Disclaimer: I don't own Emily, Leah, or Sam, let alone the Twilight series from whence they came… Sadly, they are under copywrite to Stephenie Meyer.
Have you ever had a fic just drop into your lap, practically written? I promise I am not taking time away from my other two fics, but this… I even knew the conversations by heart, and I had to write it down.
Dedication to janyanightrose, who in a moment of unwitting brilliance, said an offhand comment that sparked this fic. Many of these ideas may not be considered fully mine, but the influence of her conversation with me and her writing in her fic "Tearing Me Apart". Go read it, people.
I could do this, I told myself. I was strong enough. Beyond anything else, Leah was my friend. I raised my hand and timidly rapped on the door. She would hear. It was only a small, three bedroom home; there was no way she wouldn't hear me. No answer. I knocked again, harder this time. Nothing happened. I shifted my weight, unsure of what to do next.
It wasn't just the circumstances that were making me nervous. That was part of Leah's abrasive personality. She was a little intimidating, even when you knew her well enough to see beyond that. She was also trustworthy. Not telling her the truth about Sam had felt like betrayal, and I didn't doubt that she'd seen it that way as well, now that she was in on the secret.
I walked around to the back of the house. Leah's light was on. I couldn't see through the curtains, and I didn't have the super senses that Sam had, I couldn't hear her, or smell her. But Leah was like my sister. There was a bond that not even all this craziness with werewolves could change. She was there. I rested my arms on the window sill.
"I know you're there, Leah," I called. "The boys are out on patrol, and your mom is making arrangements. There's nowhere else you can hide."
Nothing. I pretended not to care that she was ignoring me, but I was torn by it. Was she ignoring me to be hurtful? Or was she hurting too badly to let me see?
"Please, I don't want things to be like this."
A shadow passed over the window, paused, and faded away again as Leah crossed the room to open the curtains, changing her mind at the last moment.
"Why don't you want to come out?" I asked. "Why don't you want to talk to me?"
Silence. I hadn't expected an answer right away. Leah was a person of extremes. She was extremely happy, infectious and joyful, and when she passed through a room, she left you behind feeling giddy because you couldn't understand what had happened. Or she was unhappy, and it poisoned her, choked her, coming out in her words, her actions. Leah never meant to be hurtful, she just was what she felt.
I envied her for that. Leah was the bold one, always speaking her mind, never afraid of what others thought, like I was. People were drawn to her; she made an impression on you that didn't fade. She had caught the eye of every guy her age, and even some others, even without trying. They never noticed me, shyly clinging to her side. I didn't mind living in Leah's shadow; it was a comfortable place to be, but there was something missing. In my childish fears, I had worried that no one would love me for me, like they loved Leah. But I was everything Leah needed. That was enough for me… then. Things had changed.
There had been very little of happy Leah of late. I missed her. I missed Leah, period. I missed the days when we would stay up late talking with each other, at sleepovers or on the phone, and whisper secrets to each other. I hadn't seen her since she had changed. I wanted to. I wanted to have my friend back. I wanted…
Sam told me he didn't know if Leah would forgive me. And she hadn't, not then. Not when she didn't understand. Now, she couldn't bear to look at me. At the funeral, she wouldn't look up at me, and when I had walked towards her, she walked away, pretending not to notice me.
Leah was avoiding me. And who could blame her? Not only was my face destroyed, but I stood for everything she didn't want to accept. I might not be beautiful anymore, but Leah didn't see that. She saw each scar as his. Sam had tried to explain that to me, but as intelligent as he was, he was never particularly verbose. And maybe I didn't want to believe him.
"I'm sorry about everything," I said. "I would have told you if I could. But you never would have believed me about Sam."
There was a crash and a shout. Leah had thrown something, and it had most likely shattered, causing her to swear. Okay, so no mentioning Sam's name.
"Seth came by when I asked him to come. The guys had a great time. I cooked a lot of different things, even some stuff that only you like. But you never showed. You're always welcome, you do know that, right?"
I'd spent hours in the kitchen. It would have been the first time Leah came as part of the pack, and I had wanted her to feel welcome. Besides, the easier I could make things on their family right now, the less cooking Aunt Sue had to do, the better.
Seth came, and I was excited to see him. He was the little brother I'd never had. But the one person I was waiting for never came. Sam actually got the boys to do the dishes for me. I couldn't hide my disappointment from his watchful eyes.
I was met with more silence.
"Leah, this isn't about us. I just thought you would need a friend."
Leah's shadow appeared at the window, disappearing as she pulled the curtains to reveal herself. Her nimble fingers unlocked the latch, and she slid it out of the way with a screech. "A friend?" she asked. "Is that what you are? You lied to me, Emily."
She looked horrible. Her lovely, black hair, hair that had been longer and softer and shinier than mine ever had, was gone. It looked like Leah had chopped it off roughly with a pair of scissors, nicer than most of the boys', but still ragged.
My eyes traveled down from her hair to her face. Beneath Leah's angry expression, I saw the tearstains on her face, the red rimmed eyes.
"I'm sorry," I said.
She snorted. "Like sorry does anything."
