Disclaimer: I don't own the Twilight Saga or any of the characters in the story.

Chapter Forty

Six Months Later

Bella could hear the music from the front yard as she pulled up in front of Billy Black's house with her father. She giggled as he fiddled with his tie for what must've been the thousandth time.

"You look fine dad," Bella chastised him, but he gave her his own look when he caught her adjusting her white sundress dress once again. Bella blushed a bit, and rolled her eyes at her father, "Oh shut up. Come on, he's probably going nuts by now."

"It's only been a half an hour since you said goodbye to him," Charlie grumbled as they walked across the grass around to the back of the house.

"Yes, but it's been almost five hours since he touched me. When we didn't have to play the student teacher role," Bella pointed out. Charlie said something else under his breath that she couldn't quite make out, but left the conversation alone. Bella knew that he still wasn't grasping the student-teacher relationship, but he accepted that Jacob was her mate without a doubt. However she suspected that now Jake was graduated he wouldn't have as much of a problem with it.

As they finally came around the back of the house, Bella took in the sight. Three large picnic tables lined up end to end in the middle of the yard and another line of tables held an immense amount of food that Emily and Bella had slaved over for the past few days. There was a giant speaker system set up with music blaring from it.

The entire pack was standing around, all chatting happily and soaking up the rare sunlight that had showed up for Jacob's graduation day. Bella's eyes searched through the group of tall tanned boys who had all managed to put on their best clothes to support their brothers that had graduated. Finally out of the crowd came her Jacob running towards her, an enormous smile on his face.

Beaming back at him she suddenly found herself swung up in his strong arms, crushed against his body with his lips pressed tightly against her own. Gripping his hair with her small hands she tugged him even closer as she kissed him back with everything she had.

A throat was cleared next to them and they broke apart reluctantly to see Charlie shifting from foot to foot, muttering something about finding Billy. Bella giggled quietly and hid her blush against Jake's (for once), shirt clad shoulder. She heard Jake's deep chuckle and pulled back to see his smiling face again. The happiness that radiated off of the pair of them was possibly enough to generate the entire city of Seattle for a month.

"You did it," Bella said to him.

"We did it. I wouldn't have done it without you," Jake corrected her, kissing her sweetly on the forehead. Humming happily Bella closed her eyes while Jake's lips drifted to her ear.

"Just so you know, I'm planning on destroying that god damn dress when we get home. Do you know what kind of torture you put me through today, wearing that thing when you knew I couldn't touch you for hours?" his voice rumbled quietly while his teeth grazed her earlobe.

"I can only hope that's a promise," Bella managed to breathe back to him. Jake growled again and then gently let her back down to the ground. Taking her hand in his they began walking deeper into the crowd.

Bella was greeted by the pack as she passed them, and she congratulated Embry, Quil, Kim and Jared on their diplomas. Leah complimented her dress… Well, if calling her a "panty dropping machine" could be considered a compliment. But for Leah, that was all Bella had come to expect.

Leah and her had grown much closer over the months that had passed since Jake had imprinted on her. She had started taking college classes in Seattle at nights and she'd even met a nice boy named Brian. From what Bella had been told by Leah it wasn't anything more than fucking, but Bella could see the small spark in Leah's eye when Brian was brought up in conversation. Not that she'd ever point it out.

When Bella's eyes landed on Emily she nearly ran over to her.

"Where's my little man?" Bella asked as she drew closer, her eyes stuck on the little bundle in Emily's arms. Emily had given birth just three months ago to a healthy baby boy whom was named affectionately after Sam's father Joshua.

Bella had not yet admitted it to anyone, but a strange feeling ran up her spine every time she saw Emily or Sam holding little Joshua. He had a tiny head full of jet black hair and round light brown eyes like his mother with beautiful bronze skin. Bella could imagine if his eyes were a deeper brown and Jacob holding him…

Bella stopped herself. She'd have to control these thoughts if she wanted to keep them from Jake. It wasn't exactly like it was that big of a secret, but she didn't quite want him to know how badly she wanted a child yet. After all, he was only nineteen and had just graduated.

"Oh Joshie, look who's here!" Emily smiled widely as she held her arms out to Bella. Gently transferring the bundle into her waiting arms, Bella began cooing down at the adorable baby boy.

"He's been such a bugger today! Barely slept for an hour before the party. It's like he already doesn't want to miss a good party with all of his Uncles," Emily pretended to be angry with her son, but her eyes never lost the doting look in them.

