Epilogue - Treaty
Life went back to normal for us pretty quickly. Thanks to Jasper, Alice and I rejoined our classes. He forged our records for the time when we were supposed to be in L.A. – the story that had been put about town – showing the classes we had taken there. High school was now highly enjoyable for me. Sitting beside Bella every day, we would watch each other, silly grins on our faces every time I'd catch her eye.
Bella still hadn't given me an answer either way, so we continued life as though graduation was not the deadline it seemed. Every day after school, during the few short hours Charlie would allow me in his house, I'd bring over a stack of college applications to help her fill out. This mundane activity helped Charlie's opinion of me only slightly, but I ignored his anger. I hoped that continuing to treat him with the respect I felt for him, coupled with Bella's constant joy in my presence, he would one day forgive me.
Despite the number of applications we filled out, Bella was reluctant to consider college as a true option. To her it was the excuse she would give as her reason for disappearing when she became a vampire. To me, it was the way her human life should go, and as long as she was willing to remain alive, I was going to see to it that she lived a full life. I had enjoyed college far more than high school and felt sure she would do the same. What college she chose didn't matter to me as I wasn't going so that I could receive my education – I already held a dozen different degrees – I was only going in order to be with her.
Bella was not allowed to go anywhere other than work or school and Charlie would kick me out of his house every night at nine exactly. I used the enforced time away from her to reunite with my family. Due to the months I had spent without hunting, my body seemed to use up the blood from the animals I killed much faster, so that I went hunting several times a week, though I refused to go far, sticking to the local parks I could easily reach in the few hours I was forced to spend apart from Bella. I made certain that at least one member of my family watched Bella closely whenever she was out of my sight. There was no way I would leave her unprotected with Victoria still after her.
Carlisle went back to work at the hospital, telling them that Esme had hated life in such a large city. Rose and Emmett delayed their anticipated wedding plans, not wanting to go on an extended honeymoon so soon after our family was reunited. When not hunting, we spent the evenings with Carlisle while he went over his years with the Volturi in detail. We knew it would only be a matter of time before Aro moved against us and we were determined to be prepared. Alice kept watch over him, much to her disgust. She hated seeing him massacring humans, but she knew that our family was in danger.
Emmett and Jasper kept up a patrol around Forks, pacing the border of the reservation and circling the town, searching for any signs for Victoria's return. Alice hadn't seen her coming back, but watched her as she did Aro. Shortly after our return, Esme and Rosalie caught a flight to Houston to return my car to me. I had left it in the airport parking lot when I'd flown from Houston to Rio. I warned them not to stop in the city for any reason, telling them that Maria's coven would not take kindly to their presence. I neglected to mention that Maria herself was no longer a threat. I'd kept tabs on the patterns of deaths and disappearances in Houston and was sure most - if not all - of the coven had left, but I knew that it would only be a matter of time before another vampire took up residence in the heavily populated area. Though I still felt guilty at sending them out into the world, at least Texas would no longer be tormented by the bloodthirsty coven.
My source of torment was, surprisingly, the dog. Bella worried about him constantly, though she tried not to mention him too much in my presence. I spent every night with her sleeping in my arms and she still talked in her sleep.
"Jacob. My Jacob," she would murmur, and every time she did, I felt a rage overtake me. It was my own stupid fault, I reminded myself. I was the one who had left, and he was the one who had saved her. He'd saved her from Victoria and from Laurent, he'd saved her from drowning, he'd even saved her sanity. Whenever I was at her house, Charlie would think about Bella's despair and about how she'd only started to recover when she began hanging out around Jacob. He missed Jacob; he liked Jacob.
I knew Bella tried to call him, but since we came back, he'd avoided her calls. She tried to hide from me how often she tried to contact him – she'd make the calls when Charlie kicked me out – but the wolf prowled the forest outside her house while she slept and I could hear him thinking about her. His thoughts toward me were worse than either Charlie or Mike Newton's. Charlie was justified in his anger toward me, but his thoughts were only protective ones he felt for his daughter.
