A/N: I've had this lying around for a while. I started writing it about 1-1½ month ago when I desperately wanted to finish the most recent chapter of PB. I though if I at least returned to Twi-verse, PB would follow automatically. For some reason, I took one of the most odd combinations I could think of: Leah and Jasper. I read a few LeahxJasper fics, found the premise interesting and decided to challenge myself. This is sort of a missing moment, which can be placed in Breaking Dawn just before Alice has the vision of the Volturi coming for them.
Disclaimer: All the characters from Twilight are the intellectual property of SMeyer. We all know that.
Minutes Before the Storm
Let me preface this by saying: I have not gone soft.
Hanging out with the leeches has not broken me. They're still an abhorration to existence, they smell like corpse dipped in sugarfrosting doused with rot, and my life is still one giant FML-moment. It's as if Life thought, "Hey, let's poke Leah Clearwater with a stick and see how much she can take."
So Life took away the guy that I loved, and made him happier than ever. With my cousin. Life shattered all my illusions and tossed me into a fairytale without the happy ending. Life made me an infertile shapeshifter, the only female in a pack of morons, led by the love of my life, who could hardly look me in the eyes anymore. Life took my father away from me, and it was my fault. I phased, and he had a heart attack, because it was me, not Seth. To top it all off, the pack was called into action, having to fight alongside the leeches so that precious Bella Swan wouldn't meet an early grave.
And just when I thought things had reached an all-time low, there was Life again, tossing shit at the fan. Motherfucking Bella Swan was pregnant by the angsty mindreader leech. Jake left the pack. Seth left the pack. I had to leave the pack, because I would not sit idly by while my happy-go-lucky kid brother was running around guarding Bella-fucking-Swan and fistbumping leeches. I had to put my foot down. Admittedly, getting rid of Sam was a nice bonus, but still. Life made me my mortal enemy's guard dog, all the while Bella-fucking-Swan had her monster baby and was made a vamp. Icing on the cake? Jake imprinted on the monster spawn. Fucking perfect.
But I digress.
What I want to say is, I have not gone soft.
If I had to not dislike one of the leeches for breaking the very laws of nature, it would be him. Although I hate him on principle, I dislike him the least. He is not angsty and overprotective like the mindreader, nor is he loud and obnoxious like the meathead. He is not shallow and snide like Blondie, nor hyper and overbearing like the fortune cookie. Of all the Cullen leeches, he actually acts most like one (because, let's face it, the way Dr. Fang works at a hospital is just a little morbid). He doesn't pretend to be nice (although I'm not saying Mama Leech pretends... She just tries to hard). He doesn't force his thoughts, opinions, fashion tips or lewd jokes upon people.
Come to think of it, I haven't seen him in a few days. He's here, that much I know. Having spent so much time with my nose basically stuck in poo, I've learned to separate them, the differences in their rot-sweet scents. He's here, all right. So, when I just can't take the sight of Jake playing with his imprint, looking all gooey-eyed, I walk away, into the house. It's only the third time I'm here, so I take a careful whiff. Where is he?
I follow the stench up two flights of stairs, down the corridor and through a set of large mahogany doors.
"Holy sh..." I whisper under my breath, marvelling at the size of the library.
The room in itself is huge. All the bookshelves in the Forks library and the rez library would easily fit in here and still have plenty of wiggle room. Over the stench of leech, I pick up the exquisite scent of old leather. Somewhere, there is a sizeable collection of old, leatherbound books. I ignore the immediate need to find the empath, and set out to find the books instead. Before all of this, the shift, the fights, the "Let's poke Leah Clearwater with a stick"-business, I liked books. English had been my best subject, and I'd briefly considered going away to college to study literature. But we all know what happened.
