"So, basically, we know jack," Emmett said with a sigh. He sat on the couch in their living room, an arm wrapped around his wife, and he gave her a squeeze when he said it. Rosalie laid a hand on his leg and squeezed back.
"Except that Dartmouth will be national news by next week unless we do something," Jasper corrected him reluctantly. No one wanted to think about that, though Edward could see images of the Volturi in all of their minds. After the latest attack, the police were making no headway on finding a suspect, and the entire campus seemed to be waiting for the next person to go missing.
Edward growled under his breath, pushing away from the wall he'd been leaning against and stalking around the room. The others watched him for a moment, looks of concern and sympathy on their faces; no one knew what to say to him, however, so they continued their discussion without him.
"What about Charlie?" Emmett asked, looking over to Alice. The man was heavily on all of their minds; since seeing him at the hospital, Edward had been in even more of a sullen, withdrawn mood. Edward knew they all suspected his mood had as much to do with Willa as it did with his father-in-law, but no one had been brave enough to voice it, at least with him in ear shot.
"He won't tell anyone," she said firmly, though she'd had no vision to support it. She believed in Bella's father the same way she had believed in Bella; they all wanted to believe she was right, but the fact was that Chief Swan had both the reason and the resources to look into their family far more than he ought to, and anything he uncovered would become available in official computers all over Washington state.
Now, it wasn't just a rogue vampire that could bring the Volturi down on them. If Charlie found anything using his connections with the Forks police department, word would get back to Italy through their planted connections.
"I still say we just talk to him," Emmett told them. "He's practically family – shit, he is family. Tell him the truth and he won't have to go searching for it. No harm done. And just think… Nessie could get to meet her grandfather."
Most of his argument was familiar; they'd had this discussion numerous times over the past few days. At the mention of Nessie, however, Rosalie stirred. "He's right," she said. "They deserve a chance to get to know each other, and this is the perfect opportunity."
Edward sighed. To say that thought hadn't crossed his mind would be lying, but he still wasn't convinced they should talk to him. Rose stood, slipping out of Emmett's embrace, and walked over to Edward. Setting a hand on his shoulder, he stopped him. He looked at her, and when their gaze met, her eyes were filled with sympathy.
"I'll do it if you don't," she said gently. "But you know he deserves to hear it from you."
He thought of his daughter for a moment, and he realized that Emmett had found the argument to convince both of them. He could deny Charlie the truth, but he couldn't deny Renesmee her only other blood relative.
"I know," he sighed. "I'll go tomorrow."
"No, go tonight," Rosalie told him. "I'll go with Jasper on patrol."
"Fine with me," Jasper agreed. He had, at first, been on Edward's side against telling Charlie. Alice had been so much in support of the idea, though, that he had come around; he never could deny his wife anything.
Edward left them not long after, once they'd finalized the plan for the next few days of patrols. They would step them up again, the five of them skipping classes as they worked to find the vampire before any more harm came to the Dartmouth student body. Alice still couldn't see what the outcome would be, so they agreed to keep their phones on at all times. Jasper suggested calling Carlisle or Renesmee – or both – but they agreed there was too much uncertainty to bring anyone else in the family into the situation.
As he got into his car, Edward's phone rang. Bringing the engine to life, he asked the phone to identify the caller, and when an electronic voice informed him that it was Wil, he grimaced. It took effort to clip his seatbelt into place and pull the car down the driveway, each ring of the phone tempting him.
He'd been avoiding her studiously since the recital. He skipped the dinner the professors had invited them all to, stayed away from the buildings he knew she had classes in, and hadn't even stepped foot into the music building. While he missed his time at the piano, he knew it was better for her – for both of them – if he just ceased to exist to her. Only his promise to his family to try to start practicing medicine kept him at Dartmouth; the thought of leaving had crossed his mind many times, but he didn't want to disappoint them any more than he already had. He knew Rosalie especially was glad to be here, to see him participating again, and he owed her far too much for the way she had been a mother to Renesmee in Bella's absence.
"One message," his phone said into his ear, and once he'd set the car to auto, he reached up to tap the headset.
"Play messages," he said quietly. Wil's voice came back at him.
"Edward. It's Wil. I haven't seen you around, so I figured I'd call…" She trailed off, stumbling over her words for a moment. "Listen, I wanted to know if I could bring something over to your place – just a little something I picked up in appreciation for all your hard work. I can't thank you enough. So… Call me?"
The phone beeped, signaling the end of the message, and he told the phone to delete it.
What was he going to do with her? She would pick up where Bella had left off in killing him, slowly but surely. He wanted to call – of course he did – but he pressed his lips together instead, staring out the front windshield and watching the car maneuver its way through rush hour traffic toward the University hospital. He had to ignore her, deny her request… Right?
