Disclaimer: The Twilight universe was created by Stephenie Meyer. Since she's tired of playing in it, I thought I'd have some non-profitable fun.
Author's note: Takes place after the epilogue in Eclipse and was written before Breaking Dawn. The title is from a song by Duran Duran and if you don't know which...are you sure you want to be reading about werewolves?
I Howl and I Whine
Before she became a werewolf, Leah hadn't liked the smell of the forest. It bothered her father, with his strange ideas of tradition, but Leah had preferred the smell of plastic and sanitary spray to any sort of natural odor. She didn't like dirt; her nose would wrinkle and she would whine about germs and grubs. There wasn't anything to be done about it either. It's just the way she was.
Now that she was a big old superfreak and a mythological creature to boot, Leah wasn't surprised that not only did the smell of nature cease to be completely gross, it was suddenly one of the most pleasing scents she could think of. Earth and pine and fresh droppings—suddenly that was the perfume she adored.
That still didn't make this trip any more appealing. Leah was not the person who should go after Jacob. Embry or Quil—even Seth—would have been a good idea, but Leah coming after him was not going to end well. Leah was a bitch. She knew it, Jacob knew it, the whole damn pack knew it. She did not do comforting. She never had.
But she cleaned up her own damn messes, thank you very much.
It wasn't really her mess. Jacob's MIA broken-hearted Romeo act was all the fault of one Isabella Swan, leech lover extraordinaire. Jacob would still be with his people if it weren't for her and her inability to pick a legendary creature and stick with it. Leah might have felt bad about Bella's indecision between her vampire soul mate and her werewolf best friend, but Leah had spent the last week dreaming about crushing her lips to the plain brunette and what little sympathy Leah had right now was not going to be wasted on that. Being forced to desire someone because of the mystic bond between you and some sixteen-year-old kid was not fun.
Of course, if Leah had just kept her dislike of Miss Swan to herself (as best she could in a pack of mind readers) than Jacob might still be pouting in the woods outside his home instead of the forest a state over. And maybe if Leah had never been left broken-hearted and then forced to share all those feelings with the bastard who had almost destroyed her, Sam never would have forbidden the rest of the pack from coming after Jacob, thinking it was better to give him 'space.'
That was a dumb idea, Leah had tried to explain to Sam (who didn't listen to her anymore) because if you left the shards of your broken heart in your chest, not only did they hurt like hell, but they got infected and then you ended up a raving bitch for life. Leah was the expert—and still no one paid attention to her.
That's why she had taken her mother's car and driven after Jacob. It wasn't just to spite Sam, despite what Quil and Embry and Seth thought as they waited in said car, unable to go after their friend because of Sam's orders. She had brought them along so that when she messed up—and she would because she was Leah Clearwater and that was what she did nowadays—they could remind her that she hadn't always been a bitch and send her back into the trenches until she could drag Jacob back home where he belonged. She had to be an expert at putting yourself back together again after the love of your life pissed all over everything—what was the point of all the suffering if she wasn't?
Not that she explained this to the boys. She just told them to shut up and come along. They didn't think she had a chance in hell. Leah didn't really blame them.
She had nothing to say to Jacob Black that he would want to hear.
Leah wasn't going to apologize; she didn't do things like that unless she really, really meant it and she wasn't sorry that she had pointed out that Jacob had better stop sulking over the inevitable loss of his beloved Bella.
That wasn't to say that in her own way, Leah wasn't sorry he had run off, and not just because she felt guilty. She knew first hand that losing the love of your life to their 'soul mate' really sucked and the kid had sort of helped her in the battle against the vamps, so he had earned a little bit of goodwill. She missed pissing him off too—he was more patient than most of the others, which meant when he did lose it, it was spectacular to behold. It hurt like hell, too, but Leah would rather that than sitting alone feeling numb all the time.
The wind blew through the trees bringing Jacob's scent to her. She was getting closer and, fortunately, she was downwind. He wouldn't have time to run off before she at least spoke to him. If he did run off, Leah wasn't sure what she would do. Lately all she could do was try, fail and fail some more. Should she chase after him?
