I'm posting all my old stuff because it technically belongs to you anyway. No need to review (unless you like, of course) this is purely for your amusement. I will read and cherish any notes you feel inspired to leave, of course, but I will not be able to hit you back.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!
'Rated: T (language and a some earthy grossness)
Genre: Romance, drama (maybe a little humor thrown in there too)
Beta: None (obviously)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Blah blah blah... just havin' fun.
A/N: I wrote this one-shot for a Tricky Raven prompt called Jacob's Puppy for which the incomparable Nikitajuice provided a GORGEOUS digital painting as inspiration (A half-naked Jake taking a nap with a baby on his chest). I have never written for a prompt, but her art just compelled me to play! The challenge was to create an o/s showing Jake becoming a father and giving our fave wolf an HEA.
One unusual word: Bluelines - in graphic design it's the proof to see if everything is lined up properly. It has double meaning here.
The story is told in a short series of vignettes and is an attempt to envision Jake's HEA. It takes off from the beginning of BD.
This is a first for me: no real angst... just drama and fluffy gooey-ness.
As always, thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!
Sam was staring.
Bella dipped her head, humiliating red rushing to her cheeks all the same. Her hand inched over the table and grabbed for Jacob's, searching for the sheer comfort. His deep belly laughter evaporated into chuckles as his warm, roughened skin swallowed her hand and ferried it to his lips.
Bella hazarded a glance up.
He had somehow torn his gaze from the beguiling sight of Embry flailing in Paul's headlock, to trace his tongue over the mountains of her knuckles. His dark straight lashes ghosted in a sly wink that was all promises and sweetness and dark chocolate sex.
It made her stomach flip and her lip pop free from her teeth's incarceration on its way to an answering smile.
"Y'okay, Bells?" he murmured, lowering her hand back down to the table as his dark eyes flitted over her in concern.
She nodded, everything forgotten in that soft teak gaze and she picked up her fork with her free hand to prove it. Her smile however dried and stiffened as she returned her attention to the unappetizing plate sitting before her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him watch her for a few more moments as she stabbed a potato and rather unconvincingly shoved it into her mouth.
He returned his attention to the raucous scene across the table, yanking her hand as his chair jerked back with his explosive guffaw. Bella's eyes darted to where Embry was shrieking and bucking while Paul was trying to shove baby carrots up his nose.
The atmosphere in Emily's kitchen was even more jubilant than usual. In the middle of the table was Jacob's untouched birthday cake (except for a Embry's sneaky finger that left a bold stripe through the word 'Happy' and - as of the moment - one carrot shoved uncomfortably home).
The roughhousing abruptly jostled the table and Bella released both her fork and a squeak of surprise as she jumped back. Jacob's strong arm and lightning reflexes caught her as she tipped backward off the bench.
"ENOUGH!" Sam's deep imperious voice was like a crack of lightning and every last head in the room deferentially whipped around.
He was standing, tall and imposing, with hands prone on the table and a dark severe frown for the two troublemakers comically frozen where they'd fallen. The incriminating carrot dropped from Paul's fingers with a soft clack on the wood floor.
"Stop fucking around!" he commanded, using harsh language that seemed at odds with the crime.
Without a word, Paul lithely congealed to his feet offering a hand to his victim. Embry snuffled the remaining carrot out into a palm and pulled himself up.
Brow furrowed, Sam's dark eyes panned over the table, landing with all the subtlety of a transatlantic airbus on Bella where she remained half on the bench, half supported by Jacob's burly arm. Like dominos, all heads followed his gaze and Bella was suddenly staring back at 12 sets of eyes. Expressions ranged from Kim's reassuring smile to Paul's outright glower and once again a heated blush robbed her of any dignity to be had.
Jacob stood, pulling her off the bench in the uncomfortable silence. Mortified didn't even begin to describe it. He pulled her into a tender embrace and Bella hid her face in the comforting valley between his two firm pecs.
"Shh, honey," he soothed, words for her ears alone though privacy was certainly a joke with the Pack.
He drew in a long decadent breath at the crown of her head as she shakily wrapped her arms around him and let the deafening silence swallow them whole.
"What's your problem, Sam?" The words vibrated in his bones like the rumble of thunder and she felt his muscles jerk in resonance.
Biting her lip, she tipped her head up to see Jacob scowling across the quiet room. They were at it again; Sam and Jacob had been at each other's throats for the better part of a month now and more subtly for quite a bit more. It was always over her these days.
"Jake," she whispered urgently, reaching her hands up to his cheeks.
Jacob's nose wrinkled with a last silent snarl for his Alpha.
Bella glanced over her shoulder as Sam was sitting down, all eyes now uncomfortably settled on their plates.
"It's okay Bells," he crooned, urging her chin back around with a gentle finger. "Sam's just being a jerk," he shot another glare over her head in punctuation. Behind her an ominous growl sent shivers up her spine.
"When do we get the cake, Em?" Quil's gawky voice piped up in a bid for distraction, and the entire table seemed to follow his lead. Animated chatter erupted, and Bella's shoulders tentatively relaxed.
"Sorry," she mumbled collapsing against his chest in relief at another disaster averted. And she was. Sorry for causing so much heartbreak, so much tension …. sorry for getting between him and his Pack. "I mean, it's your birthday."
"What?" he chuckled, leaning back with a ten thousand kilowatt smile. "It's the best birthday ever."
With a sentimental smile, she snaked her hand up to cup his jaw. For a moment - even in all the bustle of forced frivolity - there was only the two of them in the room. Her fingers ghosted over his days worth of stubble that made his face look older still. Gone was that soft, childish look to his features, even over the last few months he had changed. She traced the angles of his athletic cheekbone in reverence while his breath stuttered to a halt on those sensual lips. He could be celebrating 28, not 18 and every day she loved him just a little a bit more.
"Love you, Jake," she whispered.
"Love you more," he breathed, bending to taste the mouth she plaintively offered.
"Mm-mm," she contradicted against his lips. She could feel his heart in the play of his teasing tongue.
