Keep Hoping

with my hands open,
and my eyes open
I just keep hoping
That your heart opens

why would I sabotage
the best thing that I have
well, it makes it easier to know
exactly what I want

The air surrounding us shuddered with each of the sobs sending her body into tremors.

It was an utterly shocking sight; Leah Clearwater crying, fragile, broken and bruised in my arms. Not even a trace of the mask she usually put on. This Leah was soft and helpless.

Maybe hell froze over. Maybe I was dreaming. This just couldn't be real.

The stench of alcohol stung in my nose. Leah's fingers dug into my shirt. I felt more helpless than ever.

It was as if my mind was blank; I couldn't move, I couldn't think, I couldn't make sense of the scene playing before my eyes. It was almost surreal, the way I cradled her to my chest, and all I could do was hold her tighter.

"Shush," I heard myself try to soothe her. She didn't seem to hear me. "Leah, what happened?" Again, no answer. I sighed deeply and brushed the sticky dark hair out of her tear-soaked face. Her eyes were shut tightly, her brow wrinkled in pain and I felt nothing but sympathy. And confusion. And concern. Okay, maybe I felt many things…

"It's okay, it's alright," I chanted, laying my chin on top of her head. "It's alright."

The door was still wide open and I saw her fall against me again and again and again, like a movie stuck on repeat. I kicked it closed with one foot and pondered what to do with the girl in my embrace. We couldn't stay here like this all night.

I was feeling weird, awkward as I carefully lifted her limp body into my arms but I found it to be irrelevant, Leah needed me now. Slowly, I carried her to her bedroom and laid her down on the mattress and for the first time it struck me that she was just in her underwear. Holy shit.

My first instinct was to look away and leave the room but I knew I couldn't leave her alone in here. I kept my gaze focused on her face as I tucked her in, my eyebrows pulling together as I registered how awful she looked. Not awful in the hideous kind of way, awful as in… as in hurt, alone, heartbroken and in pain.

Her breathing had slowed and her sobs had faded but sleep didn't seem to have brought her peace. I saw her broken in the woods, broken next to the street, broken somewhere in the mud. I had to fight hard to keep my hands from trembling.

She came home. She is safe here. She came home.

I yawned, realizing it was just about time for me to hit the sack. But Leah… – Leah will give you hell if you're still in her bedroom by tomorrow.

I straightened, stiff as a board, and was halfway through the door when I heard her whimper. I froze. She wouldn't want you to witness this. The thought didn't sound right in my ears and I turned around to face the helpless hurting girl under thin white sheets.

"Leah." She didn't respond, of course she didn't. She was caught inside her nightmare, the one that had brought her dangerously close to an edge she could so easily fall off.

I had never liked her, never seen her as a friend, never given much about her feelings. But she was in the same boat with me, sinking, steadily. Drowning. I was on the way to the surface but Leah just kept on sinking into the depths of the sea. I couldn't leave her like this or I would never forgive myself. There was far more to her than what she showed; I was sure no one really ever took the time to get to know the real her, not after what happened with Sam.

Again, she was like me in that way. She had changed since her heart had been broken. Broken hearts change people, it isn't natural to stay exactly the same. So Sam didn't know her either. Bella didn't know me.

Leah didn't as much as stir as I climbed in into the bed next to her. I kept on my side, never touching her, just watching and making sure she was safe. Again, a really weird thought to have. I didn't care.

Her chest was raising and falling, raising and falling, making unexpected relief lessen the tension in my muscles. She looked almost dead, unmoving in her sleep. I briefly wondered what had happened, then remembered the scent of alcohol in her breath. Whatever had happened with Sam, whatever he had done to her, it was poison to her soul and sanity.

I growled very low in my throat.

She couldn't've simply been drunk. This was more like an emotional breakdown. I shuddered silently and caught myself wishing she would wake up and let me help her. It was ripping on my insides, the feeling. It had hopelessness, anxiety and fear blurring together. It made me wonder why I was so shaken up. It made me wonder about a lot of things.

I scowled at my thoughts, being irritated with myself had obviously become a bad habit of mine. It wasn't the time to worry about me; compared to Leah I was more than fine.

My eyes wouldn't leave her face. It was as if it resembled all the hurt in the world. It made me aware of what could have happened, with Bella, with me, with her, with Sam, with Emily. It was sad; there really wasn't a happy ending for everyone.