"Oh, Josh, have you been misbehaving for mommy? I bet it's because you knew Aunt Bella was coming, huh?" Bella stage whispered to the infant and Jake laughed beside her.

"Yeah, right… It's cause he knew that he'd have time with his favorite uncle," he said quickly, looking over Bella's shoulder down into the tiny bronze face. He didn't want to admit it at that time, but the image of Bella holding the tiny baby boy in her delicate arms stirred something deep inside of his wolf. Pushing it back deep down inside of him, he kissed Bella on top of the head and told her that he was going to go and find Quil and Embry.

"Okay, love you," Bella said.

"Love you too, honey," he replied before he went to find his friends.

"So Bella, when are you returning the favor and giving Josh a playmate?" Emily asked casually, giving Bella a smirk as she spoke. Bella rolled her eyes and cooed at Josh some more.

"If I don't respond then it means you didn't say anything," Bella snarked back at her friend with her own smirk, making Emily laugh out loud.

"Don't be like that Bella… I can see the way you look at this little man. Not to mention I see the way Jake looks at you while you're holding him. You two are basically screaming parenthood," Emily commented. Bella shook her head, her long hair falling over her shoulders.

"Emily… Jake just got out of high school… We aren't even married yet. I just don't think we're ready for that yet," she replied.

"What're we talking about?" Leah suddenly butted in, holding two solo cups in her hands.

"Bella was trying to convince me that she isn't ready for kids yet," Emily rolled her eyes and Bella glared at her.

"Oh please, Swan. You're a fucking pro with that little monster," Leah nodded at Joshua and Bella laughed.

"It's not about how good of a parent I'll be. It's about deciding to do this when Jake and I are both ready for it," she said back to her friend, handing Josh back to his mother and taking the other cup of beer out of Leah's hands.

"Alright, whatever you say," Emily said smiling like she knew some kind of secret, "I'm going to go feed him and see if I can't get him to sleep for a while. Do you mind making sure no one destroys anything for a while?"

"Of course, Em. Take your time!" Bella called as the woman disappeared into Billy's house, followed shortly by Sam.

"So how does it feel to be dating a high school graduate?" Leah asked with a wolfish look.

"When you say it like that it sounds creepy," Bella grumbled and took a sip of her beer. Unconsciously she smoothed down the material of her dress again.

"Stop fumbling you look fine," Leah snapped light heartedly. She had turned into the friend that had no problem telling Bella when she was doing something annoying. "Try to at least act like you want to be at this party rather than jumping Jake. Do you get turned on with the whole cap and gown thing, Swan?" Leah snorted and Bella gaped at her. She smacked Leah's shoulder although it probably had less of an effect on her than she had wanted.

"Don't be disgusting… It's just been a while since we've been alone," Bella trailed off and Leah snorted with laughter again.

"It's been less than twelve hours," she replied and Bella gave her a look. Leah finally stopped laughing and she patted Bella on the shoulder, "I sometimes forget what you guys have gone through. You've just come so far in such a short time, you know? I can't remember the last time that Jake threw a hissy fit over one of the other guys touching you or when he felt like he had to wait outside the bathroom door for you to finish. Seems like only yesterday."

Bella laughed a little bit unable to help herself. It was true that they had come a very long way. She could only just this month be able to fully be away from Jake for any length of time. And even then it was still nerve wracking for anything over a couple of hours. However they both understood that they couldn't lock themselves away in their home no matter how appealing the idea was.

Bella's scars had also healed on her arms. No one pointed them out any longer, which was a good thing because she was starting to run out of stories to tell them. And long sleeves to wear. The skin was slightly lower temperature there than anywhere else and Jake had told her that he could see them pretty well, but since he was a supernatural being, she wasn't surprised.

"Yeah… It's been six months, huh?" Bella said, almost a little taken aback by how quickly the time had passed.

"Yep," Leah replied. The both of them took large sips of the beer in their hands and surveyed the party quietly for a minute.

"How many months do you give Jared and Kim?" Bella asked, looking at the young girl as she nestled into her imprint's chest while he talked to Paul about something.

"Until they get married or pop out a kid? Cause they fuck almost as much as Emily and Sam do… Although you and Jake are in first place for sure," Leah commented off-handed, and Bella sent her another glare.

"Not that long… Probably a few months tops. Jared and the other guys will probably start working and didn't Kim say she wanted to take a few community college classes in Port Angeles?" Bella nodded to Leah's question, "Yeah… Probably a few months."

