|Leah And The Remnant
Author: persephonesfolly PM
The woods were Leah's refuge from hurt, but forests can conceal unexpected dangers. One-shot. Spoilers for Eclipse.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Angst - Words: 4,734 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 2 - Published: 01-29-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4041595
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is dedicated to KeelieT and AngelfishSmile, who wanted more Leah stories.
Leah was in one of her moods. It was the mood her mom used to call Leah's "patented teenaged funk" as though Leah had invented a particular type of depression. She also called it "moping".
Leah didn't want to admit that she was moping. She didn't want to admit Sam's betrayal was still affecting her after all those months, but it was. Maybe it always would. She'd loved Sam, stuck by him even when he started acting weird, even when his silences, disappearances, and secretiveness hurt her. Then he imprinted on Emily, her own cousin, a girl who was like a sister to her, and just like that it was over.
After what Sam did, Leah's mom stopped commenting on her mood. She'd just look at her daughter with a sad, powerless sort of sympathy. Leah couldn't even trust herself to run and cry on her mother's shoulder anymore like she used to when she was a kid. After what Sam did to Emily, phasing while in the grip of strong emotion, Leah didn't trust herself to let go while in her mother's comforting embrace. If she phased then…it was unthinkable. So there was a distance now between her and her mother. It was a chasm that lay between them, dropping away precipitously. Neither one of them made it or wanted it, but neither could they bridge it.
So Leah took to the forest when the mood hit. Sometimes she just couldn't bear to be near people. Phasing only made it worse. In wolf form, the others could feel her too. It was getting tougher and tougher to bear their contempt. They were tired of her sadness, impatient that she hadn't moved on, gotten over it. As it her love for Sam was nothing, as if the fact that he'd imprinted on someone else made her love seem pale and worthless in comparison.
She wanted to lash out, to scream that she'd stop feeling this way if she could, but she couldn't. Not in the little house where she'd grown up. Not around her mother who couldn't help her, and a little brother who was flush with the joy of being a wolf and dismissed imprinting as a stupid grown up thing. Not in her own mind either, at least not when she'd phased into wolf form and had a constant audience to her thoughts.
Instead she'd hike far out into the forest in her jeans, flannel shirt and hiking boots. It was dark and shadowy under the tall silent pines. Even without her senses enhanced by wolf form, the air smelled clean and good. The ever-present cloud layer softened the skies to a light grey and moisture beaded into droplets on the ferns that grazed her legs as she walked through them. It was beautiful and empty save for the occasional squirrel shimmying up a tree, its tiny hands scrabbling on the bark the only sound to disturb the stillness.
Every so often she'd pass by a scene of heartbreaking beauty, a patch of violets sheltered by a fallen log, a rock formation blanketed with moss so rich and deep that it reminded her of velvet.
When Leah saw the child he seemed so much a part of the beauty around her that the significance of him didn't strike her at first.
The kid was standing in a meadow looking up into the branches of a tree. From the flash of blue among the branches, Leah figured he was watching a jay, one of those cunning little azure birds whose color brightened the unrelieved green of the forest. Leah didn't care about the bird, her eyes were on the child.
He was angelic.
A mop of pale blonde hair covered his head like a cap, the edges curling slightly in a natural wave. Golden hazel eyes stared out over a cute snub nose that any Botticelli cupid would die for. His skin was pale with a light sprinkling of freckles, and he was smiling at the blue jay's antics with a grin that lit up his face.
He wore jeans and a brown tee shirt. He was small boned, thin but not in an unhealthy way. Instead, his slight form gave him a certain gracefulness that children have before their bodies grow larger and change into the awkwardness of puberty.
The smile still on his face, the child turned slowly to face her.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice lilting and young. "I'm hungry. I'm going to kill you now."
The smile faded, and he attacked.
It was fast. So very fast, and Leah barely had time to phase before he was on her, his smell permeating her nostrils and proclaiming exactly what he was. The thoughts that she should have had before coalesced.
No child that age would be allowed out in the woods alone, particularly not in the secluded clearing where the wolves and vampires met in an epic battle not quite a week ago. Jacob was still recovering from that conflict.
No child was that beautiful or that bloodied without showing some sign of wounds either. The shirt that the child wore wasn't actually brown, but blue. The material was so splashed and spattered with dried blood that it appeared brown. This was no human child. This was a vampire.
