It has been sooooooo long, and there are not enough apologies for that. Many things have happened since I last updated. Mainly going back to work, which was the biggest reason for not getting a chance to update, and having another baby. I'm currently typing one-handed with my 8-week old son in my arms.

I wish I could give you a more exciting update, but this story is winding down to it's conclusion. This chapter and all subsequent chapters will not be beta'd.


Love Don't Mean a Thing

I watch my father through the metal bars as he hunts and pecks at the keyboard, his face illuminated by the blue glow from his computer screen. It's been five long hours since we got to the police station. Five long hours of defiantly sitting in the jail cell next to my "murderous" boyfriend. Five long hours of wondering how many different types of DNA are on the mattress I'm currently sitting on.

I secretly wonder if Charlie is doing this all for effect. The hand cuffs and jail cell can't actually hold Peter here, at least not physically. Maybe it's some kind of symbolism Charlie is trying to convey. Bound and caged. Peter can't get away. Then I realize how ridiculous I'm being. This is Charlie—direct and abrasive with a smidgeon of hostile—Charlie.

"God dammit!" A resounding thud makes me sit bolt upright from my slumped position. I look up to find Charlie raking his hands through his hair leaning as far back in his computer chair as gravity will allow.

"He's not findin' a goddamned thing and it's pissin' 'im off," Peter whispers with a slow smile creeping over his face.

"I know my dad. He'll make us sit here the whole twenty-four hours until he finds something. Even if he doesn't, he'll have a backu—"

"I can't concentrate with you two whispering back and forth conspiratorially to each other. Besides, I already have a backup plan. I call her Vera." Charlie cracks the first smile I've seen from him since the supernatural crap hit the fan. Unfortunately, it's quickly replaced by his now-typical scowl.

Charlie rocks forward and stands from his chair in one swift motion. He hooks his left hand under the concealed holster beneath his jacket. It's such a force of habit for him that it shouldn't warrant the title 'concealed' anymore.

"There's just something I don't understand. If you would be so kind as to explain it to me, I'd appreciate it." His words are cordial, but the tone is anything but sincere. "Why? Why choose to kill people if there's another option? The Cullens seem to get along just fine without slaughtering half the town. So why can't you?"

Peter snickers under his breath, an action that isn't missed by Charlie. "So you think muderin' people is funny?"

Oh fuck. My eyes shoot wide open and I grip Peter's hand so hard I think I hear my own knuckles crack. Pull up, Peter, the plane's about to crash!

"No, not at all, sir. It's jus' that I don't consider the way the Cullen's live as 'getting along just fine.'" I hold my breath, waiting for Peter to hopefully say the right thing. "You look like a healthy man, Chief Swan." Charlie eyes Peter like a used car salesman. "A red-blooded, meat and potatoes guy I'm guessin'."

Peter's waiting for a response, but Charlie doesn't give him as much as a shrug.

"I know there were days in my human life where I would kill fer a big piece of juicy steak. I craved meat the same way this body craves blood, human blood. It's our natural food source. We aren't meant to drink from animals. Not only does it weaken us physically, but it never fully quenches the thirst. I drink from low-life humans to keep the rest of ya safe—especially Bella."

It's a long while before Charlie responds. Never one to give up an argument, I'm sure he's looking for his counterpoint.

"So how come the Cullens haven't gone on a murderous rampage from their 'thirst'?" Charlie folds his arms across his chest, surely thinking he's backed Peter into a corner.

"Oh, they've all gone on their 'murderous rampages' from time to time. All except fer Rose and Carlisle. One of 'em slips up, and they all jus' move an' start over in another state, or country as it were."

"Sounds like I need to broaden my search," Charlie mutters as he walks back to his computer.

It's time to pull out the big guns, Peter. Dear, God. I hope you have big guns.

"Chief, I understand yer need for justice here, but yer gonna wind up gettin' lots of innocent people killed."

Yes, the Volturi Card!

"Yeah, I heard your threat earlier, and you don't scare me. You don't even have fangs for cryin' out loud and you fuckin' sparkle. Not exactly the scary monster of my nightmares."

I can't help but laugh. Peter lets out a chuckle, too. The mental picture forms of Peter looming over my bed, shirtless, lit up like a disco ball. 'Boo, baby.' I let out a huge giggle snort before I can smack my own mouth shut. Peter eyes me weirdly.

"I'm sorry, babe, but you do sparkle."

He rolls his eyes and looks away, trying to hide a smile. I make a mental note to berate him mercilessly about his sparkly complexion later.

"It's not my threat to make, Chief. There's a vampire ... government, I guess you could say. Only it's more like a dictatorship or a monarchy."

From what I'd heard about the Volturi, I'd say dictatorship was more accurate, emphasis on the 'dick'.

