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 Notes: This is sort of a sequel/companion piece to I Howl and I Whine. You don't have to read the other to understand this one, though I think it would be better if you did. The titles of both are from the Duran Duran song Hungry Like the Wolf.
I'm Lost and I'm Found
When Leah was thirteen years old her father had taken her fishing. Not only had he forced her to leave her cell at home, but he hadn't even brought the large hunk of plastic that was sometimes identified as his cellphone. He had dragged her into the middle of the water and they had sat there for hours.
They hadn't talked much. She had spent most of the time sulking and the rest of the time pouting. To keep the old man smiling she had put bait on the hook for him, but she refused to enjoy it. Once her father had caught as many creepy slimey things as he wanted he had turned to her and started babbling. Listen, Leah, Harry said, can't you hear it? Here in the middle of nowhere, where there hadn't been a single solitary noise all morning—can't you feel it?
Leah would have gladly spent the rest of her life in Sam Uley's head if it meant she could figure out what her father had meant.
But she wasn't going to spend the rest of her life with Sam. At least something was going her way. Sam was never going to hear anything from her ever again, not unless she wanted him to. And since she had nothing to say to Sam anymore...well, Sam wouldn't care if they spoke or not. He was too busy getting married.
Not that she was bitter. If she was, it wasn't about the whole abandoning-her-for-her-cousin-thing. No, she was so over that. Most of the time anyway and it was more of a lingering sadness now than stabbing hatred, which was probably healthier. If she was still bitter it was because Emily was going to force her into some baby goldenrod chiffon monstrosity with ribbons and Leah knew she was never going to be able to live down her resemblance to a corn stalk.
Whatever. She was used to suffering.
There was always hope that her werewolf genes would cause her to have another growth spurt before the wedding, forcing Emily to change dresses yet again. The freaky wolf deal had to have some perks. Hadn't Jacob grown five inches in the past two months?
Leah groaned, dropping her head back into the sand. She was not thinking about Jacob.
Because if she thought about Jacob she would have to remember she was furious at him. More pissed than she had been in...well, days, but that was beside the point. Leah could handle being angry. She just couldn't handle remembering why she wanted to yell at Jacob until her throat went raw and her voice deserted her. Because even though she had sworn after Sam had left her with a gaping bleeding hole in her chest that she would never let herself be betrayed again, Jacob Black had managed to do it anyway.
It was a good thing she was not thinking about Jacob.
Damn stupid kid. How the hell had he managed to do this to her?
She was supposed to beyond this. Beyond feeling. She was a beta wolf now. She didn't get her feelings hurt by leech-loving miscreants who were too damn ungrateful not to drag her ass into huge world ending type battles and then abandon her for demon-spawn children the second Bella-I-heart-vamps-Cullen asked him to.
If there was one good thing about this whole being left to die by the one guy on the planet she had hoped wasn't a complete dick, it was that it finally proved beyond a shadow of a doubt what Leah had suspected (mostly) all along—Bella Swan was not worth it.
First, there was the whole jerking Jacob around like he was her own personal caretaker, exploiting the poor boy's feelings until he was finding ways around Sam's rules just to make her happy (Leah didn't like Sam's rules much either, but Jacob shouldn't be breaking them for Bella). Then there was the whole waffling back and forth between the marble slab and the furry creature as if Jacob had the tiniest shot in hell. Surprise, surprise, she had then proceeded to get married to not-Jake. Married at eighteen—and she had the balls to invite Leah to the wedding. Like in what bizarre-o world would Leah want to share Bella's happy pretty shiny special day with her?
Leah's list of Bella Swan's innumerable crimes against humanity—which wasn't really distracting her from how Bella had an army of people to cater to her every whim and Leah had Seth if she hadn't been too much of a bitch in the morning, anyway—was immediately halted by the sound of a cracking twig. Her enhanced ears gave her a pretty good idea what was going on. Someone was walking through the sand, about twenty feet down the beach, stepping on a piece of old drift wood. They were walking fairly slowly, but she was certain it was in her direction.
Even if she wasn't supergirl, Leah wouldn't have been scared. There was only one group of guys who would be out at this time of night and they wouldn't touch her even if she covered herself in muffin batter. And sadly enough, there really was only one person who would come after her, which is what mystery dude sounded like he was doing. Besides Seth, of course. But it would never occur to her little brother that she didn't mean it when she asked to be left alone.
