I do not own Twilight, no copyright infringement intended.
A special request for The Burning's 400th reviewer, o0FLAM3S0o. Thank you to my lovely fic wife, WolvesCanEatMe. Love you, babe!
Important note: Eclipse-AU. Though the basics of Eclipse canon are followed, there will be some deviations to make the story fit.
I fall behind as we follow the trail of the vamp that had been snooping around at the Swan place. There's no love lost between Bella and me, but it makes me sick to think of a leech creeping about inside some human's house.
I shudder then look to the wolf to my right. Quil looks back at me.
Quil bears the brunt of my frustrations—which are pretty fucking considerable. There aren't many people lower in the pack than me, but that's just how it works as a wolf. Quil is fair game.
I go back to focusing on the vamp stench. I've smelled worse. It isn't the redhead that's been plaguing us lately; getting my teeth around that bitch will be a pleasure when we finally catch up with her. She's fast, but there again, so am I. She's been lucky, but someday I'm going to be the one who outpaces her.
Why she's so set on Bella, I have no idea. The girl is like a magnet for bloodsuckers and various other supernatural creatures. Thanks to the fact that Jake Black is tied up in knots about her, just the thought of her makes me feel nauseous.
The problem with the pack mind is that there's no privacy, and being in there with a bunch of juvenile guys isn't good for a girl. I've been party to impure thoughts about her, Rachel, Kim, and my own freaking cousin far too many times.
It doesn't help that my own love life turned out to be a whole clusterfuck thanks to wolf genes. Bella doesn't know what a win-win situation she's in—it must be nice, having your pick of men. Personally, I'd be happy with just one, but fate had other ideas about that.
If I'm honest with myself, I'm kind of jealous of Bella, and not just about the guy thing. She's a normal human girl, who doesn't run the risk of wolfing out every time something pisses her off, and her dad's still alive.
Charlie Swan was close to Dad, and is entirely oblivious to the whole supernatural side of life. He was there for Mom that night, and he's spent a lot of time around helping out since. A lot of time. If something bad happened to him, I don't know how ugly things would get at home. Let's face it—things are bad enough as they are.
We all still feel Dad's missing presence in every room. It doesn't help that Mom's making up for the lack of income by working every hour she can, and then taking his place on the Council, too. Me and Seth, we're growing wolves, and so we eat a lot and destroy a lot of clothes—it's kind of expensive keeping up with us.
I see Charlie's face when he's around, fixing leaking faucets and various other man jobs around the house that Seth is just too young to take on. He thinks I'm a waste of space, I know. If I could help Mom out, I would in a heartbeat. Being a member of the pack makes balancing patrols, sleeping, and doing real life things like holding down a job impossible.
Once, I got myself a part-time job stacking shelves at the general store. My former-best friend came in and started giving me earache about how I'd changed since I'd stopped speaking to her and started hanging with Sam's gang. Had I forgotten what Sam did to me? Was this what I wanted to do with my life?
She got me wound me up so tightly that I started shaking, and had to run off before I fursploded in the aisle. When I came back the next day, I got fired.
It really blows that no one can know about the tribe secret. I've lost all my friends, and not one person understands why I've turned into the bitch that I am. They think I'm psychotic. Fuck them. So long as they stay out of my face, they can think what they like.
I don't know how Seth manages to always be so irritatingly upbeat about it all the time. He loves that this happened to him—-he thinks it's fan-fucking-tastic, and he's not the only one. I should know; I have to listen to all the guys going on about it.
"I can run faster than you." "Yeah, but I have eyes like a hawk." "Hey, dig my abs, dude!" and general other "mine is bigger than yours" banter. It's fucking torture.
Though, not as bad as sharing the pack mind with Him.
That just brings an entirely different dimension to the word "pain". I'd happily spend eternity listening to the brainless wonders if it meant that I didn't have to look at my own cousin through the fuzzy-wuzzy adoring eyes of the man I love.
Correction—loved. There's no going back from an imprint. And there's no going back for me, no matter how much I care. Cared.
Leah, not again, Quil thinks to himself. Enough with the angsting!
Shut up, dogface, I respond mentally. Asshole. I smirk and think about how, not including myself for obvious reasons, Quil doesn't quite measure up in some departments compared to the rest of the pack.
Leah! Shut the fuck up—you're giving me a headache. Jared pipes in and stops my train of thought in its tracks.
I'm grumbling about the whole omega wolf scenario when Quil and I pick up on Jared's sudden alertness.
Through his eyes, we see a flash of orange in the trees ahead. That fucking redhead and another vamp—who seems to be the source of the stink that has led us here.
We tear ahead, Jared taking the lead, and Quil and I flanking him. The redhead bolts and her friend immediately follows.
Sinking my teeth into vamps is one of the few things I like about my new lifestyle. It's an ideal way to let off steam, and I'm as into this part as the guys.
I call the female, Jared thinks. Quil and Leah, you follow the male.
No fucking way. I call the female, I respond. I'm the fastest and it's going to take someone with a turn of speed to take her off her feet. How about I get the redhead, and you and deadbeat get the new leech?
How about you curl up into a ball and die, Leah? Quil really doesn't like me. Can't think why.
Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you? I retort with a snarl.
Jared is getting pretty irritated. Enough already. Quil and I are on the redhead. You've got the other one. For once, just do as you're told without arguing back, huh?
I grumble to myself. Another fucking wasted opportunity; there is no way that Jared and Quil going to catch her. Guess I'll just have to tear a chunk out of redheaded bitch another night. She'll be back—she always is.