"Let's finish eating before that cake's taken hostage?" she suggested.
Fighting his smile, he nodded as he dragged a warm possessive palm down her back.
"I gotta pee," she grimaced.
"Thanks for sharing," he snorted, slipping down and pinching her ass.
She yelped and he chuckled wickedly, pulling her in and placing another breathy kiss on the top of her head. "You smell good enough to eat, honey," he sighed, his breath tickling her hairs and giving her chills.
"Reason number two to get outta here quick," she teased.
Jacob groaned at the dorky joke as she turned out of his arms.
And she did have to pee, but more than that she just needed a break. Just for a minute. With a nervous glance back at Jacob, she walked down the length of the kitchen while every judiciously tried to ignore her. Everyone that is, but Sam. His suffocating gaze was locked on her every move.
A growl from the other side of the room made Bella glance back at Jacob who was frozen with his palms splayed on the table, halfway down to his seat. Emily turned around from the counter and stepped up behind her imprint, placing cautionary hands on his massive shoulders. He turned up to grab a covetous kiss and mercifully released Bella from the bondage.
Bella nearly tripped in her haste to flee the room.
She stumbled down the hallway to the first floor bathroom, biting her lip against tears that threatened to further ruin Jacob's day. She slipped into the bathroom and closed the door behind her, leaning against it as her breath hitched. She thought things would be better by now.
It had been five months to the day (strangely enough) since she'd crossed the line from enemy to … whatever she was now in the Pack's eyes. And she'd done so in her wedding dress of all things. She'd broken the vows she'd made that day with Jacob's first dance. Swaying, awkward and perfect, in arms that were so strong and sure - even when his heart was breaking - had made her realize that it was this embrace that would eternally hold her soul.
Strangely - or perhaps predictably - it had been Jasper who'd taken the next dance. And the next. And the one following after. In his arms she'd finally had to face herself.
So with magnificently humiliating aplomb, clothed in gauzy white, she'd gotten into the car with Seth Clearwater and left her bright and fledgling future to chase down her past. The marriage had been annulled, but she had certainly not started her relationship with Jacob with a clean slate. The Pack had accepted her back with a hearty mixture of redemption and resentment.
It would take time, her father had said trying to tame that smile that burst through his mustache more often than not these days. Time to trust, heal and grow. Time to prove to Jacob that her decision hadn't been simply a knee-jerk reaction to commitment (as Paul and others spitefully thought). As battered and reeling as each of them were, Jake n' Bells had tripped and stumbled their way back onto a road so natural it sometimes felt they'd never left it.
But all she had to do was look into Jacob's eyes, to remind her that they had.
His pain and doubt still shadowed that sun, but it shouldn't really be a surprise. She'd pretty much made a full-time job out of hurting him these last few years, and that kind of pain healed slowly even for a supernatural shape-shifting wolf.
So she was the best she could be every day, generous with her eyes, her heart, her hands. Everything she did, she tried to infuse with the silent whisper "I'm never going to leave you again."
Jacob was starting to believe her.
The rest of the Pack wasn't so sure.
It was a penance she decided she both deserved and gladly accepted, but she had to admit, it was starting to hurt.
A soft knock on the door made her start. She hastily wiped the tears that had leaked out when she hadn't been looking.
"Bella?" Emily's quiet voice was hesitant.
Sniffling, she straightened. "Yeah?" she called, hating that her voice broke.
"Sweetie, can I talk to you a moment?"
Bella frowned in confusion. Emily and Kim had both welcomed her back with cheerful acceptance and open arms, but she still felt funny around Emily. Jared was polite enough, but Sam seemed to hate her guts. Understandably she'd kept her distance.
"Sure," she chirped quickly, realizing she'd been just staring like a slack-jawed fool at the toilet. With a glance in the mirror and a brisk pat to her hair, she opened the door.
Emily looked uncomfortable.
Bella's stomach took a corresponding nose dive. "Yes?" she forced a smile.
"I-… I want to talk to you about Sam," she stammered with an uneasy grimace.
Bella drew in a deep breath. "Emily, I get it. He's mad. He doesn't trust me," she released the words on a whooshing sigh. "I don't blame him either."
Emily shook her head brusquely. "No, Bella. He's not mad at you," she contradicted, her eyes darting between Bella's with sincerity. "He's mad at Jake."
"Jake?" Bella blinked, pulling the door to the bathroom open a little more.
"Yes, he thinks he's acting too much like a kid," Emily explained, taking another step closer. "That he needs to grow up."
Bella rolled her eyes with a laugh of disbelief. "He's eighteen, Emily," she balked. "Today."
"I know," she whispered, her gaze falling ruefully to her feet.
Bella frowned as her gaze ran over Emily's bowed head. "If he thinks I'm gonna rein him in or something… no way," she laughed humorlessly. "It's about time he got to act like-…"
"Bella," Emily's face snapped back up, and her expression stopped Bella in her tracks. "It's not that."
"Well?" she raised her brow encouragingly. The woman looked like she was about ready to crawl out of her skin - it made Bella uncomfortable just looking at her.
"How are you feeling?" she released the words on a resigned breath.
"Um," Bella's perplexed gaze flicked up the ceiling. How was she feeling? Pretty crappy right now, to tell the truth. But who could blame her when she was dealing with all this junk. She was trying to be patient. "What's this about?" she asked instead.
With a heavy sigh, Emily took another step toward the bathroom, pushing the door open a little more. "May I?"
Okay, now Bella was starting to freak out. She stepped back into the bathroom with a quizzical frown. Emily squatted by the sink and Bella leaned against the wall, completely baffled. She subtly pulled the shower curtain aside and cut her eyes into the empty tub -just to be sure. She was feeling kind of like a "punkd" victim at the moment.
Emily closed the little cabinet and straightened with a long white foil package. "Bella, Sam thinks you're pregnant." Her words were so quiet that Bella might not have heard them at all… had the word "pregnant" not been in the sentence.
