A/N: Greetings from beautiful New England!
This outtake appeared in the Fandom Fights Hurricane Sandy compilation. It's meant to be humorous, with a few specks of seriousness added in here and there.
Thanks to the lovely beegurl13 for the banner, which can be found on my blog (link is on my profile).
Characters belong to SM. People, places, and things all belong to their rightful owners. What happens to these two is all on me.
I stared at my gun belt for what seemed like forever, deciding whether I wanted to bring it on today's outing. I hadn't worn it in years, but then again a situation warranting its use hadn't arose either.
My daughter had a knack for picking not-so-great men to get involved with. In fact, my mind contained a whole arsenal of memories surrounding her poor romantic decisions…
May 16, 1998. Bella was finishing up her sophomore year of high school, but low and behold some arrogant senior by the name of Brandon Johnson asked her to accompany him to the prom. Bella was filled with excitement, mostly because she'd never been asked to any type of dance before. Renee was over-the-top because the young man was quarterback of the football team and ran with the social circle she always wished Bella would run with. Meanwhile, I was disgusted by the fact that my little girl was old enough to date, and irritated with her and her mother's excitement.
The night of the dance, Bella brought him into the living room for a formal introduction. "Dad, this is Brandon Johnson. Brandon, please meet my dad Charlie Swan." He gave me an arrogant smirk and attempted to shake my hand. Instead of accepting his greeting, I pulled back my flannel shirt, revealing my Glock G22 .40 nestled snugly in a shoulder holster.
"Bella's curfew is eleven. No drugs, no drinking, and none of that other stupid shit that teenagers do." I leveled him with a hard stare. "Prom may be in Port Angeles, but don't for a minute think I don't know what's going on in this half of the Olympic Peninsula."
"Y-y-yes s-sir," he stuttered out, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking down at his feet. I smiled in satisfaction and sank back into my recliner, propping my feet up on the ottoman and turning my attention back to the Mariners game.
"Thanks a lot dad," Bella hissed, looping her arm though Brandon's and leading him out the front door.
Five hours later, Brandon's true colors came out and his best friend revealed that Brandon had made a bet with some of the other football players that he could bed the police chief's daughter on prom night.
By the time Renee and I got there to pick Bella up, her date was three sheets to the wind, wearing only his underwear and hanging off the balcony of the hotel room he'd brought her back to. Needless to say he was arrested, and that was the last any of us heard of him.
June 21, 2003. Bella was back in Forks for the weekend with her boyfriend, Seth Anderson. I had to hand it to her, Seth was a nice guy and he seemed to have his head on straight. I tried not to dwell too much on the fact that he was from Wisconsin (I despised their football team and their beer), or that sometimes he'd slip his hand in the back pocket of Bella's jeans like he was claiming his territory. She was twenty-one now and nothing her mother or I said was going to stop her from behaving in ways we preferred she didn't.
Seth was always polite to both Renee and me, but there was just something about him that made me question how serious he was regarding his relationship with Bella. When graduation came and went, and Seth announced he was moving back to Wisconsin – with or without Bella by his side – I knew my suspicions were justified. Rose and Alice guided her through her first big breakup, and I crossed my fingers that she'd take a break from dating and focus on her new life in the city.
January 10, 2009. Ben Nelson was nothing but trouble. I didn't even have to meet him once to know this. He was a guitarist for a rock band, had shaggy hair and a constant beard, and decorated his skin with tattoos that made no sense to anyone.
Bella didn't see it that way, however. To her, he hung the moon and stars, walked on water, and could do no wrong. Female attention followed him wherever he went, and even though she pretended like it didn't bother her, annoyance was always evident in her features.
Renee and I were at the Thriftway when we got the call. Our daughter was in tears once again, this time because Ben's band got a record deal that would require them to relocate to Chicago. Bella was considering making the move, but wasn't sure what to do. Her life was in Manhattan, her business was in Manhattan, and she didn't want to leave all of that behind. On the other hand, she didn't want to give up this man she loved either. Renee assured her everything would be okay in the end, and fate would work its magic, but in reality nobody knew what was going to happen.
Two weeks after that call Ben was gone. He told Bella she could have some time to think about her options, but took off to Chicago before she could give him a final answer. His number was changed, his Facebook was gone, and she never heard from him again.
Ben marked the end of my darling daughter's dating history.
Until Edward Cullen came along and caught her eye, that is. Renee had been talking about their upcoming visit to Forks for weeks. Last night, I took it upon myself to Google him. Sure, he seemed nice, and I'd actually referred to him as "son" on more than one occasion throughout the evening, but something just felt off. So, I decided a bit of investigating was necessary.
