Thing I'm sure about: Most people are going to say "What? That's it? This is The End?" Yes, it is, indeed, "it". Life goes on, and for our hero and heroine, it will probably go on for a very, very long time. And based on their first couple years together, it's going to be an interesting eternity since Bella seems to have not only brought her 'shield' into this life as a gift but also her 'danger magnet' talent. This story was about whether or not she would adjust to being part of a coven/family or choose to run again, with Jasper, as always, loyally following her. The rest of it...Mstislav, Christina, the FBI chasing Jasper, and even Quin...well, they were just part of life that swirled around Bella and Jasper while she tried to come to terms with being in a family, and everything that comes with it.
Thing I'm also sure about: I've been horrible at reviewing to replies. I used to be so good. And then my laptop died a couple months ago. And so I've had limited time online at work to do stuff I probably shouldn't be, like writing fanfic. I read them, though, and I appreciate all of them. A lot of you have been with me from the beginning of "Running", and I appreciate the love and support to no end. If any of you are still speaking to me after this, I WILL respond—much easier now that my boss is out of the country for a while!
Something I'm pretty sure about: This isn't my "normal" chapter. But if I called it an Epilogue, which it sort of is, some of you might have had a heart attack (or a shit fit) before you even opened the chapter...
Something I'm positive about: I couldn't have done this without Super Beta, aka JaspersDestiny. Well, I probably could have written it, but it never would have gone out into the world to be read. She's been an unending stream of support through the last three years, and I will love her long time. Also, all the help from other peeps in the fandom through the years, especially my fellow Bitches, has made all the difference in the world.
"Does this glacier have a name?" Bella asked. She could feel Jasper shrug where he lay beside her on the ice field.
"Yeah, it does. It's Whiteout, or maybe Eklutna. I'm not sure which."
"Oh. Not nearly so cool a name as Bear Glacier. Bet Emmett doesn't like it nearly as much as that other one, huh?"
"Not really, no. I haven't been up here in decades. I had big plans for bringing you up here. I thought we'd be able to see the lights of Anchorage. I thought it'd be romantic."
"That's okay. It's really pretty anyway. I like the sky better than the lights of the city, anyway."
And it was pretty. There was a full moon out, and it reflected off the snow and ice to make it almost as light as day, especially to vampire eyes. Once again, they were able to just relax and enjoy it instead of waiting, or running, or fighting, or looking over their shoulders.
"How do you think Christina and Mstislav are doing?" she asked him, after a few moments of silence. "Do you think they got everything set up and he's safely restrained in a basement somewhere, or do you think he's running around Novosibirsk like a wild animal?"
"Christina sounded pretty hopeful in her last email that things were going to be under control."
"Yeah, she did. I still can't believe she moved over there to be with him."
"I would have done it for you," Jasper told her.
"Well, yeah...but I don't turn into a monster every month."
Jasper snorted. "When I fell in love with you, Bella, you were crazier than a shithouse rat. And that was EVERY day of the month. And it didn't stop me from following you to certain death and destruction."
"I don't know whether to be offended by that or comforted."
"Maybe you should just question my sanity," he said, rolling out of the way of the hunk of ice she lazily tossed at him.
"So...did you enjoy the movie?"
"Not so much, no." She looked over at him and pretended to pout for a moment before turning back to study the sky.
"I thought it might be easier going to a late show like that. Fewer humans and all. Guess not, huh?"
"No. I'm a little disappointed. I think I liked going to movies when I was human."
Jasper turned to look at her. "It gets easier."
"It's more the noise, really. The humans I can handle; the noise, not so much. It's so...loud." She turned to look at him again, an apology in her eyes.
He shrugged again. "It's no big deal. It was easier back before surround sound and all that shit. The little theatres, the old ones, are easier to handle. We can try one of those if we can find one. Other than that, how are you liking the trip?"
"LOVING the trip!" she said. "It's about freakin' time Carlisle said we could go. It's been three damn months since he first said we could originally!"
"We could have left at any time, Bella, if you really wanted to. We are not trapped there. I told you from the beginning, say the word, and we'll leave."
Bella sat up and leaned over him, looking him in the eye for a moment before speaking. "I'm not leaving, Jasper. I don't mind doing what Carlisle thinks is best. I just needed a BREAK."
"So, you're liking family life?"
She considered the question before answering. "Well...I liked it a lot better before he arrived..."
"Jealous, Bella? A little sibling rivalry never hurt anybody, you know."
"I'm sure there're a lot of siblings out there that would argue that point, Jasper. And no, I'm not jealous. He's just driving me CRAZY. He never shuts up! Was I like that? I don't remember being like that! Besides, he's not my sibling, he's my...what, nephew?"
"I don't know. I suppose so. This is why we don't keep track of shit like this. Sires and mates. That's the extent of it. And coven siblings. So...he's your sibling. Suck it up."
"Too bad Peter and Charlotte couldn't take him to Europe with them. He certainly wanted to go. Natan could have helped them babysit him."
"Yeah, like Rose and Emmett would have allowed that. He's a baby, Bella, not something we want traveling internationally at less than one month old. Peter and Charlotte couldn't put off the trip to wait for him. And, no, he can't go now either. He's with Carlisle's coven. He's here until he decides on his own to leave, after his first year is up, or until Carlisle tosses him out. They went over to cover up his disappearance, not to turn him loose on the public."
"And a bang up job they did of it, too. Blowing up a castle."
"It was a ruined castle...that allowed tours. It was the perfect cover. And it was a gas main that blew, not the castle. The castle is fine except for that one section."
"I still say we let Peter watch too much television while he was here. He's way too dramatic."
"Well, next time, maybe Carlisle will let you go on the clean-up mission."
