Author's Note - This is the final chapter of this story. I hope you have enjoyed it! For a detailed analysis of Bella's cracked-out dreams in this fanfiction follow the link in my profile.
Jacob graduated before I did, obviously, toyed with the idea of medical school, but decided he'd rather start earning money right away than study for another five years. And his interest was in the human mind anyway – apparently all that 'blood and guts stuff' didn't appeal to him, werewolf or not.
He got a job as a research assistant in the psychology department at WSU, while I finished my literature degree and wrote a whole lot of self-indulgent short stories along the way that were probably never going to get published.
I was happy.
Jacob and I rarely fought, almost never. This had very little to do with me and a lot to do with him. He was nearly impossible to fight with, seeing as he was so inimitably happy all the time.
Holidays were spent back home with Charlie and Billy and the Clearwaters, and when we'd both finished up at WSU we moved back there, rented a decent-sized apartment in Forks.
Embry-and-Leah was pretty much the cutest thing I'd ever seen and when I told Leah this, she punched me in the arm. I had a nice, round bruise to prove it for two whole weeks.
Jacob and I went out on proper dates occasionally, something we had ironically never done oh so long ago in the early stages of our relationship. Once we went all the way to Seattle for dinner, because Jacob had an obsessive desire to eat at a much-hyped restaurant that served Wagyu beef.
The Edgewater Hotel.
The place was huge and extremely upmarket. We weren't cheap by any means, especially when it came to food – we both really liked good food - but still, it felt a little odd to be in such grand surroundings, and I was aware that my discomfort was showing on my face.
It only got worse when we were seated at a candle-lit table for two, all linen tablecloths and purple irises, the water glittering in the distance, a limestone wall separating us from the other diners like we were hiding from the paparazzi or something.
I was chewing on my lower lip nervously, trying not to wonder if there was more to Jacob's choice of location than fancy beef.
He noticed, smirked.
"What's the matter Bells? You don't think I've brought you here to propose or something do you? Kinda cheesy for my tastes."
I chuckled, shaking my head to shake away a blush. "Oh ha ha, Jacob. No, of course not."
Jake was chuckling now too. "Well thank God for that."
I just smiled, trying to lose that fish-out-of-water feeling.
Jake smiled back, irritatingly at ease.
"Anyway, so I was talking to Charlie the other day and I was thinking…", he yawned and stretched out a hand to pick up his wineglass, but there was a clever flick, a tiny pop, a creak.
A little velvet-lined box under my nose.
A cluster of tiny emeralds, tinier diamonds, white gold gleaming, all nestled in pitch black.
My mouth fell open, snapped shut.
"Will you marry me, Bella?"
Jacob asked the question with a wry smile.
"I knew it!" I squeaked out, lips barely parting. My whole face felt like it had been frozen, locked up tight somehow.
"Oh really?" he asked, amused. He put on a high voice. " 'Oh ha ha, Jacob. No, of course not.' "
I forced out a puff of air and was sort of surprised when a torrent of indignant words came with it. "That's not fair. You were all… blah blah it's cheesy! And, and, and blah blah thank God and… whatthehellyouidiotJakeGod."
"What? It's no fun if I don't get to shock the hell out of you." He grinned, gave the box a little shake. "So how about it?"
I just stared at him for a moment, my mind still waiting on my body.
Seconds scratched along a clock-face in my head.
Fear. Flattery. Excitement. Certainty. Guilt. Wavering. Happiness. Pride. Love. Love. Love.
I slid out of my chair unusually smoothly, gracefully, stood over Jacob for a second, fingers sliding into his shaggy hair. Then I was leaning down to press my lips to his.
His strong arms wrapped themselves immediately around my waist, pulled me into his lap, and we sank further into the kiss, his tongue curling thickly around mine. I sighed softly into his mouth as I felt trickles of heat pooling in the pit of my stomach, the way they always, always did when Jacob kissed me like that.
The way they always, always would.
Finally I tore my face away from his, asked with a breathless little smile "Does that answer your question?"
