Almost four years later….
I laughed as Aiden clambered up onto the bed, his little bronze legs dangling in the air as he struggled to pull his body up fully. I had woken up a couple times to hear the little fella trying to manipulate Bella into letting him upstairs to see me, but he should've known by now his mom was more savvy to his ways than that.
When he finished bouncing on top of me, his face a perfect mix of my eyes and Bella's pouty lips, I noticed Bella standing in the door with one of those lopsided grins on her face; the kind she always got when she watched us having some solo boy time. It had been almost twelve hours since I'd taken off for patrol, so my need for her was enough that I threw Aiden off me, getting a giggle out of him as tickled his stomach.
"Don't just stand there gawping at us, get your ass over here Bell"
It didn't take anymore than that to get her feet moving and I snuggled almost desperately into her warmth. Sometimes I wondered how she handled the pack vying for my attention so graciously. But I knew our time was precious, and so every chance I had, I would wrap myself around her and Aiden and feed from the strength they innately offered me.
Aiden clambered back onto my bare chest pulling me from my thoughts, but I kept one of my arms wrapped possessively around Bella, keeping her flush against my side.
"I hope you've been good for Momma today?"
I could see Aiden's face fall slightly. He was still so little, but he was becoming his own tiny person, and it was pretty clear he hated the idea of disappointing either one of us.
"Aiden was bad boy"
I bit my lip to keep from laughing. No doubt it had been a minor incident, after all I had heard an unusually hard tone come from Bella as they made their way upstairs, but it hadn't sounded too serious.
"Momma, what did Aiden do?"
I put on my serious Daddy face and turned to Bella.
"Aiden hit Mommy, didn't you Aiden"
It was something he'd recently started. He'd just turned three and though we'd scoffed when the terrible two's never came, it seemed like he was just waiting to spring it on us a little later. Suddenly he was testing our boundaries and while it was often more amusing than anything else, I knew it was something we needed to be firm on. It was just so funny that Aiden always ratted himself out first.
"And did you say sorry to your Momma?"
He looked at Bella for confirmation, then she rose to wrap her arms around him, tickling him as she positioned herself to sit behind him, her legs nestling my sides.
"Yes he did Daddy"
I didn't have the control to have her in this position and not think about things I didn't even want to entertain with Aiden around, so I lifted them both easily and turned to wrap my arms around them both on the bed.
"I swear you do that shit on purpose Bell"
She was now positioned on the other side of Aiden, who was nestled between us and her face lit up as she laughed aloud.
I could barely feel her finger as she prodded my side while spelling out each letter firmly. I pretended not to notice, acting like I was engrossed in Aiden and one of his many books he'd pulled from the side table, but I couldn't help the smile that drew up the corners of my mouth. It wasn't long before her little hand reached around Aiden to wrap around my own, pulling it over his body and holding it against her chest, close enough that I feel her heart beat powerfully into my skin.
I loved the moments like this when we actually managed to feel normal, even if it was just for a few hours of the day. It was amusing when only four years ago the pack's world had been wrapped around blood sucking nightmares and now, it circumnavigated the existence of a barely three year old boy. I was curious to see what would happen in a few weeks when Emily arrived at her due date and Aiden would no longer be the epicenter of the universe.
When a knock sounded loudly at the door, not one but three pairs of ears raised eagerly in response. I figured we were probably all thinking the same thing, or at least two of us were. This was the res, where wolves pushed through doors and raid fridges without even so much as an incline of the head. A knock on the door was practically royalty visiting in these parts.
Lifting my body from the bed, I looked back at Bella who was mimicking my actions, her eyebrows drawn down with concentration.
"It's Embry and Seth"
I knew she would probably be able to hear indistinct voices, but with my acute hearing I already knew who it was and what they wanted.
"Come on, let's go see what they want." Bella huffed slightly as she lifted herself from the bed. I knew she wouldn't be particularly happy about them being around, especially since Sam had just upped the patrol schedule last week and my time spent with her had been cut dramatically.
I lifted Aiden easily and threw him up and down as I followed Bella's slow progress down the stairs. I could barely believe that they were still waiting outside the front door, but then I remembered how Bella had blown up at Embry over some muddy footprints of her carpet last week and it suddenly made more sense.
Swinging open the door, I chuckled under my breath to see my two pack brothers standing side by side, their heads down as if Bella was about to put them in a time out.
I caught Embry nudging Seth in his ribs and finally he spoke up.
