So I said I wouldn't start another multi-chap until my others were finished, but this idea got in my head and then wouldn't leave until I wrote it, so it's actually easier to just give in to my brain. Anyway, I hope very much that you like this new story and thanks for reading.
I don't own Twilight. I know, it's shocking, isn't it.
The howl of a wolf brought Leah out of her sleep. Bolting upright in her bed, she listened carefully until she heard an answering howl in the distance. Neither sounded urgent so her shoulders relaxed as she breathed out heavily in relief.
She had only finished her own patrol two hours earlier and she definitely didn't want to be forced out into the wet weather for a second time this night. Luckily, it seemed like the others had the situation all under control. They could come and get her if they needed her out there as well.
Taking another deep breath to calm her heartbeat down – her wolf was constantly alert for any danger – she flopped back onto her mattress and pushed her hair out of her face. Now that she was awake, she didn't know that she'd be able to get back to sleep again.
True enough, after forty-five minutes of tossing and turning, she gave up on any hope of rest and threw herself out of bed. Wrapping her robe around her, she headed downstairs to raid the fridge. Grabbing the last pint of ice cream which miraculously had not been found and devoured by Seth already, she rifled through the cutlery drawer for a spoon and then retreated back upstairs with her purloined treat.
Settling into her desk chair, Leah spun around as she dug into the ice cream. This was something she had always done when she was a stroppy pre-teen, moaning about her life while she stuffed her face and twirled in circles. It made her feel young and innocent once more, like she had been back when her biggest worries were keeping Seth out of her room and whether or not her chest would ever grow bigger.
She envied that girl now. She envied her ignorance and her naivety. She wished more than anything that she could go back to a time when the legends of the wolf protectors, imprinting and the cold ones were just legends told around a campfire by Billy Black and nothing more.
Annoyed with her wistful thoughts, Leah slammed her feet onto the floor bringing her spinning to an abrupt halt. The jarring of her movement jolted the ice cream she was holding, and a blob of it landed on her robe.
She wiped at the mark, but just ended up getting the sticky treat all over her hand.
Barely resisting the urge to swear again, she set the food down and stripped off her robe, baring her skin to the night. Wiping the majority of the ice cream off her hand onto the robe, she ditched it in the laundry basket.
She was about to head for the bathroom and wash her hands when she heard an unexpected noise in the house.
Leah froze, but then relaxed when the familiar scent of pack caught her nose. She inhaled again and then identified the intruder as Embry. There was only one reason for him to be in her house right now and that was to fetch either her or Seth for an extra patrol. Bracing herself to go out again, she was half-relieved and half-annoyed when she heard him slip into her brother's room and wake him up.
She almost rushed out to volunteer to take her brother's place, but the pack were very easy-going on him in the first place, not making him run late patrols on school nights or getting him involved in anything too dangerous, so she decided to leave it be for tonight.
Once the two boys had left the house, she dashed across the hallway to the bathroom and cleaned herself up. Catching a glimpse of her appearance in the mirror over the sink, she scowled. Her shorn hair was sticking up from where her sleep had been so restless, and the side of her face had lines across it from the crease of her pillow. Irritated, she reached over and switched off the light. She could see just as well in the dark anyway, and now was not the time to be reminded of how unfeminine she felt.
Her lack of sleep was beginning to catch up on her now, despite the mini sugar rush from the ice cream, and as tiredness hit her, she felt the familiar sting of frustrated tears. It was always times like these in the middle of the night when the sheer hopelessness of her situation crept up on her.
Becoming a wolf had meant sacrificing everything – her father, her fiancé, her freedom, her scholarship, even her brother in many ways – and her confidence in herself and her own abilities had been all that she had left to cling to. To now be faced with her less-than-stellar appearance was a blow too many. Leah had always been proud of how she had looked, and she couldn't even bear to meet her own eyes in the mirror.
Sniffing pathetically, she wiped her face and barrelled out of the bathroom and straight into a warm body.
"Fuck!" she swore. She pulled back to see Embry's sheepish face. "What the hell are you still doing here, Call?"
He quickly released the grip he had taken on her arms and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. He had borne the brunt of Leah's sharp tongue along with Sam after she had phased, and he didn't want her to start on him again.
"Seth said that I could finish the casserole that was in the fridge before I went home since my mom's gone back to Neah Bay for the week. I heard you crying though so I thought I'd come up here..." His voice trailed off as he took in the look on her face. Valiantly he tried again. "So... are you alright?"
Leah forced a scowl onto her face. "I'm fine. Now get lost."
She tried to push past him, but Embry refused to move.
"Come on, Leah," he pleaded. "Don't be like that. You're obviously not okay. Look, you're crying."
He brushed the back of his fingers across her wet cheek, and to her surprise, as much as his, she didn't push him away. Her lack of reaction made him bold and he raised his other hand to cup her cheeks.
"Don't cry," he murmured. "You don't need to cry."
Instead of consoling her, his words just made her want to sob more. She could handle the pack's vitriol, their bitching and their scorn for her and her past relationship, but she didn't think she could stand it if they were actually kind to her. If they were kind to her then she might just like them.
