Summary: Leah disappears from the reservation under mysterious circumstances. She doesn't return to tell her story until Sam and Emily's eldest daughter phases, and her imprint is her parents' worst nightmare. Leah (x background OC), Sam/Emily, background Jacob/Bella. AU from mid-BD.
A/N: This was written for the very talented Niamh (aka WhoNatural) who bid on the story at the Tricky Raven Silent Auction. The wonderful idea was hers, and I hope I didn't screw it up too much in the execution. It was meant to be a one-shot, but got a little out of control. There will be a total of 5 chapters. Many thanks to my overworked beta, Babs81410.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
For the first week after Leah disappeared, Sue and Seth were positively frantic. Everyone thought she had been doing well. Emily had commented on it quietly to Sam, although Sam realized that Emily would be the last to know what Leah was actually feeling. Sam was cautiously optimistic at best, but paranoid and fearful at worst, imagining she was putting on a front. Ever since Leah left his pack for Jacob's, he could no longer see into her mind. As difficult as it was to relive their mutual agony in the pack mind, her desertion was like losing her all over again, and he worried for her welfare. But even Seth thought she had reached some kind of equilibrium. After all, there was finally a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that she found herself trapped in. The Cullens had left, and with them, the urge to shift. Leah had every intention to stop phasing and finally leave for college as she had always wanted to do. She seemed expectant, if not exactly happy.
Months before, after Bella returned from her honeymoon looking four months pregnant instead of one, the person they worried about wasn't Leah, it was Jacob. He nearly killed Edward Cullen when he saw how pale she had gotten, the dark circles under her eyes, and how weak she had become. But for once, Edward and Jacob agreed. They both begged her to terminate the pregnancy while it was still possible. Bella adamantly refused. Jacob nearly tore his hair out in frustration, but stood by her. Carlisle carefully devised a surgical plan and reviewed it with Edward, knowing that Bella's life was at risk. The fetus was draining her, quite literally. However, the doctor refused to act without Bella's permission. But just a few days later, when the hybrid fetus broke two of Bella's ribs, Edward snapped right along with Bella's fragile bones. He couldn't bear the thought of losing the wife he had just found to a creature he had thought was impossible. While the rest of the family was out hunting, he smothered her with chloroform and laid her down in a makeshift surgical suite in the basement.
When she awoke, her baby and her marriage were both dead.
Bella's moods swung wildly between fury and catatonia. She refused to allow Edward anywhere near her, realizing too late that he cared for her enough to manipulate her into being with him, but not enough to trust or respect her. Jacob carried her back to her father's house and stood guard at her door, barring access, even though a part of him was grateful for what Edward had done. Bella was probably alive because of it, although she barely looked it. Edward, too, began to look like the corpse he actually was. He begged, cajoled, screamed, and would have wept if he was able. Bella did not let him in.
When he finally launched himself at her window, Jacob phased and leapt, and Charlie finally found out what had actually happened to his daughter. Eventually he holstered his service revolver, returned to the house, and went to talk to Bella. Finally, he came outside with Elizabeth Masen's ring clutched in his fist. Jacob and Edward pried themselves apart when Charlie hurled it at them, and Edward disappeared into the night with an agonized wail. Jacob's wolf shrank down into a naked boy kneeling in the grass. Charlie stared daggers into him for not telling him the danger Bella had been in, but directly afterward, asked him to return inside to watch over her. He remembered Bella's last bout with depression more vividly than if it had happened to him, and that the only person who brought the light back into her eyes was the apparent werewolf now bleeding all over his yard.
Jacob didn't leave her home for eight days. He tried his best to put her back together again, but what was stolen from her, no one could replace. He almost regretted having refused Edward's suggestion that he impregnate Bella himself. Almost.