Powering ahead of my pack mates, the she-vamp in question looks back to see me gaining on them, and as expected, the two break apart. So do we, though I'm still in constant mental contact with the others.
The male leech isn't particularly fast for a vampire, and it won't be long until I catch him. Even if I didn't get the one I wanted, at least I get a kill of my own with no assists. Being an outcast amongst my own kind, I've gotten quite used to being the lone wolf, mainly through necessity. I've even learned to prefer it.
If only I could turn down the sound of Quil and Jared bitching about me, then the night would definitely be on an upturn. There's nothing more frustrating than a night patrolling with nothing to show for it other than dark circles under your eyes.
As my paws tear up the earth, I smirk and think, Sisters are doing it for themselves, for the benefit of those plugged into the pack mind. They're obviously not Aretha or Annie Lennox fans, so I spell it out for them. Watch how it's done, boys.
I'm getting closer to the bloodsucker all the time. Quil and Jared are still weaving through the trees, no closer to catching the redhead than when I broke off.
Once I'm near enough, I leap into the air, bringing my paws down on the back of creeper leech. He drops to the ground so suddenly that my momentum throws me forward and I roll to a halt, quickly getting to my feet and into an aggressive stance, ready to pounce again.
The bloodsucker also rights himself, and settles into a low hissing crouch.
He doesn't look old, but with leeches, ages can be deceptive. Though my wolf body dwarfs him, he's muscular and looks like he might pack quite a punch—seems that he worked out while he was still alive. Despite that, I know I can take him. I snarl and snap my jaws to show that I mean business, and I can see worry in his red eyes.
Something about him looks familiar, now I'm up close. I don't hang around with many vamps, and I look them in the face even less, so why do I get the feeling that I know this one?
Still growling while I mentally go through every vamp I've torn apart during my time as a leech-buster, it finally dawns on me. I met him when he was a human. Riley. Riley Biers. He's a local boy.
During the dark, confused months after Sam first left me, I'd coped the only way I knew how, with a trend toward self-destructive behaviour. Angry, embarrassed, and abandoned, I'd drink myself into a stupor, and then drape myself over the nearest guy who was willing to remind me that I was still a desirable woman. It didn't help—it only got me known for being a slut—but what the hell, it was my coping mechanism.
One night, I'd gone into Forks with a girl with a reputation even worse than mine, and she'd quickly disappeared. Feeling pretty low and on my own, anything and anyone was better than drinking with only my messed up thoughts for company.
I set my sights on the first guy to pay me any attention, and as it was, he turned out to be pretty hot. Riley Biers was a college student, back home to Forks for the holidays. Fair hair, brown eyes, hot bod, and one fucking gorgeous mouth...
Cue one drunken night in the motel on South Forks Avenue.
He'd dragged me giggling into the room, but as soon as the door closed, the humor ended. Fusing my mouth to his, we both scrambled to get rid of the other's clothes. Stumbling over to the bed, I'd climbed on while Riley clumsily took his socks off and then followed close behind.
My supply of condoms wouldn't have been enough to see us through the night, but luckily, both of us had come prepared. The guy had stamina and a quick recovery rate—I had to give him that.
He'd been good, really fucking good, and kind of sweet afterwards, wanting to talk and take pictures of me on his cell. He wasn't the first guy to ask, but certainly the only one who asked for pictures of me clothed. So, I said, "Yes."
But a steady thing wasn't what I was looking for at the time. If I remembered correctly, I still had his number, though I'd never called it. I'd not seen him again until now, and I'd not given him another thought. That had been, what? A year ago? A year and a half, maybe?
Relationships tear you apart and destroy you. You let someone in and they break you from the inside out. Once bitten, twice shy was now my motto.
On the subject of biting, I was now stuck wondering what the fuck had happened to turn a local boy into a leech?
Bristling and baring my teeth, I can inspect the changes in Riley Biers since I last saw him. Those big, brown eyes have been turned vivid red, and the moonlight is glinting off hid unnaturally preserved skin. That pretty mouth was now filled with bright and razor sharp teeth. Though the features are the same, there's no doubting he is a vampire.
This boy is dangerous, but since our encounter, I've been through some changes of my own. My wolf urges scream at me to tear, rip, and destroy.
It dawns on me that I'm about to kill someone who I've slept with. Mentally shrugging, I realize that this is something I've already thought about doing numerous times since Sam had left me for Emily.
Okay, so I knew Riley Biers, but this is not him. He's dead already, and I'm just doing what I was born to do by making his death more permanent.
Leaping forward, I pin him to the earth, but before my jaws can make contact, I'm suddenly hit by what feels like a freight train from the side. With a cracking of ribs, I hit a tree. For a few winded seconds, I don't quite know where I am, until the mental shouts of my name bring me back to the present moment in time.
Hurt but stiff, I prepare to fight—this time, two vamps against one wolf. By the feel of it, one of them is the fucking Hulk. To look at him he is just another vamp, but with eyes so bright they are practically luminous. I've never seen vamp eyes so red.
They separate, hissing and growling, and I slowly back off with a warning snarl—to show I'm not about to roll over and play dead if they try anything. I notice the cruel turn of my former one night stand's mouth as he moves further to the right.
Little do they know, but Quil and Jared are closing on us as we speak. Not quite as quickly as I'd like, but all I have to do is stall the leeches for a minute or two, and the odds will be back in wolf favour.
I'm not going to last two seconds outnumbered in a real fight; I can still feel my ribs fusing, and I know the unfamiliar vamp is the strongest leech I've encountered so far.
