A/N: This was my first story here. I submitted it before I read a single story on here - I was so eager to write and post it. I didn't know my chapters were too long. I didn't know that hundreds of Leah stories were out there already. And I didn't know that so many writers had Leah running away from her problems. And I certainly didn't know what Blackwater stories were, thank goodness. So at first this might seem similar to others, but I think you'll find she didn't run FROM her problems, but TOWARD her future.
I felt Leah got a raw deal and this is her happily ever after. It's been nominated for a couple awards, but didn't win. Still, it's worth reading, and as I write this, I'm beginning a corrective rewrite.
My life was becoming unbearable. Every happy ending left me in pain - layer upon layer of ache and emptiness. It seemed everyone I loved was finding happiness. While all I could do was watch - as if on the outside looking in.
I was happy for the safety of our tribe and our people. I didn't even begrudge the good things happening to the tame vampires of the Cullen family. I just couldn't bear to watch.
I thought I'd found a kindred spirit in Jacob. He understood my pain, and I imagined once the Quileute's were safe, we'd be able to run off and explore the world as wolves. But then he imprinted on Renesmee. Not only did he have it bad for the little mutant, but I had to listen to his every thought about how amazing she was: how strong, beautiful, intelligent, and talented was his half human vampire soul mate.
I guess I deserved it, but I was getting tired of everyone telling me verbally and especially mentally how big a pain in the tail I was. Just because I was getting sick of patrolling the vampire's territory, and I still told them they stank. After the dust up with the big, tough, head blood-suckers from Italy everyone was all sunshine and kisses. Jacob was even more devoted to the little half-breed now that he knew he'd only have to wait another six or seven years before she would be mature enough to mate. It was disgusting!
I never asked to be a werewolf. Some even said I deserved it, since I had more anger in me than any two women combined. I was trying hard to get my temper under control, but I was having real difficulty with so much changing around me. Not only were Jacob and the rest of the pack spending more and more time in their human forms, and hanging out with the Cullen's, but Sam and Emily were planning a wedding.
I could stay in La Push and watch the activity with the planning of the biggest celebration our tribe would see for a long time. I could hang out at home alone since Mom was spending more and more time with Chief Swan. Or I could go listen to Jacob mooning over Nessie. Not to mention the the thoughts and worries of the others joining our pack: Quil worrying over his imprinted mate Claire, and Embry wondering who's his daddy and who's his brother Not to mention my own brother Seth, fawning over the vamps like a trained puppy.
I was desperate to get my temper under control, and stop being the only she-wolf in the pack. In a very short time I was going to have to listen to Jacob's loving and lustful thoughts about his soul mate. Not to mention the others who were a little bit easier to take, since their chosen mates were at least human. I was trying...but it was so difficult!
Every time Rosalie insulted my pack leader it sent waves of anger through me. He took it as a joke and accepted it in stride, but his bloodlines were pure and her naming him 'mongrel' was an insult to everyone in our tribe. But the more subtle insults of the Cullen family were disguised as kindness. Esme kept sending food and hand- me-downs to the pack since we were spending so little time in La Push and our own homes.
The food didn't bother me much, especially seeing how the boys could eat. But the clothes, even washed and barely handled grated on my nerves. I knew that they'd been worn and set aside by them; destined for Goodwill or our pack it made no difference to them. The designer labels and expense of them wasn't enough to make up for the fact that they were cast-offs, thrown to the dogs in their minds. I had accepted some things from Bella, but she was my friend before she became a walking corpse. She didn't give me used clothes, she went to her closet and took new things right from their garment bags and gladly handed them over.
"Alice is going to kill me, but you'd look better in this than I will." She'd smile as she pushed the designer clothes at me. Part of me enjoyed the idea that it might cause a bit of discord in their perfect family. And a part of me really did like the clothes.