Jake cocked his head to one side, frowned. "Well not really. It was nice and all, but I was sort of more looking for a yes or a no. Wait scratch that, just a yes, really."
While he spoke I was pressing my face into his shoulder, giggling, a sort of a spluttery, sniffly sound - a few tears were inevitable.
When he was done and I'd found my voice again, I lifted my head, said a quick, soft yes and started kissing him again, thrilling at his lips on mine like it was the first time again, or the second first time, the one that had really counted. All I wanted right now was deeper, closer, more, but he was smiling all the damn time, mouth curving up and breaking the kiss, and I was having to reach for him constantly, pull his lip back between mine with a sort of a cross mm sound.
Minutes passed and a small shaking hand – my hand - was rubbing insistently at the nape of Jacob's neck, tucking itself into his shirt, fingers searching, searching. I was breathing heavily into him, feeling things trip and spill inside me, feeling myself –
Jacob took my hands and separated us, grinning almost smugly.
"Now I know we are sort of hidden away around a corner here, but this is still a restaurant Bells. Some self-control, please."
I groaned. "You can't propose to me and expect me to keep my hands to myself. And couldn't you have waited till after dinner?" I found myself gazing forlornly down at the unused cutlery on the table. "Now I'm going to have to sit here and eat and be all proper and God," my eyes widened in horror, "then there's the drive home, all the way back to Forks. Honestly Jacob, this is just… poor planning, that's all I can say."
He laughed a Love you into my lips.
"I love you, too. But you really, really suck at the planning and I - "
He was still laughing.
"Bells, honey, quit whining. We have a room."
"Oh. We do?" I asked in a small voice.
"Well…" I thought for a moment, fiddling with one of the buttons on his shirt. "Can we have dinner in this room of ours?"
He chuckled, pressed his forehead to mine. "Yes, we can."
I stood up quickly, knocking my leg hard against the table, tried not to wince when I said "Well then, let's be on our way."
I was looking around, trying to figure out which way I was supposed to be headed when Jacob stood up, coughed pointedly.
"What?" I asked, puzzled at his expression.
"Bella, don't you want your ring?"
My hands shot up in the air, hovered anxiously around my ears. "Oh! Yes! Yes, I want it. Where is it? I want it."
Jacob grinned slowly, picked the little box up off the table.
"Are you sure? Cos I could just return it and save us a whole lot of money."
I rolled my eyes in annoyance, but it was undercut by a loose, wide smile that I was sure was making me look moronic.
I held out my left hand.
"Shut up and put it on me."
I was lying on my stomach, stark naked on a ridiculously luxurious bed in a ridiculously luxurious hotel room, and my whole body was swathed in a gentle, glowing ache, the result of far, far too much exertion for someone whose idea of exercise was running to the mailbox without tripping.
A warm hand ran slowly down my spine, fingers pushing firmly into the meek, mollified muscles of my back.
"Mmm," I murmured into a pillow. "That feels so good."
Jacob leaned down beside me, kissed my shoulder. "Really? How good?" he asked, his voice low and husky.
I turned my head, peeked out at him with one eye.
"Oh you have got to be kidding me. I'm dying here."
He laughed. "Alright, alright, soothing touch only. Maybe we'll be more equally matched once I stop phasing." He smirked as he stroked my shoulders lightly. "Probably not."
I shifted so I was on my side, facing him.
"You're going to stop phasing?"
He brushed the hair out of my eyes, ran his fingers along my brows trying to smooth them. "Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
"I don't know, I just… wow."
He smiled easily and his voice was soft when he said "I want to follow you, Bells, live like you live."
I swallowed. This was something Sam hadn't even done for Emily, not yet anyway. To be fair, as alpha, it was more complicated for him than it was for Jake, but there was Jared too. He was still phasing, still living forever while Kim inched closer to death. And he'd imprinted on her.
The word still stung a little, even if I kept telling myself I didn't have to fear it anymore.