Mike had hated me ever since Bella had moved into town – or, at least, that's when I became aware of his feelings, as I had paid scant attention to him before then – and his thought were loud with his disgust that I was back in town. He had been rejected by Bella often enough that it was relatively easy to control the jealousy I still felt toward him. Bella had made it plain to both of us that she was mine. Her interest in him had never been more than friendly.
Jacob, on the other hand, hated me with a furious passion. He hated that I had left her because of the pain it had caused her, but he hated even more that I came back. Again and again, I heard him wish that he had never picked up the phone the day when I'd called to find out if Bella was dead. He kept seeing how close he'd been to kissing her, how he'd held her face in his hands, their lips just millimeters apart. He remembered how her breath had smelled, how cool her skin had felt against his - this surprised me as she'd always felt scalding hot to me. He was certain that if I had not called, or if he had not answered, she would be his right then. Between these thoughts flowed a constant string of insults – bloodsucker, parasite, and leech were his favorites.
The only thing that stopped me from jumping from her window and hurling myself at the mutt was the look on Bella's face in his memory. When I kissed her, when I touched her face, when I smiled at her, her eyes would grow wide, her pupils would dilate, her heart would skip, and her breathing would either stop or speed up to quick gasps. I could see in her face and eyes her excitement at having me near and knew with certainty that she loved me as I loved her. Her face in his mind as he almost kissed her did not hold the same expression. She looked scared and unhappy. I didn't think that, if he had kissed her, he would have gotten the reaction he kept envisioning.
It was bad enough having to listen to Bella dream about him - nearly every night - but hearing him when he prowled outside of her window every night made it worse. It was like they were communicating, somehow, her dreams and his fantasies. I ached to do something to him, anything, to force him to leave, to go away and stay away. I did my best to ignore him, though. If, somehow, Victoria managed to slip through, I knew that Jacob's presence would stop her from getting any closer. And if she happened to kill the dog before I managed to kill her, so much the better.
Even so, whenever she – rarely – mentioned him, I couldn't help but feel a scalding jealousy. Unlike Mike – or any of the boys at school – Bella truly cared about Jacob. He, more than any of the others, was a rival for her affections. It didn't matter that she had rejected them all, I was still horribly jealous of the fact that she dreamed of him, that she thought of him at all. It had always been me she'd said yes to… until I'd asked her to marry me, that is. Perhaps if I'd had that promise, the knowledge of her future as my mate and my wife, it would have been different. Then again, perhaps not. My feelings toward Bella had always been irrational.
Several weeks after our return, she voiced her anger to me over Jacob's continued rejection of her. "It's just plain rude!" she'd yelled as I drove her home from work. "Downright insulting! Billy said he didn't want to talk to me. That he was there, and wouldn't walk three steps to get to the phone! Usually Billy just says he's out or busy or sleeping or something. I mean, it's not like I didn't know he was lying to me, but at least it was a polite way to handle it. I guess Billy hates me now, too. It's not fair!"
She was furious, her fists clenched, her mouth turned down, the crease between her eyebrows deep. I was quite content with him avoiding her. As far as I was concerned, if she never saw him again, it would be too soon. Aside from the danger that the werewolf presented to her life, I didn't want him as a rival for her affections, or her time. Charlie gave me so little time with her as it was. But I didn't want her feeling bad over something that wasn't really her fault. Even without Bella in my life, my family and the wolves had never been friends. Only our superior numbers had kept them from attacking us last time. That we could have killed them easily, but didn't, was the only reason they had been willing to agree to the treaty that separated us now.
"It's not you, Bella. Nobody hates you," I assured her. She was just caught in the middle of a war that had existed since our two species had first met.
"Feels that way," she had grumbled, crossing her arms angrily and glaring out the window.