What I found was not something a concerned father would want to see. Simply put, he was a manwhore. The guy had dated – and presumably slept with – half of the socialites in the city, and probably even a housewife or two from Jersey. He had good business skills and a brain that was made for finance, but I couldn't find any other redeeming qualities in the madness on the web.
When my wife caught me red handed, she confiscated the laptop and told me to give Edward a chance. Apparently his past was no secret – to Bella or her group of friends – but after spending time with him and witnessing his behavior, our daughter was convinced he was in the process of changing for the better.
He passed my first test by giving me a strong, self-assured handshake the day before. Now it was time to lay my second test on him: seeing whether or not he could survive an afternoon of steelhead fishing punctuated by two or three rounds of Charlie Swan style questioning.
"Hi dad!" Bella wandered into my study, distracting me and planting a kiss on my cheek.
"Afternoon, Bell." I smiled and closed the drawer that housed my gun belt. "Where's Edward?"
"Mom lured him into the kitchen with her rhubarb crisp."
I smirked. "Leave it to your mother to use pastries to her advantage."
"Promise you won't be too hard on him today, dad," Bella sank into the chair across from me and rested her elbows against her knees. "I know you worry, and I love you for that, but I really, really like this one."
"And from what I saw online, he really, really likes schmoozing with the ladies." I regretted the comment immediately when I saw how her face fell. "Aw, Bell, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I just worry about you, and he doesn't exactly have the cleanest slate back in Manhattan."
"Everyone's slate gets dirtied up at one point or another." She looked out the window and sighed. "I know Edward has made mistakes – a fair share of them to be totally honest – but I can tell you, and so can Alice and Rose, that he's different now. This thing we have isn't the same as what he's had with the women you read about on the internet."
I leaned my chair back, pinching the bridge of my nose between my fingers and closing my eyes. I wasn't the type of dad who sat down and had relationship discussions with his daughter. I'd always been content to leave that dirty work for my wife.
There was no point in arguing. "I make no promises, but I'll try to be on my best behavior."
"Thank you," she whispered, reaching out and squeezing my arm appreciatively.
"Well, let's this started then, shall we?" I stood abruptly, raking my fingers through my hair and sliding my hands into my pockets. Displays of affection made me uncomfortable, even when they came from family.
Bella led the way to the kitchen, where I found my wife busy playing hostess and flirting up a storm. "Afternoon, Edward."
"Good afternoon Mr. – I mean, Charlie." Edward offered up a smile that no doubt dazzled both my wife and daughter.
"There's a pair of waders and some gear laid out for you in the living room," I explained. "Go ahead and change and I'll get everything else ready."
Edward nodded and headed off. Renee shook her head and gave me a stern glare. "Charles Swan, you promised me you'd behave today."
I held my hands up in a gesture of innocence and walked to the fridge. "I am behaving."
"The day isn't over yet."
I grabbed a large Ziploc bag of prawns and dropped it in the picnic basket Renee was filling up. "Do you really think I'd intentionally ruin a perfectly good afternoon of fishing?"
This time it was Bella who spoke. "Do you really want us to answer that?"
"Does this look okay?" Edward stepped back in the room, decked out in winter fly-fishing gear. Suspicions aside, I had to smile. He looked like a natural.
"I have to get a picture of this!" Renee disappeared and returned a moment later with her camera. "Bella, stand next to Edward." She snapped a few pictures and then waved her hand at me. "Charlie, you get over there too!"
After putting us in three different poses, Renee finally decided she had enough photos and went back to assembling the picnic basket. I watched warily as Edward pulled my daughter close to him and planted a kiss on her forehead.
"Prawns, sandwiches, veggie sticks, and a couple cans of Rainier; I think you two should be set."
"Prawns?" Edward narrowed his eyes in confusion.
"I use them for bait," I explained. "They work well for drift fishing, which is what we'll be doing."
I pulled my coat on and gathered up my things. Edward said his goodbyes to Bella and Renee and followed me out to my truck.
"So, where does steelhead fishing take place exactly?" Edward gave me a weary glance. I almost laughed out loud, but resisted the urge.
"The Sol Duc River," I explained. "We've got about two hours until sunset. I have lanterns in the back of the truck though, so we can stay out longer."
"You fish at night?"
I nodded. "Sometimes, but not too often. I prefer to get an early start. Renee makes a mean fish fry dinner."
