When Bella returned to Forks after running off to rescue Edward, Charlie was ticked off like crazy and he grounded Bella... for life! He knew there was more to the story than he was hearing, but he wasn't up to fighting for answers. There are some things that a dad just doesn't want to know. Besides, with Bella trapped in the house and 'the delinquent' (as Charlie began to refer to Edward) all-too-willing to keep her company, Charlie would have plenty of time to punish Edward and work on ending the kids' relationship.
Notes: Yes, this is a re-posting; and yes, I'm going to posting all of it this time around. Just in case you care... this story is written in 3rd Person Point-of-View. Omniscience is limited. If Twi humor isn't your thing... bite me.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created the wonderful world of Twilight; I'm just playing with her toys. no copyright infringement intended.
Designated visiting hours. The expression carried the same institutional quality that words like imprisonment and life sentence had. Charlie hoped, at least, that they did. It also wouldn't hurt if they held connotations that might import a bodily threat to Bella's daily visitor. Something more on the line of death sentence... if you ever hurt her again.
Charlie took satisfaction in believing that placing Bella under house arrest meant might he could control Bella and Edward. Bella's apparent insistence that Edward visit her almost daily made Charlie feel like he was punishing Edward, too. Naturally, Charlie began to ponder other forms of punishment that could be inflicted on Bella's visitor without it being overtly apparent that Edward's discomfort was the main objective.
Charlie suspected that Edward's parents were too indulgent. Since neither they nor Bella seemed willing to rebuke Edward for his callous treatment of Bella last fall, Charlie felt that finding ways to torment the boy was his fatherly duty.
Edward choked back laughter. "Shhh! This isn't funny," Bella tensed and swatted at Edward.
On the screen, the helpless Marion Crane was preparing to take a shower. That meant that any second now Bella would start shrieking and scrambling around to hide behind Edward's back. The back belonging, of course, to the only murderer within, well, a few miles. "You're scared because there's a psycho on your TV, not because there is a vampire on your couch?" Edward found the humor in this little scenario so delightful that he brought a few Hitchcock movies over to Bella's so he... they... could enjoy them... again and again.
She murmured, "well, you are my vampire," emphasizing the possessive adjective.
Definitely. But Charlie had pulled into the drive and, considering Charlie's mood, Edward knew it would be better if Charlie didn't walk in when Bella was obviously distressed, even if fictional characters were the cause. Charlie seemed more than a little annoyed already, although that was his overall tone since Edward had returned to Forks. "Fortunately for you, Charlie's here, so I won't be tempted to demonstrate just how frightening I could truly be," Edward teased, sliding to the floor, where he sat at Bella's feet. It was hard to wipe the stupid grin he was wearing off his face.
Charlie opened the door stirring the dust and sending new scents into the room.
House cat! Edward mentally shouted. How the hell did I miss that! The cat's odor was a sharp contrast to Bella's strawberry-floral aroma and Charlie's cinnamon roll scent. (There were no doughnut shops in Forks.) Dang it! Too late to retreat. Edward groaned internally as the cat began to hiss, digging its claws into Charlie's jacket in its attempt to break free. It glared at Edward.
In the living room, Marion Crane was dying, but no one in the Swans' house was paying her any attention.
The scowl Charlie wore deepened momentarily, then vanished. "Whoa! He doesn't like you, does he?" Charlie broke the silence he generally maintained around Edward and grinned. Edward had never seen Charlie this happy about anything. Apparently the Fates had dropped an unconsidered form of torture right into Charlie's waiting hands.
"Maybe he knows he's in a house where NOBODY likes cats," Bella said leaping from the couch to place herself between Edward and either would-be attacker.
"I like cats," Edward whispered. "A lot." The scenario would have been amusing, but one of the downsides of feeding on fur bearing creatures was the presence of parasites. Not that they could harm a vampire, but the thought of even one flea biting Bella... Edward stared at the furious animal and stifled a growl of his own.
"Poor kitty. Seems sweet Isabella isn't going to welcome your company," Charlie cooed.
Bella turned to Edward and shrugged. "Perhaps I should be going," he said glumly.
Suddenly, Charlie yelped. A clawed paw had finally found a purchase on Charlie's neck. Reflexively, he yielded to the pain, freeing the cat. "Darn it. Come back!"
Edward's quick sidestep toward the kitchen and the backdoor appeared to occur almost simultaneously with the black streak flying toward the dim kitchen. Edward nearly collided with the terrified creature, which paused and arched its back. When it began to issue a low hiss, Edward cleared his throat and the cat ran under an arm chair. The beast dropped its head to the floor and glued its wide, fearful eyes on Edward.
Charlie muttered something that sounded like an expletive as he looked around and rubbed his neck; spying the cat, his smile returned.
"Okay, so where'd the cat come from?" Bella sounded cross.
"He belongs to one of the old guys that hangs out at the diner. Had some surgery on a foot or something. I'm going to drop the cat off at the vet's in the morning," Charlie stated as he removed his jacket and hung up his gun belt.
