Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
They toy with the sound barrier simply for the auditory joy of the Doppler Effect applied to a sonic boom. In the midst of an elegant acceleration about halfway into the one hour and seven minute flight, the wolves are engrossed in a video game, faces showing complete concentration: jaws slightly unhinged, eyes watering slightly in refusal to blink, strapping physiques straining at seat belts as they attempt to climb into the screen. Insults are hurled, comebacks are bandied about. Charlie, Harry and Billy have been beatific watching the evening's baseball broadcast, sparing some attention for the boys when their playful gaming antics grow rowdy enough to shake the plane. Edward only comes over the intercom to settle the middle aged crowd's nerves, confidently delivering the calming lines considering the plane has withstood Emmet-sized enthusiasm. Moments later, he is pressing patterns into the lighted buttons of the Citation's control panel. "Do you think we should tell them that we fly without instrumentation?" Edward asks Carlisle, the ever-calm copilot.
"I think you just did," he responds, referring to the activated intercom system. Carlisle is stifling laughter as Edward retrieves the handset at his side, and attempts to put everyone in the plane at ease.
"Uh... Just kidding, gentlemen. This aircraft is far too sophisticated for blind flying." He sounds confident to the men in the passenger cabin, but his own ears would be burning if they could. Edward mimics a church mouse until the moment they land, letting Carlisle handle the descent announcements. He's stunned by it, but Charlie's presence has him flustered; the only person who makes him more nervous is Bella herself. Since he has trouble hearing their thoughts, Edward is wondering if this is what it's like for everyone else, to be uninformed and unaware. Though he's unnerved, he's also excited; the Swan family is his chance to experience some semblance of normality.
By the time Edward exits his thinking man's trance, Carlisle has pulled the plane off the tarmac in Helena, and into their private hanger. They seems to have outflown the tension that was present on the ground in Port Angeles, because the 6 passengers on the plane are bantering and bickering as they unload the aircraft and place their bags in the back of two late model, twin-turbo Porsche Cayennes. Like most of the Cullen family vehicles, the SUVs have been extensively modified, in this instance ,for off-road riding. Paul lets out a low whistle at the sight of the two black behemoths, and queries, "Can I drive?"
Edward is quick to answer, "Maybe tomorrow. But since it's getting late, why don't you let the two of us," he gestures to Carlisle, "navigate the unpaved driveway."
Carlisle interjects, "Who's riding where? This one's mine." At his prompting, the men split into groups of four. Jared, Harry, and Charlie end up in the car with Carlisle, while Billy, Paul and Sam hop into the black Porsche with Edward. Carlisle leads the convoy, with the Chief of Police in his front passenger seat, so he's careful to keep his speed at only a few miles per hour above the limit. Conversation in Edward's car is stilted, but for harmless reasons; the wolves, with their enhanced night vision, are taking in the scenery as it whips by the car's windows. Billy is quietly thoughtful, considering Edward and Carlisle's actions and words, weighing their hospitality against the possibility of treachery. He's also thinking about the treaty the elders want to enact. The unspoken terms are trying Edward's patience.
Between Charlie and Carlisle, the other car is getting along swimmingly; the two men's professions have brought them close enough to color their contact with candor. Carlisle has been clear with Edward that Charlie has exhibited every characteristic of a fair and unbiased lawman, without developing the typically untoward ego and arrogance of a small town cop. It's one phenomenon that the Cullen family is familiar with, that amidst small-town America, where they've spent the majority of the last three centuries, local law enforcement has a tendency to be intolerable, self-important, and idiotic. But Charlie Swan has avoided those perilous pitfalls, and his intelligence is clearly an indication that he is overqualified.
Soon they are turning onto the 5 mile gravel drive that will lead them to the cabin. Billy is becoming startled in the back seat when he considers that they'd been on a relatively deserted two lane highway for the better part of an hour before making the turn: he's begun to wonder if these vampires have a place to hide the bodies. Edward decides to put the silly man's mind at ease while holding back the secret of his mind reading, for the moment. "We own all the land on either side of the drive, starting at the turn off the highway back there. It's our largest piece of property at nearly 40 square miles. It gives us plenty of privacy."
Billy, having grown bold at Edward's respectful demeanor, is quick to interject his ludicrous opinions. "Privacy to do all sorts of things, I'm sure," he says under his breath. His mind is playing pictures of mass murder and orgiastic bloodletting.
Edward nearly stops the car, "Sam, Paul. Did you not inform the elders of our eating habits? Billy seems to be under the impression that we feed from humans."
"They told me," he says with a cynical, severe expression, "but I'll believe it when I see it. Cold Ones are all the same."
Edward's patience for this man's prejudice is wearing thin, "By that logic, it would be safe to say that all Indians are alcoholics. Did your daddy die of liver disease, Billy?"
