A/N: I know omg a chapter holy shit! Is it Christmas? I'm so sorry for the wait, I know it has been a long ass time, but yay! At least I haven't abandoned it right? ... Please let me know if you spot any major errors... don't frigging tell me I have a comma in the wrong place... cos seriously? More important things in life than that! lol Enjoy Darlins as the end is in sight!
You are mine, Isabella Swan. Forever.
I could hear Charlie and Sue talking quietly in the kitchen. The sound of their voices soothed me, grounded me. My hands shook slightly. I wouldn't deny I was scared. I was utterly terrified. The not knowing was the worst part. Paul's reactions when he realized what I hid from him. He was going to be so angry with me. But I had to, he would have refused to go through with it. And then what? He would have lost everything, for him not being able to set foot on Quileute land again, to not see his friends his family home. No, I would not allow that to happen. What I was doing was to protect him, as much as he was doing this for me.
The only thing that was getting me through this was knowing Paul and I would finally be accepted. He said he didn't care. that this was enough for him, but for us to be accepted by the tribe it would mean our children, when we had them, would be recognized and accepted and that was worth everything we would go through tonight. Everything I would go through for him.
A rush of anger ran through me at the thought that we were being punished because we loved one another. That he had fallen in love with me, chosen me. Followed his own heart instead of waiting for his 'imprint' to stumble into his life and complete him. Too many people have been ripped apart by this cosmic shit. If we could change that, show others that it didn't have to be that way. You can choose who you want then maybe… maybe the others could finally be happy. Leah and Embry, Jared… god Jared. My heart ached for him. Jake had already chosen Angela. And even Old Quil wasn't going to go against the rightful Alpha and next Chief.
The hatred I feel towards Old Quil. I never thought it possible to feel that way towards another human being. But I do. He knew exactly what he was doing, knows exactly what kind of game he's playing, but none of us know what the prize is at the end. The reason behind his behavior, why he tried to turn his grandson against his brother? Why he's lied and hid the truth and kept secrets? There are too many questions without answers. But hopefully, finally when all this is over we will have them. We deserve to know. Every last one of us.
The soft rap of knuckles against the bedroom door startled me.
"It's time Bella." Sue's soft smile greets me as she opens the door, letting herself inside.
I nod. Fingers running down the layers of material that cover my skin. My hair plaited in two long braids, Leah helped me get ready before she had to leave to be with the pack. She made sure everything was perfect, before squeezing my hand and slipping quietly out of the door. I hardly recognize myself as I stare into the mirror.
"You honor your mate, Isabella." Her hand warm, as her fingers tighten on my shoulder.
"I hope so." My voice nothing more than a whisper.
"You wear his colors with pride. He will be proud of you and your strength. Not many would be able to do this Bella. As much as they believe they have inner strength, it escapes them when they need it most. Only the true of hearts would bear the most unbearable of tasks for the person they truly love."
"I'm so scared." I admit honestly. Hands shaking slightly.
"So you should be, there is nothing wrong with being scared Bella. It's what you do with your fear that matters. Face it or run away."
"Face it. Always." I tell her.
"There lies your strength. Your good heart, the knowledge that even though this is wrong, you will stand there with your mate because it's the right thing to do. Support and love him. Show the council that they will not tear you apart regardless of their attempts or Old Quil's."
"You're not attending?"
"Not as part of the council. No. If Harry was still here he would have kicked Quil's ass, for what he's done." Sue shakes her head, hand running down my arm to clasp my hand. "My children may be forced into this Bella, but I am not. I will stand with your father, showing my support to you and the pack."
"Thank you Sue. That means so much." Taking a deep breath, I take one final look in the mirror before walking through the bedroom door and down the stairs, to where Charlie's waiting.
"You ready kiddo?" He asks. Leaning against the door frame.
"Yeah, I think I am."
"Good." He picks up his keys, but Sue stops him.
"She has to walk to the meeting place." She tells him.
"What? Why? I have a perfectly decent car outside, why can't I drive her?" Charlie demands.
"It's OK dad."
"Dad, I have to arrive by my own means."
"Exactly." Sue agrees. "She has to show them that she wants to be there, that it's her decision and no one has forced her to go."
"None of this makes any sense." Charlie huffs. "Fine, looks like we're all walking then." He pockets his keys, grabs his jacket before heading towards the door.
He eye's my clothing, sharply before he exits. "I take it she can't wear a jacket either?"
