Author's note: Thank you to everyone who reviewed right away! I'm glad you are as excited as I am about this project.
Eating Emily's leftovers is almost as bad as eating raw, just-killed deer. Except that it isn't, which is why Leah Clearwater keeps doing it. Dragging the bits of food into the forest and scomping them. Getting as much dirt and mud and leaves on the nice, dainty china as she can before running off to eat. Then one day, the food is on plastic plates, and she knows Emily's bought them just for her. How sweet.
She hates that the plates smell like Sam. That's part of why she won't eat off them.
She has not been human in over three years. And that was just to bathe in the ocean. She doesn't bother with that anymore.
Most of the time the food goes rotten, uneaten, because most of the time Leah Clearwater is the hell away from La Push. She also doesn't stay too long, or her little brother, he of the unfailing enthusiasm and happiness, will figure out that she's in town and try to talk to her. And as a wolf, she wouldn't be able to block out his thoughts.
Yet she does come back. Stares into the windows of the house she grew up in, seeing her mother cooking while Charlie watches the game. She'd be annoyed, but she knew enough to realize that keeping Charlie out of the kitchen kept the house from burning down. They look happy.
It isn't that she doesn't miss her family, she does. Which is why she doesn't talk to them. She'd never leave.
There is no future for her in La Push, but she can't be anywhere else, either. Wolf-girl. She has to phase, it's what she is. She can't just go live a normal life somewhere, pretending she isn't Leah Clearwater, World's Only Shewolf. But she can't stay, living with the hurt of everything that happened to her here. Of knowing that the other wolves don't want her there, well, except for Seth.
She is careful tonight, approaching Sam's yard. Once, one of his twins saw her. He thought she was a regular wolf. There wasn't any Emily-food for a week after that, so she skipped town again. But tonight, her stomach is growling. She can't bring herself to kill a deer, not when she knows there's dinner waiting for her. It's far enough from the house that no one can see her. Sam must have been in serious trouble with his lovely wife after the boy saw her.
Meat. Of course. She never eats the vegetables.
The plate is a particularly horrible plastic.
She takes her dinner into the forest. Four bites in, she starts to feel sleepy. Seven bites in and her eyes go unfocused.
When she wakes up, she's lying naked on the sofa in Sam and Emily's living room. Human again.
The morning after Nessie's wedding, Jacob wakes slowly. From unsettling dreams. He feels terrible. Like maybe he has the flu. He can't breathe right, like he's trapped inside a plastic bag. He rolls on his side to see if it helps. It doesn't and Jake vomits, the pains in his stomach growing worse, not better. He realizes he should call someone, but he doesn't know who. Nessie. He should call Nessie.
Then he remembers he doesn't know where Nessie is, and that's why he's here. Following her. His body is shuddering now, something is definitely wrong. Jake closes his eyes and thinks about her. Since before she was born, he's known what direction she is in. How far from him. Even if he didn't always know where she is exactly, he's always known how to find her. Last night, he knew where to go to find her. Now, nothing.
When he realizes he can't feel her anymore, he knows exactly why he's sick. The room spins in his vision, sickeningly. He needs his phone. He's miles away from La Push and Forks, but he has to call someone. She could be dead.
The blanket someone has thrown over her has frolicking puppies on it. It's disgustingly cute. She tries to stand, and can't. Goddamned sedative she thinks. How dare Sam drug her? Maybe he was feeding her all of this time to lure her into a false sense of security….
…then she remembers that Sam isn't that smart.
"I'll tell him you're awake," says Emily quietly from the doorway. Leah turns her head to look at her. This seems to take all her strength.
Go to hell. Leah isn't sure if she says it out loud or only thinks it.
Sam is there a moment later. "Leah, where are they?"
Leah finds the strength to give him the finger.
"Seriously. It's important. We're on the verge of a war. Where they?"
Her head hurts from the sedative. The light in the ceiling is too bright. She's naked, and human. Her skin feels like it's the wrong shape. All her senses are off. And she has no idea what Sam is talking about.
"Honey, let's get her some broth," Emily says gently, like she's trying to calm him. A minute later Emily is helping Leah sit up, holding the blanket in place, putting a warm bowl into her hands. Maybe it's the broth, or maybe the drugs are wearing off, but things are starting to make sense to Leah. She's in Sam's house. Right. Her bitch of a cousin is here. They drugged her. Something is important enough for them to drug her and take her into their precious house.
