A/N: So when I finish this story, the internet goes down for the weekend and I'm stuck with it incomplete. Sigh... still, it's done. 57 chapter, almost 200,000 words, and here we are, at the end.
I know. I'm pretty surprised myself.
It took me over a year, but we finally made it. And, make no mistake, it is the end. I did plan out a sequel, but it's far too long (and dark) for me to write—and I couldn't not write that particular sequel. So here I must stop.
This story has changed my life and I have all you to thank for it. Without your encouragement, support and the occasional 'when are you EVER going to continue?'s, I would have given up long ago. And my life would be much less rich for it.
I wanted to say special thanks to some people, but there was always one more person to add and it would kill me to forget someone, so I had to scrap that. Instead, to the wonderfully kind and sometimes brilliant reviewers who helped me realize what I was doing right and, more importantly, what I was doing wrong with this story, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you know who you are.
And that brings us to the beginning of the end. Enjoy.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman, more of a girl, really, and she met a man, who wasn't really a man at all. And after much heartache, and much more love, there was me. I was the happily ever after.
There are worse things to be.
You're an idiot.
As Leah enjoyed reminding me daily.
Well, not daily. Werewolves were not the most reliable pen pals (Seth was the best and even he could go as long as sixteen days without remembering it was his turn to initiate contact) and there was usually a computer crisis at least once a month that ruined whatever schedule Leah and I had been following. But she wrote frequently enough, and Jacob never did, and that was the point. Even if I couldn't help wishing Jacob could step in and censor her.
There will be no peace in La Push until they take their pointy teeth and...
Not that I thought he would like the half-vampires anymore than she did, but he would hopefully be less creative about expressing his displeasure. They were behaving—which meant that Elmira's only form of entertainment came from antagonizing the werewolves. Which she did daily, accordingly to Leah. My pathetic attempts at brokering peace met with little success. I could only hope that one day everyone involved would just learn to be a little more flexible.
Not that we have more important things to worry about than psychotic...without your family around to attract hordes of bloodsuckers set on murdering all of humanity, there's nothing much for us to do. If I have to listen to Paul complain about his hairballs one more time...
It was as close to saying she missed them as she would get—I would take it. Werewolves weren't supposed to like vampires at all, anyway. What would the entertainment industry do, if all us supernaturals got along? It would be anarchy.
Better leave Leah pretending to hate my family, even as she looked back on the times we spent together and couldn't help feeling a little wistful. As usual, she would not appreciate the observation.
Besides, as she would most definitely point out, missing them a tiny, insignificant bit did not necessarily translate to liking them an iota.
...Jake didn't believe I wasn't serious about the fire thing, so he went all Alpha. But Embry knows I can get around our gloriously bigheaded leader and I will if he doesn't learn how to lock the damn door, so hopefully he and your sister dearest will stop...
Despite or because of Leah's complaints, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if anyone attempted to hurt the hybrids on Quileute land. The retribution of the werewolves would be brutal, I was sure. And maybe in seven years Leah and the other hybrids would realize it had never been about hating each other at all.
Or perhaps she would let them die. Thirty or so 'incidents' later and Shelia still hadn't grasped the concept of privacy? A small part of me couldn't really blame Leah for her anger.
...Emily wants to make me godmother, again. I said yes. They'd make me cook for the damn thing anyway, so I might as well get some credit for it. And I think this way they have to buy me presents.
Besides, it's not Emily's fault she married a moron. If Sam would just stop with the disloyal thoughts, Jake could stop beating him to a pulp. Not that he let the pack threatening to split into two interfere with his date. Men.
It wasn't a wolf thing, just a Leah one, but the fact remained she would not tell me clearly what Jacob was doing with his life. It came out in snippets, here and there, because she couldn't tell me about her life without mentioning his. But I think she made a conscious effort to restrain herself, because all I got were fragments.
Was it treachery for the beta wolf to give away his secrets to me?
Perhaps. It made me wonder how we had ever thought it possible that he should survive always divided in two, in love with me and forever connected to her, to the wolves, to his home. It was ridiculous to think of it now, how fate had planned for him to be fully devoted to two utterly separate worlds.
It didn't mean I didn't miss him.
So I took whatever morsel Leah gave me and asked Seth for a broader picture the next time I talked to him. Since this particular e-mail had been written at the beginning of the year, Seth had already provided the appropriate background information. Such as: a) Sam's 'disloyal thoughts' consisted of wondering why Jacob still felt there should be patrols now that the Cullens were gone, which is what all the werewolf's were wondering, anyhow b) Leah hadn't spoken to Jacob for three days afterwards because she could beat up Sam on her own, thank you very much c) Embry was claiming credit, under pain of death, for all the food she had sent over to say thank you d) Leah had started speaking to Jacob again in order to make sure he didn't stand her friend up. Jacob didn't bother with a second date, though he was beginning to wonder how many friends Leah was going to make him go out with before she was satisfied that they were even.
Seth said to give them until the summer. That's apparently when he, Quil and Embry were just going to announce Leah had punished Jacob enough. Imprinting on me wasn't his choice and it's not like he had meant to screw with her life for all those years. So just...whatever, already.
I told Seth the werewolves could use a little tact. Since this was soon after I had asked him directly whether we were friends with benefits, Seth just laughed in my face.
For the record, I was not trying to embroil the two of us in such a scandalous arrangement, I was simply curious if the term my roommate had offered with a perfectly sculpted raised eyebrow was what best described our relationship. He maintained that we were friends who were finally allowed to make physical contact without risking immolation, suffocation, disembowelment, defenestration and angry glares. The reprieve from certain death allowed his arm to linger around my waist...in order to introduce me to one of the friends who had traveled with him to meet me. Seth was right; friends with unconscious physical contact. It was...nice.