"Jacob knows we're back, and I'm sure that he's ascertained that I'm with you. He won't come anywhere near me. The enmity is rooted too deeply," I said reasonably.
"That's stupid. He knows you're not… like other vampires."
"There's still good reason to keep a safe distance." I was perfectly happy to have her angry with him. I'd rather she blame him than herself, but I didn't want her to be upset.
"Bella, we are what we are," I tried to explain. "I can control myself, but I doubt he can. He's very young. It would most likely turn into a fight and I don't know if I could stop it before I k – before I hurt him. You would be unhappy. I don't want that to happen." I was grinding my teeth, glaring out the windshield, knowing that if he lost his temper in my presence, he would go after me, and the way I felt toward him, I was sure that I would have yet another murder on my hands. Better that he just stay away. Far away.
"Edward Cullen," she said in a furious whisper, "were you about to say 'killed him'? Were you?" She was staring at me, incredulous.
Feeling my jaw clenching and unclenching, I was remembering his thoughts as he prowled the forest outside Bella's window the night before. He'd been visualizing ripping me apart again and again. Only Charlie's presence in the house had kept him from charging inside to tear Bella away from me. Not that he would have been successful, but the fight that would have resulted would have put Bella in danger from his huge wolf form.
Charlie was home from work that day and I was driving slow, barely moving above a crawl, pausing longer than necessary at the stop signs to draw out my time with her.
Finally realizing she was waiting for an answer, still staring at me, I spoke slowly, "I would try… very hard… not to do that." But I knew that there was no way I would let the dog live if he threatened her.
Stopping at the last intersection before her house, I caught thoughts of fury and of pleased vindictiveness. Listening hard, I recognized the fury as being from Charlie. I was used to that lately, but this had a different edge. No longer directed toward me, now he was enraged at Bella. And the dog was all too pleased with himself.
She collected herself after a few minutes of silent fury and, breathing deeply, said, "Well, nothing like that is ever going to happen, so there's no reason to worry about it. And you know Charlie's staring at the clock right now. You'd better get me home before I get in more trouble for being late."
"You're already in more trouble, Bella," I said, quietly, unsure if I should be mad at Jacob, or pleased, because I was sure that this would not help his pursuit of Bella. For her sake, though, I was furious. And then recognizing that this would cut down on my already limited time with her, I felt a ferocious snarl building in my chest.
She moved close to me, laying her hand on my arm and whispered anxiously, "What? What is it?"
"My Dad?" her voice was a panicked screech.
Glancing at her, I realized she was afraid for her father and tried to reassure her. He was not in trouble.
"Charlie… is probably not going to kill you, but he's thinking about it." I pulled away from the stop sign then, passing her house to park by the tree line.
"What did I do?" she gasped.
I drew her gaze toward her driveway. There, parked beside her father's police cruiser was a bright red motorcycle.
Recognizing it instantly as the one she had been risking her life with, she gasped, "No! Why? Why would Jacob do this to me?"
Smugly pleased at her fury toward the dog's betrayal, I watched as angry tears filled Bella's beautiful eyes. "Is he still here?" she hissed.
I listened more closely, trying to hear past Charlie's fury to find out what Jacob wanted.
…bloodsucker… don't own her… can't believe I have to talk to the leech… Sam owes me big for this…
"Yes," I told her calmly. I nodded toward the forest. "He's waiting for us there."
She launched herself out of the car as though she was about to attack him herself. Which I suddenly realized was exactly what she was about to do. My Bella was about to throw herself in fury at a werewolf! Flashing around the car, not caring if Charlie could see me or not, I caught her around her waist and held her against me. She struggled, trying to break free.
"Let me go! I'm going to murder him! Traitor!" she was shouting.
I couldn't have been more pleased. Reasonably, making sure to keep my pleasure out of my voice, I warned her, "Charlie will hear you and once he gets you inside, he may brick over the doorway." She glanced back at the house, then continued in her struggles.
