A/N: I have come to really appreciate the people who have supported my writing. I didn't think I made the promise to continue this, but then I read somewhere that I had. So even though it has been nearly a year, I will keep that promise and continue this story.
I wanted to give out a huge thank you to Aunt Bran who was the beta and pre-reader for this story and to MargotTenser for pre-reading.
Thank you to Lady of Spain for the beautiful cover image.
Disclaimer (for fanfiction): 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.
The door closed quietly as Jared left; Leah sighed thinking of what had transpired. The imprint died, and yet it left such damage in its wake. She looked over at Embry, who had aged several years since he heard the truth. Both the realization of Billy fathering him and the role of alpha falling on him weighed heavily on her husband's shoulders.
The wail of the triplets became louder. She put her hand on Embry's shoulder as he leaned heavily against the door, his head pressed upon it. Torn, Leah's gaze shifted from her husband to her crying children upstairs. Finally, Embry pushed his palms on the frame to lift himself up from his sagging position, standing upright.
"Come on," he said tiredly. "The noise is going to wake up the neighbourhood if we don't feed those three."
Holding his hand she felt something she had never experienced in human form, an aching from him. Rage, sorrow and fear swirled in him. Right now, her crying babies took priority but she couldn't help but wonder at the effects of the last twenty-four hours.
Something had inexplicably changed between her and Embry.
Embry's emotions quieted as soon as they walked into the bedroom, and she didn't have to sense it to know his love for his children. As soon as he walked into the bedroom, he saw his three crying children and smiled tenderly at them. In his large arms, he held two of them, while Leah took the third. Little Ephraim was fussing with hunger, but the other two quieted with their father's low hum.
"I promise you," he whispered so quietly Leah barely heard. "I will never do to you what Billy did to Jacob. I will always be faithful to you and your mother."
Leah's heart fluttered. For years she'd dreaded the thought of Embry imprinting - so much so, she held him at an arm's length. Embry always fought for their love. Her fear never lay in him leaving her for someone else, but rather in the real possibility of the imprint killing him.
She never doubted Embry….not once.
They sailed on his gentleness like calm waves beneath her fiery storm. But a part of her wondered if Sarah held the same confidence in Billy, and the thought caused her grief. Even so, she appreciated Embry. Loyal, steady and dedicated, she married one of the best type of man-much like a faithful dog..she giggled...or wolf.
Embry raised an eyebrow at her. As if he read her thoughts, he gave a little "woof, woof". She fed the babies with Embry's help. Leah sighed. She initially wanted to name her daughter after her own mother. Ironically, Sue really preferred for her granddaughter to be named after her deceased best friend, Sarah. Now she wondered how Tiffany felt about her granddaughter's name.
She saw Embry shake his head at her, and she knew he wanted to keep the name as a tribute to a woman who acted like a second mother to his wife. Jacob gave his blessing a long time ago to use his mother's name. Now she hoped he still felt the same way.
Soon all three children closed their eyes at the exact same time. Lovingly, she put the two boys in their crib, but Embry hugged Sarah close.
"You are going to spoil her if you let her sleep in your arms all the time," Leah whispered softly.
He smiled sheepishly to her, "Can you take her place then?"
Leah nodded, as he rocked his daughter one more time, and placed her gently in the crib beside her brothers. He then lay on the bed, carrying Leah with him and snuggling her on his chest.
"I didn't like the way Sam looked at you today," he admitted with a grumble.
She chuckled softly, "I wouldn't expect anything less of you, but I have no interest in Sam. I only love you, Embry."
He nipped at her nose. "You always know what to say." He took a deep breath. "Things are different. We never imprinted, but now it's like our bond is so much stronger. I can't hear your thoughts, but I can feel what you feel. I also saw a picture of a dog, when you thought of one."
"Really?" she asked curiously. "Let me try, you think of something."
An image formed of the two of them entwined and very involved with one another. She blushed a crimson red. "Embry."
"I know...it's too soon," Embry kissed her. "You know I love you, and no matter what you think, we chose each other."
