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All things Twilight are the sole property of the divine Stephenie Meyers. This fan fic is purely for entertainment with no other gain. No copyright infringement is intended. Think of it as an homage….
No story is ever really finished…
Epilogue: Time in a Bottle JPOV
Seven years have passed…
I straightened the frakking tie one more time as I waited. Why is that when women get dressed up, they seem to wear less clothing but men always wear more?
The phone rang shrilly, making me jump. "Swan residence," I answered.
"May I speak to Chief Swan, please?" A man's voice, beautiful, bell-like.
"His Honor can't come to the phone right now, he's getting ready for the wedding." I said shortly and hung up as the phone went dead in my ear. I looked at the caller ID; pretty sure of what it would say: UNKNOWN.
I felt a cold trickle of dread down my spine, almost like the touch of one of their hands. Surely not now, after all this time…well, if it was it would be taken care of. I closed my mind to such thoughts; this was a happy day.
Bella came trotting down the stairs; she'd been in the bathroom again. "Who was that, Jake?" She looked… delectable. Her hair was elaborately piled up on top of her head and she was wearing a floaty summer dress the color of garnets. She had on little sandals with what she told me were kitten heels; not high heels by any means, but I wished she'd be more careful on the stairs.
"Wrong number." I shrugged.
"Oh? I thought I heard you-."
I broke in to distract her, shouting up the stairway, "Hey, Charlie! Better get a move on! Don't want Sue to think you've left her standing at the altar now!"
Bella laughingly called, "That's right, Dad. You can't keep on living in sin in this scandalous way! The mayor has to set a higher moral standard!" She never passed up a chance to rag her father on his living arrangements, not after the – really only token – fuss he had made when Bella and I moved in together.
Charlie walked slowly down, making adjustments to his suit as he came.
"You look so handsome, Dad. If Sue wasn't already in love with you, she would be now!" My girl gave her father a kiss on the cheek as she smoothed his lapels. She was smiling for all she was worth, but her lips trembled just the tiniest amount.
I shepherded Bella and Charlie to the other love of my life: a 1973 Dodge Challenger, lovingly rebuilt and restored, bronze metallic paint job gleaming.
Bella teased me about only being interested in cars made before I was born and claimed that the Challenger was the only thing in the world that made her jealous. She just had to grumble as a matter of course – she had actually turned into a great mechanic's helper as I worked to bring back this beauty. Her tiny hands and slim wrists can fit where my big mitts won't.
The drive was short, possibly too short for Charlie, though mostly he seemed confident and composed when I glanced in the rear view mirror, with only an occasional lapse into that deer in the headlights look. Better than a lot of grooms do, anyway. Bella was so happy and excited that she was almost quivering. My girl reached over and took my hand as I drove, giving me that look
Seth and Sue should already be at the council hall in La Push where the wedding was to take place. Seth would be escorting Sue at ceremony, she had been quite adamant over that: she was no one's property to be given away!
Both participants had tried to ease around a big celebration; Charlie and Sue were modest and scoffed at the idea that their nuptials would be of any interest to people beyond the immediate family.
A lot they knew! They each had been amazed at how many of the residents of both communities, Forks and La Push, had an almost proprietary attitude to the relationship between the two. Neither of them had been aware at all of how valued they were in our little corner of the world – and how happy everyone was that they had found each other.
Forks would be practically a ghost town as everyone who possibly could attended the wedding. The road to La Push had never seen so much traffic at once. Sam, at Emily's prompting, had drafted a team of high school students to act as parking directors once the crowd reached the village. Too bad for any tourists looking for a parking space!
I guess it's only natural to reflect on life when one of these milestone days comes along. It always bugged me when people talked about how 'blessed' they were, but I really couldn't come up with a better word, as I thought about our life together.