"Just give me one round with Jacob, and then I'll deal with Charlie." I hadn't heard such anger in her voice since she'd found out last year that Tyler planned on taking her to prom. Her tiger-kitten fury then had made me laugh. There was nothing kittenish about her fury this time. This was the fury of a woman betrayed. The kind of fury which, so they say, hell itself cannot equal.
Still holding back my smile, I told her, "Jacob Black wants to see me. That's why he's still here."
Instantly, her face paled and she stopped fighting me. Her eyes met mine, worried. "Talk?"
I shrugged, "More or less."
"How much more?" I wasn't sure if the tremble in her voice was still anger now or fear.
I brushed her hair away from her face, needing her to calm down. Fear and anger were not good emotions to display in front of a wolf. "Don't worry," I reassured her, "he's not here to fight me. He's acting as… spokesperson for the pack."
"Oh." She still looked upset, but at least she was in control of herself once more. Charlie's anger inside the house was palpable. If Bella was going to talk to Jacob, it had better be fast.
"We should hurry. Charlie's getting impatient."
My memory of Jacob from the last time I had seen him a year ago was of a somewhat scrawny sixteen year old. This boy - though I could see it was the same boy - was huge. There was no other word for it. He looked twenty-five at least, muscular and tall. Apparently wolves had rapid growth spurts when their wolf genes activated. I stopped walking as soon as I saw him, lounging lazily against a tree. His wolf stench permeated the small clearing. He smelled like warmed death, like he had rolled in rotting corpses before coming over to see Bella. I realized that he smelled like the drain in the Volturi's dining room and stopped breathing to avoid gagging. He had an angry sneer on his face that I was careful not to mirror. I could see him trembling, his wolf form vivid in his mind, begging to be allowed to burst forth. He was holding it back through sheer willpower.
Knowing how delicate his hold on his form was, I placed myself between Bella and the unstable monster. She leaned around me to glare at him and I could see her face in his mind, but I was careful not to look away from him to see Bella for myself. Although he was excruciatingly aware of her, he kept his eyes locked on mine, the string of insults a running commentary through his thoughts.
"Bella," he greeted her, nodding.
"Why?" Her voice was a hurt whisper. "How could you do this to me, Jacob?"
His face was cold. I had to do something to get you away from the bloodsucker. "It's for the best."
"What is that supposed to mean? Do you want Charlie to strangle me? Or did you want him to have a heart attack, like Harry? No matter how mad you are at me, how could you do this to him?"
I could see that her accusations hurt him, but he didn't want to answer, afraid that the truth would make her more angry with him. Happy to help out on that end, I answered for him.
"He didn't want to hurt anyone – he just wanted to get you grounded, so that you wouldn't be allowed to spend time with me."
I felt the fury in him as I spoke the thoughts he didn't want her to know.
"Aw, Jake! I'm already grounded! Why do you think I haven't been down to La Push to kick your butt for avoiding my phone calls?" she groaned at him. Her response shocked him and he looked away from me for the first time.
"That's why?" Damn it! I was sure it was the leech.
Speaking his thoughts again, I explained, "He thought I wouldn't let you, not Charlie."
"Stop that," he growled at me. I controlled my expression carefully. It wouldn't do at all to smirk at him. His anger surged through him and his body trembled with the force of the wolf trying to break through. It was a strange sensation to experience - like a fire burning through his bones, a shuddering flame that wanted – needed – to burst forth from him. Hearing it in his mind, I could feel the echo of the fire in my own body, cold for so long. It stung, like bees were trapped inside of me. I didn't like it.
"Bella wasn't exaggerating about your… abilities," he growled through his teeth. "So you must already know why I'm here."
Speaking calmly – one of us had to maintain control – I answered him, "Yes. But before you begin, I need to say something."
As if I care what you have to say! It won't change anything!