The thought was confirmed as the angel turned demon took a swipe at her. Leah completed her transformation just as his fingertips scrabbled at her side, touching fur instead of flesh. She snarled and leapt back, hackles raised, teeth bared.
The child staggered to a stop, eyes big, shock splashed across his face. He hadn't expected that.
Then something even more unexpected happened.
Fear entered the child's eyes. It was a flash, then it was gone and he attacked again. He was small and quick. It was all Leah could do to stay out of those grasping hands. The fingers were deceptively weak and fragile looking, but Leah knew from fighting vampires before that their nails were sharp and deadly. Those skinny appendages were as hard as diamonds. As they danced, advancing and retreating under the grey skies, their whirlwind of clawed, nailed, toothed activity spanning the meadow the way figure skaters use every inch of a rink.
His nails raked her side, splitting her skin but not breaking any bones. She snapped her jaws on his hand, missing all but the little finger, which she broke off and spat out. He yelled, but kept fighting.
She lost track of time. Fighting wasn't about time, it was all instinct, yet she realized she was tiring. Her breathing grew labored. No one came to help her. The voices in her head were silent, proving that the rest of the pack hadn't phased and couldn't hear her. It was time to end it.
The child lunged, his face contorted in frustration and she leapt, not backwards this time but up and then down. She landed four footed on the child's back, her claws scoring deep furrows into the vampire's torso near his spine; recompense for the wounds on her side. He was helpless now, flattened beneath her weight with no way to gain purchase on the ground, no way to buck her off. She struck, her jaws closing on the back of his slender neck.
It was a wail, a child's instinctive cry for its mother, and it stopped her cold. She held her pose, teeth pressed against the hard surface of his skin, flesh that only she could pierce, rip, or tear. It was the werewolves' curse and duty to protect the tribe, so their teeth and claws were designed to do just that.
He whimpered, the small shoulders heaving, but incapable of moving enough to dislodge her. She felt the motion through the pads of her paws. Movement belonged to the living. His body was as cold as the grave. She stayed frozen, listening to his panicked crying.
There were no tears. She could smell no salt, sense no moisture, yet he cried, making incoherent pleas for a mother who, for all she knew, he'd killed himself.
A minute went by. Two.
Still she couldn't bring herself to finish it, to close her jaws and tear his head from his body.
He tasted all wrong, unnatural. He was too cold, too solid and hard. He wasn't human, not anymore. He wasn't a child, but he was shaped like one, and he cried like one.
Leah moved her teeth off his neck, staying on top of the kid, pressing him in the dirt. He froze, remaining completely still. They stayed that way for some time, like a tableaux of actors pretending to be people in a painting. She'd read somewhere about an art festival in California where each year actors dressed up like people from renaissance paintings and stood in the postures the artists had placed them in centuries ago. People paid to come and see them, standing still to recreate the image on canvas.
Leah supposed they looked a bit like that. She wondered what the picture would be titled, 'A wolf and its prey' perhaps?
She moved one of her hind legs to the side, off the boy and onto the ground. Bare earth showed there, revealed when their fight churned up the meadow. The dirt felt good against the skin of her paws. Swiveling her hindquarters, she set her other hind foot on the ground.
The child remained still.
Encouraged, she backed up until her front feet were in the dirt as well, and reveled in the normality of the earth under her paws while keeping a wary eye on the child. Padding around to face him, she kept enough distance between them to be able to escape in case he attacked again.
But the small vampire lay quiet, moving only his head to look up at her.
When he did spring into action, it was to move backwards and not forwards. He exploded into retreat, pushing himself up to his knees then back over on his butt, back peddling frantically with his feet and hands until his back hit a tree, the concussion ringing through the forest as the tree shuddered on impact.
He was scared of her.
She couldn't help giving the toothy version of a wolf grin.
"Why?" he asked, eyes large in his face.
Clouds shifted above and a stray sunbeam, weak and watery, lit his face for an instant. He had a streak of mud on his chin where she'd ground his face into the dirt.
His skin sparkled briefly. It was like his freckles all lit up from within. Then the clouds moved again and it was gone.
It underscored his difference. Her grin faded.
What was she doing? Her natural enemy, the enemy she'd been created to fight, was before her. Her instincts urged her to tear out his throat as she pinned him against the tree.