After Bella had finished up at the community college, she had moved to Tacoma to attend the University of the Puget Sound, entering a five-year BA/MA program part way through. After two miserable, and exhausting, semesters apart, trying to match up schedules, driving back and forth etc. etc., I talked it over with Sam and Dad, and Rachel and Paul, and Charlie (why didn't I just call a press conference and get the whole damn world in on our business?) and moved down there to be with her.
I don't like cities, never wanted to live in one and Tacoma wasn't the sort I'd pick out if I did, but Bella was there and that was all there was to that.
I resigned from the pack at the same time.
That was hard, really hard. But not as hard as living apart from my girl, always feeling uneasy, incomplete, and off-balance as the tug of my awareness of her pulled at me constantly.
Bella protested my resignation quite strenuously, not wanting to cause a rift between my brothers and me, but I knew what I was about here.
She thought she hid it, but I was very aware that my not aging normally while I was still active bothered her very much. She always remembered the story of Taha Aki's third wife, less for her sacrifice than for the outstanding fact that she was the third wife. And really, I couldn't consider a life that included outliving my girl.
Anyway, it gave Seth his chance: he's the Beta, now. Wearing the office a lot more willingly and happily than I had.
Don't get me wrong; being part of the pack was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. I loved a lot of it, but I couldn't go on being dragged in two directions. At a certain point it was time to get on with my 'real' life with Bella.
I still miss it, sometimes, when I can hear howling in the distance and know that my brothers are speeding through the woods, taking in all the enchanting smells and the richness of the forest, experiencing each other's enjoyment in the pack-mind at the same time…. I try not to let Bella see that.
In any case, there hasn't been much action around here ever since the battle at the Cullen place. Just an occasional visitor who quickly decides to visit somewhere else after seeing how well defended our part of the peninsula is.
Of course, these weren't the only changes that have happened in these last few years.
Dad left us one year, seven months and three days ago.
It was an easy passing, as such things go, with his best friends Charlie and Sue beside him. I held him in my arms as his spirit went wherever the life force of such a wise, kind and loving man should go. I miss him more than I can say.
This left me in the awkward position of being hereditary chief of the tribe, the last of the Blacks, for now.
The Quileute people have always had a system of shared government. Sam, as pack leader, and I have done our best to carry on this tradition by working hard to find a fair division of the responsibilities in guiding our people. Our experiences in the pack have helped enormously, but it's better now: these days we meet as equals, man to man, rather than as boy and Alpha.
Sue is always ready with a helpful word, of course, as are the other elders. Old Quil passed away some time ago. 'Young' Quil (how he hates being called that!) immediately excused himself from being an active member of the council, to the relief of all, on the grounds that he's really not cut out for high office.
Quil and his mother continue to run the little store, the social hub of the village. He always knows the latest gossip about anyone – which I have accessed on occasion, purely in my position as a leader, of course. He's always the first to volunteer whenever something needs to be done, gotta give him that.
Embry works as a foreman at Trask's mill. He never did imprint and still plays the field with enthusiasm, remarking that the pack hardly needs his efforts to provide for the next generation of protectors. He's got a point.
Rachel and Paul are the leaders there, with four sturdy, noisy ankle biters (one set of twins). They live in our old house; they had moved in to look after Dad when I went to Tacoma. Paul has added on to the little place extensively; he works construction so he's well able to do this. Nice to know he's good for something besides impregnating my sister.
I have pointed out on various occasions that there is a fine pharmacy located just over in Forks, which has been calmly ignored. Seems Rachel always wanted a large family – funny how much I didn't know about my own sister - and I admit that she seems to flourish in the cheerful chaos of her little world.
Remembering my insights into Paul's mind, I wonder if they still…?
Jared and Kim have two beautiful little girls. He's the manager at the Wal-Mart, she teaches at the Montessori school in Forks.
For the longest time, Sam and Emily had only one child, a little boy named David. They finally got another one going this past spring. Davey's pretty terrific. He came with me on Take Our Kids to Work day this last time; we had a blast. I can hardly wait….
