Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer

A Rock and a Hard Place

"I'm going to imprint on this rock," she announced to no one in particular, fixing her eyes on the rounded pebble she held in her hand so hard they began to water.

Jacob Black sat on an old picnic blanket beside her, shoes and socks kicked off, his feet trailing in the stream. He cast a disapproving look at Leah, before returning to his thoughts, throwing stones into the fast flowing river with an element of malice. "One," he said with distaste, "you can't just make yourself imprint. Two, that is a rock. And three, imprinting is about genes and mating and since you can't have kids you don't need to mate with anything." He illustrated each one of his points with another stone thrown into the lake. Leah listened to the wet glop of each one and felt it reflected somewhere in the pit of her stomach. Particularly the last stone, which Jacob had thrown harder, further and deeper than any other.

"Thanks, Jake," she snapped still clutching the pebble. "As if I'd forgotten how much life enjoys kicking me in the ovaries. Metaphorically and literally."


"Gross? I'm not the one doing it with a baby," she said, aiming her own pebble expertly. The sound and the large splash were as satisfying as the sight of Jacob Black gritting his teeth together.

"I'm not doing anything with Nessie!"

"Sure you aren't," shrugged Leah, "but you will won't you? Someday. Isn't it weird, knowing that you're going to have to have sex with something only a few months old, that you watched her birth and you're going to have to watch her grow up and then watch her…you know?"

"I don't want to talk about it," he mumbled into the knees of his mud-smeared jeans.

"That is of course if she wants you at all," continued Leah, her eyes following the river downstream, specifically a bag that must have been blown from a highway somewhere, caught in the fast moving current like a strange plastic fish. "I mean you'll be like an uncle to her, like family…you might be tied to her, but she doesn't have to marry you if she doesn't want to or have your kids, or…or…"

"You're not talking about me and Nessie are you?" asked Jacob quietly. "Emily and Sam are-"

"Off my mind," said Leah harshly. "I've got my rock now. Stupid imprinting," she muttered to herself, throwing another pebble in the stream. It was so clear that day; she could see the sticks and debris under the water pulled along by the current, she watched a tiny brown fish attempt the futile swim upstream. Leah could relate to that- swimming upstream; a fast current trying to force you backwards down the river, so you ended up washed into a vast, unforgiving nowhere of an ocean or going nowhere at all. Forks, the reserve and that river were nowhere. And, in a way, her body was that river. She was fighting it, fighting to keep her thoughts from the other wolves, fighting her eyes not to cry whenever she saw Sam and Emily together and fighting her insides, telling them not to give up on her.

Perhaps she should be more like Jacob and just give in, the way he had done to his more unsavoury wolf-instincts.

"Stupid imprinting," said Jacob in a way that was so sincere and bitter that Leah had to re-evaluate her whole theory. She looked at him closely and saw his jaw jut together, his fists clenched, and realised that he must resent imprinting just as much as she did. Well, it can't be easy when your hormones decide you're going to fall for a baby, whether you want to or not.

Struck by a sudden urge and tired of fighting, she flung her court shoes from her feet, removed her socks and stood up, unbuttoning her jeans.

"What are you doing?"

"Relax," Leah slid the jeans from her skin, exposing bare legs to a pleasant Washington wind "I'm not going to rape you or anything. Besides," next came her white t-shirt, over her head and onto the ground almost like a blanket of snow, "It's not like you haven't seen this before." Stripping off in front of a group of men was another reason she despised her wolf genes, but that, like everything else, was something she had learnt to stop fighting.

Sometimes she might have even enjoyed it; Jacob Black was a teenage boy after all, a teenage boy who's mate wouldn't be of age for sixteen years (Jacob insisted that her growth was accelerated due to vampire genes, but a seven year old who looked sixteen was still a seven year old in Leah's mind- like a wolf in sheep's clothing). Jacob's eyes moved along the hollows of her collar bone, to the peak of her breasts, encased in a white bra, to her stomach and the curve of her ass. Leah would have smiled at this attention, except something in her head cried out Sam, it was a pained, bitter scream.

After everything she'd done for him; her hair, her underwear, sitting through Die-Hard films and nodding half-heartedly at rock concerts it hadn't been enough. Emily could have been a fat, balding old woman who only listened to classical music, who farted in lifts and kicked stones at kittens, she could have been a baby who wasn't old enough to even have opinions of her own, she could have been a rock and it wouldn't have mattered. Emily could do anything she wanted to Sam and he'd still have to come back to her, tail between his legs like a stray dog. That twisted form of emotional imprisonment couldn't be love, thought Leah; she refused to believe it was anything like love.

Emily was gorgeous and Sam hadn't fought for Leah, he hadn't fought himself hard enough, though Quil claimed it was impossible. None of them were trying hard enough. Men. All instinct and cock and mating, but no heart. Maybe Leah should be more like them, maybe that was her true instinct, forget about love and compromise and actual adult relationships and just let the current wash her down stream.

