Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
Leah just managed to catch her breath –though she could do nothing about her pounding heart− by the time she reached Emily's door. She hadn't meant for that to happen with Jacob, but she couldn't bring herself to regret it either. The fact that it was outside was both terrifying and thrilling, and she toyed with several future possibilities as she made final checks on her dress. The deep crimson gown Emily had chosen really was very beautiful and though she resented having ever agreed to be a part of the wedding, for the first time in a long time Leah actually felt vaguely feminine, pretty even. Patting out all the creases, she stepped into the kitchen and came face to face with Rachel. Arms crossed, lips puckered and eyes alight; she was definitely pissed.
"You know," Rachel started, arching one eyebrow, "Jake can be annoying sometimes. Trust me; I'm his sister, so I know more than most how true that is. But that doesn't mean you have to treat him the way you do."
Shit. Rachel knows about us. She knew about them and it was clear that she wasn't happy about it either. But it had been a mutual decision and it pissed Leah off to know that her friend thought she was mistreating Jacob. He'd been the one to push for what they had now and it wasn't her fault if things were getting increasingly complicated.
"It's none of your business," Leah snarled as she made her way to the lounge. She didn't get far. Rachel's hand clamped round her wrist as she brushed passed her. Both of them knew it was a useless move against a wolf, and that Leah could easily break it if she wanted to, but it was the fury in Rachel's eyes that held her in place.
"It is my business, Leah. You guys can't keep fighting like this. Especially when all he ever does is look out for you. He's always talking about you, and it was obvious that he stormed out earlier because you gave him that glare, when he only came round here to check on you. Don't give me that look, you know I'm right. If Jacob really came here for food then he wouldn't have left until he'd been fed, no matter what. He's trying to help you and all you ever do is throw it back in his face. Just stop arguing with him, please."
Leah relaxed as Rachel's words sank in. She didn't know anything; she thought they were arguing the whole time.
"I'm sorry," she replied as they both entered the lounge. "I'll make more of an effort in future."
Kim frowned. "What're you apologising about?"
"The way Leah treats Jacob." Rachel snorted as the rest of the women turned to look at them both in the doorway. Rachel sagged into the nearest armchair −earning a glare from Emily, so she sat up straight and smoothed out her dress− while Leah leant against the doorframe. "I'm just so sick of them arguing all the time. It drives me crazy."
Kim turned to Leah. "Were you guys arguing outside?" Leah nodded. "Oh, that makes sense. You know, for a minute it sounded more like you were having sex but of course that's ridiculo…" She trailed off as the full horror of what she'd said dawned on Leah, who stood frozen to the spot.
"Oh. My. God."
"What?" Leah asked as she fought to compose herself. There was no way Kim had really thought they were getting it on outside, but her words had been just a little too close to the mark.
"You were, weren't you?"
"Don't be an idiot, Kim."
"It was written all over your face. As soon as I mentioned sex you looked guilty. Were you, or were you not having sex with Jacob?"
The room was silent now, and Leah looked at each face staring back at her. Both Kim and Rachel looked accusing− though Kim at least had the good grace to look uncomfortable− Emily looked confused, and her mother…she avoided looking at altogether, too embarrassed to see what she was making of the whole situation. That fired her up and she was just about to start yelling at Kim for bringing this up in front of her when Rachel, with a voice as cold as ice, spoke up.
"You know," she started, her eyes narrowed. "Your silence speaks volumes."
"I-I…" Leah felt trapped, cornered like a wounded animal. Usually she used her words as a weapon, a way to hurt people, a way to deflect the attention away from her own pain, but they failed her now and she could think of nothing to say. It was pointless denying that she'd been with Jacob, it was clear from the way they were all looking at her that realisation was slowly beginning to dawn on them. Her own reaction to Kim's words, the horrified expression that must have been on her face, had only served to confirm the truth. But being honest with them now would be just as bad as lying. Telling them everything, speaking it out loud, would make it real. For the past few months, ever since Jacob had clamped his teeth on her neck in the woods by the Cullen place, Leah had been living in a bubble. Only the two of them knew what was going on, and as long as it stayed that way it existed in an almost alternate reality. If no one else knew what was happening between them then they could go back to a normal existence when it all blew over. If everyone knew about the hold Jacob had over her then it would never be forgotten. Nothing would ever be the same again, and that wasn't something she was about to risk.
