Chapter 15.

Happily Ever After

We weren't surprised when Mom asked us if it would be okay for Seth to go and stay with us. She had agreed to let him leave the Quileutte school if Lora could home school him and get him ready for college. It would mean having someone around more often than we'd planned, but he wouldn't be there very often since he was going to be studying or working with Lora's husband on the boat whenever possible. We agreed and an eager Seth was already packed.

We planned to leave first thing in the morning which gave us a chance to say goodbye to all of our friends and relatives. We weren't planning to be gone forever, but it was more difficult to say goodbye since I had mended friendships and improved relationships with those I cared about. We also got the chance to talk to Jacob and Sam about what we'd discovered on our honeymoon. They planned to pass the news on to the rest of the shape shifters in their packs and Sam wanted to see for himself once the baby was born. I was interested in finding out if Emily's trait was dominant or recessive. I wanted to know if becoming a mother would keep her from ever changing.

Because Mom already had a full house, the Cullen's invited us to spend the night at their house. We had planned on visiting them anyway and Mom looked a little bit relieved. Having a man sleeping in the same bed with your daughter must be hard to take, even if he is her husband! The guys went off to play poker, Jasper claiming he wanted a chance to win back some of his money. I took the opportunity to practice with my digital camera, snapping dozens of pictures of the beautiful people. They didn't seem to know how to take a bad picture, and even the most candid shots looked posed. I took many pictures of Bella and Nessie before it was her bedtime and the three of them disappeared into the darkness across the river, heading for their own cabin in the woods. I had the chance to thank Alice for saving my honeymoon with the passport and the clothes that were perfect for the cruise ship. I also spent some time with Esme as she flitted about the house cleaning what was already immaculate.

We were given the white bedroom where I'd stayed when I was recovering, and the guys brought our bags in after their game. Emmett and Kyle were both comparing naturalist stories about places they've been and the wonders they'd seen. "The parks were so much better before they built them all up into tourist attractions" Emmett was saying. "I used to hike through Yosemite for days without seeing any signs of people. Now there are roads, trail markings, campgrounds,....indoor bathrooms! Not to mention the litter people throw around!" I could tell he'd hit on a subject Kyle knew well. Rosalie tapped my arm and lead me up the stairs and into our guest room.

"I love him to pieces, but I've heard those stories a thousand times!" She threw herself down on the bed in 'our' room. "Truly, a thousand!" She flipped over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. "So Leah, what are you going to do when the stories start to get old and stale? Jacob says you could live a long time now, so what can you do after you get to know all there is to know about him? When you've read and discussed all the books he's read, and you've decided whether or not you like his taste in music? What do you do with forever?" She looked over at me like I was in the same boat she was in and could commiserate with her.

I sat down beside her. "I had thought the very same thing as we were leaving on our honeymoon. Maybe not in the same way, but I was worried what would happen when I no longer seemed fresh and wonderful. I was afraid that when the novelty of being in love wore off, he would discover that I just wasn't as interesting or fun as he thought.

"One of the things we discovered on our trip was that we have such an amazing connection that he can know me completely and I can do the same with him. But it also means that we can't stay glued to each other. We need to have different experiences and not be afraid to learn new things." I looked her way briefly. "He wants to teach me to fly a plane, and take pictures like he does. It's important for us to share things, but it's equally important to do somethings that we don't share. I love to run but to him it's just a way to get there. He paints and I can't hold a brush. Now that I know we'll have a long time together, I can see so many possibilities!" I looked at her and could tell she was interested. "Esme helped me see that I shouldn't be in competition with him, and I understand that. But I don't have to stagnate in his shadow either! You asked what to do with forever? I plan on taking all the time I have and living! "Maybe you don't understand, but I want to change into animals all around the world, I want to follow our genealogy as far back as I can. I want to learn to paint, and take pictures, and fly planes. I want to learn how to play piano like Edward. I want to read all the classics and best sellers. I want to visit the grand canyon, the great barrier reef, the pyramids, the great wall of china, and the Empire State Building. I want to hike with my husband and see the things that he's seen. I want to hold my cousin's baby when it's born. I want to learn how to juggle and do magic tricks. I want to listen to the great orchestra's of the world, and I want to go to rock concerts." I smiled at her. "Rosalie, I'm going to have him for as long as we live, and I can't wait to make memories by his side. But I also know that if I don't do anything without him I won't have anything left to share with him! I love him dearly, but I don't have to be attached to his side all the time. I don't have to be just like him to love him." I could see she was thinking about what I'd said.

