A/N: Hi! Happy (late) New Year everyone! So I'm not gonna lie… this chapter is kind of here as a lead-in to my next story. It will be a sequel-ish that will take place a few years after the events of this story in the same timeline (where Nessie and Jacob were forced to run away, the Volturi coming back, ect). But it will have a completely different main character. I'm sure you'll be able to tell who when you read ;) This is a bit of set-up for the background of the next story.

Anyways, I hope everyone is enjoying THIS story! I really appreciate you guys reading! There are probably 4 or 5 chapters left after this one (I don't like to draw things out hahaha), so enjoy it while it lasts! Now on with the show! (It's a LONG one this time! Hope most of you consider that a good thing! XD)

Chapter 11

Geez, sis! Wait up! The sandy brown wolf's breaths came in quick, sharp gasps as he struggled to keep up with the tiny gray one who ran ahead of him.

Seth had been running more in the past several days than he had in ages. Each day they extended their perimeter farther and farther from Jacob's home, and it was beginning to take a toll on his already weakened leg. Jacob and Leah had been good about pacing themselves when they all ran together, but Seth noticed that with each passing day, his sister seemed more and more moody, anxious, and unwilling to slow down. That particular day was no exception. She ran so far ahead that she was almost invisible beneath the darkening sky, even to his sensitive eyes.

Give the kid a break, Leah. Jacob's thought came from somewhere to Seth's left.

Leah grudgingly slowed her pace and fell back, closer to the others. Her companions could see in her mind the frustration at being held back. Come on, he's being a baby, Jake. She thought bitterly. He just wants us to feel sorry for him.

A low growl rumbled through Seth's chest. That's a lie! You know it's harder for me than it used to be. I can't help it.

Before Leah had a chance to respond, Jacob cut in. Alright you guys, cool it. It's starting to get dark. Me and Leah will double-back and make sure we didn't miss anything. Seth, can you do a quick sweep south? I want to get the area cleared before midnight so we can head back home.

Seth did his best to suppress his anger toward his sister and nodded briefly toward Jacob before veering off to the right and disappearing into the trees. Jacob turned back in the direction from which they came and slowed to a walk. He could hear Leah's footfalls as she caught up with him, matching her step with his.

Jacob could put it off no longer; he allowed the thoughts he had kept carefully concealed all day come to the surface. The large russet wolf shook his head from side to side sadly. Leah, what's going on? He did not have to put his concerns into words; Leah could see it all very clearly in his mind.

When his friends first arrived, Jacob could not help but marvel at the new, seemingly happier Leah. She smiled more often than he remembered, and very rarely did she sulk or complain. But as time passed, he began to notice a sort of bitterness lying beneath the surface, growing each day. She spent a lot of time by herself and was quick to get angry. Very gradually, she began to act more and more like the old Leah he remembered… only there was something different that he could not place. Jacob tried to read her thoughts each day as they ran together, but Leah was careful to keep her mind focused the trees rushing past her and the wet, heady scent of the rainforest. He needed to know what was wrong.

I don't know what you're talking about. She lied weakly.

Jacob stopped abruptly and turned to face her. Alright, enough is enough. Something's definitely up… You were way out of line, talking to your brother like that.

Seriously. Seth agreed, already a few miles to the south of them.

Seth… please? Jacob sighed mentally.

Right. Sorry. He politely stopped paying attention, focusing all of his energy on searching for that familiar, sickly-sweet scent.

Leah's long, bushy tail swished impatiently. I know, I know… It's not his fault. I was just being stupid.

Jacob let his back legs fall beneath him, so he sat on the soft, green forest floor. Leah. If you and Seth really wanna stick around and help me with this, then you have to be honest with me. You can't be out here putting yourself in danger if you've got something else that's gonna be distracting you. That's how you get hurt… or worse.

It was a moment before Leah responded. Fine.She thought, defeated. You really wanna know what's bothering me? It's… well, Jake… it's you. She admitted, finally tearing down the barrier she had created in her mind, trapping her feelings inside.

Me? Jacob was incredulous. What did I do?!

Nothing! Leah insisted. Well… nothing you could help, at least. With a heavy sigh, she began to explain herself.

When Leah first joined Jacob's pack nearly four years before, she experienced a sort of peace she hadn't felt in ages. She was finally free of Sam and the pain it caused her to be near him. But, more importantly, she had finally found someone who could truly understand what she was feeling. Who shared the pain of knowing that the one you love will never feel the same, no matter how hard you fight for them.

