Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga, its characters, its settings, and everything else belong to Stephenie Meyer, not me. Otherwise, I'd be compensated for my work. :)
This o/s was part of the FandomForTwiFanG compilation. Thanks to Dinx for using her awesome beta skills and to DivineInspiration her prereading work and making the lovely banner for it.
Oh, and Happy Halloween. Hopefully this will tide you over while I continue to work on the next chapter of my other story. :)
Black & White
"Motherfucker!" His voice reverberated across the sand, startling a flock of birds and sending them into flight.
On any other day, he would have been able to answer the siren call of the deep reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows playing across the sky. The sight would have made his fingers itch to capture the breathtaking scene with his camera, preserving it for all eternity. But Edward was in no mood to acknowledge such pretty things—things he couldn't really see anymore. All of the color had drained from his world, leaving him feeling black and white.
He continued to walk down the beach, his head hung low and hands in his side pockets. It was fitting, somehow, for him to resemble how heavy he felt inside. His family had always told him he was too damn caring for his own good. It was just too bad he found out in such a life-changing way that they'd always been right.
As the sun set, leaving a pale gray behind, Edward wondered where he'd gone wrong. Hadn't he always shown her how much she meant to him? How much he loved her? It was hard not to think it had all been his fault.
The waves crashed harder against the beach, and the swirling of the water echoed behind him. He stopped, turning toward the ocean and letting the sound wash over his senses, drowning out all of his self-loathing, heartache, and pain. Closing his eyes, he tried to picture nothing, for that was what he was. Nothing.
"Hey, you should probably move soon. You wouldn't want the tide to come in and ruin those pretty shoes of yours."
He sighed. This was not what he needed right now.
"Like I give a fuck about a pair of shoes." Edward kicked at the sand, sending a spray of tiny rocks toward the water.
"I was just trying to help, rich boy. But if you want soggy shoes, then that's your problem, not mine."
Edward turned and crossed his arms, staring at Leah Clearwater. He couldn't believe his luck. All he'd wanted was some peace and quiet, but instead, the universe had decided that he needed to be in this harpy's company. Lovely.
"Don't you have a small child you need to eat or something?"
Leah let out a snort. "Ah, there's the jackass I know. What are you doing out here all alone, Cullen? Shouldn't you have your tongue stuck down Swan's throat right about now?"
Edward couldn't control the wince that came and went. She'd struck a nerve, far closer than he'd wanted to admit.
"Fuck off, Clearwater." He turned to storm down the beach and get away from her.
Edward froze, not knowing why the hell Leah was stopping him. They weren't friends by any stretch of the imagination. During the few times they had been forced to interact over the past couple of years, they'd always been cordially hostile, barely speaking to each other or trying to keep the snark down to a minimum. Edward felt it was the least he could do, since his girlfriend—his stomach clenched—Bella, was close to most of the residents of La Push, and the tribe was close to Leah.
Edward would have been fine never spending time in the tiny reservation, at all, but Bella insisted he should hang out with her friends, just like she did with his. He'd had to go to more bonfires, days at the beach, and other activities in La Push than he'd ever wanted. It wasn't that he hated her friends. He just hated one particular friend.
And Leah had been someone who loved to push his buttons, loved goading him any chance she got. He wasn't in the mood for her bullshit. Not then.
"Listen, Clearwater—" he said, still looking away from her.
"Don't do that." Leah grabbed his shoulder and pulled him around to see his face. "I saw that look when I mentioned her. I know I'm not your favorite person, but I am a great listener."
Edward couldn't mask the shock he felt at her words. "I don't know what you're talking about. Now, if you don't mind." He lifted his shoulder, raising the hand still on his shirt, to punctuate his desire to get away from her.
She held on tighter, bunching up the fabric in her fist as she whispered, "Edward."
She'd never called him by his first name before. Ever. But, by doing so, it had made her seem softer, somehow. And less like the hard ass he'd always thought she'd been.
He didn't want to open the Pandora's Box of shit he'd just been through, but when he thought about it, Leah was probably the only one he knew, close or not, who was familiar with what he was feeling. And what the hell? The choking blackness inside of him was eating away at his soul slowly, piece by piece. Maybe sharing it with someone who understood his pain would make it go away.
