A/N: I do apologize for the wait, I blame college.
But I won't bore you with further excuses. We finally made it to the end! Part of me still doesn't believe it... I want to thank all of you that have read this story, reviewed it, followed and favorited it. It encouraged me to finish (however slowly), so I want to thank you all profusely.
If any of you also read my Vriskan fics, I am going to start working on Rehabilitation again, but I won't promise a speedy update. I'm going to take a little break, and try to get back into that story. But it WILL be finished. I promise.
But, without further ado, here's the end of Panthera.
As terrible as it sounds, Kat picked a very good time to get shot. Later I was told that just as I was running to find her, the rest of our group was just finishing up with the newborns and enemy shifters in the clearing.
So it wasn't even a minute after I realized that Kat was still alive until Carlisle was right next to her, instructing Alice to bring her to their house while he got supplies from the hospital.
Realizing that Alice may have a bit of trouble holding a five foot-tall feline, Kat tried to shift back. Only this time, the usually effortless shift was accompanied by a multitude of hisses, gasps, and yelps of pain. The second Kat was fully human again, she fell into unconsciousness, prompting Alice to pick up the taller girl and run at full speed towards the Cullen house.
Rikki, Danni, and I all ran right on Alice's heels, not wanting to let our Alpha out of our sight. Once we actually reached the house we had a small problem. None of our large frames could fit through the door. Not really thinking, and wanting to make sure Kat was okay, I shifted back and entered the house, quickly followed by both of my pride mates.
Once in human form I saw Danni wiping a small cut that spanned the bridge of her nose, and Rikki idly running a hand over a bruised shoulder, but that seemed to be the worst of their injuries. After taking a brief moment to sigh in relief, I turned my attention back to finding Kat.
Following the scent of the blonde feline shifter, and of blood, I entered the room just as Alice was lying the blonde girl on an operating table set up in a spare room. I guess Carlisle was anticipating having to patch a few of us up considering there were three other tables set up in the space.
Speaking of the vampire doctor, Carlisle appeared a moment later and rushed straight to Kat's side, scanning over her battered body and taking in the extent of her injuries.
"I'll get started on closing her wounds, but I think she's going to need blood. She's lost too much, and I don't believe that she can regenerate an adequate amount quickly enough." Carlisle spoke as he pulled out the necessary equipment to mend Kat's injuries.
"We're the same blood type. I can give her some." Rikki spoke up immediately, still watching our Alpha with concern.
"Alice, take Rikki and start taking her blood." Carlisle directed.
The two left the room, Rikki looking over her shoulder right before she stepped through the door, her mouth moving in what I assumed was a prayer for her friend.
"I know the two of you want to make sure that Katherine is okay, but hovering won't help." Carlisle informed the two of us still in the room. "I have a strong feeling Leah will be here soon, but I need someone to stop her from barging in here. The less distractions I have, the better chance I have at keeping Katherine alive." He paused and glanced over his shoulder quickly. "That, and the two of you may want to cover up with something."
"I'll grab something from upstairs, you keep Leah as calm as you can." I told Danni before jogging upstairs.
Not wanting to waste any time, I just grabbed a couple robes I found hanging in a bathroom closet and headed back downstairs. Just as my foot hit the bottom step I heard the muffled sounds of sobbing, and upon further inspection, found Leah being held back by Danni, staring into the room Kat was currently in.
"She's going to be okay Leah." I told the native girl as I handed her a robe, considering she was just as naked as us. I handed Danni one as well as soon as Leah stopped trying to get past her.
"She has to be. I can't loose her." Leah managed to rasp out.
"Trust me when I say, all of us feel the same way." Danni insisted, hugging the taller girl tightly before letting her go. "But you know that rushing in there won't help anything."
"I know, but how would you feel if it was Rikki on that table?" Leah shot back, still staring into the room as if she were going to just leap over Danni and to her mate's side.
"I would want to be in there." Danni admitted. "But I would know I couldn't do anything."
"So I just wait?"
"That's exactly what we have to do." I affirmed, guiding her out of the hallway. "Danni," I turned to look at my smallest pride mate, "can you take a robe to Rikki?"
With a nod Danni grabbed the last robe and went to find Rikki, and I guided Leah to the living room, sending my own prayer to whoever was listening.
The next few hours were spent in a very tense silence. Eventually the rest of the Cullens reappeared, but sensed the tension in the room, and therefore left us alone. A few of the wolves joined us as well, Seth being one of them, and he immediately rushed to his sister's side to offer her some support. A bit after that, Rikki came into the room, looking a bit pale as she stumbled over to the couch by Danni.
"How much blood did you give?" Danni asked, distressed by her mate's haggard appearance.
"As much as I could without dropping." Rikki answered, allowing her head to fall back against the couch. A moment later she pulled Danni to her and a soft snoring began.
