i'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours
Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"

The box rattles on the seat, and Lucas slows down so it won't fall if the truck hits a pothole or something. That would be a pain in the ass to deal with. Not to mention that it would cost him time, which it feels like he doesn't have much of.

Then again, he might be wrong in thinking he has time at all, given that Ruth had been pretty clear the last time he saw her. The long distance friendship stuff and everything. But she had promised he could see her one more time, and even if she hates him - which he kind of suspects she might now that she's not full of morphine - he's holding her to that promise. Everything's one huge epic clusterfuck but he is seeing her at least once. She might not exactly owe him that, but he's taking it anyway.

Which is basically how their relationship has worked, so... yeah.

The months had passed in weird fits and starts, like summer had decided to say Fuck it to the laws of time and space and just kept moodily resetting its pace. There were days that lasted forty or fifty hours, and then there were whole weeks that disappeared overnight. It was the only explanation for how he woke up one morning and it was the end of July and he was supposed to be making decisions about cake icing.

Buttercream or fondant? Alice had asked, bouncing excitedly around the bakery.

You won't be able to eat it, Lucas said. The amount of enthusiasm Alice was displaying had started to seriously unnerve him and besides, he wasn't entirely sure what fondant was. What difference does it make?

Alice had ignored him and begun to squeal over sugar violets; Mary just squeezed his hand. Let her have her fun, she'd whispered. It's easier than fighting, believe me.

That had always been clear.

On the plus side, it had also become clear that Lucas' thoughts wasn't really needed on any of the wedding stuff. Sometimes Mary showed him a couple of fabrics in different colors, at which point he'd have to fake an opinion - he'd heard once that it was literally impossible for men to have opinions about fabric, and at least in his case it had turned out to be true. Lucas had actually started to wonder if he'd been colorblind for years and hadn't known, because, shit, if there was a difference between 'sunrise' and 'sherbet' he didn't have the slightest idea what it was. Other than that, though, he wasn't expected to do all that much.

At least it hadn't seemed to bother Mary at all. She'd just laughed off his lack of enthusiasm - Men never bother with this sort of thing, love - and the plans proceeded largely without his input.

Lucas had the feeling he was supposed to care more about this stuff, but he just didn't. Getting married was something for Mary, not for him, but when he'd mentioned that to his father one afternoon, Charlie had given him a serious look. Believe me, son, that's not how it should work.

Of course, Charlie didn't have the whole story, or the advice would've been different.


Lucas is incredibly relieved to see that none of the Pack is hanging out in Ruth's yard, because he is ninety-nine percent certain that if he gets caught here he will get his ass beat. The only reason he's not one hundred percent certain is because they might've decided getting married to a vampire is punishment enough. But given that there's no reason he can't be beaten bloody and marry a vampire... really, it's just a good thing that none of the wolves are around.

He's not positive Ruth's here either, for that matter. Lucas doesn't dare knock on the front door of the house; Billy might answer, and he's not sure what Billy would do to him, but it wouldn't be pretty. At least Lucas would be able to outrun him, unlike with Embry or Quil or...

...he just isn't popular in La Push at the moment, period.

Kinda hard to argue with that, though. He's the guy who broke Ruth Black's heart.

If he has any luck - which it has been well established that he does not but oh well - Ruth will be in the garage, so that's where Lucas goes, shoebox in hand. He nudges the door open and she's there, working on the Rabbit in her cut off shorts and tanktop, and even though he misses her sweatshirts he's never going to object to that, which he really should not be thinking about but their friendship is already ruined so it's not like looking can make things worse.

"Hey," Ruth says without glancing up from the engine. "Your alignment's fucked up."

For a moment Lucas wonders if that's a metaphor or something, but then he realizes that that must be why the truck's tires have been shaking. "How did you know that?"

"Could hear it from the road."

"I couldn't and I was in the thing."

"You don't have wolf senses and even if you did you wouldn't know what it was. You're shit with mechanical stuff."

