A/N: Written for MargotTenser and the Tricky Raven Silent Auction. Her prompt was: Leah and Paul against the world/universe/destiny. This was supposed to be a one-shot, but I'm way too long-winded, so instead it will be a short multi chaptered fic.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters are the property of their Stephenie Meyer. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
There were long stretches of time when Leah Clearwater and Rachel Black could better be described as "frenemies" rather than friends. They were friends because of the amount of time they spent together playing as children or socializing as teens. They were enemies because Rachel's twin sister Rebecca considered Leah to be her best friend, while Rachel considered Rebecca to be hers. Rebecca didn't dislike her sister, but neither did she enjoy being a twin as much as Rachel did. Rachel loved sharing everything with her from their bedroom to their mother's womb to their faces, but Rebecca thought that sometimes it was nice to get a break from all the sharing. Nearly everyone confused them for each other. Rachel relished that fact, often wearing the same clothes or copying her sister's hairstyle to emphasize their sameness, while Rebecca got annoyed. Rachel didn't mind it when people called her by her sister's name or referred to her as "one of the Black twins". Rebecca hated it, and she longed for her own identity.
In fact, the first thing that Rebecca noticed about Leah was that she had no trouble telling them apart. The second was that she had her own room. Leah didn't have to share with anyone, not even when her baby brother was born. Moreover, Leah was perfectly happy to loan toys, games, and eventually, makeup and clothes to either twin. Rebecca thought Leah was generous. Rachel thought Leah was trying to steal her sister because she wasn't lucky enough to have one of her own.
Leah did have a second cousin who was close to their age, though. The first time they met Emily was the first time Rachel actually got mad at Leah. Until then, she quietly resented how close Leah and Rebecca had become, but Leah was never mean or snobby to either of them, and she always invited Rachel to play when she invited Rebecca. Leah talked to Rebecca more than she talked to her, but she never ignored Rachel or deliberately excluded her. To the outside observer, the three girls looked like great friends. They played together at recess, sat together in the cafeteria, and had sleepovers at each other's houses. When Emily came to visit, though, Leah introduced her as her best friend. Rachel was floored. How could Leah be so cruel to Rebecca? How could she demote her so casually, and directly to her face? Particularly for someone as dull and uninteresting as Emily?
But Rebecca didn't even seem to notice that she had been slighted. Rachel was perplexed and frustrated. She couldn't stand that her twin liked someone better than her. How could Rebecca bear knowing that Leah thought she was second best? Rebecca just shrugged and said that one day Leah would realize Emily was not a true friend, but that had never stopped Leah from being a good friend to Rebecca, and since when was this a competition anyway? Rachel was so caught up thinking about rivalries that she missed the first part of Rebecca's statement until much later. It took her a very long time, but eventually she noticed that Emily was even more jealous of Leah than she was.
Emily generally did a better job of hiding her envy from Leah than Rachel did. This was partly due to distance; the cousins didn't actually see each other very often since Emily lived in Neah Bay rather than La Push. It also helped that they directly competed for nothing. On the other hand, Rachel and Leah were frequently compared to one another (although not nearly as often as Rachel and Rebecca were, which Rachel never noticed, but bothered Rebecca to no end). In preschool Leah learned her letters first, but Rachel could write numbers legibly before Leah could. Soon Leah was reading boring books without pictures, while Rachel still wondered what planet Dr. Seuss lived on. But Rachel could do multiplication when Leah still forgot to carry the one. Meanwhile, their teachers noticed that their rivalry spurred each girl to strengthen their respective weaknesses in an attempt to catch up to the other. As a result, one or the other was always at the top of the class. It never occurred to Rachel that Leah kept competing with her to keep her from competing with her twin sister. After all, Rachel was a very sore loser, and Rebecca wanted nothing to do with competition.
As they moved from elementary to middle school, they continued honing their respective strengths against one another. Leah was a faster runner, but Rachel a more adept swimmer. Leah could play the piano beautifully, but Rachel had a better singing voice. Leah's hair was always silkier and thicker than Rachel's, but Rachel had a better selection of glosses that made her lips look shiny and full. Secretly, each girl thought the other was prettier.
