He lost weight and his skin became papery, but his hugs never lost ferocity, just strength. And his smiles never wavered. More tears fell from my cheeks and I heard a loud sob. There was sobbing all around me as the minister moved to the head of the casket, but it took me a full second to realize this sob was louder because it was mine. Jacob hugged my shoulders as he took his place at my side. "It's Ok, sweetie, go ahead and cry." But I didn't want to sob. I wanted to hear the minister's words. So I let the tears fall silent instead. Jacob raised our umbrella over us. I couldn't care less about the wet.
"Here we gather to witness the final days of Charles Swan. Beloved father and husband. Servant to his community and protector of all. His days were long and full, and he passed quietly into the Lord's hands. We pray God and his angels welcome their servant and son home, and bless those he leaves behind. As he came from the earth, so we now return him. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
Dust to dust. Charlie would turn to dust. And I would walk while he did so. Charlie, my grandpa. It couldn't be. He couldn't really be gone. I watched as the casket started to be lowered and then buried my head in Jacob's chest unable to bear anymore. I sobbed loudly and he stroked my hair. "You made his life, you know, Renesmee." He almost never used my full name. Doing so now added weight to his words. "Nothing gave him as much joy as the light in your eyes or the sound of your voice." I sobbed harder and started to choke on tears. "He didn't regret a thing, Charlie wasn't like that." His voice was calm and level. "You shouldn't regret either. He will never be gone. You remember him, I remember him. Your Mom and Dad remember him. He will live in us long after all these people are in the ground beside him. He will live on longer than any of them."
My tears started to abate and I craned my neck to look up at him. He bent over and kissed my lips gently. My patient Jacob. I knew he waited for the day my desire for him would move on from friendship, but it still hadn't. He never rushed me, though I knew my father believed he did. Such thoughts now seemed callous, I should be thinking of Charlie.
I turned my eyes to the crowd and saw my mother and father behind a group on the other side of the gave. Edward held the umbrella while my mother sobbed tearlessly into his jacket. Jacob must have felt my shoulders slump because he squeezed me tighter. I kept my eyes on my mother as Sue stepped forward to throw a handful of soil onto the casket. I heard each speck of dust and raindrop that hit the polished wood, unable to turn my attention away from this final signal that he was gone, they would fill the hole and nothing of him would remain.
Except what we held, I reminded myself. I had him in me, so did Mama, even if she had lost part of that when she'd become immortal.
I saw Mama lift her eyes and meet mine. They were too dark. We had hurried to get here in time and hadn't taken the time to hunt on the way. Then she turned to look at someone in the group to her right, my left. I followed her gaze and saw a small woman wearing a rain hat and clinging to a cane. She was stooped and unable to hold an umbrella for herself. I didn't know her. As other people said their goodbyes to Charlie and tossed their own muddy clumps into the grave Bella whispered fiercely to Edward. They were arguing about something. I looked questioningly at Jacob, but he simply shrugged. Then Bella approached the woman and held her hand to her. Jacob gasped, "Renee."
My grandmother? I had never met her. Mama had kept correspondence with her for decades but the time between letters grew longer and longer until they had lost touch a few years back. "I have to meet her, Jacob!"
"Wait," he called to me, but I was already moving to Mama's side. She shook her head very quickly without looking at me, a warning. But I ignored her and came close enough to hear their exchange. "Yes, I didn't know Charlie well, but he spoke of you. You always held a special place in his heart."
The old woman nodded her grey head.
"He told me you'd married, someone named Phil? Is he with you?"
The old woman sighed and it sounded like a sob. "He died of heart failure last fall."
I quickly stepped in, "I am sorry, I was listening and I wanted to offer my condolences on your repeated loss. My name is..." I hesitated, Mama of course had told Renee about her daughter Renesmee, probably even mentioned my nickname, but she might not associate me with my middle name, and it seemed most appropriate today, "Carlie. It must be very difficult to lose those close to you."
"Yes, you are young. When you get to my age, you lose many, quickly. It seems everyone you know is dying."
I could not imagine such a thing and stared at my mother's permanently 18 year-old form in disbelief. She was staring at Edward and I wondered if she was shifting her shield to talk to him. In either case he lifted his head exposing his face from the brim of his hat to look to her. Renee followed Bella's eyes. "Edward?" She started to waddle toward him, leaning heavily on her cane.
Jacob came behind me, "Way to go, Bloodsucker. The cat's out now," he muttered. I realized what he meant. Jacob she could pass as a relative Black, not the same Jacob. He had grown taller, broader, eyes taken on more maturity. And she'd never seen the new Bella or me, but Edward had not changed in the slightest since she'd seen him on his wedding day.
Edward must have heard her recognition because he came forward quickly. I was glad Renee would not have to stumble farther. She looked up at him. "Edward? How? You haven't aged a day."
