Grateful thanks to everyone who has supported this little story by reading, alerting, voting and favouriting. Every single review is appreciated and loved. Thank you!
OWWK would never have happened without Naelany, who has been an amazing mentor, pre-reader and plot bunneh pusher. I also need to thank Yellowglue for always knowing the perfect thing to say and for being the best hb&b friend a girl could wish for. ILY, bb. And my beta, Betham; without her red pen of love this would have been very ugly indeed - thank you!
I really can't thank the three of you enough for your help and support.
One last disclaimer: owns all things Twilight. This is an AU story and a work of fiction. I made some stuff up and I have taken small liberties with wolfpack canon - no offense is intended toward the Quileute people.
I'm so sad to say good-bye to these two, but I'm excited to say that I have another Sethward fic planned so if dark and angsty is your thing, author alert! I also have a new slashy one-shot up on my profile - it's also wolf/vamp but Jakeward. Please be thankful that I took my sad-angst ending out on those two and not in this chapter!
One last thing (yes I'm cringing at the length of this A/N), I'm excited to say that Once we were Kings has been nominated in 3 categories (including Best Wolf!) in The Slash Awards! (theslashawards(dot)blogspot(dot)com) I'm pretty overwhelmed actually. Please take a moment to go check out the site and vote for your favourites. Voting is open until Sept 24.
Musical inspiration/playlist: The Veil's Sit down by the Fire.
And, without further ado, here is the final chapter of Once we were Kings.
And We Ruled The World
I glanced over at Edward. His jaw was flexing, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly I could almost hear the plastic groaning. I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen him this rattled before, and it was kind of unsettling.
I didn't blame him though. I was fucking nervous, too.
Even though I had traveled this stretch of road thousands of times before, this time everything was different. I wasn't driving home from work, I wasn't driving down to see Sam for a social visit. I was attending a pack meeting - my first one in over a year.
The road to La Push seemed to stretch on forever, and I couldn't remember it ever taking this long before. My foot bounced on the floor of the car as I stared out the window at the darkening sky, a soft smile glancing across my face as I realized we were passing the spot where Edward used to pick me up for school each morning.
I remembered what it felt like to stand there on the grass verge waiting for him, my hair still wet from my shower and dripping cold beads of water down my neck. The run from La Push to the Treaty Line didn't take long, but I always left earlier than I needed to so he wouldn't have to wait for me, or maybe it was just because I was anxious to see him again.
It seemed like another lifetime that we were in high school. Physically, we didn't look that much different, but so much had changed, so much had happened to us both.
I sighed. Everything had been so much simpler then.
"You'll have to give me directions."
The sound of Edward's deep voice startled me, and I was suddenly aware we were coming up to the township.
"Yeah, sure. Just drive straight through. Sam's house is about a mile out of town."
He nodded, shooting a quick nervous smile in my direction. Vulnerability was rolling off him, and I felt like I should reassure him, pat his arm or some shit like that, but I hesitated. I turned my head just in time to catch a glimpse of the street where...our...my...Mom's...house was.
Not ours anymore.
The blackness began to creep up my spine again as my thoughts once again turned to Melissa. I gulped, pushing it down again. I had to be strong today. I just had to get through this, for my own sake, for Edward and Sam and for the pack.
Strong and in control.
Later, I would think of her and weep for everything I had lost.
But now, I had to be strong. I had my pack to face.
Edward glanced at me as if sensing my crumbling resolve, and this time I didn't pause, grabbing his hand and twisting my fingers through his, finding comfort in the feel of his icy palm against mine.
Sam's hug was tight, his hands clapping against my back; words left unspoken.
I nodded at him as I pulled away, not saying all the things I needed to, either.
Sam's attention turned to Edward, who stood a step or two behind me.
"Edward. It's nice to meet you." I could have sworn "at last" was about to roll off his tongue too, but he smiled at him and it seemed genuine. Edward smiled in return, still guarded and unsure, but he shook the hand that Sam extended to him.
My Alpha and my...Edward...shaking hands. It was surreal.
The rest of the pack had gathered in the living room; Paul, Embry, Quil, and Jared. My sister once again conspicuous by her absence. I tried to remember the last time we had all been together as a pack, Leah included - Dad's funeral, maybe? Jesus, 14 odd years. These days, Quil and Jared lived out of Washington State, too - it had been years since the two brown wolves had been part of the patrolling pack.
The guys had been having a heated discussion about some sports game, but fell silent as Edward and I followed Sam into the room.
There were more hugs and meaningful glances, but thankfully no one asked how I was doing, or anything else in that sympathetic tone people reserved for the mourning. I wouldn't have been able to cope with that - but at the same time, their concern for me was palpable, and it was surprisingly comforting to be surrounded by those who knew me best; my other family.
I held my breath as a strained and tense round of introductions followed. Edward's smile was tight and forced as he shook hands with Paul, and I could only imagine what kind of animosity he was picking up from his thoughts. Paul had always been the most vocal at declaring his hate for vampires. Outwardly, though, everyone was exceedingly polite, even as the atmosphere in the room was fraught with tension.
After a few more minutes of awkward silence, Sam moved us all outside where we followed a small trail from his backyard through the dune grass, and eventually out on to the beach.
A small bonfire was burning, and we all flopped down on the sand - Sam taking a seat facing the ocean, and the rest of us arranging ourselves in a loose semi-circle around him. It didn't escape my notice that there was a distinct separation between Edward and me on one side of the fire, and the rest of the pack on the other. I moved myself closer to him, resting my foot against his ankle.