True. "Can I come in?"

Ruth shrugs. "Free country."

Lucas is fully aware that short answers - combined with a total lack of eye contact - are not a good sign. The relative friendliness of their last talk had been a result of Ruth being high, apparently. Still, though, she's letting him in, so that's something. "Brought you this," he says hesitantly, holding up the shoebox of bad thingies. "I figured you might, y'know, want to smash them."

He's pretty sure by now that he never should have stopped her from smashing them in the first place.

It had been exactly like Lucas expected; the first responses had all been, So, when's she due? But after all the explaining how no, Mary wasn't pregnant, everyone in Forks had pretty much just shrugged and given congratulations. Apparently in a town that small getting married right out of high school wasn't exactly uncommon.

Charlie did not give congratulations. That was not remotely surprising.

What had alarmed him - and knocked him off the rails he'd been on since the day he left for Volterra - was Renee's reaction. Oh my God, baby. Tell me all about her!

Lucas had managed not to bang his head against the wall. It's Mary, Mom. I've been telling you about her for ages.Well, whenever he took Renee's calls, which wasn't that often, considering that she always wanted to talk about him coming 'home' to Jacksonville and moving away from her was pretty much the only time he'd ever not caved to his mother in his entire life.

It had also been the last time he could remember feeling good about any of his decisions.

After a great deal of excited gushing wherein he was not asked or expected to add anything, the voice on the other end of the line had plaintively said, Why haven't I gotten an invitation? Aren't I invited?

Of course you're invited, Mom. They haven't been sent out yet.

I know you don't want to live with me or come visit, but if you don't want me there... well, that's fine.

That's not what I said.

You don't have to lie to spare my feelings. It would be hard for me to get away anyhow.

At that point he had banged his head against the wall. Mom... look, do you want to come?

An epic sigh. It's your choice, baby. Whatever makes you happy.

He'd had conversations like this six hundred thousand times, but it wasn't until half an hour after Lucas hung up that he realized they hadn't only been with Renee.

"Just set 'em over there," Ruth says, gesturing vaguely.

Lucas tosses the shoebox onto the work bench. The little broken engine pieces rattle as he does, and obviously whatever he's trying to do here isn't working, which isn't all that surprising because he's doesn't even know what he's trying to do. Just... something. Since this could well be the last time he's ever going to see her.

There's probably a right thing to say.

It'd be fucking nice if he knew what it was.

"Pass me the socket wrench, will you?"

Socket wrench. "Right. Sure." Lucas kneels down by the Rabbit and looks into the red plastic tool box that has been open every single time he's been in this garage. He searches... and searches... and shit, it's hopeless, they all look the fucking same, they always look the fucking same, how does everyone else do this? "Which one's the socket wrench again?" he says desperately.

"The one on top."

"Which one on top?"

"The one with the socket on the end. Duh."

"Which looks like what?"

"Are you kidding? You don't know what a socket looks like?"

"Um... can you describe it?"

"It's a socket! It looks like a socket!"

"That really doesn't help."

"Ugh!" Ruth wipes her hands off on her shirt and finally comes out from under the hood. "You... you're just... ugh!"

"Yeah," says Lucas, "I know."

She flops down next to him and knocks his hands out of the way, digging through the box with way more clanging than is he suspects is necessary. "This," she growls, pulling out one of the wrenches, though it could have been a screwdriver and Lucas is positive he wouldn't know the difference, and waves it an inch from his nose. "This is a socket wrench!"

At least she's looking at him now. Well, glaring. "Okay."

"You could at least try to remember!"

"I am trying."

"It's not hard!"

"It is for me."

"That is such shit! You're not an idiot! You're not dumb or defective, you're not some kind of useless screw-up, there's nothing wrong with you, you're wonderful and there's no reason you can't figure it out and I know you'd remember if you'd just get over this stupid fucking idea that you're some kind of-"

"I'm not getting married," Lucas blurts out.

Ruth drops the wrench.