The water was too cold and she regretted her decision immediately, but Jacob was still watching her from the water's edge his mouth hanging open slightly in disbelief and distaste so she couldn't back down. She felt the skin on her legs growing raw and red as the cold beat against them, stripping her of her breath and stinging sharply but she walked further into the middle, until the water reached her waist. "The water's great!" she lied in an odd, high pitched voice to Jacob.

"You're so weird."

She probably was incredibly weird. She was probably insane too, or maybe just maybe she was the sanest person in an insane world. God must have been drunk when he'd thought up Leah Clearwater's life. There was only one thing for it; she ducked slightly, the icy water clashing with the body heat radiating from her shoulders, before sub-merging herself completely in water.

The current washed over her, getting in her hair, nose and eyes, she opened her mouth to let water rush in too, imaging her lungs filling up with water. Her body would fight drowning too, though, and that might hurt. Panting, she threw her head above water and felt her hair, thick and dark with water whip against her back, like ropes or chains. Water pooled around her and if she relaxed the current forced her gently back. It wasn't unpleasant; the water coaxed her in its direction, its motion almost soothing- like an old friend. He dad used to take her swimming. She lay on her back and let it take her away.

"Le- Leah?" Jacob stood up, watching her float down stream, arms and legs spread out like a great starfish or the corpse of a drowned woman washing away. "Where are you going?"

"The ocean," said Leah inconsequently, moving her arms slowly up and down. "Wherever it is, it can't be much worse than here."

"Don't be an idiot," snapped Jacob, his face getting further away. "You can't just float into the ocean, there are bridges and dams and waterworks and everything. Come back right now."

There was a picture that Sam had showed her once, by accident probably (Sam wasn't a classical art fan, he liked block shapes and colours all jumbled up to make a grotesque face like Picasso) of Ophelia, who drowned herself in that Hamlet play, in the picture Ophelia had her hands outstretched, a broken garland of flowers streaming besides her. The woman who'd sat for the painting had to lie, in winter in a bathtub for hours whilst the artist just let the lamps go out. At first, Leah had tried to believe that the woman in the picture was frowning, that she was pissed and cold- but like Ophelia she'd willingly accepted her fate, her face one of calm beauty. And in the end it had made for a beautiful picture.

Leah was Ophelia; serene and peaceful, now a mere shadow of the disaster she'd once seen. Land was far away and she'd go wherever the water took her; she wouldn't fight the current.

"Leah Clearwater," growled Jacob, now walking along the bank beside her, quickly to match the pace of the river. "Don't think I won't go in there and get you myself." He sounded so much like her father there ought to have been a 'young lady' tacked onto the edge of his speech. Leah wasn't sure if she was going to laugh or cry.

Still walking, Jacob fumbled for the buttons and zipper on his jeans, almost tripping over the pants as they slid down his backside and abandoning them on the grass besides the bank as he tried competed with the river to stay ahead. After his shirt and vest were similarly discarded, there was a splash and Jacob Black was in the water. The game was up, Leah supposed.

"What were you playing at?" asked an angry Jacob, his lips an uncomfortable shade of blue. They stood at their original spot, Jacob cradling his clothes in his arms like a child and Leah wondered if he held Nessie like that. She didn't want to think about it, but then of course she couldn't get the image out of her mind, in the same way she couldn't stop picturing Sam with Emily. On their wedding night.

Leah shrugged, "It was refreshing wasn't it?"

"I'm dying of hypothermia!" exclaimed Jacob, shivering violently; his hair was damp and hanging limply around his chin like tangled seaweed, his skin had turned an odd shade of grey and his yellow boxer-shorts had grown heavy with water and were hanging limply. It was quite a comical sight and Leah couldn't help but giggle.

"What?" Jacob asked, like a petulant child.

"You look a sight. Here," she bent down and picked up the picnic blanket before wrapping Jacob in it, the smallest amount of maternal affection creeping into her actions. "You've got your clothes all wet and no-one wants to see you in your soggy underwear. I might get nightmares from all of this."

Jacob sat on a rock, still grumpy but thankful for the blanket, Leah could tell. "I could say the same for you," he said. "Standing there with just a damp bra on like a mental person. What a goddam stupid idea, wouldn't be surprised if you caught the flu."

Then, to Leah's astonishment, he shifted up on the rock and offered out a portion of the blanket out to her. With an odd element of trepidation, Leah sat next to him, closely to benefit the warmth of the blanket. And because it seemed appropriate, Jacob slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her even closer and because it seemed appropriate, Leah let her head rest on his broad, slightly slimy with water, chest.

