The Subtle Art Of Perception

A/N: Well, here's the next chapter. And just to clear this up once and for all, NO, there will not be any Leah/Jasper romance. *Sigh*. This is a FRIENDSHIP story. Lol. This story is set within a canonical universe. However, I may slip in a few Blackwater moments that could possibly be construed as something other than friendship... *winks*, but I will never admit them. Canon, people. Canon. ;)

5. And If There's Something I Hate More Than Sharing, It's Shopping. With Vampires. Little, Stick-Elf Vampires.

Leah closed the front door behind her with a soft click. She dumped the wet hold-all to the side of the door with a thump. She had been in the rain barely two seconds and already she was soaked. Stupid, Washington weather, Leah thought murderously. She shed her wet shoes and trampled upstairs, changing quickly and drying her hair with a towel. She stomped past her closet; still with the ominous empty hanger that was left for her non-existent wedding outfit, and looked at the weathered invitation on her desk again. She really, really wanted to tear it up. But she didn't have any tape left for when she would have to, invariably, stick it back together again.

Leah let out a sound of intense frustration. She stalked out of her bedroom, glancing briefly at the broken window in the bathroom. She noticed that her blood had dried on the sink. Leah wandered into the bathroom, and quickly wiped it off with her hand, washing it afterwards. Have to get that fucking window repaired.

Leah thumped downstairs, and flopped down onto the couch. She was exhausted. Her mind was drained, her heart was overused and she just wanted to do something that didn't require her to pay attention. She turned on the television, and flipped the channels until she found one with a multitude of colours that served to distract her brain, until eventually they all blurred together, and she fell asleep.

Leah woke up with a groan and glanced at the clock on the wall. Seven a.m. She had slept right through the night. Leah glanced at the television, which by now had finished showing mindless cartoon violence and was instead spewing horrific stories about real-life violence on the breakfast news. Leah grunted, switching it off. She got up, stretching out her stiffened muscles. The couch probably wasn't the best place to fall asleep. She heard her knees crack, and she went to open the curtains. The orange light of dawn spilled through, lighting up the living room. Leah yawned loudly, and went through to the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of orange juice. She drained it, and had just set the glass back down on the counter with a clink when suddenly there was a knock on the door.

It's probably Seth, back from Embry's, Leah thought, as she went to open it. Once again, it was not the person she was expecting.

Alice Cullen stood in the doorway, looking incredibly chirpy considering it was only seven in the morning.

"Can I help you?" Leah asked dryly, her eyes still filled with the last remnants of sleep.

"Hey, Leah," Alice said, looking a little hesitant, but her face still shone with that — infuriating — bright glow of constant alertness. It was beginning to give her a migraine.

"Uh, can I come in?" Alice asked. Leah noticed that the little stick-elf was looking at her with... what was that? Leah was too sleepy to notice, nor frankly, to care. She was in a state of weary frustration, when anger was just beyond the reach of her, yet she knew that if she could only reach out a little further, she could grab it. But she was too tired to reach.

Leah took a little while longer to respond than she would have done, had she been fully awake. Eventually, she managed to vaguely gesture indoors. "Be my guest," she mumbled.

Alice smiled brightly, stepping inside, her lithe steps like that of a dancer. Leah let go of the door, and it swung shut behind Alice. Leah turned, shuffling into the living room after the annoyingly graceful stick-elf.

Alice sat down on the couch with enviable fluidity compared to Leah's clumsy collapse onto the opposite sofa.

"So..." Leah said, drawing out the word. "What brings you all the way down to Werewolf Country?"

Alice looked at her, her gaze still unidentifiable. I really should wake up a bit. I'm not at all perceptive just now... haha, not that I ever was.

"You're going to Sam and Emily's wedding, aren't you?" Her tone was soft, but Leah still instinctively flinched at the mention of the phrase 'Sam and Emily's wedding'.

"How did you know that?"

"Jasper told me," Alice admitted. Oh, well, clearly, Leah thought with vitriol. She shouldn't have been surprised that nothing was fucking private anymore.

"Don't be mad with him," Alice pleaded quietly. "He was just worried about you. He thought you might be upset when he brought you back here and you were all alone."

"Why does he care?" Leah spat out the question before she could get her brain in gear. This 'not-really-being-awake' thing was really starting to grate on her nerves.

"Honestly?" Alice said, looking thoughtful. "Jasper is a naturally caring person. People don't really seem to get that. But more than that... I think he sees a bit of a kindred spirit in you. I tried to encourage that, because I think he needs someone to look out for. Someone who's pain he can understand. I love him with all my heart... but I've never been in true pain. I don't remember my human life at all, and my vampiric life has been filled with him. So I can't help him that way."

Leah just stared at Alice, surprised with how honest she was being. "So I'm a pet project?" She smiled wryly.