Other instincts, at war with the first ones, made her want to wipe the mud off his face. It wasn't fair that children could be vampires.
She contented herself with phasing back to human form. When she lifted her head from the crouched position she found herself in, she saw the kid staring off to the side, hands fisted on the roots of the tree he'd backed into. It puzzled her at first.
Then she remembered that her clothes were gone.
Falling back on her rump, she pulled her knees up against her chest, keeping her legs carefully together so they'd shield the rest of her body from view.
"It's OK, you can look now," she told him.
He darted a quick glance at her, then looked away again, directing his gaze to a clump of dirt and grass between them. She had the impression that if he were a normal boy, he'd be blushing bright red.
"Why…" he stopped then started again. "Why didn't you kill me?"
Now it was Leah's turn to look away.
"I don't know."
"You should have killed me." He sounded almost resentful. "I would have killed you."
Leah was silent, not knowing how to respond. The conversation was bringing a whole new level of weirdness to her life.
"I'm hungry," he complained, sounding so much like a plaintive child that she looked up, the smile forming on her lips fading as she saw the gleam of red in his eyes.
"Watch it!" she said sharply. "I can change back."
He swallowed and the red bloodlust subsided. She kept her eyes on him. It was stupid of her to have glanced away in the first place. He was still wild and inhuman, and she couldn't afford to forget it.
He pulled his legs in and rested his chin on his knees, regarding her with the interested chipper expression of a blue jay. His fear of her was disappearing.
"I've got to eat," he said plaintively. "I can't just not eat. You eat."
"Not other human beings," she retorted.
"I tried animals," he said, laying his cheek against his shoulder and hugging his knees more closely to his chest. "Their blood doesn't taste good."
Leah stared. He was like the Cullens, sort of. Except he still wanted to bite her and the only thing keeping him from doing so was the fact that she'd kill him if he tried it.
"What are you doing out here alone?" she asked.
He blinked slowly.
"I lost my coven. I'm too slow, and I got lost so they left me behind."
Behind the flat blankness of his expression, Leah could see the underlying desolation. It surprised her. She knew the Cullens still had emotion. God knows she'd suffered through Jacob's dismay over Edward's love for Bella often enough, but she still saw the leeches as monsters.
Vampires were meant to be destroyed. They smelled wrong. They were wrong.
When she'd fought them in this same clearing it was a joy to destroy those abominations.
Back then she hadn't bothered to talk to them. In wolf form it was impossible anyhow. She probably shouldn't be talking to one of them now, especially since he appeared to be a remnant of Victoria's coven.
She knew the likely outcome. He'd wait until she let her guard down then strike. It's what monsters did. Apart from the Cullens, vampires didn't seem to be grateful sorts of creatures. Yet she stayed, because she was curious.
"Where are your parents?"
He swallowed, hard. Leah knew he didn't have to, just like he didn't have to breathe anymore, so it must've been an instinct he hadn't forgotten yet, back from the time when he was human.
"How did they…?"
The kid blinked again and began scratching his nails against his jeans clad knees.
"Riley killed them."
Leah knew him from her brother Seth's memories. Riley was Victoria's henchman. With his help she'd raised an army of newborn vampires and marched on Quileute land to get to Bella, Jacob's beloved. Seth had killed Riley while Edward took out Victoria.
"He made me this way," the kid said to his knees, watching intently as his fingers picked at a stray thread in the jeans' fabric.
"He said I was a present for Victoria. I was supposed to be her pet, but when he brought me to her she didn't want me. She said Riley was all she needed, so I just hung out with the rest of the coven after that."
He looked up and suddenly he didn't seem like a vampire anymore. He seemed like a scared little boy.
"We were just going to the movies," he whispered. "Riley didn't have to do that. He could've picked someone else."
Leah felt her heart break a little. Riley was besotted by Victoria. He would've done anything to get her approval, including taking out the parents of a beautiful child if he thought that child would please his mistress. Victoria was clever. She'd almost managed to outwit the werewolves and the Cullens to get her revenge. Of course she'd reject the gift. It would've made Riley love her even more, made him think he would always be the most important one of her newborn coven.
A squirrel jumped from a tree branch in the tree above. They boy's head snapped up, and he moved, blindingly fast, shimmying up the tree like a demented gymnast. In seconds he dropped back to the ground at the base of the tree.
Leah felt the impact through the ground even though she was sitting yards away.