Meanwhile, Leah stood on the sidelines and watched the drama unfold while she took over pack duties as his beta. He had freed her when he ran to Bella's side and broken away from Sam's pack, and she had eagerly followed. She held no affection for the selfish girl who kept using her Alpha, far from it. But if defending Bella got her out of Sam's brain and vice versa, she would do it. It didn't mean she liked the girl, far from it.
If it weren't so painful to watch Bella lose a baby she never knew she wanted, even if the baby wasn't a baby but monster, Leah might have been entertained. She wasn't amused, but she certainly was distracted. Bella, after all, had made a series of terrible decisions to get herself into the mess in the first place. As someone whose life had been overturned by other people's careless choices, Leah didn't have much sympathy. Still, no one deserved what had happened to her.
So she didn't hesitate to back up Jacob when he tossed the Cullens out of Forks for good. Of course, she wouldn't have given it a second thought if he had asked her to rip off Edward's head. But he didn't ask, nor did he seem to hear her when she offered. Bella had spoken only three words before Jacob left to confront the coven, "Don't kill him," so Jacob reluctantly obeyed. After that, Jacob all but vanished. They knew where he was, of course. He stopped home occasionally to make sure Billy's pantry was stocked or to get fresh clothing, but otherwise basically moved into the Swan household. Leah and Seth were largely left to their own devices, and Leah felt almost free.
The evening the Cullens left, the packs celebrated wildly. Jacob didn't come, having returned directly to Bella's bedside, so Leah partied for him. Nothing could destroy her good mood that night. Not Collin's inebriated pass at her, not Paul calling her a bitter bitch whom Sam was better off without, not even the sight of Sam kissing Emily right in front of her. She stopped Collin cold by grabbing him by the collar and pulling him in for a kiss before she released him with a swipe at her own lips and a dry, "You need some practice, kid." She didn't even get a chance to return Paul's insult. Rachel called him an asshole and made him apologize to Leah. After that, Rachel linked arms with her old friend and refused to talk to or even look at him for the rest of the evening. He had imprinted on her very recently, and thus far she had agreed to a handful of dates, but nothing more.
Leah barely even noticed Sam and Emily when they kissed. She was too busy getting goosed by Quil, who was hoping she would retaliate in the same manner she had with Collin. When she turned with her fist raised and her eyes blazing, he yanked Claire in front of him like a shield. She hastily tucked her hands behind her and, with a wide and slightly crazed grin, accused Quil of being a coward.
"Wassa cow-ad?" Claire asked.
Before Leah could answer, Quil said, "It means I'm good looking."
"Oh," Claire nodded seriously at Quil. "Den Auntie Lee cow-ad too. Mo' dan you."
Laughter erupted around them.
By then, Rachel had had several too many. She still wasn't speaking to Paul, but her tongue was otherwise loosened, and she slurred, "You're right, baby girl. Leah's a hot bitch. Way outta the league of every guy here. Legs up to here," she gestured with her hands, "Gravity-defying boobs out to here. Itsy bitsy little waist." She grabbed Leah's bottom just as Quil had done as Leah squealed and jumped a foot in the air. "Booty to bounce a quarter off of. Body of a frickin' supermodel, and a face to match."
As Kim tried to pull her away and Quil tried to take Claire home, embarrassed to have exposed her to such debauchery and finally realizing that it was three hours past her bedtime, Rachel whisper-yelled, "I have a girl crush on you, Lee. Not like that no-good, skanky ho of a cousin who stole your man. She wasn't half as pretty as you were even before..."
Leah herself had to jump in and clamp her hand over Rachel's mouth. She might have thought the exact same thing from time to time, but even she wasn't rude enough to mock Emily's scars to her face. Together, she and Kim dragged Rachel away. Claire loudly interrupted Quil, who was struggling to put her jacket on. "Whoza skanky ho? Auntie Em? Wazza skanky?"