The boys of La Push hotly debated the latter topic. Jacob declared that his sisters looked like trolls, and Seth said his sister was "just so Lee", the meaning of which Leah never quite determined. Sam Uley declared that Leah was the prettiest girl on the planet at age four, and for the rest of his life, he never wavered in that opinion. Everyone else thought all three girls were beautiful. Leah started developing sooner than the twins, which gave her a lead that lasted for all of middle school, but she noticed no one's attention but Sam's, so it hardly mattered to her. Rachel noticed, though, while she waited for curves to appear on her long, slender form.
It didn't help that their cousin Quil was constantly leaving dead bugs in their sheets, or that Embry became incoherent at the very sight of the twins, acts which were representative of the crushes each boy had on both girls that actually made them feel less attractive. On the other hand, Sam picked wildflowers and left them on Leah's porch, or asked to hold her hand as they walked home from school, or sweetly kissed her underneath the huge oak tree that bordered the schoolyard. Leah was the first girl in their grade to have a boyfriend that lasted longer than two weeks. She said yes when Sam asked her to be his girlfriend on the last day of school in sixth grade, and she didn't look at another boy for years.
Eventually, it wasn't just Quil and Embry who harassed Rachel and Rebecca. In class spitballs came flying out of nowhere, and they gained a list of annoying nicknames that they both hated. A boy named Ricky in the class above them was the leader of a small group of bullies. They picked on plenty of victims, but Rachel and Rebecca were the most common targets. Rebecca usually just rolled her eyes and turned her back on them, but the one time she was cornered and felt physically threatened, Rachel aimed the toes of her pointy, patent leather shoes into the groin of the nearest boy, and they backed off.
Leah, on the other hand, didn't have to defend herself at all. Sam was usually quite placid in nature, and in most cases he was as unflappable as Rebecca. But if anyone so much as looked at Leah the wrong way, he lost it. He was half a head taller than any other boy in school, even the ones older than he, and his father Joshua had taught him how to fight before he disappeared. Sam knew how to slam the heel of his hand into an opponent's nose in order to break it, how to jab someone in the throat so they couldn't breathe, and that he should place one foot slightly behind him to push off it when throwing a punch. He used every one of those skills in the schoolyard the afternoon that Ricky dropped a spider down Leah's shirt. Sam was suspended, but no one gave Leah any trouble after that.
The only kid on the reservation foolhardy enough to bother Leah was little Paul Lahote. He had been the toddler who made their baby brothers cry, the annoying little brat who tugged on their pigtails, and the snot-nosed kid who threw worms at all three of them. He was an equal-opportunity aggressor, and he made no exceptions. During a community picnic near the beach, he crawled under the table and tied Rebecca's shoes together. He glued Rachel's backpack zipper shut twice. He made it his life's mission to drench Leah with water whenever possible because he liked the way her shirt clung to her chest. Sam beat him up three times, but he didn't stop.
But then the bullies left the twins alone, because the worst possible thing happened. After a terrible accident came the most painful comparison of all. Leah had a mother, but Rachel and Rebecca did not. Leah was willing to share hers, and Sue started spending as much time with the twins as possible, inviting them to family dinners, dropping by their house with food, and asking about the little details of their lives. Rebecca took solace in the comfort she offered, but Rachel was only angry that Sarah wasn't there to do such things herself.
It somehow brought Rachel and Leah closer together. Leah never tried to tell Rachel that it would be okay, that the pain would pass in time, or that she needed to let go of some of her anger. She didn't treat her like a china doll, either. Everyone acted like they were walking on eggshells around the twins, but not Leah. When Rachel snapped at Leah, she snapped right back, and Rachel was relieved because it felt so normal. Leah also didn't avoid the girls like everyone else seemed to. She just agreed with Rachel that what had happened was truly awful and unfixable and distracted her when it was possible. Without Leah, Rachel would have been completely lost, because not only was her mother gone, but her father was drowning in grief, and Rebecca seemed to be pulling away as well.
