Riley dug the toe of his boot into the snow covering the floor of the forest, a sigh of resignation slipping from his lips. The snow is sticking to the ground. Their wait for the Volturi was almost over.
It had felt as though they had waited an eternity for the sign Alice had mentioned in her note. Now that it was here he wished for more time. Even one more night to hold on to this life and his new family.
Jacob had opted to distract the group. He set up a few fallen trees and built a bonfire, insisting that everyone gather around and tell stories to help pass the time. Seth explained it was a Quileute tradition, while Leah had rolled her eyes and walked away from the growing group of visiting vampires crowding around the fire.
Riley chose to stay back in the comfort of the shadows. There he could pretend to take part in the conversation while keeping an eye on Leah. She also stood apart from the group, leaning against a tree and watching while Seth questioned Garrett at length about his mortal life.
Riley could see the barest hint of a smile pinching the corners of Leah's mouth. It tugged at memories of her true smile—a bright, blindingly beautiful expression that lit up her entire face. He closed his eyes, allowing the memory of her smile and laughter to fill his mind.
"I was looking at South Seattle," Leah admitted, rolling onto her naked belly and giving him a view of her smooth, shapely ass. "There was no way I was going to get into Udub with my GPA."
"Yeah," Riley laughed, placing his hand on the small of her back. "I don't why I was there, but I found mu student ID in my jacket."
"If you have no idea, how are we supposed to play this game?" She glanced at him over her shoulder, that familiar tart expression quirking her lips and making her eyes sparkle with humor.
"It's called using your imagination," he replied, placing a kiss upon her nose and laying back down beside her. "Didn't you dream about your future? I mean, before this happened, what kind of life did you want?"
Her expression shifted, darkened, and he immediately knew he'd said the wrong thing. Though he wasn't sure why exactly. He didn't like the sadness haunting her eyes, or the way she withdrew from his touch.
"I'm sorry. We don't have to play," he whispered, pressing his lips against the hot skin of her shoulder.
"No, it's okay." She shook her head and leaned against the top of his head. "I'm just thinking too much."
"A very dangerous thing to do," he chuckled softly against her hair, and she turned to gaze down at him, a smirk on her lips.
"Do I look like I scare easily?" Her eyebrow rose, head tilting slightly.
"Not at all," he replied with a wide grin.
He could spend forever talking to her, kissing her, and trying his best to make her smile. In that moment it crystallized in his mind. It would be a privilege to stand beside her, to fight next to her, and call her his mate.
For so long Victoria had told him how vampires mated. How they just knew and how she knew when she made him. It had never made sense to him, because despite her surety he never felt it. She was important to him because she made him, taught him about their kind, and told him over and over again that she loved him, but deep in the shadows of his mind he never felt truly connected to her, not in the way she described.
With Leah he felt it. Like an unshakable truth. Like gravity and the stars in the sky. Riley belonged to her and would for the rest of his existence.
"Riley," Edward's voice shook him from his thoughts and plunged him back into the cold reality of the present.
"Yes?" He opened his eyes to meet his brother's gaze and tried to suppress a grimace of embarrassment.
"Could you do me a favor?" Edward gave him a sympathetic smile, knowing all too well the thoughts and memories that Riley used to torture himself.
"Of course." Riley shifted his gaze to the small tent where Renesmee slept in her mother's arms.
She was a sweet child, and even if she weren't his niece he would still think so. It seemed insane that anyone would consider her a monster. After all, Riley himself had once been a monster and a murderer. He knew what one looked like, and his niece wasn't one. The Volturi could come, and he would stand with his family against them. To protect her and the life he never thought he would be lucky enough to have.
Edward placed a hand on his shoulder, giving Riley a squeeze of acknowledgement and thanks. Riley shrugged. His loyalty was well deserved.
"Could you give Leah a ride home?" The words did not register as real to his ears; they were so close to what he had wished and wanted to happen.
If he were capable of dreaming this would be how one would begin. "Me?"
Edward's face was neutral, but Riley could see a spark of amusement in his amber eyes. It was an expression that often lit his brother's face when Riley was feeling particularly ridiculous. Edward would never be rude enough to openly mock his brother, but as Emmett said "you just know he's laughing his ass off at you in his head."
"I mean, of course." He stuttered out his response in a clumsy, graceless manner, wholly unlike a vampire.
"Thank you," Edward said and stepped to the side. Leah was standing behind him wearing an uncharacteristically sheepish expression.
Riley's immediately conjured up a joke about wolves in sheep's clothing, but he knew he lacked the skill to properly articulate it. So he just turned to lead her to his brand new Ford Explorer, a welcome to the family present from Emmett.
As they pulled out onto the narrow back road, he flipped on the headlights and tried his best to keep his eyes on the road. It wasn't the first time they had been alone together. Not long after he helped the Cullens defeat Victoria, Bella and Edward had married. When they returned from their honeymoon inexplicably pregnant, the controversy had split the wolf pack.
