A/N: Welcome to the long-awaited Happy Ending for Jacob Black in the Imprinting: The Mating Imperative AU that was started in my story, THE HARDEST PART.
Welcome to all the usual suspects! It's good to see you back. Welcome to the newcomers! Do consider reading THE HARDEST PART and THE IMPERATIVE if you haven't yet done so, to give you an idea of where we came from to get here.
Now, this is enough of an A/N. Let me turn the page over to Jacob Black. Poor guy.
Thanks for reading!
This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.
Part One: Old Life, New Lives
Around me was that edged, phony pine scent of hospital cleaners everywhere. There were no Cullens at Forks General anymore, so that's where Embry took Bella on this most important of days. The false fluorescent lighting hurt my sensitive eyes as much as the lingering odors of illness and old blood assaulted my nose.
"Isabella? Sweetheart? You okay?" Embry was hovering as Bella was eased into the wheelchair. A nurse with bleached blond hair looked on tolerantly. Embry had First Time Dad written all over his face. Worry was etching lines into his forehead earlier than I ever thought that would happen. We weren't supposed to age while we were phasing!
Bella, once the girl I had dreamed of a stupid fairy tale ending with but who was now married to my best friend, rolled her eyes. Big brown eyes, they were bloodshot and had purple circles under them. Her skin was so pale – almost vampire-like – but when Embry whispered something just behind one of her ears, a blush flooded her cheeks and I had to look away.
It wasn't her fault. She hadn't had a choice, really. Well maybe, but only technically. Bella Swan – now Isabella Call – could have made no choice other than this one, given who she was.
As Embry wheeled her to a labor room and the rest of us guys in the pack lingered in the main waiting room for a while – Embry's kids would be the first of the new generation born of a werewolf and his imprint, so this was a huge deal – I leaned against a pale yellow wall and remembered how we got here.
I remembered the day Embry imprinted on Bella. Fury had ripped through me. Fury braided with shock and sorrow and jealousy. Only Sam's hard command had kept me from tearing into Embry, though he was my best friend. And later, it had to be me – me! – who helped him keep his head by finding Bella when he needed her for his own sanity. Jumping into her room, surrounded by her warmth and that scent...! Bella smelled sweeter than any girl ever. And I had to carry her to him. To Embry. To the guy that imprinted on her and ruined my chance at being happy.
I remembered cringing inwardly when I saw in Embry's mind his plans for his and Bella's big Immersion Weekend. That's what they called it. It could have been called Finally! but none of us said so. Two nights and a day in the middle of it dedicated to sex. Not exactly a honeymoon, but a retreat to work on that Great Quileute Mating Project. That's what it was, never mind what words they put on it. I followed them to keep them safe, that weekend. I kept away one hungry vagrant, one lost middle-aged couple on a nature hike, and one assault-minded monster – human, but more of a monster than anyone I knew personally, aside from the Cullens – who had seen the smoke from Embry and Bella's fireplace and came to investigate. I heard him talking to himself about maybe tapping a nice piece of ass...
He'll never being doing that again.
I had patrolled outside the cabin to keep Bella safe. Embry wasn't a virgin, but I knew Bella was and I was scared for her. We wolves weren't exactly small guys. Bella was tiny. Also, I wanted to make damned sure that there was no "Emily moment." If something strange or unexpected happened and Embry phased – well, it would devastate him (and all of us) if he hurt Bella.
At least, that's what I told myself. I really did try to stay a decent distance away. I patrolled mostly in my wolf skin to give me the added benefits of my heightened senses so I could be farther from the cabin. I didn't count on still being able to hear her... My senses had been attuned to Bella Swan even before I phased the first time. And I had run patrol around her house for months, too. I knew her heartbeat, knew her sleeping sounds, I knew her scent when she was afraid.
And, thanks to Embry, I knew a lot of other things I would have given a hind quarter to have experienced with my own eyes and body and not through his mind! Dammit.
Then, my heart broke for real. I thought it had been pretty much broken already, but I didn't know how much I hadn't felt yet until a day in late October...
I'm going to be a dad! Bella's gonna marry me!
I would have given an ear to have been in my human form when Embry phased and, with an ecstatic howl, shared the news with all of us. From the way Bella's eyes were glowing when she told him she was pregnant to his impromptu marriage proposal in the middle of the night, we saw it all.
Of course, the happy couple was brought before the Council and congratulated and Bella was introduced to everyone she didn't already know. She was carrying the first of the next generation of potential werewolves...
And this generation knew how it tore me up, too. I tried, though. I really did.
