Author Notes: So, here it is, the epilogue and end of the story. I do have a couple of outtakes, however, and a few more I will be working on in the future. The outtakes are all scenes I've had requested by readers, so they will be released according to when I received them, and how much time I have to work on them. Thanks for sticking with the fic until the very end! =)
The day I'd stood at an altar with Bella's hands gripped in my own and listened to her promise herself to me had been one of the best days of my life. Reunited with her mother and father, Renee had sobbed openly in the first pew beside my dad while Charlie had given Bella away to me. I'd been flanked by my groomsmen—Embry, Quill, Seth, and Sam—and Bella had fallen into line with her bridesmaids. While I'd been slightly opposed to Bella having chosen Alice and Rosalie, I'd given in when reminded that they had, in a way, helped us back to one another as well, but it was mainly Carlisle and the fact that he had saved my wife's life that had persuaded me to let all of the Cullen's—save for one certain senator—attend our wedding. I thought that Bella might have asked Leah to stand with her as well to appease me and the rest of my pack, but I really didn't need persuaded.
Edward Cullen himself could have been standing beside Bella, and nothing would have stopped me from exchanging vows.
I'd lived my whole life listening to other guys degrade and mutter fearfully about being married most of my life, but, to me, there was nothing like marital bliss. For the first time, my home felt complete, and there was really nothing like waking up in the morning with the woman you loved snuggled in the crook of your arm.
Continuing work as a mechanic while Bella attended a local college and graduated with a teaching degree had been an interesting first four years of marriage as I came home nightly, covered in grease and oil, and took advantage of Bella as she sat in our dining room, poring over books. It was four years spent well, as I saw it, while Bella achieved some normal human milestones and worked toward a career that could make her happy. She'd never been meant as a trophy wife.
She'd been teaching first grade on the reservation for one year when my life was taken to a whole new level of perfection with the birth of our first child and son, Kale Josiah Black. Five-years old and my son was growing like a weed, sported a head full of thick, black hair, two chocolate brown eyes, one mischievous dimple in his left cheek, and what Bella claimed was my strong chin. He was the best looking, most energetic little kid on the reservation so far as I could see, and the pride I felt each time I looked at him over the span of five years threatened to close my throat.
When our family expanded once more in the form of Alison Renee Black, I knew that I was officially the happiest, and luckiest, man alive. Her skin was bronze and smooth, like mine and her brother's, but everything else about my daughter was pure Bella. Brown hair, brown eyes, shy smile, but a wicked sort of stubbornness that rivaled mine. After she was born, my pride was big enough to swallow a continent.
I had everything I had ever wanted and more. Between cleaning crayon doodles off the living room wall, teaching my five-year-old son to throw a ball, wearing the baby food I attempted to feed Alison, and sleeping off blissful exhaustion with Bella in my arms at night, I lived a full life. A near fairy tale.
But every fairy tale or happy ending or even momentary bubble of bliss came with a price. I knew that. I always had. But I had promised myself on the day that Bella had returned to me that I would, no matter what, do whatever it took to protect her and the life I wanted with her. I'd known the challenge to my promise was coming at some point in my life—that I would have to make one last stand for Bella before things could be normal for us.
When the time came to keep my word, I didn't hesitate.
Well, except for maybe the five minutes it took for me to convince Bella to stay in the house while I went out to meet the Volturi that had, a little over five years after Bella had chosen me, finally decided to make good on all those threats they'd been so full of from the get-go. Reminding Bella that we had two small children to worry about, I'd persuaded my wife to remain behind while I left the house, fearless, to meet the Volturi before they could get much farther than the boundary line.
I wanted to say that I was surprised to find not only the Volturi, but my pack waiting for me in the open field the Volturi had chosen to meet me, but I wasn't. I was just mildly pissed to see Leah's grey form in the ranks of the wolves. I wanted to remind her that she was two fucking months pregnant with Abram's kid, and that she had no business out here in that sort of fragile shape, but I'd arrived at the clearing in human form, intent to speak to the Volturi before I got hasty with shifting.
Really, none of the wolves of my pack had any business being in the clearing. The Volturi were only in La Push because of Bella, and that was my problem. It was not something I wanted to endanger the others for, especially considering the majority of them now had their own lives and families to worry about. I attempted to translate as much in my scowl to them, but none of them appeared to care how I felt about them being there.