"I beg your pardon?" she choked.
Emily looked up from under her curtain of silky hair, her intense eyes dead serious. "Bella are you pregnant?"
Bella's pounding heart was like a sump pump and it was quickly desiccating her mouth. "I-…I-…"
"Could you be?" she pressed gently.
"I'm on the pill." The words were nothing but a barely audible rasp. She'd been on the pill since the wedding. Her body was sensitive so it was the mini-pill… but still.
"Jacob's the rightful Alpha," she whispered.
On the surface the words seemed irrelevant, bus she understood the intent well enough. The floor was tilting under her feet and her hand reached up and grasped the towel rack with a frantic steadying grip.
"Sweetie," Emily's face crumpled in concern. "It's okay. No matter what, everything will be okay." She reached out a delicate hand and covered Bella's on the chrome.
Easy for her to say. Pregnant? Jacob was just starting to return to his sunny self, he was just starting to trust her, he-…
"Take the test," Emily interrupted Bella's reeling thoughts with cashmere over steel. "Sam just might be wrong."
Bella looked up again. "Wh-why….?" she couldn't even get the question out.
But Emily understood. "Your scent," she murmured. "You smell different."
Bella blinked several times.
A wave of emotion rose in Bella's chest like a tsunami. It leaked out of her eyes in silent tears as her hand involuntarily flew to her stomach. It would explain so much; why she was so moody and had lost her appetite. Why Jacob thought she smelled so good. Why he and Sam had been even more testy than usual over this last month.
Bella swallowed thickly and did a monumental thing. She reached out and took the test from Emily's hand.
Twenty minutes later, Bella still couldn't peel herself off the hard linoleum floor. She was curled up in the corner by the tub, her legs drawn up to her chest and forehead resting on her knees.
The doorknob rattled and clicked and the door was tentatively opened. "Bella honey?" Emily called over the sound of the oblivious fan.
Sniffling, Bella picked her head up and gracelessly wiped the back of her hand her over her snotty nose.
"Hey sweetie," the woman worried, hurrying into the bathroom and falling to the floor in front of her.
Behind her stood Sam. Shoulders squared, face somber and a bent coat hanger held in one hand (that they'd used to break in). Emily smoothed her hands over Bella's cheeks soothingly.
Mutely, Bella sat back and held out the test that was clasped in her shaking fist. A little plastic stick whose two innocent blue lines had just changed her life irreparably. And Jacob's too.
Eyes locked with hers, Emily gingerly peeled Bella's fingers back from the rod. Her gaze dipped down and with absolutely no expression whatsoever, she handed it over her shoulder to Sam.
Bella bit her lip, as Emily covered both her hands on her knee and stared searchingly up into her eyes. "Jacob and the guys are running off a little steam before the cake," she informed her in an eerily conversational tone. "We told him you got a call from your mother."
Bella sniffed a laugh. That would make him high-tail it out of here faster than anything. Her mother's conversations were always nothing but an hour of non-stop listening, foot-stamps and eye-rolls.
"C'mon honey," Emily urged her up from the floor.
Bella hazarded a glance up at Sam. He was still staring intently at the plastic stick that was dwarfed in his huge hands.
"Sam," Emily chided, as she wrapped her arms around Bella's shoulders.
Wordlessly he backed out into the hall.
Emily steered her slowly into the living room. Bella could barely put one foot in front of the other - her legs felt like twizzlers and brain cotton candy (fluffy and condensing into sticky wet droplets on the edges).
Bella followed her gentle lead and lowered herself numbly to the couch. Emily sat down beside her.
Bella couldn't look up. Her insides were churning, her heart was aching, and her mind was like Jake's favorite Xbox game: Modern Warfare 3.
"Do you know what you're going to do?" Emily asked quietly.
Bella shook her head slowly as she bit the hell out of her lip. She absolutely no idea…
"You should talk to Jake before you decide," she suggested.
Bella looked up sharply. "What?" The word was cut crisply out with her tongue and it snapped the whole world into focus.
Emily blinked rapidly. "If you keep it-…"
"What!" Bella burst up from the couch with a shriek. "KEEP IT? If course I'm keeping 'it!' 'It's' my child!" she screamed.
Biting her lip, Bella turned her back on the woman whose face was frozen in patent shock. She collapsed her face in her hands as hopeless sobs bubbled up from deep within her.
"I'm sorry Bella," Emily whispered frantically behind her. "We didn't want to assume-…"
Suddenly Bella was being pulled into a warm and enveloping embrace. Her body jolted in surprise as strong arms pulled her against a rock-solid chest. Sam's huge hand cupped the back of her head with an shocking tenderness as he pressed her cheek over his heart.
"We want you to keep it." His voice rumbled soothingly under her ear like the thundering surf at midnight.
A long shaking breath skated over her lips as she closed her eyes and relaxed into his serene power. It sparkled around her like summer fireflies.
For several minutes - or hours, she couldn't be sure - Bella rode Sam's deep even breaths like it was the most natural and normal thing in the world. At that moment it absolutely was.
Sucking in a breath, Sam - inscrutable, imposing, stoic Sam - folded down to his knees. Bella's eyes widened in shock.
Sam's eyes were intense and piercing. Both huge hands came up to smooth back her hair from each cheek and he tipped her head up gently (yes, he was still taller).
"We want you to keep the child," he repeated, his gaze pacing between her eyes with a sumptuous sincerity. His voice was deep and hypnotic like he was talking to a cub. "This child is important to all of us, Bella. He'll be the future Chief, the Pack's Alpha, the leader of our tribe."
Bella swallowed thickly, mesmerized. "H-he?" she whispered.
"He," he affirmed. The corner of Sam's serious mouth quirked up with what could only be described as sentimentality. Bella was fascinated. "Throughout our history the first child of a phased Alpha has always been a boy," he stated simply.
Bella nodded once as she licked her lips.
Sam's gaze washed slowly over her face, as his fingers rested against her jaw for a moment in a cherishing and paternal gesture. His hand then slipped down to settle soberly on her shoulders.
