I knocked on the front door of the old Clearwater house. There was no immediate answer, so I waited patiently. After a few minutes the door opened, and I was greeted with Rebecca who hauled me inside by the collar of my crisp white shirt.
"What are you doing here?" she hissed angrily.
"I'm here to pick up my god daughters." I replied, fairly scared by Jake's sister who was glaring at me suspiciously.
She raised an eyebrow and poked me in the chest, "You're not working with them are you?"
I looked at her like the crazy person she was. Thankfully, she seemed to realise her rather intimidating stance and took a step back. It was clear why she and Leah got along so well.
"Sorry. It's just both Cris and Leah are determined to see each other before the wedding. They're sneakier than my kids. I thought teenagers were bad!"
I couldn't help but laugh; Leah never was one for tradition. It had taken us hours of nagging alone to convince her to hold the wedding here. It was worth it though; to have the whole pack together and give her an official send off was important.
I'd like to say it was only because we would use any excuse for a party, but truthfully, we had all grown up a lot, and Leah had come to mean something to all of us. Whether be it as a friend, an alpha, a sister, an ally, or even a bitch, she had impacted each of our lives for the better.
It was shameful in some ways, but no one had ever anticipated the hole she would leave behind in the packs when she moved to Barrow and promoted me to alpha. Everything she was had changed and the bitter harpy of La Push was now nothing but a memory. Instead, Leah was now many other things; the one most important to her though was being a mother.
It was impossible not to look back at the years and ponder my old crush on Leah. These days, I was so glad that it was all it ever amounted to - her and Cris fit perfectly. Besides, I loved my wife with all my heart.
Rebecca sighed and drew my attention back to her. She seemed satisfied that I wasn't an accomplice in Leah's plan and tottered off to the kitchen. I chuckled; her movement was restricted by the long, pastel green bridesmaid dress she was wearing and the ridiculously high heels.
In all my years, I would never understand why women wore such uncomfortable looking clothes. Sure, they looked nice to start with, but at the end of the evening they looked totally un-sexy limping home with blisters on their feet.
My trail of thought was suddenly lost as a little voice met my ears. "Embwy!"
A cute little girl came skipping towards me calling my name excitedly. She wore a summer dress, which matched Rebecca's, and her raven black hair was for once in a tidy plait instead of falling in wild curls around her face. She was tall for a three year old, which she got from Cris, but facially Sue was the spitting image of Leah.
"Hey Sue, you look real pretty." I said and rubbed her head as she reached me.
She giggled in response and grabbed my hand to drag me over to the table. I happily sat down next to her so that she could show me her most recent drawings.
I can still remember the day Leah and Cris announced her pregnancy. They and Sammy had come down to visit and it was during a pack dinner at Seth's that they told us the good news.
We were all surprised; after all, we knew Leah's history. It was then she confessed that she'd been undergoing treatment and tests with Carlisle, inspired by Joham's mad science theories. It seemed that in the darkness of those days, Leah had at least gained something.
Most surprising of all, or maybe unsurprising, was that Seth and I had spent a lot of time with Leah during the pregnancy; she wanted us near. Perhaps it was a pack thing.
Amusingly, Cris had started to get irritated by our constant visits to Alaska and the almost permanent residence in their spare room. I knew it wasn't jealousy, but more the fact that we seemed to always interrupt their alone time - something that I promise was completely accidental. Trust me; catching your friends at it in their own kitchen was extremely embarrassing.
Anyway, five months after that, little Sue came into the world and no, I didn't imprint. No one did. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
I should have known with Leah to always expect the unexpected. After the birth of Sue, we got talking openly about imprinting. She admitted that she still thought about it sometimes, but she never worried anymore. Her kids were her world. Cris was her equal. It shouldn't be any other way.
In return, I asked her if this meant she still worried about Cris imprinting, but she simply shook her head and smiled saying that whatever happened was meant to be. She was willing to trust in that. Besides, Cris wasn't Sam or Jake and she wasn't going to waste her life scared of loving him.
