Disclaimer: Twilight doesn't belong to me, which is why I'm not making any money from this.
A/N: Takes place during New Moon.
"You have two more minutes and then I'm coming up there!" Sue glanced at the clock again and decided her message needed more urgency. "And you don't want me to come up there!"
"They'll be down soon enough," Harry said from the table, where he was sipping his coffee, newspaper laid out around him. The black and white print was spread so far it looked like a tablecloth, but Harry was careful not to put his cup down on it. He hated when he ruined the words.
His wife disagreed with his optimistic belief that their children would ever appear, pointing to the clock again with a fierce urgency. "You have to leave in five minutes or you're not going to make it."
"We won't be late."
"You'll be late, Harry." Sue gave him the tiniest of smiles. "You're always late."
"A wise man once said, 'Nothing is too late, 'til the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.'"
"It's too early," Leah complained as she raced through the kitchen. At least, Harry thought it was his daughter. The blur could have been anything, it was moving so fast. But he called after the blur, just in case it was still listening, "Longfellow. And it's never too early."
"Yes, it is," Sue said, siding with her daughter. She had been doing that a lot lately. Harry deserved it. She called after Leah, "Your uniform's on the dryer."
Then with a sigh, she turned to Harry. "And what does that even mean? Besides that you're going to be late again?"
"Billy won't mind," was all her husband said.
"He should," she snapped, though Sue knew better than to think Harry and Billy would ever change. "Harry, you won't have time to pick up Billy and drop off the Leah and make the meeting if you don't leave now."
"So we'll be late," he said, standing up. Sue looked exhausted from the night shift she had worked the night before, but Harry knew she wouldn't go to bed until her family was safely on its way. Nor would she turn down the extra hours she had been offered that afternoon. So he kissed her cheek and just laughed at her small sigh of exasperation, before enjoying how she put her head on his shoulder and let herself enjoy the peace, if only for a moment.
"Ijusthavetograbmyshoes andhasanyoneseenmybaseballcap andmybackpack andLeahdidyoustealmyvideogame wait it'sinmyroomjusthangon!"
Sue and Harry looked at each other and then at the doorway where Seth had stood a moment before. Thundering could be heard from the steps as the boy ran around doing whatever it was that Seth did.
"That boy is going to hurt himself one day," Sue sighed. "Did you check his fever this morning? It's still there."
"He seems fine, Sue."
"He's burning up, Harry. Maybe he shouldn't go with you—maybe I should take him to the hospital. Someone there must know something."
"What's there to know?"
No one in Forks would be able to understand what was happening to his son.
"His skin feels like it's on fire. That's not safe, Harry."
"The council will know what to do."
"Bah," she snarled. "You and your council. Always acting as if you know better than modern medicine."
"Don't 'Sue' me, Harry, like your puppy dog eyes ever work. If Seth isn't feeling well, I want him to go to the hospital."
"If he so much as complains he's tired, I'll rush him straight there," Harry said.
Sue crossed her arms and scowled, a look that had destroyed many a braver man than Harry Clearwater. But this time he wasn't facing Sue's disapproval for his own sake. It was for the sake of the tribe, and so Harry held firm.
"You better," was all she muttered, when she saw she wasn't going to get her way this time.
To try and cheer her up, he began, "A wise man once said—"
"I'm in the car!" Leah shouted. She was standing by the back door, looking at her father pointedly before shutting it behind her.
"I take it that's my cue," Harry sighed. "Seth!"
Seth stood back in the doorway, smiling cheerfully. His backpack was on his shoulder, his cap was on his head, and he was clutching the game to his chest.
"We ready to go?"
"That's my boy," Harry announced. "How are you feeling?"
"Great," Seth chirped. From any other child, it would have sounded forced, it was so cheerful; it should be unnatural for a fourteen year old boy to be that happy before noon. But this was Seth and even Sue looked convinced.
With that, Harry kissed his wife goodbye and headed out the door. They weren't going to be late, not by much anyway. He'd get Leah to work by nine and maybe even make the council meeting on time. Probably not. Oh well. Allowances would be made. Seth was on the cusp of his destiny; of course, Harry would be a little distracted.
Harry was glad Seth had agreed to come today, even gladder that he hadn't bothered to ask why. Harry was a terrible liar and never would have been able to think of a plausible reason. Would be able to lie to his own son about what was going to happen? Harry wasn't sure.
Resolved not to think about his son's problems until the meeting where they would be inescapable, Harry tried to concentrate on driving despite Leah's questionable taste in music.
Said daughter was currently in the seat beside him, twirling her hair around her finger and jabbing the radio when it suited her. Her freshly ironed uniform was getting wrinkled as she slouched in the seat, but she looked so comfortable Harry didn't have the heart to tell her to sit up.
A glance in the rearview mirror showed Seth was yawning as he stared out the window expectantly. His son really was an unique boy. Spring break and up before nine, and not only up but eager to face the world. Such a bright boy.
"Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own: He who, secure within, can say—Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have Lived today."
Two groans echoed through the car and Harry laughed quietly.
"Please," Seth begged. "It's early."
"Dryden," Harry supplied. "Be fair or foul, or rain or shine the joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine. Not Heaven itself, upon the past has power, but what has been, has been, and I have had my hour."
"I will start screaming, Dad," Leah threatened, knowing Harry couldn't stop once he got started. "I swear."
Seth leaned forward, tired of this old conversation. "Hey, Leah, could you bring home some more of that chocolate cake? It was really good."
"I'll try, kid."
"Are you allowed to be taking it?" Harry asked.
"They're just going to throw it out. Plus, I won't let them see. Stupid—anyway. I am going to be so glad when I can quit."
Inside, Harry died a little bit. She shouldn't have had to do this—this was far from the plan. Leah was supposed to graduate last year, with marks high enough to secure her a scholarship just large enough to help them scrape by. When no scholarship had been forthcoming, for reasons Harry hated thinking about, Leah had been forced to stay in La Push. She wasn't supposed to have to work so hard for an uncertain future. Still, she and Sue seemed convince that this year it would happen. In the fall, the marks she had earned going to school part time this year coupled with the extra cash she had made would be enough to allow Leah to spread her wings.
It was going to be a beautiful sight.
Seth was humming in the backseat as they drove down the street, passing through the familiar streets. Harry should have let Leah drive. It would have been good practice for her. She was too used to having people pick her up. Or maybe he should have let Seth try. The boy had expressed an interest in learning and it wasn't in Harry's nature to deny anyone who wanted more.
"Hey," Leah muttered sitting up in her seat, staring out the window. "Was that Jared?"
Seth twisted around in the back seat and confirmed: "Yup."
"Since when is he dating freaky quiet stalker chick?"
The two men in the car stared blankly back at her so she felt the urge to clarify. "The girl he was kissing back there? Kim? Sort of plain, real quiet, nice in a boring sort of way? Stares at him all the time? No?"
With a sigh, she twisted herself around in the seat, so she was facing Seth. "Think, Seth. You must have heard something somewhere, with all that lurking you do. Is Jared dating Kim?"
Seth thought about it for a long while. "Uh...I think so? I heard he had a girlfriend. I think...it might have been her."
"Well it is her now." Leah spun back around and crossed her arms. "Is there something in the water that makes every guy in this stupid town like lame girls?"
"Leah..." Harry said quietly.
She was staring out the window and he pretended not to notice when she brushed the tears out of her eyes. "She's actually pretty okay."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Yeah. Why would he tell me anyway? No one tells me anything around here anymore."
That wasn't fair, Harry wanted to say. It was tradition—and it was to keep them safe. Nothing to Sue, nothing to Leah, nothing even to Seth until the fever took him. His family was to have no explanation for why their close companions had suddenly gone through growth spurts like few had ever seen and started following Sam Uley around.
Harry had always liked Sam. The boy was going to grow up all right despite his father and Harry had been grateful for that, because Joshua hadn't always been as terrible as he had become. Married too young, Harry often thought. Sue might have been younger, but Sue was Sue and there weren't a lot of women on the planet who could match her. When she knew what she wanted she went out and got it. Far be it for Harry to stop her. He was just grateful she had chosen him.
Even if she was currently furious that he seemed as enamored with Sam as the rest of the council. Sue believed in loyalty; Harry did too, for that matter. Yet he had sworn he would not explain and so he hadn't, though his wife was a tiny bit furious that he wasn't more outraged at the man who had broken his daughter's heart.
Which wasn't fair, because Harry was furious with him. More angry than Harry ever thought he would be. Sometimes when he looked at Sam he had the uncharacteristic urge to hit the younger man, though it probably would have broken his own frail bones. But Sam was going to be chief and Harry had to respect him...at least, until Jacob Black grew up.
Billy and he had discussed it, quietly of course, but discussed it nonetheless. They had expected the transfer of power the instant Jacob first transformed, but it hadn't occurred. The boy hadn't seized control. Harry's grandfather had made it sound inevitable, but clearly Harry was missing something because the boy had only supplanted Jared, not Sam. Strange. Unfortunate, too.
Not that it would have helped with Leah's heartache. Just Harry's guilt.
Billy was sitting on the porch when Harry pulled up in the driveway, Seth already out of the car before Harry stopped. He caught Leah's eye, and father and daughter laughed quietly.
"He's going to start making I-heart-Jacob buttons soon," Leah warned.
Seth was already asking Billy where Jacob was as Harry got out of the car. The other old man explained, "He already left for the day. I think he was going to the woods, to meet..." Billy glanced at Leah.
"Sam," she supplied, slamming the car door.
