Notes: This is a really old WIP I actually started writing a couple years ago and am finally finishing. I was always interested in Sam and Leah as characters and in their pre-existing relationship which we don't know many details about, so I wanted to write a fic showing their story in a very personal way that would make the great heartbreak it caused Leah (as well as the guilt Sam has over it) very real and understandable, and show how they both might have been a little different before he imprinted and she was hurt so badly. But I was totally unprepared for how invested in this story I became and how much it ran away with me and got much longer than expected, so now I'm just really crossing my fingers that there will be readers interested enough in these two supporting characters of the series to enjoy this in a bittersweet way like I enjoyed writing it.
As a nitpicky note, I know Seth's age in this is way off. For some reason at the time I started writing this I had the idea that he's only two or three years younger than Leah. But it's a kind of integral detail in one part that would actually be kind of hard to work around if I fixed it, so try to ignore it, LOL.
Sam has known Leah's whole family since he was a kid, but it isn't until one day at school near the end of his Junior year that he really notices her.
He is seventeen, tall and broadening, and she is nearly sixteen. Everyone has been let out of class to go to an assembly with the Seniors doing the traditional end-of-year skits, and after he finds a seat in the gym and is sitting by himself bent over his math homework she appears coming down his row looking for an empty seat.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees just a tall and slender but soft figure, filled out at the hips and everywhere else that it's nice to see some shape, all inside a snugly fitting sweater and slim faded jeans and framed darkly with very long and smooth draping hair. As she stops by him to take the empty seat on his right, he's pretty sure at first glance that she isn't anybody he knows, because if he'd seen her a lot he would know. So when he looks up just long enough to tell who it is, he's so taken aback that he has to stop himself from gaping at her a moment and letting her notice him staring.
And then immediately feels like some ridiculous pervert, and puts his attention back on his homework as she sits down beside him.
Not a minute later someone sitting behind them throws a wadded-up candy wrapper at her head. After it lands in his lap, Sam looks behind him at the same time that she turns around in her seat with an annoyed look, glancing just long enough to see a freshman guy grinning diabolically at her before he looks back down and pretends to mind his own business. He's pretty sure the freshman is the son of Isaac Parks, a guy he used to know as his father's boss, named Ray or Rob or something.
"Oh God," Leah says in a heavy, exasperated sigh after seeing who is behind her.
"Hey babe," Sam hears him saying, in an intentionally irritating kind of way. "I had to sit here just so I could look at your pretty head."
"I told you, Ray," she says dangerously, not at all playing along with his teasing. "I don't want you talking to me. I don't want younear me. We're not friends."
"Oh, gimme me a break," he says. "You're no fun anymore."
"I'm not fucking kidding. I told you to stay the hell away from my brother. Can't you just leave him alone?"
"Why are you being such a bitch? I haven't done anything."
"I know there's only one thing you and your buddies do anymore. Seth doesn't need to be hanging around with a bunch of scumbags like you."
Ray just lets out a laugh and says nastily, "Wow, I can't believe what a hypocrite you are, Leah."
She leans in a little closer to him, speaking more softly but in a way that somehow sounds twice as serious and threatening as before. "He's thirteen years old. I swear if I ever find out you gave him anything—"
"You'll what?" he asks tauntingly, still laughing at her. "Tell on me? You care too much about what everybody thinks of you to do that."
"Oh, you think there's somebody in this school besides your only two real friends you've got in the universe who will give a crap if I rat you out? That's just pathetic. Most people don't like you as much as they pretend to, you know. That's kind of sad if it really comes as much of a surprise that I don't."
Sam can't see Ray's reaction, but in the following beat of tense silence he can picture his face finally looking not so at ease.
"You can screw yourself," he then mutters to her darkly, finally seeming to have had enough as he gets up and goes off to find somewhere else to sit.
Leah turns back around with a loud and frustrated exhale of breath as Sam watches her out of the corner of his eye. Then he steals a closer look as she crosses her arms and just starts to sit very still, tightened up uncomfortably all over as if with the effort to contain her frustration. She acted so cool and unaffected in the way she said those things, but she's a bit rattled now. He gets the faint impression that some of the things Ray Parks said actually got to her just a little. He wonders if they used to be pretty good friends once.
He wonders why he's so interested.