When she pushed her way into the small clearing, it was obvious that she wasn't going to have to run anywhere. The lump that was lying in the clearing, formerly known as Jacob Black, was fast asleep.
That was one muscular backside that Leah found herself staring at.
Leah hated werewolves. Two years ago Jake had been this long, lanky brat that she had been forced to socialize with because of the tribe's unofficial hierarchy. Now he was almost seven feet tall and carrying around some nicely chiseled muscles. Even with her own increase in bulk (which made her look sort of like a man, though luckily she still had great tits) Leah couldn't hold a candle to the kid anymore. She couldn't even look down at him, unless he was sitting and she was standing.
Dropping down into the fragrant mud beside him, Leah tossed the clothes she had brought at him, making sure everything as covered. Once it was safe, she jabbed a finger into his calf, until he jerked awake.
"Hey, kid. Long time no see."
"Leah?" Jacob's voice went up three octaves as he moved the clothes around to try to gain some modesty. It was unnecessary; she wasn't going to look. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Fulfilling my life's dream. I can die happy now that I've seen you naked in Idaho."
"What part of leaving the state so I wouldn't have to be around you did you not get, Leah?" Jacob snarled. "Because I thought it was pretty obvious I wanted to be left alone."
"You can't always get what you want, kid. You know that, right?" He didn't answer and Leah felt her miniscule amount of patience dissolve in the silence. "I guess you do. Otherwise it would be your wedding, wouldn't it?"
"Go to hell."
"Language Jake." She had never heard him talk like that before. Made him sound a bit too much like her. Poor kid.
"Ouch. Point for the bitty little werewolf. You know, Mom always said if I didn't stop acting like a bitch...I guess I turned into one pretty damn permanently. You might want to be careful."
That got a small smile out of Jacob, though he probably would have denied it. Rolling his eyes, he asked, "How are you even here? I thought Sam ordered everyone to stay away from me."
Leah snarled and tried to blink away her tears unobtrusively. "You guys need to give Jake space. Give him time to think, guys. That's what he said. Do I look like a guy to you? Don't answer that," she added quickly. A smartass comment was not something she wanted to hear right then. She just repeated herself. "I'm not one of the guys."
Not that she cared what the group of juvenile boys thought of her, but it was tiring being forgotten or resented all the time.
Jacob shifted uncomfortably and then—because he wasn't all that bad—tried to make it up to her. "I'm glad you're not. They wouldn't have thought to bring me clothes. I missed having shorts."
"Whose fault is that?" She hurried on, just in case he took that as an insult. "Your friends are back at the car, if you want to come see them."
He didn't say anything.
With a sigh she muttered, "Or we could sit in silence."
"What do you want, Leah?"
Sam, she thought instinctively, like she always did whenever anyone asked that question. She knew she had to stop. The pack (Sam included) would find out. But she couldn't help it, even as the embarrassment dumped all over her like everything else. When her mind was free to roam it always returned to Sam, even after everything. Screw Sam. Leah couldn't help but hate him sometimes.
"You've got to come home, Jake. Billy's a wreck, the pack's a mess without you and, oh yeah, Sam's not ever going to forgive me for pissing you off in the first place if you don't come back."
"It's about you?"
He was so stunned at her apparent selfishness, he didn't even insult her. Never mind that it had been a lie. No one blamed her, not really, though she couldn't help feeling a little guilty. If Jacob couldn't understand her attempts at an apology, she wasn't about to point it out to him. There was already too much pity being thrown her way as it was.
"You're doing a bang up job of making it all about you. Really, kid, this impending doom hanging over your precious little wannabe-fanged girlfriend could start a war. A war in which a lot of people you like—not to mention me—might get killed in the process of fighting said ex-human being. And you're sitting here worried about her? You've got to be kidding me."
"She's still human."
"She's not going to be for long. And the sooner you accept that fact the faster you can start planning to rip her throat out before she kills someone."
Leah was terrible at this comforting thing—Jacob's outraged face said as much. Why wasn't he more delighted at the thought? If Sam wasn't her Alpha and therefore sort of divine in her werewolf eyes, the first thing Leah would have done with her super strength would have been to walk to Sam's house and tear his beautiful, betraying throat right out of his neck.
