Author's Notes: I wrote this over the summer, and had it sitting with my documents here, but forgot to upload it until now. This story is rated as it is for strong language and rather disturbing violence. Do not say I didn't warn you. It creeps even me out a little.
Let the Circle Be Unbroken
I am a part of everything and nothing. I am the earth, I am the sky; I am just another notch upon the belt that is the circle of life. And I am bereft—bereft of human connection, even within, bereft of a group on which to cling, on which to rely. I have nothing, and yet I have everything I have ever wanted within reach.
They say that we are all animals on the inside, to the core. Contain the beast within, they say. Suppress your animalistic instincts and be civilized.
I have lost interest in civility. I have turned into an animal on the outside. How often it is that Beauty is fated to become the Beast, to trap what used to be until it is lost in layers of fur and claws, blood and hate.
But I am myself, and no one else.
There is nothing you can do to save me.-----
Leah watches Jacob play with that thing, day in and day out—he never grows bored of its company. It makes her sick, the way he smiles at it like it isn't the very thing that's torn his life apart; she'd say he's pretending, but there's no way to fake that look in his eyes, and the way they're always sharing it between them. Leah remembers that look, knows it well like a friend she'd rather forget. Sometimes, the memory of it still leans like lead weights against her own eyes.
Leah watches them, and she knows: that look is real, but it shouldn't be. It's a mistake.
She tolerates it, mostly, because she won't leave Jacob alone; she won't abandon him in a world full of vampires and magic he can't escape. He may be blinded, but she isn't. She has no attachments anymore—at least, none that make her biased. She can judge for herself. Living a life full of twisted rights and wrongs has helped her learn the definition of each.
She never touches it, that thing, though it always reaches out for her face when she is near. She's heard about its so-called gift, but she wants no part in experimentation.
"You should hold her, Leah," Jake tells her once when, on a rare occasion, she's in her human form. He holds the wriggling mass out to her, and his face is glowing.
Leah shrinks back with a snarl that almost rips her own throat. "Get that thing away from me!" she snaps, ignoring the hurt in his expression. "Give it to someone who cares!"
Give it to someone who doesn't wish everyday that it didn't exist.
"No, Jake. I only stick around for you. That's it. Your ex-girlfriend's mutant spawn was never part of the deal."
"Just give Nessie a chance," he pleads. "You'll love her. Everyone loves her."
The word is only half out of her mouth when she phases.
She hates the fact that she doesn't even know Jacob anymore. She did once, she believes; she remembers the feeling that, for the first time in her life after Sam, someone understood her. And she understood him. There was peace, and there was clarity, knowing that, while you're not in the same boat, you're still paddling in the same direction.
When it came, that understanding disappeared, and the loneliness returned. But she doesn't mind that so much as the fact that everything that made Jacob Jacob is gone.
Jacob. Her Jacob.
She hates the way she can't divide him in two: the Before Jacob, and the After Jacob. And how, instead, there's three: Bella's Jacob, Leah's Jacob… Its Jacob. She's got no right to claim any part of him as her own, to think that Leah's Jacob wasn't just a branch of Bella's Jacob all along. She has no right to let him worm his way into her heart when his was already so clearly full.
She doesn't believe much in love anymore, but she fully knows that she's in too deep. She's got a thing for men who make a habit of leaving her behind.
As a general rule, Leah doesn't speak to Bella Cullen unless it's out of necessity. But it's always short things, small things, when necessity arises. Rude things. Leah makes sure that every please or thank you comes out sounding like an insult. Edward growls, Seth sends her a look, but they both forget that she doesn't care. No threat or consequence is too great when she can't remember how to feel fear.
"Doesn't it creep you out?" Leah asks. "He made out with you, and now someday he's gonna make out with your kid."
Bella shakes her head and smiles. "Oh, Leah. Jake's so happy! And I know he makes Renesmee happy, too. I don't trust my daughter more with anyone else in the world."
"But it's still weird, right?" Leah presses. "I mean, you were in love with Jake. I know you were—everyone saw it."
"I love Edward now." Bella is still smiling, and she looks like she's about to pat Leah on the arm. "I made my choice, and I'm happy with it. I wouldn't want it any other way."
"But maybe Jake does," Leah suggests, suddenly bitter. "He didn't get a choice." She gets to her feet, and her fists are shaking—already. "You just don't get it, do you? Just because you were always crap at making choices doesn't mean that everyone else is. Because of you, Jake doesn't get a choice. He doesn't get to decide what he wants to do with his life. Hell, your own kid doesn't get a fucking choice when it comes down to it! How do you stand that?"
"Why would Renesmee ever want anyone besides Jacob? He loves her so much."
Leah wants to shake Bella's head right off her perfect shoulders. "Can't you see how much it's changed him?" she shouts. "Don't you get that he wouldn't act this way if he hadn't imprinted? How the fuck can you just sit there and do nothing?"
Bella rises to her feet and glares at Leah coldly. "This is the way it's supposed to be," she says. "Now please get out of my house."