That's when she turns her head just a little and catches his eye. And the look on her face of sudden recognition is unmistakable; she hasn't realized until just now that it's someone she knows sitting next to her. Apparently she's not the only who has grown enough to not be obviously recognizable.
He looks down right away, trying to look casual about it as if his eyes were just drifting aimlessly toward her, but the damage is done. She turns her face away as well as if she's also a little embarrassed after having that conversation next to him. It seems to leave nothing else but for him to not bother hiding that he heard everything.
"You okay?" he asks tentatively, looking back over at her.
She sighs, meeting his eyes and smiling half-heartedly. "Yeah. It's nothing."
"That sounded pretty brutal."
That makes her smile a little more fully and she says, "Yeah, I can get that way."
Then Sam's smile is slightly amused, made impossible for her to miss by how much he tries to hide it by looking down away from her.
"What?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.
He shakes his head dismissingly, his answer coming out quiet. "I...didn't really mean you."
Leah giggles softly, the sound almost nervous but not quite, and then she takes a deep breath and seems to completely collect herself. "I don't know why it gets me so worked up," she admits. "Seth's a good kid. I'm sure he's not going to get into anything he shouldn't be doing."
Sam shrugs. "I don't know, I'm sure if he were my brother I'd be just as pissed. And you never know. Living in a place as boring as this, people can end up doing things that they know probably isn't the best idea just because they've got nothing better to do."
She laughs lightly. "Yeah, that's exactly what my cousin Emily always says. She's got four brothers who are amazingly dumb for not really being dumb." Then she smiles straight at him, seeming to look for something in his face, and adds in a way that sounds just slightly teasing, "But you sound like you're talking from experience."
He just avoids her eyes again with a tight smirk.
"Hm?" she presses.
Looking back at her, he just asks, "What about you? Sounds like you know that Parks kid pretty well."
She starts to look vaguely embarrassed again, and then sighs a little and shakes her head. "Wow, I can just imagine what you must think of me," she says with a short laugh. "I bet you only even remember me as some skinny little kid you used to see at church."
"I'm sure you haven't done anything I didn't try at your age," he says with a shrug, feeling a little odd about how much she seems to care what he thinks, even if her tone isn't that serious. "But actually, yeah—When you first came over I barely recognized you."
She gives a nod. "Yeah...I remember I always liked your mom. She was nice, and she...once she gave me some Life Savers she had in her purse to help shut me up during the service." She laughs at the memory while he raises his brow, a little surprised she would remember something like that. "How's she doing?"
He just nods and says, "Fine."
She grins like she's amused by his short answer, looking closely at him again. "You're not really big on talking, are you?" she asks.
He meets her eyes with a look that mirrors her own playfully scrutinizing one, a slightly tinted reflection of it. "You're kind of pushy, aren't you?"
Her smile turns a little warmer somehow and then she turns and looks forward, crossing her legs. "Well...that's okay."
The assembly is finally starting, all the students now seated in the gym. He and Leah don't speak or look at each other again the rest of the time, but as the Seniors perform their skits making fun of the teachers and staff they both occasionally break into low laughter along with everyone else. Her laughter is a little deep and throaty, not light and giggly, and after a while Sam's hearing seems to single out the sound among everything else around him so that as the lights are down he never stops being very aware of her presence beside him.
His father left when he was twelve and was hardly ever around even before that. He never taught Sam how to do anything like fish, fix a car, or carve things out of wood. And then suddenly he was gone. He will never forget how silent everything was for a couple weeks in anticipation of some sign that he wasn't just gone for good, and then finally he came home from school one day to find his mother crying on the kitchen floor. He was the one who comforted her as she kept saying, "What am I going to do?"
Everyone who knows Sam knows all about this. It is a very small community in La Push. Sometimes it can feel like living with the dark shadow of his father's reputation following him is as tough as having a great man of an ancestor to live up to and constantly be compared to. Now that the old man is long gone, his home is quiet at night without the heated rising voices and the cupboards in the kitchen are always dry, and it seems like he and his mother have even more of nothing than they used to, if it is possible. They save extra money in a jar on top of the fridge and Sam works shifts at a gas station after school and helps make sure the bills always get paid.
When almost nothing is expected from you, it can make it just as hard to motivate yourself to be anyone as when a lot is expected from you. But he doesn't let it all discourage him. That shadow in his mother's eyes when she looks at him that is Lee Uley is something he consciously keeps in check. He is never going to be that way. He works hard at his job. He gets all A's and B's in school. He is already thinking about applying for college scholarships even though it's hard to just get a free ride with everything covered. He doesn't know. He'll work out something. He will not just be nothing like he was.