Sam started the pack meeting with an ancient chant; part prayer for the pack's safekeeping and part acknowledgment of those who had gone before us. As he came to the end, the rest of us joined in, echoing his words in unison as was the tradition. An image of a pack of wolves howling together at the moon flitted through my head as our voices rang out in the dark.
I glanced at Edward. His face rarely betrayed what he was thinking, but I thought I could sense awe and wonder from him, and I was reminded again that this was a part of my life he had never seen or experienced. I was bound to my pack in ways I couldn't even describe, with ties that ran deeper than blood; and yet, it was something I'd never been able to share with him.
It had been Sam's request that Edward attend the meeting with me. He hadn't said it explicitly, but there was something in his tone that let me know he wasn't asking as my friend, but telling me as my Alpha.
It was the first time, ever, that a Cold One had been invited to a pack meeting. Normally, not even the wives and imprints got to come to the meetings. I still wasn't sure what the fuck Sam was up to, but I'd agreed to ask Edward, and of course he had agreed to come.
So here we were.
"Tonight, we come to remember one of our own who has passed on to the Spirit World." I tensed, and felt Edward do the same next to me. "Melissa was loved by us all."
I clenched my eyes shut as Sam continued talking about my dead wife, trying to ignore the pain that was threatening to engulf me. Edward shuffled closer, leaning against me, silently asking me if I was alright. I had half expected this. Melissa had been family to them, and it was only right they had a chance to acknowledge her, too.
It just made it hurt all over again to hear her name.
It wasn't until Edward lightly brushed the tears from my cheeks that I realized I had been crying. I leaned into him as he wrapped his arm around me, not caring what the rest of them thought. He glared at Sam; wanting to protect me, and hurting because I was.
"It's OK," I whispered to him. And it was. It was stupid to try and pretend that everything was fine, when it so obviously wasn't. They needed to say good-bye.
Each of them had something to say. Something they remembered about her; a moment shared, a memory of happier times. She had touched them all, loved them all, and as the bonfire burnt down to embers they paid tribute to her, their words floating on the night air as tiny pieces of fire sparked into the sky.
A moment's silence followed, broken only by the sound of my sobbing. Once, I would have rather died than let my packmates see me so vulnerable, but I no longer cared what they thought. I missed her more than I could articulate, and the loss of her was so fucking awful there were times when I thought it would end me.
"An imprint is the type of love that few get to experience. It touches the soul and marks you forever. It is all and everything." Sam's voice echoed across our gathering again. In his voice, I could hear the legacy of our tribe that had been handed down to him. He no longer sounded like Sam, but like an Alpha. A Quileute chief imparting our histories, and dictating our futures.
"But, there are other types of love that can rival an imprint. A love so true that it will survive the worst kind of loss, survive time and change."
I gaped at him, taken aback by the sudden turn in Sam's speech. Edward's arm tightened around my shoulders.
"Those of us who are lucky enough to know both kinds of love are blessed. It is said that the loss of an imprint is so devastating it will result in the death of the wolf, too, but we have the proof before us that this isn't always the case. For when there is a love that can heal, a love that can give hope, then there is a love that is worth living for."
I felt my whole body relax, the tension and nervousness that had my body on edge since we'd arrived melting away as Sam's acceptance of Edward registered with me. Never, in a million years, would I have expected to hear an almost-blessing from Sam.
"Melissa would have wanted you to be happy, Seth. Grieve and mourn her, but know that she wouldn't begrudge you finding love again."
I took a deep breath and braved a glance up at Edward's face. I didn't know where the hell things were at with us, and I wasn't ready to think about it yet, but the look of relief and thankfulness on his face made my heart clench. He would never ask or demand anything of me, I knew that, but the fact there would be no reproach or retribution from my pack had somehow made everything simpler. I felt lighter - I still didn't know if I could love him the way he deserved, if I could recover and move on, but there was a new kind of hopefulness growing in the pit of my belly now.
Across the fire, my packmates' faces were cast in an orange glow. Where I expected to see disagreement or disgust, there was none.
We stayed on the beach well into the night, the seriousness of the pack meeting eventually laid aside as we talked and reminisced about old times. Even Edward joined in the conversation from time to time, sharing stories from when the Cullens had lived here before, stories from our great-grandfather's time. Whatever hesitation about him that may have been lingering was swept away as the pack eagerly asked questions about their ancestors.
Eventually, we all began to grow tired, and with some reluctance Edward and I headed back to Sam's house.
"Thank you," Edward said quietly to Sam.
Sam nodded in response. I pretended not to notice the silent conversation that passed between them.
"I'll wait for you in the car," Edward said, leaving me to say my goodbyes to my Alpha in private.
Sam led me to the porch, and we sat down on the couch that was covered in one of Emily's knitted afghans.
"Seth, there's something else you should know," he said, getting straight to the point. "The pack, the rest of us, have been talking. About...disbanding."
"Why?" I asked incredulously. I suddenly felt guilty for avoiding them. I hadn't been patrolling for a long time, but I still considered myself part of the pack, and this was certainly something I should have been aware of.
"It's becoming problematic. People are noticing how young we look and, the truth is, most of us just want to settle down now. Concentrate on the family, you know? Quil's got kids now too, and Kim's pregnant. I think the time is right, Seth. The only thing keeping us together as a pack is the...Cullens."
"Right." There was only one Cullen now. My Cullen.
"It happened before, when they moved away...if there were no vampires in the area we are no longer needed. The urge to phase fades, and eventually we could just...be us again."
