Author's Note: Sooo... here we go! It's the last one, so happy and gonna cry at the same time! Before we jump in, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to write a review, to follow me and this story. I had updates sent to my e-mail so they popped up on my phone every time. They would just brighten my day and keep me going when I was having some trouble getting through some writer's block. So thank you, and I hope everyone enjoys this final chapter! I cried while I was writing it, so I hope it touches and/or entertains you even a fraction as much as it has me.
Maybe I'll catch you around my other stories once I start posting them up here! 3
Thank you to everyone again!
Forks, Washington – Bella
When Angela came up, Jake was headed out. Diego and Bree had decided to go ahead and come up for the weekend, and Jake said he'd go to drive them up so they wouldn't get lost. The Cullens told me they had just gotten back to the States, and would be back in a couple of days.
Angela got me to go out to lunch with her and her mother and then join them out in Port Angeles when they went shopping for maternity clothes. I'd never been a fan of shopping trips, but going with someone as good natured as Angela made it at least bearable. And then it was impossible to not at least have a little fun, as excited as she was about her first pregnancy, and her mom about a grandchild.
I did at one point finally ask to go to a book store, and Angela said she would come too, once she and her mom finished up and were able to get rung up. I headed from the clothing store and was surprised to find that it was already dusk. I headed down the sidewalk, enjoying the smell of the air and the feeling of warmth still lingering.
"Bella, Bella, Bella..."
I gasped and slowly started to back away. "V-Victoria! But... you're supposed to be..."
"Dead?" She smirked as she trailed after me, never letting me get a single step further away from her. "Amazing what you can talk a gullible little tracker into. I found some fiery little red-head along the way and kept her with me in that clearing almost two days before I turned her. By the time he showed, her transformation was almost finished... we fought some, so your little mind reader would see that in his thoughts, then tore her to bits before she was done transforming. My smell was all over that clearing, but I was long gone by the time your little friends came along."
I swallowed hard. "Victoria, I... I'm sorry about James... I can't imagine what it must be like to have to lose the one you love like that, but..."
"Oh no?" Suddenly, she was directly before me, hand about my throat as I was thrust against a wall. "I'd always intended for you to have to find out since I found you had the hots for your little wolf man instead of poor Edward, but... after almost eight years, this is the first real chance I've had to get close to any of you... and look..." She glanced down toward my stomach, and I felt compelled to place my hand almost protectively over the faint roundness. "Guess all the waiting was worth it, in the end... getting to end two lives... both so precious to the men in your life." Her red eyes narrowed as her hand closed more tightly about my throat. "The men who took James away from me."
Tears spilled down my cheeks as I could only shake my head. My breathing was too tightly constricted to manage speech. I didn't even really care at this moment that she'd finally caught up with me. Just that I'd be leaving behind Jake, AC, and Remy... that the child inside me would never have a chance at life. I would never get to see how beautiful they would be.
Her hold loosened on my throat, and she let me crumple tot he ground. "Now, now... no passing out before we get to the fun part!" Then she jerked me back to my feet to half drag, half carry me out of town. As she dropped me again, it was with a push hard enough that it knocked the air from my lungs and made my vision swim.
There was silence for a moment and I dared to briefly hope and glanced up. She glanced about furtively, then cursed softly. If I weren't terrified of her, I might have giggled at the way that word sounded in her sweet, bubble gum voice of hers.
"I wanted to make this last, but it seems I don't have much time." She yanked me up from the ground and I thought I heard something about not knowing how close 'they' were. But all thoughts were swept from my mind the moment I felt her teeth tear into my skin, bones in my shoulder crack and give way under the pressure from her jaw. I heard the scream that tore free from my throat, the painfully familiar burn begin to crawl outward from the wound.
Then I was thudding to the ground, and I thought I heard a growl, then that girl-like voice give a shrill scream of pain. Granite cracked.
Then I was somehow wrapped in a pair of warm arms, pressed tightly against a hard chest as I was held protectively. "Bella? Bella, hold on. I'm taking you back to Forks. The Cullens called us, they'll be there soon."
"Seth?" I gritted my teeth against the pain. "W-Where's Jake?"
"Mom was trying to reach him when we left."