Did she look like she wanted company? She should have brought a neon sign or something to warn people away. Then again, she wasn't exactly sure Jake could read.
"Go away," she called out, not bothering to open her eyes. That would mean she cared and she didn't because she was so over Jacob that she was on top of the goddamn moon.
"You've got to stop that. It's embarrassing how happy you get to see me."
"So happy I'm contemplating suicide."
"Leah?" He was dropping down into the sand beside her. The occasional wave lapped at her feet. Hopefully his long legs would get soaked. "What the hell are you doing lying on a beach in the middle of the night?"
"Canada was too far."
"Shut up." Jacob was lying down beside her then and she hoped his toes froze off. As he inhaled, she prepared herself, knowing he was going to do that thing where he showed off what a decent upstanding guy he was, only this time she wasn't going to fall for it. Jacob didn't disappoint.
"I'm glad you didn't run off."
"Oh. It's one of those nights?"
"Go drown yourself."
"I have all night, Leah."
"Until Loch Ness calls."
Jacob groaned and she could hear the sand grinding under his head. She hoped he got sand in his ears and it fell through the empty space where his brain should have been and then—Leah sighed. It was getting tiring threatening him. Not that she was falling for the nice guy routine. She was just exhausted. It had been a long day.
"You're still mad about that? Geez, Leah, give me a break. I told you I didn't mean to imprint on her. And it's not like I did it just to undermine your rant from hell—which Bella is still too traumatized to talk about. You do know how to yell at people."
"As if she would let a little screaming ruin her perfect little life."
"Could we just skip to the part where you explain what's actually bothering you? Because as fun as listening to you insult everyone I care about is, I'd rather be asleep right now. Almost dying today sort of put everything in perspective."
Leah sat up, finally opening her eyes. Just like she had suspected, Jacob was lying in the sand beside her, still wearing the baggy clothes from the epic non-battle. Boys. The first thing Leah had done was go home and desperately try to wash the smell of leeches off of her. Not that Jacob would care—he had to get used to the smell now that he was going to marry one.
The water was hitting his calves more often than not. She couldn't even delight in that. He had closed his eyes, but now he slowly cracked one open, silently wondering what he had done now.
"I don't remember you risking your life. Correct me if I'm wrong, but right before the fighting that never actually happened almost happened, you basically turned tail and ran."
When he sat up, he brought half the beach with him. Somehow, Jacob getting sand on her after everything else was just too much. Her whole body started to shake as she fought not to phase right there on the beach.
"It's not like that," Jacob insisted, not seeming to care that she was seconds away from attacking. He didn't think she would lose control like that and (damn him) he was right. A deep breath and she calmed down. Even if she was still pissed.
"Uh, Jake? That was exactly how it was. We're all hanging under a death sentence, your precious Bella summons you and then poof. You were going to leave the rest of us to die!"
"I couldn't—I didn't—shut up, Leah."
"Ha! See you know it's true."
"I would have come back." He was shouting now and the sound reverberated in her sensitive ears. Luckily, there was no one else around for miles. Who the hell went to the beach in the middle of the night? "I would have come back, I swear, Leah. I swear it. The second I made sure Nessie was safe—"
"In another country. We would have been in pieces by that time."
"I would have come back," he insisted.
Even while sitting on a beach in the middle of the night, being a werewolf made everything harder. Despite having only the faint light of the moon to illuminate everything, she could see perfectly the way Jacob was staring at her, so honest and open and freaking pure. He believed it and suddenly she believed it too. So what if it looked like that he had basically chosen to sacrifice her and the rest of wolves for Nessie's sake? Jacob would have come back to help.
"I hate you," she muttered.
"I deserve that," he said with a sigh. "I am sorry, Leah. But I didn't even think when Bella asked to help. I just...everything just became about helping Nessie. It couldn't have stayed that way. A few miles and I would have realized what was happening."
He needed to believe it more than she did and maybe Leah was becoming sentimental in her old age because she decided to help him out.
"I'm sure you would have." Leah brought her knees to her chest, mostly so the water would stop freezing her toes off. "You're using up the very last of the goodwill you earned by creating your own pack. The very last."
"Noted." He smiled, easily, because he could do that. "It's not like you needed it anyway. You're wolverine when you fight."
She might have been fast and deadly, but she wasn't stupid. No one could fight like Jacob. Without him there would have been a gap in their line that not even Embry and Quil together could have filled. But it had been a long day and if this was how he wanted to make it up to her, she was going to let him.