Quil fumbled through a non-answer as Sam glared at Rachel's retreating back and Emily blinked rapidly, her mouth open in mortification. The trio of girls was still within earshot when Rachel leaned into Kim and hiccuped, "Do you know that Lee was my first kiss? It was just before she started dating the asshat. We practiced with each other. Not one person I've kissed since then has such soft lips." Rachel turned back to Leah, who caught her when she stumbled. "I wanna rip off your lips and stick 'em on Paul. Can I, hon? I'll bet they're still real soft."
"They are," Collin mumbled to himself.
Leah coughed in surprise, sensed the number of eyes locked on her retreating back, and answered, "I need them, Rach."
Rachel pouted. "Then you have to kiss me goodnight, okay?"
Without thinking, Leah stammered, "Yuh... nuh... Yeah?"
While Rachel hummed an incoherent but satisfied noise in reply, Kim glanced back and snickered when she saw the slackened jaws and glazed-over eyes gawking at them.
Leah was more amused than she could remember being in months. Moreover, she had missed this; having a friend like Rachel to support her and make her laugh. Other than Seth, everyone else who knew about the absurd turn her life had taken had either done their best to ignore her or sided squarely with Sam and Emily. Seth loved her, she knew, but he was simply too sweet and forgiving to really stand up for her.
The next day, Rachel banged on Leah's front door as soon as she woke up, 12:47. Leah opened the door looking as if she had spent a day at the spa, skin glowing, posture relaxed, and wrapped in a thick white bathrobe, while Rachel looked and felt like death warmed over. "Did we make out last night?" she blurted out.
Leah busted out in startled laughter. "Uh, no, although not for lack of trying on your part."
Rachel slumped in relief. "Oh, thank god. I mean, not that you're not smoking hot and all, but I wouldn't want to have to live it down. My baby brother can see into your brain, you know?"
Leah stepped aside, bemused, and ushered in her old friend. They reconnected over a lunch of sandwiches and fruit for Leah, and a breakfast of Gatorade and Advil for Rachel. Rachel blithely commented that she wasn't speaking to Paul after what he had said to Leah, and she kept up the silent treatment for the next week. During that time she lugged over her old stack of college brochures, which she had kept for Jake, and eventually convinced Leah to take a few courses at Peninsula College. A week after that, she dragged Leah to a bar in Port Angeles, and by the end of the evening had gathered the phone numbers of half a dozen men on behalf of her embarrassed companion.
Rachel continued to be good for Leah. She might have been Paul's imprint, but she was Leah's friend. Leah had lost the rest of them when she phased, and somehow, sharing a mind with a pack of immature teenaged boys only made her lonelier. Even Jared, whom she once considered to be a good friend, was loyal to Sam over her, and moreover, too wrapped up in Kim to pay her any mind. But Rachel knew all the secrets of the pack, and better yet, had been close to Leah long before her life was overturned. Having Rachel back in her life and being able to be open with her was a breath of fresh air.
In the fall, she began to commute to Port Angeles three times a week for classes. Rachel made Paul cover any of Leah's patrols that conflicted with her classes. Paul protested loudly to Jacob, who was far more afraid of his sister than Paul, and too preoccupied with the slowly recovering Bella, to do do anything about it. He even kept the packs separate after Rachel stormed into the Swan house, face bright red with anger, only minutes after Leah called her to say that Sam and Jacob were thinking about reuniting all the wolves. Jacob took one look at Rachel's expression and reneged his offer to reunite, although two days later, Quil and Embry left Sam's pack for his.
So when Leah's good mood seemed to last, they all thought she had turned a corner. At least, the few who were paying attention. But no matter how hard they looked, how many times they agonized, again and again, about what they could have done differently, they still didn't think there was any way to see it coming.
Leah disappeared on a Wednesday in December. She left to take her last final exam of the semester, and she simply never came home. The first night, Sue assumed she had simply forgotten to tell her mother about a patrol. They had significantly reduced their shifts after the Cullens had left, but two wolves still ran exploratory paths twice a day. Carlisle and Alice had seemed convinced that they could convince the Volturi that Bella had died during her unwilling Cesarean section, but neither Jacob nor Sam was willing to take their word for it. So Sue left for work early the next morning, assuming Leah was asleep in her bed. It wasn't until Seth asked after his sister that evening that they realized she was gone.