Working for Parks and Wildlife is just what I hoped it would be: enough routine to be comfortable, enough variety to keep my interest. It's nice to have a way to earn a living that means something, in a way that, say, fixing cars never could. I have to admit that being an almost seven-foot tall stern-looking Indian does sort of help the law enforcement aspect of the job.
Like everybody else, I have days I don't want to go to work, but there haven't been many times when, after I got in the truck, looked over my duty sheet and started taking calls, that I didn't get caught up in the job and found the work day over before I knew it. A good day's work… and then home.
With some assistance from Charlie, we scraped together the money for a log cabin kit. Nothing fancy, just a great room, kitchen, a tiny bathroom with a shower and a sleeping loft, but perfect for us. With the pack's help we got it raised and dried-in in one long weekend. It's cozy, as Bella says. We'll be adding a proper bedroom wing with a bigger bathroom early in the fall.
It's on some land that came to me through my mother's family, a short way from the village, but inside the old treaty line. I don't really know if Bella is aware of that or not. Never hurts to be on the safe side.
Bells got her Masters in English Lit, which took longer than planned: she had to take a leave of absence from school when Renée was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was a tough time, but on the upside, Bella and her Mom got a lot closer – more like they were before Bells moved to Forks, she says. Renée's been doing fine lately. I hope that if something like that comes our way, my girl and I can take care of each other as well as Phil and Renée do.
For the last couple of years Bella has been teaching at the community college, and is starting to make outlines for a novel – if she can find the time she says.
Bella scoffs at me when I say this, but I really think she gets more beautiful every year. More beautiful and more confident. She's always been quiet and self-contained, around other people anyway, she speaks her mind pretty freely to me! But now she has a kind of serene poise in place of what was shyness.
Not to sound too starry-eyed, though. I could do without the PMS weeks just fine. Or, just as bad, all that frenzy at the end of semesters, first as a student and now as a teacher. Cold and flu season's kind of a drag, too: Bells makes a lousy patient and is always pissy because I never get sick.
But mostly it's great, the way I always saw things turning out. Kind of like watching a hawk soaring on thermals, just natural and right.
Amazingly, she's more graceful than she used to be! No one will ever mistake her for a ballerina by any means, but the constant stumbles and tumbles, the bruises and sprains, are pretty much a thing of the past. What a relief. Don't miss all the trips to the emergency room one bit.
I asked her about it one day. We were in the middle of our typical Sunday morning routine: sleeping late, big breakfast, lazing around half the day. The house still had its good French toast and bacon smell as we sprawled on the sofa reading the paper. Moxie the cat supervised from her spot on the classifieds section (nice kitty, but she always wants to sleep on my head at night!)
At my question, Bells pushed her reading glasses up on her head – finally got her to go to the eye doctor – and gave the matter serious consideration.
Solemnly she said, "I think it has a lot to do with getting nailed in the shower on a regular basis." Then with a mischievous grin, she slid a bare foot between my legs and did some interesting things with her toes, letting me know that shower activities weren't the only thing she was referring to.
Some time later - including a quick shower for a rinse off - she clarified this point by saying that being well and thoroughly loved gave her confidence, that it was like having a sturdy place to stand.
"I spent so much of my life feeling like I was on the outside looking in, " She said thoughtfully. "Being sure of us has given me a feeling of, well, belonging, I guess. I just feel so much more comfortable in my own skin these days, moving's kind of… effortless." Her smile was warm and joyous.
A man can't ask for much better assurance than that.
Nice to know I had made good on my promise to myself that day on First Beach when Bells told me that she loved me. I was her first lover and I vowed that I would be the only lover. I don't figure myself to be the possessive type, but keeping Bella so satisfied that she's not tempted to wander off, well, that's just good management. Not to be cocky, but she doesn't seem to mind.