"Keep going." Flattery never killed anybody, except maybe Bella.
"Our pack looked like they had been through military training. Sam's pack was a total disaster in comparison. That was all you."
"Why thank you."
"See? Isn't it nice when you use your powers for good and not evil?"
"Shut up, Jake." But he had her smiling.
"I really am sorry. I don't know what came over me." They locked eyes and he corrected himself. "Okay, I was under the thrall of imprinting. But it won't—"
Even Jacob Black wasn't naive enough to promise it would never happen again. It was always going to happen again. Leah was beginning to get used to it. Someone must have taped a sign to her back without her noticing—imprint, so you too can experience the joy of screwing over Leah Clearwater.
"I am trying here, Leah. And—I need you to help me."
"I can't...it's like there should be two of me." Oh, one of those conversations. She wanted to tell him that she could care less about his poor little suffering heart—she knew better than to stand between a man and his imprint now—but he wouldn't listen to her. Sam never had, even after he realized how much it killed her to hear him say it. There's part of me that still loves you...I just don't remember it exists when I'm around her.
Jacob must have stolen Sam's script. "There's part of me that wants to help Nessie all the freaking time, but there's the part of me that wants to protect the rest of you. Not that you need it," he muttered.
"Nice save." Leah Clearwater did not need protecting.
Jacob just rolled his eyes, but still pleaded. "I'm going to forget about the pack sometimes. I don't mean to, I just can't help it. So I need someone to remind me not to. Remind me that something exists outside of Nessie. Please Leah? Help me?"
The worst thing about Jacob Black, Leah concluded, was that she couldn't yell at him. He wasn't the brain dead mother of the love of his life, who was too selfish to see what she was doing to everyone who loved her. He wasn't Sam who was too damn righteous, too all-knowing, too all-powerful alpha to admit he was wrong. He was just this completely sincere guy who had screwed up and was begging her to help him never let it happen again because he knew himself, knew his situation, but he wasn't going to use it to get out of doing the right thing.
"I really hate you," Leah said.
"But you're going to help?"
"Isn't that what a beta's for?"
"You're the Beta. You tell me."
Her fingers played in the sand, watching the tiny grains slither out of her grip, back to join the beach once more. No one knew what a beta did, not really—Jared was basically Sam's lapdog and Leah sure as hell wasn't going to do that. The idea of her delivering messages to the Cullen family on Jacob's behalf made her sick. And laugh.
When Jacob had been Sam's Beta...that had been more for formality's sake, a way of appeasing tradition without Jacob actually supplanting Sam. Jacob was too busy off saving his precious Bella to really do what Sam wanted, anyway. And since Leah wasn't going to go around trying to help people who didn't deserve it, she couldn't do that either.
So what was she supposed to do? Lapdog was unappealing, subversive was too hard, babysitter was just disgusting. She wasn't going to take care of Jacob—he wasn't a stupid kid anymore. He didn't need her for that. Was her destiny really to be a giant don't-forget post-it note?
"Basically, my job consists of rubbing it in Embry's face that I'm the Beta and he's not," she admitted.
"Leah...if you gave Embry and Quil a chance, they'd probably like you." She snorted, so he continued: "They really would. If you started acting like, well, you and not the harpy-you then the three of you would get along great. They won't take it as a sign of weakness if you were suddenly nice and they wouldn't start pitying you. They'd just...they'd like you."
Was it really necessary for him to read her mind when they weren't phased? Not that she was that scared they wouldn't like her but...well, what if they didn't? If she tried playing nice and they still complained to Jacob about the crazy she-wolf, then what would she do? There weren't any other packs hanging around for her to join. Not that she would leave. If Quil and Embry didn't want her, that was too bad. She wasn't leaving Seth or even Jacob. She had been there first.
Leah used to have friends. Before she had grown literal claws, Leah had been popular. Perfect boyfriend, perfect friends, perfect life...and then the vampires had come and everything had been shot to hell. Now she spent her days hanging around bloodsuckers and there wasn't time for friends.
The boys, most of who had never gone out on a Friday night, never mind weeknights, had it easy. They just brought their friends with them into the secret wolf cult or got along easily with one another until they were all a tight-knit brotherhood that seemed to have one simple rule—we don't want Leah around.