After Seth phased in and found no evidence of what had happened to her, her voice absent from the pack mind, he called Jacob. The Alpha had no idea where she might be, and felt an immediate surge of guilt for leaving his Beta to her own devices for so long. When even Rachel had no idea where she was, Jacob and Seth immediately raced to Port Angeles to search for any signs of Leah. They said nothing to Sue, but they were both terrified they would find the trail of a vampire. After all, there were only a handful of beings who had the capability of hurting Leah Clearwater: her loved ones, and bloodsuckers.
They tracked her scent through the campus of Peninsula College. It had rained heavily the night before and all day long, so her trail was significantly degraded. They found her car parked on a side street downtown, and traces of her in a bookstore, corner market, and coffee shop. Then her trail disappeared. They combed the town, finding neither any sign of their sister nor any leeches. Hours later, they dragged themselves home.
Sue called off work and sat by her phone for days. Seth, Jacob, Embry, and Quil phased and ran loops around the whole state, searching for a trail, until they were weak with exhaustion. They thought they scented her near Port Angeles, Port Townsend, the Olympic National Forest, and the Cascades, but storms destroyed anything resembling a trail. Emily's parents and sister were in town for the holiday, so she did not want Sam to search with them. He reluctantly agreed, as if he had a choice in the matter. But every night Emily woke to find his spot in their bed empty. He was either standing silently in the window searching the treeline for a wolf that would not appear, or phased just inside the forest's edge. Rachel, on the other hand, sent Paul to hunt for Leah, but he came home empty-handed like the rest of his brothers. When Jacob told Bella what had happened, she roused herself from her bed, cleaned herself up, and cooked a huge Christmas Eve dinner and brought it to Sue, who appreciated the gesture but ate almost nothing.
For a week, they knew nothing at all. But the day after Christmas, the phone rang at the Clearwater house. Sue snatched it up without looking at the caller ID. She nearly hung up without speaking when she realized that the person on the other end was not her daughter, but her coworker hastily interrupted before she set the phone back in its cradle. The charge nurse was not calling to ask when Sue planned to return to work. Instead, she stated that Leah had just called the nursing station and left a three word message for her mother: "Alive and unharmed."
Emily asked after her every time she saw either of the Clearwaters. And for the first two months, the answer was always the same, "Nothing," and a haunted look in their eyes. Sue, in turn, begged her Alpha, Jacob, for any scrap of information. After all, if Leah had phased in at any point, he must have been able to find out something about her whereabouts or her state of mind. He refused to look her directly in the eye, staring instead on a scuff on one of her shoes. "She's alive. I wish I knew more…" She took his lack of eye contact as evidence that he was lying and screamed at him until Seth gently tugged his mother into his arms and confirmed they knew nothing else. But Seth was lying too.
Sue begged him to Alpha order Leah back home. Jacob shook his head and said, "She's too far away. She isn't listening, and I can only barely hear her, every once in a while." Seth explained that Jacob wouldn't look her in the face not because he was withholding information, but because he blamed himself for her disappearance. As her Alpha, he knew he should have been paying more attention, should have stopped it somehow.
Rarely, her pack brothers were able to catch a glimpse through her eyes. She was so far away that she didn't even register their presence most of the time, and if she did, she immediately phased out. The images they got from her were hazy and indistinct, the sounds they heard faint and unintelligible. They saw forest, tundra, and mountain, but no distinct landmarks to explain where she was. But the primary sensation they received was overwhelming pain, pain that encompassed not only Leah herself, her body, spirit, and mind, but felt as if it radiated out and assaulted everything around her.
