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The Dying of the Light

Summary:
Once there was something magical and beautiful to her about the idea of being a vampire, of eternal youth and invincibility. But she knows now they are not flying off to Neverland. Edward/Bella, Jacob/Bella.


Notes:
Another one of my old fics I never got around to putting up on this archive before. This one is actually my first Twilight fanfic I ever did, over a year ago. It came from my opinion that if Bella really has to become a vampire (something I've never really wanted to happen yet oddly find myself writing about all the time, LOL), then it at least should be written about in a way that is appropriately dark and not too sugar-coated. Now that I look back on this fic and read it over again, I think there are parts I might have gone too far with that, but it's not all depressing by any means. In fact, I think of this as a pretty hopeful story about finding the strength to survive any suffering and loss and being able to find meaning in any kind of existence. So I hope Team Edward fans won't find it too off-putting, as this fic is meant to have something to offer to both teams.


3. part 3/3

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4653   Review this Chapter

x. permanence and fragility

Bella does not return to Forks much at all anymore now that Charlie and Renée are both gone. There's no reason. But suddenly she keeps thinking of that place which may be the only one she'll ever think of as her true home and becomes restless, feeling like she needs to go back there now but not knowing why. She tries to ignore the feeling for months until she finally tells Edward, and without looking at her strangely at all he says, "Alright. If it's bothering you this much, by all means let's go." But his tone is strangely formal and controlled, and she wonders if he suspects who this is about.

She doesn't even worry about staying hidden. If by some crazy chance someone who would recognize her is still alive and living there, she certainly looks different enough now that she can tell them she's just a relative of Bella Swan.

It takes a couple days after she arrives for her to figure out that Jacob died two months ago. Maybe that nagging in the back of her head was just the unconscious realization that he was getting old enough that he may not be around in this world for much longer. She has never thought much about his current age and always continued to imagine him exactly as she knew him, but after all, she can do math.

Edward is so sorry and sympathetic that it practically melts her to see the sad way he looks at her for a while. He and Jacob may have been natural enemies as well as opponents in a dirty game, pulling ruthlessly in a tug-of-war over her, but any inclinations to still feel animosity toward him are clearly diminished. Death has a way of making things like that completely go away. He helps Bella inconspicuously find out where exactly he was buried. She wants to do the same for him that he did for her when she left his world. But the answer is just what she fears. His grave is somewhere in La Push. Where she cannot go.

"I'm okay. Really," she assures Edward when he finds her standing outside alone and asks her for a third time that day if she's all right. "It's just . . . I know I hadn't even seen him for the best part of a lifetime and maybe it's silly for it to matter this much, but I just can't believe he's gone. It doesn't seem possible."

Edward sits down on a patio chair and pulls her down into his lap. "You know he isn't gone," he says, and he puts his hand over her heart. She stares at his face in awe. It is like he has suddenly seen into her soul and easily found something she didn't even know is there. Still there.

Humans make this gesture all the time, touching their chests, saying "It's okay, the ones we love live on in here," but it does not mean the same thing. Because Bella's heart no longer beats. It is in a permanent state that will never cease.

After they leave Forks again, Bella is still very reclusive and quiet for a long time. Because she found the obituary to read it and it said,He is survived by his older sister Rachel Black, his wife Megan Cheung Black, and their three children; William II, Logan, and Bella.

There would have been no secrets at all between him and his human soul mate, of course. This one thing she does not tell Edward about.

She starts thinking a lot about one of the last dreams she remembers having when she could still sleep, prompted most likely by all of Jacob's comments about how things would have been. In the dream she saw exactly how it would have happened if things had been different that day after Harry died when Edward called the house and reappeared into her life just at the right time for her to still be all his. She knew when she woke up that the dream only meant she finally had a complete understanding of herself and her feelings, and of the way Jacob felt about her, and that she was not making her choice in any kind of ignorance anymore. Because in this dream that last kiss they shared before he went off to fight Victoria's army, the one he said should have been their first, really did happen first, there in her kitchen.

