Disclaimer: Toys, I borrowed, but the games I play are mine.
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Leah and Jacob
From Breaking Dawn,
Book II, Chapter 18: There Are No Words For This:
Why should I let him get away from what he'd done? Wouldn't it be more fair -more satisfying- to let him live with nothing, nothing at all?
It made me almost smile, as filled with hate as I was, to imagine it. No Bella. No killer spawn. And also missing as many members of his family as I was able to take down. Of course, he could probably put those back together, since I wouldn't be around to burn them. Unlike Bella, who would never be whole again.
I wondered if the creature could be put back together. I doubted it. It was part Bella, too -so it must have inherited some of her vulnerability. I could hear that in the tiny thrumming beat of its heart.
Its heart was beating. Hers wasn't.
Only a second had passed as I made these easy decisions.
The trembling was getting tighter and faster. I coiled myself preparing to spring at the blond vampire and rip the murderous thing from her arms with my teeth.
Rosalie cooed at the creature again, setting the empty metal bottle-thing aside and lifting the creature into the air to nuzzle her face against its cheek.
Perfect. The new position was perfect for my strike. I leaned forward and felt the heat begin to change me while the pull toward the killer grew -it was stronger than I'd ever felt it before, so strong it reminded me of an Alpha's command, like it would crush me if I didn't obey.
This time I wanted to obey.
The murderer stared past Rosalie's shoulder at me, its gaze more focused than any newborn creature's gaze should be.
Warm brown eyes, the color of milk chocolate -the exact same color that Bella's had been.
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Her eyes would never look at him like that again, Jacob thought. She lay upstairs broken and mangled without any hope of taking a deep breath, waking up and walking away from these fuckers with her life, body and soul intact. And if she'd wake up, her eyes, her mind, everything about her would be different. Everything Jacob loved would be different, dead but not buried, gone from this world; everything save for the child, the killer spawn.
Jacob stopped in his tracks.
It stared right back at him. That little monster had killed the most precious thing to Jacob, and it had the gall to look all innocent and curious. It didn't matter to him that Bella would have chosen to die anyway and it certainly didn't matter that Bella would have chosen - and did choose - Edward over Jacob every time. That little miscreation from hell had murdered Bella and it deserved to die.
He was shaking with barely contained rage as his limbs moved to a crouch. His body was readying itself for a pounce and Jacob was about to take that leap, which would end everything.
He halted. He couldn't do it.
Jacob couldn't bring himself to kill it while Bella's eyes were staring back at him. He couldn't kill what was left of his precious Bella. Jacob couldn't kill it, but he didn't have to live with it either.
In that moment his heart finally gave out. It missed a beat and recoiled like a car does after running over a bump in the road. Except this wasn't any ordinary bump. This was like a small canyon Jacob could barely cross and it was like his undercarriage ploughed through the dirt while he fought to stay on the road. His system would need a complete overhaul after that hit, but at least he could finally move on. He could let go and find a new direction.
And that's exactly what Jacob did.
He sprang around and ran to the door, sprinting out of the lavish house while the familiar warmth gathered in the base of his spine. Jacob held the magic back until he was outside before exploding in midstride. The clothes loaned to him were shredded as he dove through the sea of green.
Immediately he was assaulted by the unwanted attentions of the Clearwater siblings.
What happened? Is everything alright? Why are you in such a hurry?
Is it done then? Should we let Sam know? Jacob?
Jake. Talk to us. We're your pack.
No! You're not. Jacob erupted. Go home to Sam and tell him. Tell him it's done. I gave my word about Bella, so they could change her. Images of her disfigured body filled his mind. Jacob hadn't stayed long enough to know if it had taken or if she'd been beyond any and all help at that point. He didn't know if she'd turn. He forced his mind shut down before he could relay the whole ugly truth to the pure minded.
Seth, not now.
Jacob ignored Leah and focused just long enough to finish his earlier thoughts. I gave my word for Bella, but I said nothing about the killer spawn. Sam can rip it to shreds for all I care. I'm done.
Decisively Jacob shut his mind to all other voices except the sound of his huge paws beating the loam. It was a nice, comforting sound thrumming in his bones as the distance to his past grew. He'd done this before. He'd run away and escaped the unbearable circumstances to the wild.
He'd tried to lose himself but then he had found his way back. He'd felt the pull of everything familiar and the only home he'd ever known, and he'd fallen right back into his old habits. He'd forgotten the lessons learnt and the high price he'd paid for those lessons. His heart.
There was no going back this time, no tucking his tail between his hind legs and crawling back to do Sam's bidding. It wasn't an option when he'd betrayed his kin in such a way. His kin. What would Billy and Rachel think of Jacob siding with the leeches against Sam and Paul? Would they ever welcome him back home if he'd ever have the mind to return?
Jacob wasn't sure he wanted to try to find out. Asking and being denied hurt too much and this time, this time it would surely break him.
The beat of his heart echoed in his ears and drowned out the sounds of his claws mauling the growth under them. It was as close to silence as he had hope to getting.
By the shore, Jacob sensed the gentle brush of another consciousness, but again forced himself to ignore it. Instead, he immersed his huge body in the cold water without a second thought and set out to cross the channel. It might have been easier to swim in his human form, but he paddled on stubbornly carrying the weight of his soaked fur.
He swam until he was exhausted and he swam until he knew it would have been wiser to turn back and he swam until every cell in his magical body screamed for relief and reprieve. And he swam on.
The bank he reached wasn't that steep but it might as well have been K2. Jacob dragged himself onshore and in the trees before collapsing and slipping into his human skin.
The cold didn't bother him, neither did the howling wind or the trunks dancing with it. What did bother him couldn't be scrubbed from his eyes or washed away from his eyes. He couldn't unsee the first real smile Bella had shared with him after the leech had abandoned her. He couldn't unfeel her bony elbow between his ribs when she'd stumbled and used him as a crutch. He couldn't unsmell her skin in the sunlight or untaste the bitterness of her sweet kiss.