I was a woman. A fact that so many around me tried to ignore even to the point where I wanted to ignore it too. I wanted to be pretty, wear pretty clothes and be treated like a lady. I wanted to have men find me beautiful and desirable. But everywhere I turned there was criticism, or worse – pity. Pity that I'd lost my dad. Pity that Sam had dropped me for my cousin Emily. And for those who knew the secret, pity for the only woman who could run with the wolves.
I didn't plan it, I'd really tried to take the high road and attend the wedding with my head held high. I had the invitation with the location of the wedding being at the community center. The invitations were just a formality since the whole community was invited. Sam was most likely to take over leading the tribal council one day, so his wedding was the biggest event in many years. Many in the town of Forks were also invited, and I was most shocked that Bella and the rest of the Cullen's were invited. What was the point of the treaty if they were just going to be allowed to wander through our lands whenever it was convenient? But things had definitely changed.
If everything had stayed the way it was supposed to be, I would have been involved in Emily's wedding. I would have been a bridesmaid, and helped her with all the planning and details. But since her fiance had once been mine that involvement was taken away from me. So I was to be a guest – a silent witness to one of the many things that had changed since the vampires had settled here.
I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if they had just gone somewhere else. There would have been no need to have us manifest as wolves to protect the tribe. There would be no imprinting, and the wedding would have been mine and Sam's.
I was still trying to get over him. I only needed to see the way he and Emily looked at each other to know they were the perfect couple. I wanted them both to be happy. She wasn't just my cousin, she had been my friend, and he had not only been my fiance, but also my pack leader. They both deserved happiness. They were good people and I would be there to shut that door on that part of my life. No looking back.
I planned carefully for the wedding. I'd been to Bella and Edward's wedding and I was sure that Sam and Emily's would be just as big an affair as theirs with so many invited. I would wear one of the gowns Bella had given me. It was a deep copper colored satin that fit me very well. I thought the color should blend in well with all the fall colors of their October wedding. I didn't want to stand out, but I wanted to look confident and secure. I would wear the delicate high heeled sandals I'd found. It may be too cold for being so exposed, but I didn't feel the cold much anymore.
I thought I looked good as I prepared for the wedding. The dress had wide shoulder straps and it dipped modestly in the front; but not too showy. The satin shimmered in the light, and it complimented the brown of my skin with it's different tones. Bella was right, this would have looked terrible on her translucent white skin.
One thing about spending so much time as a wolf, was that I was as fit as I could be without building masculine muscles. Much as I hated the wolf diet, it kept away the pounds and I had the svelte figure many women spent hours at the gym to attain. I couldn't do much with my short spiked hair, but I wore a pair of earrings that glittered and sparkled along with a necklace of polished wood beads. I thought I looked pretty and for just a minute I wished my dad could see me – he'd always said I was beautiful.
I arrived on time and saw the parking lot was full of cars and trucks. There must have been hundreds of people, but they weren't going into the community center. Instead they were all walking around behind. Horse drawn wagons were loading people up and heading along the trail leading up to the bluff where we'd held our bonfires. Of course, I never imagined an outdoor wedding, and certainly not one in such a sacred spot.
I didn't want to sit in a wagon, even though the horses were brushed and decorated and the wagons were whitewashed and hung with flowers. I walked, trying hard not to ruin my sandals on the uneven ground. I felt out of place on the way, walking along the mile long trail winding uphill. Everyone was dressed more casually than I was, and I tried to pretend I wasn't bothered, as I smiled and greeted everyone I knew.
When we arrived, the cliff plateau was just as beautiful as it always had been. From there we could survey much of La Push, with the water below and the forests behind. I could see three hawks circling on the air currents in the distance, almost like they'd come to witness the event. I should have known that Sam would have done something like this.
They had build a large canopy structure out of gnarled wooden branches, and there were vines wrapped around them as the decorations, with only a few fall flowers tucked in. Most of it was open to the sky, and the floor was covered with hand woven rugs, and animal furs of all types. The guests were invited under the broad canopy, and encouraged to kneel or sit on the furs. There were chairs provided for the old, and many chose to stand along the outside to have a good vantage point.