It amazes her how vividly she still remembers something like this from her human life, a mere dream; maybe her mind is just still able to fill in all the missing pieces she doesn't remember because she still knows exactly how it would go. Her mind was ringing in a panic as he leaned in so close, but as soon as he closed the distance with the most gentle and cautious kiss, everything in her head went quiet. It was okay. She could do this. She was okay - perfectly alive. Better than alive. He was as slow and sensitive as a surgeon opening up a patient, because he had her fragile, damaged heart and their friendship and everything in the world that mattered then held in his hands and had to handle it so carefully, not too much, not too fast. But she responded to it naturally, allowing him to ease her mouth open and raising her hands to his face. They lost themselves in it, completely forgetting about it if this was a strange time and place for a first kiss to happen, drawing it out for an unmeasured amount of time, always slow, and Bella felt more than heard him give a long, relaxed exhale of breath like a sigh before pulling away. Then they were just holding each other, Jacob pulling her tight against him. His touch was not delicate and careful, not feeling like something airy and cool that might just blow away, but strong, solid, and seizing.

She could feel his heart thumping as she held him close around his middle. Then he said in a slightly amused voice, "You're shaking like a rattlesnake."

She laughed softly into his hot chest. "Sorry. I guess in a way it's my first time . . . being with a . . . boy."

He laughed, too, and said, "I guess that's true." Then he turned his head to put a soft kiss on her temple and rubbed his hand up and down her back, warming it to be almost as hot as him, smoothing out her nervous trembling into relaxed, steady breaths. Then his two big hands took her by the waist and lifted her up onto the counter so that her head was then level with his, and he continued to hold her.

"Bella," he said very quietly. His voice had a kind of vulnerability in it she had never seen in him before - not then, in the dream. "I love you, you know."

He must have felt her breathing immediately slow, almost stop. After just a beat of silence he quickly added, "I'm sorry; please don't feel like you have to say anything back. I know this is still difficult for you, and I don't want to make you uncomfortable. But I just - "

That was when the phone rang, and this is the last thing she remembers of the dream.

It could have been like that if everything had happened just a little differently. Things could have been more simple. Or even more complicated. But no matter what there is no one thing that could have been changed to rectify everything. These things can't be blamed on just one person or thing. Edward should never have left her alone long enough for her to get that close to somebody else. She should have been more aware of her feelings all along, not just once she finally kissed him. Jacob should not have been so unforgivably kind, never giving up on her, always there for her even when there was nothing she could give him back.

Maybe they would not have ended up so hurt if the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential things had never been. If Bella had never learned to associate certain sensations relating to him with feeling safe and happy - the smell of his garage, the soothing and reassuringly constant sound of ocean waves, the throat-burning carbonation in a can of warm soda, everything always so warm. If only he hadn't kept his arm around her the night they were driving Mike Newton home in a way that made her feel strangely protected from him. If only he hadn't said "Bells, honey" in that desperate and scared way while she was still just barely conscious after almost drowning and his voice hadn't been the thing to make her realize she wasn't dead, she was alive, and God, what had she been thinking? If only he hadn't grown to look so different and she hadn't noticed that night she hurt her head and the dim light was so beautiful on his skin as he drove her to the hospital with no shirt on. If only he hadn't brought her some of his clothes to change into when she was soaking wet that night that changed everything, making her unable to help but imagine just for a moment what the soft flannel would feel like against her skin, big and warm and comforting like his body.

But love is not something that can be traced to one time or one action as its origin. The things that make one fall in love are subtle manipulations acting imperceptibly, never recognized for what they are until it's too late. Feelings develop because of a variety of things that make up a complex equation nobody understands. Beauty alone will not always start feelings of love, or else Edward would have loved Rosalie. The way someone treats you may be enough to plant the seeds, or may not be.