I love you, I'll always love you, Sam had promised. One look at Emily (her sister, her sister! Because he had to make it hurt as much as possible) and Sam didn't look at her as she cried and begged at his feet for something, anything, just a fragment of an explanation.
I just don't love you enough, he said. One of the last things he said to her, before the months of silence were broken when she became a wolf and his responsibility. He didn't mean to be cruel, she knew that now that she could see the events from his eyes. It was merely the truth. But those words had haunted her—they still haunted her because now she understood just how true they were. Yes, if she had the chance, Leah would have gladly have torn Sam apart.
She would have cried afterwards and her heart would break every time he grunted in pain, but she wanted to hurt him just the same. Because he had promised and he deserved to feel just a little bit of the agony she felt.
Jacob didn't understand this. Maybe that made him a better person than her or just stupid. He clearly took no delight in the thought of making Bella pay for reducing him to this shadow of a man.
"She's human, you harpy. Right now, she's human. We're sitting here talking and her heart is beating one of its last days. I can do something—I can save her. I won't accept her dying just because it'll be easier. I can stop it."
"No, you can't. There's nothing you can do."
"What do you know?"
"Have you ever looked at Emily's face?" Leah felt the anger growing as it always did when she thought of Emily. "He ripped off her face! Her beautiful, perfect face!"
Emily was her sister.
And Sam scarred her for life.
Leah had spent the better part of her childhood wanting to be just like Emily. To look the way Emily looked, to laugh the way Emily laughed, to have that shining, happy light behind her eyes—that was what Leah wanted. It had taken Sam Uley to make Leah happy with being Leah.
And when Sam destroyed that, Emily had been there. Promising to send Sam away, hugging Leah, stroking her hair, and—when the physical contact became unbearable—whispering over the phone. Whatever Leah wanted, Emily promised. Only when Leah looked up and saw what it was doing to her beloved sister did she finally lie to Emily for the first time in her life.
"It's okay," Leah promised and Emily went to Sam. Leah was going to be a bridesmaid at her sister's wedding if it killed her—Emily wanted her there and so Leah would be. No man would ever stop her loving Emily. But her face!
"I could have stopped that," Leah screeched at Jacob, standing up, but Jacob stood too, clothes clutched in front of him, and then she had no choice but to crane her head back in order to look him in the eye. But she did it, because how could he be so dense?
"If I had held out just a little longer, been just a little meaner to Sam, cried a little harder to Emily—I should have made him stay away. I should have kept her safe. And I didn't. I hate to break it to you, kid, but I am a hundred times better at ruining things than you are. And if I couldn't stop destiny, what makes you think you have any chance?"
Red swam across her eyes and Leah realized there was nothing she could do but let it take over. There was no stopping herself when the self-loathing started.
Transformation was eminent.
Leah wasn't good enough. Not for Sam who had left, or Emily who she had failed to protect, not for the pack of boys who resented a woman being thrust in their brotherhood, or her father who cried out when he felt his daughter's burning hand and could never say another word to make it better, not even for the vampires who had jumped the bigger wolves first. Leah wasn't good enough and she hated herself for it.
Stumbling away from Jacob and into the trees, her hands quickly went to remove her pants as her skin began to quiver erratically. But if she was going to turn into a bitch, she was going to act like one too.
"She doesn't want your help anyway. She chose the vampire. She chose to die rather than be with you."
The hate just got worse (why did she always have to try to bring people down to her level?) and suddenly she didn't have hands anymore, just claws. She had to swipe away her shirt but she could barely here the tearing of the fabric over Jacob's growl.
You don't know what you're talking about, he was snarling in her head. That meant he had transformed too and that was not good news for her. You don't know anything, so stay out of it.
Leah was already sprinting through the trees. Even without his thoughts coursing through her mind, she would have known he was coming after her. Hell, she wanted him to come after her. She couldn't take him in a fight, they both knew that. Jacob was bigger and, though Leah hated to admit it, he was probably the best wolf she had ever seen. Her and the others (with the possible exception of Seth) turned into wolves—Jacob became one. It was terrifying and beautiful to watch.