"You racist asshole," Billy growls. Edward simply stares back, one eyebrow arched enough to show his smugness. Sam and Jared aren't happy with the conversation either, but they realize that Billy's accusations are unfair and ridiculous. Edward and Carlisle are acting in good faith, and in addition to being generous beyond belief, they are outnumbered and vulnerable. Sam interjects before the situation grows even more untenable, "Billy stop. We've seen drained animal carcasses all across Clallam County. We told you this. What's the deal? I know you're upset about Jake, but now is not the time to discuss this. Not without Jared and Harry." Edward hears the sorrow in Billy's mind for the fate of his young son; Jacob's shifter status already a foregone conclusion in his father's thoughts. Deciding not to apologize for the time being, Edward continues to monitor their thoughts, gathering information for the formal meeting scheduled for the following evening.
The tires crunch gravel as they grind to a stop outside the log cabin. The tension in the air is thick between the men riding in Edward's car, and he decides to say something before the one uninformed human guest has reasons to guess at their discomfort. "Billy, I'm sorry if I offended you, but you've developed opinions devoid of context or understanding. The world outside of what you know is beyond your imagination. I have struggled my entire life to be something more than the bloodthirsty savages you've encountered, better than the nightmares that stalk and seduce. We share skin-deep similarities only. Add almost six hundred years of daily restraint, and a desire to better myself in spite of the choices taken from me, and you're left with no rights of accusation, whatsoever. Who are you to judge me, Billy Black?" Edward is turned in his seat, staring the startled man down with flat-black eyes, his stare intense but earnest. "Do not make that mistake again."
"Or what?" Billy simply doesn't know when to back down, despite the fear forcing his heart to flutter. "Is that some sort of threat?"
Edward rolls his eyes and glances between the two uncomfortable shifters whose thoughts show shame for their exhausting elder. He laughs as he looks back at Billy and says easily, "No, it was a suggestion. Now stop acting like a petulant child and pay attention." Before he can respond, Edward is out of the car and starting toward the trunk, taking in the conversation coming from the men in the other car. They are doing the same as Edward, unloading their belongings and moving towards the cabin, which has become a hot topic of conversation.
Carlisle is subtly bragging on the low slung log cabin that's built into the side of a hill. It looks slightly smaller than it is, but the nine-thousand square foot home, spread out over a single story, is completely off the grid. Technological updates to the home over the years have kept the Cullens from relying on outside power, as the current source comes from the earth itself; geothermal energy provides all the wattage necessary for the Cullens to experience every modern accessory and ludicrous luxury. Normally, the equipment and construction needs would be cost prohibitive, but Emmet, Jasper and Edward make an incredible drill team, and Rose's engineering knowledge comes through in spades. After some extensive planning and execution, the Cullen home has become impervious to blackouts or natural disaster, and the cavern housing the conducting copper-wire could become an incredibly effective bomb shelter, considering it's excavated to almost two miles. "The local area is conducive to this kind of technology because of the geothermal activity. One of the world's largest supervolcanos is scarcely 300 miles from here," Carlisle explains, silently hoping it doesn't erupt anytime soon.
Carlisle and Edward consider this to be their most awesome abode, and the group of wolves and men that follow them inside to the foyer understand exactly why. The large, open floor-plan living room is essentially a man-cave. Obscenely large flat-screens adorn all four walls, and super-sized sectional sofas are pointed squarely in those directions. The inside of the home is rustic, with unfinished redwood logs covering every interior surface, and the flooring is a luxuriously thick carpet; some of the wolves compare it to walking on a cloud. Dark brown leather furniture crowds around entertainment coves, colors like dirt and tree bark a subtle design touch enforced by Esme. Doors to bedroom suites occupy the back corners opposite the entrance and each wall so that there are five suites, enough for the full Cullen compliment and more.
The most entrancing feature of the house is a wide, circling staircase rising right in front of their feet that splits about halfway up the thirty foot high walls in the room and branches in two directions toward the walls adjacent the front door. By the time the curving wooden staircases come around completely, they are lead to an observatory directly above their heads and the foyer; it is open air porch with a view which, due to their elevation over the surrounding terrain, can see for scores of miles. The sights from their observation deck, which they immediately view as a group, are immaculate in the moonlight: hills and valleys intersect with rivers and streams amidst a forest that blankets the landscape. It's a spectacle straight from fantasy. The shifters and elders alike can't help but appreciate the stunning aspect to the extent that they erase one iota of prejudice, thinking, If they can appreciate this, they can't be completely evil.
With the late hour, and the temporary need to maintain their human facade in front of Charlie, Aedwaerth and Carlisle show everyone their rooms and retire for the time being, pretending to share a suite even though they've no need to sleep. After the non-vampires set about slumbering, they adjourn to the forest for a fraternal frolic in the river, deciding a shower will be inadequate to remove the shifter's stench after their prolonged proximity in the plane. Wrestling and rolling about in the river reminds them of younger, simpler times, when the pace of the world was something near stillness, like the whispering meander of the stream in which they stand. Water changes direction and channels aside against their solid forms, exactly like their influence over time: unseen boulders affecting the flow of the world around them.
Aedwaerth and Carlisle are mired in their own thoughts of the miraculous phantasms in which they've become involved. Between Bella's unbelievable arrival, to a weekend away with a pack of mutant, shapeshifting wolves, their world has been flipped on its ear; they'd grown so familiar with the flow of things that these surprises fill them with vigor, and they know irrevocable change is upon them. They are excited and intense, hopeful for the enrichment of friendship free of lies and evasions.