It was silly to think she had changed so much, but it was the truth, and it was all because of Cris. Sadly, we had all been so self-obsessed back then that we failed to look past her tough exterior, or tolerate her bad mood long enough to see why she was actually so bitter. Cris deserved to be the one who got to marry her and lay by her every night. Although no one envied him her tongue lashings or feisty moods. I said she'd changed - not had a personality transplant; there was a big difference.
"That's really beautiful, Sue." I said as the little girl showed me her last drawing; it was of her mummy, or at least a squiggle that I think was her mummy.
As I spoke, I noticed Rebecca watching me out of the corner of her eye. She was still kept on the outside when it came to the pack. Therefore she didn't quite understand why we all still looked so young and were so closely bonded.
"So where are Sammy and your three?" I asked, realising I couldn't hear any more kids in the house, although I could hear Leah pacing impatiently upstairs.
"Rachel and Paul came by and Sammy wanted to go with them and see her dad. My three stayed with my husband last night." She was checking over the bride's bouquet of white lilies as she answered.
"Ok. Well, if you're all good here. I'll take Sue over to the church and await the arrival of the blushing bride." I pushed my chair back, and Sue, smiling, followed suit.
"Yeah, everything's good to go; I'm just waiting on Leah now. She's been up there ages." Rebecca rolled her eyes, knowing better than to try and rush her.
"Cool. You ready then, Susie?" I offered her my hand, but she held out her arms to be picked up. Unable to refuse, I lifted her up and perched her barely noticeable weight on my hip.
"Thank you Embwy." She grinned at me, and I couldn't help but laugh.
Rebecca was shooing us out of the kitchen seconds later, and we had just made it to the front door when I heard the bride descending the stairs.
I felt my breath disappear as she came into full view. "Wow. Leah, Cris is one lucky guy."
Leah gave me the same smile Sue had shown me only minutes earlier, and then gave her daughter a little wink.
Sue was delighted and squealed excitedly while waving at her mother as we left.
I looked across from the front Pew at Cris and gave him an encouraging thumbs up; he was waiting anxiously for his bride. He had no reason to be nervous though, Leah loved him and nothing would keep her away from this church – I knew that and everyone else did too.
I felt my wife vibrate with laughter next to me; even after all these years I was aware of every movement she made. I looked at the church again remembering our own wedding. Hell, who was I kidding - I was imprinted and I was still scared to hell waiting for Nessie to walk down the aisle.
My best man had of course been a choice between Embry, Quil and Seth. It was an impossible decision to make so I asked them all in the end. Luckily, Cris didn't have that problem and Corey had been the obvious choice. Nevertheless, on the front bench behind him sat his pack and their tribal elders.
Looking further back, on the bench behind the Barrow lot sat the young La Push pack, along with their imprints and a few of their very young children. They were then followed by our old tribal council.
On the front bench on Leah's side of the church sat me and my wife. Then next to her was, Seth, Rosalie, Jamie and Megan.
I sighed, Megan had so far been muttering continuously to Nessie for the last ten minutes about Seth. Being a half breed, she had just reached maturity and was now looking at Seth differently. It was all a little awkward and I scoffed. That was his problem to deal with.
Rose was trying to ignore their chatter and Jamie had head phones in. I glanced back at Rose; she still had good days and bad days. Megan and Jamie had given her something to exist for after Emmett and together they had all flourished. She caught my eye and smiled. I guessed today was a good day.
Blocking out Megan's gossiping, I looked further up the bench. There was a space left next to her for Seth, and then next to him sat Megan's best friend Claire. Being technically the same age, and living in our supernatural world, they had bonded and were now inseparable.
Quil was by Claire's side and I grinned to myself as I realised they were holding hands, although be it nervously. It was progress and a strange transition, but she was an adult now and had been crushing on him for years.
Finally, at the end of our bench sat Embry. He and Quil were gossiping just as much as the girls were.