And right now he was going to tear her apart.
Make me, she taunted back. The forest was unfamiliar, neither one would have an advantage that way. But she was smaller and a hair faster and Jacob might be too pissed to focus properly. She could use all that to her advantage. You can't even catch me. How can you hope to make her stay?
More growling. They were the only two transformed at the moment which made it easier to concentrate on his thoughts. That was lucky. If Sam had caught her transformed there would be hell to pay for going after Jacob. Just because he had left loopholes in his orders, didn't mean she was allowed to exploit them.
Unwelcome thorn in my side. I have enough to deal with right now without Leah being a bitch. Will Bella be this different after she lets Cullen—
I hate to break it to you, kid, but I was always a bitch. You were just too little to notice how mean big bad Leah could be. And it's not like there's anything that great about your girlfriend as it is.
The tree branches struck her across the snout, but that was one of the good things about being the girly wolf. Normal things didn't matter. Hell, she liked the pine needles across her face and the dirt under her paws. The tree roots that would have tripped her up as a human were merely useful to slip through to make it harder for Jacob to follow.
She could hear him closing in, but the sensitive hearing that came with the mythical package allowed her to pinpoint his location and she veered in the opposite direction. She couldn't plan too far in advance or he would know her plan as well; Leah had to run on instinct. What else was new?
Just because you're too caught up in Sam to notice anything about anyone else, Jacob snapped as he tried to slip through the same trees she had just gone past. His bulk stopped him and he was forced to go around, buying her precious extra seconds.
The familiar pain went through her at the comment, but she immediately felt his guilt. The poor kid really was a sweetheart. Bella really was a bitch.
She isn't, he protested. She's—
The picture in Leah's head distracted her and she struck a branch too hard, knocking her on her side. He gained too much ground and she had to scramble up a muddy hill without pausing to worry about the loose rocks under her paws.
Don't do that! It's bad enough I'm having those stupid dreams. Jacob's mental laughter told her the pack minded her dreams far less than she did. Boys! Anyway, kid, can't you tell you've idolized her just a little? She's not really that pretty and her boobs are definitely smaller in real life. If you're going to go all suicidal over a girl make sure she really exists.
She reached the top of the ridge and spotted Jacob climbing up after her. She only had a moment so without thinking she launched herself at him, taking him by surprise.
They rolled down the hill in a mess of limbs, his teeth flashing, trying to grab hold of her fur. If he did catch hold, she had no chance. So she twisted and turned and tried to keep herself away from his snapping jaws.
He hit the ground first she tumbled over him, righting herself instantly and tearing off into the woods while he lay there and tried to reorient himself.
Dammit! Good one, he added reluctantly.
Thanks. I've been practicing. You only get to save my life once.
Save? Jacob sounded a little interested. I thought I was just getting in your way.
Leah mentally cringed as she raced along the river. There was no point in trying to hide her scent; he would see whichever way she would decide to turn. There was also no point in trying to hide how grateful she had been when he had pushed her out of the way of the newborn vamp—despite how she had tried with pride and false bravado.
What's wrong with you? Jacob demanded for the hundredth time. He was starting to sound amused. What's so hard about saying thank you?
You guys already hate me. I don't want you thinking I'm helpless too.
We don't hate you, but he felt too guilty about it for it not to be partially true.
It's okay, kid. I'm used to it. I bring it on myself.
Aw, Leah that's not—
Suddenly he dug his paws in and launched himself off a rock. She could see him looking down at her, but she didn't have enough time to throw herself out of the way. He landed on top of her, mouth on the ruff of her neck.
Leah twisted and turned and tried to force him to let go. Baring her teeth, knowing it was useless, she tried to at least grab hold of some part of him. No luck.
With much less force than she had feared, he tossed her into a nearby tree, leaving her too disoriented to fight back when he came at her again, teeth gleaming in the sunlight.
You trying to be a gentleman? Leah snapped, noticing her bones weren't broken.