She shook her head, "I think you are telling yourself more than me, Embry. I can feel your insecurity. I did choose you; you are much better for me than Sam ever was or could be. You don't need to feel unsure."
Embry hugged her closer to him. "It scares me because if it wasn't for imprinting, you'd be married to Sam."
Leah kissed her shoulder. "You mean, I'd be divorced from Sam, or I wouldn't have married him at all. I honestly don't think Sam and I would have worked out, not really, not like you and I."
"I still think you'd be married to him," he muttered.
Leah pressed both of her hands on the side of his face, making him look at her. "I love you. You have to know that and trust that."
"Do you think that's how Sarah felt?" Embry pulled away, sitting up, his head in his hands.
"I'm not Billy," she fumed with frustration. "I am not going to cheat on you. I have faith in you; why can't you have the same faith in me?"
Embry began to shake and Leah worried about him phasing right there, but instead his tremors subsided. "I am projecting...I am just so upset that Billy would do that to his wife."
Leah softened, feeling Embry's love for her flow into her very veins. "I for one am selfishly thankful, because then you wouldn't be here with me."
Emotionally drained, confusion and anger ran through Embry. He gave a hollow laugh. "No, you would be with Jake."
Leah rolled her eyes, even though she knew Embry's state to be rather irrational. "Yes, as if we'd get along. If he were alpha, the imprint would never have died, because I wouldn't have chosen him. To be honest, his personality is alpha, as mine is, we would have literally killed each other over dominance. You..you...and your humble and quiet nature...you keep me balanced." Leah whispered. "You're my serenity."
Embry smiled, and Leah felt his insecurity slip away as she reminded him of the one thing he gave her that no other member of the pack could ever give her: peace.
"I haven't been very serene lately," Embry whispered pulling her back into the bed.
"You've been open and honest," she said softly. "It's been quite an evening. I think you are faring well, considering the circumstances."
"How do you think the others are doing?"
Leah wondered the same thing, letting the question linger in the air.
When Paul dropped him off, Billy wheeled into his dark and lonely house. He took a deep breath as he turned on the lights. A family portrait of him and his three children during much happier times hung on the living room wall. Guilt and shame poured into him, mixed in with grief. In his deceit he lost his children as well.
"They'll come around," a lilting voice said softly behind him.
He turned to greet the slight figure of Tiffany Call. Older, Tiffany still held such intrigue for him, with her soft and silky russet skin and large eyes. "I don't think so," he whispered. "My son...he is devastated."
"We made a horrible mistake, I was young and naive and you were drunk. It's amazing how one wrong decision can cause such harm," Tiffany said moving towards him, her eyes full of understanding. "We did our best."
"Is it bad that I'm glad Sarah never learned the truth?"
Tiffany shook her head. "Of course not. You spared her pain."
"You should have seen Jacob's face, Tiffany," he croaked. "And Embry's wasn't much better."
"We did the best we could for them," Tiffany bent down and held his hands. "You always watched out for Embry."
"But I was never a father to him," Billy said sadly. "Rebecca barely talks to me now, and I'm afraid this will cause her to disappear forever. Rachel worshipped her mother; she won't be able to look at me. I thought Jacob would be the most understanding...but after today." Tears fell down. "I've lost my children."
"I think Embry will come around. He may not accept you as a father, but I think he'll let you into his life." Tiffany squeezed his hands.
Billy nodded miserably. "I think that's the best I can hope for."
Jared padded into the small home he shared with Kim. He peered into the corner of the living room to see Kim's sister Kerry gazing at him quietly, twisting her wedding ring on her finger nervously.
"How is she?"
"She's a wreck. We finally got her to sleep." Kerry whispered quietly. She looked so much like Kim physically, with small eyes and a wide mouth, but internally Kerry had always been emotionally stronger and more down to earth. "Mom is up there with her now. Thank you for calling us."
"I am sorry that I am leaving her," Jared whispered, feeling remorse. "I know she's taking it hard."
"I can't say I'm surprised," Kerry admitted. "Her attachment to you has always been unhealthy. I have no idea how you agreed to be with her to begin with. You never were attracted to her."