He nodded his head, motioning down the coastline. Leah released her grip and followed him until they came upon a large, sun-bleached log. The ends were twisted at odd angles, the branches at the top and roots at the ends looked as if they were holding onto each other for dear life. The trunk was thick, lying tall from the ground. Edward had to hop up onto the fallen tree and then held out his hand to help Leah climb to sit beside him.
As their gaze met the sea, Edward noticed the moon was hanging low on the horizon, almost touching the water. It was the first time, since that afternoon, he'd been able to appreciate anything.
Looking out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Leah's attention never left the water. She wasn't trying to pull information out of him, and he was thankful. Instead, she seemed content to wait until he was ready. It was such a contrast to when he was with Bella. That girl always needed to know what he was thinking and constantly hinted for reassurances that he loved her. Sitting there with Leah, though, there were no expectations. It was a nice change.
And he wasn't sure why that seemed important to him, the difference between Bella and Leah, but, somehow, it meant everything.
He rubbed his hand over his face. "I can't believe I'm really going to tell you this."
Leah turned toward him, one leg bent on the log and the other hanging off the side, her whole body facing him. The moon made her creamy brown skin illuminate in the darkness. Her v-necked, red t-shirt and short, gray cotton shorts seemed to draw his attention to her curvy form. Edward shook his head, trying to pull himself away from the dirty thoughts starting to form in his mind.
Leah raised an eyebrow at him, still waiting for him to speak. Edward cleared his throat and hoped the blush forming on his cheeks was hidden in the dark. "Okay. You probably know that Bella and I are going to different schools this year."
She nodded, letting him know she was with him that far.
"I figured I'd surprise Bella this afternoon. She was upset that I was going to have to stay out in Chicago until Friday, but I was able to switch some things around and come back early. I took the red eye last night, came home and crashed, and then went over to Bella's house this afternoon to surprise her." He bent his head and tugged on his hair. "But, fuck, I ended up being the surprised one."
Leah grimaced as he continued.
"I tried calling her a couple of times on the way over; she never answered. I got worried, you know, because I knew she'd be home. She'd said so the last time I talked to her. When I got there, her truck was in the driveway, so I went up to the house and started knocking. No one answered."
He took a deep breath. "I thought she was still asleep, so I used the hidden key and let myself in. And when I was inside, I heard her moaning. In my mind, it was confirmation that she was having a bad dream. But when I entered her bedroom, I almost passed out. I don't think I'll ever get the image of them naked together out of my head."
Edward felt her squeeze his hand, and the side of his mouth lifted. Retelling the events that had destroyed everything wasn't easy, but the cover of night and the company beside him made it seem more like a forgotten nightmare than a real experience. For that one moment, he was just Edward, and not the boyfriend who'd had his heart ripped out by a cheating girlfriend.
"Shit," Leah whispered.
"Yeah. Shit is right. Do you want to know the incredible part?" Edward pursed his lips and then let out a humorless cackle. "She tried to blame me for her infidelity. Said if I hadn't gone to school in Chicago, she wouldn't have needed Jake to cure her loneliness."
His face fell, losing the amused expression he was trying to feign. They were quiet for a moment, letting Edward's confession soak in. He watched her twist her hands in her lap, braiding her fingers together.
When she finally spoke, Leah rubbed her fingers over his knuckles. "You do know it's not your fault, right?"
She peeked over at him, and Edward dropped his head to his chest. He could hear the logic in her statement, but he could still remember the fight he and Bella had had right after graduation. She'd begged him to stay in Washington, to go to U Dub, so they wouldn't be separated. But Edward had wanted to go to Northwestern since he'd been a kid. His father's own stories about attending had driven his desire, and he'd never considered anything else.
He'd almost given in and went to the University of Washington, giving Bella exactly what she'd wanted. But when Edward had talked to his brother, Carlisle, about it, he'd told Edward to follow his own path. That Bella would survive, just like Esme had, when he'd gone to Columbia, and she'd gone to Purdue. And their relationship would be better for the time apart.