One of the younger boys guided me to a spot toward the front. Mom moved over and Seth patted the pelt beside him. I tried to kneel gracefully, but the dress was too snug fitting and the shoes caught on something rough. As I fell into the spot I heard a soft ripping sound .
Funny how every time I changed I had to contend with split seams and ripped clothes, but this one little tear seemed louder than a crack of thunder. I watched several heads turn toward me and I tried to cover up the way the side seam had split to make room for the angle of my legs. Seth snickered and I glared at him as I tucked the dress under me to hide the tear.
"You look lovely dear." Mom put her arm protectively around me. She didn't say that I was overdressed for the occasion, I had Seth for that.
"What's with the dress...didn't you read the invitation? It said casual attire. Are you trying to outshine the bride? "
I growled at him, but he didn't know when it was time to quit. In human form he didn't care that I was the pack beta.
"Don't ruin the wedding Leah, just keep that temper under control," he muttered. I thought about how I would make him sorry next time we changed, but then I noticed Jacob as he ushered people to their seats. He was part of the wedding party, as were many of the older members of both packs. His eyes warned me to be calm. I could tell he understood. I remembered he'd been to Bella's reception and tried to kill the groom before he'd been dragged away. I smiled and nodded his way; no scenes I promise. I thought his way even though he couldn't hear my thoughts now.
It was getting crowded under the open air canopy, and I knew that it would happen soon. Off to the side there were a couple musicians beginning to play. It was an odd combination of a guitar, and two flutes. The music was quiet and haunting as it drifted over the crowd and down from the cliff. Little by little the crowd quieted to listen and a hush fell on the area.
It was then I saw Sam step out from behind the trees to the right. He took his place to wait for the bride in the way of modern weddings. He wore a plain white button down shirt, open at the neck, where he wore a traditional tribal necklace. He wore white pants and soft white moccasins. He looked beautiful to me. I felt my heart break all over again, as he looked over the gathered crowd and he didn't even see me. I was less than nothing to him.
When they started to play another song, I saw one of the ushers leading a bridesmaid in from a break in the trees to the left. Smiling they came, along a white stone path leading through the structure to the front. Each bridesmaid was dressed in a simple dress in complimentary colors of nature – green, brown, and yellow. The ushers all wore simple white shirts and tan pants. When they were all lined up the wedding march, or a version of it anyway, was played. We all turned and waited.
Emily came out on the arms of her parents. Halfway to the front, they kissed her cheek and she continued on alone. She was exquisitely beautiful. She wore white for modern tradition, but everything else was a nod to tribal custom. Her veil was made of white down feathers not covering her face, but framing it. Her dress was soft white leather and it fell just below her knees. It was trimmed in thick bands of white fur at the hem, the collar, and cuffs. Her belt was beaded with tribal symbols in the natural colors to match her bridesmaid dresses, and her white necklace was intricately carved beads made from shells, bones, and wood. Instead of shoes she wore matching white knee high boots also trimmed in fur. She was radiant, and her eyes were locked onto Sam's, as the flute music accompanied her walk.
I don't remember much of the ceremony. I watched the crowd, the soaring hawks, the trees, and the way the wind blew the clouds over the canopy. It was almost all tribal traditions, complete with her symbolically giving her sleeping mat to her husband's family. I tried not to cry as he pledged his undying love and devotion to her. He'd done that long before the wedding and nothing was going to change. I watched them exchange spirit gift pouches, which would be opened on their honeymoon night. But then I turned to watch the hawks again.
As I watched one of the three separated and chose a new direction. I watched as it angled its wings to a different wind current and flew away from the other two. Little by little it headed northward and I watched it pass overhead and keep going until I couldn't see it anymore. The other two showed no signs of leaving as they spiraled in a never-ending repetitive circle.
I smiled to myself. How simple an answer to all my problems. Almost as if my ancestors were giving me a sign in this holy place. As Sam and Emily were pronounced husband and wife, the crowd stood up to cheer and applaud. They kissed and there was no doubt in my mind that he was lost to me forever. Even if she were to leave or die, he could never be mine.