"Sorry Charlie." Sue tells him with a gentle pat to the arm.
"Jesus." He mumbles walking out of the door, waiting for Sue to lock up before we start our trek.
The night air is cold, the wind cutting through my clothing. I try not to let it affect me, focus on the repetitive sound of our footsteps as we march towards the pack and the council, but I can't help the shivers that rack my body. Every step fills me with anxiety. I can't help but worry about Paul. Wonder what he's doing right now. Pacing more than likely, growling at everyone who tries to calm him. Being apart from him feels strange, we've spent so much time together lately that I miss him down to the depths of my soul. I know all these feelings are not my own, the deep rooted, hatred towards Old Quil is fueled by Paul's, mixing with my own and making it explosive. There have been a few moments when I've wanted to do nothing more, than bare my teeth for no apparent reason, but that's Paul's anger making itself known.
How I wish none of this had to happen. But not doing this would allow old Quil to win, and that was something I would never let pass.
"We're nearly there Bella." Sue explains as we make our way through an overgrown path of hanging trees, which were making it difficult for me not to get snagged on a branch.
"You OK dad?" I ask, watching as Charlie meets my eyes, the frown on his face deepening.
"Ask me again once this is all over." He states, holding a branch aside so we can pass easily.
I nod in understanding.
We walk a little further before voices can be heard. Sue's stride stutters slightly, before she's walking forward, breaking into a clearing. People fill the area, council members to the right, pack to the left.
I look for Paul but disappointment fills me when I can't find him.
"They will be keep him shielded from you until it is time to start." Sue explains in a whisper. I nod as my eyes find the pack, all of them dressed traditionally. Even Leah, who for some reason is stood to the side. No paint marking her skin.
"Yes, Bella." She asks, leaning closer to me.
"Why isn't Leah wearing paint, like the rest of the pack?" I asked confused. Sue's eyes flick towards her daughter, before a small smile appears on her face.
"Leah has opted out of the ritual."
"What? I didn't think she could?" My eyes land on the she wolf, who is stubbornly stoic as she stands with her pack.
"Well it seems like she has." Sue laughs lightly, shaking her head. "She will probably have to face her Alpha once this is over for going against the pack, but I doubt he will punish her greatly." Sue smiles, patting my arm in a comforting manner.
OK then, no Leah.
"Sue?" Old Quil calls out. "Are you not sitting with the rest of the council?"
Everyone turns to look between old Quil and Sue. The older council member is stood at the end of a large wooden table that has been stood here for so long the trees and bushes have grown between it's cracks and spaces. Vines twist around it's legs as moss covers its surface.
"No. I will take no part in what will pass tonight." She replies. Voice clear and strong.
"I see your daughter has also chosen not to take her rightful place with her pack. Extremely disrespectful towards her Alpha, don't you agree? The lack of authority he holds over his pack member." Old Quil points out.
"What ever Leah has decided to do, is her decision Quil. Not mine." Sue practically snarls at him.
"Oh, I have no disagreement there. We all know how... strong minded your daughter is Sue."
"What the hell is that suppose to mean." Leah calls out, stalking towards him, only to be pulled back by Seth.
Quil just ghosts his gaze towards the siblings before turning his attention on myself. The silent rage that flashes across his face doesn't go unnoticed by myself or Charlie. Who deliberately moves a step closer.
"Quil." Charlie greets with a slight nod. Pulling the older mans gaze away from my own.
"I see you are here to support your daughter?"
"Of course I am. Where else do you think I would be?" Charlie's normal cool exterior beginning to crack.
"Well the thought of your daughter having a relationship with someone supernatural would certainly shock most, but it seems you are taking it rather well, but then again, Isabella has had a lot of practice with the supernatural, haven't you?" He asks turning his attention back to me.
"Now wait one god damn minute. I don't think I like what you're implying." Charlie steps towards the council. Body vibrating with anger.
"Dad, it's fine." I tell him, laying a calming hand on his forearm. "I have nothing to hide. Everyone here knows of my past with Edward Cullen. I am not ashamed to admit I was drawn in by him, but what happened between myself and Edward has nothing to do with Paul and I. Where that was an unnatural attraction, forced and twisted into something that should never have been. Paul and I have something different, something real. You have no right to bring up anything that has happened previously unless it is about Paul or myself, and you certainly have no right to compare them."