"How d'you geme to chnnge humnan?" she asks slurring her words, and her voice sounds wrong. She hasn't spoken in years.
Sam rolls his eyes. "Where the hell are they?"
"Quil Atera," Emily says. "Old magic."
Leah understands. So they can't explain why there's one female werewolf in all of history, but they know a way of making her change back to human. Figures. "Wha war?" she asks at last. Her voice is still off, but her words are becoming clearer.
"Those filthy—the cold ones. They say we've kidnapped their precious monster."
Leah finishes her soup. Sam is pacing now. Caged. She watches him. He's aged. Hasn't been phasing enough, she guesses. And it doesn't look like he's been sleeping, either. She wonders where his sons are. The two little boys. Probably in bed, asleep. She wonders what time it is, searches for a clock amongst the framed family portraits all over the walls. It's the morning. She was asleep a long time.
He glares at her. "Leah, this could tear the pack apart."
Emily sets a glass of water down on the table next to Leah. She didn't even notice her leave. "Did you kidnap their halfbreed?"
"Of course not. Jacob did."
Leah drinks the entire glass of water at once. She feels better. Not well enough to run out of the house, or she would. She isn't yet certain that this isn't some kind of delusion. Ex-boyfriends don't drug you and then give you soup and interrogate you after years and years.
"Why would Jacob have kidnapped Bella's little freak?"
"She's seventeen or eighteen now," Emily says. Not meeting Leah's eyes. She hasn't met Leah's eyes since she stole Leah's boyfriend.
Leah closes her eyes and thinks. "If she's that age, then it's not kidnap."
"Not really, eighteen," Sam interrupts. "She's a child. But, the Cold Ones say she is grown now. Her birthday was this week"
"Then he didn't kidnap her. Can I go now? They probably ran off to have horrible imprint sex."
Sam looks like he wants to hit something, anything. If Leah had more energy, she would have told him how much he reminds her of his father right now. Really charming.
"You don't know where they are," Emily isn't asking, not really. Her voice sounds heavy. Leah wants to slap her. How dare the bitch play the nice-girl card. Boyfriend stealing hobags don't get to play the "oh, I'll bring you some soup" thing.
Of course Leah doesn't know where Jacob and his child-love are. She's been living wild in the forest. Wolves don't exactly get text messages to their Alphas that said things like "me n nessie r running off to vegas lol bye xxxx"
For the first time in months, Leah Clearwater is angry.
"Cut your losses," Emily is saying to Sam. "Tell the Cold Ones that you are not Jacob's Alpha. You aren't responsible for him. We can't let his stupidity destroy us." Nice Emily is gone. Now it's all Power Behind the Throne Emily.
Leah lifts her feet up and down subtly. Testing them. Sure of her own strength. She stands suddenly, making to leave. If the pack was going to hell, well, she doesn't want to be a part of it. Canada is lovely this time of year and—
She topples. Emily covers her with the blanket again. "Let's get you some clothes, shall we?" Nice Emily says.
Leah Clearwater remembers why she hates everyone.
An hour later, clad in some sweatpants (Emily's—much too short in the legs for her) and a too-large shirt (also Emily's. There's a picture of a bunch of bunnies on it. Leah suspects she bought it at a garage sale to paint in) Leah sits in the passenger seat of the Uley minivan. Doritos crumbs litter the floor of the car from the twins.
They are driving to the Cold Ones'.
Sam says he's told them everything the leeches told him over the phone (he seems ashamed to have talked to them at all). Edward found Jacob. In a shady hotel in California. Great.
And here's where it gets suspicious, Leah thinks. Apparently they found him hours ago. Long enough ago that they managed to get him back from California to Forks. And they are just telling Sam now because they can't get Jacob to talk. They can't get him to tell them where Nessie is.
Sam is making her come along. Because she's Jake's beta, he says, and because he doesn't want to walk into a house full of leeches alone. Has he asked any of the other wolves along? No. Leah thinks this is too close to fraternizing with the enemy for his comfort. Emily is home with the children, of course. Can't let anything happen to oh-so-fragile Emily.
They smell the house before they get there. Undead. Leah's come across that sent a few times during her years as a wolf. Once, it was a real Cold One, and she chased it off her territory. The other times it was the Cullens, hunting animals. They never tried to hunt her.