I stood and kissed my mother and even hugged Seth. I quickly removed my earrings and necklace, and handed them to Mom. The dress was ripped down one seam to my thigh, but I didn't care.
I stepped out of formation and headed to the side of the open air enclosure. Those who saw me likely thought I was too sad to watch anymore, but I wasn't sad. I just wanted out. Those who noticed me, watched me as I hurried away from the group. I'm sure they didn't see my smile as I started to run.
I lost the beautiful sandals and gathering up the dress in a very unladylike way to gain more speed. As soon as I made the trees, I felt the shift happen. I wasn't as fast at shifting as Jacob, so I knew I was out of sight before I became a wolf. I heard the dress shred and felt my hind leg slide momentarily on the satin. I ran without a backward glance.
I wasn't far before I heard Jacob in my head trying to call me back. His concern was touching, since I knew he had to leave the wedding to make his own change in order to send and receive thoughts. I told him I was leaving, and I didn't know for where or how long – just north and now.
"Let me go Jacob, I'm not upset...I'm free!" I'm sure my laughing caught him off guard and I could tell he thought I'd lost my mind, but I didn't care. I was a faster runner than Jacob and for once I used this advantage shamelessly against him. I flew and he couldn't keep up. I knew he wouldn't order me to return; which was another advantage to being part of his pack.
I wanted to run the direction the hawk had flown, but to go north, I had to first go east. After several hours I still wasn't tired but I was in unfamiliar territory. I slowed down to a lope, and it wasn't long before I found a stream to drink from. Again I heard Jacob calling to me to check up on me. I sent him one word: "Woof!"
An hour later I found a road. It was one of those long two lane roads that seem to go on forever. I thought about following it to a town and maybe settling somewhere new, but instead I crossed over and headed into the woods.
As a wolf I didn't have to worry about what to eat or where to sleep, or even where to do my business. I savored the sights and smells around me and headed toward the least human smelling areas, and always moved north. I would learn what it was to be the wolf. Eat, sleep, even think like one. In all the hours I'd been gone, I didn't even think about Sam once. Already that was progress.
As dusk fell I knew that the newlywed couple would soon be leaving their party to begin their honeymoon. But I could smell a heard of deer on the wind, and I was already trying to psyche myself out to anticipate the thrill of the meal ahead of me.
It was easier after Jacob had showed me how to identify with the wolf in me. I'd been getting used to it little by little back home, but this time it was almost pleasurable. It was my own hunt and my own kill, and I realized that in a way I was my own alpha. I tore the animal up and devoured it. I could hear coyotes in the distance, and left the remains for them as I moved on.
It always amazed me how acute my senses were as a wolf. I could hear the coyotes miles away and I could smell all the animals that had passed through the area since the last rain. I could tell what the squirrels were eating that fall, but I couldn't tell where I was on a map.
When I finally got tired, I dug through some leaves against a rotting log, and made a nest. I curled up, tail to nose, and fell asleep. I didn't dream, or even have nightmares – bliss.
When I woke it was cold and it took a second to realize where and what I was. It had snowed overnight and I was covered in a couple inches of the white powder that had made it down through the skeletal branches of the trees. I could see my breath in little white puffs, but I wasn't cold. I shook it off and found another stream for drinking.
I took off running and felt even more joy at the speed I could go. I sensed others in the forest – other predators and even other wolves – but they didn't interest me. At one point I even left scat behind, giggling to myself at what the real wolves would think when they smelled yesterdays pop tarts, ham sandwiches and macaroni and cheese in a pile that must have come from the biggest wolf ever to pass through their territory.
I had a goal of heading north, but because of all the waterways, I traveled east and even southeast for quite some time. I crossed the water on an old railroad trestle, and another time I had to swim. I began to appreciate the rugged terrain of the area, I'd never before seen any closer than from the window of a car.
Eventually I was able to turn and go northwest. I continued to go north, and angled back toward the west coast. I could tell my directions from the position of the sun, but I couldn't tell when I crossed over into Canada.
