The story is now officially ending. This is the last chapter.
Thank you to my great and patient beta, ShadowPast620 who has been reliable, accurate, honest and polite through the writing process of this entire story. It wouldn't have been the same without her!
Chapter 17 - Birth
They say time heals all wounds, and it did for us. But serious wounds always leave scars, and we had those, too.
Bella and I, with the help of a whole lot of lawyers and accountants, figured out a way to put the money to good use. A foundation was set up with a generic name, and it regularly gave to causes that we felt were worthy. Bella was an "employee" there, and their head office was located in Forks, much to everyone's surprise, providing employment to some of the town's people.
The foundation focused mostly within the state. Some of the causes in our local area that it supported included scholarships for graduates of reservation schools, improving living conditions for those living on reservations, preserving and repopulating the forests and the wildlife within it (I made a point of setting up an awareness program for mountain lions), as well as some green energy initiatives. One of those was an off shore wind farm, a few miles south of La Push. This really brought the whole town, as well as the rest of the rural communities around it, back to life, providing employment and encouraging young people to remain in the area.
We still patrolled, but it wasn't a twenty-four hour, seven days a week task. For years, we had gone without a single bloodsucker coming near our land, not even a nomad. It was like they knew what had happened here, as though we wolves had become a myth to be feared by the vampires because we were the force that had taken down the Volturi.
I wondered sometimes if the ones from Italy were up to something. Bella didn't think they would be doing anything for centuries. I had forgotten about this, but there were thirty-two of them before all this ensued, and now their numbers were reduced to eighteen. More importantly, almost all the ones with special abilities were destroyed. That was why the Cullens never had a chance. With Demetri's return, they were nine against the Denali and Cullen combined eleven, which would have seemed like pretty good odds, but they were missing Jasper, and the Volturi had some hard hitting talent, even without Jane and Aro. In the end, Aro's insistence on wanting Alice and Edward alive was the Volturi's demise, and the Vegetarians' need to look out for and protect each other had made them fall.
The old Cullen house was finally sold and converted into a hunting lodge by the new owners. All the cars were also sold — after the boys and I took several turns joy riding to Seattle and back — and Bella's ring was donated to a museum where it was showcased with a bunch of other Victorian era jewellery.
Charlie never found out about all the money, or the deaths of the Cullens. The leeches were considerate enough to leave forged, albeit still valid, death certificates — complete with records, histories and marked graves in some cemetary in New Hampshire — before the Italians had even stepped foot on the continent. The lawyers — who were aware of Bella's desire to keep that information from Charlie — established the barest minimum they thought would be a believable, supposed settlement. It was enough to pay for Bella's college education and still leave a nice little nest egg for her to get a good start on life.
As for that life, it was with me.
I skirted around cautiously with her at first, convincing myself to just be her "best friend" for a while. Well, being a teenage boy made that pretty damn difficult. It lasted about two months before I eventually caved and almost attacked her one day when she answered the door in a baggy bathrobe, still wet from the shower. Now, we lived together in Forks in a small, brick house on the outskirts of town. Charlie wasn't exactly happy about us not being married, but he kept his opinions to himself, most of the time. I would have preferred it if we were married, too, but I knew Bella wasn't keen about it, so I never asked. Asking would have made her feel like she had to say yes.
As for the rest of the pack? Suffice it to say, with the exception of Collin and Brady, they had all lost at least a year of school, but eventually every one of us graduated from high school and made a point of either going on to college, or a trade school. We were all aware that any one of us could have been Seth, and felt it would dishonor his memory to accomplish less than the very best we were capable of.
Sam came back after six months. He heard that Seth had "run away" and flew home on the first flight he could get, leaving behind the life he had established in New Mexico. The first person he went to see, the day he arrived, was Leah. He never left her side again.
The two of them spent three years as "just friends", then started up a business together in Forks. A year after that, they officially became a couple, and got married within three months.
Today was my twenty-fourth birthday, and I was in Seattle with Bella, getting married. Yup, that's right, here we were with the Justice of the Peace, Dad and Charlie, getting married. No one else knew we were doing this because Bella didn't want to make a big deal. In fact, she was standing next to me in an old pair of jeans and a red blouse. I was pretty sure she purposely chose red to defy convention.