Charlie looks at Peter expectantly.

"They're called the Volturi, an' they are ruled by three powerful vampires. There are rules for us to follow, not many, but the chief among 'em is to keep our existence a secret from all humans. If they find out that you an' Bella know about us, they'll kill you an' anyone else who knows the truth. That includes the Quileutes."

"Uh hu. Some mysterious, powerful vampires. And where do these 'Volturi' live?"

"In Volterra, Italy."

"So, how are three vampires in Italy going to find out that two humans in podunk Washington know about vampires?"

"I've suspected fer years that they keep a closer eye on the Cullens than they do most covens. The way the Cullens live—in the public eye, pretendin' to be humans—makes them more likely to pick up a pet or have someone figure 'em out." Peter looks at me with a smile. He gives me too much credit. I was force-fed the Quileute legends as a kid and my first boyfriend was a werewolf. Vampires weren't too far of a stretch, all things considered.

"So the Cullens are on the 'no-fly' list. Got it." Charlie rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "Sorry, I'm not buyin' the load of shit you're tryin' to sell me."

"Would ya believe it if it came from someone else?"

"Like who?"

"Dr. Cullen. He's been to Volterra. In fact, he stayed with the Volturi fer a number a years. He has books about 'em. Paintin's. I don't know how else to show ya this is real—real dangerous, too."

"And how am I supposed to trust a vampire?"

"Well, sir. You've trusted werewolves."

"Werewolves don't kill people." Dad doesn't say it with much conviction.

"They have in the past. I've heard Carlisle talk about the accidents. Humans, usually the werewolves' wives, were accidently killed during the wolves' transition."

"Look at Emily. Sam did that to her." Damn you, Muskrat Love.

"Really?" I nod, thankful he's actually starting to believe.

"You know the stories, Dad. You sat around the same campfires I did. They're all true."

"I'm beginning to see that. Still, they don't mention anything about these Volturi people."

I sigh, frustrated. "Would you really expect Native American werewolf legends to mention the Volturi; the vampire governing body? Can we just go talk to Carlisle ... after a nap. It's 3am and I am dead tired." Charlie gives me a strange look. "What?" I question.

"Fine. I'll take you home, Bells." He turns his attention on Peter. "But your ass is stayin' here. You understand me? If I get back and you're gone, I'm sending out every squad car in this county and the next three over after you."

"I'm not movin', sir."

I squeeze Peter's hand and mouth the words, "be good" to him before getting up from the filthy cot. My shoulders feel stiff and achy. I miss my bed, but I know I'll miss Peter more, iron bars and questionable—no, unmistakable—body fluids and all. Especially on the five minute drive home with nothing to distract my dad. I'm not sure what would be worse, fifteen bazillion questions flung at me in rapid succession, or a cold, awkward silence.

I look back at Peter to see him make a cross over his chest. It's hard to fight the urge to lean down and kiss him, but my dad would likely die of an aneurysm if I did that.

"Go easy on him." My eyes are still locked on Peter as I say it.

"Not a chance," Charlie answers.

Charlie refills his coffee mug before slinging his coat over his shoulder and walking out the door. I follow after him, my stomach in knots.

I slide into the front seat of the cruiser and do a mental countdown.

Three … two … one.

"Out of all the guys on this planet, you had to pick a vampire." Charlie's hands grip the steering wheel too tight as we back out of the gravel parking lot.

And there it is, I sigh.

"Do you think you'll ever be able to get past the whole vampire thing and see that underneath it all he's a good person?"

"You're askin' me if I can get past the fact that he kills people? No. I don't think so, Bella."

"Great, so you're judging him on a choice that he didn't make for himself. It's not like he was born this way. He was changed, forced into this life." The anger in my voice surprises me. And now I have Lady Gaga stuck in my head.

Charlie stares straight ahead out the window, his jaw firmly set.

We sit in silence until we pull into the driveway.

"When do you want me to pick you up?" Charlie still won't look at me.

"Give me four hours."

"Fine."

I slide along the seat, trying to bear as little weight on my arms as possible.

"And, Dad, don't lay into him. You do realize that it would take no effort for him to break out of the handcuffs and the cell. He's trying to make a good impression. The least you could do is attempt to be nice."

All I get is a grumble in response. I turn and step out of the car, slamming the door behind me for effect. Son-of-a-monkey's-uncle. Fuck that hurt.

Climbing up the stairs, I make a straight path to the shower.

I manage to wash my hair using my long-handled sponge they gave me from the hospital, trying not to think about the fact that up until now, I've only ever used it to wash my feet. Finally, after scrubbing my skin nearly raw, I think the only DNA I have left on my body is my own.

I barely remember my head hitting my pillow before Charlie is knocking impatiently on my door.