I shook my head. "I wish it was more, but that's all I have."
"And you thought that you would apologize and I would run back to you and we'd go back to the way things were?" Her voice was harsh, spiteful. And she was right. I couldn't do anything more, but I had come to do what I could. And I did want that. Was it so much to ask for her to find relief in my company, instead of having to hide her tears?
"I hoped that you wouldn't hate me. That's all I want right now. Do all the years we spent together mean anything to you? They still mean something to me."
"We were children, Emily."
"Just last year, we-"
"Just last year, I had a normal life. I was going to get married, I was going to make something of myself. I actually looked like a girl. I had a man who loved me. I had a father who was alive. Don't talk to me about last year. That was another life. I had no idea. And I doubt you will ever understand." Her voice trembled, caught between anger and agony. The sound struck me, deep and painful, and I flinched.
"Then help me to understand," I pleaded.
Leah barked a laugh, joyless, as harsh a sound as the wind wailing against the La Push cliffs. "I can't. You won't ever know. No matter how much I try, you can't. You aren't a part of my world anymore, Emily. Or at least, not one I can bear to see."
The words hurt. My hands flashed up to my face, hiding the still tender scars. "Leah, you were never… like this… before."
"You mean I wasn't a bitch before?" Leah's eyebrow quirked up. "You can say it, Emily. I am, you know."
My mouth fell open, a choking sound coming out.
"You can't say it, can you? You were always too nice. Sweet, innocent, naïve Emily…" Leah shook her head. "I'm a bitch. Literally. The only female wolf ever. That makes me a bitch. I might as well live up to my title."
"Leah…" I said softly.
She was trembling, her limbs shaking as she turned her face away. "Go, Emily. I'm not safe. And I don't want to hurt you."
I stayed right where I was, feet firmly planted. "No."
Leah snapped her head to look up at me. "You aren't afraid?"
I shrugged. "I've been hurt before. It's not pleasant, but I lived. And I am not going to let you use your "I'm new so I don't have control" speech just so I leave you alone."
Leah took a deep breath and held it for as long as she could before slowly blowing it out. The trembling stopped.
"He doesn't know you're here, does he?"
She wouldn't look me in the eye, so I knew she meant Sam. "No. Do you think he would let me come?"
Leah laughed, a hard, cold sound. It wasn't like her normal laugh at all. It was hollow. "No. He cares too much about your safety. Partly it's guilt, and partly it's because he knows what each and every one of us is capable of. I don't want to hurt you."
Leah closed her eyes and sniffed. But a tear trailed down her cheek anyway.
"Can we ever go back to the way we were?" I asked.
Leah shook her head. "No. I've changed. You've changed. We've had to grow up, face certain things… No. And I won't be coming to your house. I can't."
I nodded, slowly. This was just the first step to going back to the way things were, to getting that free, easy way we worked together as a team back. I couldn't expect everything to change at once. Besides, Leah was still hurting.
"So, do you want to talk about it?"
I reached out and put my hand on Leah's arm. Almost, it made me jump. I wasn't expecting the heat, not from my friend. From Sam, yes, but not Leah.
"Leah, your dad…" To say the word would have been cruel, so I switched tactics. "You have no one to talk to."
She sighed heavily. "No one to talk to. How apt. I can't tell anyone what really happened; no one would believe me."
"You can talk to me."
Leah shook her head. "There is still one person in this world that thinks the best of me. I don't think I want to lose that."
"I'm here, Leah. I won't leave."
"Fine. You want the truth? I killed my dad." She refused to look at me.
I felt like she had punched me in the stomach. "But he died of a heart attack, not…" My hand found my scars.
"No. It was me just the same. Nothing's going to change that." Leah took a deep breath, but the words I was waiting for never came. She just remained silent.
"Say something," I pleaded.
"Fine. You obviously don't care about me, anyway, not in comparison to him. This is just some fun little reminiscent thing for you, so you might as well get your money's worth."
Now it was my turn to remain silent. To argue would make Leah clam up again, no matter how much I wanted to deny her cruel words. Leah was not a freak show.
"I was out past curfew again. It wouldn't have been a big deal, except that my dad knew exactly where I was. You see, Sam…" Her voice trailed off, and she cleared her throat and began again. "He wouldn't talk to me after he met you. We knew it was over, I just didn't want to believe it. And this time, I was alone to deal with the loss." Her voice turned bitter and cold.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. She ignored me.
"I would hate to say I was stalking him, but in a way, I was. I watched him, hoping to find some clue, some meaning… Some reason I could let him go. Instead, I saw you. And I saw the way he looked at you. I'd known that you two were "together", but I hadn't expected… He never looked at me that way, even when he loved me. It didn't make anything better."
I was silent, still. I couldn't imagine how painful it was for her to have to watch Sam and me together, but even that didn't make me feel guilty for loving Sam. He loved me. Out of the tons of guys I had met, he looked at me and saw me, instead of seeing through me. I needed that affirmation to much to dismiss it, even for Leah.