I had originally planned on convincing Leah to face her fear and tell the Pack about her whereabouts. I had planned on leaving California. It was out of the question now. Leaving La Push had been a knee-jerk reaction, something to prevent her from breaking down in front of Sam and the Pack, I didn't want to know what would have happened if she hadn't run.

There just had to be a way.

I thought, thought hard, found nothing. Something was keeping Leah from forgetting Sam. But what would that be?

Perhaps she didn't – oh, that was ridiculous. Of course she would… wouldn't she? I turned over to lie on my back, as if that would help me concentrating. Needless to say it didn't.

Sometime into the night I fell asleep. It was restless, dreamless and did nothing but pass the time. Not to mention it didn't last long.

Salt, pine and rain threatened to suffocate me as I floated in the clear water somewhere in limbo, between sleep and wake. The water was warm and soothed my tense posture. Salt, pine and rain swirled around me until I was forced to open my eyes because they hung so low over my face I couldn't breathe.

I cringed backwards when I came face to face with Leah Clearwater. Closed-eyed, open-mouthed, messy-haired. My mind ran a thousand miles as I struggled to remember how I had ended up here, with her.

Salt, pine and rain emanated from her russet flesh and coal black hair, the scent was wrong, it didn't fit with her face, it was different than I remembered it to be. A shudder rippled through me with the wrongness of it all.

I eyed the streaks of dried tears on her cheeks – of course, the salt, the tears. Last night flashed before my eyes but I forced the images away. I couldn't and I didn't want to. I scooted away from her, secretly glad she was okay for now, that she was better for now.

I closed my eyes for a moment and lay still next to her, hoping I'd somehow find my way back to sleep.

No such luck.

"What the fucking hell?" I heard her rasp next to me, a little too quiet for my liking. My eyes popped open again, this time to the sight of a wide-eyed, slack-mouthed Leah. I almost smirked, almost. I was far too emotionally exhausted to do so.

I grunted in response and she groaned, averting her gaze for a moment. Her hand ran through her hair, only messing it up further.

"God, what happened?" I stayed silent, not wanting to be the one to drop the bomb. She had to find out on her own. Instead, I toyed with the sheets sprawled under the weight of me, unconsciously waiting for the shocked gasp that was due in a couple seconds.

"The beer," she whispered. I frowned. Werewolves couldn't get drunk easily, believe me, we had tried. It required at least eight bottles to feel tipsy. Sucks, I tell you. But maybe she hadn't been drunk at all. Just tipsy. Maybe it had been something else entirely… The words emotional and breakdown rung in my ears. The beer had probably only broken the barrier.

"Leah," I said. Her eyes moved to meet mine, open, honest, unshielded. "Tell me what happened." My voice was grave and soft as cotton.

She drank in a shaky breath. "Why now?" Why not yesterday? Nothing more than a whisper.

"Because last night I opened the door to find you, tear soaked and in nothing but your underwear in a state I'd have to describe as catatonic. That's why."

Leah did a double take, left hand covering half of her face. It oddly reminded me of Emily. "Oh shit." Not so Emily-like anymore. She shut her eyes and sighed.

"What are you doing in my bed?" Strangely, the question aggravated me although I had expected her to ask. I sat up and shook my head, hurt and anger pulsing through me. They were directed at no one.

"Guess who carried you to bed last night, guess who made sure you didn't choke to death on your own tears. Just fucking guess," I spat and lifted my weight off the mattress.

"Oh, cry me a river." I stiffened, slowly turned my head to see her wear that scowl, with that look in her eyes. I was totally unimpressed.

I left the room with a "You don't fool me anymore" on my lips.

The couch let out a squeak as I plopped down onto it, my expression a mixture of everything and anything. I just wished Leah would finally drop the act. I knew it wasn't the real Leah. It hurt nonetheless. Man up, Jacob. I growled at myself, very much on edge.

I needed someone to talk to, I realized. But I didn't have such a someone, not anymore. My foot hit the coffee table, breaking the wood. A run was the only thing that could ease my tension, if only a little. Who cares what Leah thinks about it, I'll simply phase out if I feel someone else phase. She'll never know.

I was outside in a flash, my heart beating violently in my chest, in anticipation. My arms vibrated as I walked between the trees, away from the road and away from curious eyes. My clothes landed on the ground quicker than I thought possible and I groaned as the blazing heat rippled down my spine. It initiated the phase and I felt more in control than I had in a long, long time as my body grew, bones broke and grew together again, joints popped into place. The pain of it was sweet and had me wanting more.