When the pull up to the house, Sam gets out of the car quickly. He doesn't offer to help Leah, who can't even walk properly. She knows he wants to get in, get Jacob, and leave. Put all of this behind them. Fair point, she thinks. No one wants a vampire/wolf war over some freak of nature girl and her useless wolf lover.
She stumbles up the porch. The more she thinks about it, the more she realizes he must be panicking out of his mind, to have drugged her like this, to be going to the Cullens...
Through the door and into a den of snarling vampires.
She stops. Edward is staring up at Sam, teeth barred. He looks like he's about to kill him. Jesus. Leah never thought of Edward as anything other than a useless pretty-boy. Sam actually looks mildly concerned, but he's covering it well. Behind Sam is another leech, a blond one, who is telling everyone to be calm. His voice is soothing, for an undead. But he still looks dangerous.
Leah sees Jacob. They have him laid out across several identical coffee tables that have been shoved together. He's naked from the waist up, covered in sweat. At first she thinks he's sleeping, but then she realizes he's muttering to himself. A nightmare?
"We don't know what's wrong with him," one of the leeches says behind her. A short one with black hair. "It's been like this all day. He was nearly dead when Edward found him." The girl sounds almost apologetic.
Leah moves toward him, awkwardly. Couldn't Emily and Sam have used a less harsh sedative? One that didn't leave her feeling like death warmed over?
She stares down at him. Seven years, or just about, it's been. He hasn't aged much. Must have been phasing. Of course he would be, so as to not age for his love. His hair is a bit longer than she remembers it, but not long long. Not like when he was just a boy and not a wolf.
He looks like he's dying, she thinks. "Where's your halfbreed?" she asks. At that, Edward's head snaps around to look at her.
"My daughter is missing. You will tell me where she is or I will rip your heart out of your chest and eat it."
Someone swears, the blond man, she realizes, and he raises his hands again. Edward is frozen in place, but his eyes are filled with hatred.
"Clearly I don't have your daughter," Leah says. She remembers, too late, that this one can read her thoughts. She feels violated. He stares at her for a few more moments and looks away. "You're telling the truth."
"Are you alright?" the dark haired girl is saying. "You don't look well."
"They drugged her," Edward muttered. "They thought she might have information on Nessie's whereabouts so they drugged her." He inclines his head to Sam. Gratefulness, perhaps?
Leah is sitting on the edge of the coffee table now. Jacob is warm, but not warm enough. Not werewolf warm. He feels clammy to her when she touches his cheek. Definitely not a good sign.
"We don't know where Nessie is," says the female. "We thought they'd be together."
A man speaks from the shadows. She didn't realize he was there. It's the older one. The doctor. "We don't know that they were ever together," he says softly. "We just assumed. Nessie went missing, and so did Jacob. He could have followed her. Or she him."
Bella comes in from what Leah guesses is a very unused kitchen. She's holding a wet towel. Not a rag, but a nice, never-used-before towel. She sits on Jacob's other side and starts to wipe the sweat off his face.
"Get your filthy leech hands off of him," Leah snarls, grabbing the towel. Bella looks taken aback. She also looks like she's been crying. Red marks run all down her face to her jaw.
The doctor one moves closer to Leah and Jake. "Are you their," a slight pause, "medicine man?" the phrase sounds awkward. Leah rolls her eyes. He clearly takes this as a no, because he turns to Sam. "You should call one of your elders. The boy's father, perhaps? Whatever magic is at work here, it's Quileute magic."
"It's not magic," Sam says, "he's sick."
"And not by poison, or infection, or injury. He has no physical cause."
"Maybe your freak bit him?"
"Nessie doesn't bite people!" snaps Bella.
"Maybe she bit him and left him for dead. Maybe it's me who should be trying to start a war."
The doctor turns to Edward. "You didn't, did you?"
Edward stiffens. "There were words exchanged."
"The most important thing now is to make sure this boy survives," the doctor one says, turning back to Leah. Clearly deciding that it's safer to deal with her than with Sam. Fool. "Is there anything in your tribal mytho—I mean, tribal history, that could explain this? Does his condition indicate that his imprint has been killed?"
Bella draws her breath in at this and sniffles.
"I don't know. I wouldn't know." Leah looks down at her Alpha. "It's hard for our kind to be separated from our imprints. Maybe that's what's wrong."