"Quil, enough." Billy's voice cuts through the nights air, as Jake wheels him to the center of the table.
Quil stubbornly stands his ground for a few moments, glaring at me before finally taking his seat.
"I see things have begun without me?" Billy asks, looking directly at Quil.
"Just a minor discussion, nothing to worry about." Quil waves him off.
"I beg to differ." Billy's voice is hard, something I'm not used to hearing. "Was it not enough that you pushed for this ritual in the first place Quil? You got what you wanted, Paul will be punished in front of his pack, his mate and his elders. There is no need to drag up Isabella's past. It has no place here."
"Of course it does." Quil practically screams. "She doesn't belong here, and now her father also knows? When were you going to tell the council that piece of information or did they go behind your back again?" He spits, finger pointing towards the pack.
"I knew and I agreed with it. Charlie needed to know what was going on. His relationship with Bella was suffering."
"You had no right…"
"I had every right." Billy roars. "I am chief of this tribe Quil. Not you or anyone else. My father and his father before him, made the necessary decisions to protect us, and I will do the same with or without the council's approval. You have always resented that fact. Your petty jealousy will stop this instance or there will be consequences."
Nobody moves, or breathes. The tension is thick in the air. My eyes flick towards Sue who is watching Billy. Billy hasn't taken his eyes from old Quil, waiting for him to submit or admit. But all he does is lower himself in his seat, once again, his eyes fixed towards the pack. I follow his gaze past the line of bodies to stop only when they land on Paul. His huge frame vibrating with anger, his skin covered in his chosen colors… he looks magnificent.
"Paul." His name escapes my lips before I have change to stop myself. His head snaps towards me, his eyes softening. He takes a step forward only to be stopped by Jared. A small shake of his head let's him know that he cannot approach me yet. Not until this is over. Paul nods in understanding, his eyes never leaving mine. I want nothing more than to run to him, to wrap myself up in his arms. Kiss him and tell him how much I love him.
Sam leans in close, whispering in his ear, but he never takes his eyes from me. I can see the moment he notices my clothing, his eyes turn hungry as they sweep across my body. Trailing the exposed skin that is marked with his colors. The look of pure lust he directs at me sends a warm thrum through my whole body. A promise of what's to come.
"We have come here this full moon night, to carry out an ancient ritual, one that many do not agree with, but has been accepted in payment for the wrongs that have been done."
"Wrongs my ass." Charlie mutters next to me.
"Young Lahote chose the offering of himself as punishment for going against the council and his pack. For not informing us of his chosen until after she had been marked. For not asking permission to mark Isabella Swan. For doing so against her will."
There are a few hushed murmurs, but all are quickly silenced with a glare from Billy.
"He acted recklessly, selfishly and now has to face the punishment fitting for his act."
"Paul Lahote. Please step forward."
Paul walks confidently towards Billy, only stopping when his chief holds up his hand.
"You understand and accept why you have been brought here on this night?"
His voice was like warm silk, it wrapped itself around my cold frame and worked it's way into my very soul.
"You accept your punishment?"
"Then we shall begin."
Billy motioned to Sam, who carefully steered Paul to where he needed to be. I looked around helplessly. Then I remembered, I had to be opposite him. I stood carefully, my legs felt like jelly as I slowly made my way to the scorched ground. How had I missed them before. The twin circles were huge on the ground, black and harsh against the softer grass.
"Bella?" Sue called after me. I paused for a moment, looking at her from over my shoulder. "Be strong." She mouthed.
We faced each other, just as we should be. His magnificent form on display, the elaborate paint, caressed his skin beautifully. There were no words to describe how he looked. Fierce, strong… just everything you could imagine a warrior would look like, and the aura of confidence he gave off. You could feel it in the air. The way he stood. Defiant and proud.
But his eyes, when they held mine were soft, comforting.
He didn't want me to do this, would lose his shit when he found out what was going to happen, but this was important to him, his heritage. The pack were his family more than friends they were brothers. I couldn't let him walk away from that.
So I clenched my fists, closed my eyes and took a deep breath, before sending Paul a reassuring smile.
Sam was the first to step forward, his huge frame stalked slowly towards Paul, you could see the tension in the way he held himself, his muscles coiled tight under his skin. He stopped just in front of Paul, head bowed as he prepared himself. I watched his fist curl, as his body shifted slightly to the side.
This was going to hurt so bad.