"Not at all," Alice said, eyes wide. "That's not what I meant."

"Easy, Tinkerbell," Leah said, raising her hands. "I'm just kidding."

Alice relaxed a little, and grinned, before her expression softened. "If it helps at all... we were all invited to the wedding, too. All of us, including Jasper. You won't be alone."

Leah didn't know what to say to that, but Alice had already moved on. "What are you wearing?" Alice's eyes lit up, and Leah remembered vaguely that this was supposed to be Alice's forte.

"Nothing, as of yet," Leah answered with disinterest. She realised too late that she probably should have lied. Alice's expression seemed to brighten to almost dangerous levels, and Leah nearly had to shy away from the glaring light she seemed to emanate.

"Neither have I! Leah, you have to come shopping with me."

Oh. Fuck.

Kill. Me. Now.

"Alright, then." Leah's mouth moved without her permission; her sleepy mind getting the better of her. Alice squealed and Leah inwardly groaned. Something tells me I am going to regret this moment for a long fucking time.

"Well, we should go now. I mean, the shops are just opening and that means we'll have plenty of time." Alice glanced out of the window and her expression became distant for a few seconds. Leah remembered that Tinkerbell was the one who could see into the future.

"The sun'll clear up in twenty minutes," Alice said brightly, pulling out her cellphone from a bright blue Prada bag. Leah didn't know Prada from a ragcloth, but she suspected it only because of the word 'Prada' stitched boldly across the front. Alice speed-dialled a number and spoke quickly into it.

Leah rose from the couch while Alice was on the phone, and took the time to have a shower and put on some fresh clothes.

She had a sinking feeling this was going to be one l-o-n-g fucking day.

Leah was right.

They had been in and out of boutique after boutique, in shops with names that Leah couldn't pronounce, never mind spell. Alice had roped Jasper into it, insisting that he needed a tuxedo for the wedding, and that since rented would -- obviously -- never do, he needed to be there to have it fitted.

"This, my friend," declared Leah, once she and Jasper were both out of earshot of Alice, who was looking over some dresses of her own. "Is practise."

"Practise?" asked Jasper, who was having his jacket fitted by a stern-looking woman with some pretty sharp pins in her hand, though that wouldn't bother Jasper.

"Yep," Leah said, all too aware she had just called Jasper her friend, even if it was in a joking manner. "For the seventh circle of hell."

Jasper laughed out loud, the sound startling Leah. He was actually laughing. A proper laugh. Frankly, it was creepy.

"Surely it's not that bad?" Jasper said.

"No," said Leah solemnly, before piercing Jasper with a glare. "It's worse."

Jasper just laughed again, while Leah shook her head morosely. If it had been anyone else she would have ditched out long ago, but she just couldn't quell that look of pure euphoria on Alice's face. If Leah was going to start trying to be nice to others, she might as well start with her. But Leah wasn't perfect just yet. Alice dragged her into yet another shop with a name she didn't recognise.

Immediately, Alice started cooing over various dresses, and disappeared with a few assistants into the backroom of the store.

Leah looked over at Jasper, with an expression that clearly said; Save me. Jasper just gave that annoying, wicked smile of his. Leah scowled, really itching to punch it right off his face, and suddenly wondering why in the fucking hell she had agreed to this at all, apart from her sudden masochistic tendencies.

Alice appeared from the back room, looking incredibly excited and pleased as she held aloft a short, red dress. Leah took one glance at it and her eyes widened. "Oh, hell to the fuck no." Alice just giggled. "Leah, it will go perfectly with your complexion."

"Alice," Leah said seriously. "I respect you as a person, which is saying a lot coming from me, but I would rather tear my own eyes out of my head and set them alight than put that fucking hideous thing anywhere near me."

Alice rolled her eyes, and grabbed Leah's arm, pulling her forcefully into the changing cubicle. She locked Leah in with the Evil-Red-Dress-From-Hell and called, "You are not coming out unless you have that on you. I mean it, Leah."

Leah growled, but eventually realised that Alice was being serious. She rolled her eyes, quickly slipping it on. Leah turned to face the mirror in the cubicle, and stopped herself from gasping. It really did look quite nice. It accentuated her waist, without being overly flamboyant. Crap, Leah thought. I'm gonna have to admit that the stick-elf was right. Fuck. Fuckity... fuck.

Outside the cubicle, Alice smirked knowingly.

Leah emerged after a few minutes of procrastination, a reluctant expression on her face. Jasper was sitting on a stool nearby, clearly set out specifically for husbands or boyfriends who had been dragged along, unwillingly, for the ride. He looked over and Alice smiled as widely as if she had just finished a magnificent work of art.

"What do you think of it, Leah?" she asked slyly.