"I would have done a better job. Like, I don't know, maybe a cliff diving accident? Nothing that involved destruction of historical monuments, at least. I can believe Peter came up with it, but I can't believe Natan agreed to it. He seems like he was really into history and shit."
"Natan..." Jasper growled.
"Don't get started. He's gone now, and you'll probably never see him again. He said he'd call in anything interesting he runs across in his travels. I think you well and truly scared him off, Jasper."
"Maybe. We'll see. They're going to Romania next to check on the brothers. Peter and Charlotte will stick with him at least that far, for safety reasons. You know, you need a really good body match for cliff diving accidents. Fires and explosions are really the way to go. Any old body will do, almost. Not so for cliff diving. If you do ever need to hide a body, stick with fire."
"Whatever. Cliff diving could work. The fish could have eaten the body. That could be believable," Bella muttered.
"It could. It definitely could." Jasper laughed. "At any rate, it was taken care of. He's off the grid and in our laps. Who knew talking could be a vampire's gift, eh?"
"Oh, my God, what purpose would that even serve? You don't seriously think that's his gift, do you?"
Jasper laughed harder at the look of horror on her face. "No, I don't. Eleazar doesn't think he hasa gift. He says Quin just talks a lot."
Bella snorted. Eleazar. The visit from the Denalis, put off for so long due to the fear of Bella attacking any unattached females, had finally occurred with the addition of the new family member. Carlisle thought it was time to make introductions—and re-introductions—all around, seeing as how none of them had seen Bella since she'd become a vampire. Bella thought she handled the whole thing wonderfully. Of course, the fact that Jasper dragged her out in the woods on an extended hunting trip soon after they arrived might have had something to do with it. At the rate things were going, it was entirely possible she would never have to interact much with her "cousins", the Denali sisters. First they'd been kept away because they weren't sure how she'd react as a newborn to someone who had had an interest in Edward. Now they were kept separate because they knew how she'd react to any single females around her new mate.
Carlisle said maybe in a decade or so. After all, Rose had been perfectly fine with the Denali girls' presence around Emmett. After the first few decades, at least. And if Rose could do it, Bella thought, so could she.
"Well, if Eleazar says so, I guess it must be true."
"Bella, Eleazar's gift—"
"I know. I didn't mean for it to sound snarky. It's just...Quin never shuts up."
"No, he sure doesn't. I kinda thought..." Jasper trailed off.
"Well...I thought maybe he and Alice..."
Bella sat up now and leaned over Jasper, looking him full in the face. "Seriously? Alice and Quin? Do you feel anything from them?"
Jasper sat up, too. "No. Well, that's not true... Quin's wanted to fuck all of you at one point or another. It's probably one of his top three things on his 'To Do' list at this stage in his life. Feed, Fuck, and Talk. And not necessarily in that order. But I'm not picking up anything past 'normal' newborn urges."
"Huh. Really? He wants me?" She didn't know how she felt about that. She'd been avoiding him as much as possible and hadn't noticed any signs of his interest.
"Don't take it personally, Bella. You were the same way. Only difference was, you had somebody—your mate—at hand for those urges. But all newborns have them. Poor Quin doesn't have an outlet for them. Well, he did for the week that the Denalis were here..."
"So...all that sniffing around Alice that he does has nothing to do with the fact that he's really interested in her."
"He might be. It's too difficult to tell right now. But no, if I had to guess, I'd say it's because she's the only female he can get near without being growled at. He is a quick learner, I'll give him that much. I've only had to slap him down twice to get him to stay away from you." Jasper seemed rather pleased with himself at that information.
"Well, she doesn't seem at all interested in him. I was kind of hoping...you know...it would just be perfect, wouldn't it?"
"If you're trying to say what I think you're trying to say, I'm not sure it would be 'perfect' at all. Can you imagine those two together, as a team?" Jasper shuddered. "They'd be the death of us. I get tired just thinking about it. Alice never stops moving, and Quin never shuts up. They'd be like a perpetual motion machine."
"They're perfect for each other."
Jasper shook his head. "You just want her paired up and out of the 'threat zone'."
"Well...maybe. But seriously, can't you tell?"
"Tell what, if they're mates?"
"I feel emotions, Bella, not bonds. The man with that talent is gone, remember? All I get from Quin is thirst, lust, and curiosity. All I get from Alice in regards to Quin is annoyance. It's too soon to tell. There was no bond there before the change, and it's too soon to tell if one will form now. And, honestly, she'd have to at least be willing to talk to him, or let him get within five feet of her, for there to be even a CHANCE of something happening in that department. And I don't see that happening anytime soon. Alice is not about to make herself available, as it were, to a newborn. And from what I can tell, he drives her crazy. Sometimes mating just...happens. And sometimes both parties have to put a little work into it. But in either case, there at least has to be some true interest with both parties involved."
"So...which way is better? You've got to be, like, the world's expert on vampire mating now, don't you? You've had it both ways."
"Hmmm...one thing all this 'experience' has taught me, Bella, is to not answer questions like that. Both ways work, and that's what matters. I'm perfectly happy at having to work for it. And, may I point out, I'm not the ONLY vampire to have had it both ways."
"Well...that's true. But I don't think I've had to work too hard with you. All I've done is run. You've done all the chasing!"
"It's been worth every mile, Bella. And don't sell yourself short—I may have to handle your crazy, but you have to put up with my bullshit."
"It HAS been known to happen, on occasion. So, what do you want to do now?"
"I think I want to run." She grinned at the look on his face. "But...not too far!" She jumped to her feet and reached out to shove him over into the snow before taking off at a run across the icefield.
With a laugh, he was on his feet and chasing after her.