They translated this to me by planting their furry asses around me and watching the Volturi with slightly curled muzzles. They were really exasperating. It was really too bad I liked them all so much. Shaking my head at the lot of them, I decided to use their appearance to my advantage, and I stood between my pack, hoping to look more formidable to the grouping of vampires that began to materialize from the woods.
I recognized Jane immediately, and I couldn't say that any of the vampires with her looked any more appealing. Some were tall and slender and elegant-looking. One was bulky like Emmett, and I actually picked out another that looked like a young boy in a body the size of Jane's.
It was evident from the start which one was the leader. Bella had told me his name was Aro, and I picked him out from the group right away. He seemed to lead, even though he was situated somewhere towards the middle of the group, flanked by his followers that seemed to create a marble shield of their own. He was being protected and guarded, but he still had that commanding sort of presence where I could tell that the others were simply gravitating around him.
He was tall, slender, and had that almost hollow-looking face typical of vampires. His head was inclined a fraction upward, as if he preferred to walk with his nose permanently stuck inches up into the air. So this was an old world vampire—one of the first of the bloodsuckers out there.
"Jacob Black," the vampire I had picked out for Aro addressed me.
A sharp growl came from beside me.
"Contain yourself, Clearwater," I muttered to Leah who was stationed directly to my left. "You shouldn't even be here to begin with. Don't go riling up the leeches yet."
I could see Leah's snout lift in my direction from the corner of my eye. I had a feeling she would have been telling me to piss off if I'd been in the correct form to hear her. It almost made me smile. As much as I really disliked the risk of her presence here, Leah and the others made me confident.
The vampire looked momentarily surprised before he smiled at me.
"Ah, Isabella has told you about us," he deducted. "I suppose, then, that you are well aware of why we are here. The mortal's ability to keep a secret is already looking poor."
I had half the urge to bare my teeth, but I wasn't in wolf form, so all I could do was snarl and look half as intimidating as Sam, who had risen slightly from his sitting position to echo Leah in a warning growl. If I'd had the opportunity to enjoy it, I would have been proud of my pack to find them supporting Bella. Even after five years, there had still been some tension between them and Bella. Maybe that would pass, once and for all, today as they stood united with me against the Volturi for Bella's sake.
"No, I think it was munchkin there," I retorted, pointing a finger toward the short stature of Jane, "that first made me aware of the Volturi, and of what you guys are all about."
Aro spared a glance toward Jane, lifting a finely arched brow as if maybe he hadn't been entirely aware of his henchmen's actions in the past, but his surprise lasted only a second before the leader vampire shrugged it off as trivial information.
"Regardless, Isabella is human, and humans are not allowed to know of our existence. Do not blame me, Jacob Black. It is Edward Cullen's fault for exposing us. Now she must simply pay for his unfortunate mistake," Aro told me, sounding almost perfectly sincere in the mocked tone of remorse he tried on for my benefit.
Like I was buying that.
"I'm sure we can both agree that Cullen is an idiot," I snapped, and Seth released an amused bark, "but you're not touching Bella. Not for anything. She's my wife now, and she's done with vampire creeps like you."
"Oh, I am sure—" Aro started to interrupt, but I cut him off, much to the evident surprise of the vampires with him.
I had a feeling that people didn't usually interrupt the great and mighty Aro while he was talking, but he was just another shameless bloodsucker to me.
"But I can guarantee you and your pale-faced friends that Bella isn't going to expose you. Incase you missed out on this, champ, I'm a werewolf. Though you guys are admittedly more freakish than us, we don't want our secret exposed either," I told him, sounding almost more confident than I felt.
I hadn't known that I was going to use this as my bartering tool when I'd arrived at the field, but the words were flowing out of my mouth without a filter, and it seemed like the right idea, even though Aro had started frowning at me.
"So, here's the deal: you don't tell our secret, we don't tell yours, and everyone goes their separate ways now. You don't bother us, we don't bother you. I think that's more than fair given the fact that you attacked first."
There were several seconds of thoughtful silence as Aro, the leader of the most feared vampire clan, seemed to swallow what I'd tossed at him. I had an annoying feeling that he hadn't expected to find me rational. Maybe he'd thought I'd put up a quick fight, he'd dispose of me, kill Bella, and be on his merry way. Fat chance.
I watched him as he studied me closely, briefly flicking his gaze over the wolves of my pack as well, as if measuring us up, wondering if he could take us all right then and avoid complicating things with a treaty he obviously didn't care for. The guy had probably never compromised a day in his life.