I gave a half-choked sob as I cried out, my body spasming. But he held onto me tightly. I was only vaguely aware that we were moving swiftly before I was soon aware of nothing else at all.
Just the burning.
Forks, Washington – Jacob
I burst into the Cullens house, the rest of my pack on my heels, though I was only dimly aware of their presence. "Where is she?" I barely even waited for Jasper to point up the stairs. At the scream, I bolted up them, then dashed into a dimly lit room. "Why haven't you stopped it like the last time? Help her!"
"Jacob." Carlisle set a hand on my shoulder. "We couldn't get to her in time. The venom had spread too far. Trying to draw it out would have killed her... I'm sorry. All we can do is wait for her to change."
She screamed again and I went to her side. I was only vaguely aware of Edward seated in the corner, cringing at the sound. I couldn't care at the moment. I just grasped her hand, then set a trembling hand onto her softly rounded stomach.
I glanced back toward Dr. Cullen, and fought to speak around the lump in my throat. "The baby?"
He frowned. "Our bodies aren't capable of sustaining life. And it's too early to hope it could survive outside the womb."
I clenched my eyes shut and turned back to her. "It's going to die... what happens to her after that?"
"She'll miscarry in the last hours," he supplied quietly. "I've seen it happen before... Essentially, she'll be fine... but she'll need you."
I swallowed hard. "I'm not going anywhere," I swore firmly, squeezing her hand as she screamed again.
Edward lifted his head and looked to me, almost as if he were surprised.
"What?" I couldn't help the urge to be vicious. We'd all failed to protect her, save her from the thing she had feared most. "Hoped I would leave her, did you?"
I heard a small snarl, then noticed Emmett firmly pushing him from the room. I sank to my knees next to the bed she lay on, barely aware as they slowly emptied the room. All I could hear was her screams as they filled the room, one after the other. It slowly made her throat raw, her voice hoarse. But even then, the screaming just went on.
Forks, Washington – Bella
Slowly, I noticed the eternal burning beginning to fade away. Even before I opened my eyes, a voice whispering at my side.
"I'm sorry, Bells... I'm so, so sorry..." It went on like that over and over. Already hoarse from repetition.
I felt movement, and slowly opened up my eyes. He just stared down at me. "Bells?" He twisted around briefly. "Doc! Get in here!"
Several pairs of feet answered his call.
"It's only been a little over a day and a half, what's going on?" Alice's voice asked, carried clearly to my ears.
"I'm... not certain," Carlisle muttered as he moved to my side. "Bella? How do you feel?"
"I... I'm not sure. It... still burns... but it's like it's fading..."I gasped and shot up. "Oh God... Victoria... she..!" I glanced down at myself.
"Bells... your eyes are still... brown."
"I... but..." I grimaced a little. "Oh, the baby!" I put my hand over my stomach. "Is it okay?"
Carlisle reached for me, and I moved my hand out of his way. It was silent in the room for a few moments. "It... seems to be fine. I... can't be sure... it seems like the incompatible chromosomes are holding against each other."
"We don't get our powers until we phase, Carlisle," Jake pointed out hoarsely, but there was some hint of hope to his voice.
"I know. But the baby would be born with those extra chromosomes. There's never been a chance to test the effect of venom on any of the wolves. But it seems that it's... protecting itself, and holding off the change in Bella so her body can continue to sustain it. But I can really only guess at this point..."
"So... after I give birth, it will start again." I exhaled softly, then glanced up at Jake. "At least the baby seems to be okay..."
He nodded, then suddenly dropped to sit next to me on the bed and pulled me into his arms. "Bells, I'm so sorry..."
"Jake..." I hugged him back just as fiercely. "It's okay, it's okay... I was just so scared she was going to kill me, that I wouldn't be here for you or the boys... that the baby wouldn't be born... Now I can still at least have that."
"You never wanted this, we didn't protect you like we promised."
Alice cringed. "I stopped watching for her after we thought she was dead. I only saw it now because she did go for Bella, and she wasn't around the pack. I called then and as soon as I did, it all disappeared... I'm glad they made it in time to at least stop her from killing you, Bella... I'm sorry that she got as far as she did..."
I just shook my head. "It doesn't matter... I realized there are things I fear more than becoming a vampire... If that's the price I pay for getting to stay with the ones I love, I'll gladly pay it."
