Previously: Monday Bella got attacked in Port Angeles. Tuesday she had to practice using her new Taser. Wednesday Edward had an argument with Carlisle. Thursday at school Edward decided to play 20 questions. It's now Thursday evening, and it's time to play a new game: Truth or Consequences.
In case anyone is wondering, I set this story in 2011.
"Okay," Bella said, straining against her seatbelt as she turned her body toward Edward, "but all I'm saying is, if Alice knew it was going to happen, then why didn't any of you warn anybody who could prevent it?"
"I tried," Edward reassured her, steering into her neighborhood. "It was like the Cold War all over again. It had to be totally and completely anonymous, so I crossed an international border and called from a random payphone at four o'clock in the morning, but I did try. It didn't matter. The CIA, the FBI, and the NSA were so busy playing games with each other, it was like they forgot why their agencies were created in the first place. I wasn't the only one to provide them with legitimate intelligence, and yet—"
"And yet," Bella sighed, "thousands of people died needlessly, and now we're entrenched in wars that can't be won."
"It's depressing," Edward mumbled. "Alice thinks we'll have the troops in Iraq home for Christmas, but that's not a certainty."
"Here's hoping," Bella said, without much optimism. "So where were you when it actually happened?"
"Alaska," he answered, "staying with—oh, hell."
Edward gripped his steering wheel with both hands, looking like it took a good deal of effort not to splinter it. "You have visitors."
Bella strained her eyes, trying to see through the rain pelting the windshield. An unfamiliar car sat in her driveway, and a young man with long, black hair stepped out of the driver's side.
Shit, she swore internally.
Shit, Edward cursed, too, but not quite for the same reason.
"I told Charlie it was a bad idea," Bella muttered.
"What was?" Edward asked, suddenly confused.
"Can you tell me what they want?" she said, ignoring his question.
"The boy primarily seems interested in seeing you…with a secondary goal of keeping his father from saying anything embarrassing," Edward discovered. "The man is upset with Charlie…and you."
"I was afraid of that," Bella sighed.
"Good god, woman! You electrocuted three people?"
"I stunned them," Bella said defensively, "and it wasn't my idea. It was Charlie's."
"And you didn't tell me about it?"
"I keep trying to forget it ever happened." She blew a stray hair out of her face, frustrated and nervous. "Are they pissed at me?"
"Actually, they've both switched focus," Edward frowned.
Billy was upset about a Cullen spending one-on-one time with a teenage girl, even though, obviously, five of them went to public school with hundreds of human teenagers every day and nobody ever got hurt. The coven-master had easy access to weak, unconscious patients and a plethora of blood bags, yet in two years Billy had never given the order to run them out of town. But a teenage girl riding in a car with a boy vampire? Oh hell no.
Jake, on the other hand, was annoyed because the only girl who'd ever shown the slightest bit of interest in him had a new boyfriend. Bella was irritating because she talked too much, but she was still a real, live girl with boobs and everything, and he'd had years of practice tuning out his sisters whenever they started babbling about make-up or romance novels or some shit. He'd been hoping tonight might lead somewhere, even if it was just an awkward, furtive make-out session in the kitchen while the men argued on the front porch or arm wrestled for dominance or whatever. But some guy had beaten Jake to the punch, damn it, so now his whole night was a waste. Stupid…older, probably handsome guy.
"What do you mean, 'you?' Why do you sound like that's a terrible thing?" Bella asked. "I thought they thought vampirism was just a legend."
"Their children do," Edward corrected her. "The elders know better."
Bella didn't have time to ponder whether Billy, a man in his mid-forties at most, actually qualified as an elder when she'd seen at least ten elderly people milling around the reservation during her recent visit. She also had no time to get bent out of shape that Jacob, who was only two years younger than her, was a "child" to Edward, but she was somehow an appropriately dateable age for a centenarian. There wasn't even time to ask what it meant for all parties concerned that Billy Black, armed with a full knowledge of Cullen vampire status, had just seen Bella and Edward together, and whether she should expect some kind of impromptu supernatural throw-down, because just then Edward turned an ear toward a far-off sound only he could hear and announced:
"Your father is almost home."