I was really happy for Embry. He was maybe a little young to be a father, but I knew with everything I had that he would be a father. A good one. Who knew exactly who his dad was? (The possibility that his father could be my dad was around thirty-three percent, but we never, ever talked about it.) No secrets in the pack. But I could bury my feelings and I did. Buried them as I drove them to the airport for a quick Las Vegas wedding. I buried them as we renovated the old Pullotka place granted to Embry and Bella from the tribe. A house and a little bit of land. Embry Call was still in high school, but he was already married and bringing his wife to live with him. And, in fine Quileute tradition, all of his friends were helping him build a home in which she could live and bear his children...
I was really happy for Bella, too. More than any of the other wolf girls, she knew what she was getting into, for all that she was a "pale face," as I'd joked to her about one day. I was happy for her because she was human. That leech she'd been in love with – the one who had abandoned her – didn't get the chance to kill her and make her a blood-drinking rock. Instead, she had a heartbeat – I treasured that, knowing it could have been stolen from her – and a husband and her body grew round and beautiful...
With Embry's children.
Jealous? Me? Damn straight.
A hard hand clapped on my shoulder. "Jake? Maybe you should take off. Go on a vacation or something."
It was Quil. Hell, even he had imprinted. Claire was only three years old now, but he was a happy guy. He didn't have his heart ripped out of his chest on a regular basis. "A vacation, Quil? To where?"
"Someplace with girls, maybe?" His smile was wry. "Couldn't hurt, huh?"
"I've seen every girl on the Rez," I murmured, balling my fists briefly. "I know every girl in Forks."
"You know the teenagers," Quil allowed, rubbing at his jaw a little and smiling.
I snorted. "I'm not even going there." His unspoken suggestion that I could imprint on a kid made me want to cringe.
"Then you should go somewhere else, Jake. At least for a couple of weeks. Get away from all this," he went on, rolling his hand in the vague direction of the maternity ward.
I nodded. He was right; not that it'd help, but a break would be nice. "Sure, sure. Let's just make sure the wolf cubs make it out safe and sound, huh?" And let's make sure Bella doesn't get hurt in the process... She was so tiny! And Embry...well...he wasn't! And they were having twins!
Time clicked on. My brothers and I lingered in the waiting area, alternately pacing and muttering and trying to crack jokes. Sam and Emily arrived and it was kind of funny to see how we gravitated to them. They had been together longer than any other imprinted pair, but they hadn't yet had children. We knew it was only a matter of time. Sam had told us while we were all phased that he worried about being a dad while he was phasing. He almost went so far as to say that when and if Emily got pregnant, he would step down as Alpha, train up a new one, and stop phasing altogether. Then he and Emily would age together.
It was a great dream. But I knew exactly whom he was looking at to replace him and I didn't want it.
The Alpha approached me as I stood stiffly near the coffee machine. It smelled like used coffee grounds and made me want to throw up. Or maybe it was just waiting to see the twins.
"Quil said you'd agreed to take a break?"
"School's out in a couple of weeks; I could go then. How long will you give me?" I asked, not looking him in the eye. It hurt. Was I being told by my friend to give my heart a rest or being told I wasn't safe around the babies or being told to stay the hell away from my pack-brother's wife?
Sam leaned carefully against the snack machine. A bag of peanuts fell down without aid. Sam and I exchanged looks and flipped a nickel for it. I won. Sam grinned and shook his head and resumed our discussion. "Couple of weeks. Your sister's in Hawai'i, right? You could maybe go surfing? Or hiking?"
"Just away. I hear you, Sam. Fine. I'll go. But," I snapped, practically growling, "don't you or anyone else think I'm going to find my soul mate while I'm gone, okay?"
Sam's voice dipped low into a tub called Compassion as he put his hand on my shoulder. "Jake. We only want you to be happy. All of us. Even her." His eyes were direct. "I don't know if you'd be able to imprint, to tell you the truth. It's not mandatory. You might be a stronger wolf if you just find a girl to love. Someday."
I snorted, but my eyes smarted. I had a girl I loved. It was only that she was in love with someone else...
"Family of Embry and Isabella Call?" The bleached-blond nurse called softly into the waiting room, over the random soap opera music on the television. All of us from the pack turned as if we had one mind, even without phasing.
"That'd be us," I said after a moment. "Is – are they okay?"
Her eyes grew wide to see half a dozen of us – all tall, bronzed, short of hair and well-muscled – approaching her in a semi-circle. "Yeah. She went into labor, as you know, right? It was really fast."
"So how are the kids?" Sam asked, his voice even as always.