"Thank you," I told him. I knew that the only reason Bella and I were alive was because of the enraged dog standing in front of me. Pulling every ounce of persuasive power I had, using the passion I felt for the angel behind me, I made my voice as intense as possible. "I will never be able to tell you how grateful I am. I will owe you for the rest of my… existence." I could see him calm down, the surprise in his face and his thoughts apparent. But he didn't understand why I would ever thank him. So I explained, "For keeping Bella alive. When I… didn't." When I left. When I failed her. When I betrayed her.
"Edward – " she protested, but I held out a hand to her. I needed to say it and he needed to hear it. I couldn't go to the reservation to tell him and might never get another chance like this, both of us calmly speaking as though we were humans, not mortal enemies.
I saw the effect my words had on him as their meaning reached through his shock and anger. No, he agreed with me, you didn't. Then his fury resurfaced and he ground out, "I didn't do it for your benefit." I did it because I love her.
"I know," I said, answering his words and his thoughts. "But that doesn't erase the gratitude I feel. I thought you should know. If there's ever anything in my power to do for you…"
"That's not in my power," I shook my head at him.
I glanced at Bella, meeting her eyes. "Hers. I'm a quick learner, Jacob Black, and I don't make the same mistake twice. I'm here until she orders me away." Suddenly lost in their melted chocolate depths, I was only vaguely aware of the monster beside me and had to resist pulling her into my arms and kissing her. It would not have been smart to do that in front of him.
"Never," Bella whispered, understanding immediately, her clear eyes seeing through Jacob just as they did me.
Breaking away from my stare, she glared at him, "Was there something else you needed, Jacob? You wanted me in trouble – mission accomplished. Charlie might just send me to military school. But that won't keep me away from Edward. There's nothing that can do that. What more do you want?" Her words made my heart swell with pleasure. She may dream of the dog, but it was still me she wanted.
Glaring at me again, he pictured himself tearing Bella away from me, then ripping me apart. He spoke with a steady voice that was at odds with his screaming mental pictures. "I just needed to remind your bloodsucking friends of a few key points in the treaty they agreed to. The treaty that is the only thing stopping me from ripping his throat out right this minute."
Knowing the treaty far better than he did, having helped to write it myself, I answered, "We haven't forgotten."
As I spoke, Bella demanded, "What key points?"
Still glaring at me, he directed his words at Bella, "The treaty is quite specific. If any of them bite a human, the truce is over. Bite, not kill." Then he met Bella's eyes, a feeling of victory in his mind that was quickly displaced with terror when Bella answered him, her voice harsh.
"That's none of your business."
"The hell it – " WHAT! No! You're not going to – I won't let you – You foul, evil, loathsome – You've already convinced her to - ! You're going to kill her! His thoughts were a blur of shock and fear and a hatred for me like I had never felt in another creature before. His body trembled, the wolf bursting through the cage Jacob had him locked in as he fought for control of his body.
Seeing his distress and forgetting any danger to herself, Bella took a step toward him, her hand outstretched and said, "Jake? You okay?"
Feeling the wolf about to take over, I caught her before she could get any closer and pulled her back behind me. "Careful! He's not under control."
Quickly gaining control of himself, his arms still trembling, but the rest of his body still, he snarled at me, "Ugh. I would never hurt her." Reminding me unsubtly that I already had.
A hiss of pain and anger escaped my lips. I knew only too well that I had hurt her, but what I had done, I had done to protect her. That my attempt failed, miserably, would never cease to cause me pain.
"BELLA! YOU GET IN THIS HOUSE THIS INSTANT!" Charlie bellowed from the house.
After a moment of stunned silence, Bella muttered, "Crap."
"I am sorry about that. I had to do what I could – I had to try…" to win you back to me. Somehow. Any way I could.
"Thanks," Bella scowled. She watched the path in the direction of Charlie's house. I could see him watching for us out of the window.
"Just one more thing," I stopped Bella as she turned to go home, "We've found no trace of Victoria on our side of the line – have you?"
