Author's Note: So this is it. Since I'm not going to ruin my own ending by talking over it, I just wanted start off by thanking everyone who has reviewed or will review. It means a lot that there are people out there who liked this. It might not be the ending you were hoping for, and you might wonder why I can't stop picking on poor Leah or what the whole thing with Embry really means but...this is all I wrote.
Part VIII: Happily ever after...it better be, because I know how much the wedding cost.
The suit itches, but not as badly as it could and Nessie says he looks handsome in it; who is he to deny her anything on this day? The bowtie is a little ridiculous, but Alice insisted and put it on him so quickly he didn't have time to protest. Jacob never really enjoyed the pomp that comes from weddings.
The horde of vampires that are crowded into the Cullen household are making him nervous, but there's not much he can do about that either. Carlisle had tried to get most of them to promise to stay vegetarian for the wedding and that's really the best anyone can hope for. It doesn't matter. The vampires won't dare try anything. The werewolves that stand along the side of the room ensure that.
Jacob stands at the front in a suit that matches the rest of the bridal party, but the rest of the werewolves are also decked out in style. Alice insisted that if they wanted to play at being bodyguards then they had to dress like them. The entire pack is wearing the same black suit, classically cut with crisp white shirts underneath, topped with silk black bowties. Alice made relatively few allowances for Leah's gender, simply tailoring the suit a hell of a lot tighter than the men and letting her remove the shirt and bowtie entirely. Her hair is spiked up and Jacob would hate to be caught disrupting the peace by her. She hasn't been in a very forgiving mood today.
The pack is doing their job well, since the crowd seems to be rather subdued. Happy, but subdued. That's sort of what you want in a crowd of bloodsuckers.
His attitude toward the leeches hasn't done a one-eighty, more like a one-forty. They still creep him out a little and he still wouldn't scratch his neck in their presence comfortably, but he turns his back on the three vamps playing groomsmen beside him without thought. He doesn't even want to growl at the crowd.
Maybe Alistair...but he deserves it.
Music begins to float into the room. Rosalie is on the piano, since Edward needs to walk his baby girl down the aisle. It's about the one thing Blondie is good for and Jacob's glad she's as far away from him as possible. She's one of the few things that could ruin this happy day.
All thoughts of Rosalie disappear when Nessie comes down those stairs.
People always say that a bride looks beautiful on her wedding day, but that second Jacob would be hard pressed to imagine how anyone could possibly touch Nessie. Then again, he always has been biased.
Her hair is piled on her head with a few tantalizing curls just visible at her neck. She walks down the aisle on her father's arm, clad in a white dress that seems to be made of diamonds, it gleams so brightly in the light. The heavy veil was Edward's idea, but Jacob likes it. He probably would have liked anything today.
Nessie's smile is radiating love. She hasn't spoken much today, reverting to her power, but the memories she is sharing touch the hearts of her friends and family. Each step she takes it grows stronger as she locks eyes with the man that she loves.
Jacob feels a familiar tug at his heart seeing her like this. Trying not to tear up—because he'll never hear the end of it if he did—he watches as Nessie gets closer to him.
Edward stops only two feet away, to lift the veil. His topaz eyes gaze at his daughter in wonder; she reaches up and touches his face, sharing with him one last memory of love. It's such a private moment that Jacob wants to look away, except he can't take his eyes off Nessie. Finally Edward kisses her daughter on the cheek and gently pushes her towards her future.
The step away from her father is accomplished with grace and then she's reaching out her hand...
...Nahuel takes it without hesitation.
Nessie dances the third dance of the night with Jacob. Once it might have seemed strange to have to wait for her husband and father, but Jacob doesn't mind. He uses the delay to watch Bella, nothing like that eighteen-year-old girl he loved so long ago. She still looks young, she'll always look young now, Edward's made sure of it, but the expressive warmth is gone. He misses it even as he tells her she looks beautiful and she laughs and tells him to stop trying to steal her away from Edward.
The joke is painful, again. He might be able to tease Nessie's mother, but the Bella Swan he loved died almost seven years ago and that still hurts. It's not going to go away either, he suspects. He wouldn't want it to—your first love is supposed to be special.
It's Nessie, not Bella, who's in his arms now. Her fingers are playing with his shaggy hair as they twirl around the floor. She is so much more graceful than he is, but luckily her parents made him practice so he can keep up.