The whole thing really took me for a loop. She just came out and asked me, seemingly out of the blue. The scene had played out just before Christmas. We had been on a last minute shopping excursion in Seattle for presents, and had stopped to grab a bite to eat before the long drive home. The food court was crowded, so we had taken our stuff to the car, and decided to eat in there, for some privacy.
"How's the lasagne?" Bella asked.
"Kind of salty, but edible. Not nearly as good as yours. No lasagne comes close to yours," I answered.
"Hmmm, you think mine is that good?"
"Yeah, and not just me, either. Charlie, Dad and all the guys think so, too."
"You should probably do something, you know, to make sure you don't lose your supply."
"What? Like stock up on noodles or something?"
"Well, it's not about the noodles, apparently. It's the cook."
"I already live with the cook."
"Ah yes, but she has no obligation to stay there."
"What are you suggesting, that I chain you to the kitchen? Shall I wait until you're barefoot and pregnant first?"
She choked on her drink just then and got into a coughing fit. I put my take out container on my lap and tapped her back gently. Eventually, she stopped and continued in a hoarse voice.
"Where were we?" she questioned.
"You, in chains," I replied smugly. She rolled her eyes at me.
"Maybe we should get married," she stated nonchalantly.
"Is that a question, directed at me?"
"I guess it is."
I just sat there, my mouth hanging open and my fork held in mid-hair by trembling fingers. She looked at me, hopeful and silent. Then the smile began to droop, and I saw a little moisture well in her eyes. That's when I realized I hadn't answered her.
"Yes! Yes! Oh, Bells, don't cry, I was just stunned but my answer is yes, yes, yes!" I shouted.
Her face turned a bright red, but she wasn't looking at me. Her gaze was directed just over my shoulder, out the window. I turned around and noticed two elderly women looking towards our car disapprovingly. Oh, I guess that was a little loud, and misinterpreted.
"Hey, Bells? You're not taking it back because I took too long to answer, are you?"
She redirected her gaze to me, smiling, as she answered, "Never."
"Great! Okay! Uh . . . now what?"
"I already filed everything. I need you to sign a few things, but I reserved a time with the Justice of the Peace in Seattle, for your birthday. I hope you don't mind?"
"No, my birthday is perfect! I'll never forget our anniversary. Uh, why in Seattle?"
"Well, you know what a small town is like. I don't want it to be a big deal."
"Okay, can I tell Dad?"
"Sure, but just him."
"How am I supposed to keep this from the guys?"
"Can you avoid phasing between now and your birthday? It's just a few weeks."
"I can try . . . but they're all going to whine about me shirking patrol."
"Well, luckily you're Alpha."
"Yeah, you had to remind me, didn't you? Are you going to tell Charlie?"
"Sure. I thought we'd have Billy and him there that day. But I'd like to wait until later to tell them about the baby."
Now it was my turn to choke on my drink. After a short, but violent, coughing fit, I croaked out, "Did you just say baby?"
"Oh, yeah. I meant to mention it first. That's why I thought it'd be a good idea to get married. Charlie's been cool about us living together, but I think he'd be happier, you know, if his grandchild was legitamite."
I noticed a pink flush creeping up her cheeks.
"Ah, yeah, sure. And here I thought you wanted to get married because I was so irresistable," I said, smirking. The pink flush was now downright red. "So, have you known long?"
"Well, I'm about ten weeks along," she stated matter of factly, avoiding my eyes.
"Ten weeks! You've known for more than two months without saying anything to me? How come I didn't smell anything or hear the baby?"
"Jake, the baby is about the size of a pea. I doubt there's much to hear, or smell, for that matter."
"Okay, but seriously, ten weeks?"
"I wanted to be sure."
"Okay, so now you're sure. Sheesh!"
"And I'm ten weeks along. That doesn't mean I've known for ten weeks. It does take a little while to find out."
That's when I started counting back. Bella wasn't on the pill because the hormones made her nauseous, so we used condoms, except . . .
"Hey, that means this happened–"
"I know," she interjected.
"But you said you had just finished your period the day before!"
"I know, but sperm can live a few days inside the body."
"Yeah, but you said there was almost two weeks or something before you ovulated."
"About nine days, but yes, a while in any case."
"But, how's that possible?"