Bella exhaled, momentarily reflecting on the clusterfuck that was her life.
"Get them indoors," Edward insisted, touching Bella's wrist just once, careful but urgent. He wished he could kiss her, just on the forehead, but there was an audience to consider. "Call me when they leave, and I'll explain everything."
She gave Edward one last look, uncertainty printed across her face, and brushed his fingers with her own before climbing out of the car, wondering what kind of hell might be unleashed, how Charlie was going to react, and (nonsensically) whether her trig teacher would accept "massive shitstorm" as an excuse for not turning in her homework.
"Hey," Jacob called out, trying not to sound too bummed, just in case Bella and her boyfriend weren't exclusive and his evening could be salvaged. "You remember my dad, Billy?"
"Hi Jake, hi Billy," she said, trying to sound like there was nothing unusual going on. "Come inside. I'll get the heater going for you." She held on to Jacob's useless umbrella while he helped his father into a wheelchair and pushed him to the front porch. Ushering them in, she managed to get a single glimpse of Edward's car pulling away.
Wait just a damn minute, she mused as the glow from the headlights receded. Why does Edward have to leave? I thought the treaty only barred him from entering reservation lands. Isn't Forks technically on the Cullen side of the boundary? What the hell, man?
"So," Bella said to her guests, calling upon all her years of experience with her mother's annoying boyfriends who she was expected to greet politely, no matter how unwelcome, untimely, or un-sober their visits. She handed Jake and his dad the two towels she kept in a cabinet near the entryway, figuring their long hair would be just as uncomfortably soaked as hers always was. "Would you like something to drink?"
"A beer," Billy said immediately, feeling very much in need of a drink after seeing his lifelong friend's only daughter alone in a car with a Cullen. Even if she was a man-burner. Hell, especially because she was a man-burner.
"Dad, you know you can't have alcohol with your diabetes medication—" Jacob said worriedly.
"I'm not the one driving, you are," Billy interrupted. Staring up at Bella with a look she could only describe as suspicious, he said, "Got any Vitamin R?"
Bella hated it when people made her feel young and powerless to refuse. For abandoning her like a damn coward, Edward was going to be in the doghouse—no, the shithouse. But she wasn't a child, she wasn't powerless, and her father would be pulling in the driveway any second now.
She stood up straight and didn't allow herself to flinch or look away. "I have to wait for Charlie before I start giving away his beer. House rules. Would you like some water or coffee?"
"Sure, water's fine," Billy grumped, rolling himself into the living room and scowling at nothing in particular. Jake shot Bella an apologetic look, which she shrugged at.
"Bella!" Charlie called out less than a minute later, hand on his holster, eyes alert and moving. "Whose car is that?
"Easy, Charlie," Billy said from the living room. "I borrowed some sturdier wheels to come see you. You up for watching the Mariner's game?"
From her spot in the kitchen doorway, Bella watched carefully as Charlie did a double take and relaxed his hands. "Billy?" he said, obviously surprised. "Hey."
"They got here just before you did," Bella said quietly, holding up two glasses and moving toward the living room. "I was bringing them some water."
"I'd rather have a beer," Billy called out insistently.
"Dad," Jacob groaned.
Bella closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and let her breath out slowly. Noticing this, Charlie took the water glasses from her. When Bella opened her eyes again, they shared a look. Charlie knew very well how gruff Billy could get when his blood sugar was out of whack, and he knew Bella wouldn't like being treated that way. He also knew Billy hadn't come here, after a year and a half of almost total mutual silence, just to throw back a few and watch a random ball game.
"I'm out of beer," Charlie announced, earning a smile from his daughter, who knew he had a case of Rainier in the garage. "Maybe if we ask nicely, Bella will fix us a snack."
"Yes, please, if it's no trouble," Jacob said right away, hoping that being extra polite would make up for his father's attitude (even though all it did was highlight the difference). "Nothing sugary for my dad, please."
"Grilled cheese with tomato okay?" Bella asked, looking away from her father and meeting Billy's unhappy eyes.