It was a platonic, brotherly sisterly kind of embrace, Leah told herself firmly; Jacob had Nessie and Leah…well, Leah had her rocks and her kicked ovaries. They watched the river and Leah felt Jacob's chin rest on her head, his hand cupping her arm and his skin on hers. It wasn't altogether unpleasant.

"Why did you do that?" he asked after a short while, his voice vibrating through Leah's skull. "Idiot."

"Why did you come after me, idiot?"

Jacob sighed and shifted a little so that they were sitting side-by-side, it was growing colder even under the rough woollen blanket and Leah missed the warmth of his close proximity. "Look, I know things might seem bad and weird now…but they'll get better. Really."

"Oh right, is that what you keep telling yourself?"

"It's true. And just because it's tough now doesn't mean you have to throw it all in the air and follow a stream down to the ocean of all things, you crazy woman. You have to keep fighting."

Leah snorted, picking at a loose piece of wool on the blanket savagely. "And what do you know about fighting? You've got to be one of the biggest pushovers I know."

"What? That isn't true at all!"

"You're not fighting imprinting are you!" said Leah, aware that her voice was growing higher and louder and really not giving a dam if Jacob went back to thinking she was just a shrill harpy. "You know what I think? I think you're pretending that you're happy you've found that someone you're meant to imprint on when really you're miserable because of it. I think you feel like you've lost all control, that you don't want to feel this way about a child, or force her into something she doesn't want. I think you feel guilty and-"

Leah wasn't sure if she was still talking, one minute she was ranting about what she hoped he felt, what they all felt, what Sam had felt- especially the guilt part and the next Jacobs lips were on hers. It was a kiss, and it was a nice one at that despite Jacob using a little too much tongue at some points, but part of it still felt like a conversation.

You're right, Jacob's kiss which became kisses seemed to say, I think I want to fight it, but I don't know how- is this how you do it?

Why are you asking me? Leah returned As if I know anything about anything. Don't stop though, it might not be helping but I don't think it hurts either. Just don't stop.



"Leah," he pulled away abruptly, lips still hovering disconcertingly beside her mouth. She felt his chest rising and falling heavily beneath her palm and looking up, realised that he couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye. They were both in just their underwear, Leah remembered, yanking the blanket away from Jacob and pulling it tightly around herself.

For a few agonising seconds nothing happened. Jacob cleared his throat awkwardly and the silence bubbled and hardened.

"Jeez, Jacob," said Leah finally. "You don't skimp on the tongue there do you?"

"What about you?" he snapped right back, "you bit my lip!"

Sam used to like that; he had a funny little moan reserved specifically for when she nibbled on his lip. Emily didn't know the affect it had on him, and Leah would never ever tell her- it was a secret she was taking to the grave, not that it mattered of course; Emily could knee him in the groin and Sam would have to say thank-you. She pulled her knees into her chest, "Sam always liked that."

Leah had never seen Jacob blink so much in such a short space of time, or anyone for that matter- it was though he was watching her in stop motion. "It was okay, I guess," said Jacob, still blinking and sounding almost as if he didn't quite believe himself.

"Did it make you forget about the baby? Just for two seconds?"

"Two seconds," conceded Jacob. "Did it make you forget about Sam and Emily?"

"For two seconds- but only when you had the right amount of tongue, mind you."

"Well I'll be better next time" shrugged Jacob, rubbing his leg to try and warm it up.

It was Leah's turn to blink uncontrollably. "Next time…but I thought," she gritted her teeth, "If you think you can just fool around with me while you wait for Nessie to grow up, you've got another thing coming! There is no way in hell I'm going through that again, I mean after everything I-"

He kissed her softly, knuckles grazing along her cheekbones. "Who cares about that? It's years away and if I'm going to fight this I need the strongest wolf in the pack."

"Shut up," scoffed Leah. "I'm the smallest and the greyest wolf of the bunch!"

"Not literally, I mean the only wolf that can withstand so many, what did you call them? Punches in the ovaries?"

"I'm the only one with ovaries."

Jacob rolled his eyes. "Look, if you're just going to blow holes in my metaphor will you please just shut up and kiss me?" He grinned at her hopefully, his eyes sparkling and it was at that moment that Leah really hoped Renesmee Cullen grew up to be a lesbian.

"Gladly," sniffed Leah. "Your metaphors suck monkey ass."

It was a kiss that seemed to say, who cares about what the river will be like tomorrow? We have the here and now and we're fighting it.

"Though, I have to warn you," said Leah, pulling away from Jacob lacing her arms around his neck and winding a finger through his hair as it dried into curls. "If we're going to do this- you're going to have to accept that you're always going to be playing second fiddle." So was Leah, to Renesmee, to Bella Cullen- but she'd rather chose second best than be forced into being with one man forever.

"To Sam?"

"Nope," said Leah lightly, prying herself from Jacob to bend down for a few moments. "To this rock. I'm almost certain I'm going to imprint on this rock."