"Hey Bells, we were just wondering if Jared could come out tonight?"
I had to lift Aiden up to smother my laughter into his stomach, but the little fella didn't do me any favors.
"Daddy, stop, it tickles"
I peeked out from around him and saw Bella was now glaring at me, while Seth and Embry looked a little more relaxed in the doorway. I held up my hand and backed away a little, using Aiden as a human shield, his feet dangling in the air as Bella loomed ever forward.
"Jared Jacson, you put AJ down this instant!"
I knew a couple months ago she would have chased me around the house and this situation would have ended a very different way. But as she put her hands on his hips, emphasizing her swollen stomach, I knew she had me cornered.
I put Aiden down and he went running to Embry, who picked him up and immediately set him on his shoulders.
"Growl Uncle Em, Growl!"
Keeping an eye on the action by the door, I took the two strides necessary to get to Bella and then lifted her carefully into my arms. She was only four months gone and barely showing, but no matter how often she told me I was too cautious with her, I wasn't about to take any chances.
"What was that you were saying Mrs. Jacson?"
I loved using her new name and I wouldn't deny if anybody asked. I could still recall the waves of pride I'd felt when she signed that little piece of paper announcing her as mine to the world outside of La Push. I rubbed my nose up and down the length of her throat, breathing in her scent that was now forever mingled with mine.
I knew in a couple of minutes she would probably be angry with me again, but with Aiden occupied I wasn't going to miss the chance to have her in my arms.
"I thought the imprint thing was meant to wear off after a while?"
Both Bella and I lifted our heads to look at Seth in confusion, who was staring at us with a look of desperation in his eyes.
"Where'd you hear that?"
I knew he was about to shrug his shoulders and pass it off as nothing, so I raised my eyebrow, letting him know I wasn't going to let it go. He huffed but finally responded; "Just wishful thinking I guess."
Bella instantly pushed herself away from me and wrapped her arms around Seth. In the state she was in I would normally have growled at any guy even close to touching her, but even when she was pregnant with Aiden, Seth always had a free pass. I never quite figured if it was his age, or the fact that Bell saw him as a younger brother, but something about him didn't raise the protective alarm to my inner instincts.
"Seth, you know that you'll find your imprint."
She'd led him to the breakfast bar by now and I shook my head to see her obviously pulling out a chocolate cake that I knew she'd baked for herself. After all she'd hit my hand with the spoon so many times when making it, I was sure I would finally have a mark that wouldn't heal.
"Here, have some chocolate, it always makes me feel better."
Seth was already pulling the fork to his mouth, but I could see by the fact that the cake was still intact, he wasn't into it.
"But no-one's imprinted in years. What if that's it?"
I knew some of the guys, like Paul and Leah were more than happy to fill time with each other than find their imprints. But then there was Seth who was desperate to find his soul mate. I even knew from Embry's wolf thoughts that he was jealous of the guys with girls to go home to. After all we weren't kids anymore, Seth was turning twenty this year and it was tough to keep up hope when you were saving yourself for someone who might never come.
"Of course you will Seth, you watch, she'll might even be there tonight…"
I was shaking my head behind his back trying to get her attention, but either Bella didn't see, or she didn't truly understand how much she was getting his hopes up by saying something like that to him. After all it wasn't like she'd ever been in his mind.
"… and you'll have Jared with you to help look, won't he baby!"
I didn't know what out of her words I should respond to, the fact that she was saying I should go with them after a whole week of me convincing her I didn't want her left alone when she was pregnant, or that I was going to be Seth's wingman.
"Bell. Can I have a word?"
By the look on her face I knew she was already resolved and probably wouldn't let me get a word in edge ways, but I had to try.
"No, you have to go get ready and anyway, Sam will appreciate me keeping Emily company."
I thought about my options; I could ask either Jake or Sam to order her to change her mind, but I wasn't sure it was worth having to sleep on the couch for the next five months.
"Bella?" I walked towards her, but she just backed up behind Seth, seeing my intent.
"No way mister. You don't get to convince me like that. Now go upstairs and get changed, you at least need a shirt and some shoes."
I showered and dressed as quickly as possible, all the while thinking of ways to convince her that this wasn't the best option. By the time I was downstairs though, I didn't have much choice as now not only did I have Seth and Embry in my living room, but a heavily pregnant Emily and Sam, with Aiden in his arms. I didn't see how I was going to convince Bella I couldn't leave her alone, especially when Sam was going out and Emily was close to popping.