Harry winced, unsure his baby could handle the damage. When nothing fell off, he heaved out a sigh of relief.
Leah was handling Jacob's seeming defection much better than she had handled Jared's. And Paul's. And Embry's. It hurt, more than she would admit, that the same boys who had months before told her she was a fool for waiting for Sam—who left her and scared her and wouldn't tell anybody what had happened and you shouldn't stand for that sort of crap, Leah—were now happily doing the older boy's bidding while being unable to look her in the eye. But she had stopped letting it hurt her quite so badly. She even managed to smile at Billy when she said, "Could I just run in and check if left my sweater here last time I was over? I can't find it anywhere and the last time I remember having it, we came over for dinner."
How would she handle Seth's defection? Harry didn't want to know. He couldn't bear to think of his children divided.
"Sure," Billy muttered at Leah's retreating back as Seth recovered from the disappointment at not being able to see his hero. The two Clearwater men helped settle Billy into their car, folding up his chair and putting it in the trunk. It wasn't the best way for Billy to travel, but it was inexpensive and it worked. They were only travelling short distances, after all.
Harry tried not to notice how Seth was doing all the heavy lifting. Fever and an increase in muscle mass—it wouldn't be long.
Seth slipped into the back seat as Leah came rushing out of the house, locking up with the keys Billy had left in the door, the long lost sweater on her arm.
"How is Jacob?" Harry asked as they waited for Leah to sit down.
The two men held eye contact a long while. "Better," Billy decided to say. "Well controlled most of the time but..."
"Why is your house so clean?" Leah asked as she slipped in. "Not that—" she winced. "Sorry."
Billy chuckled. "Bella comes over a lot. She tends to clean after herself when she cooks."
"How is Bella?" Harry asked.
They couldn't tell Charlie—if Harry couldn't tell Sue, he wasn't about to tell Charlie, old friend or not—but Billy and Harry had a responsibility to their friend to look out for his daughter as best she could. That's why Billy sighed.
"She's doing better. Starting to forget. Jacob's helping her a lot."
There was sadness in Billy's eyes that Harry couldn't help but notice. It was hard for Billy to watch his only son fall so hard and fast for someone who wasn't even sure they wanted to live anymore. Better, Billy had said. Better was nowhere near healed.
A strange sort of pride ran through Harry. Leah may have become screaming banshee to hide her hurt, but she had not let herself fall apart. She had held. Doors still might get slammed at the mention of Sam, but she no longer cried herself to sleep. And she hadn't needed a boy to do that.
"Jacob's spending a lot of time with her then?" Leah asked, smirk in place.
"As much as he can." Billy sighed. "All his free time."
"It's a shame," Harry couldn't help but mutter. So much pain that could have been avoided if only the human heart fell in love with things that were good for it.
Leah snorted. "The two of you are so weird. It's not the end of the world that Ephraim Black's great-grandson is in love with a white girl. It is the twenty-first century, you know."
Harry couldn't help flashing to the white skin of the Cold Ones, gleaming like ivory even in the half-darkness, the night they had come to reaffirm the treaty. White was one way of putting their problem with Bella Swan's friends, the friends she even now wanted desperately to rejoin. Such a shame that they had gotten their hands on her when they did. Teenagers were so easy to sway and impossible to deter.
Neither Billy or Harry bothered to enlighten Leah to their real problem with Bella. But all eyes turned to Seth when he casually told his sister: "They're worried because she doesn't like him back."
"Did Jacob tell you that?" Billy asked.
Seth shrugged, uncomfortable at the attention. "No. But he wasn't...he wasn't happy the last time we talked and he would have been happy if she did."
It was unbecoming to gloat about your children, but Harry felt the surge of pride anyway. Seth was going to be a great beta someday. At fourteen, the age of self-absorption and conceit, he was aware and sympathetic to the feelings of others. How had Harry gotten so lucky?
Billy still looked upset, so Harry offered, "He's only sixteen. He'll grow out of it."
"Just because he's young doesn't mean he doesn't know what he wants," Leah said. Her face turned to look out the window, softening as she gazed wistfully at nothing at all, remembering how close she had come to achieving the dreams of her sixteen year old self. With a start, she shook her head. "Jacob's sixteen now?"
"Duh, Leah. He's always been two years older than me."
"Yeah," she muttered. And then quietly, so Harry wasn't supposed to hear, she whispered to her reflection in the window, "What am I still doing here?"
Harry was glad that he reached the cafe just then. There wasn't really an answer he could offer his caged daughter. No answer but to call after her as she got out of the car:
"Remember, 'take hope from the heart of man and you make him a beast of prey!'"
"Don't be weird, Dad," Leah shouted behind her. "And you're going to be late."
Harry rolled the window back up and turned to Seth. "Are you ready, son?"
Seth nodded eagerly, having no idea what was in store for him. What would the boy look like with claws?
Inside his chest, Harry felt his heart sink.