Jacob couldn't forget any of it.
Lying on his bare back unmoving didn't help to deter the assault of his memories nor did the gentle rain hide his tears. Only running helped to alleviate the sting in his heart and lungs and that too was merely a temporary reprieve.
He pushed himself onto his knees and dug his fingers into the greenery. He searched for that usual warm magic but couldn't hold on to it. For the first time since adjusting to this life, Jacob struggled to find the strength to allow the change. Still, he was a persistent creature and a few moments later he was heading north again. His pace was more measured then and his walk nearly languid.
There weren't any distractions to keep him from combing his memories. First he summoned back all the hazy images of their childhood, Bella's and his. Like an old man who has seen too much of life, Jacob looked back at those days, lamenting over the lost years and opportunities. Maybe had he been just a little older then, he could have changed things.
Those extra years hadn't helped when he'd finally braved to seize the day. He'd been too late, even then, never really having a chance to persuade Bella. The leech had stolen her heart and stood by while Jacob had flailed, crashed and burnt like the inexperienced schoolboy he actually was.
Jacob could almost hear Leah's voice describing none too kindly his pathetic pining over an emotional abuser. He snorted wolfishly.
Leah's earlier reaction to Jacob's memories and the distance it had afforded had helped. Perhaps enough. It was a shame he hadn't had the chance to properly thank her, it might even be the only thing he'd really regret, leaving this way and sending the Clearwaters back to Sam, back to the real pack.
Come on now. I know it isn't much, but this is a real pack too. How was your swim?
Leah? How did you - Go back! Go back now!
Is than an alpha command?
Jacob whined like a kicked puppy. No.
The mirth of her thoughts was ticklish. He didn't like it, but he agreed to go home and tell Sam everything that happened. The truth as far as he knows and saw -
The jab hit its mark.
Enough. Her edge cut to his core and the images surfaced again. Leah quickly seized the images of the little redheaded creature and chomped on them with her analytical mind. It was as if watching target practice.
He went home, but I'll doubt he'll stay there. Seth's too naive for his own good and I'd bet he wants to give the bloodsuckers a chance to explain. I did make him promise to be careful, though, only to face one of them at a time and take back up with him.
You think Sam will allow that?
And how is this any concern of yours? You abandoned us. Leah waited for Jacob's retort but he kept quiet. With a snort, she continued. Sam has no hold over him.
She didn't need to say it; Jacob knew Leah wasn't just talking about her brother. I'm stuck with you then.
His point didn't merit a response.
I won't be good company in the near future.
None of us are.
Does that include Seth?
Are you kidding me? It especially includes that brat. No one wants to put up with him long term.
He's not that bad.
You didn't have to share a house with him.
Jacob snorted. I only share his mind... Hey. What happened to the "you go your way and I go mine" pact anyway?
There are extenuating circumstances.
You need me.
Jacob was stunned. There was nothing else Leah could have said that would have surprised him more. He started to protest when his earlier thoughts surfaced.
Aww. You were thinking of me! You missed me. See how I am needed and helpful.
Rather, it's the outside perspective that's helpful than you.
Gee, don't I feel loved.
She tried to hide it, but Jacob caught the corner of a memory hued with purple in Leah's thoughts. What's that?
The reason I came after you... umm, around you?
Where exactly are you?
Few miles from the Canadian border. I need to be careful around the towns. And yes, I'm crazy fast, I know.
Did you even stop to hunt?
Yes dad. I've had dinner and breakfast today. No snacks though. I'm keeping it healthy, which is more than I can say about you. I know you passed out for few hours, but unless you found a burger place hidden under a rock, you haven't eaten since before the grossest c-section of all time. Thank you for sharing that titbit by the way. The heavy, oozing quality of her cadence couldn't be mistaken as anything else but sarcasm.
Don't think this distraction technique will work.
I was just answering your question.
Leah, don't make me break my word. Jacob's voice changed a little, but not enough to make the words into an unbreakable command.
Leah, what happened? That memory was more than intense, yet I've never seen it before. How did you keep it from -
Sam? That was the easy part. You wouldn't want Bella to actually see your thoughts and feel you contemplating a suicide, would you? That makes burying the memory quite simple.
I never thought you were the type to take your own life.
I'm not. She sounded as determined as ever to him. But that doesn't stop me from thinking of it. You think you know how hurt I was judging by the way I acted around the happy couple or how I bitched in Sam's pack, but trust me, you don't have a clue as to how broken I was. In some ways still am.
Jacob could tell she was weighing her next words carefully.
I take that back. You didn't know, you couldn't have, but you might have an inkling now.
They had come back to her, again. Why couldn't he let go?
It takes time. Love doesn't die quickly, not even the unrequited kind.
I don't need your sage advice.
Don't you? By sounding genuinely curious, she managed to surprise him again.
Go back, Leah. You don't have to rejoin Sam's pack, but you can be with your family and stop phasing. You'll be happy.
Easier said than done, Jacob. Her vision appeared to tilt. There is still so much that we don't know about old legends or how this two packs thing actually works. What happens if you die? Does the beta become a new alpha or do I have to go back to Sam with my tail between my legs? I'm not risking that; it's a fate worse than death to me.
I'm not going to die.
So you say now. But in few hours or days, who knows?
Just shut up. I don't want to talk!
Jacob concentrated on running and swimming when it was needed. His hunger was finally getting to him. Not only were his steps shorter, but also his vision doubled at times. Still, he pushed on like the haunted man he was.
He tried to stop thinking altogether, but Leah's voice kept ringing in his mind. At times it was telling him he was worthless and that Bella's rejection had been expected. Another times, she seemed to be guiding him through his memories telling how silly his affection and admiration had been. Sometimes the voice was telling him to give up and end it all right away.