Jake pulled me in against him again. His face buried against my shoulder, and I felt small spots of wetness begin to soak through the cloth of my shirt.
"I'd better go track down Edward," Emmett mumbled, clearly uncomfortable with the silent display of emotion as he shuffled from the room.
"I'll call your friend Angela. We told her you had a little accident." Esme slipped out, followed by Carlisle.
"I'll let the pack and Sue in on what's going on." Alice smiled at me faintly before she walked out, leaving Jake and I alone as I held onto him.
I spent the next few days with the Cullens, Carlisle checking me and the baby several times a day. I would keep feeling flushes of heat, but they would fade after a few minutes. He finally said it was likely safe for me to go home, and I got to finally see AC and Remy when Jake and I picked them up from Sue and Dad's.
My dad seemed blissfully unaware of any problems, so I guess Sue was keeping it quiet until we knew more about what was going on. I went ahead and called the school to tell them I couldn't be back in this year, just in case, coming up with some vague medical excuse.
Carlisle came by a couple times a week to continue checking on me. WE began to notice over time that my skin was becoming firmer, my bones harder... like the change was slowly creeping along in me. But the baby continued to grow, and I felt the firm kicks clearly, even more strongly than I had with the twins.
But as long as the baby seemed fine, I didn't care.
In the last month, however, Carlisle insisted I come back to stay again when the hot flushes stopped fading away. I felt consistently feverish up until the day I went into labor. Somehow, it didn't hurt as bad as this time, but there was no question about going to the hospital this time. The transformation was probably going to start right after the baby was born.
The expression on Jake's face was dull, there hadn't been any touches of the excitement that there had been with my first pregnancy for the past few months. And things had only grown more tense since I'd been at the Cullen place consistently. It made me irritable to never feel like I had time alone. Even the fact that Edward couldn't read my thoughts didn't seem to be any particular sort of consolation, cooped in a house with a group of beings that I knew could hear virtually every movement, every heart beat. Knowing that I was the only one that had to eat.
So things were tense, to say the least, in the days leading up to when my labor pains finally began. But now I could only reach out and take his hand. I knew he was fearing the transformation to come. That change in me, and having to work past the wolf inside him reacting to what I would be, to just be able to see me with the eyes and heart of a man in love with his wife. I knew this battle had already begun inside him psychologically, and he was struggling to work past it in order to be here for me.
But to me, it felt like relief was all that much closer. After all the fear, pain, confusion, and worry of the past few months, the process could finally begin. The waiting was over. I could go through the burning, the pain, spend the year adjusting to the new life, learning to resist the draw of human blood. The thought of essentially missing a year of the life of my children, the first year of my baby's life was almost more than I could bear. But that I would be around for the rest of their lives was all the consolation I would ever need.
"We'll get through this, my Jacob," I told him softly as I squeezed his hand.
He actually smiled a little at that. It was the first real smile I'd seen from him in months. I hadn't consciously called him that since we were both still little, though I often thought of him that way in my mind.
My Jacob. My hero, my love. Husband, father of my children. I knew that as long as he was at my side, there wasn't anything in all the world I couldn't face.
He was all the strength I would need to even face the fires of Hell.
Hours later, the need for his physical support became more real. I'd banished anyone else but he and Carlisle from the room after the first couple of hours. I couldn't stand their eyes being on me constantly.
"I don't understand," I gasped softly after a long contraction, slumping back against Jake. "The twins came so much more easily. What's going on?"
I was exhausted and covered in sweat. I hadn't been able to eat or drink since it had all begun. Jake moved from behind me to allow me to lay down as Dr. Cullen examined me, then shook his head. "Everything seems to be technically fine, Bella. That baby's just not descending just yet. We're not quite in the danger zone yet, but I'm going to hook you up to some monitors to watch the baby, just in case. Given the circumstances, I'd like to see this birth happen naturally more than I would any other normal birth." He moved about to hook up all the various monitors at my nod. "I'll leave you alone a bit, try to rest, or even get some food or at least water in you. You'll need your strength."
He departed, and I looked to Jake with a tired smile. "Lay with me?"
He just nodded and stretched out on his side next to me, settling a hand over mine upon my stomach.
"My Bells," he whispered softly, pressing a kiss to my cheek. "You never cease to amaze me with how strong you are. Or how beautiful you always look."