But then she sprang up, kissed my cheek and said goodnight before she breezed out the door. A minute later Kyle came through the door and I was in his arms. Even with the door closed and the lights off it was still disconcerting to know that they didn't sleep and they would be able to hear any noises we made. Even our heartbeats could be observed. It was that thinking that made me want to be with Kyle in our natural state. When I suggested it to him he laughed and sat down on the bed. "Tikaani, it's not worth the risk to the others to let that revelation come out just yet. But it would be funny to see how they'd react if we suddenly 'disappeared' from their senses." Instead, we slipped under the blankets and held each other. "Of course I'm going to take a lot of grief from Emmett that we didn't raise the rafters in true newlywed style."

"Well, I think we'll just have to let Emmett win this one. I don't think I like the idea of being observed doing newlywed activities."

"I didn't think so, but if you change your mind, I'm right here...." I laughed and kissed him. I didn't realize how tired I was, but soon I drifted off to the sound of his steady breathing.

In the morning we got ready quickly and Esme had made us breakfast.

They all came to say goodbye and I knew that some of them were likely to visit us before we made it back down. I could see that Emmett and Kyle were becoming good friends, even through all the kidding. When we left I hugged every one of them, including Jasper who held me tight and buried his nose in the hair against my neck and inhaled deeply before he let me go with a wicked grin.

Back at home Mom had breakfast waiting for us as well, and the kids had their suitcases packed into the Jeep. More people showed up to say goodbye including Sam and Emily and Charley Swan. Sam offered to drive us to the airstrip and bring the Jeep back. We took turns hugging Mom goodbye, then squeezed into the Jeep. As we pulled away I saw Charley put his arm around Mom. I smiled when she leaned into him.

When we finally made it home it was late. We'd dropped the kids off with Lora, including Seth who was going to meet his future father-in-law the next day. When we walked out onto 'our' beach after parking the truck, Kyle wrapped me in his arms and I knew I was where I belonged. Not Alaska, the beach, or his house, but with him! We went inside and started living our life together; happily ever after!

Of course "Happily Ever After" doesn't mean that life stops. In the years since I got married some incredible things have happened. Emily and Sam had a baby girl! Not long after that, Sam discovered that Emily had the gene for changing and it was dominant! After the first time they changed into their natural form she discovered she could heal her face.

On one of my visits to see their baby, Akiak came along to reconnect with friends he'd made. He was planning to go East to attend University of North Carolina in the fall. After the trip he changed his plans to find a school much closer to home. He took one look at baby Samantha Uley and fell in love instantly!

Kim also found out that she had the dominant gene as well. She and Jared skipped the wedding entirely, instead eloping to Vegas.

We weren't surprised that Rachel had the dominant gene too; it seemed that all the imprinted females had it. Jacob had a tough time of it when Rachel and Paul would unite against him, not to mention when she could run with the pack her thoughts along with Paul's were enough to drive him crazy. He actually took the time to write to me and ask me what mind tricks I'd used to keep from listening in on what should be private.

With all the imprinting and marriages in the pack it seemed the whole tribe had found new life. Even still it was someone not in the pack who had the most anticipated wedding. I had to make sure I came back home when my mom accepted the proposal of Chief Charley Swan. Their wedding was somehow less and yet more than mine or Emily's. Everything they did had special meaning to them, including a tribute to Harry Clearwater. Charley wanted Mom to live with him, so she made arrangements to give the house in La Push to Seth for when he and Ahnah got married.

With Seth, Ahnah also discovered she was a shape shifter, and they had decided after college they would be moving to La Push and staying with Jacob's pack. They didn't wait the whole four years to get married, but married during the break between their freshman and sophomore years.

Sam and Jacob worked out their leadership issues; Jacob took over leading the whole pack of shape shifters, and Sam took over leading the tribal council. Jacob had to follow Sam's leadership in regards to the whole tribe, and Sam had to follow Jacob's orders in the pack.