You really need to eat.
I thought I told you to go.
You did, and I did go, only my chosen direction was different from that you intended.
You're beginning to fade; you need to eat Jacob. I'm not about to come and cook for you, so you'll just have to hunt. Shouldn't be a huge problem for you after all those months wolfing.
Jacob? Do you hear me? Your vision is blurry and I can't even make out the ambient noises on your path, where are you?
I don't know. I kind of lost track.
Stop to look around. Show me. Stop and I'll come to you.
You should be heading to La Push.
Don't argue with me. Show me.
The way his hind legs folded under him, should have made her point clear to him, but he continued arguing with her over their mental link. She ignored all his comments about going back and giving up the run and he refused to disclose his exact location. Unfortunately for him, neither could he stop smelling or close his eyes fast enough.
She was on her way to him before he lost consciousness and slept like dog he was at that moment.
Leah kept an eye out for small game. She knew all too well how easily men's moods were swayed by hunger and malnutrition. Her father had seemed to be always at his worst whenever mum's cooking had been delayed. Seth didn't care enough to watch what he ate to actually ever grow hungry enough to mope.
She kept running and flexing her muscles as if trying to fly over the ground. It still wasn't enough. She could feel the link fading and Jacob slipping further and further away.
Pushing aside any conscious thought of worry, Leah contemplated on what she was doing or going to do. Jacob wasn't her friend or family; he was simply a means to an end with an unfortunate insight to her thoughts. She didn't care about saving him or making him feel better, she just wanted to ensure her own freedom and peace of mind. Just like she had told Jacob earlier, being back under Sam's command was fate worse than death to her.
Leah didn't like admitting to herself how much it had hurt. The worst part wasn't losing Sam to Emily nor was it having to share Sam's thoughts in the pack and to know exactly how little he wanted to do with her. No, the absolutely worst part was being blamed for it.
She was the freak of the group, a misfit female who spoiled the boys' party with her presence and had the audacity voice her unhappiness. She wasn't like the others, trying to make best out of a difficult situation, she had to bitch and act tough. Although, she'd rather bitch and make everyone's life miserable than voluntarily spill her guts and show just how deeply she hurt. Leah had seen how the boys had reacted to Jacob's pining.
She hadn't had any intention of ever being humiliated like that, and now she was considering revealing all to him. After all those months hiding her true self from the other pack members, it had become like a second nature to her. Showing Jacob the broken pieces of her heart would probably be the second biggest mistake of her life, especially considering how little she thought of him.
Was that why she'd run into the Cullen manor and given Bella a piece of her mind? She'd almost managed to get out all the things she'd wanted to say to Sam, but never could. There was something freeing in speaking for another, Leah thought. Somehow saying all those hurtful but true things in defence of Jacob had unlocked all the restraints facing Sam day after day had instilled in her.
Leah could breathe again and it had just as much to do with sticking up for Jacob than with being free of Sam's influence. She wasn't sure if she could ever truly be free of Sam. Her heart was the stubborn kind. Leah wasn't even sure if there was enough room left for another indelible mark.
I need to stop thinking like that. Life goes on.
You're conscious? When did this happen?
Five seconds ago.
Good to know. Are you in running condition or just slacking?
Just slacking, enjoying the cool air, prickly needles and berries I found.
Berries? You better save some of those for me.
Then I guess you don't want this rabbit I caught. You can catch your own meal. She let her senses take over and her mind flood with the feel of the fur and saliva mixing between her jaws. She inhaled and made sure to analyse every last pheromone and let it tickle her wolf side's appetite. The growl echoing in her thoughts made her chuckle.
Never thought you'd go vegan, but there are a lot of things I thought I'd never see.
What's with you? Jacob asked sounding a little more like himself rather than a walking, magical corpse. And where's my dinner, woman?
Men. The thought was laced with a surprising amount of mirth instead of the anticipated irritation.
I think I'm in the next valley. Do you think you can meet me here or would you rather I chew your food for you too?
Shut it. I'm coming. Jacob faked his first easy steps and sprinted up the hill. His speed carried him about half way up, before his lungs seemed to collapse and drain all his energy out of him. He kept his footing, but only barely. Four legs weren't enough to steady him.
Jacob should have known she wouldn't wait. Leah appeared in front of him on the small mound on the mountainside. She flung the raw meal at him and leaped to one of his sides. Her small body was just at the right height to prop him up.
Feels like you've shed the rest of that baby fat. And it's been only a day.
Baby fat? Seriously? There isn't an ounce of fat in this body.
Well, there should be. If you're planning on surviving the winter in the wild, you'll need the extra layer to keep warm, and alive.
Don't get cute with me, Leah. It doesn't suit you.
Right back at you. Her thoughts muddled for a second. There's a cove on the other side of the ridge. Can you make it?
I don't need to rest. I'm good.
Instead of retorting verbally, Leah stepped aside and watched him tumble on the ground. You were saying?
That doesn't quite fit the occasion. Leah thought at him as he gobbled down the meager meal. She stepped back to his side and together they made their way to the narrow mountain pass.
Then what does?
Yes, Mistress. Whatever you say, Mistress. My humble apologies, Mistress. Please, no, not the whip, Mistress. I'll never ever-
That's getting a little thick.
Getting? You mean to say we're not there yet? Think again.
Jacob looked around and noticed the recess in the rock. It wouldn't shield them from the wind, but it would keep them dry from the light rain. He stumbled to the back of the cove and flopped on the gravelly stone. Deep, slow breaths helped him to focus and stay in the furry skin. Jacob wasn't exactly thrilled for having to share such a small space with Leah especially since he didn't have the option of changing to his human skin to get away from her thoughts.
That's a lie. You can phase at any time.
I don't have any clothes.
Do you think I packed for this trip?
But you still have something, I shredded the last of mine.
