Twilight Canon Fodder Challenge
Title: One Night In Forks
Contest Category (Rookie/Vet): Rookie
Characters/Pairing: Charlie and Carlisle
Canon Type (Book/Movie): Book
Disclaimer: The Twilight copyright is held by Stephenie Meyer. This is for free distribution only and I make no money from it.
Summary: An unfortunate encounter with a screwdriver leads to Charlie meeting Doctor Cullen for the first time.
To see other entries in the Canon Fodder Challenge, please visit the C2 page:
It wasn't supposed to end with a screwdriver gouged into his arm. He'd been on a thousand domestic callouts, all of them with angry, desperate people, most of them clutching all manner of makeshift weapons. How in the hell did he end up like this? Staggering to the ground, reaching desperately for his arm, screams assaulting him from all sides. Every instinct was telling him to rip the thing out by the deceptively benign yellow handle, but the thin slither of his mind that still held on to reason forced him to stop.
You'll bleed to death if you remove it. Bleed to death right here in the mud beside a rusty car with no wheels.
Somewhere in the distance, the familiar sound of someone loading a cartridge into a rifle was underscored by another scream.
His heart felt like a fist inside his chest, hammering angrily against his ribs, demanding to know if this was really it. Was this the end of the life of Charlie Swan? At ten past eight in the evening, on the night of August the twenty-ninth, outside a dilapidated house on the edge of Forks?
If this was it, he knew one thing: he was going to die knowing he was an idiot. Not suspecting, or having the idle thought that he sometimes lapsed into idiocy if he wasn't paying attention. Knowing, beyond a shadow of doubt, that he, Charlie Swan, was an idiot.
Because he had let his own pride, his own selfish, stubborn pride, deprive him of one last chance to speak with his daughter. Maybe he deserved a bullet to his head.
"Officer? Oh my God!"
His vision was all fuzzy around the edges. He had no idea who this voice belonged to.
"I called an ambulance. My wife is gonna shoot that bastard if he moves an inch, so just hang on. Hang on, you hear me? I called an ambulance. They'll be here soon. Soon."
Strong arms pulled him into a sitting position, propping him against the car. He closed his eyes against the pain, while his fingers flailed against the muddy holster of his gun. It felt better just to touch the shape of it in his remaining functional hand.
"Oh, God! Look at this! Okay, just stay calm, they'll be here soon! They'll be here soon! What am I supposed to do?"
Shut up, Charlie thought. Go away, whoever you are. I don't want you to see me in pain.
His rational mind made another plea for attention. He's panicking. He doesn't know any first aid. Tell him, or you're not going to survive this.
"Can you lift my arm?" His voice was a quiet rasp. "Above ... above my shoulder."
"Right. Yeah, yeah, that's a good idea."
He stood up beside him and propped his arm against his leg, holding it steady by the wrist. Charlie opened his eyes once, only to check if the screwdriver was still there. It was. Surprising, as he could no longer feel it. His unknown helper made no more conversation, so the only sound was their gasps for breath. Where was the one who did this to him? And the woman and child? They'd all been here a minute ago. He was sure of it. Maybe he was blacking out.
"Oh, thank God! They're here! Hey! Hey, over here!"
The ambulance reversed into the yard, knocking over the letter box and leaving deep tyre tracks in the mud. It stopped a couple of feet from the rusty car, and the driver's side door was pushed open before the engine was off.
Charlie didn't mind medical people. As long as they weren't touching him. When they were, you had to pay attention, because if you gave them an inch, they'd take a mile. He braced his good arm against the car and struggled to his feet. The first paramedic at his side was Terry, the volleyball team captain from his year at high school.
"Charlie, you okay?"
It was so weird to hear him ask that. Terry was the type of guy who always started every conversation with reminding you about that time you tripped outside Spanish class.
"There's a screwdriver sticking out of my arm," Charlie said, gathering every last ounce of his strength to present a dry facade. "What do you think, Terry?"
The other paramedic, Anne, daughter of the elementary school principal, relieved the stranger holding up his arm. Terry helped him climb into the ambulance where a third EMT wrapped a blanket around him. It was Richard, who was supposed to be retired. He would have asked him why he was working tonight, but answering Anne's medical questions in a detached, professional manner was occupying all his mental capacity right now. Richard took his blood pressure.
There was some talk back and forth about soft tissue damage, no symptoms of shock, and murmurs about contained bleeding. Charlie couldn't catch all of it over the engine. It needed tuning. Or replacing. Anne held up scissors, presumably for cutting away the heavy fabric of his police jacket sleeve, but she paused when the vehicle bounced up and down on the unsealed road.