She doesn't feel the urge to yell and scream at Bella anymore, because there's no point. She's tired of people who look at her in that condescending, pitying way, and refuse to listen.
And she's good at tolerating, now. She's survived everything that life's managed to throw at her; this—all of this—is the straw that broke the camel's back, and it's hollowed her into acceptance. She can view, and she can judge—she can be the eyes of the world if she wants, but it won't spring her into action like it used to.
That doesn't mean she ignores what she sees.-----
There is a cliff that waits for me, quietly, patiently, questioning how long I will be able to resist. Everyday, I sit or stand upon the edge, but I do not look down.
I do not wonder at what lays at the bottom. I already know that it is a place from which I will never be able to return.
They say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But death is inevitable, and that is what gives me strength. No matter what I do, my end is certain. I will not run from it as others do.
But do not think that I cannot comprehend the value of life, for you are mistaken. Life is a gift. It is why lines are crossed and bridges are burned.
It is why we jump from the cliffs that we do, hurtling ourselves toward humanity.-----
Jacob is playing with it again, racing it across the vast expanse of the Cullen's lawn. Leah has agreed to be the judge of their games—though from a small distance—and she winces at its incessant, unearthly laughter.
The race ends when Jacob grabs it lightly around the middle and tackles it to the ground. It screeches with glee, its legs kicking out wildly as he tackles it.
"Jake, Jake, JAKE!" it laughs, and manages to wriggle free.
Jacob pants happily and rises to his knees, crawling after it. "Hey, you," he grins. "Get back here!"
"Nuh-uh!" It shakes its head. "I gotta show you something!"
"Oh yeah? It better be good."
It nods, promises: "Reeeeal good!"
Leah's wolf-lips curl in derision. She's almost glad she can't have children—but she stops herself before the thought is fully formed. This thing is not a child; children are not created in the image of perfection and do not nurse on blood. Real children must earn the love of those who are not their parents. Love, extended, is not their right.
Movement at the edge of the lawn startles her, and she whips her head around, fur bristling. But it's only Edward and Bella, back from a hunt. Leah hates being around things she can hardly hear—especially when she's grown so accustomed to their scent, when it's everywhere she turns.
Bella giggles and then pulls Edward toward her until their lips meet. There are murmurs and sighs, and it is a passionate, disgusting sight. Annoyance flickers across Leah's face. Even when they're immortal, they still cuddle and hold hands like newlyweds.
Leah turns away, bile in her throat, when she catches a glimpse of Jacob.
He is staring at Bella, his fingers limp and his expression frozen. His eyes are wide. Leah inches closer until there is no mistaking that look, the one that can't be faked.
The one that isn't a mistake.
It does a perfect cartwheel, landing upon the grass with triumph. "Didja see, Jake? Didja see?"
Jacob blinks slowly. "Yeah," he says, his voice rough. "I saw."
Once its parents take it inside, Leah confronts him.
"What the hell was that?" she demands, grabbing hold of his arm.
"What do you mean?" Jacob asks. "Nessie did a cartwheel. She's great!" He grins, but she can tell by his eyes that he's miles away.
"You imprinted!" Leah cries, frustrated and excited all at once. "You imprinted, but you're still in love with her!"
"Who?" Jacob furrows his brow.
"Don't play stupid—Bella! You're fighting it!"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Leah."
Leah groans in irritation. "I saw the way you looked at her with her leech just now. You're fighting the imprint because you're still in love with her!"
Jacob shakes his head. "I don't want to fight it—I'm not trying to. It just weakens sometimes, and I start to remember stuff. It's no big deal."
She snorts. "That's bullshit, and you know it. You were always so against imprinting before."
"Yeah, but that was before. It's not so bad now. It's like I've found my purpose, or something."
"You think your purpose in life is to dote on that little piece-of-shit hybrid for the rest of your life?" Leah grips his arm tighter. "You think it's your purpose to just stop aging when she does so you can live happily ever after together?"
"It's not like that," Jacob insists. "Nessie is everything."
"Since when? Since some stupid ancient magic said she was? Listen to me, Jake. You can fight this. You deserve to. You deserve to be able to decide on your own."
She thinks maybe she's crying, and she doesn't know what the hell is wrong with her.
"Decide what?" he asks, annoyed.
"Who you—who you fall in love with."
Jacob laughs, bitter. "Sure, sure," he says. "'Cause we all know how well that worked out last time, don't we?"
"So it didn't work out!" she growls. "Big deal! Shit happens! Now you can move on."
"To what? To who?"
Leah looks down at her feet, suddenly blushing. She doesn't mean to think what she's thinking, but the idea pounces unbidden into her mind before she can prevent it.
You have no right, she thinks desperately. No claim…
"That's what I thought." He stares at her for a moment, and then peels her fingers off his arm.
It takes a lot to make Leah snap now, because, comparatively, she spends so much of her time alone. People are the only things that have ever made her angry, and when she isn't drowning in the consequences of their actions, she's much calmer. Solitude is her therapy—but therapy has only ever gotten her so far.
When he turns his back, something inside her finally snaps.-----
You are everything, and you are nothing.