The secret of the shape shifters was harder to keep as the pack swelled to include not only the imprinted females of the tribe, but also many of the young men as they came of age. In all of the legends and stories, we were supposed to hide our existence from outsiders, but we accidentally hid our existence from ourselves! Because our tribe had lived for hundreds if not thousands of years in the same place, our race was stronger in La Push that anywhere else we'd found. But Kyle was evidence that our tribe was not the only one that had combined with shape shifters.

One of my goals was still to find more of our kind in the world. With our work in photography and increasingly conservation efforts we do a lot of traveling. I learned to fly airplanes like I'd wanted. Kyle was a good teacher, but it was one of the other flying club members that actually trained me. Ben was tougher on me than Kyle was, and he wasn't afraid for me to be in tough spots that I might face. When I did my final test and had to kill the engine and restart it I knew that Kyle was waiting below for me worried sick.

I also learned the finer points of photography. The pictures Kyle took before our wedding were of the pack members going through their first new changes. He also had pictures of the natural beauty of the area. I had a different outlook than he did. I went to work on a project where people were juxtaposed against natural wonders. I got the idea from the Cullens' and my first picture was of Rosalie in a beautiful satin gown, standing on a branch high in an enormous tree with a view of the river valley beneath her. It was eye catching and It had me thinking of new ways to point out the majesty of nature. In one Sam let me "borrow" Samantha, and I had Kyle change into an enormous polar bear. He held her cradled in one paw while she slept and I got the picture of his look of wonder. I did a whole photo series which I sold to a top nature magazine. Leah, Tikaani Sangilak was making a name for herself.

With all the changes in the pack I almost missed one change in our friends. Rosalie has changed more than I ever could have imagined. I guess she wasn't content to just be Emmett's beautiful wife for all eternity. The pull of motherhood still had it's hold on her when she went with Carlisle to volunteer at the hospital. It started with an afternoon of rocking premature babies and grew from there. She surprised everyone when she went to nursing school and finished in half the time as a normal student. She impresses everyone with her iron resolve when it comes to human blood which she comes into contact with on a regular basis. She volunteers with different international relief agencies, going to some of the most hellish places on the planet to help suffering children. Many of the children she's helped recall her as a beautiful angel who came to save them.

Of course this left Emmett to decide if he was going to follow her or wait for her return. After her first two week trip to an earthquake disaster he decided he had to go with her. He found that he was uniquely qualified to find survivors buried in ruins, and strong enough to dig them out. The blood is still difficult for him to handle, but he made a huge bet with Jasper that he could resist longer; and they are both determined not to lose!

Nessie is a surprise to us all, but we expected that she would be special. As she nears her maturity everyone is impressed by her voracious intellect. She reads anything she can get her hands on, and what she reads she remembers. She also has a gift for music and can play any instrument perfectly. In human years she would be about fourteen now. She is fully mature in many ways, and still childlike in others. She teases Jacob mercilessly, having given up biting him years before. It's funny to watch them together as she asserts her budding womanhood, luring him to her only for him to have to remind himself that she's still a child, removing himself from an enthusiastic hug or making it clear that she cannot sit on his lap any more. As soon as she began maturing she made it clear that Jacob was indeed whom she was planning to marry, sending a somewhat disappointed Nahuel on his way. I'm still anxious to see what their marriage holds for our kind as well as the vampires.

I didn't expect it to happen so soon, but Kyle and I had only been married a year before I became pregnant. I didn't change for many months, and I had to convince Kyle to finally let me at least change into our natural form. I didn't have a thing to worry about; the baby changed right along with us! She was perfect; I knew right away with more clarity than any modern ultrasound or testing. When she was born we named her Emmy Rose Sangilak, but Kyle promised he'd find an Inuit name that suited her to add to it.

When I became pregnant again a year after Emmy-Rose, we knew it was going to be a little boy. This time during childbirth we changed into our natural state and it was as if Kyle reached in and plucked him out of me painlessly! It was the most amazing birth experience I could have imagined. We named him Harry Everett Sangilak in honor of our fathers.