It ended with a whimper, not a bang.

I don't want to get married. When Mary's eyes had widened Lucas had had to bite his tongue to keep from taking it back, but he'd moved to Forks and he'd do this, too. Somehow.

But... you asked me...

Jesus, he sucked. I know I did.

Is it all the planning? I'm sorry, I can rein Alice in-

That's not it.

So what changed?

Nothing changed. Shit. I've never wanted to get married.

Mary had stared at him, her perfect face perfectly uncomprehending. I don't understand.

I'm sorry, had been all he could think of to say.

She'd started to tremble. So.. it's over? You're ending things between us?

That's not what I'm saying. Which was true. But I don't want this. Which was also true. And shit, that had been so fucking hard to tell her, because 'I don't want' were not words he'd said many times in their relationship.

But, love, if we're going to be together forever, what does it matter?

Exactly. If we're going to be together forever, what does it matter?

It wasn't logical. He'd known that. But every decision he'd made in the last year and a half had seemed logical at the time, and it had brought him to the most fucking illogical place he could imagine, where he was very close to getting married and turning immortal because it seemed douche-y not to. And maybe he could manage the second part, maybe he was willing to give up his family and his life - literally - to be with Mary, but getting married was the one thing he'd sworn he'd never do and it was the only line in the sand he was going to draw with her, the only one...

...and she wasn't going to let him have it.

Even he understood what that meant.

You know how important this is to me, she'd whispered. I know that people are... different... nowadays, but... there are certain-

I know. Just this. Just this one thing.

Mary had frowned suddenly. Is it about Ruth?

No. Lucas actually hadn't been thinking about Ruth that much recently; if he even tried, he found himself suddenly focused on what to have for dinner, or if there was enough gas in the truck, or whether there was anything good on TV. He wasn't even dreaming about her. His brain had developed seriously impressive self-defense mechanisms to keep the pain of losing his best friend at bay.

Because if that's the problem, maybe we should invite her to the wedding. For closure. It could be good for everyone.

Lucas literally could not think of a worse idea. Mary, it's not about Ruth. It's that you want to get married... and I don't.

You don't love me?

He had had this conversation before, it felt more and more familiar with every passing second, all the words were automatic and holy shit, had he just been conditioned his whole life to find this kind of relationship? Of course I love you. Therapy. No matter what happened, Jesus Christ he needed some fucking therapy.

But not enough to marry me. Enough to be with me for eternity, but not enough to say a few simple vows. Lucas, that doesn't make sense.

He'd stared at his feet because he couldn't figure out how to say it to her face. I'll give you my whole life, he'd said. But I want this one thing.

And that was the impasse.

Ruth doesn't speak for a good thirty seconds, during which Lucas pretty much does not move. "What about the other thing?" she asks finally. "The bloodsucker part?"

Lucas shakes his head. The conversation had ended with Mary calming down and concluding that he just needed time to think - he needed time - and he'd known she was right, that if he stayed he would change his mind. But Alice had hugged him with a sad, knowing certainty before he left the house and whispered that it would have been great to have him as a brother and not to worry, she'd make sure Mary was all right.

That was two weeks ago, and he hasn't heard from any of them since. He's pretty sure they've left without saying goodbye, and he needs to get around to canceling everything as soon as he feels less depressed, because he is depressed again. For all he and Mary loved each other they couldn't get past a piece of paper and that hurts like hell. It took awhile to get off the couch.

And it took awhile beyond that to get the nerve to face Ruth.

"Listen," Lucas says, "I'm not here to... and I know that you're probably not... you just promised I could see you one more time, so... yeah." Shit, two months ago he never tripped over his words with her. If they can't find a way to get back to that, where they could just talk without everything being painful, then maybe it would be better for their friendship to stay long distance. Not that he's got a lot of hope of their friendship becoming short distance again.

Ruth is sorting the tool box. It doesn't look disorganized to Lucas, but that doesn't mean anything. Her cheeks are covered with a deep red blush.