I sighed loudly and ran a hand through my wet hair that Bella had recently cut for me.
"Hey Emily. How're you feeling?"
I stepped just a little closer to her, but was cautious to keep my distance, knowing it wasn't a wise move to touch her with Sam in the room.
"I'm good thanks Jared, a bit bored though since someone won't even let me cook anymore." Emily sent a pointed glare at Sam and I laughed, but I knew where he was coming from and in my head I was mentally calculating how long it would be before Bella would finally let me take care of her.
Just thinking of Bella in those last stages of pregnancy when she would be all round and breathtaking, I needed to be close to her. So even though I knew she would chastise me for it later, I picked her up from the sofa where she was happily chatting with Emily and sat back down with her in my lap.
I gave her my pleading eyes and without a word she nestled down into me, before continuing where she left off with her conversation. I rubbed my hands absently across her stomach and allowed my mind to drift into how long I could acceptably stay at the bar tonight without the pack or Bella being pissed at me and finally decided on two hours.
"Alright buddy time for bed"
I didn't think it had been barely two minutes since I'd sat down, but as I glanced up at the clock I could see that over thirty minutes had passed. I was at least grateful to be able to put Aiden to bed before I had to leave.
Lifting myself and Bella from the sofa, I gently set her feet down on the floor before catching a laughing Aiden, as he ran wildly towards me.
"Alright little man, time for bed, say goodnight to everyone"
He called out his goodbyes and made sure I let him give Embry a high five, before we walked upstairs to his bedroom. The house wasn't big by any standards but when I found out Bella was pregnant the first time around I'd added an extension onto the first floor so our kids could have their own room.
"Momma, will you read the one about the t-rex"
I knew some of the guys pushed wolves on him like you wouldn't believe, but my kid was a one hundred percent dino freak. I wouldn't have it any other way either, he was going to have it tough enough being brought up in a world full of monsters and legends. Just thinking about the conversations we were going to have with him in a few years hurt my head, so the less obsessed with wolves he was, in my opinion, the better.
I listened to Bella's dulcet tones as she read the story that he'd asked for every night for the past week and imagined what stories our little girl would ask for when she was old enough.
"Daddy, I'm sleepy"
Aiden was a dream kid when it came to bedtimes, probably because the guys ran him ragged all day, so more often than not he was the one kicking us out of his room. We both dropped down to plant little kisses on his face and then we backed out of the room quietly, pulling the door closed behind us. Seeing my opportunity with no-one to back up her words, I pulled Bella's body gently to my chest and spoke softly in her ear.
"I don't want to leave you alone Bella. I know you think I'm being overprotective, but I can't help it. I just need to be around you right now."
However, I knew what she would say before it was out of her mouth.
"And what about patrolling, huh? You seem fine leaving me then." The tone of her voice wasn't angry or raised, she was simply laying out the facts for me to see.
"You know Sam had to order me and anyway, you know I'm not fine with it."
Not a day went by where I didn't have to bribe one of the guys to go over and check up on her, and as much as it irritated her, I knew she secretly liked knowing how much I cared about her, about all three of them.
"I know. But I think you'll regret it if you don't go, after all it's Sam's last night."
I knew she was right and even though Sam might understand, he would probably be a little upset if I didn't at least show for a while. I sighed loudly and kissed along the expanse of her neck which she had on show for me, lightly nipping at my mark on her.
"Mmmmm, enough of that!"
I kissed her one last time and relented, knowing that she wouldn't be so unresponsive later when it was just the two of us. I didn't carry her down the stairs because I knew how much it irritated her, but I did beat her there so if she did fall, she wouldn't have far to go.
"Are you ready?"
Seth's eyes had brightened up considerably and it reminded me that I would have to have a word with Bella about raising his expectations. Thinking of the girl I would be leaving behind I whipped around and sealed my lips to hers, just as she was gasping at my sudden movement. It was just fine by me as I immediately searched out her tongue with my own, as I pulled her body against mine.
A couple seconds later a few grunts indicated to me my time was up and I pulled back. Her flushed cheeks and darkened eyes made me smile broadly and as I walked towards the door I looked back once.
"I won't be long, if you need anything…"
I left it there, knowing both Bella and Emily knew exactly where to find me. After all there was only one bar in the whole of La Push and only one in the State of Washington owned and run by the pack.
"Alright Sammy, let's go get you loaded!"