It's when I lost track of time that it hit me. I was a wolf. I didn't know how many days I'd been gone, but I knew that I hadn't changed back in quite some time. It was the longest time I'd spent as a wolf and I was enjoying it. I heard Jacob every night calling my name and I responded with a sound of well-being that only a wolf would understand. He didn't intrude beyond that and I found that I could shut everyone else in the pack out with the distance. I realized he must have been using his alpha ability, or he might not have been able to reach me either.
I felt like I might be in Alaska but I wasn't sure where the boundaries were. There was snow on the ground and it snowed regularly, which made hunting fun and challenging. I learned to sneak up on the animals and run them down, overwhelming them with my speed and strength. Even the moose were no match for me, though I hesitated to bring them down since it was more meat than I could finish on my own.
One night I was hunting and I smelled something interesting on the air. It was another wolf pack and I trailed after them observing. They were strong and I watched them from cover and downwind as the three males and two females hunted. They worked well together as they brought down a large antelope. I watched them feeding, first the large alpha and then the other four.
The alpha stiffened and I could tell he must have smelled me. I'd eaten already and I wasn't interested in their kill. I almost moved on but something about his stance caught my attention. He was huge by normal wolf standards, with thick silver-gray fur and powerful muscles. I left the undergrowth where I was hiding and approached slowly. I instinctively knew how not to challenge his authority or present as a threat. Fearlessly he came toward me and I held still watching him peripherally. As soon as he saw I wasn't a threat he did the one thing that I'd always seen dogs do that drove me crazy; he sniffed my behind!
Leah was so far gone that I responded as a wolf. I sniffed back. It clicked as I understood almost all there was to know about him. He was four years old, the biggest and oldest of his litter, he'd just eaten, and his previous meal was twelve hours earlier; rabbit if I wasn't mistaken. He was indeed the alpha, and he was healthy. I knew he was getting the same kind of information from sniffing me, and I think I must have confused him since he sniffed twice more. I wasn't sure what message he was getting, but he came up to lick my muzzle and brush his strong wolf body against me. If I'd been a woman, that would have been a kiss. The wolf was making a pass at me!
I nipped at him and ran. He was strong and he chased me through the clearing. I circled around and he was catching up with me. He was smaller, but entirely wild and I felt him nipping at my legs. It was playful and flirtatious and fun! When he charged into me he knocked me off my feet and we rolled on the ground wrestling like Seth and I used to do.
It was then a strange odor hit me – arousal. The wolf wanted me! He wasn't wrestling with me he was trying to mount me and I was almost too late to stop it! I snarled and snapped at him but he wasn't ready to give up at my obvious 'No!' I was almost panicked as I tucked my tail protectively and bit his exposed shoulder. He yelped and I was able to get free. He came at me again more serious, then I remembered I wasn't an ordinary wolf. He charged me and I grabbed him in my strong jaws and threw him high over my back, watching him twist in midair before he crashed into a tree and hit the ground. He got up stunned but unhurt and I bolted before he could decide if I was worth chasing or not.
Two hours later I raised my muzzle to the sky and howled. I listened, and there were no answers. I searched the night for the right place and found a small cave. It was there that I changed back to Leah. I could run as a wolf, eat as a wolf, even relieve myself as a wolf, but there was no way in the world I was going to mate as a wolf! I was surprised to find it was my time of the month, which might have translated into being in heat for a wolf. My cycles were all out of whack since being a wolf tended to push back the human cycles. So roughly thirty human days made up a cycle. As a wolf I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew was that no matter how cold it was, I would stay human until it passed; no more chances to have puppies...or cubs as it may be.
Reconnecting with my human self was strange. I was naked and exposed, but I'd grown accustomed to it and I found that I was still pretty good with survival skills. The cold didn't bother me much more as a human than it did as a wolf even without the fur. I was surprised that my hair had grown so much, and it was to my shoulders. I knew I hadn't been gone long enough for that to happen, so it must grow faster as a wolf.