After a frenetic, competitive hunt, a feast of moose and bear, Aedwaerth and Carlisle make their way back to the cabin before sunrise. When they arrive, they find that the house is stirring. Almost all of the men are awake in their rooms and anxious for fishing. Knowing that trout bite early, they quickly fill the four, two-seater quads with their gear to go to the river. Aedwaerth requests that Charlie ride with him, immediately concerning the Quileutes, but there is little they can do when the Chief cheerfully agrees. Leading the way, the two men talk fly-fishing, an altogether different language, like they are long-lost brothers. On Aedwaerth's end, things could not be going better, and the Quileutes anger dissipates when they can hear their easy, friendly conversation. Though it confuses them and conflicts with their instincts, the more they get to know Aedwaerth and Carlisle, the less reason they have to fear and revile them; the shifters begin to see the similarities that Aedwaerth pointed out only a few weeks ago, and they are gradually accepting that they might be more men than creatures, and not the enemies they suspected. It has a tremendous amount to do with Edward's mental abilities, reading people and saying what they want to hear, his unavoidable charm and swagger; no one can emulate a man who's had centuries of success in every type of conflict.
So the Quileutes don't even question when Aedwaerth and Charlie show everyone the spot, and then continue down the near bank, alone. The older men are too excited about the prospect of catching a "whopper," and the younger ones don't fear for Charlie. It's not a complete ruse that lures Charlie away from his weekend-warrior buddies, rather the promise of a "special spot" Edward has scoped out over the years. And it is special; Edward caught a thirty-seven pound rainbow, but the year predates Charlie's birth: 1969. So the thirty-nine year old, and the ancient, nearly ageless vampire fish together in almost familial silence for several hours. Charlie's casting is rusty, but it indicates an inherent athleticism that he neglected to bequeath to Bella. Edward takes stock of the man for a moment, lingering on the wiry black mustache, his most noticeable characteristic. He can see that Charlie takes care of his body, since he's fit-as-a-fiddle with lean, well developed muscles roped all around. Only generous amounts of beer and bar-food keep his weight hovering a few pounds above that of his high-school hey-day. Despite the wrinkles that rim his face from a stressful job environment, Edward can see the spark of youth behind his eyes, as if a boisterous young boy is hiding behind the badge.
Charlie catches him looking, and casts a wary eye in Edward's direction, "Take a picture, it'll last longer." The comment is too quiet to acknowledge, but Edward takes the opportunity to begin their discussion.
"May I speak with you? We have something to discuss." Fishing in the presence of Charlie's partially opaque mind is almost as soothing as fishing alone, but he can tell it will make this conversation much more complex.
"Sure, son. What's on your mind?" He's thinking it's somehow related his position as Police Chief.
"When I first came to town, I was a teacher at the high school. I taught several sections of biology, but I resigned last weekend, after only five days in class." Edward gives him time to respond.
"I heard a rumor about it. You mind if I ask why?"
Edward smiles sadly and thinks, These Swans certainly are direct. Then he says, "It was no longer in the best interest of my students, and I decided there was no real future for me at Forks High."
"You came to that decision in a week?"
Aedwaerth begins to strip away the pretenses of his humanity, the added insignificance that rounds out his facade. He stops blinking first, and informs, "Here's one thing about me you'll come to learn, Charlie, I am much wiser than I appear; my family has been deferring to my judgment for years."
"Aren't you the youngest?" There is a gut reaction: Charlie is fighting not to fear the man standing before him in waders. He even thinks about how ridiculous it is, but loses his focus when Aedwaerth starts moving a little too quickly for a human.
"My appearance may deceive you into that conclusion, but there's not a simple truth to be found there." Aedwaerth ceases motion before, at ten paces away, leaping ashore from knee deep water off of one foot, takes two slowing steps and turning around next to a sizable boulder. He sits down, and begins to remove the waders as if nothing abnormal had taken place, but the policeman not ten yards away, thigh-deep in the Blackfoot, knows now for certain that something is amiss.
"How old are you, Edward?" His mustache twitches with the effort to remain emotionless, to keep the adrenaline from sparking his flight.
"That's a complicated question, Charlie. Are you prepared for something out of the ordinary?" All traces of Aedwaerth's humanity vanish as he says this. Modulating the inflection of his vampiric voice, squaring his shoulders, widening his unblinking eyes, and going stock-still has the effect of evaporating Charlie's reckless emotions; and it is observable and obvious to a seasoned police officer that Aedwaerth is something other. Charlie realizes that Edward, whatever he is, is attempting to show his stranger side, but his profession is a practical extension of one of Charlie's most prominent and innate characteristics: curiosity. In this case, his need to know cannot be repressed.
Edward doesn't want the Charlie to fear him, so he backs off and says, "I think the more appropriate question, Charlie, is 'what year was I born?'"
Charlie swallows laboriously, and levels a hardened look at Edward. But his voice quavers when he quotes, "What year were you born?"
"Four-hundred twenty three." As he stumbles to the nearby shore and collapses on the bank, Charlie's thoughts are so shielded with shock that Aedwaerth has no idea what he is thinking.