True. But who needs clothes out here? It's not like you're going to freeze and there's absolutely no one to see your shortcomings.
She could feel him lifting the corner of his eye and looking pointedly at her. Optionally, she could have seen it with her own eyes.
We really need to get past this false modesty. It's just skin.
Let's not test that theory. I'm not in the mood for another mental treatment from you. Jacob pouted, thinking back to all those other times Leah had made him, and others, pay for actually looking at her.
No one had actually been there to see her phase for the first time, but for the times after that when she'd lost her control there had almost always been another pack member to witness Leah's failure. And from those glimpses the pack mind had created quite accurate description of her figure, or at least that's what Sam had let slip on one occasion. Jacob envied Sam's long adjusting period, because it had given him an advantage for hiding his thoughts from the rest of the pack. Just like right now. He was broadcasting his thoughts on all the channels and at any moment Leah would rip into him for it. Speaking of the devil, what had happened to her?
Jacob realised he couldn't hear her thoughts. He opened one of his eyes and glanced around him surreptitiously, or so he hoped.
"I'd like to talk like humans do for a while." Her explanation was simple.
She was sitting right next to the dropping waterfall. Her tank top was wet and nearly see-through, but her cut-off jeans provided some visual protection.
"Did you realise that I actually hoped we could make a little further before having this discussion. Anywhere else would have been better than here. If you'd just make down to the valley and to the riverbank, it would have been better than this cold and off-putting rock."
What are you talking about?
"I don't really want to do this and I'm definitely not ready to show you, but I think you need to hear what I have to say."
As Leah kept talking, Jacob was growing more and more confused. It wasn't just the physical exhaustion and mental weariness; it was simply the fact that he didn't understand a word of what she was saying. Show him? Show him what? He had to risk her ridicule if he wanted his questions to be answered.
"Can't we just sleep until tomorrow and talk then?" He asked while trying to organise his limbs into a sufficient cover for his more delicate parts.
"It has to be now or I'll lose my nerve."
"Nerves? Don't make me laugh," he tried to joke, but she wouldn't join him. Leah just sat in silence, waited and guilted him into asking: "What don't you want to show me?"
"The memories I have of Sam and our time together."
No way would I want to see that! Jacob thought to himself.
"Leah, you don't have to-"
"Yes, I do. Do you even know why fell for him? I mean he was always there. La Push isn't that big of a place and yet somehow I managed to not see him until I was too busy with school. I was hardly ever home and doing my best trying to cram my head full of information I will never ever end up using. Sam didn't come by our house and I only ever saw him by the bon fires. Then one night he sat next to me and I felt warm. It was the kind of warmth I've never felt before and it wasn't the scorching kind heat like his touch was after he started phasing. It was the warm tingling of another skin meeting mine and it was the sweet blood rush of my heart trying to handle his arm around my waist." A short laugh escaped her lips. "Naturally I ended up pushing him away when he tried to cop a feel, but later, when everyone had left and the fire was dying, he came to apologise. He was so shy and sheepish that I couldn't help but agree to let him buy me a lunch the next day."
"Sam? Shy? I'm having hard time believing that."
"He was with me, at first. Then we got to know each other better and familiarity replaced the timidness, but the warmth and the blood rush never disappeared, not even when he broke my heart and ran to Emily. And I know it was the same for him too. Perks of pack mind." She sniffed at the last comment. "I should have realised it wasn't anything special that it was just a normal reaction of two human beings touching each other. See, nothing special, just skin against skin."
Leah turned and leaned until she reached him. She laid her hand on Jacob's wrist and left her fingertips on his pulsing artery. "Just skin. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
Her fingers rubbed his wrist gently, teasing the edges of his palm with every passing. Jacob inhaled and swallowed the lump in his throat. He relaxed incrementally. Leah's touch didn't feel especially cold or warm to his overheated body, but it did cause the hairs on his arm to stand and a soft, almost ticklish, tingling to linger wherever she had touched.
"It is kind of amazing how magical a simple touch can be, even without this werewolf magic, but it shouldn't be glorified as anything more. It's just a sign of comfort and companionship, just as it is a sign of lust and wanting. The things a simple brush can do to a body is nothing short of miraculous, but it isn't supernatural, it is just natural."
Jacob wanted to shift and move away from her, but he couldn't. The bare, wet rock prevented him from moving backwards and modesty stopped him from moving forward past Leah. He could do nothing to stop his body's natural reactions. He just swallowed the bile and tried to act nonchalant.
"You can't hide it, can you?" Leah asked suddenly. "The disappointment."
"Yeah, uh, the disappointment."
"I can imagine it. You saw Bella the first time after years of being apart and she looked so new and shiny and attractive. You thought that she was the one to rock your world and before you knew, the smallest touch could set your blood on fire. You obsessed over her and catalogued all her mannerisms and you seethed in jealousy when she chose to love someone else." Her thumb was tracing the bones at the back of his hand. "When you kissed her you were in heaven, because finally, finally she was in your arms telling you she loved you and giving you the hope you shouldn't have had to ask for. And then she took it all away from you. Pulled the rug from under your feet. I can imagine it because I've seen it in your mind. More than that, I've lived through it."
Leah was still touching him, but the expression on her face was a distant one.
"Sam was all that to me. He gave me all those important firsts. First kiss, first walk on the moonlit sand, first dance, first-" Her eyelids fell and hid her eyes. "Our, mine I should say, first time was gentle and awkward, everything it should be between two people in love. Sam finished too quickly and I was left hanging between pain, bitter disappointment and the utter tenderness I felt for him in that moment. It was a beautiful experience, but it wasn't anything compared to the first honest fuck we had. I was on my hands and knees and-"
Jacob wanted to open his mouth and scream. He wanted to unclench his hands and forcefully stop Leah from uttering another word. He wanted to do anything to avoid hearing what he was about to hear, but his jaws and limbs were locked in place. His only option was to make as if a part of the mountain wall, unmoving and impregnable. Unfortunately for him it wasn't enough to make him deaf.