"Leah, honey? Say something."
"There's nothing she can say, Sue," Rachel snapped. "She knows what she's done, we all do."
Leah barely processed that Rachel was now stalking towards her as her world crashed down around her ears. How could she ever have believed that she could keep this a secret? What should she do now? The question didn't seem to matter much; she couldn't move, couldn't talk if she tried.
"Rachel, I think you need to calm down."
"No!" she roared as her palm connected with Leah's face. The resounding smack seemed to echo around the lounge, but all Leah could hear was Rachel's heart pounding furiously against her ribcage. Randomly, she noted that her friend had actually managed a pretty decent slap− Leah's face stung and she was sure a red mark was developing. "How could you! You know he has an imprint, and you slept with him anyway. Just what the fuck were you thinking?"
"I-I wasn't." Leah finally managed to find her voice, but regretted it almost instantly as she noticed her words had stirred something within Rachel.
"Well, that's pretty obvious don't you think? Tell me, Leah, do you ever actually think about what you do? Because it doesn't seem like it to me. Oh, wait, you probably do, but all you think about is how you can inflict as much pain as possible."
"Don't you 'Rachel' me, Emily." By this point her words were flying out of her mouth in a shriek. "Leah should know all the trouble she's causing."
"I think she does," Kim, who still looked shocked, spoke up. "She's crying."
Huh. Leah had been so lost in Rachel's words that she hadn't noticed, but her hand lifted up automatically and, sure enough, her fingers came away wet from her cheek. She tried to compose herself as she thought about the situation. Rachel was right; she'd caused a huge mess. It had been stupid, so incredibly stupid for her to have thought that everything could return to normal after what she'd done. She'd taken a wolf away from his imprint, and it didn't matter that it hadn't been her intention. How would Jacob ever explain this to Nessie when she was older? Imprinting was supposed to be the be all and end all; the wolves weren't even supposed to notice anyone else, let alone screw around. And Nessie was just a child, she didn't deserve this. She hadn't done anything to Leah, no matter who her parents were and how much Leah hated them, Nessie was a good kid.
And what did all of it achieve anyway? Sure, she was happy when she was with Jacob. He made her feel things she never thought she'd feel after Sam, most notably she felt desired for the first time in years. But it was temporary, fleeting. As soon as he'd leave, she'd feel like trash, like the 'other woman'. She knew Jacob wasn't using her− it was just the effect of this whole claiming thing that influenced both their actions− but it still felt like it every time they met. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
"Sorry! You're sorry? Well, ok, that makes everything all better doesn't it?" Rachel snorted derisively. "You've really fucked up this time, Leah. You don't have an imprint, so you don't know what it's like, but we all do." She motioned to Kim and Emily. "And let me tell you, something like this is devastating. Imprinting is based on trust, complete trust. We have to trust that our imprinters are telling the truth. Do you really think I'd have ended up shacking up with an almost perfect stranger if I hadn't believed Paul one-hundred percent? No, I wouldn't. And don't think I'm not pissed at Jake for this, too. I'm going to kill him when I see him. But you're older than him, you've already been hurt by imprinting and you should know better than to mess with it." She looked at the others. "What do you guys think? Come on," she continued when no one spoke. "I know I'm not the only one who feels strongly about this."
Kim cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, Leah, but I agree with Rachel," she whispered.
"Oh, darling, what have you got yourself into?" Sue's tone was kind, but her words still cut like a knife.
"Emily, what do you think?"
"I really think I should stay out this, Rachel."