But everything changed for her the moment her friend imprinted. Jacob no longer pined for someone who did not reciprocate his feelings. He was happier than she had ever seen him – happier, she knew, than she herself would ever be. She fought as hard as she could to suppress her jealousy, to feel happy for him... but it was no use. When Jacob and Nessie left, she was forced to rejoin Sam's pack, and her bitterness and jealousy continued to grow.

Things were better once Quil took over… much better. She was able to feel a bit of happiness again, to feel normal. But every time she saw Sam, all her old feelings would come rushing back to her. Try as she might, the happiness would never last. And now that she was back with Jacob again, listening to him talk about his undying love for Nessie, seeing his memories of her flash through his mind… that same bitter jealousy had returned, stronger than ever. Leah would anything to have the old Jacob back – the one person who really understood her feelings more than anyone else ever could. But she never would. She was, once again, alone.

Jacob wasn't quite sure what to think. Leah, I –

Please, just… try to understand. Leah turned her face down toward the forest floor. It's not your fault, I know… I just wish there was someone there who could understand what it's like for me. I – I've never really felt so alone, you know?

Jacob stood and padded forward, gently lifting her chin with his nose. The gray wolf whined softly.

I remember what it was like, Leah. It's been a long time, but… the memories never really fade.

Leah shook her head. It's not like there's anything you can do about it anyway… It's my own fault, really. She turned away from him. God, I'm so pathetic!

Her friend followed, concerned. What is it?

Things between me and Sam are… rough, to say the least. She let out a tiny muffled bark that Jacob recognized as a laugh. I really messed up at his wedding, Jake… I made everything worse.

What happened?

Leah breathed deeply. I guess it would be easier I just showed you instead of trying to explain… She closed her eyes, allowing her mind to travel through time, back to that cool spring night a little over a year before.

Leah sighed heavily as she absentmindedly rolled the crumbs of uneaten wedding cake around her plate. She sat alone at the long white table; many of the guests had already gone home for the night, and most who remained mingled together out on the dance floor, enjoying the cool night air that blew lightly into the open canopy

A new song had just begun to play over the loudspeakers. She began humming softly to herself, but stopped suddenly when a large, warm hand came to rest on her shoulder. Leah turned, expecting it to be her brother, but was instead met by the groom's softly smiling face.

"Would you like to dance?" Sam's voice was almost a whisper.

Leah found herself unable to speak and merely stared at him, incredulous. There was no way that she had heard him correctly. After several moments, she finally found her voice. "W-what?"

The smile had slowly faded from Sam's face. "Please." His voice was almost pleading.

Leah's gaze traveled across the room toward the far corner where Emily stood, talking animatedly with Rachel and Kim. It almost pained Leah to look at her, glowing with a pure happiness that she once believed could have been hers. She glanced at Sam briefly and, with a heavy sigh, lifted herself from her chair.

He led her far away from the other wedding guests to the very edge of the dance floor. A few more feet to the left, and they would be standing beneath the open night sky. Leah eyed him for a moment, unsure. Then, without any hesitation, Sam placed one hand at her waist and gently grasped one of her hands with his other. Leah's heart gave an unconscious reaction the moment his hand touched hers. She could hardly remember the last time he had touched her in such a way. And she didn't want to.

Leah stared down at her feet as she danced, waiting for him to say something. It was several moments before he did. Finally, she heard him take a slow, deep breath.

"Leah… you haven't said a word to me all day. You've barely even looked at me." Sam shook his head, the pain apparent in his eyes. "Please, Leah, I – "

"What do you want me to say?" Leah sighed in frustration. She had been expecting something like this. "I'm happy for you… for both of you. You know that. It's just… hard for me." She stared down at the floor, embarrassed.

Sam nodded. "I know, and that's the problem. You're happy for us, but you're not happy."

A sad smile came to her lips. "Yeah, well… I'm not exactly a happy person anyway, Sam." She shrugged.

"You used to be." He whispered, locking his eyes with hers.

Leah could not suppress the sudden flood of emotion at the memories which flashed before her eyes. Memories of what seemed to her like another lifetime. It was a moment before she could respond. "Things change." She said simply. "You know that." She waited for him to speak, but he said nothing. "Maybe some people just aren't meant to be happy." She shrugged her shoulders a second time.

To her surprise, Sam looked as though he wanted to laugh. "You're starting to sound like Jacob used to…"

Leah smiled softly. "Hmm… Well, we're kind of kindred spirits, me and Jake. Or, at least, we used to be." The smile faded from her face just as quickly as it came.

"It's not the same." Sam's voice was almost pleading. "You know I never had a choice."

Leah took a deep breath, considering her next words carefully. "I know, but… what if you did?" She asked, her eyes flashing, for a moment, toward the bride.

Sam was silent and merely stared at her, his eyebrows pulling together slightly.