"Mom. How would you like to come home with us?" Edward's head flew to Bella as she said the words and she answered his fears in very quick statements. Renee, especially if her hearing was less the perfect, would make out few if any of the words. "She is too old to reveal anything. We'll keep her with us. She can't live more than a few years longer. Let me spend those last days with her. We can't leave her all alone."
She was right. How terrible would it be to send Renee back to an empty room somewhere to spend her final days in solitude when she had a family, one that was more than willing and able to care for her. The danger that a human discover the secret of vampires would be negligible if she stayed in our home, and she certainly didn't seem up to traveling. A terrible thought occurred to me, but it probably eased my father's mind even as it stung mine. If she did say anything people would think she was senile. What a terrible, awful thought. I shook my head trying to rid it.
"Bella??" She was very confused now and searched my mother's face for some trace of the daughter she hadn't seen in so very long.
"I know I look different, Mom, but I can explain everything, if you'd come home with us. We have lots of room and would love for you to stay. If I'd known Phil... I could shoot myself for not writing more often."
She could, of course it wouldn't do anything. The sentiment was sincere though.
Tears were leaking from the corners of Renee's eyes as she attempted to straighten and dropped her cane. She lifted her arms and my mother folded her arms around her mother. She bent to do so and I saw her brow crease. I knew, from my last visit with Charlie, that she would be very fragile. I couldn't stand by any longer.
"Mama?" I asked Bella.
She let go of Renee's back but kept an arm under one of hers to balance the old woman. "Mom, this is Renesmee Carlie."
Again the old woman's brown yet almost blue eyes widened. "But..." she tried to comprehend how a baby adopted 40 years ago could be this teenager in front of her.
I moved forward to put my arms around her waist, not jostling my mother's hold. "I'm so happy to finally meet you, grandma." My tears mingled with hers as her cheek rested against my own.
She put one hand to my curls and smoothed them down my back. "Renesmee," she whispered. Then she shifted her weight a little back from me. "And so you are not a nephew of Billy Black," she chided.
He chuckled, "Nope." We were nearly alone now. "Can Edward or I help you to the car?"
Renee shifted her hold from Bella to Edward who put a second hand at her waist so that almost none of her weight touched the ground. She straightened a little. She must slump from pain I realized. Maybe Carlisle would be able to take some of that when we returned to him and Esme.
"Mama?" I touched her cheek and showed her all I had thought and felt today. The pain of losing Charlie, the joy at gaining Renee. The fear of losing someone else.
"I know, Nessie. But at least we'll get what time we can. And Jacob is right, they live on in us." She squeezed Jacob's arm as she followed Renee and Edward carrying their umbrella.
Jacob shook ours out and closed it as we neared our car.
"Are you in a hurry to go home?" I asked as I watched Edward drive away. I hoped he hadn't caught this thought when it first occurred to me. Now I sent my thoughts back to Charlie. To the parts of him that were in me. Thinking only of that. How long until they were far enough?
"Not really, but you were looking forward to class, I thought."
"Yeah I was just thinking...." how to stall? "about visiting some of the people in La Push. We didn't make it out there for long last time."
"Oh yeah. That's a great idea." he started the engine but I stopped his hand before he could put it into drive. "Ness?"
I tried to remember my resolve. I was suddenly afraid, which was stupid, Jacob would always love me. Even if he said no, he'd love me and stay with me. "I had something I wanted to do first." I twisted putting my knees on the seat and kissed him. It was the first passionate kiss we'd shared. He'd been so happy to be my friend, but I was sure he was just waiting for the day I'd want more.
He broke the kiss quickly, but not too quickly, he definitely didn't disapprove. "Can I ask what brought this on? Now?"
He also knew me. "I..." Straight up, I thought, that was the best way to tell this. "I want Charlie to live in more than our memories." I sent him the image of Edward and Mama explaining that I was fertile, I could have children. "They still don't believe that we haven't done more than we have. Like I'd ever manage to keep THAT from my father for any length of time. I mean I'm pretty sure if I had that in my head..." I'd started rambling.
Jacob kissed me again to interrupt me. It was more gently than I'd kissed him, but deeper than any of our previous pecks. "I understand. I'd love to help Charlie live on that way. But we don't need to rush, Nessie. Renee and Charlie have a limited time for such things, but you and I can take all the time we want. So, how about you just kiss me again and we go to La Push?"
I giggled and wrapped my arms around his neck burying my face in his cheek. I felt his chuckle even as it resounded in my ear. "You are mine," I told him.
"Always," he answered.
I pressed my lips to his again. Our relationship was old but new. I'd always loved him, but for the first time I could feel myself in love with him. He had always been in love with me. I sighed as I settled back in my seat. "So, when do you think Embry's gonna pop the question? It's been too long since the last wedding."