When he speaks, it's without a quiver or cough, and he confidently assesses, "For some strange reason, I believe you."
"Good, because I need you to trust me eventually, Charlie. And I am telling you the truth."
"But why are you telling me? And why am I here? Is this some sort of prank-the-average-joe schtick?" And the anger appears, forehead veins fill to bursting.
"No joke, and I'll get to all of that if you're really ready for it. But my differences don't end with my immortality, my friend, and you need to know them. Before I go into it with you, I need you to swear yourself to secrecy here and now. Both our lives depend on it. There are others of my kind who uphold our single law: no one must know of our existence. Though you must be circumspect about it, you may speak to a few of the Quileutes if you wish. Only those in attendance this weekend."
"They have their own secrets, which aren't mine to tell, but it makes them privy to my world. Would you like to know all about me, Charlie? Walk on through to the other side?"
Charlie wanders ashore, walking a wide circle around where Edward sits next to the quad, and takes his sweet time in removing his fishing gear. Methodically packing his things away gives him the time necessary to process this unexpected bit of information, and the courage to embrace the change of new knowledge. "Too far gone, now. I can't say I'm not curious. There are things I've seen that made me wonder..." Edward sees a hazy, fuzzed memory of men in suits standing over a fire, wispy purplish smoke sifting through his mind, but Charlie continues before the scene can fully play out, "But I'd like to receive a promise from you, too. Never let any harm come to my family or me for this, for the knowledge I'm about to have."
"I will never let that happen." The look that passes between the two men at that moment cements their friendship forever, because there's something in his eyes that Charlie trusts, and both men value loyalty above all other things in their friendships. It's a stare that encapsulates mutual regard and respect, aligning interests, and matching raw emotion. Charlie is still in the dark about Aedwaerth's ultimate intentions, but he can sense the precipice on which they stand, the importance of their shared promise. When they shake hands to seal their pact, Charlie notices the cold, marble inflexibility and immediately inquires.
So Edward begins the arduous process of informing a human of all their misconceptions on the natural order of things.
For Charlie, it's a staggering realization that he is no longer at the top of the food chain, but he handles this with aplomb, akin to a crime scene investigator cataloging and collecting data: detached and emotionally devoid, efficient and effortless. Edward is impressed by his attitude and demeanor as he tells him about the staggering strength, speed, their enhanced vision, smell, hearing, brains. Edward catches himself before he says something along the lines of, "We're basically augmented in every way," since he's hesitant to seem cocksure in front of Bella's father. He doesn't want to sound insulting, even if the arrogance is accurate. He goes on to tell that he was transformed by another one like him, and that he changed, or was present at the change of, all his family members, giving a short bit about each one and how they came to be with him and when. Charlie is amusedly incredulous about Edward's age, joking that he's still younger because of his appearance by pointing out, "You haven't earned these wrinkles, kid."
To which Edward replies, "In many ways, I will always retain the sensibilities of a twenty-three year. Though my actions have shifted, the way I think will not."
Charlie's questions are more penetrating than his daughter's, and Edward fights the instinct to skirt around specifics. Diving in headlong he says, "You know of my kind from myth. Though most interpretations are, as you now know, wildly inaccurate or highly embellished. But before I tell you what particular horror story I hail from, let me assure you that I do not have a typical diet. I eat animals, just like you... only my meals are a bit raw for your tastes." Edward hesitates, hanging on the thread of his good impression, hoping Charlie won't hold his vampirism against him.
"Out with it, Edward. You're making me nervous." Edward eyes him with an incredulous look, cocks one eyebrow and hangs an open-mouthed smile as if to say, You ought to be but aren't. Just like your daughter.
"I'm a vampire."
After muttering, "Damn," followed by a long, low whistle, in true Swan fashion, the Chief does something Edward doesn't expect. Charlie's reaction is strange, in that he doesn't seem startled or scared; he's got his head cocked to the side, eyes glued to Edward like he's staring down a suspect, and he's toying with his mustache, twisting it between a finger and thumb.
The 'stache smoothing continues for a moment, and then Charlie says, "You're a Cold One. But not like the ones in their stories." There's no hesitance in his voice, and Edward can see that he's piecing together the Quileute legends from a vague campfire memory. He continues, "I didn't buy that bullshit back then, but I always wondered if there wasn't some grain of truth there. Myths like that are ubiquitous, you know. So why couldn't there be somebody like you?" Edward just nods, well aware of the Quileute storytelling, and gives Charlie more time to mull things over, because clearly his mind is racing through the implications. "So... you've got super speed, strength, enhanced senses. A better brain, and impenetrable bodies, and you drink blood from animals?"
"Yes. I do now." Edward is subtly suggesting that may not always have been the case, but Charlie doesn't seem to notice amidst his busy mind, and it's as far as he's willing to go toward telling him of his indiscretions beyond being asked a direct question. He may be capable of telling Charlie his dirty secrets, but leading with news of his many murders is unwise.
"Any other abilities you're leaving out?"