I had found a good spot to camp for the next few days, and I gathered wood for a fire and kept it going to keep away the predators. I could always shift, but I wanted to avoid it until I knew there was no chance of attracting the wrong or maybe the right kind of company. No matter how appalling it was to think about mating with a real wolf, there was a small instinctive part of me that had welcomed it. If I lost Leah entirely, could that part take over? I didn't want to find out, so I built a fire and cooked the rabbit I was able to snare.
I hadn't paid attention as a wolf, but as Leah I noticed that the trees were almost all evergreens. I wondered where I was with snow on the ground all the time and the streams at least partially frozen. I thought I must be in or near Alaska since I'd been going northwest following the scent of the Pacific. The wildlife had changed too. I'd hunted elk and seen caribou and moose. I could smell bears occasionally and there seemed to be more of them. Not to mention the wolves. I'd also caught the distant scents of the ocean. There were fewer human scents and I remembered that Alaska had an abundance of national parks and animal refuges. I thought about walking until I found a road to see where I was, but I wasn't that concerned.
Four days as Leah and I was already bored. I changed back and almost immediately I heard Jacob checking up on me. The worry and concern were back and I answered immediately, 'woof!' He let the contact go before I had a chance to share how close I'd come to mating. Thank goodness he understood the need for privacy.
The day I left the cave was my first encounter with grizzly bears. I crept up to them as they fished a deep stream and they didn't even know I was there. It was very close to their time of hibernation and they were feeding to fatten themselves for the winter. As a normal wolf even one my size they would likely be able to tear me apart, but since we were special I knew the bears had more to fear from me. Still it was amazing to watch them, and their power and size were incredible. In fact everywhere I looked it seemed there were new wonders. Eagles flying overhead, otters, wild fox, and hundreds of birds. I had the best vantage point for sight seeing you could ask for.
I was hunting one day and I found a trail that seemed different and yet all too familiar. It reeked of an unnatural presence. Vampire. I snarled and followed, stalking my enemy with more purpose than any herd I'd found so far. I knew I was close when I saw the herd . A dozen caribou were slaughtered in a clearing, but the ones responsible were no longer there. Twelve large animals, completely drained of blood, were already being scavenged by more natural predators who couldn't discern the stench.
I continued to track them, following them over miles of rugged terrain, hour after hour with no visible sign of them but a scent trail that I couldn't lose.
When I finally found them they were home. Two large homes which could loosely be called log cabins if not for their size and all the glass used in their construction. They were nestled on a beautiful lakefront property. It was dark and I crept as close as I could, without exposing myself. With all the lights on inside, I could watch their movements, or more correctly their lack of movement. Standing perfectly still watching the flashing colors of a flat screen TV, or sitting like a statue reading a book , only moving to turn a page.
I must have watched them for hours before I realized what I was seeing. It was the Denali coven. I should have been tipped off by the animal diet, but in my wolf form all that registered was the scent. I counted them and realized I had met them all while on duty with the Cullen family.
I spent the night observing them, then I circled their home site, marked the territory in true wolf fashion, and left. I could have dropped in to see them, but the presents I left felt more natural – more me. Besides, the place smelled like something dead, even if it wasn't as bad as the Cullen's.
I ran all morning to put plenty of distance between me and the Denali coven. No use giving them a reason to chase after me since there was no treaty there.
I didn't know how long or how far I had traveled when I started seeing what must be the settlements of the Alaskan natives. They reminded me of home and I spent many evenings just watching them as they went about their day to day lives. Of course being so close to human civilizations meant I had to be very careful. I could avoid being seen, but the people were fishermen, hunters, and trappers, and I was aware that there would be traps set all through the nearby forests, and even further north on the tundra.
I was starting to feel a little homesick, but I still wasn't ready to go home. I found that it was easier to watch the settlements at dusk when everyone was coming home. There were children of all ages and what I'd guessed to be about 100 families. I'd watch them play, work, socialize and then I'd slink off to run a few hours to hunt. Sleeping was easy now that the ground was snow covered. I could dig down a few feet and bury myself in a cozy little nest.