I scoffed, but smiled over at him. "It's just because I have you to lean on, my Jacob."
"Funny. And all this time I thought it was me leaning on you. Depending on you to hold me together when otherwise I'd explode into a million pieces." He swallowed and tore his gaze from mine, his voice became thick with emotion. "I don't know what I would have done, Bella... All the way back here, I was so... scared. I guess my cell signal dropped... but I was flooded with voicemails from Sue, saying Alice had said she'd get to you. That Seth, Quil, and Embry had been the only ones to go... I spent hours thinking that I had lost you already... God help me, I was almost relieved to hear you screaming in pain, again and again. It tore me apart, but it meant that you were still here. That I'd get to see your face, your smile again."
"Jake." I twisted a little, laid my hand on his cheek. "Look at me." When he did, I smiled gently at him. "I'm still here. I'm... always going to be here. I may be... different. But I'll still essentially be the same old Bella. Just a little more durable and less clumsy."
He gave a short laugh, then grasped my face between his hands, kissing me lovingly. "See what I mean? Here you are, like this... in labor, tired, probably in pain... And you're comforting me. You are amazing, Bells. I can't believe I got lucky enough to have you be mine."
I just smiled and finally closed my eyes. It was doubtful I would get any real rest, at this point, between feeling consistently more flushed and feverish and then the contractions.
As time wore on, they began to decrease in intensity. Carlisle was checking on me intermittently, and finally hooked me to an IV when I was still unable to eat. I noted him frowning as he seemed to have to press a little hard to get the needle past my skin, but he shot me a reassuring smile.
I finally dozed off around the eighteenth hour, too exhausted to do anything but.
"Carlisle!" Jake's panicked voice made me jolt awake, and I found he was no longer laying next to me.
"Jake?" I asked quietly. I felt cooler than what I was used to these days. It was sort of comfortable.
He just shot me a tight-lipped smile as Carlisle appeared in the doorway, and then was at my side. "She's hemorrhaging."
"What?" I mumbled, trying to push up. Jake immediately pushed me back down, and I realized that the side of his jeans that had been on the bed were soaked in blood.
"Oh..." My head swam as my eyes fell shut.
"Bella!" He quickly grasped my hand. "Stay with me."
"Jake, I need to set up a transfusion, or she'll never survive a cesarean. You're type O."
"Won't my blood hurt her?"
"I don't know. But it's all we've got right now. It might at least keep her alive long enough for the delivery and transformation."
"Do it," Jake's firm voice was the last thing I was consciously aware of as I faded out, just hoping the baby would be okay.
That was the first thought on my mind as I next shot up, my eyes wide open. "The baby!" Only then did I begin to look around, frantic.
"She's just fine, Bella," Alice assured me, her smile brilliant.
"We've been waiting on you," Jasper added quietly. "Charlie's chomping at the bit between wanting to see you and wanting to know his grand-daughter's name."
I dropped back on the bed with a small sigh of relief.
"Jake refuses to even make suggestions until he speaks with you," Alice added with a laugh.
"I'll go get him. He's downstairs with the baby." Jasper walked out of the room.
"The baby!" I shot up again. "Wait, wait! Isn't it dangerous?"
"Bella!" Alice just laughed. "Stop to think for a moment. Are you even at all thirsty?"
I did pause to take stock of me physical condition then, my surroundings. The mattress and sheets had obviously been changed out, and I was dressed in a clean nightgown. When I went to comb my hand through my hair, it caught in the mess of tangles. "Well, I'm hungry, I know that."
She tittered. "It's not the same... or so I'm told." She shrugged, then danced over to yank open the drapes, flooding the room with light. Her skin shimmered brilliantly as she picked up a mirror from the dresser. "Expected, since Carlisle couldn't get another IV into you."
"... Alice, how long was I out?"
"Mm... Just under a week. Five and half days now."
"Five-!" I glanced down to the hand-held mirror she placed in my hand, and got the point a moment later. Lifting it, I glanced at my reflection.
The first thing I was aware of was the sunlight on my face. My skin... still so pale, but... touched with the warmth of humanity.
I touched my face, and I knew why there had been trouble trying to place a needle in me. My skin was firm – not as hard as it was with vampires, but certainly resistant enough to a thin needle.