"Both of 'em are fine. Son and daughter. It'll be a while before you can see them, but mom and dad are doing great, too."
We all grinned and slapped one another on the back and laughed in relief. When Bella had gone into labor weeks early, we were all a little afraid. It was almost a rush to find out that everyone was all right.
"Good, good," I murmured, thinking of Embry's joy and Bella's relief.
In due time, we all got to see the twins through the observation window of the nursery. Quil was practically bouncing in his eagerness to be introduced to the kids; no one knew why. Maybe it was because he was imprinted on a preschooler?
"What're their names?" he demanded of Embry as soon as our brother pulled himself from Bella's side. He and Bella had promised each other not to name their children until after they were born.
Embry's eyes danced with warmth and a new maturity that made me envious. "Hennah was born first. Then, Hemeh," he told us, knowing we'd all be stumped.
"I'll bite," I huffed when no one else did; they all just stood there looking stupidly at the first pack papa. "What's with those names? We'd love 'em if you named them Jack and Jill, but ... Hennah and Hemeh? What?"
It was Sam who got it and he started to chuckle. "What, couldn't find a good Quileute name, Embry?"
"Mom's Makah, and the names are from the northern tribes, anyway." He rolled his eyes. "You try converting Quileute to English, O Mighty Alpha." His skin heated and I could feel the tension in his body, drawing him back to Bella. "Hennah sounds like the word for a singer. Closest I could get, anyway." His eyes took on an almost worshipful cast. "Her first cry, I'm telling you, was like a song. So we named her singer. Hennah. And my son –" He paused and none of us were surprised to see the gleam of tears. He took a quick breath and wiped at his face. "My son is already eating like a wolf. So we named him Hemeh. Probably wind up calling him Hemi."
"Like the engine?" Quil asked, laughing softly.
"I like it!" Paul said, grinning broadly.
Emily curled herself around Sam. "Very traditional of you, Embry. When do we get to meet Hennah and Hemeh?"
! O ! O !
You know how he is about being traditional. Comes from not knowing who his dad is and his mom freaking out about Bella and getting pregnant so young. He's just responding to all that, Sam was thinking while we ran patrol the night after the twins were born.
I puffed out a breath into the misty summer air. I know. But those are some out-there names. You're not going to get all traditional just because Joshua Uley left, are you?
Sam's mind flared with a brief flurry of memories, edged with betrayal and pain. No. But I do understand Embry. And I'm really glad Bella didn't make him name the kids like the town babies, he went on, trying to adjust his own mood.
Do you have plans for your vacation? the Alpha asked next.
California, yeah. Along the Big Sur. Great forests and beaches.
Sounds like here.
Yeah...but it won't be. And I won't have to listen to you! I chuffed a laugh.
Our run was silent after that. No vampires. No intruders. Only a couple of kids smoking some serious weed. We scared 'em a little.
I saw the kids a couple of weeks later, at the high school graduation, because they were in Embry's class. And, as we had heard in my brother's thoughts from when Bella told him they were going to have a baby, Embry did indeed have a child in his arms at graduation.
So did she. And the joy that emanated from both of them was almost too perfect for me to resent. Almost.
"Go on," Quil whispered as I stood back a ways from Embry and Bella. "Tell 'em good bye and get your furry ass to California. Find yourself a surfer girl and relax for a week, okay? Lucky you not to be imprinted, after all, huh? If I went, I'd be miserable."
I snorted but did as he advised. "Hey, Embry. Bella," I called, finding a smile and shoving it on my face. "Congrats, bro. And Bells," I went on, looking down into her glowing brown eyes, "the kids are beautiful," just like you, "and I'm real happy for you. For you both."
"Thanks Jake," she murmured, her smile faltering. Was I so damned transparent? Well, to her. Yeah. Dammit. She inhaled and then looked down to nuzzle her daughter, little Hennah. "I heard you're going on vacation?"
"Yep. Find some California sun and all that."
She chuckled. "Well you be safe, okay? Come back to us. Want to hold Hennah?"
I grinned and tucked the baby girl into my arms. She peered up at me through dark, serious eyes under a thatch of curly brown hair. "Hello, baby." Her little fist waved at me and my heart melted. "You watch out for your folks for me while I'm gone, okay? You're the firstborn and that's your job."
I said my goodbyes to Embry, too, making sure to give little Hemi a light noogie before I left. They were great babies, but even so...
I was sure as hell glad I didn't imprint on Hennah.
If you haven't already, please check out the companion story to this, called NEVER SAW THAT COMING. It's the story of Leah's imprint experience and runs on a concurrent timeline. It is, though, rated M for a reason!