Thinking of his siblings, he knew they would be equally split. They were on the subject of Wil entirely. No one discussed it with him, though he was sure they'd had many debates over who would do it and when. They were all trying to block their thoughts from him on the subject, and he tried to respect their privacy, but at moments something would be bubbling through that caught his attention regardless.
Wil had a way of catching his attention that he wasn't sure he wanted to acknowledge.
Settling back into the seat, he tried to turn his thoughts toward Bella, to disappear into another of his reveries, but even that was difficult with Charlie looming ever closer. He thought back to the conversation he'd had with Charlie the night they'd told him of their engagement, and his chest constricted. How could he face this man after letting him down so thoroughly?
It was inevitable that he did, but that didn't make it any easier. How could he, as one father to another, apologize for taking the life of Charlie's only child? How could he make that right? The thought of losing Renesmee suffocated Edward.
The car turned sharply, and Edward realized they were arriving at the hospital. Taking control of the car back, he made his way around the building to the main entrance, choosing a spot on the far end of the lot. He got out slowly, locking the car behind him and trudging across the lot with his hands in his pockets, still trying to decide what he would say. His asked at the desk for Charlie's room number, anticipating that it had changed since his initial admittance, and leaned against the wall of the elevator as he rode it up to the third floor.
Too soon, he was outside Charlie's door. With a last thought to fleeing, he summed up the courage to knock and listened as he heard a shuffling of paper inside.
"Come on in," Charlie called. His voice was strong, but had become more brittle with age than it had a right to. Swallowing unnecessarily, Edward pushed the door open and stepped into the room. He didn't have the courage to look up when he heard the other man's quiet gasp.
"Edward." He spoke the name like a curse, his voice rumbling in warning. "I suppose I should have expected a visit. Go figure, Billy was right all this time."
Edward didn't speak, standing with his hands in his pockets and staring at a spot on the blanket beside Charlie's legs. The blanket, like all hospital issue, was a faded white that had little balls of fuzz clinging to it, and Edward chose one to focus on. Peripherally, he could see the vase of daisies set beside his bed, and the foil balloon shouting "Get Well Soon!" that floated above it; he idly wondered if it was from Wil or her mother.
"So, what brings a bloodsucking bastard like you to a place like this?" Charlie asked, shifting. He swung his legs out of the bed, reaching for the IV pole that stood beside him. A thin tube wound its way down to his arm, fluid dripping slowly in the bag, and Edward shifted his gaze to this as the man approached him with a slight limp. "What – don't have anything to say to me? Suits me fine. I don't want to talk anyway."
Edward saw the movement as Charlie lifted his free hand, balling it into a fist and taking a swing, but he didn't dodge. Instead, he let Charlie connect – just barely – and moved with the punch, giving him the satisfaction of the hit without allowing him to be hurt.
"Been wanting to do that for over a decade now," Charlie said softly, watching Edward straighten back up. "Too bad I left my gun back home. Guess it wouldn't do much good though, right?"
He turned from Edward as he spoke, going back to the bed and sitting on the edge. He pushed the IV pole so it sat beside the head of the bed, out of his way. "Now what? You here to kill me like you killed her – suck the life right out of me? You seem to be taking your time, but then, you like to play with your food, don't you?"
"No," Edward said softly.
"No? Fine then, just get it over with. Have the balls to look me in the eye as you do it though, would you?" When Edward looked up, he saw the fury in Charlie's eyes, and the sight made him cringe. He opened his mouth to respond, but for a moment nothing came to him. He deserved every bit of this man's hatred, deserved the accusations.
Finally, he found his voice. "Chief, I'm sorry."
"Damn lot of good that does either of us," Charlie spat back at him.
"I know," Edward said, and he looked away again, finding a spot on the floor to stare at. "I promised that I would take care of your daughter in your stead, and I failed miserably. I don't deserve your forgiveness, and I don't expect it. I can't even forgive myself."
Charlie, ready to lay into the man again, paused for a moment. He looked over Edward, taking in his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes, and sighed quietly. "Well, I didn't expect that."
They were silent for a minute, Charlie sizing Edward up, Edward trying to find the courage to face his father-in-law again. Now that he had said the words he'd been wanting to for a decade, he didn't know what else to do, so he waited for any reprisal that was coming to him.
"Look at me," Charlie said suddenly. "Give me the respect of looking me in the eye." Hesitantly, Edward did as he asked. Charlie's gaze was still angry, but it had dimmed, and he watched Edward critically. It reminded him of the way he'd looked while on a case when Edward and Bella had visited him at the station. Whatever he saw made him frown.
"You look no different from the day she died," he muttered.
"Sir, if you are familiar with the Quileute legends, you know we don't age," Edward answered, unsure where he was going with his comment.
"No, not that," Charlie said with a wave of his hand. "You still look just as devastated as you did at her funeral. You didn't kill her, did you?"
