Twilight Canon Fodder Challenge
Title: Quiet Earthquake
Your pen name justaskalice
Contest Category (Rookie/Vet): Rookie
Canon Type (Book/Movie): Book
Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight.
Summary: Missing Moment. Leah attends her father's funeral, still struggling to cope with the changes that have turned her life upside down.
To see other entries in the Canon Fodder Challenge, please visit the C2 page:
The rough black fabric scratched her arms, and she adjusted her sleeves for the umpteenth time since putting it on. She wasn't comfortable in the dress: it was an old hand-me-down that she hadn't worn in at least a year and a half. Still, it would do for the occasion. It wasn't like she'd ever wear the thing again.
There was a knock on the door, and her ears picked up the way her brother's weight shifted awkwardly as he waited just outside the bathroom. The floorboards shifted slightly, and the worn shag carpeting crunched a little under his feet. She never would have noticed those details before. No, it wasn't that she wouldn't have noticed—it was that their existence would have escaped her completely. She tamped down on that train of thought before it could get too far.
"Leah?" Seth's voice cracked a little, reminding her again that he was just a kid. He wasn't really even old enough to be going through puberty. And this was so much worse than puberty.
"What?" She kept her voice flat as she applied an unnecessary layer of mascara to her long eyelashes.
"Mom needs us to leave in five minutes," he said quietly, taking on the same flat tone she was using. Her chest seemed to tighten a little, and she swallowed hard. She knew what her distance was costing him, but it was the only way she was going to get through the day without more disasters.
She listened as he waited a few more seconds, perhaps expecting her to open the door and follow him through their tiny house to where their mother waited in the front room. Then he turned slowly and padded away.
Leah applied another layer of mascara.
Four minutes later, she walked out in her itchy black dress and worn black heels. Her hair hung loose down her back, and she twirled it absently as she watched Seth scratch at his newly-shorn head. She would need to get a haircut soon, too.
As if he could sense her presence, Seth looked up at her. His face already looked a little thinner, the puppy fat of childhood melting away as his body pushed him toward manhood. His arms and legs still seemed to swallow the rest of his body, but his shoulders had broadened, almost impossibly, over the last week or so. His big dark eyes frowned at her, and she tried to block out the memories of what it felt like to be connected to him, and not only him, but a host of other boys, all of them in an uproar because there had to be some mistake.
Her hands started to shake.
"Leah," he whispered warningly. His eyes darted from her hands to her face to their mother, who was tottering unsteadily from her bedroom. "Don't."
"Are you kids ready to go?" Sue Clearwater's voice was scratchy, and her puffy, red eyes brimmed with unshed tears. "We have to be there early to speak to the funeral director."
"Yeah, Mom." Seth answered for both of them. "We're ready. Let's go."
She tried to smile at him, to let him know in some small way that she was grateful he was able to speak to their mother without losing it and ruining everything, but it came out as more of a wounded sort of grimace. He must have understood, though, because the frown lines around his mouth lifted a little bit, and for a second he looked like her goofy, pain-in-the-ass brother again.
Then their mother started to cry quietly, and he got up to comfort her. The three of them walked to the church in silence. Seth and his mother took the lead, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, seeming to hold her up as they made their way up the road. Leah lingered a full five feet behind them, forcing herself to breath slowly and steadily.
The breathing thing was sucking up most of her attention, but there was a tiny corner of her brain that was always thinking about it. She couldn't turn it off, no matter how much she focused on the stupid meditation exercises Sam had told her to use. It was like there was a very small, very insistent slide show constantly playing freeze frames of the last month, punctuated with tiny, theatrical flashes of light, just to make sure she noticed the show.
Seth came home from school one day with a fever so bad that he sweat through two sets of sheets in a night.
The same fever laid her low only a week later. She cursed Seth out for getting her sick when she started feeling woozy at dinner. The look he gave her was half terror, half complete confusion.
A shredded pair of flannel pajama pants and her favorite, stolen t-shirt in the backyard. Running in terror through the woods on four legs.
Standing in a clearing, surrounded by the biggest wolves she'd ever seen. Her new... brothers.
Curling in a naked ball in the same clearing, teeth chattering, as someone draped a blanket over her bare back.
Her father, flanked by two other tribe elders, staring at her in horror as she phased in front of him, right next to Seth.
Her hands were shaking again.
They had reached the church, a big, rambling building that looked more like a warehouse or a surplus store than a church. Leah secretly thought it was a bit of a joke to hold the funeral here, since the family had never been regular members, but it was the only place in town big enough to house most of the people on the reservation. It was going to be a full house.
Quil and Embry were already staked out in front of the church, their dirt bikes nowhere in sight. They had probably run here. Seth led their mother inside, but Leah walked over to the two younger boys, scowling fiercely. They were here too early; that meant pack business. Even her father's funeral wasn't more important, or at least that's what Sam would probably say.
"Hey, Leah," Embry said, quaking a little under her glare. Quil glanced down, noticing the way her fists were clenched and vibrating slightly, before rolling his eyes.
"You'll have to get that under control," he said, a little arrogantly. "It might freak people out if the dead man's daughter turns into a furry freak-show during the service."
The tremors started working their way up her arms, and she took a deep, calming breath. It didn't really help, but she pretended like it did.
"I'm not the only freak-show here," she retorted.
"Yeah, well you're the only one I see," Quil answered, grinning and nudging her a little with his elbow. Without conscious thought, her hand shot out and grabbed onto his arm so hard he yelped.
"Easy, Leah," Embry said, nervously glancing between them. "Calm down."
"I'm so fucking sick of being calm," she spat, releasing Quil with a little shove. He stumbled backwards, rubbing his arm. "What are you doing here so early, anyway? Don't tell me Jake's freaky little leach-loving girlfriend jumped off another cliff."
