This story was written for the 'Love Actually' Contest, and is my first ever collaboration! Also, it WON the public vote, so huge thanks to everyone who voted for it – we are both absolutely stunned and humbled. Really, thank you.

I had so much fun writing this with Domysticated; keep your eyes peeled for more MysticGiraffe stories in the future! She is brilliant in every way, go have a read of her other stories here: www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/u/2249766/Domysticated

Thank you so much to Never and MAL for all your help! It would not have been half so good without either of you.

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight. I own Jake's opinion of Jurassic Park.

* Thermodynamics: The relation of heat to forces acting between contiguous parts of bodies *

Sometimes people come together after years of getting to know each other. Sometimes, it's a sudden meeting of minds; kindred spirits united in one glorious moment.

When Jake met Leah, it was a moment of spontaneous altruism that turned into a disaster and then an escape. After an introduction like that how could they have done anything other than laugh together? Laughter is the best way to make friends, after all.

Next time you're in a public place, a train, a bus, a shopping mall, just sit quietly for a minute and listen. Chances are you'll hear laughter. Between friends, lovers, strangers.

Join in the laughter.

Because sometimes laughter is what turns strangers into friends. And sometimes laughter is what turns friends into lovers.

When Leah met Jake, they were in the college library, hidden in the depths of the organic chemistry section. Leah reached up, trying and failing to grasp a book on the top shelf that had been pushed a little too far back. Jake saw her, smiled, and decided to fetch her the ladder rather than do something productive with his own studies.

Sometimes altruism is just procrastination with a smile.

He grabbed the ladder, pushed it down the aisles and around the corner. Just as he reached Leah, he said "Here you go", gave it one last shove, and let go. When she looked round, all she could see was six feet of wheeled ladder snagging on a fold in the ancient carpet and toppling in slow motion towards her. As it crashed at her feet and the noise echoed all around them, she looked up with horrified delight to see her expression perfectly mirrored in the face of the tall and handsome stranger. He clutched her hand, whispered "run for your life", and they fled the scene of the crime together. Scurrying away into the physics section, they tried to look nonchalant as the curious eyes of other students turned towards them. They half-walked, half-ran through mathematics and geography, turned the corner past the banks of recently-released papers, and snuck out of the door just as the formidable head librarian reached the overturned ladder.

They dashed down the stairs and out into the weak sunshine, and collapsed on a bench together, finally free to make some noise. Leah laughed silently, tears streaming down her face as Jake's loud guffaws provided more than enough volume for both of them.

And that's where their friendship started. With laughter.

As their giggles slowly started to subside, Jake stuck his hand out to Leah.

"I'm Jake, by the way. Jacob Black."

"Uh huh." Leah raised an eyebrow. "That's name, at least. Rank? Serial number?"

He looked straight at her for a few quiet seconds, then jumped to his feet and threw a salute, looking straight ahead, eyes never straying down to where Leah sat gazing up at him, nonplussed.

"Black, Jacob, sir!" His voice was loud enough to draw the attention of everyone within a hundred-yard radius.

"Twenty years old, six feet five inches, two hundred and forty pounds, only child of Billy and Grace Black. Captain of the water polo team, drop-out from the rowing team, and member of the chess club because they always give away free beer if you sign up during freshmen week. Sophomore, Chemistry major. In fact, sir, I believe we're both taking Thermodynamics this semester."

He paused for breath. "More information can be provided on request, sir!"

"Sufficient information provided, soldier. At ease." Leah's voice was dry, but amusement was obvious in the glint in her eyes and the upturned corners of her mouth.

He threw another salute, winked at her, and sat down again, once more holding out a hand.

"Let's start again, eh? I'm Jake. Nice to meet you."

"Leah Clearwater. Nice to meet you too." Leah replied, with a smile.

Although Jake couldn't know it then, that had been the first day she'd laughed and smiled freely in many, many months.

: JL : JL : JL : JL : JL :

And so it began. They started exchanging greetings in class, then hanging back afterwards to trade a few words and walk together to their next one. After a few weeks, they naturally developed an awareness of each other's schedules and started gravitating, almost instinctively, towards each other.