"Forgive me, brother." Sam whispered before swinging free, catching Paul on the left side of the jaw. He wobbled slightly, but didn't stumble.
I on the other hand hit the ground hard.
"Bella!" Leah screamed running towards me. So many other voices called my name but the only one that pulled my attention was Paul's.
"Bella!" He roared, stepping forward.
"No." I shook my head. "Don't… the circle."
"Fuck that." He strode straight towards me, ignoring old Quil's angry yells, or Sam's apologies. Reaching me in moments he scooped me up, arms holding me tight against his naked chest. The worry etched across his face had my smoothing my fingers against his brow.
"I'm fine." I whispered head tucked under his chin."
"You are not, fucking fine Bella, what the hell was that?" He asked staring down at me. The tightness of his jaw told me exactly how angry he was, if the deep rumble of his chest wasn't a big enough give away.
"Nothing. It was… I'm fine."
"Stop lying to me, whatever it is, just stop." His fingers tightened on my flesh.
"I can't, it's us, the bond. Your mark on me. It connects us."
"I know that, but you can feel what I fell Bella? How is that… you shouldn't be able to do that."
"Surprise?" I tried to smile, show him I was OK.
"Not funny." He replied, sitting us down on a fallen log.
"Yeah, I know. I just didn't want to worry you. I just thought of I could get through tonight then I'd tell you, but yeah didn't work out as I planned."
"No shit. Just so you know, I'm really not happy with you at the moment, or Leah." Paul glared at the she wolf as he said her name.
"Oh don't you glare at me." Leah called out.
"Well you didn't fucking tell me did you? No wonder you didn't want to run any patrols with anyone lately. Fucking hiding shit, what the hell Leah, you're pack?"
"Bella's my friend. She asked me not to say anything, so I wasn't going to betray her like that."
"I told your mom and Charlie."
"Sue knew?" Paul asked dumbfounded. "And your dad?"
"I knew something was wrong." Sue spoke out, stepping forward. "I pushed until she told me. Not everything, but enough, and I'm glad she did at least I was prepared in-case something went wrong with your little stunt."
"Why is everyone having a go at me? I was doing what I thought was best." I grumbled, slipping further down into Paul's lap avoiding the looks from the rest of the pack and my father. God Charlie, he looked so pissed.
"That maybe, but the chances of you getting seriously hurt were very high, Bella. You're not a shifter you haven't got their strength, although I am surprised you were still conscious after the blow Sam gave Paul."
"Can we not talk about this?" Paul asked growling between words.
"Well since the ritual is forfeit…" Old Quil began before Billy stepped in.
"I think this proves enough that Bella is worthy of being Paul's chosen. Her bravery, as stupid as it was., shows she is willing to stand by her mate regardless."
"The ritual is forfeit, he has no claim to this land. He has to finish the ritual or leave. That was his choice."
"Which you forced him into." I shouted, scrambling out of Paul's lap.
"Hush girl. No one is speaking to you." Old Quil tells me with a flick of his hand.
"No, I will not hush. This is our lives you are playing with. Paul's heritage. How can you be happy about taking this away from him? What's wrong with you?"
"Bella, just leave it." Paul sighs, wrapping his fingers around my own.
"No Paul. All he's ever done, ever wanted is to drag us apart."
"Don't you think I know this Bella. Don't you think I see." Paul roars. "Everything we do isn't good enough. This tonight wouldn't have been enough, he would have found something else, some other way to try and drag us apart. But I'm done. No more."
"Paul…" Was he ending things with me? Was it too much for him to fight for me, oh god. Oh god. Didn't he love me…
"I choose Bella."
His words were loud, strong. They squashed every doubt I had.
"Paul?" Billy calls out.
"No more Billy… I'm sorry but I always said if I had to, I would choose Bella. Every time. Over everything. And I won't allow him to hold this over us. Allow him to have this leverage on us, to use to his advantage when he feels like it. So I'm making the decision, like I should have at the first meeting. Bella is all I need, all I want and if it means giving this up, the pack my home. Then I will, because my life, it's nothing without her in it. I'm nothing without her. She just, she's my everything."
"Paul…" I whisper. I can't see clearly due to the tears in my eyes, the ache in my heart knowing he's willing to give all this up for me.
"I love you Isabella. Forever." He's there then, arms wrapped around me holding me tight and I just, I can't get close enough. I love him, so damn much and I just can't tell him enough, can't show him. So I let him feel, let him feel how much I love him, adore him. How proud of him I am.