"-it was quite animalistic, which somehow makes more sense now. Then, it was just another first and a visceral experience." Leah shook her head. "Dear god, I miss sex."
Jacob choked and started coughing.
"You okay there?" She had the nerve to laugh at him. She was getting too close patting his back and trying to soothe his anxiety attack. "Damn, I forgot, you're a virgin. No wonder this must be uncomfortable for you."
Her palm stopped drawing the large circles on his shoulders and back. Jacob waited and hazarded a suspicious glance at her direction. He could have counted her eyelashes, if her sincere gaze hadn't distracted him.
"You need to get over your embarrassment. We are going to share our thoughts from now until I expire and there are more intimate things than sex."
"Expire? As in die?"
"No. That's not what I meant. Until I cease phasing, if I can. I know myself well enough to know that will take a long time and you're not going to stop phasing either. You'll be too busy running away to do that."
"Jacob, don't even try to lie to me." I know.
He jumped. Jacob needed to add distance between them and he was too anxious to care about propriety. He felt Leah's eyes on him as he walked further away from the cove and entered into the rain.
He'd imagined it. Their minds weren't connected in human form. He'd had a hallucination. Was this how lunacy started?
"How do you describe what happened yesterday if not as running away? Tell me, what was it? Acceptance? I don't think so." Leah straightened her back and crossed her legs.
"Breaking free?" Jacob snapped and turned to face her. "A breakthrough? Because that's what it felt like. I watched Bella die. Don't you get it? I heard her spine crack and I watched that bloodsucker bite into her to save that thing that killed her. And it had her eyes, those warm, beautiful and so unnatural eyes. I wanted to sink my teeth into it and just rip and chew until there'd be nothing left."
"But you couldn't." It was such a trivial thing to say and yet so true.
"No I couldn't. I loved Bella, but she made her choice a long time ago and I couldn't make her change her mind. I don't even know why she insisted on keeping me around for so long."
"Because she's a selfish bitch who didn't think of anybody but herself."
"Leah, don't what? Tell the truth? I won't lie for your convenience, you'll know it's a lie as soon as we phase."
"Don't use such derogatory names of her. I still care about her." Jacob asked.
"It's nothing I wouldn't say to her face. In fact, I already did." Leah got up on her feet and stood visibly shaking. Her eyes were flaming. "I'm sick and tired of everybody tiptoeing around that - Bella. She thinks she can just pull a string and you'll come running and that everyone will do what she wants. Somehow, I don't understand how, she's managed to convince the Leeches to do exactly that. And you! You're the worst of them. She used you and discarded you like a piece of trash and you keep going back for more."
"You're Emily's bridesmaid! How is that any different?"
"She's family. She's human."
"And Bella? She wasn't?"
"Bella's a spoiled brat who didn't think twice about Charlie or you when her precious Bloodsucker was supposedly in danger. Emily -" Her voice broke. "Emily didn't ask for this. She didn't set out to steal Sam away from me and to hurt me. I'm mad as hell that she did, but she's the innocent one here and she paid a high enough price for it."
"And what about Sam? Are you really going to stand there and watch him pledge himself to your cousin? Is he an innocent too, after all he didn't have any control over this magic? If he asked, would you go back to him?"
A shadow of a pain washed over Leah's face.
"Sam - it's complicated. I don't know how to explain it."
"Yes, I still love him and want him and yes, I am going to stand by and watch him marry the woman I thought of as my sister. And I'll smile for the pictures. But do I think he's innocent in all this or do I think that he was helpless under the weight of the imprinting magic? No, I don't. He can say it was the imprint, that he didn't have a choice, that the magic made him do it, he can come up with any explanation he thinks can help him live with what he's done, but the fact of the matter is that he hurt me. He left me for another and he broke my heart. I can't forgive him for that any more than I can forgive him for wishing I'd disappear. I may still love him, but I don't have to tolerate such ruthless disregard for my feelings. He could crawl to me on his hands and knees over red-hot coals and I wouldn't take him back."
"But the imprint-"
"I don't believe in it. You men may have convinced yourselves that it's destiny and survival of the wolf gene in us. You can tell yourselves that it's the imprint that ties you to one woman and that's why she's the centre of your universe you can't help but gravitate to. You can blame the magic all you want, but it is just love. Plain, simple love. Everything Sam feels for Emily now, I felt for him before he'd ever consider that the old legends could be true. He was the centre of my universe and my life revolved around him. Sam loved me in his way, he was ready to commit himself to me and lie the rest of our lives about who he really is, but in the end he chose to love Emily more."
Leah was shaking her head as her strength was drained from her.
"Sam, Jared, Quill, Paul. None of them knew how to love until it was shown to them. I don't know if it's a difference between men and women or if it's an individual thing, but for me it's easy. It fills my heart, my body and soul to the brim. It's the most natural thing in the world to me, to love someone, to care for them, to commit myself to them and to do my damndest to ensure their happiness. Unfortunately, very few people are worth that kind of love."
"Neither is Bella."
"Do you really want him back?" Jacob asked and forgot to breathe.
Leah tilted her head and world before letting out a chuckle and shaking her head. "No, I don't."
"The next time Bella asks, I'm not going."
"Are you sure?"
"I will be."
"Good." Her lips curved into a tentative smile. "Do you think we can sleep now? Tomorrow's going to be a long day."
"Do you want the cold wall or the open cliff?"
Leah turned on her the balls of her feet as if evaluating the decor. "You take the wall. We wouldn't want you to fall and roll down the mountainside now would we? And besides, I'm in a better situation to protect you, don't you agree?"
"Sure, sure. Shut up and go to sleep."
 [√] 
Jacob woke up alone.