"I'm the Alpha now and it's my responsibility to ensure the safety of our future," he told her quietly, as his eyes sizzled with conviction. "I wanted you to know that, no matter what, we'll stand beside you. You're under my protection."
Bella's gaze darted over his stony face - a fire was raging behind his those hooded eyes. "No matter what…?" Her brain felt swollen and heavy with the surrealism of it all.
"He may not be ready," he pronounced quietly as he stood, his eyes locked with hers.
Bella frowned as a fire lit in her gut at his inference. True, Jacob was 18… only 18. But somehow she knew he'd never let her down. "Sam, I think you're selling him short," she bit back tartly, taking a subtle step back.
A slow and appreciative smile spread over Sam's stalwart lips "I've been guilty of that crime before," he replied cryptically, looking deeply into her eyes. He was talking about her.
Her gaze dropped like lead with yet another blush.
His hands rubbed soothingly down her arms and Bella looked back up to sparkling eyes.
"Congratulations, Bella," he whispered.
"I don't know why you had me tell her," Emily laughed quietly stepping in and tugging Bella out of his arms. "You did it better than I ever could."
Sam shoved his hands in his pockets with a humorous roll to his eyes.
Emily wrapped her in a sisterly embrace, and for the first time Bella felt like she belonged there. "I'm so happy for you," she sighed into her hair.
"They're coming," Sam informed them lowly.
Bella stiffened like a board. "Should I-… what do I-…" she quavered, pulling back and clutching Emily with frantic hands.
"Shh," she soothed, a reassuring smile softening the mobile side of her face. "You'll know."
Bella pulled her lip fiercely into her mouth as Emily turned her back toward the kitchen. Sam stalked in ahead of them.
"Everything okay?" Kim looked up from where she was playing go fish with Claire at the dish-littered table.
Sam nodded brusquely and began clearing away empty plates.
Bella's heart felt like a giant fist was squeezing it like a lump of raw steak and her rapid shallow breath was running its own ragged race.
"Bella," Emily commanded sternly. "You're okay."
Blinking she nodded like a marionette and bit her lip all the fiercer.
The back door to the kitchen was yanked open so exuberantly it knocked against the outside of the house. Leah came in first, doubling over with cackling laughter, the snow in her hair melting quickly to glistening drops. Outside she could see Jacob… ferried horizontally on six sets of shoulders through a world of glittering white. An off-pitch and barely recognizable version of "Happy Birthday" was being howled amidst raucous laughter.
Embry, walking backward, slammed into the outside of the house.
"We're never gonna fit!" Quil screeched from the back.
"Yes we will," Paul avowed, sounding like it was a personal vendetta.
For the next few minutes, a boisterous knot of brown limbs tried - in vain - to squeeze through the door with the comedic value of a clown car at the circus. Claire was falling off the chair with her giggles while Kim snapped pictures with her phone and egged them on. Jacob's head was bashed against the doorframe on several occasions and Embry ended up careening across the kitchen floor.
But Bella? Bella turned her face into Emily's shoulder and wept silently, letting the tears seep into her shirt. Emily rubbed her back in mollifying circles as she crooned wordless comfort into her ear. It wasn't fair; the scene was one of innocent, boyish exuberance. Two crisp blue lines were all that stood between adolescence and adulthood and suddenly she worried Sam might be right.
A jubilant sunny laugh was prefaced by a boom that rattled the table. Bella whipped around and saw a wet, half-naked Jacob, sprawled across the floor and clutching his gut with laughter while the rest of the Pack filtered in exchanging insults and high-fives.
Slapping his palms on the floor once, Jacob leaped to his feet, his eyes sparkling with happiness and his face cracked in half with his grin. His gaze found her immediately.
Bella impatiently batted at her cheeks and settled her face in her best approximation of a smile.
"Bells?" Like he'd flipped a switch, his face darkened in an instant. He sprang over the table in one breathtakingly fluid leap. "Bella?" he asked again, his voice cinched tight as he pulled her fluently from Emily's arms and into his sweaty, heaving chest. "What's wrong, honey?"
Biting her lip she shook her head vigorously, as still more mortifying tears raced rebelliously down her cheeks.
"Why do you ...smell… like… Sam?" With each word his voice dove deeper until Sam's name was nothing but a growl.
A thick viscous silence instantly sucked the room under.
He pulled back and hard obdurate eyes raked over her face. "What did he do?" he hissed like a sword pulled from a stone scabbard.
"J-Jake… " she hiccupped frantically, vainly grasping at his bare slick skin as he resolutely returned her to Emily's arms.
"What. Did. You. Do. Motherfucker!" he bellowed.
And faster than Bella's eyes could follow, Jacob had lunged across the room and thrown his sledgehammer fist in Sam Uley's face. He went sprawling across the floor with the force, careening into the cupboards and bringing down china and pots with a crash.
Like lightning Jacob pounced after him. Ripping him up by merciless fists dug into the muscle and skin of his chest, he slammed him against the wall so hard the house shook to its foundation.
"What did you do," Jacob seethed, spittle spraying with his fury across Sam's bloody face as he dangled him several inches off the floor.
"JACOB, STOP!" Sam's deep bass rolled across the room like a sonic boom and every last one of the Pack crouched under the weight of the Command.
Jacob's head bowed, as his body visibly shuddered. But he forced his face back up as his lips peeled back from gleaming teeth. "Not this time, Sammy," he crooned in voice of black tar and he yanked Sam back and slammed him again like a ragdoll, just to show that he could.
Gasps pockmarked the suffocating silence. And then Claire burst into tears.
"Jake!" Bella threw herself forward. Or tried to. Emily's desperate grip around her waist stopped her cold.
"Wait, Bella," she hissed.
"Jake!" she wrenched herself from the girl's grip and stumbled across the eerily still room.
Jacob's body was shaking, his lips were peeled back from a silent snarl. Bella pulled up short and her hand hovered in the air for a moment of indecision. That genial open face was twisted with a cold-blooded ruthlessness that she'd never seen before.