Jared wished he could tell her everything. He wanted so much to tell her about imprinting, but instead he shook his head. "I just came to pick up a few of my things, and then I will be staying with my friends Embry and Leah for a while."
Kerry nodded, as she pointed to a few bags. "I took the liberty." she said quietly. "I know you started, but I just finished packing a few things for you and brought them down. You should leave soon before she wakes up. She's hysterical."
"She needs to get help," Jared said quietly as he took his bags to the front door.
"Yes," Kerry agreed. "My mother and I always thought she might need some counselling someday. She's always been so insecure."
"Jared?" Kim's voice came from upstairs as a screech. Before Jared could respond, Kim came down and threw herself at him. Her mother ran behind her, a slight woman with brown eyes, and tried to pry her daughter away from Jared. "You can't leave me. We're destined to be together."
Kerry helped her mother pull Kim away while Jared disentangled himself. "I care about you Kim," Jared said quietly. "I want you to be happy. But you and I can never be together. It's not right and it's not healthy. It's over." He hated to sound so cruel, but he knew he had to be honest and blunt.
"No," Kim screamed. "You can't leave me. Do you hear me?"
Jared hesitated but Kerry grabbed the phone to get some help for Kim, presumably a psychologist. Her tearful mother motioned for Jared to leave. Guilt tore at Jared, but nonetheless he opened the door and ran out of there, Kim's sobs following him down the walk:
"You can't leave."
Angry tears fell down Jared's face as he threw his bags to the back seat. He then pressed his foot onto the accelerator and drove, watching the dark clouds hovering above.
Even though a great sadness fell on him because of Kim, a thought rang through. Long ago, because of his commitment to Kim, he gave up the dream of being a writer, but now the possibility presented itself again. With one hand, he held the steering wheel; the other he used to press a button on his cell phone.
"Embry?" Jared said, over the speaker, staring at the LaPush sign as he passed it. "Can you do me a favor and check in on Kim? No, I won't be staying with you. I have a cousin in Seattle, I think I'll be going there for awhile…."
Rachel twisted the note in her hands, tears falling down her cheeks. She knew Paul didn't leave it on the table on purpose for her to find it, but his instinct to protect her disappeared along with the imprint. Part of her always knew this day loomed. She'd resisted the imprint for so long because of Paul's past.
At the end of the day she had to do what was best for him and for his child.
She held the note tightly, getting up when she heard the door swing open.
Her brother stood there distraught, bitter tears in his eyes. Rachel quickly slipped the note underneath a pile of books. The contrast between yesterday's happy and strong alpha to the present's defeated and broken brother stunned Rachel. She knew something beyond the imprint bothered him.
"What is it?" she whispered, embracing her younger brother. "Did you find out what caused the imprint to break?"
Jacob began to tremble angrily and Rachel kept on rubbing his back so he wouldn't phase. Her own heart rate beat faster as she dreaded the source of such sorrow. "I can't tell you; dad should."
Rachel suddenly felt her whole world crash around her, as she put all the pieces together. Embry and Leah's babies just came into this world, and then the imprint broke. It made sense. Anger filled her. "Is Billy," she spat out her father's name. "Is Billy Embry's father? Did he betray our mother?"
The thought of her loving mother made her shake with grief. She left LaPush because she couldn't handle the memories of her. Her love for her mother knew no bounds, and it angered her to no end to hear of any hurt which had been inflicted upon such a kind and caring woman. When Jacob said nothing, she raised her voice. "Well, did he?"
Jacob nodded, taking a step back, obviously stunned by Rachel's wrath.
Just then she heard Paul enter the room, and she felt a swell of emotion hit her all at once. She leaned against the table. "You should go Jacob," she whispered hoarsely.
"But-" Jacob reached to her in concern.
"I'll be fine," she said, giving him a weak smile.
Jacob hesitated before nodding at Paul and leaving.
Paul stared at her for a long time. "I guess Jacob told you about Billy."
Tears stung at Rachel's eyes. "I don't want to talk about that right now." She removed the note from the bottom of the books. "Why didn't you tell me?" She wiped the tears from her eyes. "I know the imprint...but still I wish you'd told me in person."