"I wanted to stop after two pints, but she made me take three. Then another half 'just in case', as she put it." Alice told Danni as she walked in and sat next to me.
"Is that safe?" Danni asked, trying to maneuver herself to look at the vampire.
"She won't die, but she'll be dizzy and weak for a while. You should get her to eat something as soon as you can." Alice told the lioness while running a hand through her already disheveled hair.
"That won't be a problem." Danni said with a small smile, glancing back up at Rikki.
"Now we need to get your leg bandaged until Carlisle can stich it up." Alice told me, getting up once again.
Looking down, I hadn't even realized that blood was still trickling from the bite that wolf gave me, but I did feel a little bad at the small puddle now staining the carpet.
Before I knew it, Alice was keeling by me, wrapping a white bandage tight around my calf. She looked worried as the white slowly turned pink, then red, but I assured her that I was fine, and that I could wait until Carlisle was done with Kat.
The moment Carlisle stepped into our little waiting area everyone was on their feet. Of course, everyone but Rikki, who was roused from her sleep, but even she managed to sit up straight to listen to the vampire.
"Is she going to be okay?" Leah practically ran up to Carlisle and asked him.
"Katherine will be fine. As far as I could tell, there is no permanent damage to her leg, and the shot through her hip didn't hit any vital organs." Carlisle told the wolf shifter with a smile. "She's going to have to recover from a few broken bones, but I have a feeling that she'll have no problems with that."
"Can I see her?" Leah's next question came hesitantly, but when the blonde man nodded she didn't hesitate to run off in the direction of the room Kat was in.
"Carlisle, can you take a look at Bella's leg?" Alice asked her father as soon as Leah left. "I think she's going to need stiches."
"Of course. Come on Bella." Carlisle motioned for me to follow him.
Hesitating for a moment, I almost refused, just to see Kat and make sure that she was okay, but I knew that was going to be a losing battle. Neither Alice nor Carlisle was going to let me walk around any longer with a bleeding leg, so I just nodded and followed him out of the room.
However, my worry was pointless, as Carlisle actually led me to the room containing the hospital beds, and therefore Kat. Briefly glancing over as I took my own bed, I saw that she seemed to be peacefully sleeping, an IV pumping blood back into her system, and Leah holding onto her hand and stroking her hair every so often.
"Now let's see what I'm working with." Carlisle's voice pulled my attention away from the unconscious Alpha and back to my own injuries, and to Alice, who of course had followed me into the room.
"It's really not that bad. I mean, I managed to run all the way back here, didn't I?" I dismissed as he unwrapped the bandage from my calf.
"That probably wasn't the best idea." Carlisle murmured as he examined the torn tissues of my leg. "These punctures are actually pretty deep, and there's some tearing of your muscles."
"What does that mean for my leg?" I asked, a bit apprehensive for the answer.
"With your healing abilities, probably not much." He looked up and gave me a bright smile. "But I still want you to stay off of it for a few days. A week if at all possible."
"Is that necessary?" I grimaced.
"Then she'll do it." Alice told her father, but focused a stern look on me. Knowing that look, I just sighed and nodded, indicating that I'd follow the instructions.
With a satisfied smile, Carlisle began the process of cleaning my leg, then the slightly more painful process of stitching the gashes. Once that was done, he wrapped the now-stitched area with a new bandage and instructed me to wait there for a few moments. Before I could even be confused as to why, he was back, holding two pairs of crutches.
"Really?" I groaned at the thought of hobbling around all week.
He just smirked at my reaction. "Think of it as a bonding activity. You and Katherine can both curse my name for making you use them."
As much as it pained me, I did use the crutches for a full week, as per Carlisle's instructions. And just as he predicted, both Kat and I were calling him every horrible name we could think of as we learned to maneuver on one leg.
But thankfully, that week did end, and I was given permission to walk on my own two legs once again. I'd never actually admit it, but Carlisle was probably right, considering my leg was still a bit tender to walk on, even a week later.
However, poor Kat, with the gunshot wounds both on the left side of her body, had to stay on the crutches for a while longer. I don't know how much she actually minded though, considering Leah was constantly by her side, making sure that the blonde girl had anything and everything she could need.
Thinking back on these past few months, I couldn't help but feel like my life was going pretty good right now. We had beaten the newborns and Victoria, along with the shifters that had all come to kill us. That meant I no longer had a crazy vampire out to kill me, and Kat was free of her trainer, and the monsters that wanted to own her. Which meant that our pride was free of any immediate threats, and could just focus on healing up, and being together.
Along with that, I now had a wonderful girlfriend, who I knew that I was meant to spend the rest of my life with. That and a second, but rather unconventional family that had welcomed not only me, but the rest of the pride into it with open arms. Sometimes I still couldn't believe all that had happened, but I knew I wouldn't change a second of it.