Amazing how the mind works: all this had passed through my head on the short drive from Forks to La Push. The parking detail flagged me on to a place near the council hall. Bella scurried inside to where Sue would be waiting and I got Charlie handed off to some of the older men of the tribe, who greeted him with the usual worn out wedding day witticisms.
I took a stroll around the gathering, mainly to check out the comestibles. In spite of not having phased in some years, my metabolism is extraordinarily high; I'm hungry much of the time. The Forks Jaycees were putting on a salmon roast on the beach later on (enh!), but I had it on good authority that there would also be burgers and ribs for us carnivores.
Bella's old boss Etta, still a good friend, had insisted on providing the wedding cake. Since no consensus could be reached as to type – everybody seemed to have an opinion – Etta had agreeably prepared several kinds, including carrot cake, some fudgey thing, a more traditional-looking cake with white chocolate frosting and, Charlie's favorite, New York cheesecake with strawberries. I decided that to be courteous to their creator I would force myself to try a piece of each!
As I walked through the crowd gathered outside the hall, Leah hailed me. She looked stunning in a lilac dress, similar in style to Bella's but suited to her tall, athletic figure. Leah had designed both dresses as well as Sue's outfit.
"Finally!" She exclaimed. "Where's Bella? We're getting down to zero hour here." Leah and Bella were Sue's attendants, just as Seth and I were standing up for Charlie
She was carrying her 22-month-old daughter Hatsy, short for Harriet after Leah and Seth's late father, Harry. She held the youngster toward me for a kiss, saying. "You need to practice, Jake." I had an odd, choky moment as I felt the chubby little arms wrap around my neck.
"Bells just stepped into the hall to check on your mom," I answered. "According to her, we're right on schedule."
"Now, if only I can find Dee to hand off her Highness here." Leah scanned the crowd. Shifting the baby to her hip she waved a slim arm to attract the attention of her mate.
"Mama Dee!" Squealed the youngster, wriggling happily, reaching out as Leah's other half, Doris Ann, who prefers to be called Dee, approached.
Mama Dee and Mama Lee. Cute.
After completing her education in graphic design, Leah had chosen to settle in Vancouver, rather than return to La Push and be the sole wolf girl. I wasn't the only member of the pack to be just a tad surprised when Leah brought home her partner for the first time. Sam, especially, had taken it rather hard.
"Get over yourself, Uley!" Leah had growled at Sam's stricken protests. "Don't go thinking that you've ruined me for any other man! You weren't that good! And don't call me 'Lee Lee'!" Her glare had been reminiscent of the days after Sam had imprinted on Emily, but her eyes brightened as she told how she had met, and fallen in love with, Dee.
"I think," she said with a new softness on her face, "I think that somehow the magic knew, knew that I wouldn't have been happy in the conventional life that I thought was the only way. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but things were… managed to turn out for the best. Answers a few questions, doesn't it?" Leah giggled. Giggled! Leah!
It made no difference to me how she lived her life and I was heart glad to see my wolf sister so happy and comfortable with herself.
At last some of Sue's friends started to herd the crowd toward the rows of chairs set up to accommodate them. The hall wasn't big enough for such a mob, so a tent had been hastily arranged. There was no formal procession; I stood by Charlie with the girls on the opposite side of the platform that made do for an altar. Mr. Webber beamed as Seth and his mother approached, Seth moving to my side as Charlie came forward to take Sue's hand.
My girl and I smiled across at each other as the familiar phrases were exchanged and I knew that Leah was looking at Dee, just as Seth sought his girlfriend Lily's eyes.
Then it was my turn to step into Mr. Webber's spot and say the words and lead the chant-songs of the Quileute that would join Sue and Charlie in the eyes of my people. I thought of how delighted Dad would have been at this moment.
Very late that night we finally tore ourselves away after seeing the happy couple off; they were bound for a guest ranch in Idaho that promised world-class trout fishing. Bella had made arrangements for a muffin basket to be delivered on their arrival. Muffins have become something of a tradition with us.