But the mirror was soon abandoned as I noticed a flicker of movement, and I jumped up to throw myself into Jake's arms. He actually gave a small 'oof' as my body collided with his. But he wrapped his arms around me in return, buried his face in my hair.
I just clung to him, was dimly aware of Alice slipping from the room. I started to cry at some point, but I was smiling. Jake smoothed the tears away with a small chuckle.
"You're amazing... I know I keep saying that, but... this is a damn miracle, honey. You're..."
"Alive," I said a little breathlessly as I laughed. "I'm still me..."
"Well..." He chuckled. "You're a little bit me and our daughter now," he pointed out, pressing my skin to emphasize the point.
I was confused, but I pushed that away for now."Our daughter! Where is she?"
He took my hand to lead me downstairs. "With Charlie. I didn't know if you'd feel strong enough."
I just shook my head. My body told me it was still actually tired, pangs from my stomach told me I needed to eat, but... I hadn't gotten to see my baby yet.
My little girl.
My own little miracle.
I stopped short as I spotted my dad holding her.
"Bells." Charlie beamed over at me as he got up and moved over to place her in my arms. "I got to hand it to you, kid. You and Jake make some beautiful kids... I think she's even prettier than you were."
I could only nod as I looked down at her. Took in her every feature, even as my eyes blurred with tears. "She's perfect," I finally breathed, sniffling.
"So, Bella... how about a name? Charlie's been going crazy, and we'd like to call her something besides 'baby'."
I laughed a little at Emmett, but nodded. "Hope," was all I gave, and Jake's agreement came with his arms sliding about my waist from behind.
"Did you want a middle name?" Carlisle asked.
"Marie," Jake replied immediately. "We've been fishing through ancestor's names too much for kids names. I think it's time we picked one of the parents."
I shook my head, but smiled I brushed a fingertip across her cheek. "Hope Marie Black, you scared Mommy!" I chastised softly. "But you also saved her life, and let her stay with everyone. So, thank you."
Jake squeezed me tightly.
"Speaking of everyone, where are the boys?"
"With Mom and Leah," Seth chimed in. "Leah came back a couple days ago, after I told her everything when she called me up. She wants to see you, when you can. She just can't stand... here quite yet."
I nodded, then really glanced around for the first time. Alice was in Jasper's arms on the couch, Rosalie was at the other end with Emmett standing next to her. Carlisle had picked up the phone to call the hospital and fill in the rest of the information. I heard Esme in the kitchen, and I was suddenly very aware of being hungry.
She came out and set out four plates of food. "Come on, guys. I'm sure Bella doesn't want to eat alone."
Jake chuckled as he released me, and I reluctantly handed Hope off to Rosalie. I went to sit to eat, Jake, Seth, and Charlie settling down with me. Alice took advantage of me being seated to begin to deftly work the tangles from my hair.
I ate my fill carefully, knowing eating too fast would make me sick. When Alice finished with my hair, letting the braid fall against my back, and my head was free to move again, I gave another glance around. Biting my lip, I dropped my gaze to my plate.
There was silence for a few moments – the Cullens looked uncomfortable. Then Jake finally answered.
"He... took off, once he saw Hope was going to be okay. Little over four days ago."
"He was having some trouble coping with... the changes in you, Bella."
I lifted my gaze to Jasper, confused.
"You sort of stink the way the pack does, Bella." There was a teasing smirk on Rosalie's lips, alleviating any sting there might have been to the remark.
Emmett gave a half shrug.
"I'm sure he will, in time," Carlisle assured me.
I looked down again briefly, exhaling softly. When I looked back up, it was to Carlisle again. "So... about these 'changes'...?"
"I can really only make guesses. This is a completely unprecedented case, Bella. But I'm a little more sure of the idea that Hope helped to hold off the progress of the venom. The venom spreads fast, even faster if it's introduced at more vital points and in larger amounts.
Jake squeezed me hand under the table.
"She chose a poor place to bite you. I suppose she wanted to drag it out. But from what Seth tells me, there also wasn't much time between her starting to bite you and when he knocked her away.
Seth got a little smile on his face at that, and I returned it. I'd never asked about that night, it still felt too close.