Suddenly, Megan's voice cut out and I glanced over my shoulder to see Rosalie hushing her. The remaining Cullen's and Tanya's clan had come today despite the sunshine and of course taken up the whole bench behind me and Nessie. It seemed that the fight with Joham had at least healed a lot of rifts and united us all. Edward hadn't come though; he'd apologised, but confessed he couldn't face a wedding.
Things had been hard after Bella died. Edward was a shell for the first few months. Gradually, he came out of it, but things were never the same again. Emmett had also left just as big a hole. It never felt right to leave them after that, so Nessie and I had kept Denali as our permanent home. We had still moved away for Nessie's schooling, but returned regularly. It was also a central point for the packs to all meet.
Finally, completing the church sat the remaining guests at the back. They included Rebecca's family, plus the two latest council members – the no longer phasing Jared and Paul. Their imprints also accompanied them. Kim sat quietly holding their baby boy and a heavily pregnant and sweating Rachel leaned against Paul. I had to say, my sister looked very irritated, but to give her credit she was here, the bridges had been mended a long time ago.
All of a sudden, people started shuffling in their seats as a soft song began playing quietly in the background. Within seconds, Sammy and Sue had nervously appeared in the church doorway and started to slowly shuffle their way down the aisle, dropping white petals out of the basket that Sammy held. The little girl was every bit the daughter of Sam and Emily, while Sue reflected Leah and Cris. Both children were incredibly pretty though and their matching green dresses and plaited hair suited them perfectly. I was proud to see Rebecca walk in next. Her pace was more timed than the girls and she held a single white lily. Somehow, Leah had turned out to be the only person she would come back for. It was something that was a sore point between the twins, but I wasn't going to dwell on it. I was just pleased my sisters were happy and was going to enjoy having them both with me for as long as I could.
Rebecca eventually reached the top of the aisle and gave Cris the biggest grin ever. She then took up her position and guided Sammy and Sue to the left hand side with her.
The next thing I heard was several gasps and I was just in time to see Leah step into the aisle. Seth was accompanying her and wore a black Armani suit - a present from Rosalie. He held her arm proudly and looked to be close to tears.
Leah, herself was breathtaking. She wore a stunning, yet utterly simple, white strapless dress that flowed perfectly over her toned body. Her jet black hair was wavy and fell over her left shoulder and she had long silver drop earrings in, with a matching necklace. She wore no veil or tiara, just a small lily tucked into her hair above her ear, which matched the bouquet she carried.
Slowly, Seth began to lead her up the aisle. As he did, the sunlight from the door followed them, making her glow even more if possible. I tried not to laugh out loud as I saw Alice basically sit on Jasper to avoid being caught in its rays.
My eyes gradually tore themselves from Leah and found their way to Cris. He was looking at Leah with nothing but love and adoration. Clearly, he was the happiest man alive, and who could blame him when faced with the chance to see those gorgeous brown eyes for forever.
After what felt like forever, or maybe not long enough, the bride reached her groom. Then, with a lot of smiles, Seth placed Leah's hand in Cris', kissed her lightly on the cheek, and stepped back, taking his seat next to Megan.
The minister began shortly after; "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."
"...And I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride." The minister finished.
I let out a whoop as my brother kissed his wife lovingly. I couldn't be happier for him; I loved Leah, the whole pack did.
When they broke apart, I chuckled as they struggled to take their eyes off each other. Eventually, they pulled away and Leah turned to her children who ran into her arms as she crouched to receive them. I watched as Sammy stroked her mother's face and told her how happy she was. Cris meanwhile had picked up little Sue and as a family, they walked out of the church together with a round of cheers, howls, and applause.
As soon as they were outside, I opened a side door and gestured for everyone to exit that way.
Cris had spoken with me and Embry and already asked us to do this and also hang back for the girls. The newlyweds would then meet us all at the reception.