The man nodded, moving his gaze to Charlie before ordering his son to help Bella in the kitchen.
"So your dad finally decided to come visit," Bella whispered to Jacob, pulling ingredients from the fridge.
"Yeah," Jake said, feeling uncomfortable. "I'm really sorry about how he's acting. It's been over four hours since he last ate, and his meds don't improve his mood."
Bella chose not to point out that Billy had not asked for food. "It happens," she said in monotone. She probably would have been more sympathetic (but also more hurt) if she thought for one second she could attribute his attitude solely to a medical condition and not a number of other unrelated issues.
"He just wanted to talk to Charlie about something," Jake assured her, "or I thought he did. We didn't mean to ambush your…date or whatever."
"Just getting a ride," Bella said, her irritation with Edward making her able to lie about him. She twirled the spatula in her fingers like a little baton. "Helps me save on gas money. Grab the frying pan from that cabinet, please."
"So who was it?" Jacob asked, not realizing that his question sounded a little nosier than he meant.
Deciding there was no point in lying, she said, "Edward Cullen."
Jacob smiled, trying to cover a needless sense of shame. "That explains my dad's face."
"Right," Bella said. "The old feud."
"It's stupid," Jacob told her. "I mean, what did Old Man Cullen's adopted great-grandkids ever do to us, right?"
"Really," Bella muttered, though she knew who Old Man Cullen really was. Technically, she couldn't prove whether Dr. Cullen had or had not done anything terrible to the Quileute tribe four generations ago, either—it wouldn't make any sense to move to Forks if there had been bloodshed in the past, but if there had been, Edward might not be forthcoming about it now, and Jacob might not know exactly what it was. "You think your dad's going to make an issue of it with Charlie?"
Sighing, Jacob admitted, "It's already an issue. That's actually why Charlie and my dad stopped talking to each other."
Confused, Bella asked, "What do you mean?"
After taking a moment to ponder how it was that he always ended up telling Bella things he never meant to tell anyone, ever, and also to wonder how he could maybe stop getting himself into this position, Jacob started talking. He explained about the tribal ban on seeking treatment at the hospital, and that it was only in place because of Dr. Cullen. (While Jacob's grandparents had been distrustful of white doctors, perhaps rightfully so at the time, Jake felt that sentiment belonged to the past, not to the present—he was sensitive, if not well-versed or tactful, about race relations because, like Leah Clearwater, he felt old grudges impeded growth).
He told Bella about how Harry Clearwater and the younger members of the tribe disagreed with the ban, and most of the Quileutes who lived off the rez ignored the ban altogether. He recalled how Charlie told Billy off something fierce when he found out about the whole situation a couple years ago. And he asked her to please, please not repeat this to anyone, because it was supposed to be a tribe secret.
Bella listened, growing increasingly horrified by several things: 1) Billy actually thought Dr. Cullen would hurt people, even though he'd probably never even met the guy in person, 2) he wouldn't allow his fellow tribe members to seek emergency treatment from a different doctor at the same hospital, which made her wonder what exactly his position was on life or death situations, and 3) Edward hadn't told her about any of this, except to verify that he had, in fact, lived in another small town in Washington a long time ago. Not in any phone calls, late-night visits, nor lunch-time discussions, had this hospital ban stuff ever come up. It was all venom and razor sharp teeth this and Jack Lord was the greatest TV actor of his time that and in my day, an upright piano cost twenty-five dollars from Sears and Roebuck.
"So is your dad here to hash it out or something?" Bella asked carefully, straining her ears in an attempt to hear the men's voices. So far, no yelling.
"I don't think that's what he had in mind," Jacob said doubtfully, walking to the doorway to eavesdrop, too. "He wouldn't tell me anything. All I know is that he's been holding extra council meetings this week." Damn it! Why did I say that? She didn't need to know that!
Bella thought, Oh, I bet I have a pretty good idea what he has in mind. After a little more reflection, she sighed. Edward's secret was one she was likely going to have to keep for the rest of her life. Just like she kept the secret of her mother's abortion two years ago, her grandmother's insane last words, and now this hospital ban. But by god, if nobody in this gossip-happy little town was going to respect her secrets, it was better to just own what she'd done.