Naturally distrustful of popular, happy people, Leah was nevertheless captivated by the genuine, unaffected warmth that radiated from Jake's sunny and easygoing manner. He always smiled, big and wide, when he saw her; always stopped whatever he was doing, interrupted whatever conversation he was having, to acknowledge her fully. Her carefully constructed armor started to crumble bit by bit under the onslaught of his enthusiasm.

Jake, for his part, had a policy of indiscriminate geniality which rarely went below the surface; he abhorred loneliness, and found himself in equal parts fascinated and terrified by Leah's seemingly self-sufficient, proud isolation. Slowly, imperceptibly, his casual friendliness gave way to genuine interest.

To the rest of the student population, she was still the same moody, unfriendly girl who sat in the back row and put her head down and her hood up the minute class was over, and he was still the superficial, boisterous athlete whom every guy wanted to high-five and every girl wanted to kiss, without any hope of success.

Jake found himself seeking Leah out more and more, inviting her to come along whether he was out with a crowd of noisy athletes or finding his own entertainment, alone except for her. Whenever they were with more than a couple of people, Leah stayed close to Jake's side, drawing confidence from his easy social manner as he gently included her in their conversations and activities. Jake, ever-aware of what others thought of him, felt liberated by her no-nonsense manner and genuine attitude. Whether she liked something or not, she let you know, and Jake came to rely on her to see through the game-playing of the facetious crowds surrounding him. He was captivated by Leah's quiet strength and allowed himself to relax in her presence, sure that she would never have any ulterior motives in anything she said or did.

It seemed inevitable that they would seek each other out and pair up together when the next group assignment came along.

Over those late night sessions, in the lab and in the library, when Jake was tired from weightlifting, swimming and non-stop joking around, and Leah worn down by hours of pouring coffees to spoiled brats, a fake smile plastered on her face in the hope of increasing her much-needed tips, neither had the energy or the desire to keep barriers or pretences up.

Jake began to notice that Leah was not only in possession of a sharp, practical intellect, but also of a deep, seductive voice and a graceful, feminine figure Having seen first-hand, that day in the library, that dimples appeared when she laughed, he made it his mission in life to make her smile; which he soon realised might be harder than he thought. She seemed, to him, too often shrouded in a cloud of resentment that hung heavily on her moods and feelings: he resolved to be the sunshine that penetrated that cloud.

At the same time, Leah wondered how she came to feel so safe and relaxed in the presence of this affable giant, and for the first time in over a year she started to accept that perhaps solitude was not her best choice in life, after all. And having initially assumed that Jake would free-ride his way through their shared assignment, she had to admit he more than pulled his weight, and came grudgingly to respect his academic capabilities and his disciplined approach. She got to like, above all, the moments when his ebullient façade retreated a bit, giving a hint of his much quieter, more reflective inner self.

As the weeks progressed, mutual civility gave way to respect, respect became affection and before they knew it they became a permanent, essential fixture in each other's life.

"So, Jake… I was wondering." Leah started one evening, while he walked her to the bus stop after the library had closed. It was just after midnight, but the unseasonably warm and dry evening meant the campus was still busy. As they made their way across the Quad, they could hear girls giggling, pointing at Jake and checking him out shamelessly.

Jake instinctively leaned down to better hear what Leah had to ask him.


"You know, I might be socially inept but even a blind person could not miss the fact that half the female population in this place wants you into their pants."

Jake chuckled, and shrugged.

"What d'ya want me to tell you? I'm hot."

Leah slapped his arm playfully.

"No, seriously, Jake. Why aren't you dating anyone? We've been hanging out for months now and I think I'd have noticed if you were getting some."

Jake sighed, and sat down on the low wall by the bus stop.

"Let's just say I'm taking a break from all that shit."

Leah didn't relent. She could tell heartbreak when she saw it. It was all too familiar.

"What was her name?"

And, truly, Jake should have been surprised at Leah's accurate guess, but he was suddenly filled with a desire, no… a need to unburden himself. He let out a bitter chuckle, and kicked some dirt with his scruffy sneaker.