I could tell how much it pained him to think about his life without phasing, without his wolf life, but I also knew that it was what he really needed to do now. I'd faced the same kind of dilemma when Melissa and I decided to try for a baby.
I swallowed down the sense of emptiness that accompanied that thought.
"Edward's no risk, obviously. Why can't you just stop phasing now? He's the only one here."
"It doesn't work like that, Seth. It's not about risk, it's just about presence. The wolf doesn't distinguish between friend and foe, it just knows there are vampires out there and we have to phase. There's no choice as long as there is a vampire around."
"You want us to leave?" My voice sounded distant and hollow.
"Not right now." He said quickly. "I'm just saying that maybe...think about your options, Seth. That's all."
"Well, fuck that. I'm not going anywhere." But even as I said it, I began to think that maybe leaving my ghosts behind, leaving my memories on the sand at First Beach, wasn't such a terrible idea.
"There's no time limit on this, Seth. The pack will keep phasing and patrolling for as long as we need to. I just...have you thought about what you're going to do now?" I shook my head. No, I hadn't thought further than the day ahead. The future was too big, too frightening.
"You're not tied to the same rules as us anymore," he said softly. "Just think about it, OK?"
I nodded, trying not to think about what he was really saying.
Then, in typical Sam-Alpha mode he stood, motioning for me get my ass home. "And now that you are phasing again, you can start picking up your share of patrols."
I grimaced, but didn't argue. It would have been pointless, anyway. I waved goodbye, running to the car where Edward was waiting.
A few days later, I found myself pushing open the door of the house. It smelled musty, the air heavy with memories I really wasn't sure I was strong enough to face. The courage that had taken me months to cultivate seeped away as I stepped inside.
Mom must have been there recently; everything was clean and dust-free. It looked...normal. Like I could just walk back in the front door and pick up my life again.
Except I could never live here again. Not without her.
She was everywhere.
In the sticks of incense on the coffee table, the silk-covered cushions she bought home from India, the bright red rug by the front door, the bowl of bone beads that she'd made in one of her sculpting phases. In the window, a string of feathers she'd collected off the beach swayed and twirled on a non-existent breeze.
I took a deep breath, but didn't taste her vanilla spice scent on the air.
My feet felt like they were made of lead, but I made myself walk through the house, the sound of my footsteps echoing across the tiled floor.
Everywhere I looked there was just stuff, meaningless clutter we'd accumulated over the years. The physical trappings of a life that no longer existed. I couldn't bear to touch any of it, too afraid of the memories that every single thing in this house was wrapped in.
None of it mattered.
The only thing I wanted was her.
And she was gone.
I was sitting under the big tree in the backyard when Mom arrived. I don't know how long I'd been there, staring at nothing in particular, trying not to think.
"Here," she said simply as she handed over a bag of muffins from her cafe.
"Thanks," I mumbled, through a mouthful of white chocolate and raspberry.
"You're not coming back here, are you?" she asked softly.
I shook my head.
"Okay." She didn't sound surprised. "Let's get this sorted, then."
I didn't want to go back in there, but I followed after her, waiting on the doorstep as she went back to her car to grab three boxes.
"I know you said you didn't want any of it, but I think you might change your mind." I started to tell her that I really didn't want to, that it was too hard and too painful and I just...couldn't, but she held up her hand, making me pause. "Fill these three boxes with stuff, with memories. If you don't want to keep them with you, that's fine. I'll take them with me. But I think you should save something. Just in case."
I rolled my eyes, grabbing the boxes from her in a huff and storming back into the house.
Everyone was so fucking intent on telling me what to do. I was sick of feeling like a child that had to be told everything, like they all knew better than I did what I wanted or needed.
I slammed the boxes on the floor, too fucking tired to argue. Again.
Mom bustled around me, chatting and filling the silence as she started opening cupboards in the kitchen and pulling out all the things that Melissa and I had bought for our home. It felt odd to know I'd never eat from that plate again, never drink from that cup, never use that jug to heat milk for the hot chocolate that she loved.
But it was better this way.
Eventually, I blinked back my tears, letting myself get absorbed in the task. The final task.
I really didn't want any of it. Even my clothes were added to the huge pile of stuff in the living room, destined for the charity shop. I'd lost so much weight since she'd gotten sick, most of my clothes didn't fit right, anyway. Books. Linens. Stuff. All of it could go.
Despite my initial reservations, I found myself filling a box with photo albums. I grabbed one of her teeshirts because I thought I could still smell her on it, and added that too. From the kitchen, I carefully unhooked the string of feathers from the window. Underneath it on the windowsill, I found her wedding ring that she hadn't been able to wear near the end. I slipped it in my pocket and asked Mom to give the rest of her jewelry to Emily.
There really wasn't anything I wanted, or needed here. All of it seemed meaningless and empty without her.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a canvas leaning against the living room wall. Red and black.
My stomach began to churn as I picked up the painting. I had promised to hang it up right after she'd given it to me. But I'd failed to keep that promise, just like I'd failed to love her enough to keep her alive.
Just like I had failed to save her.
The hole that she had left in my heart swamped me in a nauseating wave of gut-wrenching despair and I let it consume me, my back sliding down the wall as broken sobs wracked my body.
This was so much fucking harder than I had anticipated.
Everything; being back in the house, sorting out her affairs.
Living without her.
Mom left me alone to say good-bye and, when I composed myself hours later, I was so thankful she was with me, helping me and just being there so I wouldn't have to do this on my own.