How the hell am I going to keep them distracted until back up arrives? I take valuable seconds to think as they carefully move in on me, none of us making any sudden movements.
Fucking bingo. How do you distract a male vamp? Same way you do with any guy—nakedness.
Forcing myself to change back to human, despite every fibre of my being telling me that it's the wrong thing to do, I shrink and twist back into my preferred form, squealing as it re-breaks my barely-healed ribs.
It certainly has the desired effect—strong vamp jumps out of his skin, and the leap knocks him at least ten feet back from where he was. Now, only Riley is in immediate attacking distance. Not that he looks like he's ready to strike anytime soon. His face is a fucking picture—that look people give you when they're sure they know you, but they can't quite place the face...and then you turn into a huge wolf before their eyes.
Not that both of those has ever happened to me before at the same time, but if it did, it would look just like the expression on this vamp before me right now. To some it might seem strange, but despite the threat to my safety and bodily well-being, I start finding it really fucking hilarious. I even manage a slight smirk.
Men. Flash a bit of pretty at them and they lose the power of all rational thought.
Riley's eyes suddenly flick to his left, and he snaps out of his flesh stupor. Here come the cavalry.
As Riley and the strong vamp turn on their heels, I quickly phase back to my wolf shape, not wanting Quil and Jared to get a free peep show. My ribs don't like that, in fact, they hurt like a bitch as my bones, skin, hair, and sinew explode outwards.
The phasing and unphasing obviously hasn't done my injury any favors, and the breaking and re-breaking is going to mean that I need some serious recovery time.
Excellent. No patrol tomorrow.
Quil and Jared come galloping by, and I tentatively follow them until they realise how hurt I am and slow down, opting to protect me rather than pursue the leeches.
Great. I'm never going to hear the end of it.
The sun is starting to rise behind the rainclouds as I limp up to the front steps. It doesn't take long for Seth to spot me out of the kitchen window, and he comes running out to meet me.
"Leah! What happened?"
Jared's the first to change back, and I avert my eyes after seeing a little bit more than I'd really want to.
I roll my eyes. No shit, Sherlock, I think with a snark, but only Quil, Paul, and Embry can hear.
Seth automatically holds up the old blanket we keep on the porch for when I'm out and about, and I pad up behind it while my brother dutifully turns his head away.
"A really strong vamp came out from nowhere. I've bust a few ribs," I say when I have the power of speech back. I quickly pull on a pair of cotton shorts, and wince as I lift my arms to pull on my vest. My bruise is already yellowing, but I'm still very sore. With wolf physiology, going to the doctor is out of the question, so the pack has to learn to rely on home remedies, good old "suck it up," and suffer through it.
My brother fusses over me, and it's even worse once Mom wakes up. Before she goes to work, she makes sure I'm tucked up in bed with everything a convalescing girl could need. I feel bad at giving her more to do, but it's nice to feel like a child for a while. Seth leaves for school soon afterwards, leaving me alone in the house.
Drifting off to sleep, I jolt awake with pain each time I move. Trying my best to rest, I soon get bored watching trashy daytime TV shows on the set that Mom brought into my room.
That's when I get thinking about Riley again. I find it slightly freaky that two humans that hooked up once are now both supernatural creatures on opposite sides. What are the chances?
I replay our brief time together in my mind, and allow my thoughts to drift for a short while. It kills a good twenty minutes or so.
It's hard to imagine that a guy who'd had his hands, and more, all over me is now dead. Worse than dead. It's a shame, because as far as guys go, he seemed all right.
Then I shrug. I only think that because I didn't take the time to get to know him. The only guy I've known who isn't a clown or a dick is my little brother. I'm sure if I'd called Riley after our brief encounter, he'd have soon shattered his image.
Something occurs to me as I play with my cell, and I smile to myself. Unless he's lost or changed it, I have a vamp's number. The idea is fairly amusing. Partly through boredom and partly through curiosity, I pick up my battered old Motorola and flick through the contacts.
Should I try ringing a dead guy, just to see what happens? I doubt that anyone would pick up. I'm sure a vamp wouldn't keep his old number.
Ah, fuck it. Feeling bold, I press the little green phone symbol and listen to the dialling tone. Well, the number still exists, that's a start. It's then that I wonder whether it might be his family that answer.
How would I feel if I got a call out of the blue for my Dad? How would it feel to explain to a stranger that your loved one was dead?
I press cancel. No point opening up someone else's wounds. See, I can be considerate at times.
Some ridiculous talk show is on, and I decide to get up so that I can go downstairs and raid the refrigerator, but before I've shuffled out of the bedroom door, my phone beeps once.
A text. It's probably Mom or Seth checking up on me. No one else ever messages me.
One new message...from Riley Biers. Are you kidding me? I open it up and read.
Hey. You just called me.
I blink, and the screen still says the same thing.
For a moment, I wonder whether I've fallen asleep again. No way is a leech texting me. If this is real, then it's going to be his family or someone responding on Riley's behalf. Or maybe someone took over his number? It doesn't say much about the sender at all, so I decide to reply.
Leah Clearwater. We met in Forks once. You remember me?
I don't have to wait long before my cell beeps again.
The name's familiar, but I'm really sorry, I can't picture you.
Again, the text doesn't tell me a lot. Anybody could pick up an abandoned cell phone and claim it as their own, especially if the former owner is too busy drinking human blood to care.
I doubt that it's Riley, but my curiosity is piqued. I want to know who has his phone.
Nice. A girl always likes to be remembered. How are you, anyway? I've not seen or heard from you in a while.