These are the things Bella thinks about now that Jacob Black is dead, because it has hit her so much harder than she ever could have expected. Her feelings for him were never made up of fragile little things that crumble with time. Those little things may be what attacks the fortress of the heart and opens it up to be vulnerable to someone else, but then love roots itself deep in the soul so that the removal of just one experience, one thing a person said or did that broke through the barrier, cannot possibly pull it out. Many of her memories of Jacob have now become faded and vague like a gallery of unfinished, dull-colored paintings, but the memories are not what matters. He is still as much a part of her as he ever was. She knows this now with painful clarity, but in such a strange way; she knows he is still with her because it hurts unbearably that he is gone and she knows he is still with her because it does not feel at all like he is really gone. And for the first time since Edward gently surrendered and finally bit into her neck sixty years ago, changing her, she wishes she was still able to cry. It is all too heavy to bear now that she is aware of it again, and she is trapped in this body with no release from it. Deep scrapes in stone do not heal like wounds.

And now she keeps hearing Edward's words he said to her long ago: "I cannot live in a world where you don't exist." This was completely true, but not in the way he thought. Maybe Jacob is dead, gone, but for Bella there will never be a world in which he doesn't still exist. As long as she is still living, it will be impossible for no part of him to go on, because it is too late for him to be severed from her. Even if it would be easier for her to forget him and she wanted him to disappear, always he would stay.

Many years ago when he gave her the bracelet with the charm he carved at the graduation party, he said he hoped it would help her remember him, and if he hadn't been in such a bad mood she would have assured him that she could never forget him. Whether she likes it or not, this is always true.

xi. no goodbyes

What she doesn't know is that once every year, on the day one week after the date of her wedding, always at twilight, Jacob went to put flowers in front of her gravestone. One year he brought his little girl when she was three, carrying her on his shoulders. She helped him pick out the flowers this time, though she didn't know what they were for.

He wondered if Bella even knew she had a gravestone despite there being no body for them to find. He wondered if it would annoy her that it says ISABELLA when he knew how much she always hated being called her real name.

If he had anything to say to her whenever he came to pay her this small honor, it was not to wish her well. Not good luck. Not to apologize for things having to be this way. None of those kind of sentiments were right.

He only ever whispered, "Goodnight, Bell. Love you as always."

xii. the cold iron queen

Renée's birthday comes. These kind of dates always make Bella a little sad. She sits next to Edward on the piano bench, her head leaning on his shoulder, as he softly plays her Satie and Gershwin songs.

Later, sitting behind her on the balcony outside her and Edward's bedroom, Rosalie does her hair. Rosalie has become much less cold toward her, perhaps because even though Bella didn't make the same decision she would have, they do know they have an understanding of each other's feelings of loss. As Bella sits in a deep, thoughtful silence, Rosalie's hands are strangely comforting braiding her hair into an intricate crown; they are soft and gentle unlike her distant and insensitive way of talking, a mother's caring hands. But never a mother's hands.

There is a telescope set up in front of them on the balcony which Edward got her as a gift recently. Last night she was out here for a long time looking at cold little Pluto.

That evening, Alice keeps telling her how nice her hair looks and encourages her to go in the bathroom and look at it in the mirror. When she does, her reflection surprises her somehow, as if it has been a long time since she saw it. As if she was expecting to see the old Bella. Or is it the young one? She can't decide anymore how to think of her in her head.

She looks at her frozen, magnified beauty, her honey-colored eyes, and pale skin like a porcelain doll's - much more so than when Jacob once patted her on the head teasingly and made that comparison. She once thought becoming a vampire would surely make one feel comparitively young and beautiful, invincible, invulnerable. But she still does not notice it if she turns heads walking down the street. She thinks they must be looking at Edward or Alice.

And in an indescribable way, she does not feel young at all. Being young is feeling invincible, being irresponsibly careless, thinking nothing in the world can happen to you when this is, of course, stupid and dangerous. Being young is riding motocycles and not believing in silly, superstitious stories. But she feels old.

xiii. wolf girls

Bella always wears Elizabeth Masen's ring, even if just inconspicuously on a chain around her neck because she and Edward are not currently playing the part of husband and wife where they live. But she only sometimes wears the heart-shaped diamond anymore, only as much as any other piece of jewelry. It seems somehow imbalanced otherwise, when before that bracelet kept both of them there and was appropriately always attached to her. It seems only fair.

Edward notices and doesn't mind, but he thinks she must still not have learned that there's nothing fair about love. She can't split herself up into fair shares. It is nobody's fault - that's just the way it is.