"I can't go in there." I motioned to the studio. Visions of finding Melissa lying covered in blood-red paint slashed through my mind, and I felt my knees weaken at the thought of having to go in there again. "I don't care what you do with her paintings, sell them or donate them or some shit. I just can't..."
The beginning of the end is in there and I just can't.
"Sure," Mom said, without fuss.
She grabbed the box I had filled from the porch, and loaded it into her car.
"I'll call the real estate agent tomorrow. And get the charity shop to collect the rest of it." I nodded, whatever she wanted to do was fine with me. As long as I didn't have to do or think about any of it anymore.
She pulled me into a hug. "Take care, my boy," she whispered against my shoulder. Her smile as she pulled away from me was sad, like she was saying goodbye to me, too.
I wanted to tell her I wasn't going anywhere, that I would always be here for her, but I wasn't sure that was true and I didn't want to make a promise I wasn't sure I could keep.
And then she drove off and I was all alone again.
I slid Melissa's painting into the backseat of the car.
I didn't glance back as I drove home.
I pulled the car up outside Sam's house. Fucking Sam. I did not need a chaperone to go on patrol.
I slammed the car door loudly, instantly regretting it and cringing in case I'd woken Em or one of the kids.
"Seth, reporting for duty," I said petulantly as I saw him waiting for me.
He gave me one of his best Alpha "looks" and then turned, leading the way to the beach. Silently, we trudged along the shoreline for a mile or so before heading into the scraggly bush that bordered the coast just north of La Push.
As soon as the trees were thick enough he phased, dropping his human skin in favor of the huge black wolf that was the head of the pack. He bared his teeth at me as I hesitated, still fuming that he didn't trust me enough to do this on my own.
What the fuck was the point anyway?
A low growl warned me to hurry up and I sighed heavily, stripping my clothes and leaving them in a heap next to Sam's.
The wolf was not hard to find. Living with Edward meant it was always pacing just under my skin, a constant dull craving to be in the wild; to be free. All it took now was a thought, a pull on that invisible bond of blood and fire, and in a bone-cracking flash, I was a wolf.
The moment just after phasing was like that strange split second when you wake, when it's half dream/half lucidity and it takes a moment to remember who, and where, you are. I breathed in deep through my muzzle and shook my coat, taking in my surroundings; the weight of my sandy coat, the smell of the night dew on the ground underneath me, the distant sound of the waves breaking on the shore.
I was no longer just plain Seth.
Sam whined and ran into the forest. I followed, feeling a sense of relief as I sprinted after him, my muscles stretching and burning as I disappeared into the shadows.
My earlier misgivings about Sam's directive melted away as the two of us tore through the forest.
Fuck, it feels good to run.
Sam's answering thought bounced inside my head, shocking even as its odd echo was somehow startlingly familiar. The 'in your head' thing was always the hardest thing for me to come to terms with, always the last thing I became aware of when I changed into my wolf form.
I slowed my pace as a feeling of nausea washed over me at Sam's intrusion in my mind. It had been awhile since I'd phased with the pack, and it took a moment to readjust to sharing my thoughts and opening my mind to Sam's in return.
It was an odd feeling that I hadn't experienced since I started phasing again. I realized that when Edward was listening to my thoughts it didn't feel invasive, or weird. His presence in my head was almost like a comforting calm compared to the noisy chatter of sharing headspace with other members of my pack.
I felt an unsettling sense of guilt as I realized I actually preferred being out in the forest running with him.
Belatedly I realized Sam had, of course, heard my thoughts.
Fucking pack bond.
Sam mentally chuckled. No such things as secrets from the pack, Seth.
Don't I know it! I retorted. Well, it should come as no surprise for you to know that I think this is a total waste of time. I don't need "help" running a patrol.
No, you don't. But you need a kick in the ass to get out of the house, Seth.
Fuck you! I started to add some more choice expletives and an explanation about exactly how pathetic I thought this whole patrolling farce was, when I heard Sam's growl from where he ran a few meters ahead of me.
You want to just hide away forever? Is that it? Shirk your responsibilities and just wallow in your grief? Well, I won't have it, Seth. You need...
I could feel the blood and adrenaline beginning to rush through my veins, my hackles standing on end as I listened to his arrogant, insensitive prattle. Don't you fucking tell me what I need, Sam Uley. My wife...
Your wife would have wanted you to move on and find happiness. And yet, here you are with someone who has waited all this time for you, who loves you, though God only knows why, and you're too pussy to do anything about it. You have a chance at living again, Seth. Don't throw it away.
What-the-fuck? I slowed to a halt, panting hard from the running and the anger that was still flooding through my body.
Sam sensed that I had stopped and turned back to where I was angrily pacing the forest floor.
That night when you were up the mountain. I didn't realize before that, what you had with him. And I'm sorry.
I couldn't remember the last time I'd heard Sam apologize.
I know I gave you a hard time, and I was wrong. I know that now.
Is this what you said to Edward the other night at your place?
Some, yes. I told him you would still need to grieve for Melissa, but that you would be a fool if you didn't see the gift that he was giving you.
Christ, Seth. For someone with your smarts, you sure are thick sometimes. Forever. You can have forever with him.
Inwardly, I blanched. Sam was talking about immortality - a shifter who keeps phasing will never age, and vampires live for eternity. Suddenly, his whole spiel about not living to the same rules anymore made sense.
It had been too painful to think of the future, to make plans, or to figure out what the hell I was going to do now. The house had been the final hurdle, the last thing I had to face, and now that was done, I was lost, aimlessly drifting in a sea of grief.