"No, she didn't." Quil and Embry weren't looking at each other.
"What did she do?" she said, reverting to the same flat tone from the morning. "Come on, don't pretend this isn't about her. Or did Jake do something even more boneheaded than usual?"
"It's not a big deal," Embry finally said. "We're really just here to tell you Sam has to be on patrol this afternoon. That bloodsucker we've been tracking has been circling back closer to the Rez again, and he doesn't want to risk anything with most of the town at the funeral. He and Paul won't be able to make it. Sam wanted you to know why."
"How kind of him," she snarled. Despite her tone, suddenly all her rage was gone. It was filled with a familiar emptiness. How typical. Sam was always a wolf first and a person second. She wasn't sure why she expected anything different. "Now I have to get back inside to my mother. She's a little upset. I'm sure you can understand why."
She turned and stormed away before she could get too close a look at the pity in their eyes. At least while she was human she didn't have to hear their sympathy in stereo, all their unconscious guilt and sadness and skepticism and plain annoyance.
There was a visitation scheduled for the two hours before the funeral, and it seemed like the entire reservation and half of Forks was lined up to pay their respects. Leah stood shoulder to shoulder with Seth and shook hands with everyone who passed, occasionally accepting awkward hugs or nodding when someone told her what a sweet man Harry Clearwater was. She almost made it through the visitation without incident. Almost.
Charlie Swan stepped to the front of the line, his arms extended toward Sue and his face scrunched into a weepy grimace. Leah sighed and shifted her weight, fully expecting him to hug her next. Chief Swan had been a regular at the Clearwater house for years, and she hadn't ever thought to hold his daughter's disgusting love life against him. It wasn't his fault. She would allow him to hug her and tell her what a great man her father was.
But as he stood there talking to her mother, Leah smelled a sickly sweet scent wafting from his clothing. It was unmistakable in its origin, and as soon as it hit her nose, her body started to react. Seth tensed next to her.
"Vampire," she hissed, quietly enough so that only Seth would hear.
Vaguely, she remembered being told that one of the Cullens had come back from wherever they had run to, and that they were staying with the Swans. In that moment, though, all she could focus on was the smell.
"Cool out, Leah," Seth warned, just as quietly. He was shaking slightly, and his eyes looked dilated.
Chief Swan had finished talking to their mother and was turning to Leah. His arm was out, ready to shake her hand.
"I can't," she said aloud, turning as quickly as she could and breaking into a run toward the front doors of the church. Murmurs followed her out the doors, down the line of people that still extended out into the dusty parking lot. She made for the trees, ignoring the way her skirt restricted her movements.
Ten feet into the forest, she started tearing off clothing, kicking her shoes loose and fumbling with the side zipper on her dress. She was barely naked when she felt the now-familiar burn rip through her body, stretching her limbs in odd ways, extending her spine and sending her tumbling forward in a furry heap.
I can't. I can't. I can't. Soft, wolfish sobs rumbled in her chest, coming out in a kind of rumbling whimper.
She didn't want to think about it, knowing that Sam and Paul and who knows who else were well within range to hear it, but her mind went there automatically. She replayed her father's heart attack, seeing the way his face whitened and his knees buckled underneath him. She saw beeping life support machinery and bags of clear fluid. She heard the empty condolences of the medical staff and watched Seth's face crumple into little boy sobs. And she heard the endless soundtrack of confused male voices bouncing around inside her head, talking over each other in an effort to figure out how the hell a girl had managed to join their pack. Like she had done it on purpose.
Leah? A voice interrupted, but she shut him out. Leah, come on. Lee-lee. Answer me.
It wasn't an order—the thought didn't have the tenor of authority that an alpha's command held. She ignored him.
Answer me now, Leah. Where are you?
In the woods near town, she thought back, reluctantly answering now that she had been forced to. She pulled her legs into her chest and curled into a comfortable ball in the mulch. Charlie Swan came in covered in eau de leach-lover, and I reacted. I'm fine.
See? She's fine. Let's keep going, Paul chimed in. He was irritated with Leah for interrupting his patrol, and he was frustrated with the thoughts she was projecting into the pack mind.
She's not fine, Sam snapped. He was thinking about the flowers Emily ordered for the funeral and regretting he couldn't be there. One image, a younger Sam nervously shaking Harry's hand before a school dance, stood out among the rest. She's burying her father today. I'm sorry, Leah. I wanted to be there.
Embry told me. She thought through the events before the visitation, letting Sam know that the message had been delivered. Don't worry about it. I get it. Pack, Tribe, Emily.
That's not fair, Sam started angrily, but before he could continue a new voice broke in.
She's gone, she's gone, oh God, she's gone. She got in the car and now she's gone and who knows if she'll ever come back.
Flashes of Jacob's brown-haired, brown-eyed Bella filtered through, the images coming in rapid succession and blocking everything else out. Paul and Sam started talking over each other, but Leah had seen enough. She didn't care about Bella, and she didn't want to sit and argue with Sam from miles away. So while Jacob mentally hyperventilated, she phased back into human form.
For a few minutes she just lay there, naked and shivering in the cool March air. She forced herself to stay still, relishing being completely alone. She would have to go back inside in a moment, and she knew it. There was no way to get away from the sympathetic stares of her neighbors. Her only real escape had been tainted by the voices in her head.
Dead leaves from the previous fall carpeted the forest floor, and a few blew by and got tangled in her hair. When the cold became too much, she stood up, put on her scattered clothing, and walked back to the church, breathing deep, slow breaths the whole way. Her eyes were dry, and her hands were steady.
A/N: Thank you to Daisy3853 for the beta work and to Stretch2643 for being my expert wolfgirl.