"Give me a minute," I grumble into my pillow.

I tug on my nicest pair of sweat pants—barely-faded black cotton without the elastic ankle cuffs—and tug out the wrinkles in my button down shirt. My hair's a mess, but there's nothing I can do about it now.

Sighing, I open the door to find Charlie leaning against the wall. Heavy bags now hang under his eyes and his skin looks pale. It reminds me of the first time I saw him after waking up from surgery after my lovely stay with Maria.

I hate what all of this is doing to him.

He jerks his head toward the stairs and I lead the way. I can't help but smile seeing Peter in the back of the squad car. His shoulders are hunched, his hands between his legs—probably still in cuffs. He looks strangely innocent. Well, as innocent as someone handcuffed in the back of a squad car could look.

I have half a mind to slide into the backseat with him, but decide against it. Charlie is being pretty cooperative for the time being, agreeing to at least hear Carlisle out. I don't want to give him any reason to back out of this.

I climb into the front seat. "So, how did the last four hours go?"

"Perfect. In fact, we're goin' huntin' this weekend." Peter's voice drips with sarcasm.

"Well, I guess it couldn't have been that bad. I mean you're still here."

Peter opens his mouth to respond, but Charlie climbs in the cab, his eyes passing back and forth between us. I turn around in my seat as he shuts the door.

"Do you know where the Cullens live, Dad?"

He doesn't respond but puts the car into drive.

I guess so.

If I thought my drive to the house was full of awkward silence, this is five-hundred times worse. Charlie's mouth stays set in a thin line, his dark eyes constantly darting back and forth between the road, Peter, and I.

I have half a mind to throw myself out of the car and kiss the ground when we arrive at the Cullen's house. Dr. Cullen is already at the door, a kind smile on his face. I can already see Alice's black hair behind his right shoulder. Great. My best friend.

Carlisle grasps Charlie's hand in both of his, and to Charlie's credit, he doesn't pull away or look shocked from the coldness of his grasp. There's no use in keeping up appearances now.

Carlisle ushers us into the living room. Esme immediately appears with a tray of what I'm assuming to be lemonade and a plate of cookies in her outstretched arms.

Charlie waves her off. "Thank you, Mrs. Cullen, but this isn't a social visit." He tugs his belt up in what is a very cliché cop move. "It's come to my attention what your true … identity is, and more importantly, what your diet is. Now, I know that you Cullens make a great effort to refrain from harming any people, but the same can't be said about this one, here." He gestures to Peter, who is still handcuffed, not even bothering to say his name. "I'd like to see him tried in a court of law, or worse, but I've been told there's some 'big, bad scary vampires' that would kill me an' Bells if I ratted him out." Charlie's voice is mocking when he mentions the Volturi.

Carlisle remains impassive. "Yes, the Volturi. They would come down on all of us if they found out that humans knew of our existence. They would kill us all, my family included. If you'll come with me to my study, I can show you all the text that I have surrounding them, though most of the information is put forth as legend. I can indeed vouch that they are very real, and very dangerous."

Charlie just nods, and we all follow Carlisle up the staircase to his office.

I sidle up to Charlie, "Can you please uncuff him? This is ridiculous," I whisper under my breath for God knows why. Everyone in the house can hear me. Hell, if Edward's here—

"Present!" I hear his voice call out from down the hall. Great.

A vision in glitter appears in the distance. As he approaches, I see Edward is wearing a heavily sequined double breasted jacket with coattails over a pair of impossibly skinny jeans. His eye makeup matches the exact shade of plum flawlessly and is equally as shiny.

Dad nearly chokes on his own saliva when he sees him. It's hilarious, really. He actually has to brace himself on the wall to get his breathing back under control.

"Dad, you remember Edward. Edward, police chief Swan. Remember in high school when Angela had Mrs. Edward Cullen written all over her binder with little hearts around it?"

He looks at me incredulously, his eyes bulging. "Um, no. I don't remember that." He clears his throat. "Edward, is it? Eh, nice to meet you." Hesitantly, he extends his hand to the truly sparkly vampire.

Edward grabs just the tip of Charlie's fingers and curtseys. Yup, he damned curtsied.

"Were you going somewhere, son?" Carlisle asks, expectantly.

"Yes, father. I was just going to visit Steve." He squeals with excitement before his face falls into a melodramatic pout. "This is his last night in town before he starts touring again." Edward turns his attention back to my father, as if any information that came from his mouth would be interesting to the man. "My boyfriend is famous," he brags, before sashaying down the hall and to the stairs.

Charlie leans into me. "Did he say … boyfriend?"

"Really, Dad? The glitter tux wasn't obvious enough?"