It was easy for Jacob to say everyone would just get along. Had he ever met someone with a pulse who didn't like him? Leah was so out of practice making friends that she couldn't even imagine where she would begin. Getting rejected by bunch of immature freaks might just kill her.
And Jacob was still talking: "I know it's scary, but you might want to try it sometimes."
"They like everyone. Hell, they like Bella. They obviously don't have very good taste."
Jacob muttered, "You'd just have to stop saying crap like that."
"And stop saying Embry might look just like his dad, if only we knew who that was?"
Jacob's smile disappeared entirely. Took long enough. "Cut it out, Leah. Rub the Beta thing in his face all you want, but leave his mother out of it."
"What is it with guys and their moms? A little Oedipal, isn't it?" She smirked. "Oedipus was this Greek—"
"I know what it is, Leah. Just because I failed a couple things...I'm just following your proud footsteps."
"My boyfriend disappears in what everyone assumes was an unsuspected drug binge, your girlfriend almost gets killed by an ancient cult of vampires..." Leah couldn't help herself. She started to laugh. "We really are a mess, Jake. Screw high school anyway."
"Yeah, well, Nessie isn't my girlfriend. What with not even being one and all."
It was best to continuously remind everyone, Leah thought, that baby vamp was going to grow up to be Mrs. Jacob Black, even if it was sort of sick.
"That's going to get weird, isn't it?" It was already weird and the kid just looked a few months older than she should. When she was seven and looked full-grown…Leah didn't really want to think about it. "Why are we even talking about sparkling spawn, anyway? You always manage to get me talking about leeches."
"Well, we could talk about werewolves and how you're going to stop being a bitch towards my friends."
"I can't stop being a bitch, remember? I tried but...I'm too angry to stop phasing just yet." He snorted at her lame joke, but kept glaring. "Fine. I'll try and be nicer. Just so we're clear, I'm only doing that because I want to rub it in that not only am I a higher ranking wolf, but I'm also a better person."
He started full on laughing at that, great giant heaves that echoed through the quiet night. It was not that funny, the idea of her being the good person, but he didn't shut up, even when she hit him in the arm as hard as she could. He just massaged the spot and kept going.
When he finally stopped, Jacob just kept grinning. Loser.
"You know what would really bother Embry?" he asked, putting his hands on the sand and leaning back. "If we had a secret Alpha/Beta handshake."
"Yup. It would drive him crazy."
"And you're not just saying that so you can have a really lame handshake because you're all of five years old?"
"It's not going to be lame," Jacob defended himself. "With the two of us working on it, it's going to be the most awesome thing on the planet."
Weirdest thing about what Jacob said? Leah sort of agreed. With a long suffering sigh, she held out her hand. "There's got to be a fist bump in there."
She vetoed the gun shooting, but let him have the finger wiggling. Once the world's greatest handshake was perfected, they ended up playing hot hands because they were werewolves and their hands were literally hot and any game where the point was to hit someone was always fun.
Leah crowed her victory as Jacob protested she was cheating. "That's the point, loser."
She was still cackling when he grabbed her hands and tried to hold them in place, so he could hit her. "Cheater," she cried, but Jacob just laughed. So she had no choice but to kick sand in his open mouth.
He growled behind her as she shot up, trying to get away from him as fast as she could. Damn sand that was purposely trying to trip her up. She had only managed to rise to her feet before Jacob was grabbing her around the calf—and then he jerked his arm and she was tumbling to the ground, landing on her ass in an inch of water.
The salty spray got all over her face. They looked at each other for a long minute as Jacob's eyes slowly got wider and wider. There were rules against poking wild animals.
"You are so dead."
She was already at him, pulling him into the water. It was the suddenness of her movement that got him, coupled with the fact he felt too guilty to defend himself properly. He stumbled into the ocean, only avoiding face planting thanks to a quickly placed hand.
Leah stuck out her tongue, which was a mistake because it gave him time to splash water up into her face. As she gagged, she kicked, getting water all over him. Suddenly they were playing a game of who could drown the other first.
They kept knocking each other further and further into the ocean. Leah picked up sand and threw it in his face, so he picked her up and tried to throw her on her face. Jacob might have had the advantage when it came to weight, but Leah fought dirtier than he ever could. Even as she was being picked up off the ground, she was flailing around, getting water everywhere. With the ocean all the way up to her waist now, she figured it was time for drastic measures.
Once she got on his back, he couldn't dislodge her without going under himself.