Edward smiled at that comment, then turned his attention to the trees passing us out the window. We rode the rest of the way in silence, and the only sound that punctuated our drive was the steady thump, thump, thump of the tires against the dirt road.
I parked the truck in my usual spot and hopped out. Edward followed, grabbing the picnic basket from the seat between us.
"You can leave this in the truck," I instructed, flipping the lid open and grabbing the bag of prawns. "We're going to be in the water and I don't want to leave it sitting on the shore."
Edward followed my instructions, returning to the back of the truck and staring expectantly at me.
"Put this on," I said, handing him a vest pack filled with lures, bobbers, spare line, and other essential fly-fishing items. Once he had it securely fastened, I gestured to one of the rods lying on the truck bed. "That's yours to use. It's one of my favorite rods, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't break it."
I watched the color drain from Edward's face as he collected the pole. "You didn't have any old ones lying around?"
"That one is old," I remarked, heading off down the well-beaten trail that led to the riverbank. "I'm superstitious about my fishing, kid. I never buy a new rod unless an old one breaks. These two have been around for over ten years, and they've given me my fair share of luck while fishing."
"No pressure," Edward mumbled under his breath.
"What was that?"
"That's another thing you'll need to learn." I came to a stop at the water's edge and turned to face him. "I hear everything. Twenty plus years on the force does that to a man. Now, you're right, there's no pressure on you, because you're a novice who hasn't set foot in a river. I don't expect you to cast the line properly, let alone catch a damn fish. As long as you don't try to snag my earlobe or do something stupid, we'll be in good shape today, okay?"
Tiny beads of sweat covered his forehead. "Okay."
"Now, sit down over here and I'll teach you how to rig up your line." I led us to a couple of oversized boulders and plopped down, opening my own vest pack and pulling out the necessary equipment: a hook, a weight, a drift bobber, and a swivel. I showed Edward how to properly hook everything up to his line, reaching in the bag of prawns and grabbing one for each of us when the rods were ready.
"I want you to stand upriver from me, because God only knows I've learned to never trust a novice fisherman." I waded in the water until it was just above my knees, pointing off to my left so Edward knew where to stand. Once he was a good fifteen feet away from me, I raised my rod above my head and cast upriver. I watched the prawn disappear into the water and reeled my line in ever so slightly.
"Should I cast up past yours?" Edward asked. I nodded. He raised the rod above his own head before flicking it forward. His prawn fell exactly where it should, and I gave him a thumbs up.
"Very nice. Now, reel your line in just a tad and wait."
"How will I know if a fish bit it?"
"Get a good grip on the rod and pay close attention. Small ticks are normal, since your bait is drifting along the bottom of the river." I tugged at my own line, reeling it in to cast again. "Steelhead bites feel different than your average fish bite. The rod won't jerk, but it'll feel like something is trying to suck it out of your hands and swallow it. Does that make sense?"
He scrunched his nose up in confusion and shrugged. "Not really."
This would make for one great story to tell the guys. "If it feels like the pole is getting away from you, just go ahead and reel it back in, okay?"
As it turned out, those were the wrong instructions to give Edward. While I tried to enjoy the calm that accompanied a few hours of drift fishing, he was busy reeling his line in every two minutes. His hook got snagged on his waders more than once, and he almost fell in the river when the line got stuck on some rocks and wouldn't reel up.
An hour after the sun set I decided it was time to call it quits. "How do you feel about taking a break and having a sandwich and a beer?"
"Yes, please," Edward muttered, reeling his line in and making a beeline for the truck. I chuckled and reeled my own line in slowly.
"You did good for your first time," I lied when I reached the truck. Edward tugged his hat off and frowned.
"Don't lie to me, Charlie."
I doubled over in laughter. "You caught me. That was truly terrible, Edward. I don't think I've ever seen such a pitiful drift fishing performance."
"There's a reason I rarely leave the confines of the city."
I dropped the tailgate on the truck down and perched myself on the edge. Edward flipped the lid on the picnic basket open and grabbed two beers, handing one to me. I popped the top on mine and took a big gulp. I had a few questions I wanted to ask Edward, and now that we were out of the water it seemed like the perfect time to do so.
"How many women have you slept with, Edward?"
My question took him by surprise, as I intended. He leaned forward, coughing loudly and spewing a stream of beer out of his nostrils.
"How many women have you slept with?" I put my sandwich down and held up three fingers. "I can count that number off on one hand for myself."
"Uh," he stalled, fidgeting uncomfortably. "With all due respect sir, why are you asking me this? Or telling me this?"