He can even survey the room as he dances. Seth is currently toasting with a whole table full of vampires, suddenly best friends with half the room for life. Quil's arguing with Alice about being allowed to take off the stupid bowtie and Embry seems to have disappeared.
Leah is talking to Rosalie, bemused expressions on both their faces as Emmett keeps an arm around each woman. Probably trying to talk them into the threesome Leah keeps complaining he's suggesting. Emmett Cullen is currently touching the two most striking women in the room and they might look annoyed, but they haven't killed him yet—people might want to stop thinking he's the dumb Cullen.
Bella and Edward sit by the high table with Esme and Carlisle; Jacob makes a mental note to talk to the good doctor alone later that night. Someone he's not going to be talking to alone is Jasper, who had probably been recruited by Sam to make sure none of the vampires decided that the fury guests looked edible. That or he's doing surveillance out of his own paranoia.
But those aren't the Cullens that matter. Nessie is in his arms and glowing.
Her heart has stopped beating much sooner than Jacob had thought. She looks seventeen, if that. She was a vision of loveliness, to be sure, a youthful goddess, but, Jacob was happy he could think, just a tad too young for him. Today it doesn't matter. It's not for physical reasons that he's having trouble keeping his eyes off her. She almost looks like she did in the woods, so many years ago. The light inside on display for the world to see. It's breathtaking.
"You look so happy," he murmurs.
"I am," she answers looking up at him with so much love that he's almost embarrassed. "Thank you, my Jacob. You have done so much for me."
Not enough. He's the only thing that's ever really been denied to her and he did his job so well that she barely noticed the difference. They've failed her a little bit, he thinks sometimes. She's too used to having the world revolve around her. His world used to do exactly that and so he knows it can't last forever. Does she? He's not sure but she's leaving tomorrow so he makes a joke instead.
"Yeah. Huge unheard of treaty...facing off with the Volturi...not to mention how many times I've watched The Lion King..."
"Timon and Pumba are funny."
"You just don't like the hyenas."
"They give dogs a bad name," he mutters and he's glad to have made her laugh, no matter how many times they've had this argument. It's her wedding day, after all.
The dance is over and he kisses her on her forehead as she goes to ask her uncle to dance. Bella comes up beside him. The two of them don't dance (they've done too much of that in the past) but they stand at the side and watch as Jasper twirls Nessie perfectly.
"How are you doing, Jake?" Bella asks him quietly.
"You mean, do I wish it was my wedding?" He doesn't wait for an answer, since he already knows that's what she meant. "No. But I'm happy. I've always liked it when she's happy."
"I think Edward's a little disappointed," Bella admits. "Don't tell him I said this, but I think he was looking forward to being you're father-in-law."
"Sorry about that," Jacob says, wondering if it's at all possible to care less. "Are you disappointed, Bells?"
"All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy. I thought Nessie made you happy, but if you're sure you're fine with this..."
"I am. They are perfect for each other, you know."
Bella looks at him a little puzzled because he's spent the past two years saying that a pair of twenty-four chromosomes doesn't mean a thing. It doesn't. If Nahuel had been half-mermaid half-dwarf with sixty-three chromosomes Jacob would have still said the same thing. As he watches the half-human, half-vampire male interrupt his bride and her uncle, take her in his arms and dance away with her, Jacob can't help but know he's right.
Secretive glances and shy smiles...eyes meeting across rooms and then glancing away, embarrassed to be caught...the way Nahuel looks at Nessie and the way she looks back...that's perfection. Even (especially) the way she tries to make him laugh all the time, even though Nessie really isn't all that funny and Nahuel does laugh, even though he doesn't understand simply because he wants to make her smile. It's that she wants to try, for him, and he wants to try, for her. Just because they want to.
Jacob jumps at the voice at his side and then glares at Leah, while Bella cranes her neck around him to look at the Beta wolf. "You couldn't say excuse me first?"
"No. He's imprinted on one of the hybrids."
"I don't know, Jake. One of them. He's over there, staring at her like an idiot."
Pointing—because Sue's lessons on manners went in one ear and out the other—Leah gestures to Embry. He really does look like an idiot, practically drooling over Nahuel's beautiful half-sister, the one who was the Maid of Honor. Jacob laughs as Leah growls beside him.