"My dad… He was trying to help me. He didn't want me to spend my life pining for…" Her voice shook. "He told me to stop wasting my time on him. Harsh? Maybe. But he said it because he loved me. Unfortunately, I didn't see it like that at the time. I started crying, partly sadness, but mostly anger. I was weak, and it killed him." She glanced up at the sky, not blinking. I watched as the tears threatened to fall.
"Seth didn't understand, either. When I snapped at my dad, Seth told him to leave me alone. My little brother, trying to protect me. Things escalated. I was angrier than I had ever been, and Seth… The next thing I knew, I was exploding, fur and teeth and limbs that weren't mine…"
The tears fell now, unnoticed as Leah continued. I felt like I couldn't move, couldn't breathe. I had felt grateful, grateful that Sam was a werewolf, because it meant he loved me. It meant I was loved. I had never thought of the negative consequences. I had never really thought of the way it tore people apart; I hadn't wanted to. I wanted to believe that it was a miracle, a gift.
"He had a heart attack. He had a heart attack, and I just stood there, confused, useless to help him… I couldn't do CPR, I couldn't do anything, my paws too big, my body too big… I couldn't even hear the other voices. I was… I ran, to get help, or something. Seth was following me, just as confused… "
Her voice was wavering, thin, almost at the point of breaking. "Someone else, I don't know who, phased and called 911. The medics came, but they were too late. Mom was at a meeting, and they found him, dead, alone, in our living room. He tried to tell me something, and I was so blinded by fear and anger that I couldn't even understand it. Now he never will." Leah took a shaky breath. "If it wasn't for me, and my broken heart, my anger, my wolf genes, and whatever crazy thing that made me one of the pack, he would still be alive."
She exploded into sobs, and I leaned forward to hold her through the window. She buried her face into my shoulder, and for a moment, everything felt like it had returned to the way it should be. "No," I murmured. "No, that wasn't you. That was part of this crazy world we live in. You can't blame yourself for that."
Leah abruptly pulled back and dashed her tears away. "I can't do this, Em. I can't pretend that we're nothing more than best friends. Things have changed. We've changed."
My heart sank. "Is there something I can do? Anything?"
"Leave him." But Leah's voice was defeated, tired. She knew it was impossible.
"Sometimes I wish I could," I admitted. And it was true. When I thought of Leah, the guilt lanced through me, so sharp that I wondered what I was willing to do for my own happiness. Could I justify Leah's pain? No. I couldn't justify it, or rationalize it. But I was tied to Sam as inextricably as Leah was.
"Are we okay now?" I asked, cautious, afraid of the answer.
Leah shook her head, and then abruptly changed her mind and nodded. "Yes and no. We aren't the same. I can't bear to see you two together, but I don't hate you. I miss you. We just… can't return to what was."
"What did you expect to change, Emily?" Leah's voice was quiet, low.
I didn't answer. I couldn't. I had wanted everything and nothing to change. I wanted to keep Sam and Leah. I didn't want to believe that there was a choice between the two.
Leah was gazing at me steadily, her dark eyes boring into mine. "Do you want me to spew some superhero sacrificing crap at you? Great power comes with great responsibility, and all that. It doesn't make any difference. It comes down to two things. The things you have to do, and the rest that you wish you could."
"So that's it? We just walk away?"
"Depends on how masochistic you are. How hard do you want to make things for yourself?"
I shifted my weight, considering. "You're always welcome at my house."
A small smile twitched across Leah's face, there and gone again in a half a second, as if she hadn't expected anything different from me. "Maybe someday I'll come. Maybe someday I can stand to come. But don't hold your breath. Goodbye, Emily."
"Goodbye, Leah," I whispered, my throat choked up. I hadn't imagined that this conversation would end with us parting for good, but the choice had been made.
Leah nodded, and shut the window, hiding herself from my eyes. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe it was hard for her to look at me, knowing where my scars came from.
I walked back to the road, and followed it back to my house. Sam's house. And before I knew it, I was back at home. I opened the door.
"Emily?" Sam came to the door. "How did it go?"
He knew. This whole time, he knew. And he let me go. I burst into tears.
He caught sight of my face, the old and new tears that trailed down the scarred and the normal side of my face, my body's attempt at symmetry doing nothing more than remind me that I would never be beautiful in anyone's eye's but Sam's.
"Oh, Emily. Come here." He pulled me into his arms, and closed my eyes.
"I love you," I told him quietly after a few minutes had passed.
He laughed, as if the words surprised him as much as they delighted him. "I love you, too, Emily." He pulled my chin up, tracing my scars gently before he leaned down to kiss me. My eyes fluttered shut as our lips met.
This, right here, right now, was everything. I couldn't have traded Sam for anything in the world, not even for Leah. He made me whole, and I couldn't survive without him. Leah was right. It didn't matter how badly I missed her. Sam was more important, and my whole life curved around him. He'd changed me in ways that I couldn't walk away from.
He was the first one to pull away; I wanted to cling to him forever.
"I told her she was always welcome here," I said softly.
He smiled. "I am the luckiest man alive to have you, Emily. You are beautiful inside and out."
And with the way he looked at me, I couldn't remember how to disagree.