I finally find them, a whole section full of leather bound treasures, their spines calling out to me with their gold-printed titles. My fingers lightly trace across them, scanning for books I haven't read. Most of them are familiar authors, I just never got around to reading them. My finger stop on an copy of Edgar Allen Poe's complete bibliography. Say what you want about Poe, but he was a master. A tad obsessed with death, but still a master. Personally, I preferred his poems to his short stories and novels, simply because the poems were so much more evoking. You couldn't read them without having to analyse them for further meaning. My English class once spent a whole lesson analysing the symbolic elements of The Raven. Resolutely, I take out the book, carefully browsing through the worn pages. At the very end of the poem section, I find an old favorite of mine, Annabel Lee. I can't really put my finger on why I loved it in the first place, but reading it again now, I wouldn't be surprised if Poe actually wrote about leeches, with angsty mindreader Cullen especially in mind.
It's hard to get the jump on me. I mean, even without the extra added other things courtesy of being a shifter, it's hard. But the empath still manages to startle me, causing the book to slip out of my hands and onto the floor with a muffled thump.
"Jesus!" I hiss, taking a step backwards.
"No, Jasper," the empath replies with a slight smile. "Although I can see where you might confuse us."
I glare at him, deciding not to answer. Instead, I move to pick up the book, but the empath is faster, much faster. He opens the book to where I had been reading.
"Poe, really? Interesting choice."
"Yeah, well, I couldn't find Cosmo," I rebut snippily.
"Cosmo, huh? I can tell that you're lying. Don't get me wrong. Poe is brilliant, you just don't seem like a Poe-reader. Too much death and things coming back to life." He pauses, then continues: "On the other hand, maybe Poe is a perfect choice..."
"Don't pretend you know shit about me, leech."
"I was trying to joke. Clearly, I failed."
"Yeah, well, being funny requires a sense of humour to begin with..." I mutter, mostly to myself, yanking the book from his hands.
Out of some old reflex, I brush the spine, as if expecting it to be covered by dust. It is pristine, of course. Nothing in this house is ever less than spotless. Carefully, I put the book back on the shelf with the rest of the leatherbound beauties. I purse my lips. I hate perfect. Perfect and I don't get along. Quickly, I pull out the book a tiny bit. There. Some chaos in all this glorious order. Smiling contentedly to myself, I turn around to leave, only to find the empath is still there, and a lot closer than I would like.
"Jeez! Are you still here?" I spit out, startling backwards to get away from him.
He gives me an amused look, and I realize how stupid I sound. Of course he's still here. His bloody house.
"Touché," he replies, reading my emotions like and open book.
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be outside oohing and aahing at the happy family?"
I don't particularly like being cornered like this, so I force myself to brush past him, the cold and the stench radiating from him. I barely contain my gags. He observes me, considering whether or not to tell me.
"It's... hard for me," he finally says, gauging my response.
"You wanna bite her?" No need to beat around the bush. I flex my fingers discreetly, readying myself to turn wolf if need be.
"No." The answer is stern, forceful... honest. "No," he continues a bit more softly. "I'd just rather not be out there. It's hard for me to understand... why things are as they are."
"Well, that was vague and politically correct of you."
"Don't sass me. You feel the same way, Leah. What's happening out there is not normal. Bella should not be this well-adjusted. Renesmee should not even exist. Her kind is the stuff of legends among us. Jacob Black should not be her imprint. They should not be able to play happy family."
His voice is hard and full of bitterness. In one way, I can understand. Shit should not be five kinds of fucked up. He sees it, like I see it; the misfit family acting out the Hallmark dream. But what I don't get is why he sounds so bitter. He can't be wishing it was him out there with a kid. Not possible.
"I'm not Edward," he tells me pointedly.
"Please elaborate. That statement fits a lot of scenarios," I snark back, sitting down behind a large oak desk.
Jasper smirks at me.
"I cannot read minds. Your emotions are conflicted, it makes it hard for me to deduce what you are thinking."
And for that, I will always be grateful. Still, the empath leech is mildly fascinating, so why not indulge him?
"You sound bitter," I explain. "Are you jealous? Did you dream of a bouncing baby vamp with your chin and pixie leech's shopping habits?"
Part of me hopes he'll be at least a little offended. I mean, what else do I have to live for? But he reveals nothing. Either he doesn't care, or he has the best pokerface in the world.
"I'm not jealous. I would not bring a child into our world. I've seen too much blood and violence to want this for a child, especially my own."