During freshman year of high school, Rebecca started dating a white boy from Forks. His name was Ellis, and he was sixteen and owned his own car. He was a nice boy, and he distracted Rebecca out of her mourning, but Rachel felt abandoned when she needed her sister the most. The couple tried to set her up with one of his friends, but Rachel thought he was a creep and refused to see him again. After that, she started to feel like a third wheel around her own sister. She began to lean on Leah more and more, especially since she preferred the Clearwater house to her own. The two friends never stopped competing with one another, but now it was friendly.
Of course, Leah couldn't be there for Rachel at every second. She had her own life, and Sam took up a lot of her time. Friday and Saturday evenings were the worst, when Rebecca disappeared to Forks and Sam and Leah were on dates. Rachel tried to spend some time with her devastated younger brother, but she didn't know how to make him feel better. She had no reassuring words to give, nothing that would make the pain fade.
Things got a little better when Leah invited Rachel on a double date with Mason, one of Sam's lacrosse teammates. Rachel wasn't exactly enamored of him, but he was funny, friendly, and cute. A few dates later, he asked her to be his girlfriend. Rachel said yes despite the fact that Mason never looked at her the way Sam looked at Leah, and she was certain that she didn't look at him that way either. Even so, he provided a pleasant distraction. With him around, she no longer felt like an outsider.
High school progressed in an unremarkable fashion, and were it not for Sarah's absence, everything would have felt normal. But Rachel continued to be melancholy, Rebecca was increasingly distant, and watching them, Leah learned to value what she had. Perhaps the only good things to come out of Sarah's death were Leah's appreciation of her family and Rachel's drive. When Rachel looked around her, all she saw were memories of her mother: the coffee mug she used to drink out of every morning, the scarves she knitted for cold weather, books she bought but never had the chance to read. Rachel knew she couldn't stay in La Push forever, not like this. She needed an escape, and she knew how to get it. She would have to earn a scholarship so that she could go to college. Rebecca endorsed the plan, but Leah actually tried to help her make it happen. While Rachel helped Leah ace chemistry, Leah tutored Rachel in composition, her weakest subject. They did online AP classes together in the computer lab, Leah joined the environmental club that Rachel founded, and Leah even got Rachel a volunteering position at the hospital.
While the girls focused on their intellectual skills, their bodies grew up without any such cultivation. The twins found themselves growing into their gangly bodies, and Leah transformed from a pretty girl to a beautiful woman. Just about every boy on the reservation had a crush on at least one if not all three of the girls, but all of them were considered off limits due to their boyfriends. Somehow that didn't stop Paul. When he was a freshman and they were seniors, he had the audacity to hit on Leah. He had no qualms telling her that she was the finest girl he had ever laid eyes on, that Sam would never appreciate her the way he could, and that he would satisfy her like no one else ever could. She was floored by the hubris of the scrawny adolescent, and he suffered the beating of his life when Sam heard what he had said.
After graduation, the girls drifted apart. Rebecca and Rachel went to Hawaii for vacation, but only Rachel came home. She had thought Rebecca was coming to Washington State University with her, but Rebecca fell madly in love with a Hawaiian surfer, with the island itself, and the idea of escaping from the shadows of her sister and her mother's ghost. Rachel was heartbroken but turned her gaze to her future, vowing to build a life for herself that Sarah would have been proud of. Leah drove to Pullman with Billy and Jacob to move Rachel into her dorm.
Sam proposed on a beautiful day in August. Leah turned down an admission to the University of Washington to stay with him. He had also planned to go to the prestigious university, but his life had taken a strange turn when he disappeared for two weeks over the winter and returned several inches taller and a great deal angrier. No one seemed to know what, exactly, had happened, but Leah was so relieved at his return that she didn't push him for answers. She decided to commute to Peninsula College while Sam got a job with the council.
Two years passed. Sam and Leah moved into their own cabin. He began to renovate it, she decorated it, and they set a wedding date. Leah studied like crazy and was admitted into the nursing program, grateful that Rachel had taught her chemistry. She missed her old friends because Rebecca never came home, and Rachel visited only rarely, but she had her family, her fiancé, and a promising future. She was happy.
Then her life came apart at the seams.