The Cullens ruining everything again. We'd have had her if it wasn't for you parasites. "The last time was while Bella was… away. We let her think she was slipping through – we were tightening the circle, getting ready to ambush her, but then she took off like a bat out of hell. Near as we can tell, she caught your little female's scent and bailed. She hasn't come near our lands since."
"When she comes back, she's not your problem anymore. We'll – "
"She's killed on our turf. She's ours!" he hissed at me.
I needed to kill Victoria. I wanted to rip her apart slowly for daring to hunt my Bella. There was no way I was going to let the pack of dogs have that pleasure, no matter what kind of protective obligation they might feel. She was mine!
"No – " Bella started to protest, but Charlie's next roar stopped her.
"BELLA! I SEE HIS CAR AND I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE! IF YOU AREN'T INSIDE THIS HOUSE IN ONE MINUTE…!"
He didn't verbalize his threat, but Bella's previous comment about being shipped off to military school was not far from the mark.
"Let's go," I told her. She was still looking at Jacob, sadness in her eyes.
"Sorry," he whispered to her. "Bye, Bells."
"You promised." I could hear the ache in her voice and it tore at me that she should feel so much for him. "Still friends, right?"
He shook his head at her. Not while you're with him. "You know how hard I've tried to keep that promise, but… I can't see how to keep trying. Not now…" Not now that he's back. Not now that you're going to become one of them. His thoughts were full of anguish. "Miss you." He reached a hand toward her, but didn't move. If she went over to him to take his hand, I was terrified I would lose her to him. Although I knew she loved me, I also knew that she cared for him far too much. I held myself rigid as she stretched a hand toward him, but she didn't move from my side.
"Me, too." Her voice was choked, her face full of pain. Then she took a step in his direction, "Jake…"
Unable to stop myself, I grabbed her and pulled her back to me. No! I can't lose you!
"It's okay," she tried to reassure me.
"No, it's not." My voice was cold. There was no way I could let her go to him. She was mine! I'd finally accepted that she would be a vampire, my mate for eternity. How could I let her go now?
"Let her go," Jacob snarled at me, seeing the truth of the situation far more clearly than Bella did. The details she never missed, but the biggest truths, she was blind to. If she went to him, I would lose her. Jacob was as certain of it as I was. "She wants to!" His body swelled and trembled with the fury of the wolf.
Feeling the attack eminent in Jacob's mind, I pushed Bella out of his way, shielding her with my body once more, bracing myself to spring at him. A human I was forbidden to bite. A dog I was not.
"No! Edward – !"
"ISABELLA SWAN!" Charlie's furious bellow saved the situation from breaking into a fight at the last second.
Bella pulled at me, "Come on! Charlie's mad!" Her fearful voice brought back my calm and I regained control of my furious desire to end the dog. "Hurry!" she tugged on my arm. Never taking my eyes off of him, I walked back with my Bella toward her house.
Jacob's fury dissolved into rejected pain as she pulled me along with her. I could feel her trembling in my arms and knew that she hurt for her friend.
"I'm here," I promised, squeezing her gently.
She took a deep breath and looked into my eyes. I could feel my love for her burning in my eyes as the strength of her soul filled her body. She squared her shoulders and turned her back on the wolf, walking forward with steady steps. Her voice may not have answered me yet, but I knew by her actions, her presence beside me a solid yes, that someday very soon, I would make Bella my wife. I rejoiced in the knowledge that she was mine and I was hers, forever.
To Be Continued...
Thank you all for joining me and Edward on this journey. It's not over yet, though. We've still got a long way to go before our lovers' happily ever after. I hope you'll join us for the next installment. I'm nearly done with Eclipse, and should start posting soon. I'll update here when I do for those of you who have this story followed. Once I'm done writing Eclipse, I get to start writing Breaking Dawn! :D Yes, I fully intend to finish the series.
Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing. If you haven't reviewed yet, please do! I'd love to hear what you think. Any suggestions for this or the next story, too, are welcome!