"Actually, yes. Sometimes, a human will have strong traits that carry over into the next life. Alice, my youngest, is psychic, to a certain extent. What made her insane as a human, and precipitated her institutionalization, has turned out to be a fortuitous gift. She can see the outcomes of decisions, particularly of those close to her. Jasper, her... partner," he's hesitant to use the word 'mate,' in light of upcoming information, "was particularly sensitive to the emotions of others before. Now, as a vampire, he can sense and manipulate emotions."
"What about you?" Chief Swan sounds expectant, like Edward's extra abilities are a given.
Nodding at his astute observation, "I have a talent as well. I can read the thoughts of those around me; a result of my intuition and uncanny ability to accurately read people as a human, perhaps, but now I can hear just about everyone." As he says this, he starts to smile widely at the Chief, because when he informs him of his abilities, the Chief's mind goes suddenly silent. When Edward focuses in on him, he can hear a frantic whisper of the usual thoughts someone has when he first informs them of his gift, but it's difficult to pick up. It seems that with some effort, Charlie can focus and control his mental shield. As his eyes grow wider and his heart starts to race, Edward soothes, "Relax, this is one of the reasons I'm telling you about myself. I've only met two people in my entire one-thousand-five-hundred-eighty-seven years that could thwart me in this way. You are one of those people." The Chief finally seems as stunned as he should be. Maybe the stress of all this new data has pushed him to the limit, but from his faint thoughts, it seems he's just confused. He'd never guessed that he himself might be anything but ordinary, and Edward catches the mental whisper, just another small town cop. Edward is quick to inform him, "No you aren't."
"I thought you said..."
"Well, I can't hear everything you think. I would compare it to a radio station at the edge of its range."
"I'd better watch what I think, huh?"
"I'll give you what privacy I can, Charlie, and I won't purposefully embarrass you, but it's not something that I can control. Thoughts come unbidden and unwanted. If I were you, I'd be glad you can block me at all, as most don't have that luxury." Edward quickly informs him of his theory that Charlie may be able to control and practice his abilities to block him, and they make a pact to practice at a later date.
Charlie adds sympathetically, "It must be hard to have no filter for that. I'd imagine most people's thoughts aren't too pleasant." Edward agrees with a slow nod, noting Charlie's intuitive empathy, even while hosting his own small pity party; his gift has been an asset to him, saved his life, helped his family, but it's been a potent burden to bear at times. Having someone who's sort-of silent is soothing to him, so he informs his new friend of this fact, who promptly dismisses the compliment with the wave of his hand.
After a few more moments of silence in contemplation, Charlie opens up the figurative can-of-worms, "You said that there was one other person who could block you. Are they still around?"
Edward can't help but laugh nervously, "Oh yes, she's still around. And I need to tell you who it is." His intonation would be considered appropriate for a eulogy, and he hopes that he won't be reading the death of his love life shortly. "But you're not going to like it." Charlie sucks in a quick breath and mutters "oh God," but Edward presses on, "It's your daughter, Charlie. It's Bella."
"Something tells me that ain't all, Edward. What else is there?" The vein on Charlie's head is pulsing, but from his thoughts, Edward can see that he's not entirely angry. Even though his voice is calm, there's an edge to it that is unrecognizable.
"Before I say another word about Bella, I need you to understand a few things. We need to be clear with one another, Chief."
"You're right about that. And you've been forthcoming with me up until now, so don't stop."
Edward isn't exactly sure what he means when he says, "I don't intend to." Then he tells Charlie about Carlisle and Esme's first encounter, and how their thoughts mirrored each other's so perfectly, how the attraction was instant and mutually beneficial. He spins the roller-coaster ride of Emmet and Rose, how similar their first encounter was to the previous couple, and about the protection Rose needed that only Emmet could've provided. He hurts when he explains Alice, and her visions of Jasper, and about their power and intensity that was so profound that they wept tearlessly upon realizing it would be decades before she found him. Throughout his tale, Charlie becomes more frantic in his actions, fidgeting and flexing, and more resigned in his mind. "I fell in love with your daughter the moment I first saw her in my classroom, Charlie. And I truly am sorry to have involved Bella and you in my world, as dangerous as it is, but I have no more control over it than I do over gravity or the next presidential election. I have loved no one else in all my life, and I will never love another."
Charlie's livid when he exclaims, "She's just a child! She's my child! And only seventeen. What do you want from her, Edward? I won't let you take her." Edward is worried about the wolves downstream, that they may have overheard his outburst.
"I know she's young. That's why I'm involving you. I would never do anything against her will, especially not while she's still so young. Can you believe that I have only her best interests in mind?" Edward attempts to ease the man's roiling rage, and it seems to be working.
Taking a step towards the reclined vampire, Charlie levels a hard look in his direction and inquires, "I'd taze you, but it'd do no good, huh?" This inquiry is Charlie's way of acknowledging his complete impotence in Edward's world, and his blood runs cold when he fully understands the futility of fighting this otherworldly love. Edward responds with an expressionless shake of his head. Charlie deflates and continues, "You could leave. Never come back, and let her live a normal life." While speaking, Charlie stands and begins to aim his finger, then drops his hand and himself back into the driver's seat of the quad. "But you won't will you?" This situation has Charlie torn in two; the dichotomy in his reactions is exhausting as he swells and sinks, flexes, flails and fails.