"Jake, I have something to tell you. I did a bad thing."
Billy didn't look at his oldest friend when the kids went to the kitchen, just kept his eye on the TV while Charlie fiddled with the remotes. "You had no right to torture three men. I didn't realize the blood between us was that bad."
Charlie settled down in his recliner, so that he and Billy would be of equal height, not one towering over the other. Onscreen, the pitcher shook off one call and nodded at another before winding up his pitch. Mindful of the children, Charlie turned up the TV volume so they wouldn't hear the conversation.
"That had nothing to do with it." He didn't ask Billy why he'd chosen to come to him at home rather than the police station. It was a tribute to their lifelong friendship that Billy hadn't called an attorney. "And I didn't torture anyone."
"No, your daughter did."
"Don't you dare hold it against her. I needed her to practice using her new Taser, and Sam's guys happened to be there that night, in need of an excuse to sidestep prosecution. If it makes you feel better, she couldn't bring herself to shock them for longer than two and a half seconds, and she apologized." Bella had to be told, repeatedly, that it was a necessary thing, and that she wasn't responsible for anything that happened. It absolutely terrified Charlie, mostly because he feared she'd be too afraid (or God help him, too weirdly guilty) to use her stun gun when she genuinely needed it to save her own life. "They barely even lost consciousness, for God's sake."
"It's still not right. One of them could have had a heart condition."
"Heart condition, my ass. They beat the shit out of four men."
"Four drug dealers."
Irritated but trying not to show it, Charlie switched to his Official Police Business face. "It's a crime to take the law in your own hands, Billy. They should have taken pictures, gotten some video, or even just called 911."
"What the hell for? So your guys could take their sweet time getting there and let the real criminals get away?"
"No," Chief Swan said sharply, "so I could call in a Haz-Mat team from County. Do you know what happens to crystal meth if you don't constantly attend to it while it's cooking?"
Billy had to admit that he did not. He just knew a drug was a drug.
"It explodes," the Chief answered. "Meth labs absolutely must be dealt with by a Hazardous Materials team so as not to endanger anyone in the vicinity. That includes the criminals, the cops, the vigilantes, the neighbors, the kids riding their bikes across the street, everybody. We had to evacuate an entire trailer park in under four minutes! A lot of people could have been killed, and I'd have been forced to file murder charges on Sam's crew and the meth cooks because the deaths occurred during the commission of another crime. So don't storm over here, get pissy with my daughter, and tell me how to do my fucking job. You keep your boys on a leash, or next time they will be prosecuted, and no amount of voluntary pain endurance will get them out of it. You got that?"
Billy exhaled roughly, but nodded. "You didn't tell Sam about any of that stuff," he grumbled. "Kids getting hurt if the trailer blew up."
"And give him a reason to go looking for more meth labs when he was already high on his own little accomplishment?" Charlie shook his head. Sam was a natural leader, this much was obvious, and his intentions were admirable. But he hadn't planned ahead or considered the safety of others when he decided to play DEA, and that made Charlie nervous. "No thank you."
"I'll have a talk with him," Billy said, mostly to himself.
"Do whatever you want, they're your boys," Charlie conceded. "Just remember, all three of them made the choice to go down there. It's not like Sam just forced them to go against their wills."
Billy had no response to this, but the gears in his head were turning. After a few moments went by, Charlie offered, "You still want to watch the game?"
Billy watched as the Mariners' left fielder made a magnificent catch. "Yeah." After a beat, he added, "You know your daughter is dating some boy, right?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Charlie answered, wondering if Billy was on a quest to cross as many personal boundaries as he possibly could in one night. There was a time when Billy wasn't like this, back before the diabetes took his legs and patience and before a car accident took his wife. Sarah, God rest her, would have already told her husband to mind his own business, only it would have come out as 'hush up and watch the game.'
"You know the kid?" Billy asked cautiously.