"Come on you two. Let's go home." Charlie's there, firm hand on Paul's shoulder guiding us away from the council. Away from everyone.
"Wait." The voice is loud as it cuts through the nights air.
"Billy?" Charlie calls out. "Can't this wait until tomorrow, I want to take these kids home."
"Sorry Charlie, this needs to be said now."
"Fine." He huffs, as we turn, focusing our attention on Billy.
"Paul, I'm sorry for everything you and Bella have gone through lately. I should have said something sooner… "
"Dad?" Jake calls out moving towards him.
"It's fine son." He waves Jake off. "Paul, you won't have to leave the Rez neither will you have to choose between Bella and your home. You belong here, you both do. It's obvious how much you both care about each other regardless how the relationship may have started."
"Thank you Billy." Paul tells him.
"What? You can't do that!" Old Quil demands. "You have no right, we decided that he would have to go through the ritual, prove himself."
"He has proved himself worthy, so has Bella."
"No, I will not allow this…"
"You have no sway over this Quil. Now I have said what needs to be said, what should have been said weeks back, before this all got out of hand."
"You are weak Billy Black. You let your emotional ties override the need to keep this pack from being tainted."
"Tainted?" Charlie calls out. "You best not mean what I think you may mean Quil. Have you forgotten who you married?"
"Do not mention my wife. She has nothing to do with this."
"She has everything to do with this. You disagree with Bella and Paul but yet you married Molly?"
"She tainted herself by willingly sharing a bed with a leech. I will not allow any children become part of this pack if there is a risk."
"I never shared a bed with Edward."
"We have only your word, girl." Old Quil sneers at me.
"No you have mine." Paul moves himself in-front of me. Protecting. "Bella was a virgin when we slept together."
"Oh god." I hear Charlie mumble behind me, before Sue is there, dragging him off.
"But the leech."
"Didn't touch me. Paul is telling the truth, I've only slept with him. No one else. There will never be anyone else."
Old Quil sits heavily on his chair.
"All this time all these months of you lying and twisting tales, was to stop Paul being with her." Billy asks.
"No." He shakes his head. "It was to stop Bella becoming part of this pack."
"You tried to turn me against my own brother." Quil steps forward. "You lied about Embry, his mom. Why did you do that grandfather? How has that got anything to do with Bella?"
"His mother is a whore. She seduced a married man." Quil began, only to be cut off by Embry.
"My mother didn't even know he was married, she didn't even live here when they met, all she had was a name. She found out the truth when she followed him here. So don't blame my mother when your son was the one at fault." Quil and Leah are either side of Embry holding him, comforting him.
"You told me I had to stay with Kim. That the imprint was a gift. Even when I told you… when I admitted I had feelings for someone else." Jared moves closer to us as he speaks. The others seem shocked by his confession.
"Feelings for another male." Quil spits, the fight in him returning. "You dishonor your tribe by refusing your imprint. Your mate."
"Kim was never my mate. She may have been my imprint but we were never meant to be, even she understands that. I went to you in confidence and you lied to me. You've lied to all of us."
I pull Jared closer. Knowing how hard this is for him, to admit his feelings, even if they others don't know who it was, it's still out there, for people to judge.
"You ended your imprint?" Sam asks shocked. The knowledge of what could have been is evident as he stares at Leah.
"It doesn't matter Sam." Leah tells him. "I'm happy with Embry, and you and Emily. She gives you more than I ever could."
"Thank you." He tells her pulling his imprint into his arms.
"So many lives you have tried to ruin. Before Bella was even involved. From the moment Sam first phased you have been twisting tales and I want to know why? What is it that has made you so malicious." Billy asks. His son standing protectively over his left shoulder.
The others on the council watch, as everything begins to unravel around them. Things they obviously didn't know were happening finally brought to light. The depth of old Quil's deception ran a lot deeper than people knew.
"It should have been me?" Old Quil mumbles.
All the wolves hear exactly what he says. The words that fall from his mouth so clear to them, but the others strain to understand.
"What?" Billy snaps. "What did you say?"
"I said, it should have been me?"
"I don't understand, what should have?" Billy looks around trying to understand, to see if anyone else understands what old Quil is referring too.
"Chief of this tribe. Alpha of the pack. I should have had it all." Old Quil roars.