He'd wondered, not for the first time that night, if he and Bella would have survived if he'd have just changed his plans and followed her to Seattle. But even the thought of not attending the school of his choice, right then, sitting on that log, made his head hurt. And that was his answer. It wouldn't have mattered whether or not he'd have changed things, because if he had, he'd have only grown to resent Bella. In that alternate universe, it probably would have been her, and not him, sitting there heartbroken on that beach. Not from him betraying her, because Edward just didn't have it in him to cause that kind of pain, but he would have eventually ended things if he'd felt like she was holding him back. And that scared him to know that truth.
"I guess I do." The words sounded strange coming out of his mouth. "Does it ever get any better?"
Leah sighed and shifted on the log. "Do you want the honest answer or the one that makes you feel better?"
"Honest. Always honest."
She nodded absentmindedly. "Not really. The pain is always there. I guess you just get used to it."
Edward figured as much, but he hoped it wasn't the case. He grasped her hand tighter, silently thanking her for her candor. Never in a million years did he think that he'd have something in common with Leah, but he was even more surprised she was being so…open with him.
"I'm so sorry for…how I acted when things with you and Sam… Well, please just forgive me for being such a jerk."
"Thanks." A small smile played at the corner of her lips.
He wished he could go back six months, back to when he'd heard from Embry that Leah had found out her fiancé, Sam, had been sleeping with her cousin, Emily. At the time, he'd laughed about it, thinking Leah must have been to blame somehow and not understanding how anyone's relationship could fall apart. The only examples he'd ever had were happy, loving ones. His parents. Carlisle and Esme. His best friend, Jasper, and Bella's friend, Alice. Even Bella's parents, Charlie and Renee, had been together for practically forever. Heartache of that kind had never touched his life, so he had no idea that it really happened—that there wasn't a happily ever after for everyone.
His recent wakeup call had shown him that he was wrong. Leah hadn't done anything to deserve what Sam had done to her, she'd only loved him. And he felt like such a fucking asshole for thinking otherwise.
"No, I don't think you understand. I was horrible to you, and I'm sorry; I can't take that back. But I do want you to know, from now on, I'll be nicer."
"Really, Cullen? It's fine. I don't need a declaration, just lighten up a little, and we're cool." Leah laughed out loud.
Edward couldn't help in joining her. It wasn't long until they were leaning against each other in an unexpected release of hysterics that gave him relief from the tension in his chest. As he pulled away and tried to calm himself, he realized she was stunning when her face wasn't marred with the hatred and injustice she felt for her world. And he wondered why he'd never noticed it before. Had he always been that blind?
"C'mon, Cullen. I've had enough of this heavy conversation. Let's have some fun." Leah's words pulled him out of his thoughts.
He sat there and watched as she jumped off the log, running away and pulling off her clothes. Stunned by her bold action, Edward could only stare as she stripped down to her soft, purple underwear and flung herself into the water.
Are you coming?" she yelled. "Or are you going to be a chicken and sit there watching me?"
Leah's challenge shook him from his stupor, and he walked slowly toward the water, his clothes coming off with each step until he was only wearing a pair of blue cotton boxers. When she saw he was going join her, she turned away and began slowly paddling in the water. The arch of her back glistening from the light of the moon and the water drops forming on the skin beckoned him. He ran to the water and dove in, hiding the effect her almost naked figure was doing to his own body.
"Fuck!" he cried out, pushing the wet strands of hair from his face as he came up for air. "It's cold!"
His head whipped around, finding her floating a few feet away from him. "Fuck that! Not all of us descended from wolves, Leah. You know, us normal people can't stand the cold."
"Oh, shut up. I can't help it if my ancestors were a little creative with their stories. It's not that bad, you baby."
Edward took off toward Leah, causing her to scream and laugh as she moved away from him. But he was a fast swimmer and caught up with her easily. Putting up a half-hearted fight when he reached her, she pushed at his chest lightly, smiling the entire time.
"Now, take it back, or I'm going to toss you on your ass, Clearwater." His eyes were wide as he used a mock-serious tone.
"Never!" She giggled.
"All right. If that's the way you want it."
Edward picked her up and threw her into the water, turning his head and gasping when her impact splashed him in the face. She resurfaced next to him, sputtering and cursing, and he almost felt bad. Almost.
"Surrender?" His face broke out in an evil grin.
"You stupid bastard. You made me get water up my nose."