"Bella." He didn't look at Leah, but felt her sitting down on the wall, her small body next to him giving him the confidence to continue. "We'd been together since we were fifteen. She was my first girlfriend, and, dude, we were in love, I mean, really, like, inseparable… we did everything together, had it all figured out... We were making all these plans, I picked this college 'cos she was going to go here, too… I turned down a full fucking scholarship at Yale for this. For her." At this, his voice rose perceptibly, the bitterness still too raw and too present. "Well, to cut out all the shitty details, turns out she'd been two-timing me with the new kid in school for months… rich, emo bastard. She didn't even have the guts to tell me, I just showed up at her place one day and his fucking shiny Volvo was there, parked in the driveway, and they were making out in the backseat… bah. Worst day of my life."

He laughed darkly, not wanting or needing to say any more.

Leah was silent for a while, and then said sarcastically: "What seventeen-year-old douchebag drives a motherfucking Volvo?"

Jake laughed out loud at that, and for the next five minutes they drove themselves into paroxysms of hilarity making fun of Edward Cullen.

"I bet it had some outstanding safety features!" continued Leah, clearly on a roll. "I bet even his condoms had airbags!"

"Dude, you have no idea… his condoms were probably beige, and neatly pressed with a front crease."

"He probably calls her in the morning to make sure her panties are color-coded with his boxer shorts, or they'll look untidy on his bedroom floor."

It felt good to laugh about it, and Jake was beyond grateful to Leah for not letting him slip into a moody, self-indulgent pity-party. The bus appeared at the top of the road, and suddenly Leah stopped laughing and grabbed Jake's hand, holding it tightly. She looked right into his eyes, and, suddenly serious, said:

"Two weeks before we were meant to move in together, he told me he was in love with someone else. That he'd not even known what love was until he met her. He walked out that night, and pretended we'd never even known each other. All our friends… well, his friends, really, stopped talking to me."

Leah swallowed loudly, clearly struggling to articulate her words, but determined to share her pain, the way Jake had done.

"We grew up together; we lived nearby, our families were friends... ever since we were kids, I was always in his shadow… he was the only boyfriend I ever had, my only friend, really. Everyone looked up to him; he was, like, a God in our community. I was his hanger on, his satellite. When he left… I didn't even know how to be by myself. How to be myself." She took a deep breath. "And everyone I'd thought was my friend suddenly wouldn't even talk to me. I've not really bothered with the whole 'social network' thing since. What's the point? Clearly, no-one ever really liked me anyway."

Jake squeezed her hand, and felt an irrational surge of anger building up inside him as her bitterness poured out. He wanted to tell Leah all sorts of things, to tell her how special she was, how great she was at being herself. But all he could think was "What a dog".

"What's his name?"

Leah let go of his hand, and walked over to the bus's open doors.


: JL : JL : JL : JL : JL :

A few days after their shared revelations, Jake looked up from his lab bench to find Leah's eyes fixed on him, a strange expression on her face.


"I was just thinking that you're my best friend." She sounded both pleased and surprised.

Jake pursed his lips, thoughtful. "I know what you mean. You're the first real friend I've made since... Well, since Bella fucked off with that asshole. All these hangers-on don't really count, they're all so shallow. You can bet your ass that if I suddenly got fat and ugly and stupid they wouldn't be there any more. Even the guys."

"Sam took most of my friends – if they even were my friends – with him when he left me. I don't think I could deal with that sort of shit again." Leah looked at Jake, suddenly nervous. "You wouldn't do that, would you? You wouldn't just walk away and never talk to me again?"

"Of course I wouldn't." Jake's voice was quiet, gentle. "What's brought this on?"

She shook her head as she stared at the floor. "Nothing. Just, my mom called. She's been invited to a wedding. Sam's getting married. I want to be happy for him, Emily's a nice girl after all, but all I can feel is bitter about him leaving me." She looked up, meeting Jake's eyes once more. "I missed him, Jake. I missed him for so long. For years I thought we were going to have that happy ending; my mom and his parents thought so too. Then Sam left me, and everything went to shit."

"Come here." Jake spread his arms welcomingly, and held her in a warm hug. "I know. It's hard, isn't it? Bella was the same for me – my best friend for years. I still can't really believe that she treated me like that. She was always a bit of a heartless bitch to other people, but not to me. That was the worst thing, not that she could do something like that, but that she could do something like that to me."

He pulled away slightly and held her with a steady gaze. "I will never abandon anyone without a word. Not anyone. Not you. Especially not you."