Charlie glanced at Edward, who had continued to move further from the cat. "What's a matter? Allergic?" Charlie's expression didn't reflect his glee. It was like he'd won a thousand dollars playing the lottery. "Hope not, " Charlie continued before Edward had a chance to reply. "Cause I'm thinking about getting a cat." Charlie touched his neck again and winced as he felt the oozing wounds.
Edward grimaced. Any cat would eventually find a way to escape the house just like this one was trying to do.
Charlie misinterpreted Edward's expression and tried to stoke the fire. Maybe getting a cat wouldn't be a bad idea. Almost as good as having a guard dog. "He's sure keeping his eyes on you."
Bella's kind nature had taken over and she had knelt down beside the chair speaking softly. "Here kitty, kitty. Don't be scared."
Preparing to defend itself, the cat shifted its weight; its muscles tensed as it hissed more forcefully.
"Ah, yeah. Allergic," Edward said as he moved toward the door. Allowing the cat to draw Bella's blood was not an option. Edward leaned into the screen door, opening it with his foot just enough to offer the cat a means of escape.
Catching Edward's move, Charlie barked, "Edward, don't let the cat out!" just as the cat launched itself across the floor.
Edward pulled the door closed briskly; the cat whirled and ran in the opposite direction. Finding the stairs, it sought the safety of the second floor.
"Maybe I should get its food and stuff out of the car," Charlie said. "Be right back." He directed the last sentence at Edward.
"Are you okay?" Bella asked Edward.
"I'm fine. Sorry though to scare the cat," Edward replied.
"Allergic?" Bella giggled quietly. Edward laughed too then stepped out on the front porch just as Charlie shut the cruiser door. Bella stood in the doorway behind Edward.
"Edward?" The sound was nearly inaudible.
Charlie watched her face fill with sadness. Her expression echoed the emptiness she'd worn for all the months the delinquent had been away. Crap! Charlie's happiness crumbled and he felt guilty for helping to create a situation that caused Bella pain.
Edward's discomfort was an entirely other matter, of course. It seemed somehow fitting that the presence of the annoying cat was an opportunity created through the generosity of Edward's father, Carlisle. Dr. Carlisle Cullen was known to be extraordinarily attentive to his patients. In the cat owner's case, that meant Dr. Cullen had remedied the fact the man lived alone without family to assist in his recovery by ordering extended hospital care, an unexpected financial expense that Dr. Cullen covered.
Charlie met Edward's stare at the same time Bella whispered his name again. That name turned in Charlie's gut. Aw, hell! Every time he looked at Edward something inside shouted alarm. Charlie consciously attempted to redirect that warning to Edward himself, so that it blared from Charlie's eyes.
"Edward," Bella said.
Charlie broke eye contact with Edward and looked at Bella again and then at the car. Well, idiot, she's standing there waiting for you to kiss her. The least I can do is give you---her---the chance. Charlie opened the car door and ducked his head inside, reaching for something.
Edward almost smiled and turned back to Bella.
Charlie looked up to see Bella place her arms on Edward's. She rose up on her toes. One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand. Four one-thousand.
Bella's hand moved up and she leaned into Edward as Charlie's magnanimity evaporated and he slammed the car door as loudly as possible. He stomped back toward the house and onto the porch.
Edward thought that tonight, maybe it was his turn to take advantage of a situation someone else had created. He let his lips linger on Bella's forehead.
"Ah, er --- Edward, as you're leaving, check and make sure I didn't drop anything," Charlie's voice bristled.
"Sure, Charlie, glad to help," Edward said.
Charlie looked at Bella. She glared at Charlie, her face flush. Better grouchy Bella, than sad Bella, Charlie said to himself as his gaze shifted back to Edward. The young man seemed mildly entertained, but he also seemed to know that a snicker at this juncture would be misinterpreted by anyone who could hear it, particularly Bella.
"Good night, Bella. Charlie," Edward said as he walked away.
Bella stepped aside as Charlie entered the house and went into the living room. When he heard Bella close and bolt the front door, he turned off the light and peered through the blinds as Edward's car started. "Dad." Bella's turn to growl.
"Sorry to end your visit so early, Bells." Charlie exhaled sharply as he watched the car slide very slowly from the curb. He checked, from time to time, making sure that Edward really was leaving and that Bella was not following him away."Wanna catch a game?"
Bella didn't say a word, but tuned in ESPN and walked into the kitchen. Charlie could hear her opening the refrigerator. Charlie looked back toward the television. A jock blathered about up and coming college players.
"You could invite Edward to watch TV --- try to be a little nicer."
"I'm nice. When am I not NICE?" He said, grinding out the adjective.
"You know what I mean."
Bella was always beautiful, but when angered, she was staggering --- just like her mother. Renee had been an aberration. Charlie wanted her and their marriage just as much as he wanted anything; and he'd been sad, but not surprised when the relationship ended. Of all the things about his relationship with Renee that Charlie could miss, he had missed Bella the most. It pleased Charlie to know that she wanted to be here in Forks. Though Bella claimed the green moss and the fog had grown on her, Charlie knew that the boy was the motivation.
Bella put a plate in Charlie's hands. "I'm going to turn in," she said. "Maybe read a little."