It was a frightening.
But still… this man was Jake. Her best friend turned lover… and now the father of her child. Her fingertips fluttered and lit on the bunching muscles of his forearm.
"Jacob, I'm pregnant," she whispered.
For a moment she thought he hadn't heard her. Then suddenly his face whipped around, his mouth a comically perfect 'O.'
Her worried eyes darted over his face, trying to assess. "We're pregnant, Jake," she breathed.
Without a word, he staggered backwards, unceremoniously dropping Sam's heavy body to the floor.
Emily was pulling her out of the way as he stumbled like a cheesy death scene in some melodrama. He careened into Sam's chair and sat into it so heavily it tipped right on back.
He landed flat on his back with a hollow thud.
"Jake!" Bella squeaked, scrambling after him and falling to her knees at his side.
He was blinking rhythmically up at the ceiling, his breath panting over lax lips.
Bella reached out and smoothed a palm over his forehead. "Jake?"
He licked his lips, still staring vacantly at the ceiling. "You are?" he rasped and then cleared his throat.
"Yeah," she answered, still smoothing her hand over his slick sweaty brow.
"Uh-huh." Bella's brow was knitting with concern but her mouth was battling a smile at the scene they must make. Jake was still sitting in the chair tipped back to the kitchen floor, his feet dangling up over the seat.
He blinked a few more times and then his eyes cut over to her briefly, as if waiting for the punch line.
She gave him an apologetic grimace and he returned his gaze to the ceiling.
He audibly swallowed. "I thought you were…"
"I was," she assured him (though the mini-pill apparently was a little too mini for a wolf).
"But we still….?"
Jacob reached up and snatched up her hand in his for a moment as he pressed his lips into a straight line.
Finally his eyes darted back to her face and stayed this time. "You're sure?" he asked again, sounding a little more like himself.
Bella nodded timidly.
Slowly his lips stretched into a glorious smile that could probably power Seattle for a whole week. "Well happy fucking birthday to me," he murmured.
He pulled her down for a kiss that left her breathless while the room burst into a chorus of ear-piercing howls.
Bella flopped down with a groan on the crisp quilted double bed in Sam and Emily's guest room. Jacob's birthday had certainly been one to remember. It was ten o'clock at night and the last of the Pack had finally been run out of the house. She'd called Charlie and with the snow, he'd happily agreed to let Bella stay over at Emily's.
If only he knew.
Jacob closed the door behind him and turned around to lean his bare broad shoulders against it. For several moments he regarded her silently.
Bella scooted over and patted the mattress.
Jacob smiled and pushed off the door. With that flowing mercurial step of his, he slunk to the end of the bed and seemed to pool to his knees right in front of her.
There was no privacy in the Pack - Bella knew that - but she'd never quite understood the extent of it. Since that earth-shattering announcement that afternoon, she and Jacob hadn't had a moment to themselves. Which might very well be a good thing.
She stared back at his searching dark chocolate eyes and worried her lip uncomfortably.
"How' you doin'?" he finally asked, his words no more than a rough sough.
Bella nodded hesitantly.
Sniffing a smile, he gathered her fidgeting hands in his strong, steady grip. "No," he murmured, intensifying his gaze. "How are you really doing?"
Bella's eyes flicked back and forth for a moment between his. "I-…" she blew out a long breath. She had absolutely no freaking clue.
Jacob squeezed her hands and scooted a little closer. "Bells," he puffed her name out on a breath and his gaze fell to her hands. "There are some things we have to do in life and we both know this is one of them." Pressing his lips together he looked back up into her eyes. "But how we do them is up to us."
Bella could see clear down to his heart in his earnest gaze. Tears sprang to her eyes and her lips curved all funny with the press of confusion. "I-…I'm scared," she breathed.
Jacob licked his lips and his Adam's apple bobbed with his swallow. He didn't tell her she shouldn't be so, he didn't try to reassure her, he just held her heart oh, so tenderly in that sincere gaze. Without a word he leaned in and offered his lips: warm - russet lips so soft and generous for the taking.
Bella collapsed against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She kissed him messily a few times - their noses getting in the way - before she fell to his shoulder and just cried. She let out all the hormonally-driven, fear-stoked, anxiety-infused sorrow into that silky muscled deltoid while he wordlessly caressed her back.
Finally his heat and his strength seeped into her bones enough that she could scrape some semblance of composure together. Sniffling, she wiped her face on his slick musky skin and sat back up.
Jacob smiled sadly as he watched her wipe the back of her hand across her face. Laughing at herself, she flapped her hands and tried blink back the threat of more insidious tears. Honestly she didn't know she had that much water left in her body. Bella had never been much of a crier, but obviously a lot had changed.
In such a short time.
It was like stepping over some invisible line between life as she knew it and total utter chaos. Jacob was right, there was no question that they would do this thing. Truthfully, submerged in the rowdy, frenetic normalcy of the Pack it had bolstered her throughout the day with the illusion that everything was actually fine.
The news had undeniably changed the entire dynamic of their group. Maybe spurred on by knowing that Sam didn't hate her, and the others finally understanding what was going on, Bella had felt comfortable for the first time in these five months. Oh Paul was still snarky, and boys were just as out of control, but she viscerally felt the hand of acceptance reach out and wrap her in security and safety. Every single one of them - from Claire's adorable drawing to Leah's casual arm around her shoulder to Embry's insistence that she get to choose the movie - had stepped forward and told them both in one way or another that they were not in this thing alone.
"So Bells, I've been thinking," Jacob interjected, standing in one fluid movement and sitting beside her on the bed. "I'm scared too and I wanted to figure out why that was."
Bella blinked out of her own thoughts and turned a little more toward him with a pucker between her brows. "It's scary," she assured him.
"Is it?" he countered quietly, interlacing her hand with his own. "I mean I've taken on an entire army of leeches and gotten the shit beaten out of me and nearly lost it all."