"Why am I asking you this?" I slid off the tailgate and spun around, placing my hands on my hips. "I'm asking you this because I don't want my daughter getting involved with a man who will turn her into nothing more than a number."
The lantern light was dim, but I could still see the color drain from Edward's face. "I don't understand where this is coming from."
"Let me enlighten you." I ran a hand through my hair and backed a few feet away from him. "Last night it dawned on me – my daughter is dating a man who's both well-known and published. So, I decided to do a bit of Googling to see exactly what kind of man you are. Imagine my dismay when every picture that popped up contained a different woman. Well, with the exception of recent ones of you and Bella."
"Sir, I can explain-" I held my hand up and silenced him.
"I'm not finished. After I got over my initial shock, I decided to have a look at some of the articles that accompanied said pictures." I fixed him with my known – and locally feared – Charlie Swan glare. "I can't count the number of times I saw the phrases 'toxic bachelor' and 'manwhore.' I don't know how you kids see things these days, but in my world neither of those is a compliment."
"They aren't compliments in my world either." Edward looked down at his hands.
I filtered through my limited knowledge bank about this guy, searching for anything I read the night before that really stood out. "Why did Bella throw a drink in your face the first time she met you?"
"Good lord, you really did do your research."
I crossed my arms over my chest. "Well?"
Edward punched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "She didn't throw her drink in my face, she dumped it on my phone. I made a tasteless comment about her appearance and deserved every bit of her reaction."
I narrowed my eyes. "A tasteless comment about her appearance? What comment was that?"
Edward's cheeks and ears turned red as his embarrassment surfaced. "I don't see how these details are relevant now. It was three months ago that this happened."
"Let me explain something to you, Edward." I sat back down on the truck's tailgate and cracked my knuckles. "Bella doesn't always have the best judgment when it comes to deciding whose company she'll keep. You look good on paper; better than the rest of her boyfriends have, in fact. You're educated, you come from a good
family – or so she's told me – you're established in your field, and you have a successful career. Looking good on paper doesn't make a damn bit of a difference to me, however. We're not returning to my house until I know you don't plan on breaking my daughter's heart when you return to the city in three weeks."
A mixture of emotions crossed his face before defeat finally set in. "I told Bella she didn't need to worry about being a bitch when she had such nice tits," he admitted. "The only reason I can give you for my behavior is that I was a first class asshole at that time."
"So instead of finding out who she was and apologizing like a decent man would, you decided to contact her business partner and weasel your way onto their client roster?" I jumped up again, unable to stop myself from pacing.
All Edward could do was shrug. "She barely wanted to speak to me as her client. What makes you think she would have even answered to accept my apology?"
"I don't think she would have, which is precisely my point. Using manipulation to start a relationship doesn't win you points in my book."
Much to my surprise, Edward was quick to correct me. "I didn't initiate our relationship, Charlie. Bella made the first move."
My eyes widened in shock. "Bella asked you out?"
He nodded. "I mean, we have joint friends, so we were spending time together in social situations, but when it comes to initiating an actual relationship, that was all on her."
I opened my mouth and closed it quickly. All the gossip I'd picked through made it seem like Edward was the one who pursued my daughter, not the other way around. "Well, this comes as a surprise."
"If it makes you feel any better, she made me work for it," Edward explained.
"Well, she is her mother's daughter." I scratched my chin thoughtfully. Renee and Bella would kill me if the details of this conversation ever got back to then, but I still wasn't reassured when it came to Edward's intentions. "How old are you, Edward?"
"31 and a toxic bachelor? Why is that?"
He frowned. "It's a long story."
"We've got time."
He looked up at me and sighed. "That's great, but I'm not discussing this. It's not something I care to rehash or share with anyone, quite frankly."
"Have you shared it with Bella?"
"No, I have not." Edward stood, fisting his hair in his hands and rolling his eyes. "I get that you're a protective father, Charlie. I understand that you don't want to see your daughter get hurt, and you want her with someone who will take care of her. All of that makes sense to me. I didn't come out here with you to be subjected to some ridiculous round of twenty questions, however."
"I wouldn't call this ridiculous-"
"It is ridiculous." When he turned to face me I could see the irritation in his features. "I feel like I've been picked up and transported back to high school. Wanting me to prove myself to you is one thing, but expecting me to do it in three hours on a fishing trip is ridiculous."
Edward shook his head. "I need a minute to process all of this." He walked a few feet away, tugging more at his hair and kicking the ground. "Fuck!"