His eyes were dry and sticky. It was as if someone had poured sugar under his eyelids and let it melt and glue his skin to his eyeballs. It was a disgusting feeling. Something equally unpleasant but fairly more manageable was the itchiness in his throat and mouth. All Jacob needed was a tall glass of water, but since there weren't any glasses nearby, it meant he needed a drink from the stream downhill.
He laid his paws on the gravel and descended the steep mountainside slowly. He wasn't in the mood for great gestures and long leaps. Everything in his supernatural body was starting to ache and his brain felt few sizes too big for his skull.
Jacob tottered to the nearest pond and buried his head in it all the way up to his ears. The ice-cold water wrecked havoc on his system, but it also woke him up completely. Now that other aches and sores had been taken care of, Jacob felt the full impact of his empty stomach growling. He was weak from hunger.
The water had also cleared his nose, because Jacob now smelled the luscious scent of roasting flesh in the air. He turned to follow his nose and trotted to the makeshift camp by the side of the creek. There were signs of great battle strewn around and among those, were two soaking wet items of clothing. However, the owner of said clothes wasn't anywhere to be seen, smelled or heard.
Jacob felt tempted. It would be so easy to just wolf down the roast and act like nothing had happened. It would probably be his last chance to eat something cooked for a long time, but something stopped him. Instead of nearing the fire, he headed towards the water and immersed himself into the stream. He swam across the small creek and let the water wash away a night's worth of stone dust. Jacob waded to the bank and shook himself dry. He needed to decide where to start hunting.
Light steps drew nearer.
"Where do you think you're going?" Leah asked with a normal voice knowing that Jacob would hear her.
She hadn't reached the expanse yet. He decided that the safest course of action was to fake exhaustion - which wasn't a feat by any standard - and take a nap on the big, flat rock next to him.
Jacob collapsed and closed his eyes just in time. All he caught a glimpse of was an ankle. A very lovely ankle, but that wasn't the point. He really needed to divert his thoughts before she'd phase and catch him in the act.
"I already ate, but thank you for waiting. That's very considerate of you."
If you already ate, then where were you?
"I was just picking berries and leaves for an impromptu salad. Nothing is as dry as well roasted hare without anything on the side."
His imagination was working funny again. There's no way she'd heard him. Leah had just probably thought of the most logical question and answered it knowing full well that Jacob didn't have the nerve to phase in front of her and ask it himself. That was a depressing thought. He really needed to stop in that vein; there wasn't any special connection between him and Leah. All they had was the pack of renegades. Speaking of-
"Seth and I talked earlier. He's home at La Push and mum has him under house arrest. He hasn't been to the Cullen's since you fled and he went to tell them. Edward already knew, of course, but he assured Seth that nothing had changed. As soon as Bella wakes, they'll leave. Sam's not taking their word for it though. Half of his pack is patrolling the border and the rest only go home to sleep and eat. Sam wasn't too happy to hear that you'd taken off; he was counting on you for the battle."
How did she do it?
"Aren't you hungry?"
He was. He was famished.
Jacob was trying to decide whether to risk the ingenuousness of his eyes or starve when he heard a splash. Someone was swimming. Considering the location and population density, his guesses were limited.
"Jacob." A wet hand brushed his snout and pulled his ear. "I know you're awake. You're too tense to be sleeping. What's this? Why are you pretending to sleep when you could be eating?" He sensed a sharp movement beside him and heard a deep inhale. "For fuck's sake!"
That was a first.
"Okay, we're taking care of this now. Phase. I'm going to stand here and close my eyes, if that's what it takes, but you need to quit acting like a child."
He let out a whine.
"No arguments. Phase." She demanded.
Jacob snorted, but opened his eye just enough to see Leah's calves standing little to his left. He gathered the warmth and the magic and forced himself to change. Lying on the flat stone wasn't that bad. Moving from said rock could turn out to be disastrous.
"Okay, now what?"
"Open your eyes."
"I'm having this conversation with a three year old." She said more to herself than to him. "Jacob, you're a grown man, physically at least, try to act like it."
He hesitated still. Jacob tried to convince himself that he was still afraid of the eventual lash out once he'd see, watch and survey Leah's naked form, but a small nagging part of him told it was him, who was afraid of the scrutiny.
"You know this delay is pointless, don't you. I've already seen you naked on many occasions, most recently yesterday when you were giving your harangue about Bella."
"What?" Jacob's eyes flew open.
"See, easy." She goaded him.
And he saw. His eyes fell on the curve of her neck and surprisingly delicate shoulder. They didn't look strong enough to carry her the length of a short alleyway let alone help her fly from one state to another, or province. Jacob focused on the crook of her armpit, debating whether or not he could avoid gravity of her breasts. He couldn't. The third dimension added something to the experience, he noted before quickly moving on to the sharp turns of her torso and pelvis. Her legs were toned and looked to belong to the runner that she was.
When his eyes finished their exploration at her lips, Leah couldn't hold back the sneer. "See something you like?"
Jacob immediately flushed covering himself and turning his back to her. His shoulders hunched and his head fell forward. Shame flooded her and she cursed her snappy temper. How would he ever get comfortable around her if she couldn't control her mouth? The jagged stones dug into her soles as she took a tentative step towards him, but she ignored the cuts. She was used to pain.
Leah extended her arm, but didn't touch him. She just brushed the air above his shoulders as she moved closer to stand behind Jacob. Her fingers curled into fists and her arms tensed into straight lines at her sides. She exhaled sharply and hung her head in shame. Somehow I'm sorry didn't seem enough.
It would have to be a start, she decided.
He inhaled and his torso shook. He was so close but still so far. Or was it she who kept the distance?
She leaned forward, forced her fingers to uncurl and wrapped her arms around Jacob's waist. His abdomen was trembling under her touch.
"I'm sorry. That sounded too harsh."
