Author Notes: Hello, potential readers! If you've read any of my work before, you know that I am now pretty much exclusively a Leah/Jake shipper. However, the idea for this fanfic grew from one of my past one-shots, "In Love With Another," which was a Bella/Jake fic. I've always toyed with the idea of overriding an imprint though, and I wanted to play it through a little and see how it came out. Currently, this fic is labeled in-progress, because I think I might add a few more chapters to it, depending on how well it's received, so please let me know what you think in the form of a review!
I take Jake's hand in mine, turn it over, study the lines. I run my finger down the one that signifies his life line. It forks before it reaches the edge of his palm. I wonder what this means. I trace my finger down one line, reverse, and then take the other. I want to hold his hand up for him to see. I want to tell him, but I can't find the words.
This is Renesmee. I would point to the left line that becomes indistinguishable sooner.
This is me. I would be the line that forks to the right. It doesn't reach the edge of his palm, but it comes the closest. I don't find that too significant. Life is never certain, but I believe that I will be the one to outlast. I just hope I know what I'm outlasting, and that I won't be doing it alone.
Pick, I want to say, but I say nothing, because Jacob is asleep, and I never beg anyway. I didn't ask for this. I never even implied that I might be interested in finding myself here, in his bed. But there is something incredibly satisfying in the feeling of being tangled in his bed sheets, of feeling the indignant line of cloth pressed to my back where the fitted sheet unhooked from the mattress and curled into itself under me. I won't do what I want to do: pull the sheets up to my nose, breathe him in. I am already more than familiar with Jacob's scent. It has long since become an intricate part of my life.
I tell myself that he wouldn't smell any different here anyway, even in the aftermath of sex. The cloying, underlying scent would still be him under that primal aroma of lust. He smells of pine and dirt. He's sleeping next to me. His smell is already everywhere. No need to turn my face to the pillowcase or pull the sheets to my nose. I push them to my waist instead, because I am not foolish or embarrassed or doubtful of my body. The ceiling fan twirls idly, pushing a warm breeze across my skin. It feels good, and I take my time enjoying it before I decide what to do next.
I decide not to decide yet.
I think, instead, of my body and Renesmee's and compare them. I feel the scales are weighted in my favor without much need for consideration. I am tall and slender, but not thin. I have definition, full hips and breasts. My skin is soft in places and calloused in others. I am comfortably and lightly weathered. I am natural, whereas Renesmee has always seemed manufactured. Willowy and thin and too perfect to be real. I have experienced every year of my age. She is a toddler in a twenty-six year old's body. She is Jacob's imprint.
I turn my head just enough to look at his face. Any lines that might have been there are smooth in sleep. He looks young again, like when we were kids. Before Renesmee was a glimmer in Edward Cullen's dead eyes. I could wish, for the millionth time, that the Cullens never existed, but this would be wasted breath and time. They are here. Our dormant genes were reawakened. Jacob's fate had raced to catch him.
I inhale and hold my breath until my chest aches, but even though the pain tells me that I am real and awake, I still don't believe in the concept of imprinting. I don't know what happened to Jacob when he saw Renesmee Cullen for the first time, but I don't believe that it is irreversible, and I don't believe that she is his life-mate.
It is just a curse or spell like in fairy tales, broken by true love's first kiss. I roll onto my elbow and prop it underneath me so that I can lean over Jacob and press my lips to his. He doesn't so much as stir, but I feel his breath against my lips when I lean forward and taste his again. I close my eyes, press our lips together one more time, and will the spell to be broken. But it's not. And I know this even though he continues to sleep and says nothing to the contrary.
I know his eyes won't open and that he won't say, Leah, I'm free, like I wish he would. I tell myself that it is only a matter of time. I will figure out how to break his chains. And they are chains. Imprinting is a curse, going against the natural way of free will. Werewolf genetics are forcing him to love someone not of his choosing, because I think now, if he could choose, he would choose me. Why else would he be here now, next to me?
I still don't know how it happened, but I know that this—us—is the natural progression of our lives, had the vampires never shown up. I never have pretended to understand the complex workings of an imprint, but, at first, I had taken it as fate. Renesmee had been born, Jacob had imprinted. He was not the first to do so, and he would not be the last, though I repelled the idea that it would ever happen to me.
The vampires came centimeters away from war, the war had crumbled before it had started, and then life had resumed. Several years had passed, Jacob being Renesmee's ever-faithful pup, and then—
And then he had shown up on my doorstep, struggling, at war with himself. I hadn't taken the time to notice how it had worn on him, the imprint. I hadn't taken the time to notice how tired he looked, how the fatigue showed in the shadows under his eyes and the slack around his mouth. Only then had it occurred to me how tortuously draining it must be to love someone that much with no relief.
No moments of selfishness. No room for resentment. No chance to question his fate, let alone challenge it. No arguments. He was on his knees in front of Renesmee, even when he was standing up.