"I didn't mean to leave this where you could find it," Paul explained in a strained voice. "Or maybe I did...I don't know, Rachel. All I know is that I'm sorry."
"When did you find out?" she asked, gazing up at him.
Paul squirmed uncomfortably. "A couple of weeks ago."
She stared at the letter again. "I know the name, Nicole. She's the girl you thought dumped you by leaving so suddenly? Now we know why."
"I swear this was before we ever got together," Paul said leaning on the table, but Rachel inched away from him.
"He's eight years old now...around that age isn't he?" Rachel whispered. "It's not too late for you to get to know him, to be a father to him."
Paul looked down at the floor. "If this had happened years ago, I would have run away from my responsibility. You taught me to be better than that." He reached for her hand. "As you know, Nicole is coming back with Zach to LaPush," he paused. "I have been asking around, and I guess she's been sick and is in recovery. She'll be living in LaPush with her parents, and she felt I needed to know."
Rachel took a deep breath. "I am not mad at you. Upset yes, but not mad. You didn't cheat on me. I will be supportive."
Paul shook his head. "I know, you always have been supportive, Rachel." He threw up his hands. "You've stayed in LaPush and given up your dreams. You have deferred your Master's degree for two years, and I can't ask you to give that up."
Rachel froze and stammered, "What are you saying?"
"I always told myself that someday I would leave LaPush for you, but now that can't happen. You deserve to see your dreams come true." Paul stood up straight. "Never doubt I love you because I do. I will always love you. But I have to let you go."
"Paul-" A part of her wanted to protest, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. He spoke the truth; she felt miserable in LaPush and now more than ever she wanted to get away. She knew people thought she wanted to run away from her problems but more so, she desired to chase her dreams.
"I can't believe we're over," Paul said quietly. "But you deserve someone better than me."
Rachel shook her head. "Don't say that, please, don't ever say that." She wiped away her tears with her sleeve.
"I love you Rachel," Paul said quietly. "Don't ever doubt that."
She nodded, covering her face with her hands, her whispers coming out between sobs. "I love you too."
The door closed. In all her life Rachel had never experienced such loneliness. Despair filled her and she felt her heart clench with grief. Not knowing what to do, she stared glumly out the window.
A few minutes later the doorbell rang. A part of her hoped it wasn't Paul or Billy. She certainly did not want to see Billy.
When she opened the door she felt a sense of comfort and relief.
There, standing on the front porch, was her brother.
Jake enfolded her in his thick arms as he murmured into her hair, "I just spoke to Paul..and I know you don't see it now, but he's right."
Sam and Emily sat side by side on the couch, staring listlessly into space. Their once cozy home now seemed so cold. She shuddered. Her husband had turned into a stranger. Sadness filled her. Half expecting him to go into the bedroom to pack up his belongings, she gasped when she felt him grab her hand.
"We're married, that must mean something?" Sam asked quietly, his big eyes looking intently into hers. "The other romantic imprints never married. I know Paul and Rachel genuinely loved each other, but they never married. And although Kim was aching to marry Jared, it never happened."
"Sam, you're free," Emily whispered. "You have to admit, we don't know each other. It was the imprint that kept us together."
Sam got up to crouch in front of her. "Maybe..we could...you know, get to know one another?"
Tears stung in Emily's eyes. "Is it because of this?" She pointed to her scar in anger.
Sam put his hand on the side of her face. "I will always feel badly about that. It is a reminder of how much pain being a wolf has caused all of us." He paused, but Emily knew he was thinking of Leah. "I guess, I just don't want it to mean nothing...surely...we had something the others didn't? We're married Emily. I want to try."
Emily's heart melted. She opened up her mouth to ask if he still loved Leah. But obviously he still did. He loved her through the imprint and he still loved her. But….Leah didn't love him like she once did. Emily hoped by choosing to be with her, Sam might be able to move forward from Leah and the past. Her cousin loved Embry more deeply than she ever had Sam. They all knew it.