"Honest, you mean." The accusation was clear. Leah bit her tongue and in her indignation decided to show him honesty. She inhaled and stepped closer to press her chest against his chest.
"You feel that?" She inhaled slowly to push her nipples deeper into his skin. "It's nothing to be ashamed of, just slightly embarrassing."
"Really?" His tone was foreign to her. Maybe it was a mixture of disbelief and sourness or maybe it was something else, she didn't know.
"Please, please don't take a whiff right now. I'll gladly make sure you don't starve if you just ignore the smell."
"I'm heartbroken but I'm not blind. If you couldn't control your thoughts with one female in the pack, try being that one woman surrounded with ripped male flesh and gratuitous nudity. The dreams I've had - let's just say they'd make a porn star blush."
"Anyone in particular?"
"Are you laughing at me? Don't you dare to laugh!" Leah tensed and tried to pull away, but he stopped her. Jacob grabbed her hands and wrapped her arms securely under his.
"Admit it; it's a little bit funny. Especially considering the hell you put us through."
"Shut up! One of those is my brother."
"Leah, calm down. I'm not a perv and I don't think you're one either. Just," Jacob paused to grin to himself, "tell me. Jared or Paul?"
She was shaking too. "Quill, actually. It's such a shame he'll be celibate for the next fifteen years or so."
Jacob was shaking his head as if he could get rid of the image she'd just given him.
"I did that."
"What? What's going on in that head of yours?"
"I thought you could hear my thoughts," Jacob pointed out wryly.
"Only when were furry and linked. I'm not a mind-reader." She whispered against his skin.
"I was just wondering, can this work? Can we be civil to each other, maybe even friends? Or will we just end up making each other miserable and uncomfortable."
"Part of me thinks-"
"Would slight discomfort really be that bad?"
Two hearts either skipped a beat or their amplitudes cancelled each other out.
"How slight?" He uttered the words when his stomach growled and drowned his voice.
"You should eat."
"What about you?"
"I'm full, but I wouldn't say no to a nibble," Leah smirked and pushed Jacob into the creek.
They waded though the water hand in hand without even considering the significance of it.
She brought the berries and the salad to accompany the roasted rabbit and they ate in silent ease. Jacob buried his teeth into the roast and forgot everything else for a while. It wasn't until he was licking his lips for the last taste of the meal that he allowed himself to pause.
He and Leah were getting along.
They hadn't really fought, just bantered, and any ruffle had been the consequence of miscommunication. They were working through those at a quick pace. She was making him feel less self-conscious with her unfiltered confessions and uncomplicated view of the human body. She was a woman, he was a man, and skin was just skin. A lovely shade of brown skin, but just skin. Maybe all his self-consciousness hadn't disappeared after all.
Jacob's fingers itched. Rubbing them against each other didn't help neither did the texture of the undergrowth. His eyes followed the outlines of her figure again.
"See something you like?" The words were the same, but the tone was different. She didn't turn to look at him when she spoke but just smiled at the sun caressing her face.
He cleared his throat. "And if I do?"
Leah glanced at him then and tilted her head. After a minute a mischievous spark lit her eyes. "What are you going to do about it?"
Was she serious? Would he dare to risk it?
Unwittingly his arm reached for hers. His fingers were but a hairs breadth away when she jumped to her feet.
"You need to catch me first," she taunted him one second and phased the next.
Shock kept Jacob in his seat for two seconds. Then he was on his feet, exploding into a fur ball and dashing after her. Jacob could smell her even when he couldn't see her from behind the trees and the boulders, but his tracking abilities were tested under the mental bombardment. Leah was teasing him with images of that same naked skin that she had claimed was nothing special.
It was the tenor of her thoughts that made the difference. She replayed in her mind every instance she'd seen him in some state of undress and concentrated on the veins she'd worked so hard to hide so far. In her mind the sight of his buttocks made her clench her own. His bulging arms made her nipples stand up and his rippling abdomen made the waves travel south from her own.
As if images weren't enough, she started remembering every touch they'd ever shared and somehow in her twisted mind all those cursory brushes spoke of barely controlled lust.
He chased her through the valley to the edge of the mountains and back through the forest to the water's edge. She crossed the creek and ran for the woods, phasing in midstride. He shed his pelt too and caught her easily, now that she wanted to be caught.
Leah was laughing when Jacob's arms wrapped around her and tackled her. She fell holding him tightly but never touching the ground. He however, was squeezed between a soft body and prickly underbrush. The air escaped his lungs and left them aching.
"Are you okay?" She was chuckling still, but there was also something gentler in her tone.
"Ye-ah," he hacked. There was concern in her gaze when she brushed her hair aside. The next thing Jacob knew Leah was pushing herself off of him and he couldn't have that. He locked his arms around her waist and kept her still, or as still as a squirming woman could be in his embrace.
"You can't breathe."
"I just need a moment. You're heavier than you look."
"You did not just say that!" Her fingers pried a piece of the skin of his pec between them and pinched. In revenge Jacob automatically reached for her right ass cheek and squeezed. Leah didn't squeal or swat his arm away; she rolled her hips and made him acutely aware of their closeness and of his own excitement. Instead she rubbed gently the skin she had tormented moments earlier and gently teased his aching nipple with her blunt nails.
Her eyes flew from her fingers up to his eyes, asking.
Jacob wanted to invite her in, but didn't know how. He wanted to make the next move, but he wasn't ready. He didn't trust himself. He was the inexperienced virgin of the two.
Leah seemed to sense his dilemma. Her hand moved up to grab his neck and she said: "If at any point you need to stop or just a moment to breathe, tell me." She waited for him to acknowledge her words before letting her lips descend onto his.
It was a slow and tentative kiss. She was showing him all the right moves and letting him familiarise to her touch. Soon, it wasn't enough for him. He took control and stroked her back while probing further and further. Suddenly her hands were flat on his chest and she was pushing him away, or herself away from him. It was a sign for him to stop. Reluctantly Jacob eased his grasp and fell back on the ground.