"Jacob makes a significant point."
I jolted at the sound of a new voice joining our confrontation. One that was all but directly behind me. I felt the rest of my pack shift uneasily in surprise as well, because, given the fact that the meadow was already ripe with vampire stench from the Volturi, none of us had scented the arrival of Carlisle or the rest of the Cullen's as they had appeared at our backs and joined our group.
I glanced over at the blond vampire doctor in surprise, catching sight of Alice winking at me from behind him, and finding that Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, and Esme were all in attendance as well. What the hell?
Aro looked just as surprised as I was.
"Carlisle," he spoke his name almost as if in question. "What are you doing here, old friend?"
Carlisle smiled. It was really unnerving how vampires could act so well. They could smile when they didn't mean it, laugh when they weren't amused, and just generally creep me out with their true lack of any real emotions. I knew and felt that the smile Carlisle offered Aro was fake.
"I felt the need to discover why the value of my opinion has lost importance to you, Aro," Carlisle informed him, sounding as pleasant as if he was discussing the weather. "I had told you once before that Bella is seen as a part of my family, and, if you trust in my word, that you have nothing to fear from her, and no need to worry over the exposing of our secret."
Aro seemed momentarily taken aback. The big guy hadn't expected to be called out. I nearly smirked, but then I realized I was going to owe Carlisle Cullen another favor after this. I hated being indebted to vampires.
"Your opinion has not lost value or credit, Carlisle," Aro recovered finally. "The situation has simply altered, as Bella is now in the hands of this man rather than your son."
Carlisle spared me a glance. It grazed over me, as if considering.
"Yes, but I think that Jacob has already assured you why this would not be a problem. I think that all of us present can share equal appreciation of a secret we share. I see no reason to fear."
Aro opened his mouth, but said nothing, though he looked genuinely pissed that he was so quickly and efficiently being outsmarted. Especially in front of the crowd he'd brought along. He seemed to flounder for several minutes, like a fish, and Carlisle must have noticed.
"I understand the laws of our clan, Aro, but you would admit it unwise to start a fight that is not needed with a foe that is worthy of our respect." Carlisle gestured to me, much to my surprise. "I realize, however, that you have made a long trip, and I implore you all to come to my house in Forks where we can surely come to some rational decision that will conclude with the least amount of trouble to us all."
I was definitely in Carlisle's debt again. For a vampire, the guy really had style and a way with words. I could understand why even the head of all the vampires might momentarily feel outclassed by the guy.
"Always the hospitable one, Carlisle," Aro spoke slowly, glancing my way with a curious expression that made me feel uncomfortable.
Carlisle, however, either really didn't take notice of this expression, or chose to ignore it, because he turned to me, offering a small smile that looked like something he'd reserve for his patients.
"Jacob, go home to Bella. I will inform you should anything we discuss require your attention, but as I believe we are past the primitive stage of vampire that once resorted to senseless murdering, I feel we will all leave satisfied today."
I opened my mouth to object. Maybe I'd been handled as quickly and efficiently as Aro had. This was still my fight—It was a fight, right? How had I managed to come to this field preparing for a gruesome battle only to be told to leave fifteen minutes later while the vampires went and played tea party?
I didn't know what was going on here, but, then again, I'd never understood the ways of vampires. However, this was still my fight, or argument, or whatever this had become. The vampires were here for Bella, and though Carlisle had just saved my ass, I didn't feel comfortable leaving at that exact moment. It made me anxious.
"Carlisle, are you—"
My jaw went lax and slid closed. All at once I'd been hit by a title wave of comfort, like a giant, invisible blanket wrapping me in its warm embrace. The anxiety I felt disappeared off the face of the earth, and a small voice seemed to urge me to go home—everything would be fine.
I shot Jasper Hale what I hoped look something like a glare. I still didn't appreciate having him play with my emotions, but the reminder that he could—that the rest of the vampires present all had supernatural talents as well—grounded me a bit. If I could avoid I fight, shouldn't I? Especially with Leah, the pregnant wolf, in tow.
I inhaled. "Sure, sure. Thanks, Carlisle. We'll see you around."
I felt the soft pad of Leah's nose push into my palm. I pushed her back. The girl was always looking for a fight. Lunatic.
"Go home, guys," I whispered to my pack, turning my back cautiously on the vampires.