One morning I was digging out of my snow den when I caught sight of movement. About a hundred yards away was the biggest grizzly bear I'd ever seen. I froze where I was, snow still clinging to my thick fur. It easily stood eight feet tall and I cautiously sniffed the air to see which way the wind was blowing. I was in luck since I was downwind; if I held still maybe it wouldn't see see me.
The smell in the air was one I didn't recognize, earthy and sweet at the same time, like honey from a hollow tree. I stood silent and still, breathing in the scent. Then I noticed the bear was watching me! I shook the snow off and turned to run the other way. I was surprised when it turned to chase after me. I didn't think there should be any problem since I could easily outrun the bears I'd encountered before. But this one was immense and it seemed to have determined that I needed chasing!
As soon as I caught a whiff of the scent, stronger behind me I ran in earnest. I sprinted with all I had and the bear was still behind me. I must have put in two or three miles before I realized it was still pacing me. I wheeled on it and stood my ground. I bared my teeth and snarled and I could feel my fur standing on end. I was warning it that I was a dangerous threat and if it didn't back away I'd attack.
I was surprised how close it was. It had closed the distance to about twenty yards and it stood watching me, coming no closer. I continued to growl, snarl and even bark at it, slowly advancing with as much menace as I could project. I tapped into the rage I felt at all the bad things that I'd had to deal with, from losing Sam to my cousin, to not feeling at home anywhere. I felt myself become as fierce as I had ever been, as I faced the threat in front of me.
It watched me, making no moves as I advanced, stiff-legged and angry. I looked for the right opening, then charged in and bit it hard at the base of it's neck. I tasted blood and fur, then jumped back to guard. I wasn't trying to injure it, just drive it away from me.
The bear roared at me, and it rose up on it's hind legs and towered over me! I'd never felt threatened by anything while I was in my wolf form; not even the vampires made me afraid, but I felt the first touch of fear as I looked up at the monstrous size of the bear. It roared again before it dropped back onto all fours, and I felt my tail tuck and I backed slowly away, still snarling and growling, but knowing if I had to fight it I could lose.
It let me back away, and when I was far enough away I turned and ran for my life. I knew I'd never run as fast as I did that day, as panic took me and I put several hours between me and the bear which didn't seem to be pursuing me. When I was finally confident enough to slow down, it was gone. I still kept moving most of the day, trying to put as much distance between me and whatever territory bred bears that big.
When I finally stopped, I was back in the trees which suited me fine. I only had time to hunt a small rabbit before I felt I needed to dig a den to sleep. I woke the next morning and felt like I'd been running all night. I remembered nightmares of being chased and knew from the look of my den I'd thrashed all night long.
When I dug out of the den I noticed immediately there was a huge bald eagle in a tree just a few yards away. It was surprising since it wasn't in a sky-high nest area, but on the lowest branch, like it was watching me. I shook the snow off and woofed at the bird to see if I could startle it. It spread it's wings wide and then settled down again, preening its feathers. I was bigger than the bird so I knew it didn't think of me as food, but I still felt that it was watching me. I headed off into the woods and tried to ignore the bird. It took to the sky, and every now and then I'd see it circling overhead.
In my flight to get away from the bear, I'd lost the village. I might be able to find it again, but I thought it would be better to just keep moving. The grizzly was too close a call, and without a pack I was vulnerable to anything that was so much bigger than I was.
I realized that I was further from the ocean than I wanted to be. I could still catch a scent of it on the air, but I was disturbed because I could also smell the faintest scent of earthy sweetness the bear wore. When I hunted that evening I was more wary than ever, tracking caribou and making sure I was alone on the trail. When I made the kill, I was ravenous and I devoured the animal with the kind of enthusiasm that Leah would have been shocked to imagine just a few months before.