Riley could still remember watching Jacob talk with Leah and Seth in the driveway. He could hear every word and silently prayed that Jacob would allow them to stay. It was like a dream come true to have her so close again.
Edward had cautioned him to keep his distance, reminded him to give her time to come to terms with what had taken place between them. Riley heeded his brother's advice, knowing that Edward knew better than anyone the conflict inside Leah's mind. Despite Emmett's insistence to tell her how he felt, Riley knew the timing wasn't right.
So, he kept his peace, while Leah kept her distance. Neither one spoke directly to each other, but she didn't avoid his presence, like she once had. Once Renesmee was born and the conflict was settled, they had fallen into a comfortable acquaintance. Then came the Volturi threat, looming large, and all his hopes for their future were torn to shreds.
He wished he possessed Emmett's courage to speak his mind. Or even a tenth of Garrett's roguish charm. Neither one of them would have as much difficulty convincing Leah to give him a chance. Instead, Riley drove the lonely back roads, strangling on his own silence and fear.
It was one thing to know the truth of his own heart, but he lacked Edward's gift to see inside Leah's mind. There was no way to know if she still cared as she once had. To be sure she didn't regret the time they spent together.
He steered the Explorer into the gravel driveway and put it in park. The headlights lit up the dark house. Sue had moved in with Charlie several months prior, leaving Leah and Seth to live in their childhood home. Riley wondered what it looked like inside, wondered if it had that same tart scent of evergreens and freshly turned earth that was filling his nose right now.
"So," Leah's voice was quiet, but it sounded deafening in the enclosed space, or maybe just inside his head. "You can come in, I guess. I just need to grab a change of clothes."
"Oh, all right," he answered, but she was already out of the vehicle and climbing the front steps of the porch.
He quickly turned off the engine and followed her inside the house. She closed the door behind him and turned on the lights. The living room was sparse but still had a feeling of warmth and comfort to its decor. Pictures of Leah and Seth covered the walls, along with a few fish mounted like trophies on plaques.
"I'll be back," Leah said, leaving him alone as she headed up the stairs.
Riley took a seat on the couch, inhaling the musty scent of disuse, and a vague hint of Leah. It taunted him. Here they were on the eve of an impending war, one that could end both their lives and here he sat. The thought settled upon him like the weight of his own cowardice.
They could die tomorrow. Every last one of them. His family, new friends, even Leah.
He was off the couch and up the stairs before he could finish that thought. They couldn't leave it like this. He couldn't face the Volturi without knowing how she felt, without at least telling her how he felt.
Riley appeared in the doorway of Leah's room. "Leah."
"What?" Leah jerked her head up, looking a little startled, and dropped a few of the shirts in her hands.
"I'm sorry. Let me help." He rushed over to pick up the clothes, bringing them closer than they had been in nearly a year.
"I'm fine," she mumbled, eyes lowered as she carefully plucked the clothing from his hands.
"Are you really?" He took a risk, putting his index finger under her chin and urging her to raise her eyes.
"Don't be stupid," she snapped, pulling away, and jammed the clothes into her backpack.
"Please don't," he pleaded, stepping so close he could feel the heat coming off her body.
"No, you don't!" She spun on her heel, nearly hitting him with her bag. "I've got my shit. Let's go."
"Wait." He grabbed her forearm and held it firmly. "All I ask is that you listen for a few seconds."
He could feel the muscles in her arm flex beneath his grip, but she didn't pull away. "You have two seconds."
"Turn around, please." He released her arm but stepped closer, fearing she would try to leave again.
Leah took a deep breath and slowly turned around. Her eyes remained lowered, a causal air of indifference to her posture, but she wasn't fooling him. He could hear her heart beat accelerating, even faster than its normally elevated rate.
There were so many things to say, so much he wanted tell her, but he knew he would overwhelm her if he let it all come out now. He had this one chance to get it right. So he opted for simplicity.
"I love you," he whispered, gently taking her hand and placing her palm against his chest. "No matter what happens, nothing will change that fact. I just wanted you to know."
Leah's eyes, shinning with tears, rose to meet his. For one fleeting moment he thought he saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Then the moment passed and her face transformed into a look of utter devastation. Riley was sure he had not only failed, but he had made it worse, until she closed the distance to kiss him.
He was too stunned to respond at first. She pulled back, tears streaming down her face and slapped him hard across the face. That snapped him out of it. He caught her hand before she could slap him again.
"How could you?" she cried, pulling her hand free from his grip.
"I'm sorry," he pleaded, blocking her from moving away from him and getting a sharp jab to the sternum for his trouble.
She made a run for the door, but he tackled her and wrestled her onto her back. "Fucking damn it."
He straddled her, pinning her hands to the floor. "Answer me, Leah."
"Tell you what?" she shouted in his face and jerked beneath him. "That I love you too? That none of it matters because we could be dead tomorrow?"
The fight left her with the last words, and she stilled beneath him. Riley let go of her hands, leaned down to cradle her face in his hands. Joy and grief warring inside him.
"Is that the truth? Do you love me?" He had to know, had to hear her say it.