We drove back to Charlie and Sue's house in Forks with a load of gifts. Sue had tried to discourage such things, pointing out that she already had household items and gewgaws in abundance, but many folks had cheerfully ignored her, wanting to show their good will. We had volunteered to drop them off.
Bella chattered happily, reliving the day: how cute Quil and ten-year old Claire had looked dancing; Embry's latest conquest; how old Reuben Two Rivers had gotten drunk off his ass.
I turned the corner to Charlie's street and then it hit me. That stench once scented, never forgotten. The sleeping wolf inside me woke with a start, ready for action.
"Mother fucker!" I muttered under my breath, and then looked at Bella out of the corner of my eye to see if she had noticed my outburst. She hadn't, thank God, she was still full of the festivities, exclaiming over somebody's ghastly dress.
By the greatest force of will I kept my hands steady on the wheel as I parked in the driveway. I made a business of dealing with the boxes, hustling them and Bella into the house, struggling not to look over my shoulder as we went.
He was here. I knew it. I could smell him. I could feel him.
Once unloaded, Bells remarked that since she had access to an actual bathtub, she thought she'd have a soak, if I didn't mind. No one has ever greeted the news of a bath more heartily.
"I'll be up in a while to scrub your back," I said lightly, striving for a normal tone. "Just want to check a few things outside. Charlie was so out of it, who knows how he left the place." I mentally apologized to Bella's dad; I already knew he had shut up the place just fine.
"Mmm hmm." Was the answer as my girl went up stairs, pulling the pins out of her hair as she went.
Good, she was out of the way.
I slid cautiously out on the little front porch. Every nerve ending tingled painfully as I searched the darkness with all my senses.
At the far end of the street I caught sight of an Alpha Romeo 170, a car not even in production yet, that must be his ride. The freak bastard had great taste in wheels I had to admit. Money helps.
There, in the woods that bordered Charlie's small yard.
"Come out and face me, bloodsucker!" I snarled in a stage whisper, knowing he could hear me, knowing he could hear my mind. Fuck!
I could feel the pins-and-needles sensation shooting up my spine as my wolf begged me to let it out. I kept it tightly under control, but I didn't know how long I could last like this.
All moving crystal, angles and shine…. The luminous white of his face was like the moon coming out from behind a cloud as he emerged from the tree cover.
Handsome. Silent. Deadly grace. The end of my world?
"Why are you here? You said you wouldn't come back!" A growl slipped from my mouth as he moved a few steps closer to the porch, coming fully into the light. Shit. I forgot, between times, just how good-looking he was.
Our eyes bored into each other. This went far beyond the natural enmity of our two species. His threat to my existence was greater than that.
Behind me, the door opened. I thought my heart would stop.
"What's up, Big Chief?" Bella stepped out onto the porch. She was supposed to be in the bathtub! She was still in her dress from the wedding, but had changed her pretty sandals for a pair of ratty old house shoes she still kept at Charlie's. Distracted as I was, I noticed that her ankles were a little swollen.
"You've been out here for -." She choked in shock at the sight of our visitor. Her color rose, not her usual pretty blush, but a dull, painful looking red that quickly drained away, leaving her ghostly pale, with spots of color burning high on her cheeks.
"W-what are you doing here, Edward?" Her voice was faint. She gazed at him steadily, eyes wide and fixed on his face.
I noticed with sickening horror that she was doing something I hadn't seen in years: she was absently rubbing the scar on her hand that the other parasite had given her. The one he had saved her from. The scar that made the bond that had connected them. My worst nightmares were coming true right in front of me.
His voice was musical, appealing: "I didn't know I'd find you here, Bella, I expected to see Charlie. Alice saw a wedding. I thought Charlie could tell me…."
"Alice." She said it with the hint of a sob that tore at my heart.
"It wasn't me. Charlie got married today, Charlie and Sue." Her voice was low but steady. "That must be what she saw. Jacob and I got married almost three years ago; didn't she see that? You didn't know?"