"Not unless she orders me away." In Charlie's mind, Edward can see that her father noticed his distracted daughter's behavior throughout the week. He saw the shift in her step, a liveliness behind her eyes. He'd been unable to place her spirited smiling, or the energetic attention she'd paid to him at first, but then she'd been humming a tune Edward played for her on the piano, lit up from the inside when Charlie realized that there must be some new love in her life; somebody had caught her attentions in a singular way, and it scared him considering that Swans are such constant creatures.
Now that he's made the connection, he's trying to be angry and only comes up heartbroken, since he would never forsake his only daughter's happiness, even if he'd deny his own. He trusts Bella more than most fathers do, knowing her unusual maturity and penchant for adult reasoning. Charlie is a smart man, so he's thinking several things: Edward needs Bella for the foil of her mind; his daughter is either already in love with him, too, or well on her way; Edward may be the only man who's enough for her; and he will take her away from him well before he's ready for the loss. Edward interrupts when he hears the heartrending thoughts emanate, "Charlie, no. That's why you're here, so that I wouldn't have to do that to you, or her; she needs you in her life, just as you need her in yours. I'm not here to take that away. She's my family now, if she'll have me. Which means... you are my family, as well."
Charlie is slack-jawed with shock, certain that he's hearing things. He'd been imagining scenarios where Bella left him, and he spent the rest of his miserable life trying to chase down something that doesn't exist for the rest of the world. Or bereft, wifeless and childless, lonely as a career-cop. "But I thought..."
Edward smirks and interrupts, "I know what you thought. And you were wrong. I've made mistakes in my time here, Charlie." He's referring to his millennia of murder, as well as countless other errors. "But your daughter still needs her father, and I will never take chances with her future happiness."
"You really love her, don't you?"
"It's irrevocable." Edward gains eye contact with Charlie and does his best to describe the bond, "I belong to her, Charlie. She owns me in every way. You have no more to fear from me than you do from your daughter's decision making. I am hers to do with what she will, and I wouldn't have it any other way." He struggles back the lump that rises in his throat when he says, "As you well know, she's absolutely wonderful. I never imagined a more perfect person for me in all my years."
"So she knows all about you, then?" Edward nods and Charlie continues his questioning, "She's young. How are you going to handle that?" And the protective father, assured of his position once again, asserts his influence.
"It means that I must give her time to grow. Let you continue to parent her, and nurture her in what ways I'm capable. Teach her things, and learn from her, alike. Not push our relationship too fast or too soon. Abide by your guidelines, should Bella find them acceptable." Edward grins at his future father-in-law, letting him know without doubt that Bella is his guiding light. "Charlie, I am something other than a regular man, and with that comes a whole host of lost opportunity for Bella. But I can offer her a life unlike any other."
"All this material stuff? I know how rich you must be, to own land like this. She won't care about your things."
"No, that's not what I'm referring to at all. It's the opportunity to witness. To see empires rise and fall, to watch our world ebb and flow along the lines of right and wrong, weak and strong. It's the chance to have eternal, undying love. And to run!" Edward's enthusiasm is catching, he has Charlie's rapt attention. "You can't imagine what it feels like to fly forward on your own two feet." Edward is smiling sadly when he stops, looks back at Bella's father, then says, "It's a chance at eternal life. I don't know what you think about death or what lies beyond, but this is a guarantee: If Bella is with me, she will never die. If she chooses, I will protect her from death forever; until the sun turns to ash, we will remain side-by-side."
Charlie would be lying to himself if he said the idea was entirely unappealing. As an absentee Presbyterian, he has conflicting thoughts about the possibility of heaven or hell, or anything beyond bones rotting in a grave. In his mind, he can see Bella transformed and perfect, feet flying through the forest, ever-young, always safe, and it gives him some peace to know that she could be happy, indefinitely. Charlie's intuition isn't foolproof, but he's relied heavily on it in his work, and it serves him satisfactorily; with his efforts, Edward is on the right track towards earning Charlie's trust. That the man sitting beside him came forward to inform him only serves to affirm his belief in Edward as an honorable man; Charlie knows that, with his skills, he could have kept this completely quiet. For the Chief, honesty is always the best policy, probably from his years of making deals with criminals who came clean, and the fact of Edward's forthright manner, his willingness to divulge his dangerous secrets for his daughter's sake is engendering goodwill.
With the remaining energy he possesses, Charlie levels a powerfully parental looks at Edward, and informs, "It will always be her choice." Edward responds without hesitation, assuring Charlie that Bella is his boss.
Both men remain rooted in their seats, contemplating the changes their conversation has created for several minutes until Edward removes the man from his reverie, "Let's head back up to the house. The others are there, already having lunch." They finish loading the quad in silence, both men meticulously avoiding any close contact. A random thought occurs to Edward as they bounce along the dirt trail leading back to the cabin, and he broaches the subject with Charlie, "One more thing we need to discuss."
At his side, Charlie flinches visibly, and cringes as he grinds out, "What is it?"