The sight of the blade, twinkling under the interior lights, caused Charlie to shift his gaze elsewhere. He found himself staring at a defibrillator. His mind filled with a clear image of his own body lying pale and inert, watching from some disembodied state as Anne and Richard tried to resuscitate him. Terry would be driving a lot faster than he was now.
"I don't know what's going on in Forks tonight, Charlie," Terry called. "You're my second callout in an hour. Must be a full moon. Three idiots were throwing bottles outside the Temptress and cut themselves up pretty good."
That's why he'd handled the domestic. Ned and Ollie had gone to deal with the fight outside the strip club, leaving him alone in the office. He shouldn't have been working this weekend, but Bella still hadn't called, and if he sat around home he might have broken and called her instead.
"Doctor Cullen is coming in 'specially."
Cullen. That name rang a whole churchful of bells.
"Have you met him yet?" Anne asked, an odd note of excitement in her voice.
Terry laughed. "Anne has a crush. Do me a favor and remind her that he's married."
Anne rolled her eyes. "Hey, you don't need to lick an ice cream to know it's sweet."
"I think you need to arrest this young lady for workplace sexual harassment," Terry continued. "Her and all the other female hospital staff. I swear, they're stalking the place trying to catch him changing in or out of his scrubs."
Richard appeared oblivious to this conversation. He was watching his face intently. Maybe seeing right through his stoic facade. Charlie purposely turned so he wasn't in his peripheral vision.
"I can't believe how mean some people are being about his family," Anne continued. "Saying his kids are delinquents!"
Charlie had worried about that himself. Bill had said on good authority that at least two of them were foster children. Forks had played host to a camp for kids in the foster system five years ago, and his guys had been worked overtime dealing with all the trouble. There was one particular little charmer named Jeremy who had a real talent for artistic expression—in the form of graffiti on his police cruiser. He had hoped this Doctor Cullen wasn't a leftover hippie who thought fresh air and harmony with nature could solve problems the big city couldn't.
Now he didn't care, as long as he could fix his arm quickly and let him get back home. Heck, the Cullen kids could do what they liked as long as their father didn't make him stay overnight at the hospital. He couldn't hold it together all night.
"Your guy Jim said no doctor would move here unless they were on the run from a malpractice suit," Terry said. "I guess this is a good test of that theory. We'll see if he sweats when he hears he's treating the police chief."
That didn't help his nerves. He gritted his teeth for a moment, and then resorted to talking to Richard.
"What brings you out of retirement?" He only glanced at him briefly.
"They couldn't get hold of anyone else. How are you feeling, Charlie?"
Richard wasn't fooled. He didn't have to look up to know that. Time for a subject change: "So, Terry, you see any of the game tonight?"
A detailed analysis followed, and it covered him until they reached the hospital. As soon as the engine was cut, Charlie started to stand up. Both Anne and Richard put their hands on him to hold him in place.
"I can walk," he mumbled, already knowing it was useless.
"We don't want it jiggling around and hitting an artery. Try and hold your arm steady."
He swung his legs up onto the bed, but didn't bother removing his boots. That might just imply he wanted to stay here overnight. When they wheeled him through into the corridor, Ollie was already waiting. Apparently there was no security in this hospital.
"Chief! God, are you okay?"
"Yeah, fine." How he wished he had insisted on walking. "You and Ned handle this other thing all right?"
"Yeah, we— what's that sticking out of your arm?"
He didn't reply. Ollie had to hang back while they pushed him into an exam room, anyway. He reappeared two minutes later, dodging around a nurse named Rachel who was trying unsuccessful to debate the merits of wearing a hospital gown. It wasn't until the flash lit up the room that Charlie realized what he was carrying.
"Do you mind?" Rachel snapped.
"It's for court evidence," Ollie said, zooming in.
"Don't worry about that now," Charlie said firmly. "I'll explain later."
Ollie lowered the camera, but didn't move out of Rachel's way. She looked ready to give him a kick up the backside. "Ned's picking up Mark, and they're heading out to arrest the guy. The neighbors have the scumbag cornered."
A flash of the man's deranged features crossed Charlie's mind, and he looked away from Ollie. "Great."
Rachel placed the hospital gown in his lap, as if hoping having it in his line of sight would change his mind. She didn't get it. The uniform was like armor. It was bad enough he was missing one sleeve.
"What happened out there, Chief? Was he high?"
A new nurse entered the room, and made a beeline for Ollie. "Right. This can wait until later. Out, please." Trelise was five foot four, but what she lacked in height, she made up for in bossiness. She was the ER charge nurse on nights. She turned away from Ollie, not waiting to see if the officer complied.
"Charlie, can you please glance over these details for me and see if they're still correct?"