As Embry's voice boomed into the air, I didn't know how Sam was holding it together knowing his girl was back there and he was off on a serious night out. But then again it wasn't his fault that Jake had taken until the last minute to finally accept his calling and allowed Sam to step down as Alpha. There had been a couple of weeks where a few of the guys were seriously concerned Sam might just step down anyway and as the next to phase and the most ferocious fighter, Paul would be the natural choice for the next Alpha. I tried not to let my feelings known about that option, because even though Paul and I had long surpassed our issues with each other, he was still a loner and as far as I was concerned only really listened to Leah. It was going to be an interesting couple of weeks to see what happened after tonight when Sam finally stepped down.
The walk to the bar was short and though the guys were in high spirits, there wasn't much said in the way of conversation. When finally the little shack came into view, I quite rightly couldn't believe my eyes. With Bella pregnant and pack duties, I was only involved on the peripheries, but in the two days since I'd been here last, the place had been transformed.
The parking lot had been completely cleared of all the junk that had been tossed out of the crumbling building, along with all of the remnants of materials they had used in bringing this place up to code. It didn't look like a jobsite anymore, it looked like a small town bar, with a big flashing blue sign above the door 'Harry's Place'.
I looked over at Seth to see his eyes gleaming slightly as he peered up at the sign. But he didn't linger, he didn't have a chance, as Embry punched him in the arm. Seth nodded once in response, showing his thanks.
"Alright guys, first round's on me"
I strode up to the bar as I passed by the empty tables and chairs. The place was ready to open, but the pack was holding a little private celebration here before the official opening in an hour. Leah was standing behind the bar with a shirt emblazoned with 'Harry's' on it and I could see just how happy she was to be wearing it.
"You guys want a pack special?"
Her eyes looked dangerous as she grinned at us all, but I decided it was worth the risk and ordered four, watching as she loaded up glasses with shot after shot of liquor. It took a fuck load for us to feel anywhere near wasted with our metabolisms running as fast as they did, but this looked worthy of a chance if any drink ever did.
The murky brown concoction burned my nose as I took a first sip and reminded me of battery acid as it trailed down my throat. Leah was already laughing at the four of us, then she whipped out her own glass of murky gunk and threw it back in one.
"That's how it's done boys!"
I looked over at Seth who I knew wasn't about to let his sister's challenge slide, as he threw his own drink back before slamming the glass down, even though he looked about to retch. Embry followed suit and I wasn't going to sit back and look like the pack bitch, so I threw back my own drink and then ordered a beer, to boos and cat calls from the other guys. I didn't care though, I'd drunk the worst that Leah could throw at me, but it didn't mean I was going to try and get wasted just for the sake of it.
I laughed as Sam, Embry and Seth ordered up another and finally the door started to open and close, bringing Jake and Quil and the pack numbers up to seven.
"Hey Jake, where's Ang?"
Jake lifted a hand to Leah who happily threw one of her concoctions at him, before looking back at me a little unhappily.
"She gave Bells a call before we left and found out she'd convinced you to leave, so she decided this should be a boys only night."
I caught an insolent '"Hey" from Leah, but Jake didn't even flinch.
"Sorry man, I don't even plan on staying too long, but Bella all but kicked me out."
Jake looked at me sharply and then spoke, "You'll be lucky if she doesn't lock the door until closing, I know Bella when she gets an idea in her head, she's stubborn."
I nodded my head in agreement knowing he was probably right.
"So, you think this place is going to get a lot of business tonight?"
Jake just shook his head and I although I didn't say it, I agreed with him.
We were both wrong. By ten thirty the place was filled to the rafters. I knew as a member of the pack I was pretty insular, but I could still recognize all of the residents of La Push and most of Forks. Whoever had been doing the promo for this place needed a raise.
Through all the noise I could no longer hear my phone ringing so I couldn't help pulling it out of my pocket every two minutes to check Bella hadn't called. Screw this, I thought. I was barely managing to communicate anyway and half the pack was off scamming on girls, leaving Leah and Seth to work the bar and the imprinted guys to huddle in a corner.
"Sorry guys, but I think I'm gonna head out." I knew my words would be met by derision, but it didn't matter, my mind was already set.
"Seriously, Bellas fine"
I laughed at Jake, who eyes lacked their usual focus, but even though both he and Sam had been drinking all night and were more drunk than I'd ever seen either of them, his tone lacked any assertion.
I walked around finding as many of the guys as I could, but I stopped trying when all I got was lighthearted abuse. Waving to Leah and Seth, I stepped out into the cool night and jogged back down the street to our home.