Sorry. Lot on my mind lately. Memory hasn't been great.
"Just tell me who you are!" I growl at the screen in frustration. That's when I decide to play dirty.
Oh. That's a shame. Because I was really fucking good. I laugh as I press send. Might as well have some fun while I try to find out which loser I'm texting.
This time there's a longer pause but about half an hour later, there's another beep. I put down my sandwich to look at my message.
I spray breadcrumbs across the table. Conclusion, whoever has the phone is obviously a pervert and not a grieving friend or parent. Tapping my nails against my teeth, I wonder how to respond.
If you can't even remember me, why should I bother?
Because chances are I was really fucking good, too. Yeah? YOU called ME.
My eyebrows rise.
You were average. I was bored. How about we play twenty questions, and we'll see if you can place the face?
Okay. One. Hair color?
There's a slight pause.
Two. Where did we meet?
Forks, and that counts as three.
I lean back in my chair and smile. No one said I was playing fair, college boy.
College boy, huh? That makes me think you weren't a college girl. Am I right?
I don't respond, and Seth gets home before I get a text containing just a question mark, and then another an hour later. I make "Riley" wait until Mom is home and Leah visiting hours are over.
Sorry, was that two questions? Four. Yes, college boy. Five. Yes. Quarter of the way there...
Fuck! Were we friends? Six.
Just how bad is your memory? If we were friends you'd remember me, yes?
I guess so. Do you know my family?
I know vamps don't really connect with their former human lives, but surely you'd remember your friends? His question makes me think that he has no idea who he's texting; I'm just a female name who got in contact.
Seven. No. I don't think you're Riley.
What makes you say that?
If you can't even remember who you were and weren't friends with, then you're obviously some random guy who has his phone. Still, it was fun texting. Later.
Woah. I'm Riley, I promise. It's just been a while since I was back in Forks and saw anyone. You could say I've kind of lost touch. Be nice to hear from someone I knew, that's all.
I suck in my cheeks as I think. Riley was back in Forks as recently as last night, though I guess he wasn't here to check up on old buddies. Unless, of course, Bella Swan was one of them, which seems unlikely—she's only just moved here from Arizona.
Well, sorry to disappoint, but we didn't really know each other that well. It was more of a hook up than anything. That little bit of info counts as nine.
What happened to eight?
You asked what makes me say that. That counted.
The next text starts with a smiley face. In the nicest possible way, you're a total bitch. If I take his abbreviations literally, he's laughing out loud.
You don't even know the half of it.
So, ten. How long ago was this hook up?
About a year and a half ago.
Cool. Eleven. We went all the way?
You could say that. I chuckle. Riley or not, I'm having fun playing the guessing game, and there's nothing better that I could be doing right about now.
Is that a yes?
Gah! Thirteen. Was it good?
I fail to see how that helps you find out who I am, but it was decent.
Queen of the understatement, I see. It was worth using a question to find that out.
I actually laugh out loud at that, but I don't pass that information on.
Is it all coming back?
Not yet. Sounds crazy, but I really do have trouble remembering anything past a year ago. It's all kind of foggy, if you know what I mean?
Not really. Fourteen.
By now, I'm really starting to wonder if some of "Riley's" answers point to him being the real deal. Maybe vampires don't have a great memory of their human lives? We don't sit and interrogate them before we tear them apart. There's probably lots we don't know about how they tick.
Takes one to know one.
I can see why I'd like you.
Maybe you didn't? Maybe it was a love/hate thing?
If you're asking the questions, then it doesn't count, by the way. Where did we do it?
Fifteen. South Forks Motel.
Classy... Sixteen. Did we go to the same High School?
You're from the Forks area originally? Seventeen.
Eighteen. La Push?
I don't get anything more that night, and I finally manage to get some uninterrupted sleep. When I wake up, there's a text waiting for me.
Nineteen. Tall, long dark hair, and well endowed in the chest area?
Either it's Riley, or whoever it is has been looking me up. I guess I have to give him credit for doing his research.
Not sure that counts as one question, but yes, yes back then, and yes.
The response is almost instantaneous.
Twenty. I know who you are, and I know what you are. I saw you the other night...wolf girl.
I fling my cell across the room like it was a hot coal.
I'm not sure whether I'm more shocked by the fact it's someone that knows my secret, or whether it's definitely a leech I've been texting all this time.
For a while there, I'd almost felt teenage again, normal even. Like I was back in less complicated times, getting to know Him in the beginning, before werewolves and vampires existed outside of story books and bad horror films.
Now, I guess that my brief moment of fun is over, and I start to worry about the implications.
So, we've established that I've been texting Riley Biers, the vampire, and that he knows that he's been texting a former hook up who also happens to be a Quileute werewolf. Something tells me that isn't a good thing.
One thing is for sure, I'm not going to text back to confirm it.
Shit. I'm going to have to tell the pack about this. Crap. Crap. Crap.
Oh well, I guess that's what I get for trying to pretend I'm just a regular girl texting a guy; the word "regular" so obviously doesn't apply to me.
Mom comes in to find out what the bang was, and she brings me some milk and cookies. I suddenly remember that I'm starving. After eating, I somehow get lost in how I'm going to explain what I was doing to the pack, and trying to anticipate the follow-up interrogation so I can prepare some good counter-arguments.
My cell phone isn't beeping at me anymore, so I forget about it, leaving it where it landed.
Around mid-afternoon, I decide to pick it up from amongst the debris on my floor, and find that it's fallen apart and the battery has come loose. I put it back together, and a flurry of beeps tells me that Riley hadn't left it at that, like I'd thought.