He put his mouth on the squirrel's neck and began to suck. The animal spasmed then went limp in his hands. When he was done, he pulled back, looking down at the small carcass like he didn't know what to do with it. After a few seconds he set it aside on the ground next to him. His eyes slowly faded back to hazel. A drop of blood ran down his chin.
If Leah needed a reminder that he wasn't a normal child, his squirrel snack did the trick.
"Wipe your mouth," she told him.
Leah hunted in wolf form. She'd even gone on hunting trips with her father and brother before she became a werewolf. The death of an animal didn't freak her out. At least the kid killed them to eat instead of for self-indulgent sport. Half the hunters who strayed onto Quileute land didn't even eat the deer they shot. They just did it to impress their friends.
The kid looked surprised at her blasé tone, but wiped his chin obediently with the back of his hand. He kept looking at her, expectant now.
"What's your name?" she asked.
She couldn't very well keep thinking of him as 'the vampire kid'.
"Tommy short for Thomas?"
Tommy snorted, a flash of derision at adult silliness. "Just Tommy. Thomas is my dad." His mirth faded. "Was my dad," he muttered.
"Do you feel bad about what happened to your parents?"
Riley must've killed them for food right in front of the kid, if they'd all been on a family outing when it happened.
"Of course!" He glared at her, indignant.
It was time to lower the boom. Leah was good at it now. In her rage and despair over losing Sam she'd hardened herself against her natural instinct to keep it all inside, to hide her emotions and not talk about unpleasant truths around others.
There was no privacy in a wolf pack. Things came out whether you wanted them to or not, and Leah could twist the knife with the best of them now.
"Don't you know that every time you kill someone you're killing a dad or a mom? A son or a daughter?"
He looked down.
"I know," he said in a small voice. "But I can't help it. I smell their blood and I have to have it."
Leah released her hold on her knees and, keeping them upright to block his view, leaned back a little on her arms.
"You don't, you know. It's possible for a vampire to survive off animal blood. That's what the Cullens do."
He stared at her, flummoxed. Leah managed to shock a vampire speechless. She felt absurdly pleased with herself.
"The…Cullens? They're the ones we were supposed to kill!"
"Yeah, well the rest of your coven is dead so now it's just you."
Tommy clenched his small hands into fists, his fingers making a scraping noise against his jeans.
"That's why I can't find them?"
Leah looked back at him. He was alone, friendless too. He was also a threat to the tribe, to the people living peacefully on the land. She should kill him. It was her duty.
Hell with duty, Leah decided. Duty to protect the tribe was what created the werewolves in the first place, starting with Sam, and all her problems stemmed from that.
"Not necessarily," she told him. "You could join the Cullens, learn to be a…" what was it they called themselves? "A vegetarian vampire."
"A vegetarian vampire?" Tommy repeated, scrunching up his face doubtfully.
"Yeah, you know, stop chomping humans and only drink animal blood."
"But I don't like animal blood," he said, gesturing towards the dead squirrel. "It's gross."
He was just like Seth at that age. Trying to get her younger brother to eat his vegetables was like pulling teeth, and Leah watched her mother go through it all the time when he'd been a kid. Leah had too on the occasions when she babysat her brother on her parents' rare nights out alone together. Time to play big sister hardball.
"Tough. It's that or I kill you, so what's it gonna be?"
Tommy bit his lip. "I guess I could try."
"No guessing." Leah straightened her spine. "You're in or you're out."
"I'm in," he said quietly.
Leah's clothes were shredded beyond repair. She hadn't had time to slip out of any of them before transforming, and she hadn't brought any spares with her since she never intended to phase on her hike. There wasn't enough of her shirt left to drape over herself for modesty's sake. It was in pieces.
It was just as well. Her side wounds were still tacky. She'd heal faster in wolf form, and she couldn't see walking naked and bloody through the forest with a vampire at her back.
She told Tommy to keep up, then phased back to wolf form and took off at a run.
The girl vampire, Alice, was waiting for them at the edge of the woods near the Cullen house. Leah was surprised. Her ears flattened as Alice's scent added to that of the vampire boy hanging back behind her. She hadn't thought very far ahead and the foolishness of her snap decision came crashing down on her.
She'd crossed the boundary of Quileute land without permission, jumped reservation so to speak and broke the wary agreement between the Cullens and the Quileute werewolf pack. True, they'd fought together just last week, allied by the fight against Victoria's coven, but didn't that alliance end with the battle?