"Baby I'm home"
"Ssssshhhh!" I hadn't noticed how dark the room was, but as my eyes trailed over the two passed out figures on the couch, I took in Angela's angry glare.
"Sorry Ang, I didn't realize." Appeased by my whispering, she smiled at me lightly. Four years on I still didn't know Jake's imprint too well, but I did know she had a good heart.
I kneeled down next to her chair aligning my eyes with hers.
"Why don't you head over to the bar and catch up with Jake, I can't imagine you're having too much fun here."
I was shocked when she didn't take me up on the offer though, instead she shook her head.
"Nah I'm fine, at least he'll be happier knowing you're here now, but he deserves a boys night. You take Bella to bed, I'll keep an eye on Em."
I looked uncertainly between the two sleeping girls, both looking as uncomfortable as the other all scrunched up on the couch and I couldn't help but think of them in nearly this very same position back when Bella didn't even know I'd imprinted on her. Looking over their swollen stomachs it made me smile to think how far we'd come.
Angela must have felt I was uncertain because the next thing I knew she was pushing my shoulder with her weak little hand and saying "Go, seriously, I know how little time you get to spend with her."
I threw her my best grin and thanked her before lifting Bell and carrying her up to our room. Before temptation gripped me, I jogged back down the stairs and lifted Emily into a more comfortable position. I grabbed the throw that I always used to wrap around Bella and laid it gently over her body.
"Can I get you a blanket or anything Ang?"
There was no reply though, just a soft smile and a shaking head. I pulled out one of the spare throws anyway and put it on the table in front of her, knowing the new Alpha would kill me if he came home and she was cold or uncomfortable.
I took her words as my cue to leave and with one last goodnight, drifted up the stairs and back to my love. She was right where I'd left her and I had to readjust the covers around her to accommodate my frame.
I counted to three in my mind and on the final count, just as I knew she would, Bell turned in her sleep and lifted her leg over my body, pulling me to her.
I tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and wrapped my arms around her and just as I was about to drift into oblivion I whispered softly in her ear. "I love you Mrs. Jacson."
Something woke me up and instinctively I raised my head and listened intently to see if I could hear Aiden, but he was sleeping gently. Just as I was about to lay my head down again, I realized it was my phone vibrating wherever I had left my pants.
I gently lifted Bella leg and scrambled to the edge of the bed. Thankfully I didn't have to move far as I reached down and silenced the irritating buzz.
"What's up Emb?"
The other line was silent for the longest moment and I could hear shuffling in the background, but couldn't figure out it's origins.
"Dude, you missed a crazy night!"
I sighed hoping this wasn't all he'd woken me up for.
"You're never gonna believe what happened man…"
I didn't want to wake Bella, so with the harshest whisper I could manage, I interrupted his excitement.
"Seriously Embry, just get to the point"
Some more shuffling came at me from Embry's end and I was about to hang up when he spoke again.
"Fine, but you asked for it. Paul imprinted, but that's not even the worst part. He took the girl home right in front of Leah."
I hung up. No doubt Embry would be pissed at me tomorrow but it didn't matter. Right now all I wanted was to hold Bella and forget that there was another world out there that didn't include her or Aiden. As I hit the red button knowing I would also be on Jake's shit list if he tried to contact me, I heard Bella mumble behind me.
"What's going on? Do you have to go?"
I shuffled right in next to her and lifted her leg back around me before kissing her once and then again. I drifted off to sleep with her locked in my embrace, as I whispered soothing words assuring her if it were up to me, I would never leave her side again.
a/n: I know it's be a long long time since I put IOT to bed, but the idea of an epilogue has been running in hamster wheels through my mind ever since. That being said I hope you enjoyed it. Not only is it a final goodbye to Bella and Jared telling their story, but it's also a little intro into my next wolfpack fic. There are so many parts of this universe that I believe in, so I finally decided that my next story with Paul/OC will take place leading on from here. I'm currently wrapped up in my Bella/Jasper fic, but I plan to start posting in about two weeks time, so if you're interested in seeing more, please keep your eyes open.
A BIG thank you to all of you who've read, reviewed and loved this story. I don't know how I still get so many people reading it each day, but each time I log onto ff it makes me all fuzzy and happy to know how much IOT has been appreciated. If you'd like to join me on twitter, to hear me ramble through the days please head over to my profile page for the address.
Until we meet again. xxx LVN