Chapter Summary: It's judgement day for Bella and Jacob as their story comes full circle.
Disclaimer: Characters, world etc. does not belong to me- I am merely playing in the sandbox. The opinions expressed in this story do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Quileute Nation. Meyer wrote about a fictional tribe and put their name to it, so in writing this story I have had to do the same.
Thank Yous: I have had several beta readers throughout this story. People who helped me on this chapter were- thejmeyer
Also, thank you to all of you who have read and reviewed this story, and have given me such positive feedback. I'm amazed it's got so much attention (200+ reviews is more attention than I've ever got :) ).
BTW- if you've just started reading this, and want to leave a review, don't feel you've missed the boat! You're still welcome to the party.
Speaking of... There are likely to be a couple of one-shot tie-ins to come: a one-shot crack!fic about Jacob and Bella's Euro Trip, and a one-shot about those times Bella wasn't around to see Abbie near her father. They won't be for a while, but I shall post them onto this account. I guess if you want to be notified about them, adding me as a favourite author will let you know when I post new things up? I always assumed that's what that was for.
Anyway, thank you and I hope you enjoy the conclusion.
Epilogue: Ultimatum- The End
"Cigarette?" Leah pointed a pack towards Bella, who shook her head.
"No thanks," she replied. "Never smoked."
Leah grinned. "Yeah, Jake's never been into it either."
The rain had started to lessen since the tribal meeting began, where Bella and Leah waited, leaning against the wall, part trying to hear what was going on, part trying to block it out. Jacob had got angry about fifteen minutes ago. That was all Bella could tell from her eavesdropping.
"Tell me something, Bella," Leah asked. "You're serious about moving here? To La Push?" She looked incredulous.
Bella shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"Because it's a hole?" Leah suggested. "I got out… for a while. I'd have stayed out if it weren't for Sam. He shouldn't even be on the council yet, but I guess when your old man takes off before you can walk…" She lit her cigarette and took a drag while Bella kicked futilely at a sodden leaf stuck to the wooden deck outside of the tribal hall building.
"Home is where Jake is," Bella said simply. "I don't mind a commute. I could even teach here, at the local rez school."
Leah looked at her with vague contempt. "Don't," she advised. "The pay is crap. Stay at Forks High School or go to that private school out of town."
Bella nodded, growing increasingly uncomfortable as Leah watched her with interest.
"He loves you so much," she said, eventually.
Bella smiled, unable to hide the glow to her features. "I know."
"I don't think you do," Leah replied kindly. "I don't know any guy who would go through all this for their woman. He's fighting against everything he's been brought up to cherish."
"Oh really? What about Sam?" Bella countered cheekily, poking Leah gently in the ribs.
Leah sighed. "He wouldn't fight this hard," she confessed. "He'd accept whatever they dished out, in the end." She paused and took another drag of her cigarette, the tip glowing red as she sucked. "Jake won't. Trust me, Bella, if this doesn't go his way, he'll be out of here, taking you with him…"
Bella laughed. "Come on, Leah," she said. "You seriously think he'll give up his position as the next in line to the chiefdom just like that?" Bella knew she was right but was surprised Leah had even entertained it. Nobody else seemed to have, apart from Billy.
"I know it," she replied softly, and for a moment, Bella saw a semblance of envy in her eyes.
"This is dumb," Bella eventually spat.
Leah smirked. "What part exactly? The argument in there?" She jabbed her thumb in the direction of the tribal building behind them. "Or us waiting in the rain to hear the outcome?"
"The fact Jake could lose everything because he loves me!" Bella started pacing wildly. "Paul said they might force him out of the tribe altogether, make him renounce his heritage. Can they even do that?"
"You've seen Paul?" Leah sounded surprised.
"Yeah, we keep in touch," she replied. "He's got a year left at North Seattle. I think he's planning on staying out there."
"I don't blame him," Leah replied thoughtfully. "Too many memories…"
They stood in silence for a moment, Leah flicking the butt of her cigarette out onto the wet grass. Bella noticed that Leah's very silence on the topic of Jacob's heritage had answered her question.
"I can't even walk," she said, shaking her head. "I can't even make this easy on him and walk away, because I couldn't bear not being with him." She started to sob and swiftly felt Leah's arms wrap around her.
"Bella, Jake wouldn't want that. He'd feel the same." She chuckled gently. "I remember years ago, when I was home one weekend during the whole three weeks you two were split up. I have never seen such a mopey-assed loser in all my life, and hell, you've met my brother…"
Bella managed to laugh through her tears, albeit briefly. "Why are they putting him through this?" she asked.
Leah shrugged, patted her on the back. "They'll tell you they do it because they care about us," she replied sourly.
"If they cared so much, they wouldn't make him choose," Bella retorted.
"Hey, you're preaching to the choir here," Leah said smoothly. "My father taught me that we carry our culture in our heads and our hearts, not in our blood. When I was younger, I took that idea for granted. Now that I'm older, I honestly believe him."
Pulling a handkerchief out of the pocket of her jeans, Bella wiped her eyes. "He said he'd sing for me," she whispered.