She squeezed him tight before laughing shakily and turning back to her own lab bench. "What a pair of tragic fuckers we make, eh?"

He rolled his eyes. "Yep. King and Queen of the fucking bleeding hearts. Now stop wallowing in misery and get some work done. I'm missing a game to work on this assignment tonight, you know." He winked at her. "You better make it worth my while!"

: JL : JL : JL : JL : JL :

"I can't believe we've finally finished it." Leah's voice was incredulous as she stared at the email, the completed assignment attached, and marked clearly with both their names.

"Well, we have, so send it." Jake peered over her shoulder as Leah sat staring at the screen. "Come on, woman, this is the easiest bit of the whole thing." Impatient, he closed his large hand over hers, still motionless on the mouse, and pressed send.

"Too late now, it's gone." Jake, fooling around as always, turned the machine off at the socket, earning himself a sharp glare from the girl behind them, waiting in line for a free computer. He gave her one of his trademark grins as Leah rolled her eyes at him, then picked his friend up and swung her around and around; her indignant squeals filling the air.

"Put me down, you jerk!"

"Nope, I'm not putting you down. I have plans for us this evening, and you have to join in whether you like it or not."

Leah kicked and struggled as he carried her out of the library, through the hall and down the stairs, but to no avail. By the time they'd got halfway back to Jake's apartment, she had given in and flopped loosely over his shoulder.

"Ok, whatever. I promise to go along with whatever you've planned. But please, can I walk now?"


"Yes, I promise. Just so long as it doesn't involve any sort of sporting activity. Or your roommates."

"You're safe. Absolutely no sport, and Seth and Paul are both away tonight."

He put her down and grinned widely.

"You're going to love it."

: JL : JL : JL : JL : JL :

Leah was curled up on the sofa, beer in hand and pizza on her knees when Jake came in brandishing a sheet full of bullet points and a bowl full of folded paper.

"Ok, here are the instructions. When I've put the movie on, it's two fingers of vodka or a dare for everything on the list." He shook the bowl. "Right?"

"Right. What movie?" Leah asked, warily.

Jake beamed at her. "The best movie ever made, of course. See if you can guess just from the music – come on, shut your eyes."

As Leah closed her eyes, she listened to Jake wandering around the room, putting the DVD into the machine and fetching a bottle of vodka and a bowl of popcorn.


She waved a hand in assent as Jake settled back into his habitual place sprawled across a beanbag on the floor. He was literally too big for the sofa frame, and he'd learned the hard way that the ceiling was too low to accommodate his sudden displays of enthusiasm. As the orchestral music filled the room, she struggled to place it.

"Oh, I know this, what is it? What is it?"

"You have to work it out," Jake laughed gleefully. "Come on, slowpoke."

As the music reached its crescendo, realisation hit her.

"Oh god. It's Jurassic Park. Again." Leah opened her eyes and was met with Jake's habitual grin, even wider than usual.

"Like I said, best movie ever made. What's not to like? Anyway, that one's on the list, I think." He ran a finger down the paper and handed her the bottle. "Yes, here we are – two fingers for the theme tune."

As the movie wore on, they got steadily more drunk, drinking for the theme tune, the T-Rex, Grant being anti-children, anyone telling a joke, whenever Samuel L Jackson was on screen, unrealistic science or computer programming becoming the main focus of a scene, whenever a person or animal got eaten, or Jake's favourite: 'whenever there's a great cinematic moment'. As the movie progressed Leah demanded that they start alternating dares and drinking, to let them have a bit of breathing room.

By the time the children were running into the kitchen, Jake was picking another dare. "Do an impression of the next dinosaur you see," he read. "Shit."

Leah laughed. "It's your fault, you wrote them!"

"Yeah, but you were supposed to pick this one," Jake grumbled.

"Come on, make with the impression already." Leah waved at him imperiously.

"Ok, ok, right."

He heaved himself upright and climbed on to the sofa.

"They're big, right? I need the extra height." He stood bolt upright, cracking his head on the ceiling and swore loudly.

Rubbing his head, and crouching down to avoid a repeat performance, he turned his head sideways and tried to imitate the coughing call of the Jurassic Park velociraptors.