"Aw, jeez, you got a thing for her?" I groan. In all honesty, Bella Swan is not my favorite person. On my list, you'll find her in the unfashionable end of it.
"No. No, no, no," he assures me, actually smiling a bit. "You need to stop jumping to conclusions."
I shrug my shoulders.
"For most of my existence, the vampire part of it at least, I lived in that dark world. Blood. Violence. Such thrilling power trips we experienced..."
I want to ask who "we" are, wondering if it's the pixie leech he's referring to. But he seems so enthralled by the story and by his memories that I let him continue.
"When I met Alice, and we found the Cullens... Well, abstaining from human blood after a lifetime of taking lives just because I could was hard. I've slipped up. I almost killed Bella on her birthday."
My knuckles are white. As soon as he says "slipped up", my body tense at once, and I'm fighting the familiar shivers that signal the change. It's instinct, an automated response. He has slipped up. Slipped up. Taken a human life. He has...
"I have not broken the treaty, Leah." His melodic voice floats through the shroud of rage. "You may not approve, but I have not broken the treaty."
That little piece of shit is right, of course. We would all know if someone had broken the treaty, even if it was before our pack formed. It would be known. It would be held as an example. I force myself to calm down, slowly relaxing my hands and forcing back the rage. He nods at me approvingly, waiting for me to completely calm down.
"This life, this... imitation of a normal human life has been hard for me. I always told myself it was because of my past, the war, all the blood, the violence. I looked forward to Edward changing Bella. She would be a newborn, her struggle would mirror my own, defying the scent of human blood. I would not be the black sheep of the family anymore. You can imagine my disappointment when Bella pulled through the change and showed remarkable self-control. She was basically tame, able to resist the natural urges of our kind after only a few hours of this life."
"So you wanted her to go batshit crazy and murder that camper?" I counter accusingly.
"At least try," he admits. The fact that he doesn't try to deny it is somewhat pleasing. "Of course I don't want anyone to die, not intentionally, but I hoped. Foolishly so, as you've seen. She is no more a savage newborn than the rest of us. And I am still the family screw-up. Trying to kill your brother's girlfriend is not exactly something you can smooth over and put behind you in this house, not with Emmett present."
Ah, yes. Chuckles. From the moment I got myself dragged into this mess, Jacob had bored on endlessly about trying to best Blondie-leech with blonde-jokes, and how her boyfriend, Chuckles McLeech, kept laughing and cheering them on. The few times I had actually seen him, I had been overcome with a wave of hatred. Not because he was a vamp, but because he reminded me of Sam. Big, strong, protective. The way he looked at Blondie... Sam used to look at me that way, like I was everything to him. I eventually had to tell myself to knock it off. I did not risk my ass just to come here and continue grovelling over lost love and broken hearts.
"You're not gonna like this, but we're a lot like each other."
"You're right," I snorted, swiveling left and right on the chair. "I don't. And we're not."
I might as well have said challenge accepted.
"We're both the black sheep. We find these circumstances unnatural, we would both prefer to be elsewhere right now, but both us respect authority and responsibility too much to leave," he quickly reels off, actually counting on his fucking fingers.
"Is that your way of saying the pixie's got you whipped?"
"I was referring to Carlisle, but thank you for that vote of confidence."
"Fine." I shrug my shoulders. "You got a point. What now? Do we hug it out and braid each other's hair?"
"I look terrible with braids," he protests, and I double back, seeing as I am already halfway into my next semi-insult.
"How do you know that?"
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
I'm pretty sure if vamps were able to blush, the empath would be red as a tomato right now. He does his best not to look me in the eye, which only makes this all the more hilarious.
Simple question, and his strained face answers it. For the first time in weeks, months even, I laugh. It echoes in the vast library, and the empath finally looks at me, so obviously pissed off and embarrased, I can't stop myself from laughing.
"How about we start with something a little less... radical?" he suggests while I'm trying to stifle my laughs.
"You could call me Jasper."
"Jasper?" I echo, the name foreign on my tongue.
Saying his actual name feels strange. He (all of them to be honest) has always been "leech" to me. Or "vamp" or "empath" if I haven't been royally pissed. But in the spirit of liking the same shit and being the bigger person, why not?