She put a clipboard in front of his eyes. Of course he hadn't moved or changed his phone number. Or his name or birthdate, for that matter. But his mother was still listed as his next-of-kin. She'd been dead for over a decade. Who was it now? Not Renee, obviously. Bella?
That other reality, the one where Anne and Richard had to resuscitate him, made another appearance in his mind. Now he was lolling in a bed like a sack of potatoes, breathing only with the aid of machines. Some strange doctor by the bedside, talking on a cordless phone. Asking Bella if it was all right to switch off his life support ...
The thought made his stomach turn. Why was the room so crowded? It felt like he wasn't getting enough air. Trelise and Ollie were staring at him like he was breaking out in a leprosy rash. Rachel was taking his blood pressure again. Richard and Anne still hadn't left, and now they were talking to a young guy in the doorway. Looked like a student doctor, come to gawp at him. They might as well stick him in a fish bowl.
He blinked a few times, but the medical file was still out of focus. Eventually, he just nodded, not turning to look at Trelise.
"You want me to call anyone?"
They both knew that she meant Renee and Bella.
There was an awkward silence. It only lasted a few seconds before Ollie jumped in.
"Chief, should I—"
Trelise whirled on him. "Who's with Doctor Gerandy in Room 3? You said that patient was dangerous."
Someone stepped up beside the bed on Charlie's other side, drawing his attention away from the pending argument. It was the young guy. His appearance was enough to shake him out of his frozen mental state. Everything about him— his clothes, his face, his hair— spoke of someone who had just stepped off the cover of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. The only things out of place were the lab coat and stethoscope.
"Chief Swan, I'm Doctor Cullen. I will be treating you this evening."
Charlie couldn't help but stare. Doctor Cullen? This was Doctor Cullen? Wasn't he supposed to be middle-aged with five teenage kids? This guy looked like he was newly graduated from med school.
The doctor swung the overhead lamp into position to provide the best lighting on his arm. "The screwdriver doesn't appear to have punctured any major blood vessels. I'm going to ease it out carefully before the swelling gets worse."
He looked away from Charlie as the voices on the other side of the bed grew louder.
"Can we clear the room, please? I need to speak confidentially with Chief Swan."
He didn't raise his voice at all, but somehow his tone cut through all the chatter. It belonged on someone much older. Everyone filed out without argument— Ollie even bumped a trolley in his haste. Trelise, last out, closed the door behind her.
"Ah, much better," the doctor said, pulling up a chair. "I thought we could do with some peace and quiet."
He met his gaze and gave him a brief smile. His eyes were the strangest color. Kind of yellowy-brown. Charlie looked away, embarrassed to be caught staring. He'd never been intimidated by anyone younger than him before. It had been a long time since he was intimidated by anyone, period. "Good thinking," he mumbled.
"How do you feel, generally? Any dizziness?"
"How's your arm?"
"Let me know when it feels numb."
It only took a couple of minutes after the injection. Something must still be working right.
"Can you feel this?"
Maybe that was some warning that he was about do something that might cause him excruciating pain. This is why he hated doctors. He gripped the bed sheet tightly in his good hand, staring fixedly at the basin on the far wall. After a moment of silence, he glanced back to see what the young doctor was doing. He wasn't even touching him; he was gathering some tools on the tray. All that mental preparation for nothing. He stared back at the basin, wondering how long this was going to take. He would ask, but that might sound pretty ungrateful, considering the guy had come in during his time off. Maybe he should apologize for that.
"Sorry I dragged you into work on your weekend off."
He chuckled. "It's not your fault. Besides, I doubt my family will notice I'm gone, for an hour or two at least. They were being especially loud when I left."
So. He did have kids. Obviously much older than he looked. Charlie wasn't normally the type to pry into people's lives, as he valued his own privacy too much to encroach on someone else's. But this was just too interesting to pass up.
"I heard you had a bunch of kids." He avoided saying teenagers, just in case that was an exaggeration. But Helena Newton had said two of them were going to be in the high school freshman year with Mike.
"Yes. Three. My wife's niece and nephew also live with us, and I think of them as my children as well."
Something clattered against the tray.
"There you go, Chief. A souvenir for you to show the new recruits."
It was the screwdriver. Longer than he'd realized. How the heck had he got that out without him feeling a thing? That must have been some anesthetic. So much for being on the run from a malpractice suit; this doctor was a genius. He was pressing something against the wound now, probably preparing it for stitching.
"So what brought you to Forks?"
"My wife loved the idea of living in a small town."
Charlie felt a pang of jealousy at that. He wondered what exactly was the attraction, and then had an ironic thought.
"I hope it wasn't for the low crime rate."