Which he did, eventually, traveling out to where she probably wouldn't even be able to touch the bottom. She got in one last splash to his face before she found herself completely submerged, choking on the salty sea.
"Jerk," she shrieked as she came up for air.
Jacob just pushed his long wet hair out of his face. "You want to go for a real swim?"
The black ocean buffeted against her skin. Even with her heated body, Leah could feel the cold but how was she supposed to refuse? She couldn't waste an opportunity to prove she actually had some skills.
She headed towards the shore, calling out behind her, "No peeking."
"Imprinted now. Remember?"
He really had been hanging around her too long; it was a shame bitterness was catching.
"Doesn't mean you're not still a guy!"
Leah pulled her shirt off and dumped in on the sand. It might have been a mistake, but she was still angry about being left to die on the orders of a vampire. So she just glanced over her bare shoulder and smirked.
It was funny how the sound of him swallowing echoed in the night.
He threw his shirt at her, but she had expected some kind of attack and managed to keep her yelp of surprise to a minimum when the wet fabric hit her on the back. A quiet bark let her know he finished phasing first—he would. Stupid male wolves and their refusal to wear underwear. It didn't take her that much longer and then she headed back to the water, racing after the fury russet shape she would have known anywhere.
Focus on the thousand knives, perfectly sharpened, jabbing into every inch of your skin, paralyzing every nerve in your body, freezing your organs, forcing you to stop, making it impossible to think—
Stop thinking about how cold it is, Leah demanded. I've figured that one out by myself.
Took you long enough to get in. Let's see who can make it to the cliffs first.
One day it's going to get boring, how I always kick your ass.
With that Leah began swimming as fast as she could. It was harder than running and Jacob had a head start, but she could probably make up the distance if she kept her focus. She had gotten a lot faster lately—maybe it was the whole Beta thing. The glorified messenger should by fast.
You're not going to be a glorified messenger. Like you would ever do anything I asked.
I didn't kill Bella the spawn producing reject, did I?
Here we go again.
Leah pushed herself faster, refusing to let him distract her with vague comments that could mean almost anything. She was not going to ask. Because she didn't care. Because Jacob just liked to run his mouth to be annoying. Because—
What is that supposed to mean?
You need to start leaving Nessie and Bella alone, Leah. Just because they aren't your favorite people in the world it doesn't mean you have the right to put them down all the time. Since Nessie's my imprint, I can't let you insult her, but since I don't want the hassle of trying to find a new Beta...just be a little nicer sometimes.
You wouldn't! Leah quickly searched his mind and let out a breath when she realized she had been right. He wouldn't get rid of her just because she had few choice comments about the little monster child. Hell, most of the time he thought what she said was funny. That's when she noticed he had pulled ahead again. He was such a cheat, trying to distract her like that.
Fine, Jake. I will try and keep the insulting to a minimum. Leah managed to pull even with him. I can't wait until I get an imprint so you have to be nice to him.
There was only a few feet more feet to the cliffs and Leah surged ahead. A victory was a victory and despite the water in her nose, Leah was going to enjoy it. But instead of Jacob pouting, all she heard was him thinking in a very firm voice:
I don't want you to imprint.
Who the hell did he think he was? Just because he was in charge did not give him the right—he had a child bride!
You don't get to horde us, Jacob, Leah snarled. Just because you're the Alpha doesn't mean you get your own goddamn harem. I deserve a life too, you know. I don't just want to be waiting on you hand and foot the rest of my life while you walk off with the little mutant freak into your freaking sunset. I am not just going to—
Do I get a chance to explain?
No! You don't get to... it was hard to keep track of what she was saying. Yelling was easier when you were doing it out loud. In your head it was hard to keep all the anger from swirling out of control, from taking over everything until you were a complete disaster. Good thing Leah was already a wolf or she would have ruined another pair of shorts.
Come on, Leah. That's not what I meant. Calm down and let me talk to you.
What do you call this?
Me begging for my life. Are you actually going to listen to me?
She calmed her thoughts, though she didn't bother keeping the resentment out of them. It wasn't fair of him to do this to her.
The reason I don't want you to imprint isn't some sick Alpha ownership thing. Do you remember...his mind flashed to a day in the woods, the two of them sitting around, her pleading with him to get his ass home, him ignoring her completely. No, not ignoring her. Paying more attention to what she was saying than she was. As she blindly repeated her father's words, not really caring what she was saying, Jacob was listening enraptured.