With my research it's becoming clear that thousands of years ago our race had ties with the vampires. We were related, like cousins, but the choice was made on how to exist with the growing human population. Our choice was to intermix with them and protect them. The vampires instead chose to hold themselves above them and prey on them. We have since grown more and more apart in our adaptations and our reactions to each other. When Jacob and Nessie marry, I suspect it will be like coming full circle; vampires and shape-shifters will once again know they are related. Both races need humans for survival; vampires for sustenance, and shape shifters for revitalization of our own lines. Both races have shown they can step back from their nature; vampires can not feed on humans and shape shifters not change.

I have not seen any of the 'Children of the Moon' but I suspect they are what arises when a venomous vampire bites a shape shifter, but does not kill him. I can only imagine the killing, burning venom combined with our fast healing and changing. In my research I found a misconception. Their change isn't brought on by the full moon, but it instead happens in the darkest part of the lunar cycle. It is during the full moon when the beast is at it's strongest. I imagine that it's then that the shape shifter aspect asserts itself over the vampire, locking itself into the strongest and most aggressive form the shifter can imagine. Then when the poison subsides, the shape shifter would be free to assume his human form once again. If it's what I think it is, I can't imagine how agonizing it would be to feel the pain of the venom, and find yourself month after month still alive being torn apart by the warring of the supernatural drives.

Of course I'm going to have to find out for sure since it may become critical knowledge for our family. Emmy Rose is three and a half and we are all in love with her. Her Auntie Lora is already teaching her to read and she has an amazing vocabulary even if it's spoken with a three year old lisp. I was starting to worry about her lack of playmates her own age when she started talking about her imaginary friend. She had a description and everything of a boy she called Huey. He was brown with shiny black hair that he kept braided. Huey was nice and pushed her high on the swings behind Auntie Lora's house. Huey brought her surprises like a bird's nest with eggs in it, or a walrus tusk from the beach. Huey was faster than Auntie Lora and he ran away when she came out. Huey rescued her from a tree she climbed when she couldn't get down.

I worried about her socialization when I should have worried that there was a stranger stalking my daughter! Kyle noticed before I did; a strange smell she carried home with her. When he took her to Auntie Lora's he became a hawk high in the tree outside. Emmy Rose went out for playtime as usual. The man who came out of the forest wasn't one of the Inuit villagers and Kyle watched him push her on the swings, then give her a horsey ride around the yard. When Lora came out he fled so quickly Kyle had trouble following him. He called to me with his alpha voice and I came to help and we tracked Huey to a cabin in the woods. We probably terrified the man when we barged in on him without the benefit of knocking first.

I recognized him after his first frightened protests that he'd done nothing wrong. It was Nahuel, the half vampire, half human I'd first met when the Cullens' faced the Volturi after Nessie was born. I had to keep Kyle from killing him since he thought he'd cornered a child molester and I felt the grizzly bear was ready to explode.

"Please, I have not hurt your little one! I would never hurt such a sweet child! You know me Leah, I don't need her blood; I don't need any human blood! Please give me a chance to explain." He looked at us both with his warm brown eyes and we relaxed – a bit.

"It's been six years since the Volturi came to see Renesmee; the female who is like me. I left my home with my sister to prove that she posed no danger. I didn't go back home afterward instead I wanted to learn from the Cullen family how to behave less like a monster. I stayed because I thought that the little one might find an interest in me when she grew up a little more. When she made her choice I could not stay. I went instead to Denali where others who live like the Cullen's exist." He smiled at me then, something I hadn't seen him do when I knew him before.

"Leah, I have been haunted by your scent in four places now. When I took my sister Huilen back to the Amazon, I came across your familiar scent. I recognized it from my time around the Cullen family. When I went to Denali I …." He smiled again embarrassed. "...I smelled you had marked it as your territory. It was very faint, but I recognized it. Then when I left Denali I followed your trail, it lead me to a place on the beach . I wanted to visit you; I don't believe in coincidences like your scent being in my homeland and where I am visiting. Your home is difficult to visit. I don't know how to just knock on the door. So I waited until I saw you outside. It amazed me to see you come out with a baby in your arms! And then I saw the little one come out and she was breathtakingly beautiful. I watched you play games and I watched you ride her on your back with the baby in his carrier. When you drove her to the house in the village I followed. I saw her when she came out to play and I introduced myself to her. She was having trouble making the swing go, so I pushed her. I brought her food to share, and I've shown her some things I found. I visit her on the days when she goes to the village. I don't mean her any harm! I was afraid for her auntie to see me since I'm a grown man she doesn't know me. But I am telling you the truth, I'm only looking out for her!" He finished his story and I could tell Kyle was suspicious.