"Get off me, Embry. Can't you at least let me get some pants on before you start trying to get into them?"
He jumped backwards quickly, slamming against the opposite wall as his gaze inadvertently wandered over her nude body. As quickly as his eyes had scanned over her, they jumped back up to her face and he ducked his head, his cheeks reddening in embarrassment.
Leah supposed she should be grateful that it wasn't Paul who had stumbled upon her. He would've made fun of her for crying and then leered over her naked body without shame.
"For fuck's sake," she muttered.
Storming past Embry back into her bedroom, she grabbed the discarded sheet from the bed and wrapped it around herself, tucking it under her arms. While her back was to him, she took the opportunity to wipe her face with the corner of the sheet. Embry had already seen her vulnerable once this evening, she wasn't going to give him anymore ammunition.
When she turned around again, Embry's eyes once again snapped to hers and it was strangely gratifying to her to catch him in the act of staring at her ass. Instead of smiling though, she frowned.
"Why are you still here, Embry?"
He swallowed and then seemed to gather his courage. "Why were you crying?"
Her frown deepened. She should've known better than to let her guard down, especially with any of the pack in her house. Show no weakness – that was the motto she had survived by since that fateful day that she had reached out a hand to her father and been greeted with a paw instead.
"None of your business."
His earnest face fell. She remained resolutely silent.
Eventually he sighed and his hand scrubbed tiredly at his face. "I'm trying to help you here, Leah."
"I never asked for your help," she quickly bit back.
He shook his head. "Why won't you let us in, Leah? We do care about you. I care about you. Really. If you're upset then I don't want you be left alone."
"Quite the gentlemen, aren't you?" Her sarcasm was the only defence she had left.
Part of her wanted him to just leave her alone to wallow in her misery, but another part whispered that this was the first time that one of the pack, apart from her brother, had reached out to her. It felt sometimes like it had been forever since anyone outside of her family had cared about what happened to her.
She had lost her two closest confidants – Sam and Emily - in one fell swoop, and with them gone, loneliness had set in.
As if he could sense her wavering, Embry stepped closer.
"Come on, Leah. Just tell me. I won't laugh and I won't tell the rest of the pack. I'm not here to make fun of you; I just want to help."
Her eyes were watering up again. "I..." She couldn't make herself speak, couldn't air her fears out loud. They were such stupid fears too, stupid girly fears that Embry would never understand.
He took another step forward and clasped her shoulder. "Just tell me. What's wrong...?"
His concern was just too much. She snapped.
"You want to know what's wrong?! Look at me!"
In a fit of recklessness she tossed the sheet aside and bared herself to her pack mate.
"I'm the only fucking female in the pack. I have to hear the thoughts of my ex about the woman he left me for. I can't get any privacy. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in forever. And I'm a fucking mutant freak!"
Embry shook his head. "You're not a freak."
"Seriously?! Look at me, Embry!" She gestured angrily towards her body. "I used to have a butt. I used to have tits. I used to have gorgeous hair and not have man muscles and I used to have more than one outfit and I used to wear heels and not be taller than every guy on the reservation."
The tears were streaming down her face with each pained confession.
"And it's such a stupid thing to be upset about, but it's just... it's just..."
She ran out of words and could only shake her head helplessly. She felt so stupid to have revealed all her petty worries like that. There were more important things to worry about than her appearance, she knew that Embry along with the rest of the wolf pack had their own issues, but for her, the stripping of her femininity was the final insult.
Aware that Embry was still staring wide-eyed at her, she blushed in embarrassment and spun around so she wouldn't have to look at him.
There was silence in the room and Leah clenched her eyes shut and inwardly cursed herself for her rant.
No wonder the pack didn't have any time for her. She was pathetic.
The floorboards creaked as Embry shifted behind her. Seconds later she felt the sheet she had discarded being wrapped around her carefully, concealing her body and her vulnerability once more. Once she was covered, he turned her around and drew her into his arms. For once, Leah let him comfort her without protesting. She needed the human contact that Embry was providing right now, even if she was too much of a coward to admit it.
They hugged for what seemed like an age and eventually Leah composed herself enough to feel like she could face him again. Responding to her unspoken cues, Embry drew back carefully, allowing her to save face.
"Will you be okay by yourself for the rest of the night?"
Trying to regain some of her previous assurance, despite the tears that still marred her cheeks, she scoffed at him weakly.
"Of course I'll be fine, Embry. I don't need you to hold my hand, you know."
For some reason, the return of her bitchy behaviour made him smile and he nodded.
"I'm glad to hear it. I'll see you later for the pack meeting then."
"Whatever." The usual harsh edge to her tone was missing from her voice and Embry's grin grew wider.
In a startling burst of confidence from the usually quiet wolf, he darted forward and pressed a hot kiss against Leah's forehead. He then vanished into the night as quickly as he had emerged.
Leah clutched the sheet to her body, a look of shock colouring her face. She had never witnessed Embry so bold before and even though she normally would have been mad with him, tonight a small smile tilted the corners of her mouth upwards.
As she climbed back into bed again and sleep gradually took hold once more, his parting whisper echoed in her mind.
"I think you're beautiful."