Three missed calls and four texts.
I'll take that as I got it right? Text back.
Come on, I don't bite. Or do I?
Look, if this is about the whole wanting to kill you thing, I'm sorry. Though, I kind of got the impression you weren't. I didn't know we knew each other.
Not speaking? Well, okay. I didn't choose to be this. Someone else chose it for me. It was nice to chat to someone who knew ME, not THIS. Sorry if I scared you off.
It's that last text that gets me. He didn't choose to be this. Someone else chose it for him. It's nice chatting with someone who makes you feel real. If anyone in the world can sympathize with that, it's me.
Sorry, I broke my cell. I felt a little weird about texting a vampire. After last night, I remembered I had your number and wanted to see if it was really you. I guess I have my answer.
I don't get a reply, and I wonder whether he's given up. My phone beeps hours later.
Sorry, I had my hands full. I have to admit that I have a girlfriend, but I do remember you now you got me thinking.
Wondering if I can salvage some useful information out of this to make it easier for the pack to swallow, I text back.
Is your girlfriend the redhead?
I have to wait a while before I get an answer.
Yeah. She's the one who turned me.
So what's your story then? Last time I checked, you were human.
There's another pause.
Boy goes into bar, boy leaves bar, boy gets followed on the way back home and bitten by hot redhead, who also happens to be a vampire. What about you?
I think long and hard about my reply.
No biting. I was born this way, though it didn't come out until recently. Whole area is full of us, just so you know. Leeches aren't really welcome in these parts.
Yeah, she warned me about the wolves and the yellow-eyes.
Your girlfriend must have a death wish to keep heading out this way.
The texts die off and it gets late. By now my ribs are much better, and I know Sam is going to send word to find out whether I'm up to patrolling again soon. I want my recuperation to drag out as long as possible.
As I'm dozing, I get woken up by my cell inches away from my face in the dark.
Do you ever get the feeling that life is just completely fucked up, and that somehow you've ended up in a place you never wanted to be, doing things you never imagined yourself doing?
I laugh without humor. THAT is my life. Crazy, isn't it?
Even crazier now I'm texting a werewolf. I attract all the supernatural ladies.
Tell me about it. What happened to all the nice human boys?
They got turned.
Lying in my bed, I get comfortable and continue the texting, hoping that this isn't going to cost me more than I can afford. The conversation turns to the events of our recent meeting.
For what it's worth, thanks for baring all. That was one hell of a ploy. I must remember to use that one some time.
Next time, remind me to charge. You almost got your head chewed off for it.
I can just imagine my eulogy. "He died doing what he loved most...looking at naked ladies." It would have been worth it. Some things don't change. You've still got one hell of a body.
I thought you had a girlfriend, huh? I know I shouldn't, but I can't help but smile at the flattery.
Yeah. I shouldn't really be texting you, but I don't know. If feels good to feel connected to who I used to be for once. Even if it's by texting with someone who wants to kill me...and my girlfriend.
Here's an idea, I'll not kill you if you don't kill me. Your girlfriend isn't included in that, by the way.
Deal. And the rest of your pack aren't, either. Just so I know I don't get you by accident, you're the grey one, right?
Grey? I'm fucking silver! Get it right!
Women. You know men only see in eight colors. He apparently laughs at that, too.
That ends our texting for the night.
In the morning, I decide that the best option for me is to keep this secret from the pack. After all, it's not as if I'm giving away tactical information. We're just texting.
Remembering that the best defense is a good offense, I protect my thoughts by doubling my efforts to be La Push's resident bitch. The more aggressive I am, the less the pack listens to me, which is fucking perfect for my purposes.
We continue messaging each other. The weirdness about him being a vampire and me a wolf hasn't gone, but it gets easier to think of him as just Riley.
Though I'm keeping it secret, and Riley says he's doing likewise, it's not as if we're trying to get together. He's very honest about the fact he's with Victoria, though sometimes the texts do get a little flirty.
I like it; there's no pressure, and it's good to be reminded that I'm still a girl, not just a wolf.
From what little he tells me, it seems to me like Vicky is giving him the run around. When I try to tell him, he won't even consider listening; to him, she's a victim, and he wants to protect her and keep her safe. I think that's bullshit.
More and more, I'm getting to rely on this small form of human contact, even though the term "human" doesn't really apply.
My pack hates me, I know that. My Mom is so busy staying afloat that I don't want to bother her, and Seth is just too damn perky. Who else do I turn to? All my human friends can't possibly understand what is going on with my life. The only person out there who can truly sympathize is the leech at the other end of the phone.
I'm getting attached; I I know I shouldn't, but that doesn't stop me. My vampire pseudo-flirtation is quickly becoming the highlight of my days. It's definitely the only thing making me smile at the moment.
Riley starts replacing Sam as the picture behind my eyes when I need something more than warm milk to help me sleep. Sometimes I think about what happened in real life, and other times I imagine something new happening between us in the woods, which is crazy—I don't even think vampires and wolves can have sex.
Vampire venom is poisonous to me, right? Don't all their bodily fluids get replaced with it? I really don't know the answer. Maybe I could carry out an experiment in the name of pack knowledge?
I laugh to myself. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and all I have.
It's getting harder to keep Riley out of the pack mind, though I'm now the fucking queen at hiding my thoughts from the others.
What would I do if I came across him while I was on patrol? Would I stand by our joking promise not to kill each other? Would he? If I let a vamp go, how would my pack react?
One night, while lying in bed awake, my cell goes and I know it's him. I scramble to read my message.