"Who, Jake? Trust me, that's not something you want to hear…"
"He said, if they accepted it, he'd come out of there and sing for me. Sing all the songs I'm not supposed to know… I mean, that he isn't allowed to share with me."
Leah laughed, rich and deep, from right within her belly. "See, that's Jake all over. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if this whole brouhaha over you was just a ruse. He's too progressive. It scares them." She shook her head, still giggling. "But forget my conspiracy theories. Want to know what I'd do, if I were in your shoes?"
"Fuck them. Not literally. Just, the two of you should go off around Europe, do your thing. Find somewhere you really connect with and live your lives. Forget this place." She sighed. "I sure as hell would…"
"Let's… Let's just see what happens, before you start planning our lives together," Bella replied gently as she saw Jacob exit the tribal building, his expression unreadable.
"Jake?" she called, reluctant to dwell on this moment of uncertainty any longer, buoyed by her faith that whatever the outcome, they would face it together.
He stormed past them both, Bella had to run to keep up with him.
"Jake? What's going on?" she asked.
"They said no, Bells," he replied bitterly. "If I want to marry you, I have to leave…"
Bella felt her heart drop somewhere near her stomach. "What?" she whispered; shocked that their worst case scenario had actually happened.
"They're not going to accept you as my wife. They're not going to accept my decision and have told me if I marry you, I'm dead to them and I'll have to leave."
They reached the little red house that Jacob and Billy shared.
Bella stood outside, shell-shocked. "What are you going to do?" she asked.
Jacob looked at her as though she was crazy. "What do you think, Bella?" he said. "I'm going to pack."
Heavy footsteps drew nearer, Bella heard Sam's voice call out, "Jacob! Jake, calm down!"
"Why, Sam?" Jacob's voice was steely as he turned to face the youngest of the tribal elders. "Why the fuck should I calm down?"
"You're being hasty…"
"I'm not," he snapped. "I told you all where I stood, you all told me where you stood, so I'm out of here."
"As soon as I've packed my stuff. Shouldn't take too long…" He turned away from Sam, and Bella caught a glimpse of his face. He was heartbroken.
"Can I stay with you tonight, Bells?" he asked quietly, tears stinging his eyes.
Bella nodded, feeling tears pour down her face in response. "Of course," she replied. "As long as you need. We can start looking for a place to rent..."
The other tribal elders soon reached the house, Billy and Harry bringing up the rear. Billy looked just as anguished as his son, and Harry was shaking his head in disappointment.
"I told you," he said to the others. "I told you this would happen."
One of the elders appeared perturbed and stepped towards Jacob. "Jacob, try to understand…"
"No! Keep away from him!" Bella demanded before she even realised what she was doing.
"Stay out of this, Bella," he admonished hotly.
"You bastards! How can you put him through this?" she screamed, shaking as sobs racked her body, barely noticing Leah put her arms around her and pull her into a hug.
"It's going to be okay, Bella," she urged.
"Leah…" The elder's tone was something of a warning.
"I'm not going to stand by while she's sobbing her guts out, Grandfather!" Leah spat the epithetic as though it were an insult.
Wiping her eyes, Bella forced herself to look at the gathered elders, noticing who looked unrepentant and who looked awkward as Jacob entered his house with a slam of the door, returning shortly with a large back pack and battered duffle bag, a half-finished totem pole under his arm.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he said quietly, laying his belongings on the floor. "I can't… I won't lose her."
Billy nodded. "You don't have to apologise, Jacob. I understand," he replied in equally hushed tones.
"So, we're really going to lose yet another kid? Billy's really going to have to let another child go?" Harry questioned rhetorically, his expression cold.
"What? Rebecca, Rachel, Kelly and Paul not enough for you?" he replied, cutting off one of the other elders, just as Bella saw Quil rush towards the scene.
"What's going on?" he asked, looking around at the gathered crowd. "Bella?"
Bella couldn't find the words. "Quil," she managed to say before bursting into tears yet again.
"It's over, man," Jacob said. "They refused, so we're going."
"What?" Quil whirled around and glared at the elder Harry had just spoken to. "Dad? Are you guys serious?"
Bella was surprised. Quil's father looked old enough to be his grandfather.
Old Quil merely sighed wearily.
"Quil, there are far more complicated factors involved…"
"No, there aren't," he replied. "They're good people, and they love each other; they want to be involved."
"Don't be naïve, Quil," his father shot back.
"I don't care she's a paleface," Quil said evenly. "It's the twenty first century, Dad."
"Thanks, Quil," Bella said brokenly.
"No problem, Bella. You know I've got your back." Suddenly, he smiled maliciously.
"You know what? Fuck this shit," he said. "If Jake's got to leave, then I'm out."
The elders frowned.
"What do you mean?" Old Quil asked, his expression grave.
"If they have to leave, then I'm going too," Quil said with an air of triumph. "I was going to help out with Jake's new business anyway…"
"Quil, you don't have to…" Jacob's protestation was cut off instantly by Quil.