I sat back down with a grunt and slumped forward.
For the first time in a very long time I had run out of things to say.
Charlie's interrogation threw me off. I knew from talking to Bella that morning that he'd likely ask me a few questions, but I wasn't expecting to have all the sordid details of my shitty past behavior thrown in my face.
I was stressing out when he started inquiring about the beginning of our relationship. I jumped on the first opportunity I had to tell him that it was Bella who made the first move by asking me out on a date. What Charlie didn't need to know was that Bella and I had slept together the night before she asked me out, and I'd spent the next month pursuing her and trying to make up for my bad behavior.
When the silence became unbearable, I decided it was time to make some sort of speech. "Charlie," I began, turning around slowly and looking at him. "I won't bother sugarcoating this, because you've made it quite clear that you're good at sifting through bullshit. My past is full of mistakes. I've treated people like shit, I've made more than one poor decision, and I'm positive there's at least three hearts in the city that I'm responsible for breaking. Bella's presence in my life changed that, however.
"At the risk of sounding like a total pussy, your daughter brings out feelings that I haven't felt in years. Bella makes me want to be better, for myself and for the other people in my life."
Charlie's eyes met mine and his expression softened. "Do you love her?"
"Yes? No? Maybe? Hell, I don't know what I'd call this feeling." I glanced back out at the dark river in front of us. "What I do know is that I could never and would never do anything to hurt your daughter, Charlie. She means too much to me to dream of doing that."
You better hope he never finds out about that stupid bet.
Charlie stood, pacing for a moment before coming to a stop in front of me. He reached out and clamped his hand down on my shoulder, giving it a rough squeeze. "Just promise me you'll take care of her, Edward. New York is such a big city and I know she's got Rose and Alice, but," Charlie waved his hand in the air absentmindedly, "she needs someone who can protect her. She's never yet had a boyfriend who's proven he could do that."
I held Charlie's gaze for as long as I could before looking down at my hands. I wanted to protect Bella. I wanted to stay by her side, I wanted to take care of her, and I wanted to make her happy. From the looks of it, Bella – and her parents – wanted this too.
Of course the bet still hung over my head, much like a bomb ready to go off. But, as long as Jasper and Emmett stayed quiet, nobody would ever know.
"I can promise you that, Charlie." I reached my hand out and he shook it, giving me a small smile and a nod.
"I better get you home to my daughter now. She and Renee are probably wondering what the hell we're out here doing."
I helped Charlie load up the back of the truck and climbed in the cab. He turned up the heat and we started our journey back to the house.
Bella was waiting on the porch when we arrived. "How did it go?" she whispered, slipping her arms around my neck and pulling my head down for a kiss.
"The fishing part or the time spent with your dad?" I joked.
"The fishing part was a hoot," Charlie piped in, climbing up the front steps and leaning against the railing. "Edward didn't catch a damn thing! Well, unless you count catching his own waders."
Bella laughed. "So much for looking like a natural."
"Hey, I can still look like a natural," I argued. "Now, whether or not I can actually fish like one is an entirely different story."
"I hear laughter out here." Renee cracked the screen door open and poked her head around it. "I see Edward made it back alive."
"I promised he'd make it in one piece." Charlie looked over at me and winked before turning his attention back to his wife. "We devoured your sandwiches. There doesn't happen to be any leftovers from dinner, does there?"
Renee smiled. "I told Bella you two would be hungry. There's meatloaf and au gratin potatoes warming in the oven."
Charlie kissed his wife's cheek before turning to face Bella and I. "I think you may have found yourself a keeper in this one, Bell."
Her answering smile made my heart skip a beat. "I think so too, dad."
When both of her parents were inside, Bella turned and looked up at me. "What did you do to charm him?"
"We just had … a talk." I had no intention of sharing the sordid details with her.
"He didn't badger you to death, did he?"
Yes! "Nope. He was actually quite pleasant for a cop," I teased.
Bella heaved a sigh and slid her arm around my waist. "You have no idea how relieved I am. I thought for sure he'd grill you."
If only you knew, sweetheart. I shook my head. "He's probably saving that for the next time we're in Forks."
"Or when they're in New York," she joked.
I leaned down and kissed her cheek before opening the front door and ushering her inside.
I had successfully passed Charlie Swan's first test – and fuck if it wasn't a hard one.
Watching Bella flit around the kitchen with her mother that night only helped affirm what I already knew:
No amount of Charlie style interrogations could make me walk away from the good fortune I had so luckily fallen into.