I spent a few minutes licking my fur, trying to clean the blood off. I rubbed my muzzle in the snow, trying to get clean. Even after all this time, I still hated being messy. It was then I saw the fox.
It was silver and I watched it warily as it came into the clearing where I'd taken down the caribou. I couldn't smell it since it was downwind of me, but it watched me with my kill. It was pretty big for a fox, but it was smaller than me, so I didn't worry too much. As I watched, it stopped and sat on the ground, planting it's two black legs in front and curling it's fluffy silver tail around it's paws. With it's ears pricked forward, it watched me. I thought it was waiting for the leftovers so I turned and backed away. I was about to turn and leave when I caught a scent. It was the bear and I felt my fur raising up, as I tried to find the threat. It was enough to set me running again, and I was miles away before I decided it was safe enough to rest. I was starting to wonder if there was something wrong with my sense of smell, since that earthy sweet smell seemed to be drifting to me even though the bear was long gone.
When I dug my den, I was sure I smelled it again, but there was nothing in the area but a snowy owl, high in a nearby tree. Before I fell asleep I heard Jacob's call, very distant, and I gave the all's well signal, hoping he couldn't sense my unease.
I slept fitfully again, dreaming of something watching or chasing me. When I woke up, I dug out and the scent was so strong it raised my hackles immediately. I was on high alert, looking for the enormous grizzly, but there was nothing but the smell. I looked for tracks, but it had snowed heavily overnight and any tracks were covered up, including my own. But still I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't alone. I left the snowy area and realized it was getting harder to walk in the thick powdery snow. I had to leap through the, drifts and I regretted running so far north.
I had just started to move back to the south to get out of the heavier snowfall when I caught sight of him. Not the bear, but another wolf. It was bigger than the one I'd encountered before and I was stunned at his beauty. I stood still and looked at it as it stood in a clearing, looking back at me. It was silver in the sunlight and his stance reminded me a bit of Sam in his wolf form. I stood still as the wolf moved slowly my way. Not only was it bigger than me, but it was bigger than Sam and Jacob! I watched it walk, calm and slow, and I felt no threat from it. I was also surprised that the deep snow wasn't a problem for it.
It came to within a couple feet of me and stood still. It was then that I smelled it, earth and honey. But this time I could smell so much more, and like the previous alpha wolf, I could sense that this wolf was very mature, and the last of it's litter. It was an alpha male without a pack, and it had eaten rabbit and caribou for it's last two meals. And of course it was a very healthy male. I felt all of my senses on alert as we stood almost nose to nose, though his nose was higher than mine. As I watched, his tongue rolled out of his mouth and he gave me what seemed to be a wolf smile. Then he licked me with his long wet tongue, laying his scent wetly across my nose and dashing backward playfully in the snow. And I chased.
It was instinctual to chase that which might get away. But there was something more to this game as I took off after him, barking and nipping until he changed directions suddenly and came after me. I could run fast, but he was bigger and could cover more ground with his longer strides. I discovered if I ran straight he'd quickly catch me, so I changed directions often, and was able to sprint circles around him. I don't know how long we played, but the snow was packed down and we were both panting when he stopped and laid down and continued to watch me. I sat, enjoying the way the cold air cooled my hot lungs. We watched each other and then he stood and walked over to me. He came along and brushed against my side and licked my muzzle. I remembered that to be a wolf kiss and suddenly all my alarm bells went off.
I didn't think it was time for my cycle again, but I wasn't taking any chances. I threw him down physically in the snow and fled into the trees with what was left of my energy. I heard him bark and give chase, but I was able to vary my path like a canine agility test; weaving in and out of trees, leaping from boulders, and tearing through underbrush. When I finally thought I'd lost him I was exhausted. I changed back to Leah and spent an hour walking and trying to find a good place to hide.
The best I could do was a rock outcropping that made a good den when I dug out the snow. I hid inside and spent time shoring up my hiding place, knowing there would be no fire tonight until I knew it was safe again. With nothing but a small hole for air I was able to rest. It wasn't yet night but I was exhausted and fell asleep immediately.