The song which had been playing came to an end, and Leah noted for the first time that they had stopped moving, although they still held one another. A new song had begun. Leah recognized it the moment she heard the soft, beautiful piano melody begin to play. It had been years since she'd heard it, but the memory of what that song used to mean to her, to both of them, was still fresh in her mind.

"Well?" Leah whispered, still waiting for his response. "What if you did have a choice?" She asked again. "What if we were just normal people… no phasing, no imprinting… nothing. Would you still have left? Would you choose her over me?" Her voice had become so soft, Leah wondered if he had even heard her.

"That's not fair, Leah." Sam muttered weakly. "You can't just – "

"I need to know." She insisted, fearing his answer.

Sam closed his eyes as he spoke. "I – I don't know." He breathed.

And she knew it was the truth.

Leah dropped her arms, stepping away from him. "I should go."

"No." Sam reached for her hand, but thought better of it when he saw the look on her face. "I don't know what to say, Leah. I'm sorry. More than you'll ever know. God, I must have told you a hundred times!" He held his face in his hands for a moment and breathed deeply. "It's… It's just that…" His voice trailed off and he glanced toward the floor.

Leah's voice was harsh. "What?"

She noticed that several of the wedding guests, including her brother, were now glancing in their direction. But she didn't care.

Sam took another deep breath. "It's been more than four years since you and I…" He cleared his throat. "I thought that – "

"Whatever you thought, you were wrong." She muttered coldly. Leah knew exactly what he thought. But despite the old saying, there were some wounds that time could never heal. "It's getting late. I really should get home." She turned away from him. "Congratulations." She whispered.

Sam stepped toward her. "Lee-Lee, don't do this! Please."

"Don't call me that." Leah did not turn around as she spoke. "Goodbye, Sam."

She barely made it to the edge of the forest before her grief and bitterness took over. Leah vanished into the trees on four legs, the ragged shreds of her satin bridesmaid dress trailing behind her.

Jacob stared at the ground, the memory of Leah's despair washing over him as forcefully as if he had felt it himself.

A tiny sigh broke the silence. I don't know what came over me. How could I ask him something like that?

Have you tried talking to him about it? Jacob asked, already knowing the answer.

I've barely spoken to him at all since then. And that was more than a year ago. Leah paused. Whenever I see him, I get this feeling that there's something he wants to say to me… like there's something on the tip of his tongue. But I think he's scared... And, to be honest, so am I.

Jacob shook his head. Leah, if you're –

I already know what you're thinking. And we've had this discussion before. Leah was firm. It's obvious now that imprinting isn't the exception, it's the rule. All of you used to think that there were no female werewolves… and I'm obviously the exception to that rule. Why should this be any different?

Jacob was growing weary of having this discussion again and again. Why was she so pessimistic? Leah, you can't know that. He sighed heavily. Look, if you're that certain, then why don't you just…

Leah could already see the thought forming in his mind, but waited for him to continue.

Look, Jacob began again. Let's face it, Leah… He hesitated. You're gorgeous. It was awkward to say, but true nonetheless. We all know how much the guys around the Res stare at you. Why don't you just…

Leah stepped away from him. I'm not ready for that, Jake.

Yeah, and at this rate you never will be! Jacob's patience was wearing thin.

You're right! She agreed. I'm never going to be ready, because I'd never make someone else suffer what I went through with Sam.

Jacob searched Leah's mind, trying to understand what she meant. It only took a moment to see. Oh. He thought simply.

Leah nodded her large head. If I'm wrong about this whole imprinting thing… She stared back toward the forest floor, defeated. There was no way she could win.

I give up. Jacob thought finally. If you're going to be like that, then I guess you will be alone forever.

The gray wolf shrugged her shoulders. I guess that's just how things are meant to be.

Jacob was about to reply when Seth's frantic thoughts flooded his mind.

Hate to break up the pity-party, you guys, he thought desperately. But I think I found something.

Jacob could see it in his friend's mind. The unmistakable scent of a vampire, many miles to the south. Weak, probably a day or so old, leading off on a trail toward the west. There were five at least, probably more. As expected, they left no visible trace behind them, just a trail of their sickly sweet smell.

A shudder of mingled fear and excitement ran down Jacob's spine. His plan had worked after all; they had found the Volturi before the Volturi found them.

A/N: Woah. That took a LONG time to write. Hahahaha. I was so tempted to keep going, but I forced myself to stop. I think that chapter was the longest one yet. I hope you enjoyed it! Leah is such a tortured character, but I really love writing about her! I realize that the chapter may have felt out-of-place in the story, but I feel that it was necessary for the development of this story's sequel. Please R&R!