Twilight is not mine.
Sitting to the right of Alice at Forks High School's graduation was torture for Edward. He had to be a good boy and sit for the entire two hours of the program, through the subpar singing performances and teary-eyed speeches, all next to the most persistent vampire in the western world. It was the first opportunity that Edward had allowed any of the family members to be this close for any extended period of time since Leah had run away and he felt trapped.
He supposed he couldn't blame Alice. She was worried about him. To be honest, they were all worried about him, really, but Alice was the worst, because Alice was the most curious about it. She didn't like not knowing and had been pestering him continuously, about what had happened, but had never been able to corner him for any period of time. He hadn't even bothered going back to the house after the disastrous encounter with the wolves at Newton's and his phone call to Leah, instead just showing up at school in the same outfit he had worn the day before. After a day of being mentally flogged by his siblings, he had been tempted to just leave town, but Carlisle had put a stop to that when Alice relayed that vision to him later that evening.
So now he was stuck sitting next to Alice, enduring what he knew was going to be a long and arduous ceremony full of Alice poking and prodding him for information.
Okay, let's review. You come home, soaking wet, all though it hadn't been raining that day. You refused to answer questions and have since refused to talk to anyone, even Carlisle and Esme. There was a smell that you had tried to wash away, correct? Alice stopped and glanced over at him. He was leaning forward, his elbow on his knee and his chin in his hand, looking away from her. He could hear her exasperated sigh when he didn't respond. Fine. Let's assume there was a smell…ooh, or possibly multiple smells, that you wanted to wash off, so you stopped in stream to scrub off. Personally, I could smell hints of vegetation, some dirt, and just a whiff of animal, leading me to believe that you were hunting. But why would you want us not to know about that? Your eyes weren't red or even discolored, so obviously you didn't slip.
The principal hadn't even finished his speech at this point. Edward sighed, fingering the garish yellow robe covering his clothes, and waiting for Alice to start back up and she did. Oh, how she did. She was relentless. She tried every angle. She was angry, then she was hurt, then she was bargaining, then she was trying to be his co-conspirator, then she was hurt again. It was tedious and annoying and Edward couldn't wait until he could get the hell out of here.
They had reached the end, though, and all the students had taken off their caps and thrown them in the air, cheering and clapping. False promises to keep in touch and awkward hugs were shared all around. He took off his own cap, staring bleakly at it, before snapping it in half. Alice had finally stopped her badgering and was gaping at him. He could see himself in her mind and he looked…lost. Desolate was the word that Alice couldn't get out of her head.
Please, Edward, please. You can confide in me.
He turned toward her and, for a brief moment, she hoped that he was finally going to crack. That thought was erased when she saw his clearly angry face.
"Give it up, Alice. It's none of your damn business and—"
Uh-oh, pretty boy's pissed off.
She was here. Here. In this gymnasium.
He whipped around, wildly trying to pinpoint where the thought had come from.
Damn, he heard that. Can I get out of here?
Under the bleachers.
He twisted and wove through the sea of graduates and their families, until he had reached the side of the bleachers that had been pulled out from the wall. She was standing there, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a loose t-shirt, her arms crossed over her chest, looking every bit as trapped as she in actuality was. The way Edward had come in was the only way underneath them, the other side extended all the way to the opposite wall.
"What are you doing here?" Edward asked in a whisper.
Leah shrugged, avoiding his eyes, her mind repeating his question again and again, obviously trying to ensure that Edward wouldn't read anything in her mind that she didn't want him to see.
"I tried to call." He mentally cringed, remembering his repeated and embarrassing attempts at contact.
"I know. I couldn't talk."
"You didn't want to talk." Edward ducked his head, trying to get her to look at him, but she shifted her eyes.
Christ almighty, even dudes with super hearing can't seem to actually listen when a woman talks. It was the first thought that she hadn't guarded carefully since their unexpected reunion and Edward had little doubt that it was an accident. "Whether I wanted to talk to you or not, I couldn't."
"I promised." Images of the pack, angrily growling at a defiant Leah, floated through her mind, but she quickly locked them away.
"What was that? What happened?" He shifted again, trying to make eye contact.
I thought about us together. It was…God. It was awful. The vulnerability in her thoughts made him want to do something, anything to comfort her, but her hunched shoulders and lack of eye contact made it clear she wanted no such comfort. I was trying my hardest not to, but images would slip by, just little snippets. Considering the parties involved, it looked…incriminating.
"They were angry because we…were together?" Edward asked, not quite understanding the significance of what she was trying to tell him.