By the time I touched the mossy ground I was on four legs, in the body of a ripped, fur-covered predator. I listened inside my mind and found it empty of foreign thoughts. For about a second I wondered why the Pack wasn't ever phased but quickly dismissed the thought. This was me-time; I didn't want to worry about others.

I ran through the woods, enjoying the sensation of my fur being rumpled up by the wind and the sharpened senses that came along with being a wolf. My dark lashes half-covered my eyes, protecting them from sand and salt and dirt while my paws pounded against the earth, flying over the ground with delicious speed.

I smiled at the freedom I was feeling, my white teeth showing. Ends of thoughts crossed my mind and disappeared into nowhere, too fast to register in my brain.

I ran in wide circles, along the coast of the Pacific, over hills and through little valleys.

I was in mid-sprint when a familiar tingling moved the air, making it impossible for me to stop and phase back.

My mind extended and engulfed another's, a force I could do nothing against. I tried to keep my thoughts low, to think quietly and unobtrusively in order not to bring attention to myself.

When Jared's thoughts joined mine I knew it was a lost game. He was too alert not to notice me.

Jacob, his voice filled my head.

Jared. I did my best to ignore his presence but he was having none of it, surprise and curiosity reached me.

We were almost sure you had quit phasing or – He stopped before he could think it but I knew what he meant. Or died.

Yeah, well, where the hell are you? You ran away again?

I snorted and kept my gaze straight ahead. No, genius. I'm visiting my godfather.

Jared sighed inside my head. Sorry, man. We're missing you, why did you run this time? Oh god I need to tell the others you're alive. Emily almost had a heart attack, first Leah, then you… Kim'll be happy too. I wonder if I should get her flowers for our next date –

I tuned his babbling thoughts out, thankful it was just Jared and not Sam or Paul.

Nah, she doesn't like daffodils. Maybe tulips? Or should I get her roses? I heard that they are –

All this imprint babbling was getting on my nerves, though. As soon as I saw the little town at the horizon I slowed down and phased back, running the rest of the way in human form.

I felt lighter as I stepped through the bushes and headed for the house. I buttoned up my shorts and slipped the tee over my head, walking up the porch-steps and through the unlocked front door.

I abruptly stopped in my tracks as I saw Leah's frame cowering on the anthracite-colored couch, leaning against the armrest. She looked up at me, the corner of her mouth slightly pulled down but her gaze un-hooded.

"Finally," she mumbled before pulling herself up in a sitting position. "Shall we?"

I must've looked as puzzled as I felt because she did a very dramatic eye roll and got up to her feet, moving into the kitchen. I watched her for a second before I decided to follow, she had on a light, white dress showing the sore skin of her knees that had yet to completely heal. My eyes darkened. Yesterday I hadn't noticed any injuries but that didn't mean they hadn't been there.

Leah sat down on the kitchen counter, crossing her legs and staring at the kitchen floor. I leaned against the table, waiting for her to… do whatever she was planning to do.

"I'm, uh…" She looked me in the eye and sighed. "Listen, I feel like I'm obligated to tell you," she said.

I raised both eyebrows. "Okay?"

"I have no idea why I am doing this, really." Leah shook her head. "But – whatever. That night, you know, that night"– I tried not to chuckle at her nervousness –"I was going to Sam's. He said he wanted to talk to me, used the fucking Alpha Command when I refused.

"I told him to fuck off, because really, why can't he just leave me in peace?" Leah met my gaze, seeking for reassurance.

I was a little stunned she was actually telling me this. A little, pfft. Make that majorly stunned.

"Anyways, I went to Sam's, ready to tell him where to shove it. He was … nervous, I guess, fidgeting and beating around the bush. I was about to walk out on him when he told me to"– She swallowed in… anger? –"'stop it and let go'. Accused me of putting on a bitchy act to guilt-trip him into taking me back. Said it wasn't fair to Emily, his precious muffin-baking imprint, and that there was no hope left for us.

"Yeah, why not stab me and twist the knife?" Leah spat.

"Leah… you don't have to do this."

"No! Let me… let me get this out." Her hands had found her face, hiding it from me. Her usually strong voice was soft when she continued.