"Bella's truck. It has to go." After returning to the cabin, Charlie eats sparingly, and excuses himself to his room for the remainder of the day, complaining of a sour stomach. Billy and Harry are skeptical, but believe there's been no foul play as the evening winds down and he makes no further appearance.
That evening, the Quileutes, along with Edward and Carlisle, gather for their initial meeting in order to establish what they have internally termed a "treaty." Both Edward and Carlisle are slightly amused at the insistence on formality, but don't let their humor show; they are firmly set on earning amicable relations with the tribe, even if it means enduring some childish nonsense. The elders, from the legends they grew up with and the shifters, from their past experiences with vampires, are understandably skittish when it comes to Edward's family of interlopers. Carlisle is only glad that they didn't encounter this particular tribe of supernatural natives in an earlier generation, given the modern day's sense of objective tolerance. Though the Quileutes may not like it, they have been influenced by Western Culture, for better or worse, but that doesn't stop them from beginning the meeting with a ridiculous request.
Once everyone is settled, Sam starts, "We'd like you to leave the Olympic Peninsula."
It's dark, so only the shifters notice Edward's exaggerated eye roll, "No. Do you have any idea the kind of preparation required to start over in a new location? In this day and age, it is the definition of tedium. Not aging is awfully inconvenient when you consider the sheer weight of the United States government's bureaucracy."
"You've got plenty of money and practice at it. Leave." This time it's Billy who speaks up. It's clear to Edward that Billy Black is the one persistently pressing this proposal.
Carlisle offers his opinion, his reasonable tone in stark contrast to Edward's blunt delivery, "Try to understand, gentlemen, that the added pressure of technological advances available to the authorities makes our anonymity ever more difficult to maintain. It's harder to penetrate the systems every time we move." Carlisle contemplates their request for another moment, then asks, "Why are you so eager to have us gone? We've shown we're no threat to you. Why are you so eager to refuse our offer of friendship?"
"We don't need you." Paul's upper lip is curled in disgust, a sneer etched into his dark skin by instinct and independence. His biting tone doesn't dissuade the vampire pair.
Edward, seeing Carlisle's line of thought, quickly asks, "We know this. But do you value the secrecy of your shifting?" They respond in unanimous affirmative; the Quileutes grasp the gravity of their situation, understand the need to remain undiscovered, unknown to the outside world.
Carlisle's years of practiced empathy is an invaluable asset as he counters, "What happens if one of you falls ill? You can't very well go to doctor – I guarantee that they'll detect your differences immediately. I'd be more than willing to provide medical care. To the entire tribe for that matter, since I'm guessing that many of your people carry the latent shifting trait. Free of charge, of course. And we have our aforementioned skills in avoiding authorities, which I'm sure would be of use to you. We'd be more than happy to teach you the art of 'keeping a low profile'." Carlisle places air-quotes around the odd idiom; its context escaping him even if he's capable of using the unfamiliar phrase.
Harry speaks with genuine curiosity, "Why not live like the others?" His mind is shifting gears, intrigued as he is at their unflagging sincerity and generosity.
Edward glances at Carlisle, who gestures for him to field the question, "This is the crux of your disbelief: that we desire to live like you do, inasmuch as that's possible. Our family is different, and our unconventional lifestyle gives us joy. I have spent many lifetimes alone, wandering through the wilderness, and it is an entirely empty existence. We desire to live amongst humans because we have more in common with you than we do with those of our kind who drink human blood." He levels an annoyed but patient look at Billy Black.
Sam speaks again, "We think the reason that our transformation occurred was the presence of vampires. Would it make a difference to you if your presence was triggering other Quileute teenagers to turn into wolves?"
"That's an interesting theory, Sam." Carlisle's mind is in overdrive, but Edward presses on, "I guess that would depend on your opinion on whether your youngsters shifting is a bad thing, or a good one. I'm inclined toward the latter."
Billy is quick to interject, despite the mixed emotions the shifters themselves share on the subject, "What could possibly be good about our young men becoming monsters?"
Edward answers, "They can defend your people against vampires you actually need to worry about." He cocks an eyebrow, bemused, and continues, "They are blessed with a variety of physical gifts, some of which you've yet to enlighten us about, and I'd be willing to bet that they have an extended life span." Consternation colors their thoughts when he lights on this particular topic, and they're annoyed that they confirmed his theory through their reaction. "I've been to every continent, and almost every country on the entire planet, and I have never discovered a group as unique and gifted as the Quileute people. You ought to be proud of your sons' abilities, despite the hardships they may bring. And make no mistake, the ability to shift from a human being into a horse-sized wolf capable of destroying a vampire is an extraordinary gift." Edward is smiling and emphatic at this last declaration, and the shifters swell with pride when he reveals their singular abilities.
After glancing at Harry and Billy, Sam shifts the tempo of the meeting entirely, and Edward can sense that they're close to convincing the Quileutes of their good intentions. Sam softly asks, "You came to us, invited us to your home for no reason we can understand, Edward." He's almost desperate when he inquires, "What do you want?"