"Yes, I know you hate us, and I can't ask you to stop that. But we can at least e civil," the v... Jasper tells me.
Fuck him and his god damn logic. Now I have to hate him for being right, too.
"Fine. Jasper. We'll be civil. Should we bring out a tea set and have afternoon tea in the parlor?" I say in a mock-posh accent.
"You really can't lay off the sarcasm, can you?"
"It's my first language." A small smile tugs at the corner of my lips.
Jasper walks over to the large bay windows and sits down in one of them. I am not quite sure what to say, since we're supposed to be civil and all, so I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind:
"Do you ever wish things could be different?"
"Different, how?" he counters, pulling up his legs and resting them against the wall.
"Different as in not being a vamp."
His face turns pensive, the unnatural golden eyes observing me intently.
"There have been times I have wished for a normal life; one where walking into a room full of people doesn't drive me insane with thirst or knock me off my feet because of all the emotions. It would be a nice change not having to fear screwing up."
I find myself nodding, even though I can't really say I can relate. Sure, there are the odd jerks at the rez school, but they're not irritating enough that I feel the compulsive need to end their lives.
"Then again," Jasper continues, leaning his head against the window panes, "your perspective on life and what could have been changes once you've seen your own grave and realize that the life you're living now wouldn't be possible if you take vampire out of the equation. Had I survived the war, I might've lived to see the 20th century. But I would not know the life I know now, nor the people. I might've died just as Alice was turned."
"You've seen..? You've visited your own grave?" That level of morbidity just blows me away. Why on earth would anyone do that?
"You're wondering why. Sometimes I wonder why I did it myself."
"And what conclusion do you usually come to?" I inquire, pulling up my legs.
"That visiting my own grave was a way of closing that chapter of my life, the one where I was Major Jasper Whitlock. That part of my life has long since turned to dust. My parents are gone. My sisters are gone. My nieces and nephews are gone as well. But even if my family was alive, they would still think me dead. That part of me is past tense, buried in an empty coffin at the Founders Memorial cemetery in Houston."
His story lent some perspective, though not really on the whole regret-issue. I have never thought much about death, even less about the leeches and how they die in their own way. For the first month after my dad died, I refused to admit that death had won. Instead I blamed myself and made everyone in the pack suffer for it. I still blame myself, that hasn't changed, but I've realized that it doesn't get better by tormenting other people.
My own mortality hasn't crossed my mind either, strangely enough. I get that we don't age like normal people. We live longer. Perhaps that has stopped me from pondering my own death; it's so far ahead in the future. But these... vamps, they have all died. To someone. Their families lived on thinking their sons, daughters and loved ones were dead. I can relate to that, to grief.
"Do you know what happened to them?" I ask him tentatively. Lord knows I have been testy since March whenever someone asks me about my dad.
"Not much. My mama and daddy both died in 1888, just a few months apart. One of my sisters married some business tycoon, moved up to San Francisco, had five kids. She died in 1918. My other sister never apparently married. She stayed in Houston until she died in 1930."
He sounds so put together, as if it doesn't even bother him that his entire family died while he's still walking around. No matter how long I would live, I would still resent the fact that I would be alone, without my mother and father. Hell, I'd even miss Seth.
"Why are you mad?"
"I'm not mad," I reply petulantly.
"Oh, you're mad all right."
"You can't lie to me, Leah," Jasper points out, making me want to smack him upside his head.
Fine. He's asking for it.
"Why are you so calm? You've lost your entire family, for what? You have a hard time being around people without wanting to kill them, your family is gone and you will probably outlive each and everyone of your relatives no matter how far removed," I ramble on, unable to stop myself. "Being a vamp can't be worth it. Living forever can't be worth the sacrifice."
"Sometime's it isn't. I'm probably the only one who will admit to that without hesitation. The others, they enjoy this lifestyle, because they were brought into it. Carlisle might understand, might admit to it, but he has grown so accustomed to this. His relatives are so far removed they can hardly be called family anymore. Rose's two brothers passed away only a few years ago,and Alice's niece passed just two months ago. Emmett's got nieces and nephews all over the country it seems. Edward has no other family, he was an only child and lost both his parents before being turned."