"I guess your little wolfie swimmers can live a little longer than the regular kind."
I knew it was ridiculous, but I felt pretty smug just then.
"Jacob Black, wipe that smile off your face. This is a stupid thing to be smug about!"
"What can I say, Bells? I'm a guy," I replied, and went back to finishing my lasagne.
The ceremony was short and to the point, but beautiful all the same. I slid the very thin gold band (it was the only ring she agreed to wear) on her finger, kissed her when the justice told me to, and hugged both our fathers. Neither of them knew about the baby. No one knew, yet.
Afterwards, we left the courthouse, had some lunch, and drove back to La Push, to Sam and Leah's place. I noticed Bella slipping the ring into her pocket, just as we reached the door. She saw me looking and shrugged.
"It's not my moment. It wouldn't be fair to announce anything today," she stated.
"Yeah, I know you're right," I replied, hiding my disappointment.
"Hey, Jake?" I looked down at her, and she reached up, placing her hand on my face. "We'll tell everyone tomorrow, okay?" I nodded, and she smiled. "I love you so much that I'd get 'Mrs. Jacob Black' tattooed on my forehead, if that's what you wanted."
"Well, if you're offering. . . ."
She slapped my arm playfully, "Stop being such a child and ring the doorbell already!"
We walked into a very crowded house. The whole pack was there, along with Sue and Sam's mom. The table was covered with food, and the room was decorated with balloons and streamers.
Bella walked straight to Leah, in the large armchair, bending down to give her a hug so Leah wouldn't have to get up. It had taken years, but the two of them were friends again.
"How are you feeling, Leah?" she asked.
"Great. Well, a little sore, but still great," she shifted, holding out her arms — and their contents — toward Bella. "Do you want to . . . ?"
"Oh, I . . . I don't know . . . I mean, I don't think I know how. . . ." Bella stammered.
"It's a baby, you pansy, not a nuclear bomb! Here, he's all bundled up and can't move. The worst that'll happen is he might spit up on you. Come on, he's getting heavy."
Heavy, who was Leah kidding? Sam told me he and Leah still had most of their strength and ran a little hot, even though he hadn't phased in seven years, and she hadn't in three. We all thought that was because the ability to phase was still within them, should the need ever arise.
"Okay . . ." Bella hesitantly put her arms out, and Leah plopped the blue, swaddled bundle into them. "So, Jake said you hadn't thought up a name yet?"
"Actually, we were waiting for the two of you to get here before we told everyone," Sam answered.
"You mean this whole time the kid had a name and you didn't tell any of us?" Embry called from the buffet table.
"Don't get your shorts in a knot. We only decided on it this morning," Leah threw out.
"So? What are you waiting for, a drum roll?" Quill asked.
Leah looked up at Sam, who was leaning into her, sitting on the armrest of the chair. He looked down at Leah, stroked her long, black hair and smiled, nodding his head.
"Well, Bella," Leah announced, "you're holding Seth Henry Clearwater Uley.
I moved closer to Bella, hovering just behind her, looking down at the baby. He was beautiful, his eyes already open. His skin was fair, for a Quileute, but his hair was jet black and his eyes were a deep, warm brown.
"His face . . ." I began to say, looking down at the angelic baby in Bella's arms. Long eyelashes brushed the smooth skin of his face, as his pink lips pursed, as though ready to kiss someone.
"I know," Bella whispered, in reply. "He has the . . . purest, sincerest, kindest* face I've ever seen, just like everyone I've known named Seth."
I've had a few people ask so I decided to answer here, for all to read. There will be no sequel, no epilogue (this actually was sort of one, depending on how you look at it, but I liked this title), and no out-takes of any sort. Sorry. For me, this story is finished. It was Jacob's story, told from his point of view, and it shall remain that way. To go into someone else's head and examine some detail that was not elaborated here would make me feel as though I am telling Jake his story just wasn't good enough.
I hope all of you have enjoyed this story, and a special thank you to those faithful reviewers who have regularly commented on my updates.
Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate a review from anyone else! I'd love to hear from you, whether you've reviewed before or not!
If you'd like to see what else I have written, go to my profile page and you will see links for all my fics there.
*these adjectives were spoken by Edward Cullen on page 343 of Breaking Dawn