Come on, pretty boy. Put two and two together. What'd you think it looked like to them?
Edward understood at once, feeling simultaneously naïve and mortified. "I didn't!" he spluttered. "I—We—together- Did you tell them that I didn't…?" he trailed off, not wanting to put it into words either.
Of course I told them! If I hadn't they would have crossed the border and attacked you and your coven. We wouldn't be standing under some bleachers at your graduation if I hadn't. Edward could see the blush on her cheeks as she remembered the embarrassment of that moment and she cringed at her recollections of the pack's reactions. I had to replay practically the entire thing, she whispered in her mind, closing her eyes and trying not to think about it. He wasn't sure if she was trying to keep it from him or if she couldn't bear to remember it herself, but he was selfishly glad he didn't have to see it.
"So you had to promise not to talk to me?"
"Exactly," she said, shaking her head and moving her thoughts back to the present, determined not to show him any more. "No contact. It came very close to Sam ordering me not to contact you. Luckily, my promise was good enough. It was a promise I meant to keep too."
"You're here now. What's changed?"
Leah shrugged, glancing out at the floor of the gymnasium, and did a double-take. Edward followed her line of sight, immediately spotting what had grabbed her attention. The Cullens were standing in a group in the middle of the quickly clearing gym floor, slackjawed at the scene unfolding before them.
Edward and Leah just stared at them for a moment as they stared back. Emmett broke the silence. "So, he's been so mopey lately…because he had sex with a werewolf? Can that be right? Is that what he said?"
Rosalie snickered a little before responding. "Well, he just said that they've been 'together' but I bet in Edward's prudish mind that means sex."
"It's definitely sex. Those emotions don't lie."
Everyone nodded slowly at Jasper's words.
"He's not a virgin anymore?" Esme whispered sadly, her hands folded under her chin, an anxious expression on her face, and everyone but her and Carlisle laughed uproariously.
"Okay, everyone. That's enough." Carlisle turned toward the exit, gently pushing first Rosalie then Jasper in front of him to get the group moving. "I think they need a little privacy. Edward, we'll be back at the house. Come home…whenever you can."
Edward sighed loudly, watching his family walk out, his siblings laughing a little still and joking with each other, before turning back to Leah.
"That's your family?" she asked quietly. He nodded, giving her an apologetic look. "You didn't tell them about us?" He shook his head and Leah looked into his eyes for the first time and the pain he saw there made his heart ache. She looked tired, he realized, both physically and emotionally.
They seem to be handling it a hell of a lot better than the pack did.
Edward frowned. This thought wasn't accompanied by Leah's typical fire. He didn't like this new, defeated version of Leah.
Memories of being called a slut and a vampire lover came to the surface and Edward's hands clenched automatically. It became clear exactly what had defeated Leah.
"They called you that?"
And worse, Leah thought sadly and Edward knew from his own experience with Paul and Seth that it was the truth.
The anger rose in Edward at an alarming rate and he paced back and forth in the small space for a minute, stopping at the wall and punching it as hard as he could. The cinderblock cracked and chunks fell loudly to the floor.
"Pretty boy," Leah said plaintively. "Please." She touched his shoulder, her fingers coming to rest on the collar of his shirt. She pulled the fabric back from his neck, letting her fingers run across his skin, thoughts of how smooth it was and how to comfort him in her mind.
He turned back toward her. Distracted by her hot hand on his skin, he blurted out the question that had been festering in his mind since she had run away from him in the woods. "Why do you stay with them? Why didn't you come see me?" He hated how the sadness and desperation he had felt in her absence seeped into his voice, but he couldn't help it.
"They're my pack." Her hand fell from his neck and she stuffed it back into her jacket pocket.
"They don't appreciate you," Edward shouted, something snapping inside of him. If he was going down, he wasn't going to do it without a fight. "They don't care about you at all."
Leah again glanced sharply out at the gym floor and then turned her glare back to Edward. Someone's going to hear us, pretty boy. She sighed, the fire of just a moment ago gone in face of the reality of their situation. "You know I'm tied to them. I can't just leave."
"Yes you can."
"And do what exactly?" She asked snidely, the venom coming back into her voice. "Join the Cullen clan? Come enjoy a happily ever after with you and the fucking vampire Brady Bunch?"
"You've thought about it," he stated, the accusation and the hope clear in his voice.
"Of course I've thought about it. But guess what, pretty boy? It would never work!"
"You don't know that."
She rolled her eyes. "Okay, fine, let's think about it for a second. If we do this, I would have to keep phasing, which means, no matter where we are in the world, I will always be connected to the pack's minds. I will never escape it," she said, emphasizing her point by poking him in the chest in time with the last three words.