Edward wanted to tear his gaze away, but Charlie's request for respect echoed in his mind, and he resisted the urge. "I didn't mean to." His voice cracked when he said it, and he covered his face with his hands. "I didn't know."
Grief crashed over him in waves, facing this shadow of his past, and he gave a choked sob. Charlie sighed again and said, "Sit down, son." Edward did as he was told, moving to the chair that sat beside Charlie's bed and settling into it. He set his elbows on his legs and shook with dry tears.
"If you aren't here to kill me," Charlie said thoughtfully, "you must be here for something else. What is it?"
Edward scrubbed his face with his hands, trying to get control over himself again. He looked up at Charlie, meeting his gaze again – this time, the man's eyes were not unkind. "I – we – figured you deserved the truth."
Charlie nodded. "You took your time," he said gruffly.
"Yes," Edward agreed, "but there are…rules…laws…against this, and we already had too much attention on us back then to risk it."
"So, you are Cold Ones, and you aren't supposed to tell anyone." Charlie was piecing it together for himself, and also prompting Edward forward. "Did she know?"
"Yes. From the beginning," Edward assured him, and he nodded with appreciation. "When she first-"
"No, I don't want to know the details," Charlie said quickly. "Just tell me how she died. Tell me why she died, and why you say it was your fault." He leaned back against his pillows, shifting until he was comfortable and watching Edward. Waiting patiently, he folded his hands and allowed Edward the time to pull his thoughts together. For a moment, grief constricted his throat, but he swallowed and found himself ready to speak.
"We went to the Isle for our honeymoon like we'd planned," he explained, "and we… Well…" He paused, running a hand through his hair. Charlie seemed to pick up on his hesitation and cleared his throat.
"No details," he emphasized, and Edward nodded.
"Because of my … condition … no one thought we needed birth control," Edward said, stumbling over the words. Charlie's eyes grew wide.
"Oh! So… She wasn't sick." His voice was thoughtful with a twinge of wonder, and in a rare glimpse from his mind, Edward caught an image of Bella holding a baby that tore his heart apart.
"No." Edward choked on the word, then took a moment to calm himself before he continued. "The pregnancy was hard on her. The baby grew faster than in a normal pregnancy, and she was far stronger than a typical neonate."
Charlie asked quietly, "She?" When Edward nodded, a soft smile touched the old man's lips at the thought of Bella having a daughter. It was a fleeting moment.
"The baby reached full term quickly," Edward said, and Charlie tried futilely to mask his surprise at this fact. "When it was time… Bella…" He shuddered, and Charlie reached out to set a hand on Edward's arm.
"You tried to save her," he guessed. "I'm sure you did everything you can, son. I've lost a wife and a daughter, though, and I've learned you can't blame yourself for the things you didn't see coming. You can't get caught in the past either – you deserve to move on and let yourself be happy."
Edward pulled away from Charlie's touch. "I killed her," he argued.
"You made her last days full of joy," Charlie countered. "Woman die in pregnancy and childbirth even in normal situations, Edward." He paused, letting that sink in, and Edward looked away. He knew it was true, but it didn't feel the same. Charlie cleared his throat, bringing Edward's attention back to him. "What happened to the baby?"
Their eyes met, both of them hesitant and uncertain. Edward's expression warmed slightly as he thought of his daughter, and he reached for the wallet in his back pocket. "I'm afraid I owe you another apology," he admitted, abashed. "Under the circumstances, we couldn't very well tell you about her back then."
"But?" Charlie prompted. Edward flipped his wallet open, pulling out a small photo of Renesmee taken shortly before she and Jacob had moved out. He handed the photo over to Charlie.
To his credit, he didn't react to the fact that Renesmee appeared the same age her mother had been when she died. He was a sharp man, though, and if the pregnancy had gone faster than normal, he had probably expected her growth would too. With the photo in one hand, he lifted the other, stroking it thoughtfully with his thumb as he studied it. A wistful expression took over his face, and Edward could smell the mist of tears that welled in his eyes.
"She has her eyes," he whispered.
"She has a lot of Bella's best traits," Edward told him. "Bella named her before she died… Renesmee Carlie. Her first name was a combination of our mothers – Renee and Esme – and her middle name-"
"Carlisle and Charlie." The old man's tears finally slipped from his eyes, and he clutched the photo in his hand like a lifeline.
Edward stayed an hour longer, telling Charlie all about the granddaughter he didn't know he had, from her days as a baby when Bella had just passed and how she had been his lifeline, to the way she had looked exactly like her mother on her wedding day. He never mentioned her husband's name, figuring there had been enough surprises for the day, but assured him truthfully that she had married a man who accepted her fully, every part of her, and that Bella would have approved whole heartedly of her choice.
When Alice sent him a message saying Wil's mother would be arriving soon, Edward finally excused himself, leaving Charlie with Renesmee's picture and a promise that they would be in touch soon.