"It's just so soon! They only just graduated!" Bella flapped her hands at them and spoke softly. Leah shrugged at her, looking Bella straight in the eye.

"I know that you more than the other imprints understand how closely we are tied with our wolves. The wolf is always there, and for our entire lives it's going to be dictating what we truly want. The wolf doesn't want four years of college. They want to be close to home so that they can protect those that we love. They want to have their mate, settled, happy and pushing out babies every other year. And of course they want food… It's not that big of a list," Leah stated firmly.

Bella mulled over this thought for a while as they stood, watching the party. It wasn't until Jake had come back to Bella with a plate of food for her and had guided her away from Leah that she had realized how much the thought consumed her.

She could remember back when she had first met Jacob and he had told her that his future was the reservation. He was the future Chief. He was the future of the reservation. And technically, so was she. At least in some small part. While getting an education had been Bella's main priority at his age, that was not what he was destined for.

Protect the pack. Protect the mate. Create a family. Protect the family.

It was a simple list. Too Simple.

And that's what scared Bella.

"Alright… You haven't said anything in ten minutes and you've barely eaten anything. What's bothering you, honey?" Jake's voice startled Bella out of her thoughts and she looked at his handsome but concerned face.

"I'm sorry, Jake! I was just thinking about something Leah said earlier," Bella replied hastily and quickly shoveled some food into her mouth. She did not want to have the "get married-have babies" conversation with her father only a few feet away.

Jake's eyes narrowed and she could feel him slip further into his alpha persona.

Ever since the incident six months ago, although the wolf had calmed down concerning his mate, Jake had made the observation of how much more in tune he was with his wolf. It was easier for him to tap into the control and power of the alpha persona without phasing into his alternate form. It was comforting to the wolf that Jake was now more able to protect his mate in his human form not to mention control his pack better. And while he had gotten a bit shorter, his height had never truly gone back to normal.

"Seriously, babe. I'm fine," Bella said to him around a bite of potato salad. She had to control the urge not to cringe. She hated potato salad.

"No you aren't, because you just took a bite of potato salad off of my plate to avoid talking about it. You think I don't know that you hate potato salad?" Jake's deep voice rumbled in her ear as he set her with a level look.

Bella whimpered slightly at the alpha tone he'd used on her, but gave him a reassuring look.

"Please trust me that it's nothing that can't wait until later. I promise if it starts to bother me too much I'll tell you," Bella said to him, although her mate did not look entirely convinced, "Really, I swear it's nothing bad. Just something to think about."

Finally after another moment Jake nodded his agreement to her promise, and began to dig into the three plates of food he'd brought over for himself. Bella tried to be discreet about the breath of relief that she let out, and started to nibble on the potato chips Jake had put on her plate full of food.

With those thoughts swirling around her head, the party started to feel ages longer than it actually was.

She had listened to the speeches made about the graduates and had endearingly kissed Jake on the cheek after his father had toasted to his accomplishments both in school and in the pack. She had talked to Sue Clearwater about a pack dinner over the summer. Billy had cornered her and commissioned her to start helping Jake remember the old stories so that he could start taking over and telling them to the new imprints, if there were any. Her own father had made her flip hamburger patties for almost half an hour while he'd been inside watching the end of some kind of "Big Game". And all the while her mate had kept an eye on her, waiting for her to crack and tell him what was truly wrong.

It wasn't until they were finally back in their small cottage that Bella had groaned in exhaustion, collapsing face down onto their bed with her shoes still on. Jake laughed under his breath at his mate and gently picked up one foot and wiggled off her shoe, repeating the process on the other side.

Bella sighed into the sheets as Jake's fingers trailed up the back of her calves, underneath the material of her dress. Turning her head she blurted out exactly what had been on her mind all afternoon.

"Do you want to get married?" Bella rushed out in one breath and then clasped a hand over her mouth. Jake had froze and Bella crawled up onto the bed, sitting against the opposite wall so that she could take in her mate's reaction.

He looked confused. His brows pulled together and his lips slightly pursed. His hands were still frozen where her body had been only a few seconds earlier.

"Was that a proposal, Bells?" Jake asked finally after a long moment of silence.

Bella sighed and blushed deeply as Jake still just stood there, "Well… Not exactly. I was just wondering where you stood on this. Are you only saying you don't want to get married yet because you think it's going to make me happy?" Bella managed to get out the words, twisting her fingers nervously while Jake looked at her, still stunned but also slightly amused.

