A/N: This is my first fanfiction, so please by gentle. Thanks to GreatChemistry, JointGifts, McGee42 and solareclipse of Project Team Beta for great advice. Reviews are appreciated and as soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll respond to each individually. Thanks for reading!
Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight
Chapter 1 – Changes
Froth-flecked beer spewed out of Seth's mouth and nose, across the table and all over my new black silk blouse.
"Holy crap, Jake," Seth screeched. "That is awesome news!"
Beside him, Embry was trying not to laugh at the disgusted expression on my face as I pulled my sopping shirt away from my skin.
"Shit, Seth! When the hell are you going to grow up?" I growled at my brother. Twenty-one or not, if the kid couldn't keep beer in his mouth instead of spraying it all over, he had no business drinking.
Jacob and Embry were openly laughing at me now, and I couldn't really blame them. Seth's good humor was always infectious. Even my foul moods usually couldn't stand up in the face of his good humor.
"Oops! Sorry, Leah," Seth said, grabbing the damp paper napkin from under his beer mug and swabbing at my blouse. It was utterly useless. I slapped his hand away from my chest. The blouse was ruined.
Thanks to Jake's grand announcement–which had prompted Seth's beer-spitting episode–my night out with my pack brothers at our favorite watering hole in Port Angeles was ruined, too. While Seth and Embry were obviously thrilled with the bombshell our Alpha had just dropped, I was struggling to sort out my tangle of emotions.
Jake and Renesmee, his little half-vamp imprint, were getting married.
Seth left off pawing at my shirt and turned back to Jacob. "Seriously, though, man. I am so happy for you guys," he said. "And it will be great to have another Cullen family wedding. They really know how to throw a party."
Jake chuckled at Seth's enthusiasm. "Thanks. Glad you're looking forward to it. Gotta admit, I'm intimidated as hell at the idea of Alice planning everything. We want something small, simple and private, but you know Alice …"
"Jake, don't you think this is a little, well … soon?" The words were out of my mouth before I could snatch them back. Before I'd even really thought about them.
The grin fell away from Jake's face. Three pairs of chocolate brown eyes glared at me from around the table. As usual, I was raining on their parade.
I lowered my voice so that my words wouldn't carry beyond our table–not that anyone would be able to hear us in the crowded, smoke-filled, noisy bar. "I mean, she really is only seven years old, right?"
Jake had been putting up with my bullshit for a long time now. Of course, I wasn't nearly the bitch I'd been all those years ago when Seth and I joined Jake's pack to help defend Bella and her baby against Sam's death sentence. Leaving Sam's pack had freed me from the Sam-Emily-Leah pain-fest that I'd been living through at the time. Jake imprinting on Renesmee had resolved a lot of issues among the packs and their relationship with our resident vampire coven.
Still, after so long, I was beginning to think my personal issues would probably never go away.
Time and mental distance had dulled the pain and eased the betrayal, but to this day, I couldn't manage more than a few minutes in Sam and Emily's gloriously happy presence. I skipped their wedding, of course. When both packs had gathered to celebrate the birth of the next generation of little Uley pups–a daughter five years ago and their son two years later–no power on earth could have made me attend.
Now, seven years after Renesmee's birth had changed everything for all of us, she was about to shake things up again by marrying Jacob. She was barely matured. She'd spent most of her short life hiding her rapid aging from the residents of Forks. Bella and Edward had home-schooled her and the only friends she had were her own vampire family and the wolves in Jake's pack.
Renesmee might be physically mature, but I wasn't convinced of her emotional maturity. I remembered being a young adult, and I sure as hell didn't know what I really wanted from life when I was her age−okay, when I was her physical age. And I'd grown up in a pretty normal environment. From day one, nothing had been normal about Renesmee's life. How was she supposed to know what she wanted now, let alone what she would want in the future? Rushing into marriage with a love-sick Alpha dog sounded to me like the recipe for a lot of regrets later on in life.
"Leah, you know that Ness is an adult," Jake replied, drawing my attention back to our conversation. "She's been an adult for a while now. It's not like I'm robbing the cradle, here. I'm marrying the woman I love, the woman I've always loved."
"How'd you get Edward to agree, though? I gotta think he's not thrilled about this," Embry interjected.
Jake smirked. "Actually, the whole wedding thing was Edward's idea."
"No way!" Seth's mouth fell open so wide I was surprised his jaw didn't smack on the beer-stained wooden table. Embry's eyebrows were climbing into his hairline. I, however, had no trouble believing that Edward would insist Jake marry Renesmee.
"Of course he wants Jake to marry her," I sneered. "You don't think he'd allow Jake into his daughter's panties otherwise, do you?"
Jacob blushed crimson–or about as close as he could come to that shade given his normal coppery complexion. He was probably more angry than embarrassed by my comment. Thanks to the pack's mental connection, we all knew perfectly well that Jake wasn't getting an–had, in fact, never gotten any. From anyone, let alone Edward and Bella's pampered, prized, half-human, half-vampire daughter.
There weren't many secrets in a wolf pack. That was one reason why I spent as little time in wolf form as possible. I hadn't phased in months.