She went after him, trying to push his head under the water but was unsuccessful. Through their laughter, they splashed and pursued each other through the small waves. Edward couldn't remember having this much fun. Ever.
Eventually, they tired, deciding to float on their backs and watch the night sky. It was unusually clear for La Push, or even Forks, where Edward was from, for that matter. The twinkling of the stars had a calming effect and no words were spoken for the longest time. He was content to just be, and having Leah with him made it better, somehow.
"I wish I was smart enough to study Astronomy." Leah's voice broke the silence.
Edward turned his head to his left and saw her floating, her eyes never leaving the heavens. "What?"
She moved her head to the side, facing him. "There's so much math involved, and math hates me." Leah chuckled. "But the stars are so pretty. I used to lie out on a blanket in my backyard when it wasn't cloudy and just stare. I wanted to study the stars and constellations so bad when I was a kid, but when I found out how much math it has, I kinda had to let that dream die."
Lifting up a bit, Edward let his body sink back into the water and drifted to Leah. Her words caused his heart to ache; no one should have to make the choice to let their dream die, no matter how unattainable or unrealistic it was. And Leah had had more than her fair share of expired wishes, in Edward's opinion. He wanted, so much, to be able to make one of her goals happen for her.
She noticed he was floating beside her and moved into an upright position. They were so close, their bodies were almost touching. Edward could feel her breath on his cheek, and he was unable to hide the shiver its caress caused.
Placing her hand on his neck, Leah stared into his eyes. Edward could see the desire he felt in the dark brown irises pulling him in. He was caught, and he never wanted to escape.
He'd never felt this way from just one look and a barely there touch. She was setting him on fire, and for a brief moment, he wondered what it would be like to kiss her. He wasn't worried about Bella, or how she would take it. They were over. He'd made sure it was clear when he left her crying on her porch and begging for a second chance. In his mind, crimes that big and hurtful didn't deserve second chances.
So, why was he stalling? There was nothing to hold him back, and he wanted this; god, did he want this.
Leah hadn't moved—hadn't looked away from his eyes as he'd had his internal debate. Resolved, he shifted, ever so slowly, toward her lips, giving her a chance to back away if she didn't want it. But she remained still.
The first press of his lips against hers was like a match to a can of gasoline: explosive and hot. He wrapped one arm around her waist, pulling her closer, and the other tangled in her hair, angling her head for better access. She opened her mouth, licking his upper lip and making him light-headed. Glad they were still in the water, because he would have fallen on his ass from the sensation of her teasing him, he parted his lips and took over the kiss.
Devouring each other until they ran out of breath, Edward moved down to Leah's neck, knowing he was now addicted to her kisses. The sound of her panting in his ear was driving him to the brink of insanity, and he slid his hands down to her ass, starting to pull the flimsy panties away from her skin. The urge to fuck her until she screamed his name was fierce.
"Wait. Stop," Leah mumbled, tugging his arms away from her body. Her words immobilized him, making him wonder exactly what he'd done wrong. In the moment, she'd seemed willing, but now he wasn't so sure. Had he pushed things too far?
Without another word, she turned away and swam toward the shore. Edward started after her, but wasn't quick enough. Just as he reached the sand, she was running out of the water and gathering her clothes. And then she he took off down the beach in the direction of La Push. He knew he'd never catch up with her, so he slowly collected his clothes and dressed, making sure to remove the sand in his shoes first.
Walking back to his car in the beach parking lot was a surreal experience. When he'd arrived, he'd been so full of hurt and pain, and now that he was leaving, he was confused. It was such a contrast, but as he touched his lips, he smiled. He couldn't be ashamed of what had happened.
He unlocked the car and got in, slamming the door shut and leaning his head back against the seat. It was obvious he was seeing her in a new light, and whatever the hell had happened between him and Leah, in the water, deserved further investigation. Of that much, he was certain.
Even if it could never happen again, it didn't matter to him. He'd take whatever Leah was willing to give. Friendship. Acquaintances. Or something more. He just knew there was no way he'd let her slip out of his life. That night had proved that Leah Clearwater was so much more than she showed the world. And he wanted to get to know as much of her as she'd allow.
Let me know what you think. :) I'm not sure if I'm expanding this or not yet due to RL commitments, but you can put me on alert just in case.