"So we date?" Emily giggled at how absurd that sounded. She knew it still might not work out, but somehow she revelled in the uncertainty.
Sam grinned sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head. "I guess we do."
Emily smiled and for the first time in a long time she felt free. "So where are you going to take me on our first date?"
Claire sat sulking in the stands. The imprint had broken several weeks ago, and Quil still babysat her. She noticed a change though. He no longer followed what she wanted to do. At first, it excited her but after the three Seahawks games, she felt a little tired of it all, even though Quil looked funny dressed from head to toe in Seahawks blue. He even painted his face.
She did notice some advantages to the imprint breaking. Quil no longer smothered her. And, she felt guilt free to check mark "I like you," to Ethan Watley, when he wrote her a note. Since she started the fifth grade, he sent her two notes but she always worried that Quil would kill him if he ever found out. Now Quil no longer followed her every move and he didn't care as much. She grinned. Except for the sports, she enjoyed this newfound friendship much better. He truly felt like a normal "big brother" to her.
He still took care of her even though the imprint broke, just like Jake still looked after Nessie. She smiled.
Claire thought of the other imprints. Aunt Emily seemed frustrated with Uncle Sam. With the imprint gone, they needed to work at a relationship - which meant they talked about their feelings. Claire grinned. Uncle Sam seemed to be struggling with the talking aspect of a romantic relationship. Claire worried about Kim the most. Emotionally torn, Kim's parents encouraged her to get some support. Eventually she moved in with them. Hopefully Kim would learn to live without Jared.
Rachel surprisingly blossomed with newfound confidence. She called UDUB, and they immediately allowed her to return to school for the summer courses, much earlier than she expected. She decided to do her Master's in both Information Science and Journalism. It would open so many doors for her. She missed Paul, but excitement flowed out of her every time she talked about her new courses.
"Claire?" She turned around and grimaced at the sound of her teacher's voice. What was worse than watching a Seahawks game? Watching a Seahawk's game with your teacher on a Saturday. Her jaw dropped when she saw her teacher dressed all in blue from head to toe, just like Quil. The two looked like clones of some sort.
"Hello Miss Brooks," she said politely.
"I didn't know you liked watching football." She said between whooping and hollering at the game.
"I don't," Claire grumbled, and turned to introduce Quil who stared gaping at her teacher. She grimaced as she watched her teacher smile back at Quil. What? She liked Miss Brooks, but still...she didn't like the idea of Quil knowing so much about her school life. Oh no...maybe Quil would invite her to go out with them. She panicked. Maybe Miss Brooks would make her do homework on a Saturday when Quil usually babysat her.
And Miss Brooks had to be at least five years older than Quil. She'd been teaching at least since Claire started the school. But as the game progressed, Claire relaxed as the two of them just talked in a friendly and relaxed manner.
"So I will see you on Monday when I pick Claire up from school." Quil began, and Miss Brooks nodded in excitement.
What? Quil never picked her up from school, even during the imprint.
A part of her felt happy though. Quil looked excited, flustered and happy all at once. After being locked in an imprint for so long, her heart burst to see him so free. And Miss Brooks….it might not be all bad.
"Oh Claire," Ms. Brooks called out to her just after the Seahawks won. "Don't forget to finish your math homework for Monday."
Nessie sat on the couch watching as Jake-no longer her Jake-sat chatting with her mother. He spent quite a bit of time at the house talking with everyone but her. Although he did not ignore her, Nessie noticed a huge difference after the imprint broke.
First, he spent much more time with her mother, which did not make her father happy at all. Secondly, Jake seemed anxious to leave LaPush and considered still joining them when they left in a couple of months for Alaska. The And lastly, he seemed disinterested in patrolling and anything to do with being a wolf. He spent so much of his time talking to Carlisle about going back to school, and even considered getting his marks up to go into medical school.
As for herself, she found it difficult to adjust. One minute, his world centered around her, and now the link had disappeared. She felt quite lonely, even though Jake still came around all the time. He was preoccupied much of his time with checking in on his sister. She never realized the two shared such closeness.