"Not cool, Leah," he growled through clenched teeth. "It's not like I'm being forced into something I don't want to do. I've had no problem waiting for Ness to be ready for an adult relationship. No one else has the right to judge her or her parents for that, either. Least of all someone the Cullens have treated like family–or tried to."
I sighed, leaned back in my chair and took a long pull from my beer mug. The virtual merging of our pack with the Cullens' family had always been a bone of contention between Jake and me. I'd just never been able to accept how easily, quickly and completely Jacob and my pack brothers had given up their hatred of vampires. I mean, hating and fighting vampires was the reason our furry little brotherhood existed at all.
I also couldn't totally let go of my resentment for how the Cullens' presence in Forks had irrevocably changed the course of my life–practically from the moment they'd arrived in town.
If the vampires had never come back here and set up house, Sam would never have phased in the first place. Would never have imprinted on Emily. Would never have left me. He'd still be mine. I'd still be a normal woman, possibly with a few kids by now.
Instead, I was a freak among freaks–the only female werewolf in the history of our tribe and a genetic dead end. Because of the Cullens, I'd lost Sam. There had been no one for me since. Meeting a guy and raising a family was pretty much impossible when you spent part of your time as a huge, shaggy she-wolf, didn't age and no longer had a period.
Yeah, it was hard not to resent the hell out of all of them, but especially Renesmee, who was on the verge of getting everything I'd wanted for myself. And getting it with my best–okay, only–friend.
Jake saw the change in my mood. "Look, guys," he said, turning to Embry and Seth, "I think Leah and I need to talk alone. Alpha-beta stuff, you know? Why don't we catch up tomorrow?"
Embry got the message immediately. "Okay, we'll see you tomorrow, Jake," he said, pulling Seth to his feet and pushing him toward the door.
Jake watched our pack brothers weave their way through the crowded bar to the exit. He touched his forehead in a mock salute when Seth turned to wave just before Embry pulled him out the door. Then he turned back to me with a wary expression.
"Look, I was pretty much expecting you wouldn't be totally cool with this," he said. "I realize this is going to change things for the whole pack–a lot."
I snorted at that understatement. "I want you to be happy as much as anyone, but this decision doesn't just affect you, you know; it affects us all. Why do you have to do this now? Why can't you wait for Renesmee to grow up a little bit more? Jake, she's seen so little of the outside world. Don't you think if she rushes into something this permanent−this big−that she may feel later that she missed out on something?"
Jake sighed and sat back in his seat. I could tell there was more to this. Something he was debating with himself whether or not to reveal right now. "Just spit it out, Jake," I snapped.
It wasn't like Jake to fidget, or to hold anything back from me. We were way beyond that–most of the time. He shifted uncomfortably on the wooden bar chair and then leaned toward me across the table. His voice lowered.
"The Cullens have been here a long time–nearly ten years," he said, his expression intense. I could see the worry hiding behind his eyes. "People have been talking for a while. Carlisle had to switch to a hospital in Port Angeles just to keep practicing medicine. Ness has been hiding for her whole life. Bella put off her own education until Ness was old enough for college. Now they're both ready to go to school. So am I."
He rested his folded arms on the table between us. His dark eyes were intense. "It's time for them to move on."
And here it was, the real bombshell he'd been saving for me.
"When they leave Forks, Renesmee and I are going with them," Jake said, watching my reaction carefully. Well, that was no surprise to me. I'd always known Jake would never allow himself to be separated from Renesmee.
"I've already talked to Seth and Embry about this a while ago," he continued.
Now that was news. A tight knot twisted in the pit of my stomach, and a burning feeling moved up my body. When it reached my throat, I practically choked on my anger. My fists clenched and trembled beneath the table. So Jake had talked about leaving with everyone else in the pack before bringing it up with me, his beta? Why the fuck was I the last to know?
Jake didn't miss my reaction, but he plowed ahead, choosing to ignore my expression for the moment. "Neither one of them has an imprint, so they don't feel any need to stay here. They're going with us. They want to keep the pack, and our extended family, intact."
He gave me a moment to further process that before he continued. "So the only question is−are you coming too?"
It had the ring of an ultimatum–something that Jake should realize wouldn't go over well with me. I opened my mouth to speak, to tell him to fuck off, but he held up his hand, silencing me.
"Think about this, Leah," he said. "I mean really think about it. You know I'd be happy to have you with us. You've stood by me through a lot these last few years, and I couldn't have asked for a better beta."
His brows drew down over his deep-set eyes, and I could tell he didn't want to say what was coming next.
"But if the Cullens leave and you stay … Well, when the vampires are gone, things will go back to normal for any of the wolf pack that stays here." He reached out and gently laid his big hand on my arm. I stiffened, resenting his comfortable familiarity when he'd just dropped such a monumental bag of shit in my lap to deal with. "When the vampires are gone, the need for werewolves goes too, right?"
I don't know why I'd never thought of it myself, but I hadn't.
If the vampires were gone, the genetic switch that made us turn into big, shaggy wolves would turn off. We'd all stop phasing and start aging again.
And maybe, just maybe, I could go back to being normal, too.