She's changed so much in the last few weeks. Suddenly she's not bitter. She's not sad. She's...happy. Giddily so. And she's never been the giddy type. No squealing or giggling for her even when they were together and planning the perfect future. But now? Now, she smiles all the time. And at some point she stops looking at Emily with envy and starts looking at her with pity which is Sam's first clue that his life is about to change. Though he has no idea how much or how painful this change will be until it's in his lap. There's some squealing and giggling when she's on the phone with Emily as they start to become friends again. That change gives him hope that they can all be close until he sees her in his kitchen and she chats with him like he's always been with Emily. In that moment he knows why things are so easy between Leah and Emily. It's because Leah doesn't love him any more. Oh, she doesn't want him dead or anything (that might actually be easier since at least hate is a strong emotion) but nor does she really think about him beyond acknowledging that he is breathing and present when they share the same space.

He knows he should be glad of that, happy to see her so happy. But it...hurts. A lot. Because he still loves her even through the compulsion of imprinting. And somehow seeing her miss him everyday made him feel a little better about this whole ridiculous mess that is loving Emily almost against his will. Mind you, Emily is a wonderful woman and perhaps if he'd met her first he wouldn't be so conflicted. Because she is the traditional nurturing woman he always wanted Leah to be some day. And if he is truly honest with himself, he can admit that Leah was never going to bake muffins and have his dinner waiting. Not like Emily does every night no matter what time he comes home. Not even if they had gotten around to having that houseful of kids that had been his idea of the perfect family.

No, Leah would have cooked dinner if she got home first, but otherwise she'd have expected him to get his own damned dinner and hers too if he beat her home. Kids were still under discussion (he wanted 5 or 6, she told him that she'd let him know after the first birth, but she thought he'd have to be the one to give birth to kids 3 through 6 as she doubted she was dumb enough to go through pregnancy more than once and she was hoping for twins) but having them wouldn't have meant Leah staying home and baking cookies. It would have been preschool and babysitters and cookies from a tube because Leah is not the type to agonize over whether or not her kids are being exposed to germs, or to think their emotional stability rides on her presence. She'll think preschool is good for them, that they'll learn independence along with ABC's and if they're like her at all then she's absolutely correct.

She is independent in a way that infuriates him on a good day (it intimidates him every day but he doesn't tell her that) because deep down he enjoys being needed and Leah didn't need anything from him but his love. When he took that from her...he thought he'd broken her, but now he sees all he did was bruise her. And then because everyone was tip-toeing around Emily and her visible scars no one thought to tend to the invisible damage he'd inflicted on Leah. But then Jacob came back. Angry and hurt and still wallowing in his unrequited love with the leech's girl. No one could bear to be near him for long and then something happened between Jacob and Leah. He doesn't know exactly how it happened, but the glimpses he caught before he wrenched himself back to two legs is of them fighting like they've lost their minds. A near brawl erupting somewhere in the woods that didn't end in the expected bloodshed.

Screams, angry words, and even some blows were exchanged before clothes went flying everywhere and Leah's back was pressed against a tree while her limbs tangled with Jake's. He didn't...couldn't stand to know the rest. He can guess and that hurts enough to make him wish he'd stood up for Leah more in the aftermath of her joining the pack. It is clear though that it was not a one time occurrence. They phase together when the rest of the pack is unavailable (only Quil was foolish enough to phase while it was supposed to be just the two of them running together and he swears that no one wants to know what he knows now, though Sam has noticed that he eyes Jacob with a strange sort of respect) and they are rarely far from each other even when it would seem unnecessary since the pack dynamic makes them all closer than siblings. He wants to think they've imprinted on each other, but he knows that's not the case. No, Leah has somehow forced Jake to get his shit together and she got herself together in the process.

They come to eat at the house on occasion (Emily is overjoyed the first time her cousin makes an appearance), but Jacob suddenly prefers frybread to muffins and Emily's frybread has never been that tasty. Leah tries to teach Emily her secret, but it doesn't take and Emily goes back to muffins. Jacob learns her secret though and Billy is very happy to be so well-fed on the traditional food of his childhood. Leah even insists on renovating the house so that Billy can navigate it better and somehow she gets the Feds to pay for most of the materials and labor, though she and Jacob are very vocal about how they are not planning on forever. They say to anyone that asks that this is casual, just two people that have been through the same pain finding a way to get on with life.

No one believes them of course, because it's clear that they are more than friends and everyone hopes that imprinting doesn't mess either of them up by ruining this fragile structure they're building out of jokes and fights and shared dreams. They are expecting nothing from each other, and much as it pains Sam he can see that they are giving each other everything because of that freedom. There are no pedestals here. Jacob is the first to admit that Leah has a terrible temper and that she can be vicious when she's angry. But he admires the honesty of her emotions; she hides nothing; pretends nothing. Leah is Leah and that must be who he loves or she will have nothing to do with him. She does not need him, but she wants him and that is a wonderful feeling.

Leah knows Jacob is the sort to love so hard only once in his life and that love went to a girl who didn't...couldn't return it. She also knows that his feelings for that girl had a lot to do with getting to be the hero and saving Bella from herself. She knows how tiresome that was for him after awhile, though he doesn't like to admit it. He is rash and young and she makes no bones about her belief that he would have gotten bored eventually because the girl was never a challenge. When he starts to lose sight of reality and thinks she needs more from him than she wants to accept, she tells him that girls who need saving once are frequently girls who need saving forever. He is no knight and she's no damsel in distress. A partner is always better than a perpetual victim is her attitude and that gradually becomes the mantra of their relationship.

They fight often, and people quickly learn that the louder the fight, the less anyone wants to be around when they're making up. Billy and Sue Clearwater commiserate over the madness of their kids, but other than the obligatory speeches about unwanted pregnancy they don't interfere because that wouldn't do any good. They both seem to be hoping that marriage and beautiful babies will happen even if both of the young lovebirds seem more interested in fighting and fucking than in rose petals and sweet declarations of eternal fidelity. Girls from tribes all over (including La Push and Mankah) are saddened when Jacob comes to pow-wows and isn't interested in being their Romeo though none of them push their luck because Leah is not exactly known as a shrinking violet when it comes to her man. And Jacob is so big that even the most ardent Pow-wow Romeos find something better to do with their time than fruitlessly pursuing Leah. The two are a matched set of adventure and passion even when they insist otherwise and make a show of looking around just in case their imprint is present. It never happens and he thinks it never will. After all when Sam sees them racing through the woods together even he is forced to admit that strength of will and a warrior's spirit is a hard combination to resist and he can't imagine they'll ever find a better match than the one they've built together.