Even Charlie's stopped asking us when we're going to fix the hole in the wall. I guess he figures if Mom hasn't gotten Quil to do it by now, it's just not humanely possible. But otherwise they're doing good.
And I'm so glad your mother nixed the surprise party idea. I can't see Charlie ever getting into that sort of thing. I wasn't sure your mother knew how to stand up to Alice, but I was glad to see I was wrong.
It had been a minor miracle, but my mother had managed. The year of my birth, Charlie Swan had survived all the surprises he was ever going to be able too. A party out of nowhere just might kill him.
It was nice of Alice to offer—she had been very busy with her fashion business lately. I didn't understand much of it, but she was happy. It seemed like all my family, despite what I had always thought, were quite capable of adapting to life without me. It was strange, but I rather liked it. Esme always remembered to call me to let me know how everyone was doing, in the rare case they were too busy. There was no more hovering, just friendship. It was good.
I had to go to Newton's the other day for—
I turned around from my computer to find my roommate standing in the doorway, arms flung open wide. To say I even intermittently understood Ashley was far too generous, and it hadn't escaped my notice that her adoration of me coincided with her observation of the masculine attention I seemed to receive, but the two of us got along well enough.
Most of the time. Then again, most of the time she wasn't acting crazy.
"What is it?" I asked, suspiciously, turning away from Leah's e-mail. I was just rereading it in a fit of sentimentality, after all. "Did you finish that essay?"
"It'll happen eventually," she assured me. "This is so much better. You've. Got. Mail!"
"A letter," she said, finally dropping the self-conscious 'aren't I adorable?' act. "I checked the mail box, and you have a letter. I brought it back for you."
All dorm rooms had their own mail slot, but I never received anything in mine. It was impractical. The internet was fast, the telephone was intimate, the singing telegram (unnecessary, but thank you, Emmett) was available. So it was with more than some surprise that I stood to take the letter from her.
"Who's it from?"
Ashley shrugged. "I'm just the delivery gal. You want me to read it for you, you have to pay extra."
"Thank you," I said as I took the letter.
Snail mail. The rhyme sounded pleasing, even if they phrase was rather fanciful. The postal service contained no snails and its services were not that delayed. I never really understood it.
But I could only think of one person who would contact me this way.
The Cullens mostly preferred the telephone, so they could hear my voice and analyze each inflection for all it was worth. Rosalie, especially, was never satisfied with a brief e-mail even if I was particularly busy with school. She had to hear my voice, or else she would be haunted by the thought that somehow, someone had managed to falsify the message. Seth, too, preferred the phone, unlike his sister who scrawled out long e-mails...but only when the inclination struck. Annie liked instant messenger, and Shelia (once Embry had finally managed to explain) also seemed inclined in that fashion. The other hybrids would write letters the old-fashioned way, but they simply wouldn't bother—they would extend their sentiments through Shelia, and no more. Nahuel and his aunt simply didn't talk to me anymore.
So...that left Jacob.
In the twenty-nine weeks since I had left Forks, Jacob had not contacted me. It was what I wanted, so he didn't.
But he was the only one who would send me a letter.
I trusted Leah had informed him (and convinced him) that complete separation for the best. That meant he was the only one who couldn't call—hearing his voice would violate every rule I strove to enforce, and he would never violate my wishes so overtly. Electronic correspondence would go through Leah or Embry, the members of the pack who owned computers, who managed the Quiluete concerns through the web. They would stop him, since it was for his sake that he had to avoid me. But he could send me a letter.
I didn't even blink when I saw the handwriting.
He still wrote like a five-year-old boy.
"Who's it from?" Ashley asked as she flopped down on her bed, getting back to whatever she had been doing on her computer.
What in the world could I call our relationship in order to make a human understand?
"He's...an old friend. I haven't heard from him in ages. I didn't even know he had this address."
"Maybe he's stalking you."
There was no judgment, just hope—like it would be exciting to have people following you around. Like it was normal. Maybe that's why we got along.
"No. He's...he must have gotten the address from Seth."
Or my parents, but I figured Seth was more likely. My mother would have failed to hide what she had done, and my father would have warned me. Jacob could have simply ordered Seth for the information and then ordered him not to warn me, though I thought it more likely that Jacob had just managed to convince the younger werewolf that he had my best interests at heart. I trusted Jacob—he wouldn't have contacted me unless his reason was a good one.
I ripped open the small envelope. There was a thin sheet of paper inside and I pulled it out quickly, eyes devouring the words on the page, taking in the old familiar scribble. Eight words. I read them over, trying to make sense of them.
"What's it say?" Ashley asked.
You were right.
We love you.
"What the hell does that mean?"
Jacob and I disagreed about many things; there were far fewer that I would ever say I had been right about. But evidently one of those times must be what he was referring too.
I closed my eyes, trying to think. "Would it have hurt him to be less cryptic?"
"Thank you sounds good, at least."
Thank for not speaking to me, for leaving me alone? For forcing us apart? We disagreed on that, I was sure. But was that what was meant?
Yes, I decided, finally allowing a smile to creep over my face. Yes. For all his faults (the few he had let me see, the others that I had guessed from other people's reactions) Jacob was not particularly narcissistic. He wouldn't use the royal we. Maybe it was the pack he was talking about. I doubted it.
I quickly stood up and grabbed a pen and paper. If Jacob Black wanted to be enigmatic, he would learn two could play at that game. He wrote eight words and my unfamiliar address. I did better. I addressed the envelope to a familiar place and managed only seven words.
Then I sealed up the letter.
The English language, imperfect and imprecise as usual, let me down. There was no plural second person subject pronoun. They would just have to infer that themselves. I would just have to have faith.
Seven words for seven years spent raising me.
An unfair trade, but it was the best I could do. With love...it was enough.
I love you.