Bella frowned in as she wrapped her other hand around his thick forearm. She didn't like to think of those days.
"I've faced my mom dying, my dad's sickness, you leaving… and even faced down that pissy corpse boyfriend of yours." He sniffed a laugh and Bella rolled her eyes.
"Ex-boyfriend," she snorted.
"So why am I afraid of the most awesomest news I ever got?" His free hand came up to touch her chin for a moment as his gaze drank in her every pore. "I mean I know you'd never be like your mom and take my kid away," he whispered.
Bella sucked in a sharp breath and her widened eyes locked on his. "No, I wouldn't," she breathed, shocked that he was speaking so frankly. "I'd never do that Jake."
A ghost of a smile flitted over those lips, but his eyes were still stone cold serious. "So I figure the reason I'm scared is 'cause of me," he pronounced.
Bella blinked and turned more, pulling her knee up on the bed between them.
"I'm scared I won't be good enough," he whispered.
"Jake-…." she immediately pounced in to contradict him, but he stopped her with a raised hand.
"Hear me out," he admonished and Bella comically mimed zipping her lips.
Humor shimmered over his face but quickly evaporated. She realized this was a side of Jacob she'd never seen. Jacob under pressure.
"I don't want my son to see me fucking everything up," he murmured lowly while his eyes unfocused somewhere between them. "I've been getting by… y'know enough work to pay the bills, enough Pack stuff not be a total slob. But all of it's been just enough to get by."
Bella didn't agree, not one tiny bit. "Jake! You've been awesome. You're only eighteen!" The words burst from her lips in righteous indignation.
His lips quirked in a half smile. "Like I said, there's stuff in life you gotta do, but how you do it's up to you," his eyes narrowed with a visceral welling of conviction. "I wanna do it right," he breathed out with a quiet strength like steam escapes a volcanic fissure. "I want my son to be born to an Alpha."
Bella blinked at his solemn pronouncement. Not that she was incredibly surprised; the entire Pack had danced around the fact that he'd broken the Order this afternoon but Bella had been around wolves long enough to understand the repercussions. Sam had been very, very wrong: Jacob was more ready than he'd ever imagined.
"You'll be an awesome Alpha, Jake." It was all she said, but her eyes sparkled with pride.
"I'm talking to Sam and my dad tomorrow," he announced, his eyes pacing with a cagey restlessness between her own. "And the first decision I'm making is to tell Charlie."
Bella's mouth popped open in surprise. "Tell him…?" Telling him she was pregnant was an intimidating enough prospect, but was he implying what she thought he was?
"Tell him everything," he answered curtly. "The wolves, leeches… you. He needs to know." The timber of his voice left no room for doubts or questions, even if Bella had had any (which she didn't). Jacob was right. Secrets had slowly eroded her life from the inside out. If her family had known about Edward, their support and perspective might have helped her make fewer mistakes.
Bella nodded her agreement.
"I wanna do it right. So I can look in my son's eyes…" He paused then and raised a hand to her cheek and his fingers trembled as they ghosted over her cheekbone. "So I can look into your eyes and know I did my best. However you wanna play this thing."
Bella was speechless. For a moment she just stared back at him with slack-jawed awe. He had spoken entirely of himself - leaving her a wide, free berth to fill in the spaces however she saw fit. A Jacob under pressure was an awesome thing to behold.
And he was perfect.
"J-Jake…" she stammered, willing her mouth and her mind back into gear. "I wanna do this thing with you," she breathed.
Jacob nodded cautiously.
Bella's brow furrowed and she moved to crawl into his lap. She needed to be closer. Jacob scooted back on the bed and pulled her onto him so she was straddling his lap. He looped his arms loosely around her waist.
Bella smoothed back his hair from his face with both hands she gazed into the face that she loved. "I've been letting my fear of what other people think control what I give. I don't wanna do that anymore. I wanna do this right too. I want to raise our son together. Here on the Rez. I want him know his heritage and inheritance. I want to raise him with you," she whispered, looking between his eyes and searching for comprehension.
A smile seeded those full, perfect lips and blossomed slowly with breathtaking magnificence.
"I wanna get married and do this as a family," she breathed, catching that smile like a kite.
His unfettered pleasure twisted suddenly sly. "That kinda sounded like you asked me to marry you, Bells…" he wiggled his brows impishly.
Bella's eyes flicked up and she theatrically grimaced. "Do I hafta have ring?"
"Nah," he smirked, continuing the game. "I'll let that slide this once."
Bella sniffed a laugh and leaned in to place a peck on his lips. "So will you?" she murmured.
Jacob pulled back with a mischievous sparkle to his eyes. "Will I what?" he bit his lip challengingly.
Bella just smiled and put her whole heart into it. "Will you marry me, Jacob Black?"
Instead of answering, he threw himself back flat on the bed with huff of breath, splaying his arms open wide. "Best fucking birthday ever."
Bella giggled and crept up his chest, resting her chin on her hands and looking down at him. "Um… is that your answer?"
Jacob's eyes cut down over the plain of his cheekbones as his arms wrapped around her. He flashed her a wide, white grin. "Yes."
Bella raised a humorous brow. "Is that a 'yes that's the answer' or a yes?"
Suddenly Bella was being flipped on her back with a delicious warm weight carefully pressing her down.
"Both of them are a yes," he growled playfully. "Yes, I'll marry you," he leaned in for a smacking kiss. "Yes, you're a dork." Smack.
Bella furrowed her brow with comedic bafflement. "I don't think I asked that question."
Jacob responded with a well placed tickle to her ribs. She giggled and squirmed under him until he threw himself down by her side. Panting she looked happily into his eyes.
Jacob stared at her a moment and his smile slowly faded into serious. Wordlessly he leaned in and placed a tender lingering kiss on her lips.
"Our baby's right here," he breathed against her mouth and she felt a huge reverent palm settle over her entire abdomen.
Something welled up deep inside her, clogging her throat and making it difficult to breathe. Jacob pulled back and watched the tears leach into her eyes.