But there was still one thing that I needed to take care of to make sure that I could be happy in Forks. Which was why I currently standing outside of my father's house, one hand raised to knock on the door, and the other being held in a death grip by Alice.
"Why are you crushing my hand?" I raised an eyebrow at her. I was the one who was supposed to be nervous after all.
"Forgive me for being a bit apprehensive." Alice pouted and stared at the door. "Your father owns a shotgun. And I have a feeling that he doesn't mind threatening people with it."
"A bullet wouldn't even hurt you." I deadpanned.
"Yes, but getting shot isn't exactly on my to-do list for today." Alice grumbled.
"Oh man up." I chuckled at her.
"I thought you liked me because I was tiny, adorable, and feminine." Alice looked at me with an expression halfway between confusion and sadness. However, the façade broke when she began giggling uncontrollably.
"Whatever." I rolled my eyes at her and turned back to the door. Steeling myself, I raised my hand and knocked on the wood, holding my breath until the door actually opened.
Charlie opened the door just a fraction, but threw it open as soon as he saw me. "Bells? What are you-"
Upon seeing Alice standing slightly behind me, his question trailed off and he simply stared at the pale girl.
"Hi Charlie." Alice offered my dad a smile and a small wave.
"What are you two doing here?" Charlie asked, glancing between both of us.
"I wanted to talk to you, and Alice decided she needed to come along." I told him, grinning down at Alice.
"I didn't realize that you had started spending time with the Cullens again." Charlie rumbled. "Are you sure that's a good idea."
"I'm fine Charlie. I promise you, I'm fine." I assured him. "But can we come in?"
"Oh, right." He stepped aside and let the two of us walk into the house. We were then led into the living room, and I had a flash of déjà vu, for when I told him I was dating Kat, then later telling him I wasn't. I guess this was just turning into the relationship room.
Laughing quietly to myself and shaking that though, I went to sit on the couch, pulling Alice down with me.
"So, what was it that you wanted to talk about, Bella?" Charlie asked as he situated himself in his chair.
"Well…" I hesitated, then made up my mind. There was no sense in delaying the inevitable after all. "I'm just going to come out and say it. Dad, I'm dating Alice."
My statement was met with silence all around, my dad glancing between Alice and I, and Alice staring at me with her mouth partially open. I guess no one was expecting me to just blurt it out so quickly.
"Well, I have to admit, you managed to get that out much quicker than last time." Charlie finally managed to get out with a weak smile. I couldn't help but smile as well, recalling that it took a full ten minutes to tell him that I was dating Kat.
"I've kind of had time to improve." I mumbled, a bit embarrassed.
"How long now?" Charlie asked, the underlying question obvious. He wanted to know if I left Kat for Alice.
I hesitated in answering the question. On one hand, I could be honest, but then it did look like I had just dumped Kat to date Alice. On the other hand, I was a terrible liar.
"If I may," Alice spoke up, effectively saving me, "I realize that you're worried about the time between Bella's two relationships. But I can assure you, Bella and Kat were broken up before Bella and I even began reestablishing our friendship. Things just kind of grew from there. I don't think either of us could give you a span of time, considering neither of us is really sure when we began to realize our romantic feelings for one another."
Geez, how did she manage to put it so eloquently? But I had to admit, she made the situation sound as best as it could, without actually telling Charlie what happened. She even managed to fit as much of the truth in there as she could, minus the last part, considering the feelings were always romantic.
"Bella?" Charlie looked to me, obviously wanting my input on the topic.
"She's right Dad. Kat and I broke up before the Cullens came back, and I turned to Alice as a friend to help me through that. And like she said, things just kind of progressed from there." I shrugged. "But believe me when I say, I really love her Dad. She makes me happier than I have been in a long time."
"If your sure." Charlie said, not sounding entirely convinced.
"I am. Remember when I told you why I broke up with Kat? I told you that I just couldn't love her the way she deserved. I know why now. It was because I was meant to love someone else. I was meant to give my heart to Alice, just like Kat was meant to find someone else to share everything with." I told him, trying to express all that I was feeling with my words.
"Then I'm happy for you." He paused and looked at Alice. "I'm happy for both of you. I'll be honest, I've always liked you better than your brother, and I'm happy it's you and not him." He grinned at the small vampire beside me.
"Trust me, I'm happy that it's me too." Alice beamed back.
"So," he turned back to me, "Kat found her someone special then?"
"For God's sake," I made sure to not slip up and use 'goddess' in front of my dad, "you two always loved to gossip. You're both like old women." I laughed.
"What? She was a nice girl." Charlie shrugged and smiled.
I just laughed and shook my head. Hell, nothing could irritate me now. Everything was going to be fine, everyone was going to recover, and we were all going to live on. One big happy, really messed up family. And that made me grin and pull my mate closer. Yes, everything was going to be great.