"This is good news," he tells her. Embry's not going to be able to complain about the wait anymore and he should be too busy working this out to be moping around. Strange that he would be the only other wolf to imprint on a South American...
The thought shakes him so he turns his attention back to Leah beside him, who is crossing her arms and scowling, breasts pushed impossibly upwards; Alice really is a marvel. Leah notices his gaze and arches an eyebrow, but keeps talking business. "We're never going to get rid of the bloodsuckers now."
"You're not going to miss them?" Jacob teases.
He wants to gag, but that was the point.
"You don't mean that."
"Of course not," she lies. "Someone has to remember vampires are our mortal enemies."
"Some of them aren't so bad," Jacob says with a glance at Bella who smiles back at her old friend.
"The girls are going to stay with us until Nessie and Nahuel come back from their honeymoon. Embry can visit then."
"You really do like to suffer—I'm not sure I'd want to be around a lovesick Embry."
"Make sure to tell him he's invited," Bella reminds him as Edward beckons her over. She's hurrying away before he can answer. Of course. That's the way he and Bella have always worked. At least now he can watch without feeling his heart is being stepped on repeatedly.
Over on the other side Edward takes her in his arms. They press against each other, two marble statues, with clasped hands and locked lips. For a moment, they are frozen in time and then almost faster than he can watch, Bella arches upwards and then they are scurrying to the side to be alone.
"They're like teenagers," Jacob mutters. The irony that that they will always be, even with a full-grown daughter, is not lost on him.
"It's disgusting," Leah agrees. "I can't believe he's one of us."
"Who are you—Embry?"
"Who else?" How she figures it out with Bella no longer in the room, Jacob doesn't know, but maybe he's that predictable. "Bella and Edward? Please tell me I'm not going to be dreaming of naked Bella tonight—I don't deserve that. I've been nice today."
"Nice for you. Not actually nice."
"Same difference. And you're avoiding the question."
"Of a bloodsucker's best man? I don't think so." He's laughing at her a little, so she bares her teeth at him. It's frightening enough that he feels a little guilty. Not much, mind you, but a little.
"I'm not fantasizing about Bella. It's been years, Leah. Are you still going to be bugging me about that when we're fifty?" They head to the hall, where they are both supposed to check in with Sam, to make sure the vamps are behaving themselves.
"Mean, mean woman."
"Bitch," she corrects as they enter the hall to find that it's mostly empty, with only a few giggling teenage girls walking out of the washroom. Sam simply looks at them and when they shake their heads, he turns around and goes right back outside.
Sam's appointed himself head of security tonight and Jacob's grateful because he wants to enjoy himself but it's no longer an arrangement that works. It might very well be his fault for not stepping up sooner, but Jacob knows the packs can't stay divided forever. With Nessie gone his responsibilities are no longer tangled together. There's only supposed to be one Alpha and it's not supposed to be Sam. But until the Cullens leave town, he has no right to act, so he lets Sam enjoy his power for now.
Instead, as Leah leans casually against the wall, Jacob once again wonders how she got that jacket on.
"Do you want to go for a run later on tonight? I need to do something or I might go nuts. Way too many ruffles," she complains.
Jacob forces his eyes up and shrugs. There's too many feelings in the air him to want Leah in his head right now. "I don't think so."
"Please tell me your not fantasizing about the bride—or her fucking mother. That's just sick."
"Thank you, Leah," he finds himself growling. "No Cullen women have been fetishized during this evening. I just don't want to go for a run. All the primping today sort of ran me down."
"You had trouble putting on a suit?"
It's not that he's tired, though he is. Weddings always sort of play with your head and just because he was fantasying a little doesn't mean he actually wants to get married anytime soon. And normally Leah would understand, would let him indulge in a little idle speculation, but not about this.
If he tells her he was imagining her in white, he knows almost exactly what she would do. For three glorious seconds her face would light up and that shy smile that few people have ever seen will grace her face. She'll look more beautiful than anybody he's ever seen, eyes shining with love and then—then her face will close down and she'll let out a harsh bark of laughter. She'll call him an idiot, call him young and immature (she's never going to stop rubbing it in that she's older), and then tell him he hasn't thought this through because when he does think about it properly he'll realize he's the type of guy who's going to want kids.