"Maybe you can break it." He was desperate and he knew he wasn't making a very good argument, but the panic at knowing that he was about to lose her for good was making him incoherent.
She turned her back on him, throwing her hands up in the air dramatically. "Yeah, right." She huffed out a breath, blowing a piece of hair away from her face. "This is a mystical birthright we're talking about. It's not exactly canceling your cable and switching to satellite."
"Jesus, Leah, I don't know! I think it could work. We can at least give it a shot."
She was quiet for a second, her mind circling but never landing directly on what she was thinking about. When she spoke again, bitterness laced her voice. "Vampires mate for life, right? Am I your mate?"
He wanted to say yes. Yes, of course you are, he would say proudly and they could walk into the sunset, happy and together. But could he say that? Was it the truth? He wanted it to be. Things would be so much easier if she was his mate, but that feeling wasn't there. That connection that he had seen in Carlisle's mind from the very beginning, the reverence with which he held Esme, even when he thought he would never see her again. It wasn't that instantaneous and irrevocable feeling of falling that he had seen in Rosalie's mind when she had showed up on their doorstep with Emmett in her arms. Besides, Leah's mind certainly didn't carry the same adoration and wonder toward Edward that Esme and Emmett's did toward their mates. And neither of their feelings came remotely close to the depth and ferocity of love that Jasper and Alice quietly felt for each other.
"I don't know. I'm not sure." He knew he was hedging and he knew Leah could tell, but what could he say?
"It seems like it's either something you know of you don't. So what happens if you find your mate? Or what if I imprint? Then where will we be?"
He was at a loss for words. She was right. Absolutely right, so he changed the subject.
"Why did you come to my graduation?"
"I just wanted to see you. I had heard that the Cullens were leaving soon. I guess I wanted to say goodbye."
He could see from her thoughts that she never actually intended to speak to him and that she had only wanted to see him one more time before he left. There was so much sadness in her mind, both for her own situation on the reservation, but also at the thought of never seeing him again.
"We don't leave for another month. Will you think about it? Will you at least try?"
Leah shook her head no, her eyes filling with tears. Images of her fighting and arguing and pleading with Sam and dealing with the whole pack's derision were clear in her mind, and Edward knew that she was letting him see all of it to help him understand what she'd been through, how hard she had tried. She stepped forward, embracing him tightly and crying softly onto his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Leah. I'm sorry. Please don't cry."
"I'm sorry, too, pretty boy. For a lot of things." She kissed him on the mouth, hard and fast and full of all the passion they had shared in the forest. I don't regret you, she shouted in her mind, before pushing away from him and running out of the gym. Edward stood there dumbly, just as he had done those months ago, looking at the spot where Leah had run from him again. He touched his lips, turning in the same direction that she had just run and starting the long walk home, knowing he would be contemplating her final words, spoken and thought, for a long time.
Day thirty-seven of standing on the balcony was as cold and miserable as any other day in Forks, an unexpected storm marring the possibility of any summer sun that the town might have been expected to get. Edward didn't particularly care about the weather, though, instead training all of his senses on the forest stretching in front of him. He had been doing this for all thirty seven days since he had seen Leah at the graduation ceremony, waiting and diligently not getting his hopes up. It was a losing battle. His hopes were up. They were sky high, but every second was a rollercoaster of smashing them back down and having them rise back up.
His family had been gone for a week now, having resigned themselves to leaving without him. For now, at least. Eventually, someone, probably Alice, would come back to collect him, to try to convince him to give up the dream and move on. They had all been understanding, to a degree, but there was a fundamental difference of opinion, in so much as they didn't understand his attachment to a person who was not his mate. After he'd kicked a section of the balcony railing down after a conversation with Emmett, they had stopped talking to him about it.
Upon their leaving, they all came to the balcony, trying to convince him to pack quickly and join them on their drive to Alaska, but he refused. They gave him encouraging back pats and patronizing hugs and he made half-hearted promises to follow soon after.
He knew, however, that he had no intention of following unless Leah was with him, and he had a feeling they knew that too.
He had stopped jumping at every sound weeks ago, around the same time he had last changed his clothes, but a week before he last gone inside, and so when he heard a rustling in the forest in the far distance, he didn't think to hope that it was her. He still monitored it, just in case, but he figured it was just an animal. As it got closer, Edward realized that it was moving swiftly and headed directly toward the Cullen house. Now he began to hope in earnest. He leaned forward over the railing, trying to listen harder with his gift although he knew it was impossible to stretch it any further than it already went, but whether the thing moving in the forest was human or a human in wolf form, it was still too far away.