I had to wave my hands at the lot of them though to get them to move. They all seemed as suspicious as I was about leaving a fight—or conversation, or whatever—when we'd barely done more than said, "Hello." Still, even out of wolf form, my pack had to listen to their alpha, and they all gradually dispersed while the vampires disappeared in the opposite direction.
Leah left the clearing last, sparing me a knowing look as I listened to Carlisle and Aro conversing as they disappeared. I waved her off.
"Yeah, I know. It's probably not over, but should I avoid peace while I can get it?"
Leah tilted her furry head back at me, and then grunted. I had a feeling she would be chiding me if she had the voice to do it, but she must have saw my reasoning as worthy as well, because she finally lifted onto four paws and trotted away.
I shook my head at her, and I headed home.
There really wasn't anything better than opening the door to your house and having a beautiful woman toss her arms around your neck. The rough kiss planted on my mouth wasn't all that bad either. But I knew that this was more than just a welcoming. Bella had been worried that I wouldn't come back at all. It was almost exasperating.
Hadn't I told her a werewolf was just as hard to beat as a vampire?
"I told you I'd work things out, Bells."
She slid back, dropping her hands to my chest and tilting her head so that she could look up at me. Her fear was evident in her eyes, though I smiled at a smearing of flour just underneath her left one. I guessed she must have been baking while I was gone to keep herself busy. Noticing it now, I found that the house smelled a bit like apples.
"How? How did you do it? What did they say?"
I opened my mouth, and then closed it again. Damn.
"All right, maybe I had some help," I conceded. "Carlisle and the other Cullen's showed up. Carlisle said a couple of things to Aro, and away they went. It really was a bit too easy."
I'd thought that the knowledge that the Cullen's—who Bella apparently still saw as indestructible—had been there to help would put Bella at ease, but it didn't. I should have known better. Bella was too smart for that, and, though she hadn't been there, she was as anxious as I was about the fact that things had seemingly been resolved so easily. Lifting my hand, I pushed the flour away with my thumb.
"Look, it doesn't matter. If they leave us alone for now, it's only more peace to be had. If they come back again, I'll be ready then too," I assured her. "For now, let's enjoy what we have. Okay?"
Bella lifted her hand and closed her fingers around my wrist before I could let my hand fall back to my side. She leaned into my palm, inhaling. Her eyes fluttered closed momentarily. I found the fact that Bella had learned to draw strength from me wonderful. That was what I wanted to be—her support system. For years I had ran from it, but now that she acted as mine as well, I enjoyed holding Bella up.
"Is that an apple pie I smell?" I questioned softly.
Bella opened her eyes, and I saw a strange flicker of emotion there. Her cheeks tinted pink. I grinned at her reaction.
"Is there a special occasion I should be aware of?" I asked, lifting my brows suggestively.
Bella started to reply, but a shrill, infant cry rang out, making us both glance down the hall toward Alison's room.
"I didn't do it!" Kale's panicked voice called from his own room.
The kid seemed to think he was guilty for everything these days. Made me wonder what exactly he was feeling so guilty about. Might have had something to do with the toy truck he'd left out in the hall a week earlier, which I'd taken an early morning ride on unknowingly, falling on my ass in the hall and knocking one of Bella's vases over. Kale had been a bit jumpy since then. I couldn't help but laugh.
"I'll get Alison," I told Bella. "Then I'm coming back for some of that pie."
I started to pull away, but Bella didn't release my wrist. Instead, her slender fingers tightened their grip, and she gave me a small tug. I stopped in surprise, turning back to ask her what was wrong—especially when I found tears in her eyes—but Bella beat me to the punch.
"I'm pregnant, Jake."
It was one of those moments when the hurried world came to a complete and utter standstill, and the only thing I could hear was the sound of Bella's heart and mine. Mine being the louder one that drummed unevenly in my ears. I felt my jaw go slack as I gaped at my wife, finding that those tears in her eyes weren't from sadness, but from excitement. I heard the sound of Alison releasing another cry, and Kale promising again that he had nothing to do with it. I slid my hand around Bella's, thinking of how amazing it was that there would soon be another little voice in our house.
Threats of the Volturi, pains and fears of the past: all of it faded into oblivion and didn't matter in this world.
"I love you, Bells," I breathed out, grinning like an idiot as I pulled my wife against me, cradling her in my arms and wondering at the still-smooth stomach that pressed against mine.
"I love you too, Jacob."
Could a guy ask for more?