Suddenly Alice burst into the living room. They all stared at her, concerned with the look of panic on the pixie-like vampire's face.
"Jake, you have to get Leah and Embry here immediately. I just had a vision concerning their children."
"...I saw Aro's head roll on the ground…." Alice told the captive audience. The pack, with the exception of Jared, was gathered in the Cullens' living room. The mood differed from their last large pack meeting - for one thing Seth, Brady and Colin joined them. Although fear and alarm trembled through them, they had grown accustomed to being in constant danger. When the imprint broke, it caught them all off guard and turned their world upside down because it was so unexpected. This situation however, was what they trained for. "And then a fire.." She paused, before looking intently at Embry and Leah who stood by the stairway. "I can't see wolves but I saw its shadow with a voice whispering about the power of the alpha's children."
The whole room braced themselves for Leah and Embry's reaction.
"Do you have an idea of the time of this?" Embry asked quietly.
Alice gazed at him intently, "The wolves were grown."
"So when my kids grow up," Leah said slowly. Embry could tell by the way the room tensed that they prepared themselves for a panic attack from her or perhaps a spout of irrational anger. "They'll be powerful? Cool." She smiled widely, rubbing her hands together.
Embry loved his unpredictable wife. "I was concerned the Volturi would come for our children now...wanting them for guard dogs or whatever Aro always wants with us." He paused. "But what are the chances that Aro finds out about the vision now? Should we hide our kids until they grow up?"
"That is unlikely," Carlisle spoke up walking towards the alpha pair. "There is no one with Alice's gift in the Volturi. There are other vampires with the gift of foresight, but none nearly as strong. And even if they were, they said the alpha's children. No one knows you are alpha, Embry."
"Great," Jacob groaned. "Now you're telling me that my future children are in danger?" He then laughed at Embry's grimace. "Don't worry, it's not going to happen anytime soon...maybe never." He didn't even notice the gasp coming from Nessie who peeked in from the kitchen.
"I think Aro isn't interested in the pack because you all seem so weak right now. Jacob is probably leaving with us. If he is concentrated on anyone it would be Jacob," Carlisle said. "They aren't even thinking of your pups. If you want my suggestion, if Jacob leaves I suggest putting Leah in charge. It would make sense because she was his beta. Also, Aro holds women in little regard; he would not see any threat in the pack at all."
"I am taking this whole thing seriously," Embry said softly, thinking of his children sleeping in the next room. "I want you all to treat me like the omega. It's important that I defer to all of you."
Sam's jaw dropped. "Embry? But you're alpha? Why would you hide your strength?"
Embry chuckled, "My pride isn't all that important, not compared to the safety of my children. If they suspect I'm the alpha, then their attention may fall on my family," He then put his arm around Leah. "Besides, I defer to Leah anyway, it will be no different."
"Except we get to boss you around," Quil grinned mischievously.
"We promise we'll keep an eye out for you," Alice said solemnly, then her eyes twinkled. "Does this mean I get to be their godmother?"
Embry smiled at her, "If you keep our children safe, yes, you can consider yourself a godmother." He glanced over at Leah, who nodded. "Our children's safety is important, but I think you are right; if we leave now, the Volturi will suspect something. We won't unless we have to." He looked over to Carlisle. "Perhaps later we need to talk about some alternate plans, some hiding places or safe houses just in case."
Carlisle nodded. "Of course. I am happy to help."
Bella, who sat quietly in the corner with Edward, finally spoke up. "Leah, you and I may not always get along, but we are still sisters, well stepsisters. Most importantly we are mothers, and I understand you wanting to protect your children. We will do our best to look out for them."
Leah sighed, rolling her eyes before smirking, "That's right Swan, they are your niece and nephews. You are obligated."
Despite it all Embry knew his children possessed great strength already. Carlisle wanted to do more tests on them; he thought their phasing might come early. Although they didn't grow as fast as Nessie, they showed a remarkable agility and alertness for their age.
He looked over at his pack. Throughout all of their ups and downs, he felt pride because they stood together even though he gave them a choice.
The imprint dying gave them all something…
an appreciation for freedom.