Once, I had wanted to grow old with my wife by my side, to have my own children, give up phasing and see out the end of my days on the Peninsula. None of that was going to happen now. When she died, she took all our hopes and dreams, too.
But maybe Sam was right. Maybe it was time to make new plans. Maybe it was time to think about the future.
Sam's words replayed over and over in my head as I drove home, my body vibrating with a strange buzzing anticipation. I pushed my foot down, suddenly wanting to see Edward. Right now.
I pulled the car up and carefully shut the door, forgetting for a moment that I no longer had to worry about sneaking back into the house. Even though it was the early hours of the morning, the house lights were on, and I knew I would find Edward waiting for me inside.
I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time, and burst through the bedroom door.
Edward looked up from his book as I made my dramatic entrance, an indulgent smile making his whole face light up.
God, he was gorgeous.
"How was patrol?"
"Pointless." I huffed as I quickly removed my shoes.
"No scary vampires out there, I take it?"
I laughed. "No. Only one vampire in these parts." I pulled off my jeans and crawled into bed next to him. "And he's really not that scary."
"What? I'm offended!" Edward said mockingly. "You know...I can be quite scary if I try." He shuffled over to make room, but I moved after him, wanting to feel the coolness of his skin and to rest my head on the hard marbled plains of his chest.
"I'd like to see that sometime." I'd meant it to sound light and funny in answer to his remark, but my voice sounded breathless and husky. Suddenly, I was aware that there a new energy crackling between us.
Slowly, I lifted my head. Edward's eyes were darkest gold, smoldering with hunger, and I swallowed down my nervousness.
I pushed myself up and captured his lips in taste of him all sweetness and ice invaded my mouth, and I moaned as his tongue flicked against mine.
He felt so right.
My hands roamed all over him as I remembered how strong and unyielding his body was, the coolness of his skin under my fingers, how his breath would hitch as I pushed my palm over his nipple.
He tried to roll over me so he could touch me too, but I pinned him back down with a smirk, wanting him under me, wanting to do this my way.
I kissed every inch of him, worshiping him with every touch of my lips, my mind filled with the gratitude and love that I hadn't yet been able to voice to him.
Sam had been right all along. I had it all; right here. And it was time to make a choice - to live again, to choose the path back to happiness. To choose Edward.
He breathed my name as he caught my thoughts. I could feel his love for me radiating off him as he cradled my face in his hands, searching my eyes and my mind for the declaration he probably thought he'd never hear from me again.
"I love you," I whispered, feeling the tears beginning to slide down my cheeks. "And I want you. I want this."
He sighed as he pulled me into another kiss, holding me tight against him. I wished it was me that could see inside his head. I wanted to know if he loved me too, if he still wanted me, even after everything that had happened. If he could forgive all the awful things I'd said and done in dark moments of grief.
He growled. "I will never stop loving you. Never!"
He wrapped me in his arms and I felt myself relax into his embrace, feeling like I'd always belonged there.
I had expected us to devour each other, to be frenzied as we fucked our way into a new future together, but it wasn't like that at all.
Our kisses were slow and tender. He whispered words of love against my sweaty skin, and in my mind I pushed out my thoughts to him. Thoughts of wonder and rediscovery. How much I needed him to know how grateful I was; for saving me, for loving me despite everything.
Guilt had no place in our bed that night, and I savored every moment of pleasure as we lay cradled in each others arms.
I felt safe and loved.
As I pushed inside him, I remembered how amazing it felt to make love to him. To be connected; two halves of the same whole moving together towards overwhelming, stunning ecstasy.
His name was on my lips as I lost myself, coming hard deep inside him, my breath ragged against his neck as my hips stilled. I could feel my heart thudding in my chest, and I imagined Edward's love for me healing and knitting it back together till I was whole again.
I smiled as I realized I did want to be whole again. Post-coital bliss aside, I wasn't naive enough to think that it would always be easy, but I was no longer afraid of what the future might bring.
Not when I had Edward by my side.
"What's this?" I asked, picking up the travel brochure from the coffee table.
Edward eyed me apprehensively and then, in a decidedly human display of nerves, drew in a deep breath.
"I don't want you to feel like I'm making decisions or anything like that. I know you're not ready to decide anything yet, but I thought that perhaps, if you wanted to, of course, that we could go somewhere. Not for good, unless you wanted to - and if you did that would be fine with me - but I mean, go somewhere...on a vacation."
I chuckled as he blurted it all out - he was so cute when he was flustered.
"Yeah?" I asked, as I took a closer look at the glossy books. "Italy?"
"Well, Leah's still there, isn't she? I thought maybe we could visit. Maybe even go over to London and spend some time with my family, too," he said cautiously.
I grinned. "Sounds great."
"Really?" He sounded relieved. I knew there were times when he missed his family terribly, and I felt bad that he hadn't seen them for years.
"Yeah. Maybe you should see if Alice and Jasper could meet us in England, too," I suggested, and was rewarded with a wide smile.
"Alright. I'll make the arrangements. When would you like to go?"
"Soon." Edward's excitement was contagious, and I felt myself grinning as I could see him already making plans and lists in his head.
Lately, I'd been feeling frustrated with myself that I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. Stay or leave, go back to work, or not. I felt pressure from my pack, pressure from myself because I felt like I owed Edward some sense of direction, and I felt helpless not having any idea of what I wanted from the future. Edward was happy doing whatever I wanted, which wasn't particularly helpful in the decision making department, and I'd begun to feel anxious that I should know the answer. There was no time limit, no sense of urgency, and I was drifting aimlessly without purpose.