"No, come on," she encouraged. "How would you feel if she'd slept with Sam? You'd feel like shit, and at least she's in love with Sam− or was. She doesn't love Jake, she's just using him and that just makes it so much worse."
With that Leah snapped.
"I'm falling for him!" The words were out of Leah's mouth before she had a chance to control herself, and she wished with all her heart that she could take them back. She hadn't realised the full extent of her feelings until she'd spoken them and now that they were out there it dawned on her just how much her statement was true. She was falling for Jacob, and there was nothing she could do about it. Slowly but surely he'd managed to work his way passed all the layers of protection she'd built around herself. It had started way before he'd ever claimed her, back when they were just Alpha and Beta and he seemed to know her better than anyone else, and somehow it'd evolved from that.
The room took on an eerie silence, as if the world had stopped. For Leah it felt like it had.
Rachel's mouth popped open as if she were about to say something, but it quickly snapped shut. Everyone's eyes were wide as they stared, frozen, at Leah, who could feel a sob rising in her throat. When she felt like she was going to explode form the pressure, Leah finally let it out, cupping her hand over her mouth as the tears she'd been trying to hold at bay broke free and started a torrent down her cheeks. "I'm falling for him," she repeated, quieter this time, her body sagging under the weight of her confession until her back, braced against the wall, was all that was holding her upright. She knew she looked a mess− was a mess− but she couldn't control it. She'd fucked up in a monumental way. First by ever having anything to do with Jacob Black, then somehow in the midst of all of it she'd stupidly started developing feelings for someone who could never be hers. And now everyone would know, and there was no amount of Leah's usual strength that would ever make it better, so she didn't even try. Here she was, unravelling in the middle of the house that belonged to the initial catalysts of everything− Sam and Emily.
It was as if a light bulb had gone off; at some unknown cue, everyone sprang into action. Sue and Emily rushed forward, quickly engulfing Leah's sobbing form in a tangle of limbs and heads. Rachel fell back into her previous seat, all thoughts about keeping her dress crease free forgotten. Kim was the only one who remained where she was, though her eyes darted from one person to the next, clearly trying to figure out exactly what was going on.
"Well, fuck!" Rachel announced.
Emily unfurled herself from Leah's shoulder long enough to give Rachel the best glare she could muster. "I really don't think you're helping."
Leah almost snorted at Emily's diplomacy. Surely she wasn't thick enough not to realise that Rachel had been way beyond anything remotely diplomatic for a while now?
"What am I meant to say? This is a cluster-fuck of epic proportions." She took a few deep breaths. She looked up at Leah and her face creased in concern. "I'm sorry, Leah. I really am. I feel terrible for you. It's just history repeating itself. I feel awful, and I know that I'm being a sucky friend. But I can't comfort you, and I can't be your friend at the moment. My priorities have to be with my baby brother."
Leah nodded mutely. She understood; she'd do the same for Seth. Actually, if a girl had managed to drag Seth into a situation as bad as this one, with no resolution that wouldn't cause pain and hurt on more than one side, Leah would've probably ripped her face off. Everyone in the room knew that Jacob would never be with Leah. They also knew just how much Jacob would feel bad about it; it just wasn't in his nature to hurt people and it would torture him for a long, long time. It wasn't fair on Leah that she'd started feeling this way, and it wasn't Jacob's fault either. Sometimes you just can't help who you fall for, no matter what the consequences.
"Come on, Honey. Let's get you some fresh air," Sue spoke quietly as she drew back to look at her daughter. Leah nodded, letting Sue guide her with an arm wrapped around her waist. They'd almost made it to the French doors on the other side of the room when they burst open, revealing a panicked looking Quil. He didn't even take in Leah's distressed appearance before he started talking.
"Leah, come quickly. It's Jacob."
"Jacob and Embry are fighting, and I mean really fighting, like they're gonna kill each other, and I have no idea what to do!"
Rachel, who'd rushed forward to stand beside Leah as soon as Jacob's name was mentioned, stared at her brother's best friend. "Why would Leah be able to help?"
