Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I am not making any money off this story.
A/N: So here it is...the end. It's been one long, painful ride. (and this is the longest chapter of all, but it really needed to be.) so thanks for sticking with me and huuuge thanks for all your encouragement. Hope you like it.
Chapter Twelve: An Epilogue
The sun is just beginning to set by the time he gets home. Emily envelopes him in a hug on sight. It is all so familiar, her face, their home, and he lets out a breath he feels he's been holding forever. He feels guilty for what he's put her through and he wishes she would be angry with him, but anger and holding grudges has never been in Emily's nature. She simply hugs him and promises they'll work it out. She wants to bake him his favourite muffins before he manages to talk her out of it. It's nearing nightfall and he hasn't had a real sleep in over a month.
Sleep doesn't come as easy as he expects, and when he does finally fall, it's anything but restful. His mind is too busy whirling with thoughts, with relief, with hurt. He feels safe here and he's beginning to wonder why he ever left.
The next morning is a bustle of activity. His mother and his pack take equal parts in welcoming him home and yelling at him. Emily is busy baking because no ill can't be cured by a batch of good muffins. They are still making their way through the pancakes. He can't place why, but he has a feeling that the day is going to suck.
"I thought we could talk about the wedding."
Emily's voice is almost as surprising as her words. Everybody left hours ago and there has been only silence between them since.
"We should set a date. I mean, maybe that's what caused all this, all the waiting around" She still can't state the truth, preferring to attribute his actions to stress instead of a real love for her cousin.
"It doesn't have to be anything big." The confidence and security in her eyes pisses him off. She's fully expecting him to give in and he can't even blame her for it, because he's never said no. There's never been anything she wanted that he didn't give.
He shakes his head, slowly."I can't---I don't think---"
She finally snaps. Her hand whips out, knocking her favourite vase to the floor. She's on her feet, pacing the room, and her hands are grasping at her hair.
"Why not, Sam? Do you even have an answer, a real answer? You disappear with my cousin and you still can't tell me why."
He can tell her why but he wont because he doesn't want to hurt her. He loved Leah, he wanted Leah. He needed to fight for Leah.
Her hands slam onto the table and her face is but a few inches from his. "Why?" All her fury has gone and her expression and tone are both desperate and pleading. He can't speak. He tries to force words out, any words, but his mouth just opens and closes.
"Goddamn it, Sam. Why won't you marry me?"
A million thoughts are swarming his head and he can't pick one out through the din. He has to have a reason, there has to be one reason, and then the light bulb goes off.
"Because I don't want to."
The look on her face is nothing short of shock and horror but he can't stop the smile from spreading across his face. She drops into the seat opposite him and tears start steadily down her face. He feels like he has just discovered the true meaning of the universe.
"I'm sorry, Em. I really am, and I wish you were never dragged into all this but I—-this, it isn't me. It's not what I want."
She sobs, wiping her face on the back of her sleeve. "I don't understand. What's changed? We belong together, we're made for each other." He takes her hands because he still doesn't like to see her hurting.
"We are, but I feel like there's another person underneath it all. Like the real me has been buried and I'm not ready to give up on him."
She pulls away from him, angrily. "Don't give me that bullshit. Why don't you just be honest? This is about Leah. It's always been about Leah. You want her back. You don't want me anymore." He holds her as she collapses against him, sobbing.
He doesn't tell her that she's wrong. For the first time since the imprint, he's realised that it's never been about Leah, and it's never been about Emily. It's about Sam and all the things he has lost. He's not fighting for Leah anymore. He's fighting for him.
"I don't know what I want anymore," he says, more to himself than Emily. "I'm not the same person I was and neither is Leah. Everything is different now." But nothing he says, can comfort her.
They speak for hours. Going round in circles and trying to make each other listen. With every word, he feels the world opening up before him. He wants to eat ice cream at midnight, he wants to ride the roller-coaster with his girl laughing at his side but Emily doesn't want him to get sick and Emily doesn't like high rides. He wants to have the biggest argument so they can make up in the best way but Emily would never hurt his feelings like that. The werewolf accepts her conditions because it makes her happy, but the man in him won't settle for anything less than the things he had.
"Please, Sam. Don't leave me. Please...we can work things out. We can make things better if we just try. Please stay with me."
He feels like the lowest of the low. He's breaking her, just like he broke Leah but he knows there is a difference. He leaves, because this time he wants to.
The sun is setting when he gets to the Clearwaters. Sue looks about ready to rip his head off when she answers the door so, Leah drags him onto the dirt path at the front of the house. She's drawing circles in the dirt with her foot and she won't meet his eyes.
"I've left Emily." Her foots stops and she looks up slowly. Her expression is a combination of shock and guilt and happiness...and hope.
"You were right, everything you said in New Orleans .This was never what I wanted."
She's still frozen, speechless. It worries him that she hasn't said anything. He starts pacing, desperate to tell her everything without knowing what he wants to say. "I love you, Leah. I want to be with you. But I can't make things they way they were before. I can't go back in time and change what happened."
She nods softly and he knows he's made a mistake. He's got it wrong somehow. There is no happiness or understanding on her face, she looks sad and defeated. He grabs her hands, her face, he runs his fingers through her hair. "We can't go back to the way things were but we can try again, right? I'm not the Sam I used to be and you're nothing like my Lee Lee, but we can still love each other, right?" he adds, desperately.
"What are you saying?" she asks, a note of confusion in her voice.
"I love you. I want to be with you and nobody else. There's nobody else for me. It's you. It's always been you"
It's the moment she's been waiting for since he turned up, wearing his green shirt, and bought her whole world down around her ears. He can see this by the relief and pure emotion that floods her features but she doesn't leap into his arms or burst into tears. She smiles, slow, shy and teasing, like she did when he first asked her to go out with him.
It's gonna be a good day after all.