Somehow, yet again, Edward had known exactly what I needed. We didn't have to decide anything right now. We could just go - travel, do normal things like visit family and sight-see in foreign countries, be a regular couple doing regular couple things for awhile.
Knowing that we had as much time as we wanted to figure the rest of it out was suddenly liberating.
"There's one more thing," Edward said quietly. "I want us to have a joint bank account."
"Fuck," I muttered under my breath. I knew Edward was rich. I just didn't know how rich, and part of me didn't even want to know.
"It would just make everything much simpler. I plan on sharing the rest of my life with you, Seth Clearwater, and that includes my money. If that makes you uncomfortable, well...that's just tough. You'll have to get over it." He folded his arms over his chest. I could tell he wasn't going to back down. I'd successfully avoided this conversation in the past, but he was right. The rest of our lives was a long time to have hang-ups about money.
"Fine." I said, sticking out my tongue at him as I walked into the kitchen to make some lunch. "I've always wondered what it would be like to stay in a 5-star hotel." I said, with a grin over my shoulder.
I heard his laughter behind me. "Done."
"I think that's just about everything," Edward said as he shut his laptop.
It had been a busy few weeks getting everything organized for our trip. I'd let Edward take care of most of it since he was better at that kind of stuff than I was; and besides, I knew he liked to feel like he was being useful. Flights arranged, sister forewarned, 5-star accommodation booked. We didn't have a return date yet, so he'd also arranged for bills to be paid and someone to keep an eye on the house; shit I'd never even have thought of.
There was one more thing I wanted to do before we left. "I need to get something in Port Angeles before we leave. I thought I might go this afternoon - do you want to come?"
"Sure," he smiled. "Shall we take the porsche?"
I raised my eyebrow in question.
"Rose will never know," he whispered conspiratorially. I grinned as I imagined the look on Rosalie's perfectly made-up face if she ever found out we took her car without asking.
"Let's do it," I laughed.
We left just after midday, flying down the highway in Rosalie's blood-red sportscar. Edward was grinning as he pushed through the gears, like a little boy with a new toy. He looked so happy and content, it made something deep in my chest ache. I never wanted to see him upset or lost ever again. Never wanted to see fear in his eyes again.
This, right here, was my Edward - smiling and playful, and decidedly gorgeous.
"What are you thinking?" he asked me. I could tell by his smirk that he'd caught my thoughts, and knew full well exactly what was on my mind.
"My mindreader boyfriend is asking me what I'm thinking?" I retorted, the words out of my mouth before I'd even realized what I'd said.
"Say that again," he whispered.
"You're asking me what I'm thinking when I know you already know?" I asked quietly.
My heart was pounding in my chest and my palms were suddenly sweaty.
"The other bit," he hissed.
"Oh," I said weakly, trying to remember how to be brave. "The part when I called you my boyfriend?"
He leaned over, crushing my lips to his, searing me with his ice-cold kiss. "I like the sound of that!" he growled.
"Jesus, Edward! Eyes on the road!" I laughed.
We made it to Port Angeles in record time. Edward had had way too much fun bending the definition of speed limit. For someone who had zero interest in cars, he certainly knew how to drive one.
I gave him directions when we reached the city, turning to him as he pulled up outside the tattoo studio where I'd had my original design inked on my arm.
"I'm getting another piece. You can come and watch if you like, or wait. Up to you."
"Will it hurt you?" he asked.
"A little," I shrugged. "You should be able to tune it out if it bothers you." For the most part he stayed out of my head, but I knew it was almost impossible to block everything, especially when my emotions were running high.
"OK," he said hesitantly.
Half an hour later, I was sitting in the leather chair, my arm stretched out as Felix started the tattoo gun. The familiar buzz and grind on my skin made me close my eyes, my head falling back on the cushioned headrest as I let the sensation wash over me.
Part pleasure, part pain.
I braved a glance over at Edward, who was watching with fascination as the needle broke through the skin on the inside of my forearm, the ink and blood welling up in its wake. I wondered what my thoughts revealed as he watched the design emerge, arching over the top of my existing tattoo.
It didn't take long, and soon we were leaving the shop. My arm felt fine, the scratched-sunburn feeling already fading as my accelerated healing kicked in.
"A feather?" Edward asked me as we drove home.
"She used to collect them. From the beach. She had them hanging all over the house - sometimes she'd make the nicer ones into jewelry and sell them in her shop. Our people believe that souls travel to the afterlife on the wings of a bird. It seemed appropriate." I stared out the window, thinking about how odd it was to talk to him about Melissa. Odd, but somehow easy now. There was still a whisper of guilt on the air, but I'd decided it was important not to pretend that she wasn't still important to me. I'd hidden too much from her, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
"So the feather is Melissa, and the wolf is you?" He tried to keep his tone light, but I heard the question he hadn't asked.
He already knew the answer, he just wanted me to say it.
"And the moon is you."
I looked down at my arm where a wolf sat on its haunches howling at a full moon in the background. Only now there was an eagle's feather framing the other side and draping along the top of the black ink sketch-like image.
Melissa and Edward. Now I had them both etched on my skin to carry with me forever.
"When did you get it done?" he asked quietly.
"After we came back to live on the Peninsula. When I thought I'd lost you forever."
We went to Italy first, where my sister was running a bed and breakfast in a small town not far from Turin. It was good to see her again, and we spent a few weeks just hanging out. Last time I'd seen her, I hadn't been in any fit shape to really spend time with her, but we more than made up for it getting drunk on Italian vino and talking late into the night. She seemed happy.
