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Chapter Thirty-Six: Brighter Than The Sun

(Epilogue Part Three)

Sam, Paul and Jared drew great amusement out of Jacob's panic. Not a day went by that he didn't have at least one mini-freak-out that Bella would fall down a flight of stairs, crash her car, befriend a new vampire or decide to clean Charlie's gun collection for him and wind up with her second bullet wound. There was just no talking to him – the only times he was truly at peace were when Bella was asleep, or when he could lay his head on her stomach and tell their future daughter all about the life she had waiting for her in the big wide world, and whisper words of love and devotion that only someone of Jacob's warm heart could honestly pledge. The soon-to-be father was smitten already, and Bella tried to be patient with the constant phone calls and stepping up of patrols. It was quite ridiculous – they hadn't so much as caught scent of a vampire in nearly a year, and The Pack was so experienced in battle compared to the complacent nomads they'd encountered, no leech stood a chance.

Jacob couldn't help it. It was Bella – Bella, who was a complete danger magnet through no fault of her own, was carrying his baby, and he was plagued with visions of her being hurt, kidnapped or worse. The thought of losing one or both of them was enough to have him leaving their little rented house in the middle of the night to check in with whoever was phased. It was always the same – quiet. Billy was the only one able to assuage his worries somewhat – it was the same for any expectant father; Jacob just had the added burden of knowing what was really out there in the shadows.

Bella's pregnancy was relatively event-free. She'd heard from talking to her mother, Emily, Kim, and Rachel that she should expect to be a ball of nerves and heightened emotions as she undertook the life-changing experience. It seemed though, that Jake was worried enough for the both of them. She used Emily as a sympathetic ear as she whined about how Jacob treated her as if she was made of glass, refusing to be intimate until after the baby was born. It was a problem Emily knew all-too well, and she tried not to laugh as Bella frustratedly Googled maternity-size lingerie and grumbled how she'd look like a hippo who got lost in a department store. She couldn't find a way to convince Jacob that she wasn't just hormonal like he condescendingly told her when she got snippy with him; she was sexually frustrated. He looked as good as ever, and she felt like it was her own personal penance having to watch her glorious husband prance around half-naked, glistening with sweat and with car grease and dirt smeared across his practically edible torso, but she had the sneaking suspicion that he was feeling the pressure of the lack of physical closeness as much as she was. He took extra time in the shower every evening, and sometimes she'd find the bathroom locked in the mornings too, especially after her breasts started to swell. It just made her all the more frustrated that he was denying the both of them something they so clearly were craving. She found herself becoming increasingly bitchy, which Jake still put down to hormones and nerves, despite her protests. She wanted to smack his sympathetic face. And then pinch his butt. And maybe bite it, just a little...

She wasn't scared in the slightest; the moments after finding out she was pregnant had taken care of that before she rationalised everything and calmed down. Her only concern was where they were going to live. They'd been renting a small cottage on the Reservation since they got married; setting up Jacob's business and paying off Bella's student loans had pretty much tied up their finances, and she was pretty sure any child of Jacob's would need a lot more space to live in than the small, one-bedroomed house, even if it was a girl.

Another couple embarking on the next stage in their relationship was Alex and Embry. He'd finally popped the question in the middle of an argument over a job offer Alex received back in New York with the Times. Embry panicked – he knew it was her dream, and he would never stand in her way of pursuing it, but he didn't want to leave Washington and his mother and half-brother behind, not when he'd only found his true heritage a few years before. Besides, he was in the process of becoming a professor of Native American Culture. The bastard from the Res who grew up with no personal history was now on his way to becoming the most respected authorities in his field on just that. Alex had no intention of taking the job, but knew it would take something big to give Embry that final kick in the ass he needed to get down on one knee. She hid the smug smile she wore as she said yes, and they celebrated that night, in every single room of their apartment. She just had to wait to have the wedding when Bella wasn't too big to fit into a bridesmaid's dress, and their little girl could be a part of it.

It was with less than two months to go of Bella's pregnancy that Charlie and Sue invited the young couple over for dinner, something which had become a tradition as the family got used to their separate lives. Bella wondered how she would have survived without seeing Charlie if she had ended up with Edward. She needed him around for fatherly advice more and more, and thought that, if she was a vampire, it would have been one of the things she would have missed out on without even realising it. Charlie wasn't good with teenage girls, or how to cope with heartbreak, but trying to make ends meet as a newly married couple, he knew well.