But Bella simply thinks the bracelet is no longer a right representation of the way things are. It doesn't mean what it used to. And nothing material can even mean much to her anymore at all.

A couple years after hearing of Jacob's death, the Cullens decide to return to Forks again. Ivy has covered the windows of their pale white mansion, blocking the sun from coming into many of the rooms except in sparse patches of gold on the floor, and in the parts of the air where light gets through it glistens on the stretched threads of spiderwebs everywhere. They are going by a different name now, but it doesn't take long for a few people on the Quileute reservation to figure out who they must be. Within two weeks someone comes ringing their doorbell, and as Carlisle goes to answer it Edward looks up alertly from the paper he's reading, hearing his thoughts.

"Well, I think we know that kind of smell," he says distastefully.

"Who is it?" Jasper asks.

"An olive branch," Alice answers him with a small grin.

Edward looks to the side at Bella. "Apparently they don't hold anything against us for changing you, after all."

Carlisle comes back followed by a very tall and skinny woman with a long curtain of slick black hair who calmly introduces herself as Bella Black. The room goes stiffly silent when they hear the name.

"Are there still wolves here?" Rosalie asks with an air of disgust, distracted by the potent scent on her, like rotting wet dog, as Bella is simply transfixed looking at the woman. That very familiar awkward scrawniness, and those prominent cheekbones ... Though the very narrow and quite beautiful eyes are not his, unfamiliar to her.

The woman suddenly looks a little nervous, looking around at the many pairs of golden eyes peering closely at her, and seems unable to answer.

"Only two," Edward answers for her. "Wow. Even that is quite strange. One is the son of Quil and Claire Ateara. She was just talking to him before she came here. She's come to give us a friendly reminder of the terms of the treaty, of course." Then he looks directly at the woman and says, "We got it. Thanks."

She is now looking at Edward with amazement. "So it's true. You're the one who can..."

He laughs. "Your father told you a lot, didn't he? Ah, yes, of course..." His eyes become thoughtful; he is obviously listening to things going through her head and considering them. "I suppose growing up with a mother and father who look at each other that way would make it easy to believe in anything magical."

Bella finds herself smiling softly. Then she sees Jacob's daughter looking straight at her, suddenly ignoring everyone else in the room. Edward looks back and forth between them and says, "Yes. Well...you two probably do have a lot you're curious to talk about."

Somehow Bella and the woman find themselves alone in the kitchen. Bella makes her some tea that they keep around just in case they get human visitors. This all reminds her of something, but she can't figure it out yet.

"I thought it would seem like a more peaceful gesture if I came to speak to you instead of a Protector," the young Bella says - young by comparison, at least, for she looks nearly forty. "And I'm one of the only living relatives of the wolf pack of my dad's generation who really believes the legends. Most people my age think it's all just superstition."

Bella grins. "So did your father when I first knew him."

"To tell you the truth, though . . . we might not have bothered to send anyone to come confirm that the treaty was still in effect. But I was pretty curious to meet you."

"Yes. I suspected so."

The woman stares at her in amazement, at her angelically beautiful features and deadly white pallor, but not with that much amazement, trying to control herself from staring and being rude. Bella wonders just how close she and Quil's werewolf son are, and what kind of strange things she has seen to be able to walk into a house of vampires almost completely casually.

After she answers several shy questions about her kind - strange small talk - Bella says, "Please tell me. How is ... well ... How's your mother doing? Without him, I mean? I've been thinking it must have been very hard, for someone who had that kind of a relationship with him..."

The other nods seriously. "Yeah. It was hard. I was really worried for a while that she was just going to end up passing soon after him. But she's gotten a lot better. It's kind of impossible to explain how, but my whole life I had never been able to imagine one of them without the other, like they were always one unit. That's the kind of bond between people that can be more of a curse than a blessing because the possibility of such a devastating loss is maybe not even worth it. But she's found reasons to go on without him. She misses him horribly, of course, but at the same time she feels greatly blessed because they were lucky enough to find each other at all, and that he did live this long. She's managed to still be happy."

Bella nods, staring off thoughtfully.