Was it my imagination, or did the freak shudder just a fraction?
My nerves were jangling so intensely that it was hard to be sure of my own perceptions, but he sounded so sad as he said, "Alice can't see you anymore. She hasn't been able to for a long time."
The little line between her eyebrows made its appearance as she puzzled over the statement, the question plain on her face.
Cullen opened his mouth to explain, then hesitated and made a graceful gesture of invitation to me.
My heart was beating so hard I thought I would strangle. I always knew this day would come. Just as I knew I had to be the one to tell her.
I forced myself to say, "Bells, honey, Alice can't see you because - because you're my mate. The wolves are kind of a blind spot for her. And ever since the, uh, cliff diving day…." My voice trailed off.
Bella's gaze was far away, as she said very low, "That was the day I decided to start living again… because of you, Jake."
I waited. She blinked. She realized.
Her head turned sharply toward me as she asked, urgently, "How do you know that, Jacob? The Cullens were gone before you changed. How. Do. You. Know?"
She swayed suddenly and caught herself against the screen door at her back. Her eyes swept me with a look of accusation and then turned to Edward.
"You came back." It was a statement, not a question. "I almost died." The same flat tone.
A tremor rippled over the abomination's face. My wolf rumbled its satisfaction at his pain.
I answered for him. "It was a few days after the battle with Victoria and her little army. The girl leech saw the house burn. Doctor Death broke the treaty and contacted Dad." They both twitched at my harsh tone and words. I didn't care.
"There were huge gaps in Alice's vision, we knew there had to more to it than just a house fire. Carlisle and I met with … Jacob and his father and the Alpha in the woods by the house. They told us what happened."
I remembered that day - like I'd ever forget. Sam and me and Dad, the two Cullens, standing in the rain inside the dense tree line. The three of us burned and raged inside in our disgust and hatred of the creatures facing us, but to look at us you would have thought we were as hard and immoveable as them.
The whole area reeked of smoke and vampire – from our current visitors and from the remains of the enemy, now lost forever in the pile of cinders that had once been the freaks' handsome home.
The tale of Victoria and her gang of the undead was quickly told. Then the others had moved back by tacit agreement; the treaty was to protect the entire tribe, but this was between the two of us. Cullen and I stood toe to toe and I made it clear to him that he and his 'family' would have nothing more to do with our lives.
I had been disappointed in his measured response. I had been longing for a fight, to remove his threat forever.
Bella shook her head, as if trying to settle her thoughts. "So… you met and talked and decided not to tell me. Just you and Carlisle, Edward?"
"Jasper and Esme kept Alice away, Bella. We knew she wouldn't be able to come and… not see you." He shrugged regretfully.
"Yes, I understand." Her voice was wistful. Their eyes were locked on each other. My heart twisted agonizingly. "Where… have you all been all this time? That was a while ago."
"Oh, you know, the family moves around, here and there. I've been living in Italy the last few years - studying." His gaze never wavered from her pale face.
"Italy." She repeated; it meant something to her. I didn't care where he'd been so long as he hurried the hell back there. Italy was hardly far enough!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! How could she still care for them! After all they'd put her through. After all he'd put her through.
A faint howl came from the depths of my throat before I could stop it. We all started, the sound inadvertently reminding us of the chasms that separated our beings. The tension was a palpable force.
I wondered if I would – could – abase myself in front of the leach to beg her to stay. Stupid question. Of course I would. I would do anything. "They just left you here, Bells." I hissed, " Left you, knowing she was out there!"
The freak ignored me, his voice cool as he said, "I know I… harmed you, Bella. He showed me how it was with you. The way you looked, lying on the forest floor where I left you. How thin and pale you were, holding yourself together with your arms." If it were possible, I'd say his face went even whiter.
Bella frowned, not understanding what he meant.
"In his mind, Bella." He prompted. "Very clear mental images, your… husband has."