Jake and Bella were floored at the news that Sue was selling her house. Seth had since moved out to be with Ali, and Leah and Jason were going through the process of adoption, both with their own steady incomes and a newly acquired home. Sue hadn't lived in the home she shared with Harry for quite a few years now, and had spoken with her kids about the prospect of giving up their childhood home. Ever the considerate, kind guy, it was Seth's idea to offer it to Jacob and Bella – he'd grown up with so many amazing memories in that house, and knew it would be a shame to see it go to waste when a brand new family could make it theirs. Sue offered them a private sale, without an interest rate as she knew that Jacob's pride as Billy Black's only son wouldn't allow him to take hand-outs, but that they were in no position to be crippled by the bank's interest rates. Bella was thrilled – everything was falling into place, and Leah became her partner in crime, buying out the stores in Port Angeles of baby clothes and nursery items. Alex found it pretty amusing that the two women who despised shopping so much embraced it when they caught sight of onesies and teddy-bears.

Alexandria Sarah Black (known thereafter to her family and friends as Lexie), saw her first vampire when she was fourteen hours old. Luckily for her, it was none other then Alice Cullen, who bounded into the room despite warnings and requests from her mate and family that they clear the visit with Jacob first. Luckily for them, the Alpha was too blissful to protest, but did ask a very apologetic Jasper that they didn't make a habit of showing up out of the blue. Rosalie and Esme were absolutely smitten on sight – Bella and Jacob's daughter was already stunning with her butterscotch skin, chocolate eyes and a shock of poker-straight black hair. She had her mothers lips and doe-eyed gaze, but her father's nose, and everyone said she was going to break hearts when she was older. Emmett knew he'd have trouble pulling his wife away from her, and his heart broke once again that he could never give her the one thing she'd always desire. Carlisle was honoured when Bella asked that he examine Lexie himself – Edward was right, his was the only medical opinion any of them really trusted, and with werewolf genes, who knew how special the little bundle really was.

It was in a private moment with the young family that Edward expressed his joy – Bella was born to be a mother, he could see that now, and his ever-active mind could be at ease knowing that she had chosen to be with someone who could adequately protect her if any more threats arose. He informed the new parents that a trust fund had been set up in the name of any current and future Black children, a revelation that Jacob protested until he was told that it was the only way of ensuring that Alice would give them the privacy that they needed. A silent understanding was reached between the two former competitors that day, and Edward knew that despite the fact that he'd lost this battle, he would no longer be a victim of love's cruel afflictions. Bella had taught him that he was capable of opening his stone heart to someone else, and he only hoped to find what she had with Jacob – he knew happily-ever-afters existed now, and he was going to find his own.

It was to be the last they'd ever see of the Cullens, and a sense of melancholy briefly descended over Bella as waved goodbye. Once, they had been all she ever dreamed of, and she was willing to die to be with them. Looking down at Lexie as she nursed her brand new daughter, Bella thought how her dreams hadn't come true, but sometimes, once in a while, reality is much, much better.

Lexie Black's fifth birthday was a momentous occasion in more ways than one. The day she was born, her father had decided to give himself a five-year deadline to quit phasing. If they had not run across a single vampire between the day of her birth and the day she turned five, control of The Pack was to be handed over to Quil. He, Collin and Brady were the only members left still phasing anyway, as the rest of the pack had either settled into family life or moved on for personal reasons.

Jacob was feeling strange about giving up that part of his life for good, but there was so much more happening now that he'd be a part of. He was married to the absolute love of his life, had two amazing kids who had him wrapped around their little fingers (Charles Jacob, or CJ, was almost three now, and a complete terror, much to his uncles' delight), he had just been granted planning permission to open a second garage in port Angeles, and he had a feeling Billy wanted to talk to him about taking over as Chief now that he was giving up the wolf. In his spare time, he honed his craft of whittling with his dad, hoping to pass down the trade to CJ once he was old enough not to cause himself serious injury (he'd inherited his clumsiness from his mother). He was even able to spend time in the air with his kids every few weekends – it was the break he needed from the relentless pressures upon his undoubtedly broad, but still very young shoulders. This day was one of new beginnings, not goodbyes, and although he knew the great red wolf would always be a part of him, it was time to let the old dog rest, at last.