Has someone ever done something so bad that you really can't wrap your head around it?
Is this about your sex life or eating people again? Because I really don't want to know. I try to keep my response light with a smiley face.
Not even funny, Leah. There was another vamp, someone I thought of as almost a friend. We killed him. I can't even tell you how.
My brow furrows. I can tell by his tone exactly how upset he is.
You can tell me. I promise to try not to judge. And for once, I really will try my hardest.
It's five in the morning by the time my cell goes again.
I have to accept what I am. I'm a monster. She's a monster. Even you're a monster.
True, but you're not a bad person. Nobody is perfect.
I am what I am. Maybe I should just learn to embrace it.
You should. Just don't be too hard on yourself. Everyone does things they regret later, now and again.
I've got to go, I'll text you later.
I don't hear from him that day or the next. Wondering if I've offended him again, I eventually send a peace text.
Hey, college boy.
There's no response and I begin to worry. I've never called him since the first time, we only text, but I'm so concerned that I dial his number. It doesn't connect and the line is dead.
Devastated does not even begin to describe how I feel. I've lost my lifeline and my only friend. I only hope that it's only the phone that is no longer around—I would say living, but that ship sailed a long time ago.
I snipe at everyone around me, even Mom and Seth, now that I don't have a little normality in my life. The loneliness seems harder to adjust to this time around. It's crazy to think that a leech can have this much effect on me in such a short space of time.
I never realized how much I'd miss him. It also becomes apparent to me just how much I care. He has a girlfriend, and I had absolutely no intention of getting involved with anybody ever again. So why do I find myself thinking about him whenever I'm not in the pack mind? Why am I crying myself to sleep hugging my phone that never beeps?
Either the moral of the story is don't fall for wolf or vamp men, or it's that I have really fucked up luck with the opposite sex—human or not. Yet again, Leah Clearwater has lost out to another woman, and the guy can't even bear to speak to her.
When it comes to driving men away, I always do it in style. Maybe I'm just unlovable? I'm better off alone, really I am.
Look in the dictionary under "sociopath" or "bitch" and you'll see a picture of me.
After some bullshit training session that the Cullens have been organizing because a newborn army is coming our way, I storm into my room after a vicious exchange of words with Sam. I accept that I was a total bitch tonight, but it was the only way not to let on how I'm feeling.
Of course, no one knows the real reason but me. My alpha just thinks I object to joining Team Pussyvamp to fend off this mysterious leech army. Of course, Bella thinks it's all about her again—isn't it always?
Flopping down on my bed, I notice my cell is flashing. Expecting it to be a message left from Mom saying she'll be home late, or from Seth asking some bizarre question about being a wolf, I give it the briefest of glances.
Two new messages from an unfamiliar number.
Something's coming and you don't want to be around when it does. Do us both a favor and go away for a few days, Leah. Now.
Another place and another time, things would have been different. Take care, huh?
I don't need to know the number to recognize the way the sender writes. It's him.
I wonder about what he means for the rest of the night, and whether I should reply. When I do, I keep it simple.
I can look after myself. You take care, too. x
We never text again.
By morning, I've realized that Riley wants me to go away and be safe. He knows about the newborns.
My heart does flips at his concern, but I know I'm not going away. For all I'm hardly Miss. Popular around here, I'm still part of the pack, and the Cullens say that with numbers we can take what's coming.
Besides, I get the chance to sink my teeth into a few vamps. It's exactly what I need to cheer me up right now.
Crouching low and silent as we hide, the newborn army piles past us into the clearing where the Cullens are waiting for them. I've never seen so many in one place at the same time. This is going to be a fucking blood bath, but without the blood.
Aw, Leah. Don't rub it in. I'm stuck up here with no action, my brother says through the pack mind. Sam shushes him as he starts giving out wordless orders. I'm really glad that Seth is out of the way, even if this is going to be a cakewalk for us. I don't want my little brother in danger.
We're given the word and in dramatic style, we leap into action, ploughing though baby vamps with the element of surprise on our side. I chew off a female's head with my jaws—it tastes fucking disgusting, but feels so satisfying to be doing what my wolf genes have been begging me to do. All this hanging around with veggie vamps has been putting me on edge and making me antsy.
Not anymore. In fact, you could even say I'm having fun, helping tear this army apart with my teeth. The others feel the same.
For a brief moment, I panic, looking around at all the fighting and dying vampires hoping that I won't see anyone that I recognize, relieved when I don't.
Jake's thoughts mask my own, as he's pretty loud. He just found out Bella is marrying Edward Cullen. Since I can relax knowing Riley isn't here, I actually manage to feel a little bit of sympathy for my lovesick pack mate.
Once I find my flow in the clearing and my wolf instincts are serving me well, my mental attention turns back to Seth, who has been babysitting Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. They're not alone, and Edward tells him to run.
I'm really not happy that a yellow-eyed leech is using my too young, teenage brother as a ruse.
Trying to keep some of my head on what I'm doing, I keep part of my mind with Seth, as he hides and listens in on what's going on at the mountaintop. Finally, Seth gets the chance to join in at Edward's signal, and he rushes forward. I see the face of the leech he's attacking at the same time he does.
What, Leah? Are you hurt? Sam is the first one to be concerned, and everyone's attention is now on me.
Jake takes a different slant on my concern. It's okay, Leah. Seth will take him. Don't worry so much.
I'm getting so confused trying to concentrate on what's going on and what everyone is saying that the blonde female Cullen has to stop a newborn from taking a chunk out of me. The concern changes to calls to get my head back in the game, and I notice that Jake feels like he needs to keep a constant watch on me, which I find really insulting.