"It's nice of you to ask," she adds.

Bella looks back at her face. "Well . . . It was hard for me to say goodbye to him, too. A long time ago."

"I'm afraid I never really understood. Why did you have to?"

Bella stares at her face searchingly, trying to see how much she knows. Of course. It would be practically impossible for the daughter of parents who were that devoted to each other to ever imagine that for Jacob there had ever been anyone else but Megan. It might never have even occurred to her that her father's friend he named her after had ever been more than a friend.

"Because . . . I had to make a choice between two lives and I just couldn't try to have it both ways," Bella finally answers. "I had to give up everything from my former life or nothing. It's not the kind of choice anyone should ever have to make, but I did."

"So you could be with your husband?"

She smiles. "Yes. So I could be with Edward."

Bella Black looks down at the tea in her cup awkwardly for a moment, hesitating to say what she's thinking. "I have to get going. But...I'm sorry, but would you mind very much if I wanted to come and see you and your family again? Maybe my mother would even be interested in meeting you for once. See, I never imagined I would actually get the chance. And now that I've met you, I suddenly feel like there's so much about my father's life I never knew."

Bella's brow contracts in surprise. "I don't know," she says, taken aback. "You don't think that might be a little strange?"

But suddenly she remembers what the tea reminds her of: sitting around with the wolf pack at Emily's house, feeling oddly included and unwelcome at the same time. How strange indeed it would be to start welcoming a friend of wolves into their house like she is distant family...or something like that.

Jacob Black's daughter is looking at her with a nervous, unsure expression back on her face, and as Bella regards her closely, she thinks of how she accepted long ago that she can never have children of her own. Yet there is something effortless, if careful, about talking to this woman. She feels like she could easily be . . . well, no. Not like a mother to her, but maybe something else. An aunt. An older sister.

Perhaps, she thinks, there is no harm anymore in her having a little of both worlds.

So she just shrugs and smiles at her. "Why not?"

Emmett's big voice carries from the next room. "Rose, do you know what I did with that - ? Oh. Hey, Bell?"

Both of them look up in response to the nickname, and then look back at each other and laugh.

xiv. no endings

It is twilight once again; yet another day is ending. Edward and Bella are lying in the grass in their meadow looking up at the darkening sky, their fingers brushing against each other where their hands rest close together. They do not speak at all, but Edward softly hums her lullaby. It has been a long time since she heard him do that, and it makes her smile as she rests with her eyes closed.

Today would be Bella's eightieth birthday if she were still human. That morning Edward asked her, "Do you regret that you're not near death like you should be?" and she teased, "Not yet."

She has come to understand what Edward meant a long time ago when he talked about this time of day always being a little sad for him. She can't say that she does not miss walking around freely in the sunlight. She can't say she doesn't miss many other things besides, things that are much worse to be without.

But the pain of having to make the decision a long time ago of what she was willing to give up has come to seem to her like a very human thing, something she is long past. Neither choice was the right one or the wrong one; there was only always a right and wrong way to accept whichever fate she chose. Any kind of existence will have its difficulties that are hard to bear, but any existence can also be withstood and have its rewards. Even in the worst kind of circumstances, in death, in hell, in eternal darkness, some kind of light can always be found. Over time, she has stopped feeling like she ever lost the others she loved, for now even after they're all dead, she is still here and carrying on with them in her memory, and in another human lifetime she still will be. She never really had to choose between Edward and Jacob; she couldn't even if she wanted to. She has them both still, always sharing a place in her heart, in a more peaceful an unconflicted way than ever before. Just as Jacob promised he would always be there, always waiting in the wings, always her friend, even when they could no longer see each other, she is still thinking of him and taking care of the part of himself he left behind with her.

I am not giving up on you, she thinks whenever he comes to mind. She promises.

And when Edward sits up and leans over her, surprising her with a quiet kiss when she still hasn't opened her eyes, the sun is going down but the bold, breaking dawn behind her eyelids is blinding. She and everyone who is a part of her, all of them are here now. With their love they are all forever bound, they are illuminated and find each other in the dark again and again, they persist and are always fighting and struggling against dying, against ends. They live.