Charlie squinted at the television screen. "Okay, Bells. Sleep well." He got an uneasy feeling on those evenings when Bella feigned tiredness and headed upstairs early. He always got the nagging feeling that things were happening of which he was unaware. Things like Bella sneaking out... or Edward sneaing in. Or maybe the ghost of all the nights he'd sneaked out when he was Bella's age had returned to haunt him. Still there was no denying the fact that occasionally, late at night, something would rouse him from his sleep making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up---just the way they did whenever Edward was present. Charlie often fought the urge to grab his sidearm and check the closets and spaces under the beds for boogiemen.
For a moment Charlie stopped breathing to concentrate on the muffled sounds of opening and closing of drawers, cabinets and doors. No monsters in the closet tonight. Charlie sighed.
Not yet. A thought countered Charlie's.
Charlie groaned. He'd rather think of Edward slipping into the house than of Bella creeping out. Even if Edward had the nerve and could get past Charlie, at least, Bella was home where she belonged and Charlie knew where she was. And Charlie was fairly certain that Edward would never to try to hurt Bella while Charlie was anywhere nearby. When Edward had broken Bella's heart last fall, he had waited until Charlie wasn't home.
Coward. Charlie seethed. Bella said it had all been a 'misunderstanding'. Charlie twisted the word in his mind and thought about the three days when Bella had disappeared. It was bad, but not as agonizing as all the months he'd watch Bella stumbling through life like she barely inhabited her own body. Edward would never appreciate the pain he'd caused. How could he?
Charlie recalled Edward holding Bella in front of the house, the day she returned. Charlie had rushed out of the house yelling. Edward stopped and stared at him. Edward looked awful. Not that he ever looked okay... too pale and he never ate. Anorexic? Edward just stood there cradling Bella like she was the most precious thing in the world. And Bella? Nestled in Edward's arms as if there were no place else she could possibly want to be. Charlie had demanded that Edward release Bella, attempting to drag her sleeping form from his arms, but Bella regained consciousness and fought the separation, struggling to remain in Edward's arms. Then when Bella tried to walk into the house on her own, she had fallen. From only a few feet away, Charlie watched as Bella dropped toward the concrete. If Edward hadn't reached out and caught her, she would have been injured. Charlie realized that he couldn't keep Bella from being hurt, no matter how near he might be.
So Charlie begrudgingly welcomed Edward's return and looked for any indication that Bella harbored pain or anger or that she no longer trusted Edward. But other than the sad expression that fleeting brushed Bella's face when Edward left each evening, it was as if nothing had changed. A stranger watching might never have guessed there had ever been a breach of faith between them, that the feelings they shared had never been tainted by longing and loss. While Bella was totally forgiving, Charlie most certainly was not.
Charlie observed Edward to be as attentive as ever, perhaps more so. He tolerated and appeared to abide by the restrictions upon Bella's time politely and respectfully. Whenever Charlie found an opportunity to shake Edward's hand, it was as cold as ever. Charlie chalked it up to nerves and he believed it gave him a gauge on Edward's level of comfort and, more importantly, fear.
Just then the cat crept down the stairs and into the living room. No longer agitated, it sniffed the bag Charlie had retrieved from the car. Charlie sought consolation in the earlier scene. "Let's get your dinner, kitty." Charlie wondered if the creature had a name. He reached down to stroke its head, the movement stretching the already granulating neck wounds. I forgive you, kitty. The cat purred. "Well, you like ME," Charlie said aloud, as his good mood mushroomed.
Charlie went to the kitchen and filled two bowls: one with water and one with dry food. He sat them down near the backdoor. Then, he checked the locks and headed upstairs with a few newspapers and a disposable tray of cat litter. He paused at the top of the stairs and looked around. Through the open bathroom door, he could see there wasn't enough room for the pan, especially with the pile of towels Bella had left in the floor after her shower. Maybe I left those there this morning, Charlie thought.
Charlie eyed the shadows that covered the floor near Bella's door. If Edward's slipping up the stairs and around in the dark, maybe he'll step in cat turds! Internally, Charlie rolled. He struggled not to laugh out loud as he thought about catching Edward with feces on his expensive sneakers.
Playing a hunch, Charlie had once asked a deputy on the graveyard shift to check the neighborhood for the kid's shiny Volvo. But there had been no sign of it anywhere. Nothing out of place. Sleepy little Forks tucked in all nice and tight.
Charlie made his way to his bed and stretched out. His mind began to drift over his day. Early in the morning, a member of the town council complained about a parking ticket he'd gotten in one of the few metered spots in town. Later, a social worker from the hospital had called to request someone check on the elderly cat owner's house. Courtesy visits on local homes and businesses were typical in a place like Forks.
Ah, Charlie sighed, his mind briefly holding the image of a new police cruiser sitting in his driveway. He yawned and drifted further into the image, toward the place where his favorite fishing pole sat waiting. The sounds of the river and a breeze ruffling the trees led Charlie away, ending another evening of Edward's self-flagellation.
Edward silently slipped through the window and into Bella's room.
A/N: In the next chapter, Charlie can't find his overnight guest; and it seems like everyone has something to hide.
Many thanks to the incomparable Egg Sundae for the beautiful chapter header!