"I'm Beta, I might be able to talk some sense into them," she called over her shoulder as she pushed passed Quil.
"Well, that and the only word running through their heads when I phased was your name."
Leah froze. "Why? Do you think they're fighting about me?"
"Seemed like it."
"Why would they be fighting about me?"
Quil lifted up one massive shoulder in a shrug. "Beats me."
Before Leah could think about it any more− though she had a pretty good idea what their fight was really about, she took off in a run, swiftly making it to the tree line. The dress was hampering her speed, but she didn't want to phase and destroy it. Hiking up the bottom of the dress, Leah sprinted faster than she'd ever gone as a human, following her nose and the loud crashing noises to the east, reaching the two snarling wolves in record time.
Pure chaos confronted her; russet and grey tumbling over one another as their snarls rang out through the forest. All she could make out was Embry's hind legs as they pummeled into Jacob's ribs. Jacob tore furiously at the fur covered flesh of Embry's shoulder.
"Guys! Stop it. Jake! Embry!" Leah screamed as they rolled towards her and Quil. Neither of them listened. She just about to turn around and take off the dress so that she could phase, cursing the fact she might get a stain on the one thing that had made her feel remotely feminine for the first time in over a year, when the two warring wolves barreled across a fallen log and right into Leah. She heard the ripping of fabric as if it was a thunder clap, the pain of their claws tearing into her not even registering. A small gasp escaped her lips. Jacob and Embry stopped as if she'd issued an Alpha command. Everything stopped as Leah looked down at what was once one of the most beautiful dresses she'd ever seen. Though the wounds were already healing, blood seeped through the gashes on her abdomen, quickly soaking through the fabric. The dress hung in tatters on Leah's body.
A faint shimmer in the air signified someone phasing.
"Leah, shit I'm so sorry," Jacob said, walking tentatively towards her.
Leah's attention only diverted from the mess when she felt Jacob come closer. "Don't touch me!"
He quickly drew back his hand. "I'm so−"
"Don't even think about saying you're sorry, Jacob. Just don't. Look what you've done!" She gestured wildly to her battered, ripped dress, feeling the hysteria rising in her gut. It was as if the words− her anger− that had failed to make an appearance at Emily's were suddenly surging up within her. She knew she was likely to explode, that she might say things in anger, things she didn't mean, but she couldn't help herself. "Just what the fuck do you think you were doing? Do you have any idea how much this dress cost? I can't afford to replace it."
"We'll figure something out."
"We won't be doing anything! Do you know what this means to me? The wedding was supposed to be a good thing for me. The final nail in the coffin. Once it's over I can finally start to move on. Do you know how difficult that's been for me to come to terms with that? Oh wait, no you don't. Imprinting solved your broken heart within minutes! I've had to drag myself up on my own, no mystical bullshit for me. And guess what, it's been hard, so fucking hard. And I'm getting there. The last hurdle is this stupid wedding and I've enough drama in my life without having to fork out for a new bridesmaid dress. Don't you think I have enough to cope with? I don't need this." With that she turned and started marching off, determined not to let any tears fall in front of them.
Leah whipped round. "Shut up, Embry. Just what the hell were you guys fighting over anyway? Wait, I don't even want to know." Her shoulders slumped as she sighed, her anger draining away on the exhale, leaving her numb. "I'm so done," she announced quietly, shaking her head. Looking Jacob dead in the eye, knowing that both Quil and Embry would take her next words as her resignation from the pack, not realizing the true meaning behind them the way Jacob would, she said," I can't do this anymore. I'm done."
AN: So everyone knows now! I've been waiting to write this ever since I first decided to carry on with this story, and it was so hard to write. Once again, I'm sorry for my crap updating skills, though I'm sure you're all used to it by now.
I have a Twitter account now, so come follow me _jeakat_
I've also set up a second FFn account for a story called Angel Burn (just Angel in the UK). The link is on my profile. It's a fantastic book and I'd highly recommend you all check it out.