"Honey," he breathed, leaning down for another kiss. "I love you."
"Love you more," she hiccupped, sniffling wretchedly. She was never going to survive this teariness for an entire nine months. Well, eight, she supposed.
Suddenly he collapsed his head down on her shoulder with a muffled groan.
Bella's hand came up to the back of his head and stroked through the silky short hair. "Jake?"
"I'm so happy I feel like I'm gonna bust outta my skin, y'know?" he mumbled into her neck.
"Yeah, I know," she agreed quietly, letting her eyes flutter closed.
With a whooshing sniff, Jacob picked his head back up. His warm chocolate eyes were melting. Bella reached up and caught a tear on her fingertip. And then another.
With a laugh, he rolled his eyes uncomfortably and wiped at his face with one hand.
"I think you' just caught my hormonal train-wreck," she absolved him with a wink.
Jacob cut his eyes over at her with a snort, and then settled his cheek back down on her shoulder. His hand slipped back down to cover her stomach and for several minutes they just lay there, side by side, letting it all sink in.
Lines were such flimsy, subjective things. One day to the next, child to adult, best friend to lovers, lovers to life-mates. All were separated by but a hair's breadth, yet once crossed, every last one was irrevocable.
And that was damn good thing, as far as Bella could tell.
Jacob nuzzled into her hair as his hand slowly slid up her front. His palm settled over the swell of her breast and she heard his lips crackle with a grin. (Well she knew what he'd been thinking about over the last few minutes.)
"I was wondering what was up with these," he growled low in her ear.
Bella barked a laugh as Jacob pulled back with a perfectly roguish grin.
"Will the birthday presents never end?" she bemoaned humorously.
Jacob wiggled his eyebrows. "I've still got one more to open," he crooned as his finger deftly found her top button.
Bella smiled coyly. "I thought you'd never ask."
Jacob honked the horn on their new 2005 Honda CRV. Well, it wasn't technically new, but it was new to them. It was a present from Billy and Charlie. For the baby.
The last eight months had brought nothing but change; Jake taking his rightful place as Alpha, Charlie throwing his first punch (at Jacob's face, in the Black's kitchen, with the tribal Elders looking on), a barefoot wedding on the beach in the spring, a house around the corner, and still enumerable more. The biggest changes, however, were those that you couldn't see. Each and every one of the Pack and its family had grown…and all had drawn immeasurably closer in the process.
Jacob threw the vehicle into park in Sam and Emily's driveway on this summer's afternoon, nearly a year to date after Bella's ill-fated marriage. She didn't even think about it twice.
Throwing open the door, Jacob hopped out and slapped a double high-five with Embry while the rest of the Pack whooped and hollered appreciatively as they filtered out onto the lawn.
Bella opened her door and gazed at the ground with a grimace. It seemed several awkward miles away.
"Bellooooga!" Paul was, of course, waiting right at the passenger door with his favorite greeting.
Bella rolled her eyes as he reached in and scooped her up tenderly in his strong arms.
"Jake, can you sock him for me?" she whined, looking over at her husband who was lounging with infuriating unconcern, his arm propped on Embry's shoulder. It had become tradition for his Third to ferry her around like some damn coachman. Jacob said it was a bonding thing. Bella said it was annoying.
"You know you love it, Bellsy," he snickered, placing a sloppy kiss on her cheek and setting her gently down.
With a groan - at many things- Bella stretched her back, her hand falling to her huge whale of a stomach just from the force of its own personal gravity alone.
Jacob abandoned Embry and took the two steps to his wife's side, leaning down and placing a loving kiss on her lips as he wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders. He knew she liked to have him by her side for the "gauntlet" as she called it.
"Bella!" Emily called blithely from the porch as she skipped down the steps. She was just starting to show under the light shift she was wearing. Sam and Emily had been trying to have a kid for over a year, and they were all realizing it must have been a Pack thing - waiting for the Alpha to reproduce first - because now apparently the starting gate was open. Emily was three months along and Kim had just gotten her own good news. Everyone was ecstatic.
Leaning on Jacob, Bella tottered toward the porch (like the bloated Willy Wonka blueberry she felt like), as one after the other, each one of the wolves filtered by for a slap to Jacob's shoulder or quippy remark. But it was all simply a ruse to touch Bella's stomach.
By now, she was used to the myriad of hands constantly caressing over her middle. Greetings - like this - were the worst. But she understood: wolves were all about touch and connection. And she carried the Pack's first cub, their Alpha's firstborn son and the future leader of their tribe.
It was an honor.
(But it could also be annoying.) "Quil!" she snapped.
"He kicked!" Quil piped, he shuffled along beside her on his knees in the grass with his hand planted firmly on her tummy.
Jacob cuffed him helpfully on the head but Quill just laughed and jumped up and hugged her in a back-breaking squeeze (they were always careful with the baby, but it didn't seem to hamper the exuberance any. Unfortunately).
"Get out of the way you big oaf!" Emily groused, as she pushed him aside and wrapped her arms around her friend. The two of them were growing as close as sisters. "Cool car," she murmured.
Bella pulled back and glanced over her shoulder. "It is, isn't it? Plenty of room." The two of them had talked quite a bit about raising their children together and the car could comfortably carry five… to the beach, to Aquarium in Port Ange…
"Unh," Bella doubled over, her hands flying to her stomach.
"Bella?" Emily's voice was tense.
Bella shook her head as another uncomfortable twinge shot through her stomach.
"Hey honey," suddenly Jacob's low soothing voice was right in front of her, a gentle finger tipping up her chin. "You alright?"
Bella blinked through the residual pain. "Yeah I think it was just-…" suddenly another wave of pain lanced through her body and she fell forward into Jacob's arms. A humiliating deluge of water gushed from between her legs into the grass.
"Holy shit!" she shrieked.
"Your water just broke, honey." Jake's voice was measured, reassuring. And instantly she was being lifted into his arms. "We gotta get you to the clinic." They'd decided to have the baby on the Rez.