"So? Doesn't make you any less emotionally cold," I mutter.
"You find us cold? Distant? Do you think we enjoy not being able to alert our families that we are all right? That the graves they prepared for us were in vain? We cling to the few solid memories we have, we do what we can. Alice arranged to pay her niece's funeral, Rose travels to Rochester every year to put flowers on her family's graves. Emmett keeps track of his family and Carlisle tries to preserve every bit of his family history. We grieve, just like you do."
His voice is tinged with anger, and I am overcome with a sense of foreboding, like if I keep talking back and snarking at him even more, I will deeply regret it, and not in a "this will end in vamps on a pyre"-kind of way. If I keep this up, it will end in an "open mouth, insert both feet and couple of wolf paws"-moment. This really makes it hard to hate them, all of them. It was easier when I was convinced they were all walking, talking well-dressed corpses who took baths in a disgustingly large pile of money.
"I'm... sorry," I finally manage to squeeze out.
Note to self: this will be the first and only time I apologize to a vamp. This will not turn in to a habit.
"Apology accepted," Jasper says calmly.
We sit quiet, the only sounds coming from my chair, which I've resumed swiveling just to avoid a complete and utter awkward silence. Talking to a vamp, actually talking. What has the world come to? I mean, I still hate them on principle, because without vamps I would still have my old life, and I kinda liked my life as it was. I liked me as I was. But yeah, I admit, this particular vamp is not half-bad.
Downstairs, the front door opens and closes. Apparently, playtime is over. Quick, light footsteps close in on us, and seconds later, a small face peeks in through the door. The kid. Her face is alight when she sees Jasper, but as soon as she spots me, her face turns almost scared. I should feel some amount of shame for scaring a kid, but I just can't. Not with her.
"Uncle Jasper..?" the kid whispers, watching me warily.
"Aunt Alice said you should come downstairs."
"Tell her I'll be right there, sweetheart," he smiles at her, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to find it cute or plain irritating.
As it is, the little half-vamp disappears, running back downstairs. Jasper gets out of his window seat and looks at me.
"Nah," I reply, stopping my swiveling. "I'll stay here a while. I'm due on patrol soon, I'll just take the window-way out."
He nods and starts to walk toward the library doors, but stops short just before turning the knob.
"For what it's worth, Leah... Thank you. For the sacrifice."
Any other person might blush and say 'Thank you', all flustered. I can't find it in myself to be polite, so I don't say anything at all. I didn't defect from the La Push pack for their benefit. I did it for Seth.
"You know, if the Poe-collection was to... disappear, it would be okay. I would not know anything," he adds with a sly smile, eliciting a snort from me.
With that, he disappears out the door. I barely hear him walk down the corridor or down the steps, but once he joins the others I can hear his voice mingled with others. They chatter on, I don't know what about. I keep me eyes trained on the spot in the bookcase where the Poe-collection is sticking out. Part of me wants to nick it just so I could rub it in their faces. Another part of me wants to leave it, because it was Jasper who suggested the idea.
The sound of shattering glass interrupts my ponderings. I'm not quite sure how long I have been staring at the book. Normally, I might not have paid attention to the sound, but this is a vamp house. People don't drop or knock things over here (not since the Swan got turned). The deafening silence that follows makes my stomach knot. I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that outside this room, Life is waiting with another big, steamy pile of crap to throw at the proverbial fan. I really don't want to acknowledge it now, so I sneak over to the window, and jimmy one of the open. Carefully, I undress, folding my clothes neatly into a compact stack and sloppily tie them together. I step out through the window frame, preparing to phase. With a flick of my wrist, the bundle of clothes fly through the air. One second later, I'm soaring, my body shifting from human to wolf in mid-air. Catching my clothes with my mouth, I land on the ground with a dull thud. Not wanting to linger and think about things, I bound for the woods. Jacob can call on me if he wants anything. I will not stand to have anymore crap happen to me while I'm unprepared.
After all, I'm Leah Clearwater.
A/N: First time I've ventured into the mind of Leah. Would love some feedback, so drop a review and make me nine kinds of happy! :)