Once the guests had left, Embry and I slowly walked around to the front of the church. We could easily see the family ahead in the cemetery. I could even see when Leah took the flower from her hair and laid it on the joint grave. I knew they were visiting Emily and Sam because I caught short pieces of her words, thanking them for Sammy and talking of the things they were missing.
I didn't mean to eavesdrop. It was a sensitive subject for everyone. The little girl understood that her parents were dead, but Leah was the only mother she had ever known so she was still making sense of it. I can still remember how hard it had been for Leah to accept that she was her mother, more so than Sammy. When Sammy started to learn to talk, Leah continuously tried to get her to say her name. We had all been at her house when it happened, except it wasn't what she had expected...
"Come on, Baby Girl, say Leah." Leah pleaded.
Cris laughed behind her. "She'll say it when's she's ready."
Leah glared at him and continued. "Lee-ahh." she repeated to the giggling little girl.
Sammy continued laughing, and Leah relented and started to push herself off the floor.
The whole room froze.
Sammy's arms flailed in the air gesturing for Leah to pick her up.
"Momma." she repeated.
Leah looked grief stricken. "Oh, Sammy. I'm not your Momma, I'm Leah."
Sammy was undeterred. "Momma."
Cris joined them on the floor as Leah started to cry. Sammy looked confused and her bottom lip trembled.
He picked her up. "It's ok, Sammy. Your Momma's just happy."
Leah sobbed softly. "How can I be happy she thinks I'm her mother? Emily..."
Cris stroked Leah's face with his other hand. "Leah, don't you realise? You're her mother too."
Leah cried harder, but through the tears she nodded and finally smiled.
We continued to wait patiently, making small talk between us. After a while, I noticed movement and Cris stroked his wife's back and whispered something to her. Leah nodded in agreement and a second later he was leading the girls towards me and Embry.
"Hey guys. Can you take the girls ahead like we talked about? Leah just needs a minute." Cris asked.
"Yeah, sure. Is she ok?" I nodded up towards Leah.
"She'll be fine. It's just important to her to remember them today." Cris replied, brushing down his suit. He then kissed the girls on the head; "I'll see you two in a little while. Be good for the guys."
I was so glad to be out of the hot church and sitting on the beach. We were awaiting the arrival of the bride and groom before we headed up into the community hall for the reception and I was taking in the sea air.
Rachel was sat next to me on some old drift wood. She was barefoot, having thrown her shoes off on arrival - apparently, her feet were swelling. At least for now, she was reasonably content and I rubbed her back soothingly.
As much as I loved the woman, I didn't particularly love her pregnant.
Sure, I was looking forward to when junior arrived, but her mood swings were killing me. I can still remember how bad Emily was and the time I had to duck a plate that she threw at me. But Jesus, that was nothing compared to a Rachel fit.
Like I said though, currently, she was happy. Her sister, nieces and nephew had joined her and she seemed comfortable, so I took the opportunity to escape her side and see my old pack.
It was odd not phasing anymore. Although I was now part of the council, a big part of me missed it. I wouldn't want to do it again though; I had already noticed that since I stopped I wasn't so volatile and I didn't get half as wound up about things. Maybe being a wolf hadn't always brought out the best in me.
I made my way over to wind the cubs up. It didn't matter how old they got, they would always be cubs to me. I was half way over to their spot on the beach, when I saw that Leah and Cris had arrived in the car park and people were greeting them. I guessed it was better to get it over with and diverted my path towards them.
I waited for the crowds of well wishers to disperse before I approached; "Hey guys, I just wanted to say congratulations." I said pleasantly and held my hand out to Cris.
He took it without hesitation and thanked me enthusiastically - the guy was on cloud nine.
Next, Leah and I just looked at each other awkwardly, unsure of protocol. "Err..." was all I managed to say.
She laughed; it was a sound that had taken me a long time to get used to, but it was pleasing to my ears.
"Paul, it's ok. Go eat or do something stupid." She chuckled again, her smile unable to get any bigger.