"Oh, genius!" Leah couldn't contain herself. "You sound like a dying chihuahua hacking out its final breath!"

"What? I do not!"

"You do too, you're like the worst velociraptor EVER."

"Huh." Jake climbed off the sofa, and threw himself back on to his beanbag.

"I'd like to see you do a better impression," he grumbled.

"Screw that, come on, hand over the bowl, I need to pick mine," she replied. She fished one out of the rapidly-dwindling pile, and read it out.

"Name someone you'd like to meet the next dinosaur you see." She looked up at the screen. More velociraptors. "Well, that's easy, then. Fucking Sam Uley. Fucking asshole. Fucking getting-married-happily-ever-after asshole. I'd like to see him get eaten by the clever girls."

Jake raised his glass in her direction. "To Sam Uley, finest dinosaur snack outside of Jurassic Park."

They drank.

Leah raised her glass. "To Bella Swan, sluttiest so-called virgin outside of the Moulin Rouge."

"Yeah, too fucking right. Bitch. I'm better off without her, and you're definitely better off without that dog."

"Good thing we've got each other, then, huh?"

Jake's head snapped round, and he stared at her.

"Leah Clearwater, did you really just say that? You, being sentimental?"

"Oh shut up. You know what I mean."

"Too right I do. You were just singing my praises." He scrambled up on to the sofa beside her, movie and alcohol forgotten as a broad grin spread across his face. "Please, carry on. I love hearing people talk about me."

"Jake, I'm not going to list how great you are while you sit there giving me those puppy-dog eyes."

"But you will if I don't?" He shuffled closer to her and shut his eyes. "C'mon then."

"Oh, fine. You're a good friend."

He opened one eye. "You can do better than that."

"A really good friend," she amended. "I don't know what I would have done these last few months without you."

He opened his eyes again, and they were alive with mischief. "You would never have got that assignment finished without me, that's for sure."

She sat bolt upright and shoved him away. "You smug fucker! I would have totally nailed it, you're just better at sticking to deadlines than I am."

"Nope, it's all me, all me," he teased. Leah batted him away, pretending a renewed interest in the film, which was now going through the final scenes. "No no no, you can't just pretend like you don't know it's true. C'mon, admit it. I'm great, and you love me."

The words hung in the air, and for a second they both froze.

Then Jake reached around and tickled her until she was squirming and squealing, and he had her pinned to the sofa, half underneath him.

"Admit it, Leah." he demanded, his eyes suddenly intense, trapping her.

They both fell silent and still, the only sounds their laboured breathing and the DVD menu playing the Jurassic Park theme tune on a loop.

"Yes, Jake. You are great, and I love you." Leah's voice was quiet and deadly serious. She reached up a hand and combed her fingers through his hair.

He looked down at her as she watched her hand. She stilled, and her eyes met his.

He leaned down, eyes closed, and softly kissed her neck, just below her ear.

"Jake," she started, but her sentence trailed away as he kissed her again and then again, slowly moving down from her ear to the hollow of her throat as she tightened her arms around him

"Jake." She tried again, but her voice sounded strangled, and was cut off entirely as he shifted upwards and his lips met hers for the first time.

She stiffened with initial shock, then relaxed into it. She kissed him as he kissed her, long and hard, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. She slid one hand under the hem of his shirt and up across his back. He felt hard, muscular, and yet impossibly soft. So different from what she'd known. She could feel him groan gently into her mouth as she pressed her fingers into his warm skin and drew them down from his shoulder blades to his hips. His arm tightened underneath her, and she rolled her hips up to give him room. They pressed against each other, joined close along the length of their bodies, hands exploring in ways they had never dared to before.