Even though Bella had not yet divulged the identity of her boyfriend, Chief Swan knew exactly who it was for one simple reason: he remembered the Valentine roses. Mrs. Nguyen at the flower shop, though she didn't like gossip, understood the importance of keeping an eye on these damn crazy American teenagers, lest their delusions of living on the set of some stupid teen drama spill over and ruin decent, hardworking people's lives. Besides which, she had a deep and abiding respect for authority. So when the Chief of Police came into her shop yesterday, she was only too happy to look through her old credit card records and find out whose card had paid for a $200 order of long-stem hybrid roses delivered to his house.
The fact that it was the same boy who'd saved Isabella from Tyler Crowley's van did not go unappreciated by the chief.
Charlie shot his friend a look, daring him to push any further. So help me God, if he brings the Cullens into this, I will lose my shit.
"I know his father. That's enough for now."
Billy looked as though he wanted to say more, but he turned back to the TV and stayed quiet until the kids brought in some dinner. He'd tried Charlie Swan's patience enough for one night, and if he wanted to be allowed back through the door to keep an eye on things, it was best not to upset Charlie any further. Really, Billy learned all he needed to know: Charlie Swan still had a misplaced faith in the wrong people, and Isabella didn't know enough to trust and respect an old family friend who only wanted to protect her.
Later that night, Billy called an impromptu meeting to discuss matters with the other council members, who didn't appreciate being summoned after bedtime for anything less than a life threatening emergency.
Regarding Sam, Paul, and Jared, none of the elders happened to be familiar with the particulars of manufacturing crystal meth—apparently they'd never seen Breaking Bad—but then, Sam hadn't exactly spelled out a strategy to take out an entire meth operation when he initially told the council he wanted to hunt down one local meth dealer. One sensible councilmember wondered why, if Sam's boys knew they were looking for a chemical lab, they didn't anticipate being in the presence of dangerous chemicals. They couldn't attribute Charlie's actions (or Bella's) to a hidden agenda, but even though the boys had been released without being charged, it still felt like a civil rights violation had occurred. The idea of hiring an attorney was floated for the umpteenth time that week.
Old Quil—who'd fought bravely through two tours in Vietnam, caught shrapnel in his left leg, and lost half the men in his squad thanks to the command decisions of a spectacularly stupid first lieutenant—didn't stand for half-assed plans or whiny bullshit. By god, he was damn sick of hearing people suggest lawyers and civil suits against the police department and other such horseshit. He declared that if the council was going to continue letting Sam take these kinds of risks, not to mention imposing those risks on his unit, then everyone had to be prepared to deal with the consequences, including the possibility that someone might get hurt or killed. If the council didn't like it, then they shouldn't just blindly green-light any damn stupid, half-cocked mission Sam came up with. As for Sam, Old Quil thundered, he was sitting at home licking his already healed wounds while his mother made him fish stew, not stuck in some hellacious shithole of a POW camp getting his skin peeled off his face or bamboo shoved under his fingernails. If he was serious about choosing a warrior path, he was going to have to take his punishments when he got caught and suffer his injuries like a fucking man, and the council had no business coddling him, god damn it!
At least two members of the council wondered to themselves if Old Quil always ran for his council position unopposed because nobody wanted to endure that much profanity in a public debate.
The appearance of a Cullen at the Swan house was universally troubling; the rest of the council was every bit as worried as Billy about Bella's safety where an overly attentive vampire was concerned. However, they asked the questions Billy hadn't thought to ask: why did Bella Swan have a new stun gun in the first place? Did Charlie have his own reasons to fear for her well-being? Did this have anything to do with the increasing number of drug-related crimes taking place in Clallam County, or the fact that she'd nearly been run over once already? Was Isabella, as the police chief's daughter, a target for someone else? Was she traveling with the most feared boy at school because she—or her father—thought the boy would protect her from some other threat? How much did she actually know about the Cullens?
Thanks to Poker Nights at the Swan household, Harry knew that Bella was clever, curious, and willing to listen to people's stories. The girl spent enough time in Urgent Care to have heard about the tribe's hospital ban from any number of gossiping nurses and orderlies. Furthermore, Leah had confided in her father that Sam Uley was prone to broadcasting the Cullens' personae non gratae status in front of townie visitors to the reservation, like an idiot. So while it was understandable why Isabella might be sympathetic to the Cullens, there wasn't enough evidence to believe she was the victim of some kind of vampire-Jedi mind trick. At least, not yet. That didn't mean the vampire wouldn't take advantage of the situation eventually. There was a difference between resisting one's appetite in public and resisting it in private.