"Showed you how she changed, too, don't forget that." I said it grimly, but I felt as though a knot inside me was being loosened. I did have a weapon I could use.
Concentrating, I decided to treat the leech to an updated picture show. I pulled up a favorite memory: Bella walking down the aisle toward me on Charlie's arm, so lovely in her ivory dress, with flowers in her hair. I remembered the way my heart pounded as she looked up at me with such complete love and trust in her eyes as her father placed her little hand in mine.
Flash to another scene: Bella naked and flushed, riding me like a demented cowgirl, head thrown back in ecstasy, as my hands fondled her breasts.
Take that, you filth. A look of anguish rippled over his perfect young face. Bella shot a glare at me: she's not slow, I must say.
"Bells," I said, striving for a reasonable tone when what I wanted was to scream and fight, to call for my brothers and end this creature's menace to me and mine forever. "I'll tell you what I told him then: he forfeited when he left you alone and unprotected -."
The leach interrupted, "I will never forgive myself for what I put you through, Bella. That day…I-I left you in his care " His voice made the simple words sound like a symphony. His eyes left the woman we both loved and turned to me. "For what it's worth to you, Black, you have my gratitude."
Rounding on him, I spat out in fury, "That's not exactly the way I remember it, Cullen! You promised you wouldn't come back. I kept my part: I protected her; I watched out for her; I cherished her. I've loved her every day."
"I'm not some kind of prize!" My Bella shouted. "No forfeits, no wins! I choose! I chose!" She was trembling, her eyes full of heavy tears.
Were they tears of regret? My heart sank like a stone. I had spoken the only truth I knew. But had I undone it all?
The bastard spoke again, "I didn't mean to… distress you, Bella. I just – I just had to know…how you were." For a moment, that perfect young face looked almost old.
She gave a mighty sniffle and tossed her hair back, visibly working to regain mastery of herself. At that moment, a gentle breeze eddied around the house and porch, blowing the fragile fabric of Bella's dress against her body, revealing the soft, subtle curve of her belly.
The bloodsucker's eyes were riveted to my girl. There was anguish in his voice, as he said brokenly, "So – you have… that, too."
"Yes." Whispered my girl, with that look of mingled pride and wonder she gets when she talks of the baby. She touched her stomach in an unconscious caress. "If it's a girl we'll name her Marie; if it's a boy he'll be Liam, after Jacob's father."
The disgusting parasite made as though to reach for her. I don't remember getting between them; I was just there. My wolf was snarling and whining inside me, fighting to be let out. I shivered with the effort to maintain control.
"Jacob," she said, soothingly, putting her hand on my arm. "It's all right, Edward didn't mean anything. Did you?" This last said pointedly at the leech as she peered around me, giving him a look heavy with meaning. She moved to stand beside me, sliding her arm through mine. The wolf subsided, but was watchful still.
In that too bright voice that people use when a guest has over-stayed his welcome, she said politely, "Edward, i-it was very kind of you to come by to look in on me this way. I hope you won't take it wrong that I don't ask you to stay and visit. Please… give Alice my love, and Carlisle and – and everybody." Her voice shook in spite of her efforts at control. "Good bye now."
Taking my hand, she turned, opened the door and stepped inside, drawing me behind her. I glanced back for one last look at the monster, saying so low that mere human ears could not have heard: "She is mine."
Inside I stood back, giving her space, sick with uncertainty at what had just happened. Bella leaned back against the now closed door and shut her eyes, her hand resting at her throat. Her color rose and fell again.
She took a deep shaky breath and said, "Well! That was pretty fucking weird!" She sounded… exasperated?
I stood frozen, tense, watching her. For once I couldn't tell what she was thinking as every possible emotion passed in turn over her transparent face. In spite of my brave parting shot to the leech, my feelings wavered from triumph to despair as I watched the woman who was my whole life process what had just happened.
"Are you – are you angry with me, Bells, for not telling you?" I rasped out. Inside me, the wolf whimpered its fear of her answer.