"But are you sure? I mean, what if you… I don't know, just…"
Jake groaned in frustration. "Stop it, okay? In case you haven't noticed Bella, I'm not actually an impulsive person. That's sort of your thing. I think things through, you know? I thought through imprinting, I thought through phasing, I thought through you and me… I wouldn't have put a ring on your finger if I hadn't been absolutely sure. I'm only ever going to want you. Can you just accept that? Please?"
"I…" I grimaced, wishing I could make myself just shut up. "It's just that… Alex is still out there and - "
"And so is Edward."
That name still stung a little too.
I bit my lip. "Right, but - "
"But what?" he interrupted me gently. "I have to trust you but you don't have to trust me? That's not fair, honey."
I leaned into him, kissed him lightly, simply. "You just think you're so damn wise, don't you?"
He grinned broadly, all white teeth on russet skin, kissed me the same way I had just kissed him. "Pretty much."
Then he sat up, nodded toward the table at the other end of the darkened room. "Hungry?"
My eyes widened and I scrambled off the bed, pulling the sheets up around me as I went. "The food came?! But we were – And I was - When the hell did the food come?!"
Jacob burst with laughter at my little freak-out.
"No, the food didn't come. And if it had, covering yourself up now wouldn't be much use."
He was still snickering to himself when he reached for the phone, turned to glance at me, eyebrows raised.
"You know, I sort of feel bad. I think we may have confused them a little – ordering, then putting the do not disturb sign on the door within thirty seconds."
Our engagement party was just drinks, copious amounts of food I spent all day slaving over and people we saw every day milling around at Charlie's place. Renee was in Europe with Phil, but she'd probably insist on something more formal when they got back to Jacksonville.
She'd been excited when I'd called her with the news, but then Renee was an excitable person generally, so her reaction was nothing compared to Charlie's uncharacteristically and embarrassingly ecstatic one.
I looked over at him, sitting with Billy, saw that he was looking at me that way now – like he was going to start dancing a jig or something - and I could tell that he was thinking something along the lines of Thank God she didn't end up with that Cullen boy.
It broke my heart that I would never be able to explain the situation to him, make him see that everything Edward had done had been geared toward my safety, my happiness. He would never know what a truly good person Edward was, how much he had truly loved me.
I sighed heavily.
But then I smiled, felt my stomach tighten with pleasure when Jake's hand touched my shoulder briefly.
He was on his way to Emily with a glass of water - she was pregnant with her third child now. A little boy, Adam, sat beside her, clinging shyly to her skirt, while Sarah rushed about the room regaling people with her disturbingly loud singing voice.
Embry and Leah were there too of course, and he was sneaking a kiss at her neck, twining his fingers in hers before she reddened in embarrassment and smacked his hand away, looking around them nervously. I grinned watching them. Four years with Embry all over her hadn't cured Leah of her issues with public displays of affection.
My smile faded a little when I caught sight of Sam out of the corner of my eye. He was watching them too and there was a subtle pain on his face, a kind of wistful brokenness that disappeared without trace when little Sarah tugged on his shirtsleeve.
Sam loved Emily, fully and completely, there was no question there. And until recently I had seen them as the archetypal perfect couple, two people who meant more to each other than human minds could understand.
But I did understand now, and as happy as he and Emily were together, would always be, the sadness in Sam's eyes hadn't been misplaced.
He hadn't chosen. He hadn't stepped out into the unknown, faced the horror of uncertainty, fought it and won. He hadn't healed from that first spectacularly messy heartbreak, hadn't worked through it slowly, devastatingly and ultimately wholly the way Leah had. When I looked at her now, rolling her eyes as Embry whispered something to her, then grinning wickedly and pulling him toward the kitchen, I knew that when it came down to it, she had gotten the better end of the deal.
I caught a few words before the kitchen door swung shut.
"I'm happy for them and all, but I mean marriage, come on, how lame is that?"
Embry laughed softly.
"Oh I don't know. Don't think it would be so bad myself."