Leah moaned as Jake pushed a large hand under her shirt and undid her bra, his fingers spreading across her back, scorching heat radiating from every one. He pulled her closer, deeper, their tongues meeting as she held tight to him and hooked one leg behind his knee. He groaned again, deeper and more guttural, as they rocked their hips together, both desperate for more contact, more friction, more heat. Jake's hand moved around her side, tracing her ribs before gently sliding over a breast, thumb circling her nipple as she gasped, shocked at the intensity of her long-forgotten pleasure. She pulled both hands down under his shirt, sneaking her fingers under the waistband of his jeans and letting them rub over his hipbones as he bucked into them. Carried by a confidence she didn't know she possessed, she let her fingers creep along his belt, hearing his breathing get shorter as he tried to keep kissing her, tried not to let the feeling carry him away. She fumbled with his belt buckle as he mirrored her actions, long strong fingers unfastening her buttons and zippers until they were both undone and exposed to each other. They both paused, deepening their kissing once again until Jake could no longer stand the waiting. He broke off from her lips, burying his face in Leah's neck as his hand slid back down, down, down and inside, and she gasped and writhed and held him so tight he could barely breathe. As he slid a finger slowly up and down, in and out, her hold loosened until she could once more move her hand down and around, squeezing his ass and trailing her fingertips up his thigh, gently stroking his balls as he sucked in a deep breath and gasped it out past her ear. She wrapped her hand around him as they rocked their hips, and moaned together, too intent on their own pleasure to kiss any more.

"Oh Leah, Leah. Oh God. You feel... I feel..." Jake tailed off into a soft groan, his voice rough, almost harsh, where Leah had only ever heard it smooth. It was that, more than anything else, that brought her back to the present, to what they were doing. To what they were about to do. She moved her hand away from him as if scalded, ignoring the slight whimper that escaped him as she let him go. She grabbed his hand and held it still.

"Jake," she said. "Jake, look at me."

He raised his head and met her eyes, chest rising and falling heavily as he stared blankly at her.

"We should stop. I love you, but this... this isn't right. This isn't what we do... not like this. If we do this, we can't take it back, you know."

He nodded his agreement and dropped his head back down into her shoulder as he slid his hand away from her and propped himself up on his elbows. His eyes closed, he tried to get his breathing back to normal.

She held him tight and stared at the ceiling.

"Jake." She shook him gently. "Talk to me. What have we done? What happens now?"

Jake stayed silent for a long minute. He was suddenly stone-cold sober, and the reality of the situation hit him like an icy shower. He wanted to think, and talk, and say and do the right thing, but he was hard and uncomfortable. There was no way he could have a conversation right now, not when his erection was throbbing and twitching almost painfully, demanding all his attention even if he tried to ignore it. He had no choice.

Blushing, he pulled away from Leah, unable to meet her eyes. Still without looking at her, he motioned to the bathroom door, mumbling an apologetic "Be right back."

Leah fought the tears back. Misunderstanding Jake's hasty retreat, she worried that it was already too late, that she'd ruined it, that she'd broken the only good thing that had happened to her in over a year. She was overcome by doubt, wondering if she should have just let things run their course… She loved Jake, right? He was a great guy, and he clearly was into her… maybe. Wasn't that what love was? The ease, the companionship, the smiles?

When Jake re-emerged from the bathroom some time later, his erection take care of, and his mind clear, he found her curled up on the sofa, fully dressed once more, looking tiny and miserable. Once again, he crouched on the floor beside her, and held her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him.

"Hey," he began, his voice barely above a whisper. "Leah? Are you mad at me?"

Leah shook her head, and a small smile broke from her lips. This was the first time Leah had ever seen his confidence waver, and his unexpected vulnerability provoked an answering tenderness in her.

"I'm sorry I came on so strong..." he continued.

Leah put a hand on his mouth, and finally looked into his eyes.

"You've got nothing to be sorry for. I was there, too, remember?" Jake nodded, still unsure, confused. Leah wasn't sure how to deal with this Jake. Shouldn't he be trying to make her laugh right about now?

She took a deep breath. "It's just… do you think… Jake, do you think we should, like, be together? I didn't lie when I said I love you but… is this… it, you think?"

She kept her fingers pressed on his lips to avoid him blurting out an answer, and continued:

"Before I met you, I hadn't smiled in months… I hadn't felt good in months. You make me smile, Jake, like, all the time. You make me feel safe, and happy, and when I'm around you I'm always relaxed. Is this… is this what being in love is, Jake?"

Jake pulled his head back, to free his lips, and formulate an answer.

"Honestly, Leah? You're hot, and you're a really cool girl, and I feel really protective of you. You make me feel good, too. And, fuck, it had been a while since I'd felt this good around a girl… around anyone, really."