"Emily… she must've been upstairs the whole time, listening in or something. Walked in on me bitch-slapping her fiancé. Hard. I don't know what she said, I didn't actually hear anything at that moment, she… it was as if there was a fucking spotlight on her. It's hard to describe. It could've simply been the way she held herself, but I knew instantly."

She knew instantly? What – oh holy fuck. Emily, was she? Leah's expression as her palms revealed her face didn't leave any doubt in my mind.

Emily was pregnant. With Sam's child. A life Leah had wanted to lead herself.

Something stung inside my chest, a light twinge, as I realized how alike our situations were – Bella pregnant, Emily pregnant – only that hers was so much worse. I didn't feel pity. Leah despised pity and so did I. But the need to pull her into my arms and comfort her was getting out of hand, especially since I knew she wouldn't approve. Hell, even I didn't know where the idea came from. Last night had switched something inside my brain.

But when I heard her small whisper of "It was too much for me to handle" I couldn't restrain myself any longer. I crossed the distance between us and wrapped my arms around her, intent on not letting a replay of yesterday happen again because Sam dickhead Uley was so fucked up I was even ashamed of being in his pack.

Leah tensed up in my embrace. But instead of the expected rush of insults and profanities she let me hold her. She did not push away although she continued being as rigid as a stone statue, what she did was bury her nose in my neck. Lips brushed my collarbone.

"Thank you," she said under her breath. "For last night."

I shivered and fought the urge to look around for a candid camera. What had gotten into her?

Hot, enchanted lips traveling over my skin, nibbling – Oh no not that night. I had planned on denying it had happened. Get a fucking grip, Jacob Black.

Because of the state of shock I was in Leah managed to slip out of my hold and off the counter, muttering "Don't let it get to your head" before she exited the kitchen. After about two minutes I felt like I could move again. Did Leah touchmeandIwillkillyou Clearwater just thank me for being there for her or was I getting delusional? Somehow option two seemed more likely.

I felt my hands shake as I curled up in front of the TV.

"I know what you're trying to do Lee-Lee. I'm sorry."

I wished I hadn't only slapped the bastard. I should've gone for the kill instantly. He would only go on with hurting me over the years. I should've ended it back then, with no regrets whatsoever.

Fuck, I was lying to myself again. I needed to stop this or it would become unhealthy, boil under the surface and one day break through. I would never be able to erase him from my life and memories, never be able to live with being the one who ended his life. I wasn't cruel, just heartbroken. I should've known drinking would only worsen the situation I was in.

I huffed angrily and forced Sam Uley and Emily Uley-In-The-Making Young from my mind, ignoring the pain that set my heart on fire.

I despised Sundays. I despised them because there was nothing to do to get my mind off things. All I could do was loiter in the living room and become a permanent addition to the couch cushions. There was absolutely nothing to pass time with in teensy-weensy Westport, California. Why was this backwater town called Westport? No one here even has a fucking boat.

I leaned back against the couch and wondered idly why I hadn't gone to New York or something. San Francisco. Mingling with people, going underground, somewhere nobody could ever find me.

Oh, right. Because I was all wolfy and couldn't just phase in a city park.

I heard feet scurrying in my kitchen, reminding me of Jacob's hilariously dumbfounded face when I'd expressed my gratitude for his actions last night. Something I'd guilt-tripped myself into. I didn't necessarily feel good about being a bitch, even though it may seem that way. I remembered the minutes after our little "argument" this morning and found that the guilty and thankful feelings only had lessened slightly – which was pissing me off.

I had fucking told him everything, thanked him for taking care of my wasted self and those feelings were still fucking there? Seriously? What had he done to deserve my undying gratefulness? Yeah, he had been nice to me and stayed with me and everything but I'd thanked him for it. I hardly thanked anyone. I had even told him what he wanted to know. We should be even. We apparently weren't.

"Damn it, why is everything always so complicated?" I shook my head in confusion. If it wasn't gratitude, what was that feeling?

My eyes widened with the realization. Oh Jesus not fucking again. Easy, it'll probably pass. Just don't act on it and it'll be fine, I tried to reassure myself but panic was already spreading in my chest. When had I started caring for him?

And why again did every decision bite me in the ass?

with my hands open
and my eyes open
I just keep hoping
that your heart opens

it's not as easy as willing it all to be right
gotta be more than hoping it's right
I wanna hear you laugh like you really mean it
collapse into me, tired with joy

Snow Patrol – Hands Open