When he tries to tell her they don't know that for sure, she hasn't even looked at her options, she'll get more upset and then more angry. She'll yell that she's not going to trust a vamp to fix her (he'll cringe at her words) and tell him to stop daydreaming. It won't matter that he tries to explain realism exists between her pessimism and the optimism she accuses him of; she won't listen. Eventually she'll snap that he should have stayed with Nessie if he wanted pups this badly and if she keeps needling him about Nessie and Bella and every other thing in his past, he knows eventually he'll snap. He'll retaliate.
And since he doesn't want to make his girlfriend cry (or get his nose broken), Jacob just smiles and says, "Suits aren't as easy as they look."
She still doesn't look convinced, so he leans over to kiss her. "Trust me," he whispers.
They have to have the conversation eventually, but he has to wait until the mess with Sam is sorted out and after he finishes legally buying the house from his father and after he's talked to Carlisle. Patience has never really been his thing, but now it's just getting him more prepared for the battle ahead. They are going to have the discussion one day (it's going to be one hell of a dog fight) and on that day Jacob plans to win.
Until then, he'll silently hope for the both of them.
Her fingers gently stop his lips. Leah's smiling again, at least. "I love you, Jake, but I am not making out with you at your ex-soul mate's wedding."
They snort in unison. Their foreheads are pressed together, but she's right about it being a little weird so all he does is complain, "I can't believe we have ex-soul mates."
"We're werewolves. We sort of have to believe in everything."
This close he can feel the heat from her body emanating into his. It's terribly distracting and terribly nice. He leans in and murmurs in her ear, "Come over tonight."
"I'm tired," she says in a husky voice that means she'll relent soon enough. "My suit was even harder to put on."
"That just means you'll need help taking it off."
"You think you're up for the challenge?"
"I'm up for anything. Come on, Leah. You might even get to cook me breakfast."
She laughs. "Ohh...that wasn't nice at all, Jake. Why do I put up with you?"
"Because I love you..." he whispers in one ear... "because you love it when you let me catch you..." he whispers in the other... "because I'm incredibly good looking...devastatingly funny...impressively strong...and I know you..."
She's a little bit breathless but all she says is, "You forgot impossibly charming."
"I didn't want to sound like I was bragging. So does that mean you're coming over to burn my breakfast?"
"That was once and it was your fault." It was actually her fault for cooking wearing only a t-shirt, but that was besides the point. "You should do it yourself. Actually, don't. I don't want you to get food poisoning. Get Billy to cook for you."
Leah studies him carefully and then of course figures it out. Jacob suspects that she probably figured the whole thing out before tonight—she would be the person to ask if you wanted to figure out if Embry looked more like an Uley or a Black.
"I guess you're cooking then. Burnt toast it is."
Her fingers brush over the lapels of his jacket and he smiles a little. "You don't know, Jacob. It could all be a coincidence, it could mean anything. It could be Fate fucking us over once again, by making you think things that aren't true. Billy's a good man. He wouldn't do that. And even if...he's your father. You have to love your father while you still have one. Don't turn this into a big deal."
There's no proof, not really. But the nagging suspicion is there now and he's not sure he can get rid of it.
Could he forgive his father for this, if it is true? He's seen how sometimes your heart splits in two, loving what it shouldn't. Maybe he can't. Even after all this time he still loves his mother, he's still loyal to her memory. And maybe Leah's right and this is just Fate's one last attempt to try and make him forget everything he thinks he knows about himself.
There's only going to be a fight if he wants one.
That's all he's ever really wanted, Jacob thinks as Leah takes his hand and pulls him back inside where the food is being served. When his heart has been broken—and maybe it hasn't this time, anyway—he wants to be able to pick up the pieces. And either get the hell out of there or hand them right back. Jacob likes having options.
"That is one sparkling room," Leah says under her breath as they stand in the door.
"Scared? Understandable. The streamers look evil."
"I'm not scared. But it's okay if you are. I'll protect you."
"Aw Leah. You old softie." She looks like she wants to argue (because that's what she does and it's incredibly frustrating, but just something he has to live with), so he squeezes her hand to reassure her that he still thinks she's the most dangerous woman he knows. "Come on. Let's sit down."
Their fingers are intertwined together in something solid and reassuring as they head towards the table, but it would take less than no effort to pull his hand away. He doesn't. But he could.
Jacob just chooses not to.