Embry and Alex had travelled from Seattle, determined never to miss a big event in their goddaughter's life, and knew anyway that the choice was out of their hands once their four-year-old, Grace, had received the invitation in the mail. Lexie and Grace were best friends, just like their mothers, and were a force to be reckoned with when they got together – Levi and Sammy Uley, Lilly Cameron and Will Lahote had no choice but to involve them in their games on peril of ratting out to the parents.

Quil was nervous about taking over charge of the Pack from Jake, as he wasn't sure how long it would be before he quit phasing himself. Unbeknownst to his brothers, Quil had met a girl, and he knew she was The One. Her name was Liv, and she'd been a frequent customer to the garage over the past year. The girl was a disaster when it came to cars, but he was in deep, and there was one thing that made her stand out among the countless others.

Claire liked her.

The fifteen year old had just been let in on the secret, having grown up around her fraternal-figure for years and finally forcing him to come clean as to why he never got sick and never aged. He told her about the imprint, and she was speechless. She took one look at the most important man in her life and told him, flat out, that she would never see him as anything other than her big, stupid, over protective brother. Quil was ecstatic, the older she got, the closer the day came when he and Claire would have to make the decision to turn their relationship romantic. The thought horrified him – she was his baby girl, and although he would always be there for her when she needed him, it would never be more complicated than what they already had. Quil was on the precipice of a new stage in his life. He was really free to be with who he wanted, and could still have everyone he loved around him. His protective nature would never go away, but for the first time in years, he felt like a young man with the world at his feet, and he could do whatever the hell he liked.

Bella had some new beginnings of her own. There had to be fifty people here, each one with a special place in her heart, and she was about to tell them that there was to be one more. She had a feeling Jacob suspected – after her first pregnancy, he knew the differences in scent that her body produced when she was expecting. What he hadn't told her, though, was that instead of one new scent emanating from his wife, there were two – he wondered how to casually bring up in conversation that twins ran in families. It was a good thing they were opening that second garage, after all.

She watched her family as they overtook the spacious back yard of their home. Jacob was the picture of relaxed joy – his best friends surrounded him, his children ran around his feet and his father and father-in-law watched proudly from their seats on the back porch as their descendants milled around. It was the dream both men had secretly shared, and although it was a long time coming, they toasted to their success and the bonds of family. They had always been brothers in heart, but now, that bond went that much deeper. When Lexie Black blew out the candles on her bright pink birthday cake, the fire that had engulfed her family's lives was finally extinguished. Gone were the days of fear, battle scars and broken hearts. No more monsters and magic. Now, the new dawn brought hope, and love, and everlasting contentment. Her parents could grow old together, become grandparents, and live out their lives in peace. It was normal, it was exhilarating, it was natural.

It was the greatest love story of all.

The End.

A/N: Wow. I can't believe this is finished. I don't really know what to say, except thank you. Thank you to everyone who read, favourited, joined, reviewed and commented. Thanks to everyone who sent messages, cried, laughed, and got mad at me for not getting Jacob and Bella together sooner. This journey couldn't have happened without each and every one of you, and I know if I started listing names, someone would be left out, so if you did any of the above, this story was for you.

To any future readers, please, please drop me a little review to tell me if you enjoyed this – just because I'm not posting updates, doesn't mean that I'm not excited to hear any more thoughts.

As for future projects – I'm still working on Regression, although it's nearing the end too. Please, if you have enjoyed Not Your Type and haven't read it yet, have a look. I promise more Jake and Bella and Embry with a cool original character (I seem to have a penchant for giving that boy a nice girl to cuddle up to at night!).

I may or may not be foraying into different pairing within the Twilight universe – some people have requested a Bella/Embry story and if the right plot bunny comes along, I'd be more than happy to investigate that – in the meantime, there's an amazing B/Em story currently ongoing, called Bluebird by Meliz875. I'm hooked already and it's just getting started. It's her first fic and any authors out there know how daunting that is. Not Your Type was my first Twilight fic, and if it wasn't for the outpouring of support and feedback I got, this story would never have made it past Chapter One.

I'm going to stop here before it turns into an Oscar acceptance speech to say, once again, thank you, and I hope to have some of you back on board for future endeavours.

-Niamh xx