"In time... I think, somehow, your body began to fight it like it would an infection, and that's why you kept feeling touches of the burning. Normally, the human body could never fight it. Within a few days, you're either changed or dead... But Hope somehow held it off. And gave you six months to adapt and fight it. But between the venom and her protection, the changes in you that had taken place also ended up threatening both your lives. Your pelvis was set and wasn't allowing her room to descend so she could be born. You began to hemorrhage, and Jake was able to give you blood... a lot of it, to tell the truth. More than would have normally been humanly possible... Then more later on, once he was able. So a good deal of the blood in you is Jake's at the moment. I assume that's the remaining cause for your fever now, Bella. Blood recycles every one hundred days or so, so we'll know more then how many of the changes are permanent, from what the venom did, and the what's the result of Jake's blood."
"Seth has his own theory, though," Jake added with a roll of his eyes.
My step-brother just grinned. "Yup! I mean well, your... uhm.. won't be back for a while, right? I think like two months?"
"Cycle?" Esme supplied kindly, a playful smile on her lips.
I smirked, but nodded my head, curious enough to want him to continue. "About that long, yeah."
"Well... I thought it'd be kind of cool if your body sort of... tricked the wolf DNA into thinking you were hitting puberty. If you phased."
I nearly spat out the water I'd just drank, and Jake patted my back with a laugh. "He's your brother," he accused light-heartedly.
"He's your brother, too! By marriage and pack, so!" I stuck my tongue out at him.
"Just sayin'," Seth quipped. "Keep an eye on her."
"What, for me to be irritable when I'm going through PMS? Good one, Seth."
He sniffed and got up from the table. "Seems like you're irritable already. All cranky... not disproving my idea!"
I had no idea what compelled me, but I got up and chased him outside. He was laughing, so I wasn't sure if he was messing with me and running more slowly, or if I was actually keeping up. But as he turned to look at be, I took the opportunity.
His eyes widened as I dove at him, tackled him to the ground. I heard the air 'whoosh' from his lungs at the impact. I heard Jake laughing loudly from the back porch as I sat myself on Seth.
"Maybe I could get used to this," I mused, my head tilted. "Would help in keeping up with a whole family of wolves, huh, Jake?"
"A bit." He grinned.
"C'mon, l'emme up!
Snickering, I got up and helped pull Seth up to his feet. "Show you to make fun of your sisters."
"Ugh, guess I forgot. Haven't really spent a lot of time around Leah since I was sixteen."
I draped an arm about his shoulders as we walked back up to the house. "Actually now that I know she's back, I think I'd like both of you to be god-parents."
He shot me a smile. "I think she'd really like that. I think she's sort of always felt like life, real life was leaving her behind... Especially because her, uh... cycle stopped."
I nodded a bit before I released him to go back over to Jake, leaning against him as he wrapped an arm about my waist.
"So, Carlisle... there's not any really possibility that the whole phasing thing could happen, is there?" I looked over to him.
"I can't honestly say no, Bella. Right now you're sustaining a combination of being human, wolf, and vampire. You seem to have some of the increased speed and strength of vampires, certainly the increased temperature and some of the healing ability of the wolves..."
Curious, I reached for Jake and found he didn't feel quite as warm to me anymore.
"You're a curious sort of hybrid, Isabella Black," Carlisle continued with a smile. "But all I can really say is that we'll have to see what happens as your blood cycles through."
I nodded and walked over to take Hope from Rosalie, then glanced back to Jake. "So. How about we go get the boys and go home?"
"Sounds great." He smiled, and I knew the expression in his face was echoed in my own. The pure and simple joy of getting to be home again. Together. Just us and our family, our children.
After thanking the Cullens and making promises to visit with Hope and the boys soon, we left.
Arriving at Sue's, Seth ran in to tell Leah about being a godmother. She actually seemed a little excited about it, and we spent a little time there before finally, the five of us got to go home.
During the days after Hop had been born, apparently Jake had been hard at work fixing up the boys' old room into her nursery. And that night, I finally got to go to bed for the first time in a long while when I could be peaceful and comfortable, in the arms of my husband.
And I knew... no matter how many unexpected 'ifs' came along into our lives... we would make it through to the other side. Maybe a little worse fro the wear, or maybe even stronger. But we would be together, and that was all that mattered.