"Bells, I'll always want you to be happy… But that doesn't mean I also won't consider what I want. What brought this on?" Jake asked slowly, coming to sit down on the edge of the bed, reaching for Bella's legs.

"Jared and Kim, and Leah. Ugh Leah! And Billy and my dad! They all just! It's so confusing, and the wolf thing. With the protect the family thing. And mating. I just don't know what to do. But I guess I want it too, and little Joshua. It's all just so fast, but I don't think I'd regret it, you know?" Bella rushed and her mate stared at her silently.

"You're going to have to speak a little slower and maybe speak a language I understand this time…" Jake looked her dead in the eye, barely holding in his laughter at her outburst. Blushing madly, Bella huffed and made a move to get off the bed, only to be caught around the waist by Jake. He gently pressed her back onto the bed and hovered his body above hers.

"Hey, come on now, I was just kidding around. Take a deep breath and tell me what you're thinking. Slower this time," Jake murmured to her, his deep brown eyes completely earnest.

Bella did as he said and took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment and then looked into his fathomless gaze.

"Leah was talking about how Jared and Kim will probably get married soon. She said that Jared doesn't really want to go to college. That he's content with just making a home and having a mate and being able to build and protect his family. And then I remembered back on that first day when I met you, you went off about how the reservation is your future. And obviously I understand that much more now than back then, but I wondered if you felt the same as Jared. If you wanted to settle down so soon? If you were content with that idea," Bella finished quietly, her eyes drifting away from her mates.

Gently Jake's fingers turned her face back towards his and leaned down to give her a passionate kiss to her lips.

Pulling back his eyes met hers as he spoke, "Bella Swan, the moment I laid eyes on you and learned you were my imprint, I wanted to settle down, have little babies with you and make sure that you were happy for the rest of your life. Speaking honestly, that hasn't changed for even a second since that day in your classroom when you called me out on being a dick. And I know that it will never change. However, just because me and my wolf want that, doesn't mean that you need to feel like you have to be ready to go. This is your life too, and our top priority is to make you happy. If that means we never have kids, so be it. If that means we don't get married for a few years, that's fine too. Don't worry so much, honey. Just be with me, and that will make us happy."

Bella stared at her mate for a long moment and found herself crying at his words. Jake's face was suddenly horrified as he wiped away the moisture.

"Oh, honey! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you or anything. I just wanted to tell you what I thought, honestly!" Jake began to console her and she batted at him with her hands.

"No you silly wolf! I'm happy," Bella managed to wail, throwing her arms around his neck as he pulled her body into his. His hot hands stroked down her back as she cried into his black button up shirt that he'd bought for graduation.

"Christ, Bells you're scaring me," Jake said to her with laughter in his voice. Bella couldn't contain the giggles that bubbled up her throat as she pulled back and looked into Jake's eyes.

He gave her his sunny smile. The one she knew was hers. And she smiled back.

"So if I happened to have a ring in my pocket right now, and I asked you to marry me, you'd say yes?" Jake asked her with a smirk and Bella's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates.

Stuttering for words, Bella stared at her mate, but then he began to laugh out loud. Deep resounding laughter echoed in their small house and Bella questioned his sanity while trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

"Don't worry Bells, I don't have a ring in my pocket right now. But it's nice to know that you're ready for when I do," Jake continued to laugh at her reaction and Bella rolled her eyes.

"Shut up, Jacob Black. Now I'm rethinking this… I don't think I'm going to be ready for marriage or babies for a long, long time," Bella teased him and he sobered up slowly, a smirk still on his face.

"Well then, we should probably still practice the whole baby-making process so when the time comes we're totally prepared," he grinned at her wolfishly.

Before Bella could protest, Jake had swept her lips into a fiery kiss, laying claim to her body and soul. In that moment Bella knew that no matter when they got married, or when they had kids they would always be Jake and Bells. He owned her, and she owned him. It was exactly how it was when he had first laid eyes on her, and she knew it would be that way for the rest of their lives.

The End

It is with a heavy heart that I finally click the "complete" button for this story. However, all things must come to an end at some point.

I would like to thank every single person who reviewed, both those who signed in and those who were just guests. Your comments were inspiring and helped me to finish this story! I never imagined that I would get such a big reaction to this story and I'm truly thankful for everyone who followed along for this journey!

Keep your eyes peeled for new stories/writing from me and I hope to hear from all of you again when I start on another epic adventure through fiction!

Endless love and appreciation,

-W. M. Hunt