Sam would kick my ass and the guys would never let me forget it if I beat up a girl.
Even if it was a stupid, sexist thing to stay, it still made Leah feel the tiniest bit better. He remembered she was female! There was a second of happiness and then all those girl power lessons kicked in. She could so kick his ass.
Now you're going to get it, kid.
With a roar she managed to sink her teeth into his foreleg. Jacob grunted, trying to swing her off. She tossed him off balance, which meant he pulled her over with him. They rolled together, each struggling for dominance, but his hold on her didn't weaken.
When they stopped, he and his immense bodyweight had her pinned to the forest floor.
Give? He was practically giggling in triumph. I'm not. I'm just enjoying the moment. You should try it sometime. Leah tried to think of another way to get him off, but immediately she was warned,Don't even think about it.
He was probably right. With a sigh, Leah admitted, Give. You win.
Jacob pulled up, his tongue hanging from his mouth in the most undignified way. Leah felt herself give the wolf version of a chuckle. He tried to fix it, but it was too late.
Cut it out, Leah, he whined.
But you looked so cute. With him suitably distracted, she shouted,Race you back!
It wasn't like before. This time they stayed mostly side by side as they ran through the forest, too much like pack animals to enjoy being solitary. She even pulled up and waited while he investigated a flower that caught his eye.
It smells nice. Actually, he said ruefully,it sort of smells like you.
Leah crept closer and found that it was true. Great. I have a floral scent.
Cheer up. It's a flower, not a pile of dung.
You insinuating something, Black?
It felt good not to be angry all the time. Jacob was laughing back, though she could tell he was forcing it, a little.
Wouldn't dream of it.
They got back to the clearing that she had found him in and separated in order to change back. That had been the hardest part, at first. With only one female werewolf the guys never knew what to do when she transformed and was standing there naked. They wanted to give her privacy because they were nice guys, but the wolf instinct also made it hard for them not to want to run and immediately greet a recent changed wolf, no matter what their state of undress.
She had made many in the pack nervous as they shifted her from Leah Clearwater, tribe beauty, to Leah Clearwater, sister-wolf. She still occasionally caught one of them a little too interested, if only physically. It was only ever physical—her body was the only part of her they could stand.
Shrugging on her underwear and pants were easy, but when it came to her shirt, Leah could only sigh. She had shredding the front to tatters in her haste to take off the garment. Her mother was going to kill her. Leah had always liked clothes, but now she was going through them at a rate Sue Clearwater could not afford. Leah thought guilty of the waitressing job that she hadn't shown up to today, but dismissed it. Jacob was pack.
When she got back to the clearing Jacob was already there, sitting where she had first seen him, only this time with clothes on and looking a little more alive. His face was flushed and he had dirt on his skin. It was a good look for him.
He snorted when he saw her. "You're shirt's on backwards."
"I know," she snarled and turned around to show off her back, which was completely visible through the tears. There were only two thin pieces of fabric holding the whole shirt together. She had stopped wearing bras when she had ruined all of the ones she owned—they were the worst to take off when an uncontrollable transformation took hold.
"Paul thinks it might be easier if you started wearing dresses."
"Paul just wants an excuse to stare at my legs."
Jacob snorted, but sort of agreed. Then he shrugged off the shirt she had brought him. "Here, I can get away with that. But if a human sees you, they're going to wonder what they hell you just did. I'm just going to ruin it in a few days, anyway."
Leah took the shirt, knowing it would be too big but at least it would cover her. Jacob looked down as she tossed the rags aside and slipped it on. He really was a good kid.
This time when she sat down beside him, she wasn't thinking about the pack blaming her or strange dreams with Bella Swan. She was thinking about how much it sucked when everything you wanted up and left you.
"I know I'm a bitch. I can't help it. But I hope you know when I tell you to just get over it already, I'm not trying to be mean. Not really. I'm just trying to tell you what you have to do. Because you have to trust me when I say there really is nothing else."
"I won't do nothing," he snarled.
She kept her voice calm because there was only one shirt left between them so she couldn't afford to piss him off.