"Dislocating a girls jaw is not sexy." She said rubbing her jawbone. He looked somewhat disappointed and chagrined, so she added with a smile. "Passion is good, but even better with amended force. Softly, like this." And she kissed him again just as intensely as he had without trying to stretch his mouth to a new dimension.
As much as Jacob enjoyed the kiss, his body wanted more. He wanted to smell her and to touch her. Each inhalation brought him closer to awareness of her arousal and enjoyment. It was intoxicating to know when she was just plaything with him and when she started to hanker for him.
Her skin was so soft and firm under his wandering touch. The backs of her thighs, the curves of her hips, the feel of her ribs, the soft weight of her breasts, the texture of her hair, he couldn't get enough of any of it. So when her legs parted to straddle him, the topmost feeling in his mind was regret.
It didn't last long, however, when she pulled him up in a sitting position and reached down with her hand. Jacob lost the ability to think or speak and buried his nose into the crook her neck. Leah stroked him masterfully, accentuating her prowess and the lack of his.
"Are you ready?" She breathed in his ear.
He shut his eyes and nodded his head. A gentle tug in the back of his head coaxed him into looking at her. She was waiting for him to say the words. Could he utter them without embarrassing himself more than he already had?
"Yes," he'd never sounded rougher and she liked it. Her breathing picked up and she pushed herself off his lap. Jacob watched her descend and impale herself with him. Leah in control of her sensuality was the biggest turn on he'd ever faced. Nothing in the magazines he'd browsed or the childish love he'd felt before had prepared Jacob for this moment.
He was dying under the ebbing of her muscles.
Jacob knew he wasn't going to last long, but he wanted to savour this moment and he definitely wanted to leave a better impression than Sam had on Leah's first time. Sam. The thought of his old alpha loving, and touching, and hurting his Leah helped Jacob to stave off his impending climax. His Leah.
She was moving up and down rolling her hips ever so often and driving him mad with lust. Jacob wanted to grab her, touch her, guide her, but he feared it would be too much for him to handle. So he leaned back on his arms and tried not to enjoy too much of the sight in front of him. It was in vain though, and as his balls tensed he kissed his self-control goodbye and came.
Suddenly, Leah grabbed his shoulders for support and pulled on his hand. She guided his thumb between her legs right in front of where they were still joined and circled it. Again and again with alternating pressure she made him touch her. It took a small eternity to cajole her over that ledge, but she fell too. Spasms rocked Leah's body and Jacob held her close.
They were both exhausted and out of breath.
"Well done, Puppy," she whispered, "Soon you'll be showing the big dogs how it's done."
He should have been angry, but he just snorted. "Don't. Call. Me. Puppy."
"Whatever you say, Pup." She captured his lips before he could protest and she exhausted all his objections. It was a sweet sleep that claimed them then.
 [√] 
The afternoon was cooling down when Jacob sat down on the slab of a rock by the creek to dry off. Leah was still soaking in the cool stream and humming. Who knew?
His world had changed in two days.
Jacob still loved Bella, but the pain was easing in his heart. He even recognised a jab of anger directed towards her, but somehow it seemed irrelevant to him. Bella had made her choice and she would have to live - or not - with it. He wouldn't. Jacob was free to go as he pleased and do what he pleased, she held no power over him anymore. It was just an echo of something that could have been.
"What's wrong?" Leah asked with a quizzical smile on her face.
"Nothing." He shook his head. And truly, nothing was wrong, but it wasn't nothing.
Jacob didn't know if the voice in his head was Leah or if it was just his imagination talking to him with the cadence of her voice. There were a lot of things he didn't know, but that he wanted to find out, together with her. That was another thing he wanted to clear up as soon as possible.
"What are you thinking?" Leah asked as she emerged from the water. This time Jacob didn't even try to hide his hungry gaze. She just shook her head and added a little extra sway to her hips.
"Where to go next? North, and explore the rest of the British Columbia, or East and see again what the rest of the provinces are alike? Or," he dragged on the pause for a moment, "south, and home."
"La Push isn't home, not anymore," Leah commented as she sat next to him.
Jacob threw his arm around her shoulders, buried his nose in her wet hair and inhaled. A definite stench of a wolf bitch invaded his senses. He quite enjoyed it.
Leah laid her hand on his thigh and rubbed it absent-mindedly as her eyes followed the light patterns on the water. "What do you want to do?"
"I want to find some answers."
"Yes, answers to the things we don't know. You said it yourself, there's never been two packs and two alphas. Until a few months ago, we didn't know that the legends were true. I want to know where the truth ends and the fabrication starts. I want more than the words of the Elders."
"What do mean?" Leah looked at him in a way he was quickly learning to recognise. She was half interested in what he was saying, half waiting for the opportunity to mock him. And this time it wasn't that cold, calculated, cut-to-the-core kind of sarcasm, it was something gentler that told him she cared. Jacob wondered would he ever see love on those features. He wondered if he would want to see it.
"Where did you go?"
"Books. Science. Observation."
"Research. For example, did you know that wolf packs only exist in captivity? In the wild wolves mate for life and live as families."
"And that the estrus occurs late in the winter and only lasts a month each year."
"Are you saying you want puppies, Pup?"
"No, I'm too young to be a father. I'm saying," with his free hand Jacob grabbed Leah's and flung her words right back at her, "that you might not be a genetic dead end after all."
"How do you know this?"
"I've been known to pick up a book once in a blue moon." He grinned complacently.
"Gah, if you weren't so annoying, little brat I might kiss you."
"Might you now?" Jacob squeezed her closer.
"If you're not careful you could end up growing up to be someone I could-" Leah swallowed the last word and tilted her head under his gaze.
That was another question answered. Jacob definitely wanted to see that emotion in her eyes looking back at him. Someday.