"Here," the dark haired girl said, tossing a bundle of clothes at the ground in front of Leah's paws. "You'll be needing these."
Leah blinked, recoiling a little at the smell. Vampire scent permeated the fabric. The clothes belonged to one of the Cullens.
"Beggars can't be choosers," Alice said smugly, crossing her arms.
Stifling a growl, Leah took the bundle gingerly in her mouth and stepped delicately behind a tree, staring hard at the small vampire boy behind her as she did so. Tommy got the message and turned his back so she could phase back to human form and slip on the sweat suit Alice provided.
The vampire scent covering the clothes wasn't quite as bad when she was in human form, but she knew she'd still be burning the clothes when she got home.
When she came out from behind the tree, Tommy and Alice were staring at each other. They were both such perfect specimens of otherworldly beauty, and such opposites with Alice's delicate, chic ballerina gracefulness and Tommy's blonde, impish, cherubic cuteness.
It was unnatural.
"He's one of Victoria's coven," Leah said, breaking up the two vampire's mutual admiration staring contest.
Maybe it wasn't admiration. Maybe they were just scoping each other out, trying to sense weak points, but whatever it was, it was freaking Leah out.
"Yes," Alice responded slowly. "And you want us to fix him."
Tommy bristled. "I'm fine."
"You're not," Alice contradicted immediately. "But you will be."
"So you'll take him?" Leah asked, relieved that her idea was going to work.
Leah's face fell.
"But Tanya's group will."
Tommy and Leah exclaimed in puzzlement at the same time, and they turned involuntarily to look at each other.
Alice smirked. "Our coven is too well established for another 'foster child' to show up out of the blue. Particularly one who noticeably doesn't age. We'd have to move away much earlier than planned."
The girl moved forward, surveying Tommy from head to toe as Leah watched warily.
Ignoring Leah, Alice continued.
"Tanya's group is perfect. Her coven is set up like a hippie commune. Outsiders rarely visit. She loves a challenge too. They'll rub along well together…eventually."
She gave Tommy a small smile and held out her hand. "Come."
Tommy hesitated, sparing a glance at Leah, then walked forward and put his hand in Alice's and let her lead him toward the house. As she went, Alice glanced over her shoulder at Leah.
"What you did, it was…nice."
Had she just been complimented by a leech?
Leah blinked and nodded slowly in acknowledgement. Alice gave her a brilliant smile, the type that would stop traffic, then turned back toward the house and walked on.
She watched as the pair of them disappeared into the Cullens' mansion, then turned to go. Within a few yards she was swallowed up by the forest. She let its vast quiet seep into her. She'd just spared a vampire's life. It was disquieting, but it felt like the right thing to do. She was usually the one needing saving, the weakest of the wolf pack apart from the newest and youngest who were still sidelined during fights to protect them until they became stronger.
That vampire kid, Tommy, reminded her a lot of Seth when he was younger. Her little brother was a man now, his growth accelerated by the change. He and the other werewolves would soon know what she'd done. The minute she phased and they phased their minds and memories would be linked.
Leah decided, fiercely, that she didn't care. Let them rage at her. Jake was in love with a leech's girlfriend. They'd all fought as allies with the Cullens too. If Leah chose to return one of the leeches to their own kind, what of it? Her pack-mates could deride her for it, but they couldn't stop it. It was done.
That decision, at least, was hers to make of her own free will, and no one could take it from her. Unlike Sam, stolen from her by the curse of imprinting, or Emily who voluntarily broke what was left of Leah's heart by siding with Sam. The twin betrayals were an agony that would probably never go away.
Leah stopped. The whole time she was with Tommy, she hadn't once thought of Sam or Emily.
She smiled. She knew her smile wasn't as magnificent or enthralling as Alice's, that her smiles hadn't been bright or sincere for a very long time, but this was the first real genuine smile that she'd had in months, and it felt good.
Raising her hands, she touched the sweatshirt sleeves covering her arms. It still smelled of leech, but suddenly she could bear it much easier.
Still smiling, she turned toward home.
A/N: I'm not entirely happy with this ending. I almost wrote an alternate one where Leah was forced to kill Tommy when he couldn't control his bloodlust, but it seemed too depressing. If you leave a review, please let me know what you think of how this one ended.