"You can't fight destiny, Jake. Believe me, I tried. Sometimes there are things that are just beyond your control. Haven't you noticed how the vamps like to stay in twos for centuries? Maybe there's no fighting that. Maybe you shouldn't want to. You're a great guy, Jacob, and way better than tall, dark and murderous and it should be obvious. And if she still doesn't want you, maybe it's just because it wasn't meant to be."
"You really believe in fate like that, Leah?"
"I sort of have to, don't I? What with being the wolf-girl and all that." He still looked dejected so she added, "There's a lot of proof in our world that there's fate. Imprints and soul mates and all that crap but I don't think it's for everybody. You and me, I think we got lucky. Yeah, maybe we didn't get the stupid happily ever after, but we got something that's not so bad. We get to choose, Jake.
"Years from now you're going to meet a girl and she'll like the way you look—who wouldn't?—so she'll smile and lean closer to you. And you'll talk and get to know her, inside and out. You won't feel magic when you touch, but when you put your arm around her it won't be because fate told you to. It'll be because you want to. Everyday you'll get to choose whether to stand by her or not. And it'll mean something a whole hell of a lot more because you want to be there."
Jacob chuckled lightly under his breath. "Where'd you hear that?"
"I made it up."
"Yeah, Leah, I might believe in werewolves, but I'm not crazy. You're not that smart."
She wasn't offended; she laughed with him. It was a little painful to admit (thinking about him always was) but she said, "My dad told me that, once. Something like it, anyway. I had said Sam and I were meant to be and he told me real love wasn't about magic and perfection. He said it was about working hard with someone else, working hard together so that you're both happy."
Her eyes stung as they always did when she thought about her father. She blinked, not wanting Jacob to see, but she let his arm go around her waist and pull her to him for a quick hug. It was funny, but the pain got a little less bad.
"Sorry," Jacob muttered.
"Nothing to be sorry for. Even running away—I get it, even they don't. But you're not like me, Jake. I don't care about who I hurt when I'm hurting; I want you all to hurt. But you…you need to get back soon or you won't ever be able to stand going back and seeing how upset you made the people who love you."
He sighed and she let herself go quiet. The wind was still blowing gently but her warmed up body couldn't tell if it was cold or not. She picked at the dirt that was on her pants as Jacob tried to work his problems out. She was glad they weren't transformed now. It was going to be ugly, whatever he thought, and it should be private.
"You really believe that?" he asked finally. "You really think love is like your dad said?"
"Not really," she admitted because she didn't want to lie to him. "There's too much coincidence going on. But I sort of like saying it. I mean, why put someone on a pedestal unless you can build it yourself?"
"You just like making things difficult."
"It's more fun that way."
She didn't mean it, not in the slightest, but she also meant it wholeheartedly. With one last sigh, and one last deep breath, Jacob stood up.
He offered her a hand up and Leah took it because guys with manners always were her thing. With a small smile, she glanced up to welcome him back. But the look in his eyes stopped her.
"I can't, Leah. Not yet."
"Why not?" she demanded. Hadn't she done enough?
Jacob ran a hair through his long hair—Leah barely resisted the urge to pull the too long mane out by its roots. Failure was still bitter, even after all this time. Why wasn't she used to it by now?
"If I go back now," he said softly, "I'll be sitting around waiting for her to die. I can't do that. I know I can't stop her, not if this is what she wants, but I can't do nothing. I can't go back. As long as I stay here I can't be out there trying to kill Cullen."
"What a shame that would be," Leah muttered.
That got a smile at least. "That's what I keep saying. She just doesn't listen."
"She isn't very bright."
Leah nodded, reluctantly, but still agreeing. "Yeah, yeah. Do you ever plan to return or can I start selling your stuff on e-Bay?"
"I'll be back after the wedding," he promised. "Not before then, though. I'm sorry."
"It doesn't matter to me," Leah said. "I've got to get back. It's a long drive and my mom's going to kill me for taking her car out of the state. Not to mention my brother. You sure you don't want to see him? Seth misses you. Everybody misses you."
"I can't. If I see Quil and Embry..."