"Nothing so sinister as you imagine, young man." Edward winks at Carlisle, who understands immediately that the meeting has moved in their favor, that they won't be constantly caught off guard by their emotional and indignant demands. "Carlisle and I, for all that we appear, are scholars. I've spent the last three centuries in school, attempting to understand the world around me – to share and create knowledge. Carlisle is a doctor who desires to understand vampires and humans well enough to diagnose and appropriately eliminate any ailment. These things give us purpose and allow us to contribute to mankind even though we're removed from it. So firstly, we'd like to understand you, discover the wonderful and miraculous mechanism behind your shifting."
Sam is nonplussed, "You want to study us." Edward laughs lightly at his stony statement.
"In so many words, yes. But this would not be invasive information gathering. Maybe some blood and DNA samples. What we'd really like to do is set up some instrumentation and examine the exact moment of transformation, but it goes without saying that we'll not do anything without your permission." Edward has no problem with this outright lie, considering that they'll almost certainly have several different types of DNA samples simply from the shifter's short stay at the cabin.
Paul snickers and elbows Jared, whispering, "Nerdy vamps. Heh heh. Can you believe this shit?"
Edward doesn't even bother to pretend he didn't hear him, announcing, "You find ways to pass the time, Paul. I'd be interested to see what kind of hobbies you developed over sixteen centuries."
"I sure as shit wouldn't still be single. I'd slay some pussy, that's for sure." The elder's roll their eyes, but can't hide some small smiles.
Edward is quick to retort, "Or develop history's most persistent case of carpel tunnel." He pantomimes a particularly lewd act of self-gratification, and the small crowd, after a moment of stunned silence, bursts into laughter at Paul's expense.
Jared, privy to some unfortunately accurate recollections, even amidst his gasping laugh goes so far as to announce, "He's got you pegged, Paul."
After the moment passes, Sam persists, "So you want to study us. We'll consider it, and get back to you, I suppose. I can tell you that your knowledge will come at an equal price; we'd like to know more about your kind, as well."
"Sounds perfectly reasonable."
"So what else?"
"That's our only direct request. Other than that, we'd simply like to keep an honest, open line of communication between our two families. There may come a time when we require your assistance, or vice versa. It has been my experience, my extensive experience, that you can never have too many friends. And while you may still consider friendship beyond the realm of possibility, I'd like you to consider it."
Carlisle interjects, "Again, I'd like to offer my services, as a medical professional, to any and all Quileute people, free of charge, and establish a free clinic on the reservation."
"You can't buy our acceptance, Carlisle." Sam's voice betrays his astonishment at their continued generosity.
"You'd actually be doing us a favor. As you can see, we have more money than we know what to do with. Quite frankly, it's become an inconvenience to have amassed so much wealth. In order to stay off certain corporate radars, we participate in a variety of philanthropic endeavors. We'd like to do this for your people, as a gesture of our goodwill. I don't even have to be involved, if that would make you more comfortable. We can hire human doctors to do the clinical work."
The Quileutes are quiet after Carlisle's consistent offer, and after a moment a conference, they request a second meeting after they've had additional time to discuss the changing situation. As the Quileutes leave the circle light provided by the bonfire, Edward offers one more thought, "There can be more than just peace between us, Quileutes. Move beyond the cage of your instincts. We have."
Billy turns to regard Edward as he issues his cryptic comment, and as he does, trips on a root arcing across his path. His hand grinds on gravel as he braces his fall, shearing his skin and exposing fresh blood to the open air. Sam immediately presses the startled man behind him and crouches in preparation to shift while the other shifters mirror his position.
Edward doesn't contain his laughter this time at their overeager antics. "Please. Carlisle and I have both performed open-heart surgery. Even if we were thirsty, which we aren't, his blood would not be appetizing. He smells like Black and Milds, beer and Cheetos. Blech."
As Edward finishes his annoyed admonishment, Carlisle's thoughts startle him, and he does an abrupt about-face in order to make eye contact with his companion. "Are you sure, Carlisle?"
He responds impatiently, "His A1C is at nearly fifteen percent. The other scent markers are there, as well." Both men are saddened by the realization that they must impart such bad news at this auspicious beginning. They don't place much importance on omens, or any of the like, but the significance of this revelation at this precise moment leaves them with a stone settled in their stomachs.
Carlisle's confident bedside manner is suddenly present as he soothes, "Billy, may I speak to you in private?"
Sam immediately misinterprets. "Don't even think about it, leech," he growls.
"You've misunderstood me. I've smelled something troubling in your blood, Billy. I'd like to speak to you as a doctor."
Everyone's posture relaxes, except Billy, whose heart is thundering with trepidation. "What is it." This man is a far cry from the blustering, brash Quileute elder; all of the sudden, he is simply a scared patient. "Just tell me. They'll know eventually, so get on with it."
"I'll need to run some tests to be absolutely sure, but I wouldn't venture this diagnosis without a high level of certainty. I'm ninety-nine percent sure you have diabetes."
A/N: Here's part 2. Thanks to Stratan, who slogged through this chapter and fixed several serious issues. As always, thanks to all you folks out there reading and reviewing. Rock on.
Next up- a young Joan of Arc, and the Renaissance: vamp-style.