He had stood on my porch that day, and he had look withered and used. I was the only one that hadn't imprinted in our pack. I was the only one that he could talk treason to. If he could have talked it, but he couldn't.
I don't know how I understood what he wanted, except maybe that I wanted it to. Maybe I had never imagined it with him, but I was tired of being the only one not to have imprinted, tired that it hung constantly in my face. Not only had I no imprint, but the only man I had ever loved had been taken by an imprint. I wanted revenge. I wanted to prove that imprints weren't real.
How else could I do this but to take someone else's?
I'm so tired, he had said, and he had staggered forward, and I had witnessed it in his eyes.
I was his act of defiance.
He was mine.
His feet had been weighted with the cement of the curse, like every step toward me was painful, so I had stepped out onto the porch, pressed my hands to his chest, pressed my lips against his, and hadn't stopped even though he'd cringed. I had remembered when we were younger, when we had both scoffed at imprints. Maybe all that moment had been was us proving that we wouldn't accept less than we wanted.
And it had grown from there. When he was supposed to be elsewhere, he was at my house. No one ever came to look for me, so no one ever found us. First the acts of defiance came only in us spending time together, the few brief kisses that we had shared. And then something had possessed me, and I had undressed him.
His body against mine so many times since then. Even when his gaze became distant, blurred, like he couldn't focus on me. Even when he growled and ground his teeth and fought to bring himself back to me.
Leah, Leah, Leah, he would say, as the imprint threatened to bind him, to gag him, to drag him out of my bed and back to her. Each time he said my name, his voice filled me. Even when it tried to curve into an R sound and say her name instead. He always fought his way back to me, to us, to freewill. Fighting it was exhausting. I could see it all over his face, but he kept coming back.
I took his hand each time.
You'll break free, I'd say, and his hand would go slack in mine before he managed to tighten his grip. If I keep telling myself he'll break free, he will. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe weeks from now, but he will. Jacob is mine. I will never say it out loud until he does, but I can already feel the spot the need has carved inside of me. Maybe it's more than need now.
I draw back and study his face. When did I start wanting it? Before or after that first kiss? I can hear the clock ticking in the hall. I wonder what time it is. The Cullen family camping trip could be wrapping up by now, and then how long would it be until Renesmee returned to Jacob's house? I feel myself frowning at the idea that I must leave, that these charades must keep going. Until I break the curse, he will not be able to leave Renesmee. How many times have I wondered if death might break it? What would happen if I killed Renesmee? The wolf inside me wants to. It would be easy. It would be nothing at all. But what would happen to Jacob?
Imprinting means that his life depends on hers. When did I become so weak that my life depended on his? I can't afford this feeling, but now it won't go away. I am in this now, my own form of imprinting, but I made this choice when I kissed him.
I swing my feet off the edge of the bed and push to my feet. This is the only movement that wakes Jacob up.
"Leah, where are you going?"
His voice is groggy with sleep. I hear him shifting behind me and rising from the bed as well. His bed, in his house, where Renesmee sleeps at night as well. How will he explain my smell here to her? Or how will he get rid of it before she returns? Maybe she has been made arrogant enough by the imprint that she will never suspect. Maybe no one believes that anyone can love me.
"Your Nessie will be home soon."
He makes a noise in his throat as I dress in my shirt, skirt, and underwear. The only thing I leave off is my bra. I push it under his bed with my toe.
"A souvenir to remember me by," I say.
I turn to see him staring at the end of the bed where I just hid my bra. His expression is conflicted. It's always conflicted. Like two different people are living there.
"I don't want you to go," he says.
I shake my head. "Part of you does."
"Not the part that's me."
I know that I sound cold, so I try to soften my words with a smile as he concedes that only part of him abhors me. But it's not strong enough to beat the side that just made love to me. I wonder how this would have happened without the imprint, how I could have come to stand in Jacob's bedroom and talk to him, calmly, while he stood stark naked.
I can't remember ever really wondering what Jacob looked like naked before then. I can't remember ever wanting to find out. He had been like my brother. An annoying, condescending one at that. But how quickly we had realized how well we could serve one another. Maybe we had always both been two broken souls. My gaze trails over him now, devouring what I see.
"Tell that part not to forget me."
I am not entirely teasing, but I say it like it's no big deal. It always seems like a risk. I'll return home, and he'll forget me. And I'll just be Leah Clearwater again, the bitter, angry woman that lives eternally alone. But Jacob has always been about freewill. He resented becoming a werewolf, resented being forced to fall in love. I don't think that he will give up on us any time soon.
His hands come up and grasp my arms. His grip is bruising, but I enjoy it, because I know that he's fighting Renesmee in his head. His lips are just as hard and unforgiving. They make me bump my head on the wall behind me.
I correct him. "Leah."
I circle him with my arms. My hands are on his back, and I dig my nails in a little harder than I mean to, but I want to make myself real.
"I'm Leah, you asshole."
He breathes out roughly against my neck.
"Leah," he says. "You are such a bitch."
I smile at the wall behind him. "Yeah, Black. At least you know me now.