"See you later then." She turned her back on him and headed in the direction of the car. Pushing the branches out of the way, she began walking into the trees. A voice called out behind her.
She glanced back to where Jacob was smiling. A real, true smile, one that made her smile back even though she wasn't the type of person who went around acting happy all the time.
"Thanks for coming after me. For a girl, you're not so bad."
"Are you trying to be funny? Because you need to work harder."
"Leah..." He sighed. "I don't know if it helped, if anything could help, but...thanks. Thank you."
"Whatever. Let's just not make this a habit."
There was only so comforting she was ever going to be, though she had broken all sorts of personal records today. Even funnier was that she somehow felt better herself. Jacob Black had managed through all his pain and misery to make her feel better.
What the hell?
Embry was wrestling with Seth by the side of the car when Leah reached them. Quil was the unofficial announcer. She hurried between them because Seth was still her little brother and the wolf part of her had turned her from protective older sibling to super scary protective wolf-lady overnight.
"Cut it out," she growled, pulling them apart.
"Aw, Leah," Seth whined. "Embry was just showing me some moves."
"Embry doesn't have any."
"And the bitch is back," Embry muttered, not seeming to care that she could hear. Leah would have given him hell, but one of his best friends was living in a forest. "Did you find him?"
"Yeah. He's not coming. Get in the car."
She fished the keys out of the glove compartment before taking her place behind the wheel of the jeep. The sun was shining down on her face and Leah soaked it up, grateful it hadn't rained. She had forgotten the covering of the jeep in her haste to escape La Push and the gloom that had settled over everyone in the wake of Jacob's departure.
Unfortunately, Quil didn't let her enjoy the weather.
"Why isn't he coming?"
"He's just not."
"Did you get him mad, Leah?" Seth asked, slightly worried.
"I didn't do anything. He's just not ready. Sorry, boys, you'll have to wait to celebrate with the prodigal pup. Now get in the damn car."
"What are you going to tell Billy?" Embry said as he and Quil piled into the back of the car.
"He promised to come back after the wedding. That was the best I could do."
"Better than we did," Seth pointed out. He really was a good brother. A little strange sometimes, but Leah wasn't going to complain when it seemed like she had someone remotely near her corner.
Quil was still talking. "I thought I donated that shirt to Jake?"
"Screwing the fangbanger out of him earned me a little goodwill," Leah snapped. The boys groaned, like they always did when forced to think about her as a woman. She usually tried to help then out since it was pretty bad that they had access to Sam's memories, but today she was too tired to care about their oversensitive feelings.
Leah turned the keys, thinking that maybe she should have actually used that strategy; despite what she usually said, Jake had grown up. And grown up well at that.
A vision of a certain muscular chest made Leah stop and mentally shake herself. Where the hell had that come from? Jacob Black was obviously frustrating and annoying and...hot? There had to be something wrong with her brain.
A glance in the rear-view mirror and the first thing she saw was the way Quil's shirt stretched across his broad shoulders and the way Embry's hair just begged to have fingers run through it. A smile crossed her face.
Sure, it was going to be completely embarrassing if her pack brothers realized she had checked them out but it had been so long that she had felt an interest in the opposite sex (real interest and not the thing she faked so she could bring someone home and rub him in Sam's face) that she couldn't help but enjoy it. Maybe Dad had been right—maybe it didn't have to be magic. Maybe things really could develop over time.
Probably to get back at her for her comment, Quil continued to complain. "How come Seth gets to be upfront?"
"You can sit upfront when the two year old breaks your heart, Quil. Not until then."
"We gotta cut those claws before you hurt someone, Leah," Embry said.
"Some guys like it rough."
The guys whined as Leah turned the key. But they weren't angry at her, just annoyed, so she took it as a victory. She reached over for the radio, trying to drown out the three boys arguing over the best way to hunt vamps. Wind whistled through her hair, bringing the fresh aroma of the forest to her nose once more.
It might not have always been what she had liked, but Leah was starting to love that smell.
A/N: I wrote a sequel/companion piece to this called I'm Lost and I'm Found.