The wood of the railing cracked, all the tension he felt being channeled through his hands, but he released it when he heard the mental voice he would know anywhere.
Please let him still be here. Please, please. Pretty boy! Can you hear me? Jesus, Leah, come on. Run faster.
The smile on his face was so wide that it almost hurt. Leah came crashing through the growth at the edge of the backyard in wolf form, looking around wildly. She spotted him a second later and he could hear the relief in her mind, not in words, but it was as if her mind relaxed, knowing that he was there. And that wasn't the only thing about her wolf mind. It was significantly smaller, nothing like how it once had sounded. There was still slightly more room than in her human mind, but it could only mean one thing.
"You did it," he whispered, knowing she could hear him but unsure if he could trust his voice not to break if he spoke any louder. "You broke away." The ache in his chest that had been his constant companion since their encounter in the woods had transformed instantly into a bubble of happiness that made it difficult to breath.
Leah also seemed to be having trouble catching her breath, albeit for a completely different reason, but that didn't stop her from giving him crap. That's it? That's all you have to say? Really?
"Oh, well, of course I'm very happy to see you." He leaned forward on the railing, smiling down at her.
Well come down and see me up close, then.
He wouldn't say no to that offer and as he leapt over the railing, she phased into human form. He landed in front of her and swept her into his arms, all at once. They both sighed in relief. He relished the feel of her body pressed against his and he squeezed her tighter, kissing her neck and pressing his hips into hers. She moaned softly, but broke away.
"I'm sorry," Edward said hastily, kicking himself a little that he had given her the impression that all he wanted was sex.
"No, it's okay. I just have one question." He nodded encouragingly, loosening his arms a little around her waist but not letting go. "Did you want me to break away from the pack because you wanted me or did you want it because I was a damsel in distress that you could rescue?"
Instead of answering her question, he asked one of his own. "Did you leave because you wanted me or did you leave because you wanted a way out?"
"Because I wanted you," she said, rolling her eyes toward the sky and smiling a little, "but not being a part of the pack is a nice perk."
"I want you, too. Very much. But even if you hadn't wanted me, I still would have wanted you to get out of there. No one should live with that treatment."
Leah hummed her assent, leaning back in to kiss him again.
This time he was the one to break away. "What happens if you imprint?"
"I don't know." She shrugged, trying to be nonchalant about it. "What happens if you find your mate?"
"I don't know." He really didn't. His mind shied away from both possibilities, her imprinting and him finding his mate. He didn't know what they had together and he didn't know how strong it was, but it was real and right in front of him. It would be a waste of eternity, waiting around for a mate that might never show up. "I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he offered finally.
"And you're okay living like that?" Really, pretty boy? She met his eye, raising a skeptical eyebrow, but he could see the doubt in her mind.
"I'd rather be with you and worry about that, then be without you and always wonder," he said earnestly, moving his hands to rub her back lightly, relishing the opportunity that he had just gotten back to touch her skin and wanting to make the most of it.
"Okay." Leah looked into his eyes for a long time, questions and thoughts swirling too amorphously in her mind for him to hold on to any of them.
She toyed with his collar, staring at it intently. She licked her lips and he tried not to stare too hard at her face, but he couldn't help it. He wanted to memorize her every move and mannerism, to know what every twitch of her nose and wrinkle of her brow meant. Because of the intensity with which he was staring at her, he was surprised when she spoke again after a moment.
"Now what do we do?" she asked uncertainly.
"Try to live happily ever after?" he quipped, his mouth lifting into a smirk.
Leah threw her head back and laughed and he chuckled along with her, but as Edward admired the long lines of her neck and marveled at the way that his hands seemed to have been made to fit in the small of her back, it dawned on him that he hadn't really been joking at all. From the way Leah's laugh had trailed off, he was sure that she realized the truth of his statement, as well.
She moved her hands up and grabbed his collar. Let's work on the living happily part, first, then we can worry about the ever after, okay? she thought, pulling him into a scorching kiss.
As the kiss heated him up from the inside, it gave him hope that they might actually be able to do both.
This is the last chapter of Part 1 of Always One Foot On The Ground. I plan on a Part 2 (and possibly Part 3 and beyond) but it won't be for a while. Please keep this (or put it) on alert, if you would like more.
Thank you for taking a shot on Edward/Leah. I've had a blast writing them and I hope you enjoyed it, too.
Please leave me a review and let me know what you have to think. I'd love to hear from you.
My thanks once again to my beta, Giselle.