"I want to, bro," he said, before pulling a cell phone out of his pocket and dialling.
"Hey, Embry… Yeah, they've done it, said they can't get hitched while Jake's still in the tribe…" There was a pause before he laughed suddenly. "You know what? That's exactly what I said…"
Bella saw Embry running full pelt towards them, cell phone in hand, closely followed by Seth.
"I'm out, too," Embry called. "I won't stay if they can't."
"Me too," Seth added as they both reached the crowd. "This is bullshit!"
"Seth, language!" Leah chided.
"Well, it is, sis," Seth protested. "I'm going to college in September. I guess I won't come back. Colin and Brady will agree with me, too…"
Harry, to Bella's amazement, looked proud.
Jared strolled past, did a double take, and jogged towards them.
"What's all this?" Jared asked, with a chuckle. "You finally getting your ultimatum, Jake?"
His grin slid off his face at Jacob's expression. "Yeah," he replied. "I got my ultimatum…"
"What, seriously?" he queried, his brow puckering as he frowned in disbelief.
"Seriously," Jacob replied.
"Three to seven," Billy added.
Jared looked at the elders. "Grandfathers, you can't do this," he implored. "First Kelly, then Paul… We'd have lost Paul in every sense if it hadn't been for Bella and Jake. He was a wreck; they helped him hold it together."
"Our mind is made up, Jared," another of the elders said grimly.
Jared shook his head. "It's not right, Dad."
"It's for the best, in the long run," he insisted.
"We're leaving too," Quil explained to Jared. "In protest. Come and join us."
Jared shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"You're all being ridiculous," another of the elders protested.
Leah sighed. "If you're all going to have your 'Spartacus' moment… I'm out, too," she announced, looking across at Sam. "I'm sorry, Sam, but I can't stand by and let this happen. I have to go against you."
Sam looked utterly horrified. "I voted for them to stay!" Sam protested. "I can't believe you—"
"Sorry, Sam," Leah replied, leaving Bella to put her arm around him.
Sam did not appear particularly placated. "Jesus, Leah!"
Bella felt Jacob's warm hand take hers. "You ready, Bells?" he asked as they turned away from the crowd, only to find a little seven year old girl with pigtails running towards them. Claire, followed by Emily and Claire's mother Kate.
"Jacob, Bella!" Claire called happily, running into Jacob's legs and hugging him.
"Hey, sweetheart," he said, a tear tricking down his face as he picked her up.
She frowned at him. "Why are you crying?" she asked, her fingers instantly playing with his long hair.
"Because Bella and I have to leave," he said.
"Because we want to get married."
"Oh." She looked sad for a moment. "Can I be a bridesmaid?"
"Of course you can, sweetie," Bella said.
Claire smiled. "Cool. When are you coming back?"
"We won't be," Jacob explained.
"Because the tribe elders are unhappy that we're getting married," he said. "So, if we want to get married, we have to leave, and we can't come back."
Claire looked upset, her bottom lip started to tremble. "But, I don't want you to go!" she looked around, agitated.
Kate reached forward to take Claire out of Jacob's arms. "Come on, sweetheart…"
"No! It's not fair! Bella read me stories when I stayed over! Jacob plays games; he's funny! They can't leave! Aunt Emmy, tell them!"
Emily looked saddened. "There's nothing we can do, Claire," she said. "It isn't our business."
"We're all going," Quil told Claire, who blushed scarlet and buried her face against her mother as he spoke. "We don't think it's fair, either."
"Can I come, too?" Claire asked, her face still hidden against her mother's bosom. "I'll miss you."
"Maybe when you're older," Quil offered.
Kate set Claire on the ground and handed her a teddy bear, only for her to cling onto it and stare proudly up at everyone.
"This is silly," she announced. "I'm leaving too."
"Claire, sweetie, this isn't your tribe," Emily protested but it fell on deaf ears as Claire stormed through the crowd and along the road.
"I'm still leaving!" she shouted after them, her expression determined and her pace brisk, as her mother and Emily ran to catch up with her.
Old Quil shook his head. "I think… I think we need to reconvene," he announced.
"What?" One of the elders did not appear pleased.
"Do you know what this is? We're looking at the next generation, and right now they're going to follow their little Dalai Lama into exile. Is the bloodline of the chief really worth that?" he reasoned.
"Hear, hear," Harry agreed.
"In which case, is there anyone else here who agrees with Quil?" Billy asked, his hand already raised. Harry's joined him, as did Sam's. Old Quil raised his hand casually. Slowly, the man Jared addressed raised his. Then another elder, one who had been silent throughout, raised his and created a majority. Billy looked calm but elated. Bella recognised the expression he always wore whenever the Washington Redskins lost, and he was in a bar full of fans.
"I believe our children have made their case," he said. "We shall deliberate."
They all moved back towards the council building, although Billy turned around long enough to wink at Jacob, who grinned back.
"I think that means we're in with a really good chance, Bells," Jacob said, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
Bella wordlessly flung her arms around him, hoping that he was right.