Lucas prepares himself to be told to fuck off.

"Have you ever waxed a car?" says Ruth suddenly.

He blinks. "What?"

She's on her feet with a speed that's probably wolf-based, searching through a cabinet. "You don't have to mess with an engine to wax," she explains, "so there's only so much you can fuck up." She pulls out a can and a clean rag and sets them down on the roof of the Rabbit. Lucas stands up to look at them as she babbles, "You'd probably be pretty good at it or at least not terrible and it'd be something for you to work on instead of just sitting around and getting bored and not knowing what to do and-" Then she throws herself into his arms, hugging him so tight he can barely breathe, but hell breathing's not all that important anyway.

"You scared the shit out of me," she mumbles against his shoulder. "You know that?"

"Yeah, I know," he says, hugging her back as tight as he can. At least he's not in danger of crushing her ribs. "I'm sorry."

She nods. Hopefully it's some sort of acceptance of his apology. There's also some kind of incoherent words that he can't hear, but it sort of sounds like an apology from her, too, which is nice because even though he's not going to mention it she scared the shit out of him, too. Lucas feels her lips brush over his neck, that feels good, and maybe they'll get around to that later once he's done with being sad about Mary - which he'd pretty sure he will be - and once she's done being hurt about him scaring her - which he's pretty sure she will be. In the grand scheme of things, though, he'll happily settle for just this.

She tries to let go of him first, but he holds on for a few seconds longer because as fucked up as his life still is he's got his best friend back. "Okay," she says, turning away and acting like she's not wiping her face on her wrist. "So. Waxing. You can do that, yeah?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Good. Better get started then, 'cause I was gonna take it out for a ride later." Lucas nods, and Ruth nods, and he smiles when she reaches over and turns on the radio.

the end.

A/N: This scene is written because I believe it is the most likely outcome for the genderswap. The fact of the matter is that careful reading - hell, even not careful reading - of the Twilight Saga makes it clear that while Bella loves Edward, she feels an equal draw towards vampirism itself. Bella lives in terror of becoming old, and of particular being older than the man in the relationship; being changed means she will be young forever and become unspeakably beautiful into the bargain. Bella - and Stephenie Meyer - internalized the societal emphasis that youth and beauty are the most valuable traits a woman can possess. On the flip side, it is my interpretation of those same societal messages that while it is certainly advantageous for a man to be good-looking, there simply isn't the same level of pressure. Men don't have to be young to be desirable; their appeal doesn't end at age 30 in the eyes of the world. (For an example, Demi Moore and George Clooney are only six months apart in age. Look at what Demi Moore has had to do in order to still be considered attractive, as opposed to Clooney.) Even given this, the marriage issue was an enormous sticking point for Bella, and came close at times to being something she could not overcome. Lucas did not view vampirism as a desirable goal in and of itself, aside from a means to an end. Given his lack of additional motivation (being that he did not consider vampirism as a way to achieve his concept of a gender ideal), it was my opinion that the marriage issue could be one that he would not be able to get past.

That being said, this scene is optional because it is most certainly not the *only* outcome for the story. (I would even say that this scene is only the most likely by plurality.) Unlike Bella, Lucas internalized other societal gender issues, namely the male burden to protect the female - an issue that being the son of Renee would certainly exacerbate. And do not ever underestimate the damage that can result from an abusively co-dependent relationship. On the plus side, none of the possible outcomes involve a Renesmee.

Thanks for reading, and in particular I would like to thank those who participated in the comment threads on LJ. I will never stop being amazed at the intelligence and thoughtfulness of this fandom, nor of your willingness to challenge assumptions and think about the issues of a fic in depth and with respect. I learned a great deal about myself thanks to these discussions, and my gratitude, it is immense ;)

Till next time, guys.

(Oh, side note: I strongly suspect that this is an AU that will lead to me scratching out occasional drabbles. If they pop up, I'll be sure to list them here and/or in my Master Fic List on LJ.)