But like the floodgates had opened (which they literally had) Bella's body seized in a mind-numbing paroxysm of pain that made her screech like a banshee being drawn and quartered.
"Leah! Get Sue down here. NOW," Jacob's voice boomed as Bella scrunched up her body around her massive rock-hard stomach with a whimper. "Tell her there's no time. Sam, clear out the living room." Jacob's deep bass doled out commands calmly, but with the force of a sledgehammer behind them. His even mercury gait barely jostled her as he jogged across the yard and up the steps.
Bella screamed again with another delirious wash of blistering pain.
Suddenly she was being laid out on the floor and her eyes popped fearfully open. "J-Jake," she whimpered.
Jacob's big hand was cupping her jaw. "You got this Bella," he whispered, looking deep in her eyes. "You got this." That steely gaze held nothing but the utmost faith and determination. She wanted to believe him.
"Sam, Em, Leah…" he called, looking up to the bustling room. "Everyone else OUT!"
Bella's wide frantic eyes focused on her husband as he deftly and efficiently orchestrated chaos into order. Leah was kneeling behind her, grasping both hands as a human chair. Emily on her left, Sam to her right. Jacob kneeled between her bent knees.
Another wave of pain ripped through her body and she arched her back with a high keening shriek.
"Bella!" Jacob's imperious voice commanded her eyes to his own. "Breathe, remember?" he whispered, his voice instantly intimate and gentle.
With a hasty nod, she began puffing, focusing on her breath like she'd been taught to do. She'd planned to do this thing without the dangers and artifice of modern pain management, but suddenly an epidural was looking pretty damn awesome.
"You got this, honey," he crooned again, giving her a reassuring smile as he ripped her panties efficiently in two.
"I got this," she panted breathlessly.
Jacob smiled and nodded, as his hands ran soothingly over her thigh.
"I got this," she intoned, with a little more confidence this time.
"You do," he murmured.
It'd taken a long time to realize Jacob was usually right. And today would be no exception.
Sitting at her computer on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Bella clicked over to one of her favorite pictures from that day… or tried to. Stupid Facebook and their damn timeline.
With a frustrated grunt, she slammed her mouse down on the pad and then froze with a grimace. She cocked her head toward the hallway, and was grateful to hear Jacob's soft snores rolling on uninterrupted.
Bella remembered that day like it was yesterday, not five months ago. Hell, she'd remember it for the rest of her life. Though thankfully she couldn't remember the pain, which was a very good thing; it had sucked as much a stuff can suck (she remembered that much). But she had done it.
And Jacob had been proud.
The expression on his face had been pure undiluted ecstasy when, with that last bone breaking push, their baby had slipped free and into his strong waiting hands.
Sue had gotten to Sam and Emily's just in time for the birth, but there's this thing about wolves and instinct, you see. While the baby screeched it's fury, Jacob had growled viciously at Sue's attempts to help and simply bitten through the cord with his teeth. His magical tongue instantly stopped any blood flow and Sue had sat back on her heels with laughing shake to her head. But he didn't stop there. With feral yellow to his eyes, Jacob's huge tongue lapped over every inch of their son, while he crooned a wordless lupine purr that instantly settled the infant's cries to answering coos while outside a chorus of howls rose to the dusk. The scene was beautiful and primal and also pretty damn gross. And Bella wouldn't trade any of it for the world.
Especially the outcome: William Charles Black. Their son.
Squaring her shoulders, she drew in a deep breath and dove back into Facebook hell. Click. Click. Click. Ahh, there it was.
A smile spread over her face as her gaze darted over the photo of her, nestled in Jacob's bare muscled arms while she cuddled their hour-old son to her breast. Jake looked exhausted, Liam looked wrinkled and pink and she looked like shit - of course - but that wasn't the point. It was the first picture of their family, and behind the fatigue and stress in those eyes was sparkling a happiness she'd never dreamed possible. It was the first moment of an entirely different timeline. One that was not just Jake n' Bells… but their future together.
Lines were such funny things. Millions of new beginnings to be considered and starting lines to be mindfully crossed every day. But some were more significant than others. She'd always consider that day in Emily's kitchen - that day that was irreparably changed by two thin blue lines - as the most important day of her life. It was both an end and a beginning. The end of selfishness, childishness and fear… and the beginning of learning how to love with everything she had.
Leaning back in her computer chair, Bella cocked her head at the picture, her face breaking in half with her smile. Her heart ballooned in her chest and suddenly she was pushing back her chair and stealing quietly down the hall to find the real thing. Peaking around the doorframe, her breath caught in her throat at the sight of two most important people in her world.
Choking on a gleeful grin, she tiptoed back to her computer desk and snatched up her phone, silently creeping back to that magnificent sight.
Shirtless (as usual) Jacob was engaged in some hard-core napping. Sprawled across the bed with one arm thrown over his head, the other hand protectively draped over their son sleeping on his chest, he could be the patron saint of Fatherhood.
Liam stirred in his sleep with the sweetest little mewl, and Jacob's dwarfing hand stroked soothingly over his head before falling heavily back over his rump. Her husband's eyelids hadn't so much as fluttered, yet even deep in his slumber he protected, he cherished, he loved oh, so well.
Bella adored him. Both of them. Her boys.
Raising her phone she scrolled to the camera and focused.
A dark sleepy eye popped open. "Whatreyou doin'," he mumbled, his lips twisting up in a novocain smile.
"It's going in the Timeline," she informed him, leaning her head against the doorframe and drinking him all in.
"Effin' Facebook," he sniffed and then reached out a petitioning hand. "Sleep," he commanded.
Bella set the phone on the nightstand and scooted into bed beside him, leaning her cheek on his shoulder as she ghosted a finger over Liam's silky black hair.
Jacob wrapped his arm around her. "Mmm… now it's perfect," he murmured blissfully as he placed a clumsy smacking kiss on her forehead.
Marveling at how he instantly returned to snoring, Bella scooched closer, squeezing her arms lovingly around his broad chest.
As usual, Jacob was right.
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