Surprisingly, Edward and Leah seemed to hit it off pretty well. I sensed there was more to it than just my sister and my partner getting along for my sake. It was like they shared a secret that I couldn't be part of, but instead of feeling left out, it just felt like it was somehow fitting.
London was next. I'd been so nervous to see the Cullens again, worried they would hold a grudge against me for what happened, but in the end it wasn't weird or awkward; just a strange kind of bittersweet. It was hard to feel guilty when they just welcomed me back into the family like I'd never been away.
I could see how much Edward enjoyed being back with his family. There was a lightness in his voice, like he didn't need to overthink anything, like he could just be himself. I imagined the bonds between them were something akin to what I had with the pack; that subconscious understanding that was shared by those of the same kind.
While Edward and Carlisle talked medicine, stocks and bonds, and whatever else it was that uber-intelligent vampires discuss, Emmett and his boyish antics kept me busy. We relived old times, play-fighting in the woods behind the Cullen's house, and when I wasn't mouthing off at her, I helped Rosalie work on an old Bentley she was restoring in her workshop.
It was nice, and we stayed for months, enjoying the quiet and the comfort of being among family.
After that, we took our time and traveled through Europe. Sometimes, we stayed in the big cities, living the high life in upmarket swanky hotels where we spent our days making love on Egyptian cotton sheets, and our evenings out exploring the city night-life. Other times we took the quiet back roads, and when we came across a village or town that we both liked the look of, we would rent a house and stay for a few weeks. Edward, of course, was fluent in every language imaginable so I let him do most of the talking rather than inflict the locals with my attempts at broken English. We read and talked and went for runs through the countryside wherever we could find enough seclusion to hide a huge wolf and a vampire.
For the first time since Melissa had died, I felt relaxed and at peace.
Eventually, we decided it was time to make our future together, and we headed back to the States; Alaska, to be precise.
"Are you sure about this?" I asked Edward, for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Yes, I'm sure." He pulled me into his arms as we stood in the empty foyer of our new home. "I've told you - I only went back to Forks because of you. I'm happy to live wherever you want."
He made it sound like I'd come up with the idea, but the reality was, Alaska made perfect sense. When it had come up in conversation, we'd both looked at each other in amazement that we hadn't thought of it before.
Isolated, vampire-friendly weather, and Tanya was there.
"It's going to be great," I said excitedly. Over his shoulder I could see the kitchen full of boxes, and I couldn't wait to unpack all the top-of-the-line appliances I'd ordered. There were definitely advantages in shacking up with a vampire with money.
"I just knew you only wanted me for my money," he said jokingly.
"That's not all I wanted you for, though," I smirked at him, pushing him backwards till his back hit the wall.
I slid to my knees, grinning to myself as he groaned when my fingers began to undo the buckle of his belt. I took my sweet time, pulling the leather through the loops excruciatingly slowly and making sure my hands swept over where he was straining against the zipper of his jeans. Teasing him as I looked up at him and licked my lips.
"What are you doing?" he muttered as I pulled his pants down to pool around his ankles.
"I thought that should be fairly obvious," I quipped, before taking him in my mouth.
I loved it when he cursed. He was always so in control, so cool and calm, the moments when I pushed through his polite, old-fashioned exterior, and had him cursing and begging me to fuck him were the hugest turn-on.
I moaned around his cock as his hand slid along the side of my face, his thumb rubbing against my cheek.
Now that the house was officially ours, I had plans. Plans to celebrate our new life together in the most erotic and enjoyable of ways. I pushed my thoughts out to him; how I wanted to christen every single room in this huge house, make love to him on every possible surface, start this new adventure together by fucking him in every position imaginable.
He didn't last long once the images in my head reached him and he came hard, calling my name as I swallowed his icy venomous cum.
"Now that is out of the way, shall we start unpacking?" I laughed as I walked to the kitchen, leaving Edward still leaning against the wall with his eyes closed.
The house didn't take long to sort out, not when Edward did everything at vampire speed. Most of the time he kept that shit to a minimum, but it was pretty awesome to watch him being natural and uninhibited - just him. We'd brought a few things up from the house in Forks, but most of it was new.
We wanted to start from scratch, create new memories in this place.
And that wasn't all that was new.
Cullen and Clearwater.
I ran my fingers over the copper nameplate that was screwed to the door of the huge office that we'd set up in the guest wing of the house. I wasn't sure that there was going to be a huge demand for legal services out in the wilderness of Alaska, but Tanya had assured us that there'd be more than enough work to keep us busy, and with the way technology was these days we could do video-conferencing with clients all over the world. After all, since Edward didn't sleep it wasn't like timezones were going to be an issue. I felt nervous butterflies in my stomach at the thought of practicing again, and not only that, but running my own law firm. It had always been my crazy pipe-dream but now, somehow, I'd fallen into my own fairytale, complete with my handsome prince and a happily-ever-after. It might have been an awful cliche, but I was too fucking happy to care.
I pushed open the door, taking a moment to admire the matching antique desks that Edward had insisted we buy. I had said I didn't really care as long as it was comfortable, but he'd argued something about setting the tone of our firm. I'd just nodded and let him have some fun equipping our office with everything his perfectionist ass wanted. It did look pretty impressive, I had to admit. He had thought of everything.
With windows on two sides, we had an impressive view of the snow covered landscape that was the fifty acre estate that our house was located on. On the far wall, hung in matching wooden frames were our law degrees. Mine from UW, and Edward's from Yale; albeit with the dates altered.
He had left the other wall blank, except for a picture hook.