He would have made a horrible protector. But Sam does not know about all of that yet beyond just the superstitions. He doesn't know what else he has to be scared his father passed onto him.
Sam has always been a little quiet and enigmatic, in a way that might make it easy for some to assume that he just doesn't like many people. It isn't that he's shy at all. He is just a reserved kind of person who won't talk just to fill up silences or smile easily unless he really means it. He has a certain removed and centered presence that keeps people at somewhat of a distance; if students he knows happen to see him somewhere outside of school, they usually aren't going to bother smiling at him or saying hi.
But after their brief first conversation, there are a couple times Leah sees him around school, suddenly unavoidably noticeable to him now that he knows what's there, and as she is standing or walking in the halls with a whole pack of friends she catches his eye briefly and smiles. Expecting nothing back and waiting for nothing before she then turns her attention right back to her friends, she just flashes him this fearless and sly smile that seems to say, Yeah, right. You don't fool me. And he isn't sure what she means by it.
Then when the Black twins celebrate their birthday with a big bonfire at the beach, she is there. Sam's best friend Steve gets invited and brings him along as well as his cousin Paul. It looks like every student in the Senior class and then some are there, and he doesn't even notice Leah among them until a bunch of people start making some noise freaking out about a huge spider crawling along the table where all the food is. She quickly moves to kill it with an easy smile, making a fist and smashing it with the side of her hand, and then everyone around her erupts into cheers and laughter.
Later in the night, Sam passes by a spot where a lot of girls have set up a net and are playing volleyball, and he notices the ball soaring right toward his head before he sees her quickly backing up to try to hit it. He catches the ball at the same time that her body is suddenly colliding against him, knocked off balance for a second so that she briefly grabs onto him as she turns to the side to keep from falling over. Then she looks up and sees who it is behind her and laughs as her face quickly cracks into a natural smile.
"Oh. Hi," she says as she turns all the way around to face him.
He stays silent, returning the smile all with his eyes as he just hands her the ball.
"Thanks," she says, and then before turning around her eyes drop away from his face a little and then stop halfway down his upper form as she notices something. "Hey, you've got something..."
She reaches up to his chest where a small remnant of a potato chip is clinging to his shirt where it spilled and brushes it off. The light and simple touch feels like it lasts longer than it really does. And then she looks back up at his face once again with thatsmile, the elusive teasing tantalizing one she gives him when she sees him at school but doesn't talk to him which it sometimes seems like he could just be imagining, before turning back to the game.
After the party, he and his friends laugh together walking back.
"Hey, who's that girl who kept picking all the lousy music?" Paul asks at one point. "I know I've seen her around with Maggie Allen a lot."
"Oh, Leah Clearwater," Steve says. "She's a freshman."
"God she's cute."
Steve laughs, the sound echoing pleasantly in the open, breezy night. "I know."
Usually Sam might say something to agree or disagree, or he'd at least mention that he's known her family a long time. But for some reason he just remains silent next to them then, as if he has stopped paying much attention.
When he gets home, he finds that his mom has fallen asleep on the couch watching television, curled up under a blanket with an unfinished cup of tea sitting by her. She wakes up after he turns off the TV and starts to take her mug away into the kitchen, muttering, "Sam?"
He turns back to her and says, "Hey" as he kneels on the floor to be level with her face. "Is your cold still real bad?"
She nods dismally. "I'm hanging in there...What time is it?"
"Pretty late. Almost eleven."
"Oh, wow...Oh Sam, did you get a chance to change that tire today?" she asks, remembering it suddenly.
"No, mama, I said I'd take care of that tomorrow," he says. "I had plans tonight, remember?"
"Oh, right. The...Rachel and Rebecca's party."
"Yeah. I'll get the spare on tomorrow, and if you're still not feeling well I'll go take it in to get it fixed so you can get to work on Monday. I promise."
"Okay," she says, easily assured and smiling up at him, "I know you will...So did you have a good time?"
He nods and answers shortly, "Yep."
"Good." Still smiling, she reaches out and brushes her hand down his face, some deep warmth coming into her eyes behind the glassy tiredness. "You're a good boy."
Sam smirks before he stands back up, leaves the room muttering, "Goodnight, ma."