Your dad was right, Leah. He waited for the stabbing pain inside her to subside. Shouldn't she have stopped missing her dad yet?He was right. Love should be about getting to know people and growing closer. It's not magic, it's work—that's the part that makes it worthwhile. He'd want you to have that. Iwant you to have that.
Mr. Imprinting-is-the-greatest-thing-to-happen-to-me-since-the-monkey-wrench doesn't think I should imprint?
It was strange how she could feel him searching his mind for the words to make her understand what he meant. She could see him thinking about Nessie and the joy that came with that. But there was the vague sense that it wasn't the way it should be; it wasn't quite natural. Imprinting wasn't something he would have chosen for himself. Since it had happened, Jacob was going to accept it. The only options were accept it or go crazy and Jacob wasn't going to do that to himself and all the people that depended on him now.
But imprinting wasn't what he would have picked. Imprinting brought him joy, but it wasn't how he thought it should be. It wasn't for the best.
And he wanted her to have the best.
Leah found herself in the unenviable position of having her shriveled heart grow a size or two in less than a second. It was just so...sweet. How long had it been since anyone had given a damn? (Besides Seth, but he would have loved anything) After Sam she had worked hard to make sure nothing would touch her ever again, but now she remembered how good it could feel.
How the hell had Bella resisted this? Edward Cullen had to be hung like an elephant...
Could you please never think about Edward's junk in my presence ever again?
Slightly embarrassed—this conversation was rather too intimate to be having with Jacob Black, especially since she was starting to think he was all right—Leah didn't bother to stop herself.
I always did wonder how they managed on the honeymoon. Vampires are built like marble, right? It would be like having a piece of rock shoved up—
Enough Leah, he pleaded.
And then they were on the shore so it didn't matter. He phased back the second he hit the sand, to get away from her dirty mind that couldn't stop thinking about all the other things that would be more fun sleeping with a statue. Leah turned her head, giving him space, as she shook off her fur. Once she was drier, she got back to her clothes.
They were disgusting. Since they had been wet when she had taken them off, the sand clung to them like Seth to Jacob. It was getting everywhere. Down the beach she heard Jacob complain:
"I have sand in my shorts."
"And I have sand in places I am not going to tell you about," she snapped back. "Whose idea was it to go for a swim?"
"It wouldn't have happened if someone had just stayed at home like a normal person."
"Sorry I was traumatized by the whole being abandoned by my leader incident. I'll try to let it go the next time you leave me at the mercy of an army of angry vampires."
Jacob groaned and collapsed on the beach and since she really did have sand everywhere and it didn't matter, Leah fell down into the sand, rolling herself over like a puppy until she was beside Jacob, where she stopped and stared up at the sky, looking at the stars, casually dumping his shirt on his face. Beside her, she could feel the heat coming off of Jacob as he growled and then decided it wasn't worth it, turning his shirt into a pillow. They were both going to be dry soon. The sand would easily slip off, even if it was permanently lodged in crevices Leah hadn't previously known she had.
He was talking quietly and she forced herself to listen, even though the race had taken a little more out of her than she wanted to admit.
"...makes up for the time I almost died for you."
"Not that again. I thought we were beyond the whole me getting you almost crushed to death."
"Oh, we are. Just next time you almost get me killed could you apologize within the following two weeks as opposed to waiting months?"
Great. He really could read her mind now. Either that or he was starting to get to know her, which was a hell of a lot scarier. That her mini-rant at Bella was actually a thank you to him was supposed to be completely impossible for him to figure out and the fact that he had picked up on it was rather impressive.
"I had to wait until it would be enjoyable for me."
"Of course." His tone said he didn't buy her bullshit for a second. "You're welcome, Leah."
"Hey, Jake?" Leah rolled her eyes at herself, but turned her head so she could actually see her Alpha. "Thanks for letting me stay with you."
He blinked, but she was grateful to see he didn't smile. Sure there was a little bit of amusement in his eyes, but his face stayed blank.
"Not like I could have got rid of you anyway. It's me or Sam, remember?"
"You're such a guy—always with the tape measures. It's not just that I got away from Sam, you idiot. Okay, it was. But that was before. Now it's not about leaving Sam, it's...I don't know. I'm glad I'm here. You're a whole hell of a lot better at this Alpha thing than you give yourself credit for. It's like...you give me room to breathe. Like—I can finally be me again. If that makes any kind of sense and, wow, that was incredibly lame and I'm just going to shut up now."