There was just one more thing the room needed to be complete.
Carefully, I lifted it up, smiling as I hung Melissa's painting above my desk.
Not much had changed in fifty years; La Push was still a sleepy small town with a handful of tourist shops, sand-whipped houses along the beachfront, dune grass growing along the roadside. It almost felt like I'd never been away, and yet there would be few still alive that would remember the boy Seth that once lived here.
"It feels weird."
Edward didn't say anything, but he gave me a soft smile and laced his fingers through mine as he drove us to Sam's. He'd had much longer to get used to the idea of eternity than I had, and I was still having a hard time trying to imagine my Alpha as an old man.
Sam may have looked different, but his voice was the same.
"Jesus," he muttered as he pulled himself slowly to his feet from his seat on the porch. As we walked down the driveway, I took in his appearance, shocked at how his body betrayed how much time had passed. His face was lined with deep wrinkles, his skin still the same rich tan but hanging loosely now, once short black hair was now long; straight sleek silver that reached past his shoulders.
"You haven't changed a bit." He held me at arm's length; checking me over with a look of marvel on his face.
"You don't look a day over twenty yourself," I joked, trying to hide the tightness in my chest as I realized how small he suddenly seemed as I hugged him.
Sam let out a chuckle before shaking hands with Edward. He lowered himself back into the old easy chair with a wince, resting his cane over his knee.
"It's good to see you, Seth," he said softly. "I'm so glad you came so I have a chance to say good-bye. I know things must be difficult for you now, to come back here."
"You're probably the only one left who remembers me, from before." I said, ignoring his comment about good-byes. I didn't want to think about that now, I just wanted to enjoy his company, remember how much he meant to me.
"It's like seeing a ghost or something," he said, clearly still shocked by my unchanged appearance, while I tried furiously to reconcile my memories of my fiercely proud Alpha with the old man before me.
Edward had warned me before we came down that it would be hard, but I hadn't realized how removed I would feel from my own past, seeing the image of how I should have looked myself, right in front of me. The implications of living forever were slowly starting to sink in as I sat with the last remaining member of my pack.
The last Alpha. The last wolf.
As if knowing what I was thinking, Sam turned to me. "You're the last one, Seth. Make sure you come back if a pack is ever needed again."
He shot an apologetic look at Edward. "Not all of them are as harmless as your young man here, you know."
I started to say something about the ridiculously slim chances of a rogue vampire straying into the Olympic Peninsula, but Sam held up his hand.
"I know what you're about to say, but I mean it. If a pack is needed, you come home. They'll need an Alpha who knows what he's doing."
"Sam!" I warned.
"No buts. I'm passing the mantle to you now. I hope you'll never need it, but this is yours now."
He held out a wrinkled hand and dropped his necklace into my palm. On a thin, well worn leather cord was a wolf tooth. Sam had worn it every day that I had known him.
"I can't take this!" I whispered.
"Yes, you can and you will. I'm still your Alpha for however long I last..." He coughed dramatically as if to emphasize how his time was running out. "...and this is my command. You're to be the Alpha when I'm gone."
I clenched my eyes shut, willing back the tears that were forming behind my eyes.
Sam patted me on the shoulder, before turning back into his bossy self. "Now, which one of you boys is going to fetch me a cup of coffee?"
And just like that we were suddenly back to old friends catching up over afternoon tea.
Later in the evening, when Sam began to yawn, we helped him back into the house, reluctantly leaving only after he'd cursed at us for fussing over him. I didn't trust myself to say good-bye, so I simply hugged him and then ran back to the car.
As Edward drove us out of La Push, I couldn't help but remember how much I resented being a wolf when I was younger. Instead of embracing the gift I had been given, I moped about being a freak and gave Sam a hard time at every opportunity I could find. Now, here I was - spending the rest of my life with Edward only because I was a wolf. The gift I had so despised had been my greatest blessing.
The wolf tooth was smooth against my fingers and I carefully slipped it over my neck.
"Run?" Edward asked me, and I nodded, feeling the urge to be one with the wilderness building up in my veins.
It was after midnight by the time we found ourselves on our ridge.
I phased, wanting to be in my human form with Edward as we soaked up the memories in this place. He passed me the bundle of clothes that he always carried for me, and then we sat on the overturned log and listened to the night noises around us.
"I came here the first day I met you," Edward said softly. "The day I fell in love with you."
"First kiss." I replied. I smiled as I heard Edward let out a soft sigh beside me.
"No...maybe not," I added.
"No?" Edward looked at me, confused.
"Before that. Only I hadn't admitted it to myself." His laugh was soft and sweet, and I leaned over to kiss him, remembering all the other memories we had shared up here overlooking the valley under the light of the moon.
When we reluctantly pulled away, I turned to him again. "The day we talked about being different. You told me to make my peace with it. I remember wishing I would one day accept what I was, and be comfortable in my skin like you were. I think that was the day I knew you were the one for me."
He smiled, fondly. "I remember." He pulled a little ball of wood from his pocket, holding it up for me to see. He carried that mangled piece of wood with him every single day, and it no longer resembled the little wolf I had carved for him so many decades ago.
I pulled his hand towards me. "I made you a new one," I said softly as I put the carving in his outstretched palm. "And when this one disintegrates, I'll make you another one. And another, and another. For as long as I live."
The thought that we would have eternity together was dizzying.
He captured my words with a kiss, cradling the wolf to his chest.
"Forever," he murmured against my lips.
I rested my forehead against his, gazing into his honey-colored eyes.
Once we were Kings.
And we ruled the world.