"I hate it and I want to rip it into little pieces, burn it and send each individual piece on a separate plane going to the opposite corners of the earth." Leah deadpanned half-heartedly.

Alice narrowed her eyes. "Yeah, yeah."

"Okay, fine," Leah sighed melodramatically. "It's nice."

"It's more than nice, it's absolutely gorgeous," Alice muttered. "But that's besides the point," she said, waving her hands. "Take it off and we'll go pay for it. You are wearing that to the wedding whether you like it or not, Leah Clearwater. Tell her, Jazz."

Jasper humoured Alice, shooting a wan smile Leah's way. "What Alice says, goes," he said, shrugging. Leah glared at him, before sighing. "Fine."

Alice insisted on paying for the dress. Leah did try to object, but Jasper whispered to her quietly to think of it as a reward for tolerating the crazy-ass shopping spree. Okay, so he didn't use those EXACT words. Regardless, Leah couldn't deny that kind of faultless reasoning, and so she conceded to let Alice pay for it. Alice also found a pair of matching shoes, and insisted on paying for those as well.

With her dress under her belt, Leah consented to help Alice pick out a dress for herself. Which was pretty laughable, really, since Alice looked like a supermodel no matter what she tried on. Eventually they settled on a knee-length periwinkle number which complimented Alice's figure nicely, and wasn't too ostentatious for a wedding. Leah thought that it didn't really matter what the Cullen women wore, they would outshine Emily anyway. They had an unfair advantage with their ethereal beauty.

While Alice was paying for her dress, Leah stood next to Jasper, behind the fray. Her pocket vibrated as her cellphone rung, and she pulled it out, startled when she saw the caller ID. It was her mom.

She flipped it open, wondering what was going on.


"Honey. Are you alright?"

"Yeah, Mom. I'm fine. What's up?"

Her mom sighed. "Listen, hun, I know I haven't seen you in a while. I'm sorry about that, Seth said you were ill and that it was catching so I probably shouldn't go back to the house for a while."

Leah felt a rush of affection for her younger brother. Good ol' Seth, covering my tracks. He probably saw the window. Or just thought I didn't wanna see Mom. Either way, major respect for the S-man right now. Thanks, kiddo.

"Uh, yeah, Mom. It's pretty contagious."

"I'll see you at the wedding, though, right? Do you think it'll have cleared up by then?"

"I'm pretty sure it will have, Mom. I'll see you there."

"Okay, Leah." There was a pregnant pause. "I love you."

"Love you too, Mom."

They both hung up. Leah felt the familiar sting of tears in the corner of her eye, and swiftly moved to wipe them away. God, when did I get so goddamn emotional? Pull yourself together, girl.

Jasper must have noticed, but thankfully, he didn't say anything. Leah looked at him suspiciously though, as suddenly she felt a whole lot better. Fortunately for Jasper, they were interrupted by Alice, brandishing a dozen bags. "Well, that's that," she said cheerfully. "We've got everything, I think."

"Thank Jesus water-skiing Christ," Leah muttered under her breath as Jasper stifled a laugh.

Alice dropped off her own bags at the Cullens' house, and Jasper offered to take Leah home again. He took her bags and put them in the surprisingly spacious truck of the BMW.

As they drove towards La Push in the car, Leah and Jasper found a common ground, discussing music. Leah defended rap to the hilt, while Jasper — ironically enough — was more into jazz. Leah couldn't see the point in jazz at all — "A bunch of stuffy old geezers playing the sex-a-phone with dodgy sunglasses on." — while Jasper couldn't for the life of him see the point in a bunch of lyrics about — as he put it, "Spitting bitches and taking names." — which caused Leah to nearly collapse with laughter right there and then. The words sounded so stiff coming out of Jasper's mouth, that it was clear he had heard the phrase somewhere else.

Leah found that it was the most natural and random conversation she'd had with anyone in a few months. She'd had serious conversations, yes, but she had lost the simple joy of having a good old conversation about something other than deep and painful innermost feelings and thoughts.

For the first time in weeks, Leah forgot there was a wedding on the horizon at all.

She was just a girl, driving in a car, having a conversation with a boy.

There were no werewolves. No vampires.

Just two eternal teenagers conversing with one another.

Leah smiled. "Raps owns. Deal with it."

Jasper frowned, looking very much like a petulant child. "No."

Leah glared, before snapping, "I'm L to the C, and this is how I roll, if you don't like my rap, you can kiss my A-double-snakes-hole."

Jasper just stared at her incredulously, completely speechless.

Leah folded her arms, looking smug to hide her embarrassment.

"Told ya. Rap's the best. End. Of. Discussion."

She glanced over to see Jasper's lips curl upwards in a small smile.

A/N: End of chapter. ;) Jazz is into jazz... how quaint. :)


Peace and cookies,
Raven. xxx