Harry was in favor of breaking with tradition and passing along a subtle warning to the girl, but he doubted Billy would be the best man for the job. He was the first to tell Billy that his problem wasn't that Bella Swan didn't trust him; it was that any girl who was being trained to use a Taser on grown men three times her size was not likely to have much respect for an old fart who invited himself over to her house and behaved like an asshole.
"Are you all right?" Edward said the moment Bella called. He sat in a tree across the street from her place, wishing Charlie would go to bed already so he could come to the house and talk to Bella in person.
"I'm pissed, but I'm okay," she said grudgingly, looking out the window until she saw the glow of a cell phone. "What the shit, Edward? You took off like a bat out of hell."
"It was an attempt to be diplomatic. The Quileutes don't trust me as it is."
"I didn't realize fleeing the scene was considered an act of diplomacy."
"Flaunting my relationship with you would only have antagonized them."
"Billy was already plenty antagonized," Bella informed him, staring daggers at his tree. "You knew that, and you left me alone with him anyway."
"I just went far enough to stay hidden, but I was nearby the whole time. He wasn't going to hurt you."
"He wasn't exactly delighted with me."
Edward said in a low, surprisingly deep voice, "I heard. His grandfather would be ashamed of such manners."
"Excuse me? You're worried about his manners?" Bella snapped. "If that's your first concern about any given situation, I'd like to remind you that you were plenty rude to me when we first met."
"From what I gathered, he had an independent reason to be upset with you, 'Man-burner.' I can't believe you didn't tell me about that, but you told Jacob."
"First of all, Jacob's dad already knew, so it was only a matter of time before Jake found out anyway. Second, I don't owe you every tiny, shameful detail of my life—"
"This isn't a question about what you had for breakfast, Bella! You should have said something!"
"Oh, you're giving me hell about withholding information?" Bella threw her hand in the air, as if to smack Edward upside the head. From across the street. "Apparently Billy has his own reasons to hate you, and they go back a lot further than Tuesday."
"Are you taking his side?"
"I didn't know I needed to take a side until tonight," she answered, trying not to shout. "You never told me I was supposed to be avoiding landmines. I thought there was nothing more to it than an ancient division of boundaries, maybe some distrust. Not a hospital boycott and an ongoing turf war I could get caught in the middle of!"
"There is no turf war," Edward argued. "There's just turf."
"Nobody's pissed about a line on a map," she hissed. "People are the turf. I am goddamn turf."
Edward became silent again, letting Bella's words soak in.
"I need you to tell me the truth, Edward. Have you or anyone else in your family ever hurt any of them, even by accident?"
"Never," Edward swore. "They wouldn't have entered a treaty with us if we had."
"Well I have," Bella replied, leaning on the window sill. "I hurt three men from their tribe. I didn't want to do it, but it's done. And then Billy shows up just in time to see you driving me home." Softly now, she said, "You understand what this means for me, don't you? What it means for Charlie?"
"I don't believe Billy sees it that way," Edward offered. "Not after your father explained things."
"You don't know that," Bella said, though she hoped he was right. "For all your mind reading and your sister's fortune telling, you don't actually know anything, do you? If you did, I wouldn't be in this position."
It was true. Edward could hear a reaction, and sometimes Alice could predict the outcome of a decision, but even together they couldn't predict someone else's gut reaction, and predicting the subsequent fallout from something unforeseeable was guesswork at best.
Edward shut his eyes, afraid to see the look in hers, even from fifty feet away. "Bella, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, sure," Bella said, swallowing and looking away. She had an urge to curse, hang up on Edward, and lock the window for the night, but there were more pressing matters than having the last word. "What happens next?"
"Whatever you want," Edward promised immediately, and much too hastily.
She stared out into the dark. "We don't have to stop seeing each other, do we?"