I took a deep breath and swallowed my pride. Much to her surprise, and possibly mine, I hugged her extremely quickly before turning tail.
Hell, Leah had always been a pain in my arse, but we were pack after all.
The best man's speech was over and it was quite a thing to follow!
Corey had been sure to pull out some great one-liners and stories about Cris that made everyone laugh, but most importantly it had ended with heart felt feeling.
I took a deep breath and stood up from the top table, while tapping my glass with my spoon. The attention of the room was suddenly on me, and Leah was shrinking as far down into her chair as possible. Cris was by her side and chuckling at his bride's embarrassment.
"Well, I don't think I'm the only one here who's glad Leah finally found someone to keep her in check."
I paused to await my sister's signature scowl and right on cue it arrived. Everyone in the room chuckled.
"Seriously though, it would be easy for me to stand her and make jokes. But instead, I would like to use the opportunity to talk about love and friendship and most importantly, family.
As you all know, Leah is my big sister, but less well known, is that she's also my inspiration and best friend.
It's never mattered how dark things were, Leah has always fought her way through life with a courage and strength that I admire. And even though we have all been on the receiving end of her wrath, we have also seen just how big her heart is.
It seems only fitting therefore, that she has chosen a partner whose spirit and values match hers in equal measure.
It's sad, but in a perfect world, our parents would have been the ones proudly standing here making this speech, but that's the thing about the world - it's not perfect. I think that Leah and Cris would both agree that if it was, they would never have met.
That is something alone that should make us re-evaluate life and look at what we have. I for one have learnt from Leah and Cris that it's ok if love doesn't run smoothly. It's more important for us to find someone who completes us whatever happens in life, someone who is a lover and a friend and will stand by your side each day, whatever the weather."
I took a moment to pause and look at Leah and Cris. Cris' arm was wrapped around her, as they both looked up at me smiling.
"As you both know though, your union is not only a joining of your individual lives, with it come other responsibilities. Your marriage signifies a binding of our tribes, our history and our combined future.
Cris, you are now my brother in every way possible and for this very reason I entrust you with my sister's heart. I have no doubt you will make her very happy. You are already the father of her two beautiful children and are the reason she sits here smiling today.
I love you both, and with that, I offer my sincerest congratulations and would like to propose a toast – to the happy couple!"
I raised my champagne towards the bride and groom as I finished.
"To the happy couple!" People repeated around the room and clinked glasses.
I looked to Leah once again silently questioning if my speech was ok.
In response, she put her hand on mine and mouthed "I love you" while nodding sincerely.
Wow, Seth had said his bit. He had taken my father's position today and hadn't faltered once. It was now my turn to say something. Whether traditional or not, I didn't care – this was my wedding.
"Hi. As you know, I wasn't keen on the idea of a traditional wedding, but I'm glad my friends wouldn't let me have my way for once because having you all here has meant more to me than I could have ever realised. Now, I know I'm not the easiest person to live with,"
Jake coughed sarcastically from a nearby table and Nessie elbowed him; I smiled.
"I've not always been the most approachable or calmest person around, but over the years I like to think I've mellowed. Everyone here knows what I was like before, and Cris has helped me to be a better person than that. He has been my rock through some of the hardest parts of my life and never asked for anything in return."
I paused and smiled at Cris, and then at Sue, who was sitting on Embry's lap picking at his dinner. Sammy was next to her, and both she and Corey were grinning at me. I looked back to Cris.
"I love you Cris, more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone, and I know that our absent friends and family would have loved you just as much. You are my home, my heart, and now my husband. I would like to propose my own toast – to Cris."
I raised my glass and the rest of the room copied me. Sitting back down, Cris stroked my face and kissed me passionately.
"You get more amazing every minute." He said, pecking the tip of my nose.