"What does it matter?" She looked up at him, her eyes filled with sorrow and tears.
"Answer the fucking question, Leah!" He growled. But there was a smile on his face, and he wondered if he had finally lost his mind.
"Yes, okay? I fucking love you," she snapped, grabbing the fabric of his shirt and pulling him down into another kiss.
It was everything he wanted. Her burning skin setting him on fire. His hands in her silky hair, her scent hanging thick in the air, and the taste of her once again on his tongue. He needed her naked and beneath him. Need to hear her say his name again, a hundred times.
She tore open his shirt, hot hands pressing against his chest and clawing at his cold skin. He was laughing at her eagerness, his own hands working off her shorts. The sight of Leah's dark legs beneath his palms, like silken chocolate, made venom fill his mouth. She had his pants off his hips in seconds and took hold of his cock with a strong grip. So close. After all this time and distance they were finally together again.
He raised his eyes to look at her face. The grief and desperation in her expression made him pause. He gently pulled her hand away to thread their fingers together.
"Shhh," he whispered, kissing her damp cheek. "It's going to be okay."
"No it's not," she insisted with a shake of her head. "We're going to die, tomorrow."
"Nothing is hopeless," he said, pressing his lips against her neck. "I mean, look at us."
"You're crazy," her voice was hoarse and cracked as she spoke.
"And you still love me," he replied with a wry grin and gently kissed her lips, savoring the taste and feel of her mouth.
"Fuck me, I do," she chuckled through her tears.
He kissed her collarbone, enjoying how her body trembled under his touch. "I've missed you insulting me."
"I've missed you too," she sighed, combing her fingers through his hair.
He shifted between her legs, taking hold of his cock, and slowly slid inside her. Leah let out a low groan, her body contracting around him and pulling a guttural moan from his lips. There was no way to describe how right it felt. All he could do was drink in the feel of her body, savor the sound of her breathless gasps and make it last as long as possible.
Leah did her best to thwart his plans. Her nails dug into his hard skin, teeth scraping along his throat, and her hoarse cries all worked to undo him. He hooked his arms under her knees, shifting the angle of her body, and sank even deeper.
She screamed his name, body shaking and tightening around him. Riley smiled, even as he felt himself given in and lost himself in her molten skin. He lapped at her skin with his tongue, tasting as much of her as he could before relenting to the power of her orgasm.
They settled onto the floor, a tangle of limbs and soft laughter. Riley rolled onto his side, wiping sweat dampened hair from her face and kissed her again. It was never enough, would never be enough. He wanted to keep kissing her forever, but they didn't have that long.
"We need to get back," she sighed, breaking the moment with the announcement, and tried to move.
He placed a hand on her hip, pulling her back against his body. "Just a few more minutes, please."
Leah looked into his eyes and smiled. "Okay."
][ ][ ][
He shifted, the snow crunching under his boots. The last time he had seen the Volutri they had taken the life of one of his newborns, Bree. It had been torture to watch her death, not to speak or move to intercede, but he could not. Edward had ordered him to stay silent and out of sight, for his own safety.
Now, there was nowhere to hide. Not for any of them. The familiar crunch of snow signaled the approach of the wolf pack. Two figures moved up to station themselves on either side of Riley. He glanced down to confirm what he already knew, Leah and Seth stood beside him.
Leah turned her head, her dark eyes set inside the wolf face. He felt their connection like an iron rod sunk deep in his chest, linking them together forever. Or for as long as they had.
"Thank you," he whispered, reaching out his hand to comb his fingers through her silver fur.
She moved her head up and then down, in an exaggerated nod. He smiled, a lump forming in his throat. She had no idea how profoundly she affected him, how truly grateful he was for having had the few moments they'd shared. Riley wanted her to understand that he wouldn't trade second of it for an eternity without her.
Her body shifted closer, pressing her warm fur against his leg. Maybe she already knew. He hoped so, and for the chance to tell her later.
They watched in anxious curiosity as Alice spoke with Aro. He watched while the group discussed the fate of his family, and when the other hybrid emerged, Riley dared for the first time to hope that they would survive.
When, the finally Volturi retreated into the forest he nearly collapsed under the weight of his relief. Something shifted beside him, and he looked down to see Leah in human form. She stood up from the snowy ground, completely nude, but he only had eyes for her smile.
It was wide, bright and unafraid. She practically leapt into his arms. He caught her just in time, laughter erupting from him.
Leah kissed him, and it nearly killed him to pull away to speak. "You're naked."
"I don't care," she replied with a shout of laughter. "We're alive!"
Her joy overwhelmed him, made him wobble on his feet, and dare to hope for their future.
Author's note: I wrote this as a kind of love letter and thank you note to everyone who read, review or generally supported my fan fiction in anyway. For a long time I didn't know how these two could ever have a happy ending, though I wanted one as much as many of you did. Then I saw Breaking Dawn Part 2 and it crystalized. I hope this is as fulfilling for you to read as it was for me to write. Thanks again for all your support.
Special thanks to Jessypt for beta'ing this for me.