Sam stops glaring at Edward to grunt agreement. Leah knows he's thinking about being away from Emily, about what that would do to him.
"But this seems worse," she adds, and shrugs. "We should take him back to the Rez."
"Like hell you are," growls Edward, "he's staying right here until I get my daughter!"
The doctor clicks his tongue. "We aren't going to let Jacob die just to prove a point," he says gently to Leah.
"You'll have to talk to our elders," Leah says.
"We are not bringing Quil here," hisses Sam.
"And we will not allow you to remove the dog before our Nessie is found," the blond man speaks for the first time.
Someone's phone rings. Bella's. She answers it with shaking hands. She says nothing while the person on the other end talks. After she hangs up, she tells them "they haven't found anything. Emmett says they'll expand the radius around where Edward found Jacob."
"They'll find her," the small female one says. Bella starts to cry again. Blood drips onto the carpet.
Jacob stirs and everyone jumps, turning to him. His eyes are darting under his eyelids. He looks anything but restful. "Ness," he cries, and then is limp again. His breathing is shallow and raspy.
"Do we think that he's fallen into some sort of imprint-induced comma?" Leah asks the doctor.
He nods. "We were hoping you could tell us."
"Yeah, about that. Can I leave now?" She stands, shakily. She wanted no part of anyone's imprint drama. Sam, who remains unhelpfully standing between Edward and the blond, glares at her.
"Leah, Jacob is your Alpha," he says sternly. And? She thinks. But she doesn't want to leave him with the leeches. With Bella crying bloody tears all over him.
"Please," the doctor says, "tell us everything you know about being a wolf and imprinting. That's the only thing that we can think would have caused this," he pauses, looks at Sam, and adds, "and the boy has no bite wounds. He wasn't attacked. Nor is Nessie venomous."
"There must be something you can do," whimpers Bella, "some way of waking him up? Just to get him conscious. So Edward can read his mind and find our daughter."
Leah looks down at Jake. He really does look terrible. She knows she can't leave him like this, even if it is his own fault for imprinting on a half-bred freak.
Finally, she comes to a decision. If Sam is just going to stand there, contributing nothing, in some sort of show of male bravado with Nessie's father, fine. Someone needed to take charge.
"Sam, go get Quil Atera. And Billy. Tell them Jake is dying and it may have to do with imprinting, and we need all their lore and skills. And bring my mom, too. And Charlie." Bella makes a noise at the mention of her father's name, and Leah suspects that they haven't told Charlie anything.
"We won't bring our elders here!"
"He's dying!" she shouts back, rising. They bare their teeth at each other and growl. Try and give me an Alpha command, you useless, horrible…
…but Sam nods his head and practically runs out of the house.
She knows the leeches are staring at her, unsure of what to do. Her display took them by surprise. She resumes mopping the sweat off of Jake's body, ignoring them, and minutes drag by. Filthy, blood-sucking—
"Is there anything we can do?" the female says, breaking the silence. "I'm Alice, by the way." She tries to smile at Leah.
"Tell me everything."
"There isn't much else. His condition appears to be stable. Was he any worse than this when you found him?" the doctor asks Edward.
"No." Edward's voice is still cold. He looks like at any second he's going to take the towel away from Leah and put Jacob on a medieval torture machine until Nessie is found.
"How long has he been like this?" asks Leah.
"Since yesterday morning, I think. He called…"
Edward nods. "He didn't say anything except where he was and then he passed out or something." Edward shrugs. It's pretty obvious to Leah that Jacob could drown in his own vomit right now and the pretty vampire wouldn't really care, as long as he told everyone where Nessie is first.
Leah closes her eyes. Last night, she was running happily in the forest, shunning her human life. The contrast is disorienting.
She rests her hand on Jacob's chest, feels his heart pumping erratically. She wills him not to die, although why she cares she wouldn't be able to say.
"Leah!" someone shouts from the door. Her head snaps around just in time to see her baby brother as he hurdles into her, lifting her up in the air. He's squeezing the air from her lungs. They knock over an end table, and a vase shatters. She fights back tears. Crying in front of the enemy, not a good idea.
"Don't ever leave again," he's saying into her shoulder.
Finally, he puts her down and looks at her. "You haven't been eating enough. Not hunting." She nods. Doesn't mention that she's been supplementing her lack of hunting with Sam's offerings. No one needs to know that. Ever.