I whimper as Riley's foot connects with my brother, and my gut wrenches as Seth starts tearing off pieces of Riley in return. My brother is killing my friend, and I can't bear to witness it. I wonder what to do, how to react, but everyone is so loud in my head—concerned with what they're doing and cheering Seth on—that I feel lost in the crowd.
When Seth completes his first kill, no one notices my stunned horror. I can't even react with the others when I see Edward Cullen decapitate the redhead through Seth eyes. Edward casually tosses a lighter on her, and Seth decides to go collect pieces.
I can't watch. I can't speak. I can't do anything but feel stunned, barely seeing where I'm going as we also start clearing up. The taste of shattered vamp flesh in my mouth makes me feel sick.
That's how I miss the hidden newborn at first. He takes me by surprise and gets me into an awkward position. Jake has been lurking nearby and plays the knight in furry armor. The vamp gets his arms around him, there's a crack, and it doesn't take long to realize that Jake's hurt bad.
Once the newborn who put the squeeze on our pack mate is taken care of, we have to leave the clearing immediately—the Volturi are coming and we need to be long gone before they arrive. There's so much fuss that no one notices me slip away, running up the mountain as fast as I can go. I head toward the purple column of smoke in the sky, a smaller version of the one coming from the bonfire we had in the clearing.
Everyone is ushering Jacob home, so my presence isn't missed. They have other things on their mind.
Shrinking into human shape as I get close enough to the flames, my thoughts are finally my own. I feel frantic that I could be too late. Pushing burning vamp out of the way, I tug at what resembles a footless leg. It turns out to be a male arm.
I gasp, and despite the burning of my own flesh, I push my way through the charred pieces, pulling out as many as I can. If it's female, it gets thrown back, if not, then it joins the growing pile of Riley's body parts.
Lifting out the charred, burning torso, somehow I uncover a practically untouched head, and I quickly grab it before it can set alight. I don't stop until I'm satisfied that I've gotten everything that's salvageable. Then I sit, blackened and blistering, wondering what I'm going to do with what I've rescued.
Looking around for something to put them in, I find the holdall for the now ruined tent. It's not as if anyone is going to want it anymore, so it now becomes a means to transport Riley...or what's left of him.
After stuffing the hot, semi-burned pieces inside, I phase back and pick up the handles with my teeth. It's heavy, but I'm sure that I can make it home.
As I start trotting towards the undergrowth, something dark catches my eye in the snow. At first I think it's a pebble, but then I see that it's nothing natural. Resting the bag on the floor and carefully allowing the handle to fall out of my mouth, I stop to investigate.
It's a cell phone. It could be anyone's cell—Edward Cullen's, Bella Swan's, or even Victoria's...but I hope that it's not. I pick it up carefully and place it in the bag with everything else.
Luckily, Mom isn't at home, and I get my luggage up to my room.
Quickly, I push it under my bed, and clean up the black ashy mess off my face and arms as best I can. I take off my ruined clothes, and shove a new set inside my phasing pouch. Running downstairs naked, I become a wolf again as soon as I leap off the porch.
I join the others. One or two are running tight patrols around the res, so I keep my head as clear as possible. Everyone puts my distraught mood down to my culpability over Jake's broken bones. Eventually, I get to the Black house and hang around outside in human form. At least this way, my mind can wander wherever it wants, and it seems pretty set on being in a bag under my bed.
When I finally return home to my room, suddenly I'm hesitant. Making sure that Mom is asleep, and that Seth is getting there quick, I tentatively slide out the bag and shift through what's in there, carefully laying out the pieces.
I didn't get a full vampire.
The torso has some serious fire damage, some of it white and flaky, the rest blackened like charcoal. Still, it's a body—something to attach what limbs I've found to. I have one only slightly burned leg, pretty much intact, and then pieces of the other. Most of the knee down crumbles into ash as I touch it. The arms are a mess. What pieces I have are predominantly beyond repair.
How badly can a vamp get and still survive? I sit by the remains and think.
Reaching for Riley's almost untouched head, I hold it in my hands. It's covered in soot and grey ash, and he certainly doesn't look at peace; his face is frozen into a lip curled grimace, and his unmoving, glassy red eyes are still wide open. Pushing Riley's hair back and running my hand down his cheek, I allow myself a single sob.
I don't know what to do. Vampires can be put back together, but I don't have the slightest idea where to start. Even if I do figure that out, would it be cruel to do it, given the condition of what's left? Would it help if I could put his head on another body?
My Frankenstein's vampire idea turns my stomach, and I reach for my trashcan as I vomit.
Putting it all back in the bag, apart from Riley's head, I reach for a packet of wipes I keep handy on the side, trying to clean up his face as best as I can. I can't put the head back in with the damaged rest of him; I will find a much more suitable container, as this is the most important piece, I think.
As I carefully place the head in a box that used to hold old dolls, I remember the phone, and wipe it up as best as I can. Pressing a button, the screen lights up and I'm faced with a picture of the redhead giving a wicked-looking feline smile.
So, it's not Edward or Bella's phone.
Luckily, it's not locked, and a quick look at the inbox tells me that it must be Riley's. Or at least, it was after a while. A number of other texts tell me that it was also belonged to some human guy who was planning a ferry journey, and he's missing.
Amongst the frantic texts to this man that I assume became vampire fodder, I see two names that I'm familiar with.
It seems that the vampire couple spent a lot of time communicating by text. Some of them even get a little graphic and those ones, I find painful to read. It's even harder to read the sent box, and the declarations of love that Riley sent his girlfriend.