After the food and speeches, the band started to play signifying our first dance. I had to hand it to Alice, she had arranged the reception brilliantly; it was the Cullen's gift to us. I stood up and held my hand out to Leah, asking her to dance. She looked up at me and placed her hand in mine allowing me to lead her on to the dance floor.
As we reached the wooden area under the spot light, I spun her round and caught her in my arms. She laughed her exuberant laugh as her eyes met mine and I pulled here close as we started to move slowly to the beat. I wrapped my arms around her tightly and bent head down so I could speak in her ear. "Did I tell you how stunning you look?"
"Yes, several times." I heard her reply as she laid her head on my shoulder and sighed happily.
"Just making sure, Wifey." I smiled.
She perked her head up and scowled at me; "Wifey? That better not be your new name for me."
"Why not? I like it." I grinned, knowing the buttons to press.
She growled at me in response, before chuckling lightly, all the while we continued to sway in tune.
"Leah?" I questioned.
She looked up at me, her beautiful brown eyes showing nothing but love and trust. I could still remember when they used to look empty, but they were different eyes now.
I brought a hand up and placed it on her heart; "This is it now; me and you forever." It wasn't a question, it was a statement.
"And the kids." She added as tears filled her eyes.
"Yes, and Sue and Sammy." I agreed leaning into to kiss my wife – my wife - Leah was my wife. My heart swelled at the realisation; it was still sinking in.
"And one more." She whispered, her eyes shining even brighter if possible.
"What? You're not?" I was stunned and stopped dancing.
"Yeah. Carlisle, called this morning. Congratulations, Daddy." She said and kissed me.
I pulled back, still amazed; "Just when I thought, this day couldn't get any better." I leaned back in and this time our kiss consumed us.
I lost track of the song, even of us dancing. I was kissing my beautiful wife, the mother of my children and my soul mate. I loved her completely, with everything I had and she had chosen me in return.
I thought back to all those years ago, when I first left Barrow to investigate the possibility of other skin walkers.
I suddenly realised that every choice and decision in my life had been leading up to this very moment. Imprinting may have wrecked havoc in La Push and broken my Leah, but fate and destiny had a bigger plan for us.
It was clear now, and in that moment I stopped kissing her and really looked into her eyes. I finally comprehended all that was and all that would be, and as I looked into their brown depths, searching out her soul I realised that even without imprinting, I was bound to her forever.
I knew she felt it to, because she just smiled at me before leaning in to kiss me once again.
Thank you so much to everyone who has read, followed, favourited and reviewed this story. Every single email I've got has made me giddy and meant so much. As someone that had never wrote anything publicly before I was terrified to start with. Everyone who writes on this site puts so much into their work and sharing it is quite daunting, still you guys have been great and even when highlighting areas for improvement it's been done in a nice way that has helped me. For this reason, I like to think I'll find the time to go back someday and go over the earlier chapters and improve them.
I'd also like to thank the beta's that have helped me along the way one final time, especially dontcallmeleelee and Khyharah who have both helped me finish this story.
It's scary to think it's taken three years to get here. I've spent countless hours on this story, with music as my biggest inspiration. I even created my own soundtrack for the story. The final chapter was wrote with Christina Perri, A Thousand Years on repeat. I loved the song, despite it already being twilight associated and for me it just finished it off.
The epilogue does happen to be one of my favourite chapters, mainly because it's so far from the angst at the start, which I did enjoy writing just as much. Over all though, my favourite chapters probably been the Burning of Barrow. I'd love to hear if anyone else had a favourite.
So, I guess that's it. I'm really sad to leave Leah and Cris behind, but I don't feel that there's room for a sequel and I'm pretty satisfied where they ended up, I just hope you guys were too.
I will aim to continue with my other stories, but for now I'm trying to write my own original fiction novel for myself. I want to try something different with my own characters and there's a crazy little daydream idea I've had in my head for years, which until I started writing didn't even realise was a story. I'll still be around though, I think my life would be too empty without writing.
Finally, don't be shy... I'd love to hear your thoughts and farewells to Leah and Cris.