He looks past her, now, and sees Jacob. "What's wrong with him? Sam said Nessie was missing and that Jacob might be dying and that you were here and…" he trails off, then starts again. "Oh, Leah! You came back for Jake? I didn't know you knew what was going on with us." She wonders if there is a mild accusation in his voice. She didn't come back for his high school graduation, or for mom and Charlie's wedding. He doesn't know that she watched them through the windows, that she always made sure they were okay.
"Not by choice," she mutters. "Sam abducted me. I'll explain later," as soon as I figure out how to not admit I eat his table scraps, she adds silently.
But then Quil Atera is there, and the doctor is signaling to his children to give them space. Quil looks ancient to Leah. But fearless. He glances at Jake's body and nods. "Yes, he's dying. You were right to send for me," he says to Leah.
"Leah!" Leah's mother is there now, and is hugging her, too. Crying all over her. Leah tries to say that they should help Jacob, but her words are lost. "My baby girl! I was so worried about you! They kept telling me you were alright, Sam kept insisting that you were alive somewhere out there, but oh god, I never thought I'd see you again," her sobs come harder and harder, and Leah is crying too now, a bit. Out of happiness at seeing her family, and out of guilt for what she had put her mother through. Leah is vaguely aware that Charlie is there, with Billy, pushing him toward Jacob. Soon Billy's sobs mix with Sue's, and Bella's too.
When at last Sue let Leah go, Edward is holding his wife while she cries bloody tears into his shoulder. Charlie is nearby, clearly unsure of what to do. He looks like he had no idea something was wrong with his granddaughter until Sam told him. Billy is staring down at his son, and Quil is prodding Jake, muttering under this breath, recalling bits of legend.
"She isn't dead," he says at last to the assembled leeches. "If she were dead, he would know. He'd be trying to kill himself. Our kind do not live long without our imprints."
Bella quiets a bit, hearing this, but Edward looks as cold as ever. "How do I know you aren't lying, old man?" he demands.
"You don't. But I'm not. Jacob has done nothing to your child. It is very likely, rather, that she has done something to him."
"Nessie would never hurt anyone!" Bella managed to nearly yell, wiping blood from her face.
Quil looks at her for a long moment. "Oh child, we all hurt people. Often it is unintentional. But your daughter is not dead. Now, I would like very much to take Jacob back to La Push. Carlisle." He adds, addressing the doctor.
Carlisle nods. "Of course. If there is anything I can do…"
Everyone is looking at Jake, who has started to shake, muscles spasming all over his body. He moans quietly. Leah thinks that this might be a good sign, but before she can say anything, Edward jumps to his feet, pulling Bella up with him.
"She's back," he says quickly, striding to the door. Which opens.
In walks a beautiful, curly haired girl, with pale skin. Her hair falls in perfect ringlets down nearly to her knees. There is something startling about her. Her lips are too red for such pale skin. She looks to Leah like a child that's been painted to look like an adult, a little girl entered in a beauty pageant. She's tiny, a full foot shorter than Leah. At six foot, Leah is taller than most women, but this girl feels especially small. She is wearing a dress with a ribbon around the middle. Slowly, Leah realizes that the girl is definitely a teenager. Her breasts are small and high, and the beginnings of hips are visible. In a few more years, Leah suspects her figure will fill out, changing the girl from a seventeen-year old adolescent to an adult woman.
"Hello," the girl says quietly. Bella is reaching out for her, when a second figure appears in the doorway. A boy this time. For an instant Leah thinks he might be Native American. Much too short to be a wolf. But he carries himself like a man, even though he is clearly adolescent. If Leah had ever seen the twins the Volturi kept, that's what she would have thought of. Children, on the verge of adulthood, trapped forever. Not like Edward, who, although physically seventeen, looks much older. Leah realizes it's because Edward and his siblings are like cold, granite sculptures, too solid not to be adults.
But the two in the doorway are living flesh and blood creatures.
Bella stops when she sees the boy. The atmosphere in the room changes, dramatically enough that Leah realizes something serious is about to go down.
"Hello," the boys says, his English heavily accented. She can't place his accent, but later she will realize the boy is from Chile. He is nervous, like he thinks he's walking into a trap.
"Mother, Father," Nessie says firmly. "You must all be kind to Nahuel. He is my husband now, and my mate. Forever."
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I will get the next chapter up as soon as possible.