The doctor laughed. "No, we're avid hikers. The house we found out there by the river is a dream come true for her. Besides, judging by the panicked call I received a short time ago, it's not every night a police officer gets stabbed."
Charlie sighed. "First time since I've been on the job. Eighteen years." He quickly changed the subject, lest the doctor ask further questions.
"How old are your kids?"
"Alice and Edward recently turned fifteen; they are just starting their freshman year in high school. Rosalie and Jasper are twins, turning sixteen soon. The oldest, Emmett, is sixteen. They will be sophomores."
They had to be adopted. "Huh. A houseful of teenagers."
Carlisle smiled. "Yes. It makes for some interesting times."
"How do they like Forks?"
"They couldn't be happier. We went on our first camping trip last weekend, and my oldest son found a perfect field for playing football."
Charlie hadn't realized he was shaking his head incredulously until the doctor gave him a questioning look.
"I just can't imagine ever taking my daughter camping. I used to take her fishing and she'd spend the entire time whining."
"How old is your daughter?"
Strange. He hadn't meant to talk about Bella. There was something about this doctor that made him easy to open up to. It was dangerous. He'd make a good police interrogator.
"She's turning fifteen in September. Lives with her mother in Phoenix." Doesn't want to talk to me. "I see her every summer. She used to come here, but now she's refusing to come to Forks so we have to meet up in California."
That had turned out to be a pointless exercise. When Bella wasn't worrying about her mother and wanting to call her, she was reading books and giving monosyllabic answers to his questions. Then he'd lost his temper over her calling him "Charlie" all the time, and she'd gone all moody for days. Her mother claimed this was entirely normal for a fourteen year old girl, and besides, she was worried about starting high school.
He'd phoned her two weeks ago to see how things were going after her first week of classes. She wasn't home. "At the library," according to her mother. She'd never called back. So why hadn't he? In all likelihood, Renee had forgotten to give her the message.
It was obvious to anyone that Doctor Cullen would never let pride stop him from talking to his kids. He'd never be so irrational.
"Do you need any pictures before I apply the dressing?"
Charlie shook his head. "I don't plan to press charges."
The doctor gave him a curious stare for several seconds, before resuming his work. "I don't know if I could be so forgiving in your situation," he said lightly.
"The penalty would be too steep. He was under duress."
Why did his voice sound like he was trying to convince himself rather than explain to the doctor?
"I mean, who could really blame him?" He was mumbling to himself now, unable to stop. Maybe it was the stress of the situation, finally lapping over the sides of his mind, but he had to say it. "It would kill a man ... watching someone take his child away. Not knowing if he'd see his own baby again."
Doctor Cullen didn't respond for a few seconds, but when he did, he spoke with gentle calmness. "I am always ... surprised at the amount of pain we are capable of inflicting on each other. Sometimes with the best of intentions. But I am heartened that I still feel that surprise. It would be terrible to come to expect it."
Charlie found himself wondering how old this guy was, really. Although, perhaps a houseful of teenagers could age a man really fast.
"Can you move your fingers for me?"
He tried. His thumb and forefinger twitched.
"Good as new," Charlie said. "Thanks, doc. You're not going to make me stay in here overnight, are you?"
"I can make you a deal. If you take the next few days off work, take your full course of antibiotics, and come back at any sign of complication, then you can go home tonight."
"Sure thing." There was something great about a doctor who didn't know him well enough to know he never took time off work. So what if he had to use the computer with one hand.
They were interrupted by a timid knock at the door, then. It was Rachel, the nurse from earlier. "Carlisle, Trelise asked if you could join them for a moment in Room 3 once you're done here."
Charlie noticed she was looking a little starry-eyed. Apparently Anne wasn't the only one with an inappropriate crush.
Doctor Cullen stood up. "Thank you, Rachel. We're going to discharge Chief Swan tonight."
"See, told you I didn't need this." Charlie gestured at the gown.
She didn't even smile. She was too busy giving Doctor Cullen sidelong glances as he gathered up the patient file. Some men just had it all. She followed him out of the room, leaving Charlie alone for the first time since he'd left the office earlier that night. It should have been a relief, but if he was honest, he'd admit that he'd even welcome Ollie and his camera right now.
After ten minutes spent counting the squares on the ceiling, Doctor Cullen returned.
"It will take about forty minutes to get the paperwork finished. In the meantime—" He placed an object on the bed, beside Charlie's good hand, "— here's a phone if you need to call anyone."
He gave him a brief, knowing glance, and Charlie had a fair idea he wasn't suggesting calling dispatch to pick him up from the hospital, and this might just be an act of camaraderie from one father to another. Of course, it could be just his imagination. The doctor closed the door on the way out.
Charlie picked up the phone, and dialed a number in Phoenix.