The next two hours pass by quickly. It's easy to get absorbed into Carlisle's stories. Not so absorbed, though, that you don't realize it when a certain demented pixy starts brushing your hair without even asking. Creepy, yes, but also helpful, considering I can't lift my arms high enough to do it myself. I stop her, though, when she starts using my head as a living pin cushion with the amount of bobby pins she's using. Then, out of nowhere, a mirror is thrust in my face. I have to admit that she did a fabulous job, though the elaborate braids that wind into a French twist are slightly out of place on my sweatpants-clad body.

"So, red eyes drink human blood like nig nog over here, and the gold eyes drink from animals," Charlie confirmed with a nod.

"Yes. That is correct." Carlisle had already told Charlie about the Volturi, and from what I could tell, he seemed to accept the story. "The animal blood doesn't give us the same … satisfaction as drinking from a human does, but it does keep us sustained. The Chinese are currently working on producing a better synthetic blood. They are trying to perfect the artificial hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. Their efforts are to improve synthetic blood for medical purposes, but I hope that one day it may replace our need for human blood all together and be a better alternative to animal blood. I, myself, have been performing my own research in my spare time."

"That's great and all, doc, but in the meantime people are still getting killed." Charlie turns to glare at Peter.

"I can personally vouch that Peter is very much in control of his bloodlust. I wouldn't allow him to work at the hospital if I believed otherwise. As much as I would love for him to adhere to our diet, it would be very challenging for him. He would be unable to be around any humans for quite some time." Bless Carlisle for trying, but I already know Charlie won't see his reasoning.

"I'm not seeing a problem there. Switch to hunting animals instead of humans and lay low for a while. There's no harm in that."

"When I say that he will be unable to be around humans for quite some time, I mean months … years possibly." Carlisle eyes me, "I doubt he will be able to stay away for that long."

I can feel the blush coloring my cheeks. And he's right. I couldn't stand being away from Peter for days, much less years.

"Again, I don't see the problem. Until he goes vegetarian, as you call it, he won't be spending any time around my daughter. Those are my terms. It's either that or he's tried for murder."

This is my moment to pipe in. "I'm an adult, Charlie. You can't dictate who I can and cannot see. You also can't try a man for murder when you have no proof."

Charlie's face breaks out in a huge grin. "That's just the thing. I do have proof," he says as he rifles through his pockets, finally locating what he's looking for. "A taped confession."

The moment the small tape appears in his hand, it's swiped away by a black blur. I hear a crunching sound and look to see Alice breaking the tape into small, little fragments before she pulls out the actual tape and shreds it.

Charlie looks like he's about to have a shit fit, but what can he do? He's not going to throw a punch at a girl who looks not a day over fifteen.

"Had. The correct phrase is you had proof," she gloats with a finely manicured eyebrow raised in defiance.

I smile. Way to go, bestie!

"Trust me when I say that the tape wouldn't hold up in a court of law without any other evidence placing Peter at the scene of the crime. Do you have eyewitnesses?"

Charlie doesn't seem to know quite what to think about Alice. Then again, everyone I know pretty much has the same problem. Charlie lets out a gruff "no" under his breath.

"I didn't think so. That's not the way we operate. Keeping our existence a secret is our number one priority. Our survival depends on it. I, for one, won't let you turn Peter in and risk the safety of our family—"

"—Alice," Carlisle warns, but Alice barely misses a beat.

"No. You know Peter won't stay away from Bella, and when he catches them together he will turn him in! I've seen it." Alice turns her dark eyes from her father back to my father. "I can see how your decisions will affect our future and you're going to get us all killed. I won't let it happen."

It's truly scary when Alice turns her wrath on you. Dad looks like he's having a little trouble keeping up.

"Are you threatening me?" Charlie tries to put the same amount of venom in his voice to match Alice.

"Yes. I will kill you myself before I let you turn in Peter." She pauses, her eyes momentarily going dull, before a sinister smile spreads across her face. "No, I'll change you. Force you to keep the very secret you were going to reveal."

"Alice, there is no need to make threats toward the police chief." Carlisle turns back to Charlie. "I apologize for my daughter's harsh words. She is fiercely protective of her family, something I'm sure you can identify with." Carlisle reaches his arm out and Alice scurries to his side. "Our Alice has the gift of foresight. She can see the consequences of the decisions we make. Though, as our choices change, so does our future. She has seen that you are still undecided as to whether or not you should turn Peter over to the courts. I must ask if there is anything we can do to sway your decision."

"Of course. Keep him away from my daughter. It's as simple as that."

"As your Bella has said, she is an adult. We could no sooner cage Peter just as you cannot restrain Bella from doing as she pleases. What I meant was, is there anything we may do to assure you that Bella is safe with Peter?"

"No, there isn't."


So, Charlie isn't coming around to the idea of his daughter dating a vampire. I can't exactly say I blame him, though.