It doesn't take me much longer to pick up on the fact that Victoria didn't respond with as much sincerity as he did. The tone of her texts wheedle, cajole, and all-out lie. I finally see the story she'd fabricated and why the newborns were in Forks in the first place.
Then I get to his drafts folder. This time, Victoria isn't the only name in there. There are at least five different versions of the text he'd sent me, each slightly different from the last but all marked with me as the potential recipient. Some give more information about the newborns, others convey more sentiment. The version that eventually reached me was far more cryptic and impersonal.
Had I know it was his army that was coming, and what would happen, things would have been different. I know it.
Scrolling down, I see a number of texts to Victoria that were never sent. His worries about the dwindling numbers of their army. Riley's difficulties over coming to terms with some of the things he'd done in the name of the woman he loved. Texts that were never sent showing that he'd picked up on some of her reluctance in their relationship.
Then there were the others.
Leah, I'm sorry for not texting. Things are fucked up. I can't even begin to tell you exactly how fucked up they really are. Can we talk?
Hey. How are you?
Would you talk to me? I really need a friend right about now.
What do I do, Leah? What do I fucking do?
I really wished we could still talk. I miss our texts.
There was a ten page description, also addressed to me, describing the torture of some leech that Riley had felt close to, and his worries about how that vamp's young girlfriend was looking likely to be next. So this had been what he had wanted to talk about that night. Back then, I knew I wouldn't have understood. It was only now, after the cold, harsh reality of losing Riley, that I could read it without being disgusted by the atrocity.
Riley had been used and abused cruelly by Victoria; almost everything she had said was lies or a distortion of the truth. But Riley had done all she had asked, just to please her, no matter how difficult he'd found it.
As if the redhead wasn't already dead, I thought up twenty new ways to kill her.
Systematically going through each saved draft, I find some that tear my heart out of my chest.
Leah. Sorry for being an ass. Just text me about something real so I can forget about all the shit for just a few hours. Please?
If you and me ran off now, to some desert island, or Europe or something, do you think we could find somewhere where wolves and vamps can get along, and we'd be okay?
Sometimes, I wish she was more like you. I know you wouldn't be like this, and I'd be much happier.
After my second read through of his drafts, the phone battery dies on me. It isn't until I've spent what money I can scrape together on a mains charger that I discover his photo album.
After the human's personal pictures, which I delete in the same way that I did the texts that relate to him, there are lots of photos of the redhead, many of which show more of her than I really wanted to see. They don't hurt me as much as the ones of Riley and Victoria together. One or two shots of Riley, taken by Victoria, I assume, I forward to my own cell. There is one of him, shirtless and smiling, that I can almost convince myself looks like the human Riley I remember.
Right at the end, there is one with a file name that doesn't look the same as the other photos taken on the phone's camera, and it stands out.
A smiling girl, with long dark hair and bronze skin. It isn't the best shot, but there is no doubt that it is me from another time and place. I soon find out that it was forwarded to the phone as a picture message, from Riley's old number.
I look at it puzzled. Though the basic features are the same as my own, I am shocked by the difference that less than two years can make. I look young and happy.
Is this how he remembered me? Why did he keep the picture? And why did he forward it to his new phone?
I become obsessed with the cell, and just to be sure that I never lose the texts and pictures it holds, I forward them to my own, looking at them constantly. When no one is around, I take out Riley's head and talk to him.
It isn't long until I realize that I'm hopelessly in love with a dead guy. Permanently dead, even by vampire standards.
I run my hand over the screen at the picture of Riley I'm staring at.
This hurts so much more than Sam. At least, after he left me, I had someone to blame. I can't be angry at Seth—he's my little brother. Riley was killed by the only person I can't be mad at for doing this to me.
Standing across the field from the dreaded Volturi, I'm anticipating a battle. This is the biggest collection of vampires I've ever seen, and this time, the Cullens don't think we'll win. At least we'll go out in a blaze of glory.
If we do win? Well, I've already picked out the donor for Riley's new body. Thanks to my time hanging around at the Cullens house, I know that vampire venom can rejoin a lost limb, or a head, to a vampire torso.
Because Edward Cullen was stockpiling venom to help turn Bella after she gave birth, I've managed to liberate some for my own purposes.
When the whole drama ends with just one female vamp getting torched, and then everybody goes home, I don't know whether to be pleased or irritated.
As everyone disappears into the woods, Sam stops to talk, and everyone seems surprised at how I seem to have finally drawn a line under that part of my life. I tell him some bullshit about wanting to go to college, and how I'm gutted I don't have a period, and then I leave, too.
I've had to get over my initial abhorrence of the idea of making my own Frankenstein's vamp. All I need is the body. If I can't have my Volturi body donor, then I'm sure the woods are still crawling with witnesses or some of the vamps that stood by the Cullens.
If it works, I have no idea how Riley will react. The last time he was animated, his girlfriend had left him to be dragged away into the woods by my brother while she carried out her revenge. Now, Victoria is nothing but dust.
How will Riley feel about what I'm going to do? How will he feel about me?
I guess I'll find out when it happens. One thing is for sure, I love him, and there's no way I can carry on without trying to bring him back.
No matter what might come of it.
But I set fire to the rain,
Watched it pour as I touched your face.
Well, it burned while I cried
'Cause I heard it screaming out your name,
I set fire to the rain,
And I threw us into the flames.
When we fell, something died,
'Cause I knew that that was the last time,
The last time
Adele, Set Fire to the Rain