With a sigh, she said slowly, giving thought to each word, "I feel like I ought to be angry, I hate people making decisions for me without even asking me. But…I can see why you didn't say anything. It could have been… difficult, if I'd known." Her gaze was in the past, some place where I could not follow her.
"Difficult. Difficult how?" I couldn't force any more words from my constricted throat.
She started and her eyes widened, as she seemed to truly see me again. "Jacob, what's the matter? You're trembling! I just meant it would have been awkward – it wouldn't have changed anything!"
Her little hands cupped my jaw, turning my face down to look at her directly.
"Do you really think I'd trade the last seven years, or the next fifty, or this – " her hand stroked the gentle roundness of her belly " – for anything in the world? I love you, Jacob, I love you! Edward leaving made it possible to find my heart's desire, but I needed you to show me what that was." Her beautiful brown eyes shone at me lovingly.
I heard the faint sound of a heartbroken groan from outside the house.
Something must have shown on my face, because Bella's expression turned to one of indignation.
Standing on tiptoe and just breathing the words into my ear, she muttered resentfully, "He's still out there, isn't he? Listening to us?" I nodded. "Of all the nerve! Checking up's one thing, sweet even, but this –this is…!"
"Invasive?" I said helpfully. If she wanted to be mad at the leech, far be it from me to talk her out of it!
My girl stepped back from me, an impish grin on her face. Getting her arms around behind her the way women can do, she unzipped her dress. Shrugging her shoulders elaborately the straps came free and the dress fell to the floor.
Underneath she wore a lacy bra and panties the color of smoke. Her hair fell in waves down her back, her breasts were very full, the swell of her abdomen merely suggestive of what lay beneath. She smiled. She was breathtaking.
Bella pressed her full length against me luxuriously. She lifted one knee to twine her leg around mine, as her hands undid the buttons of my shirt. She seductively drew her lips along my jaw, whispering faintly, "He never could hear my thoughts, think really loud!"
What a woman! My Bella!
I closed my eyes and slid my hands down to her sweetly rounded ass, and gently kneaded her flesh, letting my mind revel in the sensations. She rubbed herself against me, leaning into my growing hard-on. I hummed appreciatively.
With a throaty chuckle, she took my hand and pulled me to the sofa. Pushing me backwards, she climbed on top of me, straddling. A movement and she had removed her bra and flung it aside. I buried my face in the softness of Bella's breasts, inhaling her delicate scent.
"Oh, Jake." She sighed.
"A little louder, honey."
The tension from outside the house increased, almost a physical presence in itself.
I thought as loudly as I could, "Didn't those 'parents' of yours teach you not to spy? It's up to you, bloodsucker: be a good little vamp and split, or stick around and listen to my wife squeal my name while I give it to her the way she likes it!"
Then the sound of an expensive engine turning over and fading into the distance.
When I posted Moonshadow on another site I got the most fascinating mix of reviews for the Epilogue: most were full of praise but others… well, my favorite said that it was "mean and fucked up".
Nice to know that my fic could arouse that kind of emotion in a reader!!
Even some more moderate ones waxed indignant, saying that Bella would never taunt Edward in that way.
My thoughts on the conclusion to this little story are:
Bella is not the same girl that Edward left lying broken on the forest floor EIGHT YEARS previously. (I'm certainly not, are you?)
In that time she has moved on and built a life that is very different that the one portrayed in the Saga – a life with Jacob *swoon* – with lots of things to look forward to…
Bella has no way of 'knowing' the things that we, the readers of the Saga 'know'. She hasn't read SM's outtakes to know the depth of Edward's suffering. None of the events bonding the Cullens and the Pack in Eclipse happened in this AU.
A visit from a long-lost love is… disconcerting, to say the least. (I know from experience) It may well be that Bella needs to prove something to herself, and Jake, as well as to Edward!
So… what do you think?