"Aw, Leah, you made me blush." She kicked some sand at him, but he just chuckled. "I'm glad I could help."
Leah Clearwater did not need anybody's help, thank you very much. Because she had learned the hard way that when you leaned on people they either left you for your cousin or dropped dead. And so she opened her mouth to tell Jacob where exactly he could stick his help.
And then she closed it. Less than half an hour ago, hadn't he begged for her help?
Somehow, that made everything a bit better. It wasn't so bad if they were helping each other. In fact, Leah couldn't help thinking, maybe it was actually a good thing. Maybe that was what the whole Alpha/Beta wolf thing was all about. He helped her, she helped him, they both took care of his loser friends. Leah found herself almost looking forward to it.
"That's what we're going to do," she announced. "I'm not going to be your lapdog, I'm going to be your partner. Sort of like Batman and Robin."
"Leah, Leah, Leah," he chided in his most patronizing voice. "Clearly you need to read more comic books. We are not going to be Batman and Robin. For one thing, you're older, which doesn't make sense with Robin being Batman's ward. Second, neither of us is wearing tights. Ever. And, well...you're definitely a woman."
Clearly it was an Alpha-thing, the way she could feel the vibrations of Jacob's voice all the way down to her toes, like the way Sam used to be able to do. Alpha's got all the cool tricks.
"We could be Bonnie and Clyde." Blurting out the first thing that popped in her head might not have been the best decision. "You know...without the guns, or the sex, or the horrible bloody death..."
Jacob was laughing again. "Leave out everything exciting, why don't you. Why don't we make an exception and keep a little of the violence?"
They locked eyes and Leah couldn't help smirking. She knew there was a reason she was supposed to be with Jacob.
"Super-secret Alpha/Beta handshake?"
The two of them shook and then when back to just looking at the stars. The sand had basically slipped off and it was getting so late it was starting to get early, but Leah didn't want to go home just yet and Jacob...his breathing had slowed. He might have been asleep. Poor guy. It had been a long day.
With no one else around, Leah was stuck with only Jacob's slow, steady breathing to keep her company. That and the steady lullaby of the waves gently rolling over the beach, lapping at the sand. Her eyes began to flutter shut. Her super ears picked up the leaves rustling in the tears off in the distance and the tiny animals darting from shelter to shelter. Underneath this natural melody, there was a steady rhythm pounding underneath. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba- boom.
It took her a moment, but she finally identified the noise as Jacob's heartbeat. Weird that it was so loud. Or not. With the rest of the world on mute, it was no wonder she heard him so loud and clear.
Ever since her father's death, Leah had hated the sound hearts made. The pounding that seemed so sure in everyone else had abruptly stopped in her father's chest and she hated the reminder that the sureness of each beat was just an illusion. But it didn't sound mocking, anymore. It sounded...hopeful. Just because it could stop...it hadn't just yet and maybe there was something to be grateful for.
Her own breathing shifted to match Jacob's. Her mom always said that was the easiest way to fall asleep—breathe like you already were. But Leah didn't want to fall asleep. She didn't know what she wanted exactly, but at least there was something to look forward too. Quil and Embry really were going to be jealous of the handshake...
Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba- boom.
Why had it gotten louder?
Funny, she had forgotten that she had a heartbeat, too. Usually it was forcing blood this way and that in some pathetic struggle to keep up with the anger, but it was nice to hear it just trudging slowly onward for once. Nice and comforting.
The proof she was alive rang through her ears. It was a beautiful sound and for the first time in a long time she wasn't scared of it.
With a sigh, she turned to nudge Jacob in the arm. He startled upright and looked around blearily, trying to figure out where he was. "Sorry," he muttered as he rubbed his eyes.
"Let's get you home before the tide comes in and we end up with drowned dog on the beach."
Leah offered him a hand up, but he must have been even more disoriented than she suspected. Surprised at the weight he put on her, she wobbled off balance. Before she could do more than teeter, his arm came out and he caught her. When he was sure she was steady, he let go and they started heading back.
Jacob asked: "Does your fur start to stink when it gets wet? Because I think mine does."
They slowly began the trek back to La Push, the waves whispering goodbye after them. Leah didn't pay the rest of the universe much attention, too busy rolling her eyes at Jacob, as they trudged through the cool sand together.