Kyle questioned him further. "Why did you come back? I mean why would you want to spend time pushing a little girl on a swing?"

He looked nervous and confused himself. "I don't know. I just wanted to....very much. She's like a bright spot of sunshine in the world; she's so beautiful I just find it difficult to walk away from her....I can't help myself."

Kyle and I looked at each other and groaned. "You do know she's only three?" Kyle persisted just to make sure he wasn't a creep. "Does she excite you? Do you want to take her away and do things in private?"

"That's disgusting! How could a father....how could anyone talk about a little angel in such a way?! She should be treasured! How could anyone look at a little girl with lust?!" He looked truly sickened at the thought. "I would kill anyone who touched her in such a way!"

"Nahuel, you're over a hundred and fifty years old! Would we be right in asking you to go away and leave her alone?" I asked the question gently to see his reaction.

He was clearly torn. He took a long time to think about his answer then said, "you are right, Leah. This is inappropriate." He was polite, but he clearly seemed saddened. "I will leave and not bother your angel while she is still a child. But I would like to come back and visit in about fifteen years?" He phrased it like a question but he was clear in his intention. "Please, would you give her this?" He took a heavy gold chain from around his neck, there was a sunburst medallion dangling from it. "She likes to play with it, and I want her to remember me. I will leave at sundown."

When we left him I wondered if we'd done the right thing. The weight of the necklace seemed heavier as we walked back to Lora's to pick up Emmy Rose. Later when we gave her the necklace she asked us about Huey. When we told her that he had to go back home far away she cried for quite a while. We've had time to talk about it and we still haven't decided if imprinting was at work or something else. One thing we're certain of is that we've not seen the last of Nahuel. We're also concerned because Emmy Rose keeps asking about him even though it's been weeks since he left. She wears a small fortune in 24 carat, hand hammered, antique gold around her neck even though it gets too heavy for her and she has to give it to me when she's playing. I need to find out what kind of danger venomous Nahuel could pose to my daughter. Fortunately I do still have time.

In the last five years I've not aged a bit. Neither has Kyle or any of the other shape shifters once they become mature. Our children seem to be growing up as normal humans would, and so far they haven't experienced any changes. They are aware that they are different from the other Inuit children but they have no trouble blending in and growing with them.

Because of this agelessness I'm beginning to think we're closer to the vampires than we ever believed. In the past our kind would eventually start families, then grow old and die. I'm sure there are those not mentioned in the legends who simply changed into some animal and headed off to live and die as another creature. But we're having families and still not aging. And the ability to change stays with us!

I've still got a lot of research to do, especially since I've found out that two of Kyle's brothers are living in a small fishing village in a remote part of Russia. They had kept in touch with Lora but she didn't know exactly where they were or what they were really doing until I did some checking. We were planning a trip for the spring to go and meet them since it seems odd to both of us that they have shunned civilization. I'm fairly certain that when we connect with them we will find that there are more of us.

It's hard for me to worry about more of us since I have such a full and active life already. Kyle has let me know that he wants a lot of children. He's already working on a bigger home for us a little further from the beach. I never would have thought that my life would turn out like it has. It's been five years since I found my true mate. With all the worries I had about him falling out of love with me, it seems almost impossible but we love each other more! Sometimes I get the feeling, that like the vampires we will have forever. I love the idea of having Kyle and our children forever.

a/n: Well, here it is; the end. Or would it be the beginning? I've enjoyed this story so much and I hope all who read it enjoyed it too. I am planning another chapter following a different set of characters, so I'm not going to mark this as complete just yet. Please let me know what you thought of my writing, and know I've got another story posted in progress and one more I'm working out on the computer before I upload. Thank you so much for reading!!!

Well, I'm not going to get to that alternate chapter just yet so I'm going to mark this as complete and if I get around to it I'll refer back to this one. I've got another story that won't let me go and it's taking up more of my time.