You are the one who opened my eyes and gave me hope. You are the one who makes me want to believe in the things I have sworn that I cannot.
You are everything when you should be nothing.
And I am the one who will set you free.-----
Leah does not think much, but acts, letting ancient instinct guide her. This is exactly what she was made for, and this is exactly what she'll do. It doesn't matter what form she's in, because she's reached that place, the point of no return, and now one form is synonymous with the other.
Seth senses the change, tries to reach her and read her thoughts, but Leah is a fortress.
Leah, he whines. What's going on?
Stay out of this, Seth, she snarls, and her tone is so vicious that it shocks him to a halt.
Please don't do anything stupid, like usual...
She blocks him out before she can tell him that this is the smartest thing she's ever done.
The house is empty, quiet, and the wind blows through the open windows like a ghost. All seems peaceful, but there's something in the air. Tremors—fear, and anticipation. Uncertainty mingled with the expected.
Jacob is sleeping, worn down from hours of devotion that seemed never to end, and so he does not hear. Shadows, elongated in the setting sun, crawl across his face, consuming his expression in darkness. Its small hand, once clasped in his own, rests beside him as it dozes.
Leah creeps, the sound of her footsteps in synch with the beat of her heart—soft, loud, uneven, paced. There is no danger of being caught by anyone but Jacob, for inside this house, now, there are only three.
Leah believes in destiny about as much as she believes in love, but it's funny, really, how some things work out. It's funny, who ends up being left behind—and why—when more troubles with vampires arise in the North. It's funny, what things are taken for granted when safety is assumed.
It's so funny that it's not funny at all, and Leah almost laughs.
Almost—but there's still a smile curling at her lips when she touches its cheek.
"Hey, Nessie," she says.
Its eyes flutter open, and it cocks its head to one side. "Lee-lee?"
The smile tightens into place. "Uh-huh. That's right. I was thinking—do you want to play a game?"
All tiredness is gone from its expression. "A game?"
"Yeah. It's really fun. But we've got to go outside."
"What about Jake?"
Leah casts a sideways glance at Jacob. His body is relaxed, his breathing deep. "He's pretty tired, dontcha think? Maybe we should let him sleep."
It inspects Jacob for a moment, furrowing its brows in scrutiny.
Then it agrees. "Okay."
Leah's smile widens. "Okay."
It shows her things as they walk, things like smiles and laughter and people who love what shouldn't be loved. Sometimes Leah sees herself in the corner of these memories, but the glimpses are fleeing, lost amongst the faces that actually care.
And then suddenly, they aren't fleeting anymore.
The looks grow longer, more curious, until it's obvious that they're fully-fledged stares. Everything is LEAH, LEAH, LEAH, and it's unnerving to watch herself being watched. She wonders how she never noticed the attention, or how she so grew to occupy this creature's thoughts.
"I guess I'm pretty interesting, huh?" she asks, struggling to keep her voice calm.
It looks down at its feet. "How come you don't like me, Lee-lee?"
Leah stops. "What do you mean? Of course I like you. Everybody likes you."
"That's what Mommy says."
"Well, she's right."
"But you don't like Mommy, either."
They're far into the woods now, trees on all sides so that the only distinguishable directions are up and down. It looks uncertain now, and it scuffles its shoes in the dead leaves beneath their feet, biting its lip and tugging at its red dress.
The irony of the color is not lost upon Leah, though she was never really one for fairy tales.
"Your mom and I kind of had a disagreement a long time ago," Leah tells it.
"What was it about?"
"A lot of things. Part of it was about Jacob."
It's strange, talking with this thing like they could possibly have a normal conversation. It almost makes Leah forget why she's here, almost makes her start thinking again instead of acting, like she's supposed to. She can see why so many people are drawn to it, and why so many of them have fallen in love. There is something so human about its features, so familiar in the way that it looks and moves and breathes.
"Lee-lee?" It tugs on her shirt. "Are we still gonna play a game?"
No, she thinks. The game's over.
Jacob's face flashes through her mind as fur ripples along her skin and instinct once again resumes.-----
Am I the hero, or am I the villain? They say that sometimes, you cannot be one without becoming the other, too.
I can hope for your forgiveness, but I am not sorry for what I have done. Remorse is something that is meant to accompany regret, and you cannot ask it of me.
You may call me a monster, but I have accepted who I am.
Am I the hero, or am I the villain?
Maybe someday, you will understand.-----
Blood-drenched remains burn, and Leah runs until she can't. The taste in her mouth is off, too sweet, and she can still feel the memory of a heartbeat slowing in her jaws.
She throws up just outside of Washington and collapses by a river, sides heaving, and waiting for judgment.
It doesn't come.
The river bubbles but the earth is otherwise still. She hears cars on a road somewhere in the distance, but she can't see them. The world is turning—reeling, maybe—but in this moment, it feels unchanging. It feels right, though, like the last jumbled pieces of something have just been clicked into place. It feels new, permanent.
I am the earth, Leah thinks. I am the sky.
And the circle of life goes on.
Maybe someday, maybe someday…