"But, love? I don't know… Shouldn't love feel a bit more reckless, a bit crazier? A bit more passionate? Shouldn't love happen without the help of a fuckton of vodka?"

Leah nodded, tears streaming down her face. Yes. That's what love was. And she wanted nothing less.

"I am sure you'll find that love, Leah. I'm sure of that. Some lucky bastard out there is just biding his time till he strikes gold by meeting you. And you know, I sure as hell hope that there's a woman out there who is just as perfect for me."

He hugged her, tight, and she fought back a sob as she buried her face in his chest.

"Will you still be my friend, Jake? I don't want to lose you over a stupid dinosaur movie, a few drinks too many and our fucked up horniness."

"Leah… I'll always be your friend. Always. Don't you ever doubt that."

: JL : JL : JL : JL : JL :

Many years later, Leah paced nervously in the small Church vestibule, stealing anxious looks at the wall-mounted clock as the sounds of a restless congregation drifted through the closed door.

Sitting on a chair next to the open window, fanning herself nervously with a wedding program, was a very pregnant and very pissed Nessa.

"Oh, I swear to you, Leah. I am going to have his balls for this. No more need for them now, anyway."

She hit the call back button on her cellphone angrily, one more time. Still going straight to voicemail.

"Son of a bitch, Jacob Black. I don't care if your children are fatherless, I'll kill you for this." She growled into the receiver, before snapping it shut and resuming her fanning.

In truth, Leah didn't really care that Jake was late, and she wasn't even angry about it. She just wanted him here, now, to reassure her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. Her corset was too tight, her heels too high, and the pins holding her hair up dug into her scalp painfully. And this room was too hot, and just inside… she couldn't even remember why she was here, or what she was meant to do.

She needed Jake. She needed her best friend.

Finally, they heard loud noises and quick, heavy steps in the corridor just outside, and the door flew open to reveal a flustered, panting Jake, his hair still damp, his tie astray.

"Leah, I'm so sorry…" he began, but then caught sight of his furious wife and knew he was in serious trouble.

Nessa stood up, not without difficulty, walked up to him and with a look that promised nothing good, proclaimed "You'll pay for this, Jacob Black. Now do what you're here to do, man." She shot one last murderous look at her chagrined husband before walking off towards the church, all the while holding her huge belly and praying to God this child would stay put for at least another few hours.

Jake turned towards Leah, and remembered why he was here. His face broke out in the same huge, childish grin he'd disarmed her with all those years ago.

"Hey, you," he said, tenderly, taking a step towards her.

"Hey," she replied, her voice a nervous whisper. "Jake, I'm shitting myself."

Jake laughed, and held out his hand to her. She grabbed it gratefully.

"Course you are. Passion, remember? Fire in your belly, and no gravity in your heart. Never taking anything for granted. A love strong enough that you'll do crazy things for it. And if getting married ain't crazy, I don't know what is."

Leah felt the familiar warmth that Jake brought into everything he touched, remembering the words they had exchanged all that time ago, the pact that they'd made with one another, to not settle for a smile, but to go all out for the real thing.

"Yeah… yeah, you're right. Sorry. I just got nervous here, for a moment. Let's do it."

She grabbed his arm, and motioned towards the door. Jake stalled her one more time.

"Are you sure?"

Leah nodded. Yeah, she was sure.

"Ok then. Let's do it." Jake's grin was wide and joyful now, and Leah felt lucky to have him, just here, just now. "And remember, sister. I got your back, ok? If that asshole out there ever tries to hurt you… he'll regret it."

Before opening the door, Jake paused one last time.

"Leah… you're beautiful." He bowed down to kiss her lightly on the top of her head, careful not to mess up her elaborate hairdo.

She entered the Church slowly, on her best friend's arm. He walked her proudly down the aisle, pausing only to give an overly emotional Nessa a loving wink.

At the altar, Embry was so pale and nervous the guests had been worried he might pass out, but the minute he saw Leah, his features exploded into a joyous smile.

Jake pulled him into a manly hug, and whispered something in his ear that Leah couldn't hear, but could only guess at; Embry laughed nervously, and, before turning to his beautiful, radiant bride, held on to Jake's hand a moment longer.

"Thank you, for everything. I'll take it from here."