"No," Edward insisted. "The purpose of the treaty was to live and let live." He felt himself coming to the decision as he spoke it. "Billy Black may not like that I'm seeing you, but he'll have to get over it, because there's not a damn thing he can do about it. It's not for anyone else to govern my life." Still feeling the shame of the entire fiasco, he added, "Next time, I won't just run. But I want you to think about something: what do you think will happen if Billy shows up again, and I hold my ground?"
Bella, though relieved at Edward's resolve, was nonetheless unsure how to answer the question. "I don't know," she finally admitted.
"Neither do I," Edward told her.
Bella pressed her forehead to the cool glass. "So what do I do now?"
After some thought, Edward said, "This isn't a command by any means, but I think you might want to avoid the reservation for a while."
"I've only been there once since I moved here. What does not going there again prove?"
"Nothing," Edward said. "It just keeps you out of Billy Black's immediate line of sight. Right now he's suspicious of me because he saw us alone in a car, but he doesn't realize you know what I am. I'd like to keep it that way." Considering the situation, he added, "It's probably a good idea to avoid La Push anyway. It won't be long before the gossip spreads about your Taser practice. And don't give me that 'Jacob won't tell anybody.' He's a kid. He'll talk."
Bella rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure he'll spread that around but leave out the part where I'm running around with a Cullen. Because that's how gossip works. What do you expect me to do, preemptive tweeting?" When Edward didn't answer right away, she said, "I'm not doing that."
"This isn't middle school, Edward. Billy's the concern here, not his kid. A forty-something-year-old man isn't going to follow my Twitter feed."
Accepting this unnecessary advice (but also wondering why Bella never told him she had a Twitter account), Edward said, "The good news is the boy didn't seem to bear you any ill will." Indeed, Jacob's reaction to the Taser Incident had mostly been shock and disbelief, a half-mumbled promise to keep it to himself, followed by an abrupt change of subject. "Just let some time pass, and everything will be forgotten."
This was a typical vampire answer to everything related to human long-term memory. Bella, who still remembered her 7th grade locker combination, wasn't buying it.
"How long is that supposed to take, you think?" she demanded. "When summer rolls around and everyone's partying at First Beach, am I still going to be avoiding an entire tribe of people? Nothing suspicious about that. They won't think I'm under your influence…just that I know all about tribe secrets. Or that I'm holding some kind of grudge on your behalf. Or that I'm a racist, man-burning bitch." She sighed, wondering why in the hell she came to Forks instead of moving to a boarding school in California, like some lame tween sitcom on a cable network.
She hoped Jacob didn't decide he hated her; he was a decent kid, and it would suck if he held something against her that was beyond her control. But as for what anyone else thought…"There is no length of time that will make the men I hurt forget what I did. Just like there is nothing on this earth that will make Billy forget that I came home with a vampire."
"I know," he sighed, wondering if falling in love with the daughter of Chief Swan could have ever played out any other way. "I'm sorry."
"Now I need you to be honest with me," Edward said. "Why didn't you tell me about stunning Sam?"
"Because I was ashamed of myself," Bella said quietly. "It was a horrible thing to do."
"That's understandable," Edward replied, trying to sound comforting and non-judgmental. "Is there anything else I don't know?"
That stun gun was meant for you. "Yep."
"Care to elaborate?"
Bella closed her eyes, thinking of the one called Jared and the gurgling sound he made. Could she really do such a thing to Edward? Would he or his family ever put her in a position where she'd have to? Would the relationship hold strong if she told him why she was keeping her Taser?
And Edward, who had failed to mention that, now that Bella knew he was a vampire, his entire family expected her to join them in immortality any day now, whether she agreed to it or not, said: "Fair enough."
When Jacob's friends eventually passed along the gossip that someone (not Bella, but an anonymous someone at the police station, because there was no way in hell Sam's crew were letting it get around that they'd been incapacitated by a hundred-and-ten-pound-girl) had stunned Sam senseless in exchange for avoiding arrest, Jake managed to act as though he didn't know much about it. His reaction was, "Fuck that guy. He's a dick. I totally saw him making eyes at Leah's cousin."