So when Sue pressed them for further information, each one swore he had none, since what little knowledge they had gained could only make things worse for Leah's mother. But she did not believe them. She saw it in the furrows between their brows, in the rapid flicking of their eyes away from her and landing on nothing, and the tense set of their shoulders and awkward shifting of their feet. So she imagined the worst.
So did Sam. He had never found Leah's absence from his pack's mind as disturbing as he did now. Ever since the first moment she phased, his feelings toward her presence in his mind had been mixed. She reminded him of an entire life he had wanted to lead, and a future he had cherished, now destroyed. He had done his best to forget it, to bury it away in the depths of his subconscious, but she brought it all to the surface again. Her pain at the loss, at the betrayal, was overwhelming. Therefore his was as well. But the very same memories that caused both of them such anguish were also kept alive by the reliving. What had happened between them was real, and was better than he had been able to recall without her to remind him. He had loved her with all his heart, and she had loved him back, and they had been so happy. So reexperiencing those memories, agonizing though it was, was not an experience he was willing to give up.
And when she left him for Jacob, she took her memories of their life together with her, and her dreams of their future, and he despaired at the loss. But if that loss was painful, her disappearance was infinitely worse.
He did not beg for information from her pack the way her mother did. But every time he saw any of them, they read the question in his eyes. He voiced the question to Jacob, Alpha to Alpha, but Jacob's only answer was to sigh, shake his head, and look away. When he finally asked Seth, the boy snapped back, "She's hurting, okay? Does that make you happy? She's in pain, and she's out there all alone, and she's..." And that was the last he would say on the topic.
Sam was furious at Jacob for not going after her, but he knew he had no right. If he wanted to find her, he should do it himself. But he couldn't leave Emily. He brought up the topic only once. She didn't forbid him, not exactly, but the tears in her eyes at the suggestion were the only answer he needed. So he stayed.
Six months later, her pack started to lose the haunted look in their eyes. They still refused to say anything, but Sue began to look well rested, and when she would answer the door had a polite smile on her face, even if Sam or Emily was on the other side of it. Sam knew that Seth wouldn't tell him anything, nor would Jacob. He finally went to Quil, who shrugged and said, "She's better, I think." But no matter how hard anyone pressed, no one could get more information out of any of them. Not Sam, certainly not Emily, not even Billy or Old Quil. They suspected Rachel also knew more than she let on, but she didn't say anything either. Not to Paul, whom she was somewhat reluctantly dating, and definitely not to Sam and Emily.
Eventually, Sam got a peek into Jacob's mind one evening when they were both in wolf form. Buried amongst his thoughts of Bella awaiting him at home, there was a stray memory of Sue nodding calmly at Jacob and saying, "She's okay." Sam jumped on the image before it could completely slip away. And he realized that Jacob couldn't tell him more because even he did not know. He hadn't gotten a glimpse of her in the pack mind in months. The only person who apparently had any information about Leah was Sue, and she was apparently extremely careful about what she revealed to the pack. Even Seth knew very little. Leah apparently called her mother weekly, and always while she was at work.
When Sam, perplexed, asked Jacob why Leah was keeping secrets even from her brother, Jacob snapped back, Maybe because she knows that anything he knows, you'll find out! And then he abruptly cut off their connection and phased out.
As the next Christmas approached, everyone wondered if Leah would come home to see her family. Instead, at six PM after the last day of school for the semester, Sue and Seth drove to Sea-Tac and got on a plane, saying nothing about their destination. They were gone for a week. When they returned, Seth's sunny smile came back with him. He wouldn't tell Sam anything, but Sam did see in Jacob's brain that Seth would not betray his sister's confidence by reentering the pack mind. He only phased when no one else was present, and as rarely as possible. It wasn't that difficult. Ever since the Cullens had left, the urge to phase had subsided substantially.
By summertime, life had largely settled down. Her pack brothers thought of her rarely, although Sam never stopped wondering about where she was or what had happened to her to trigger her sudden disappearance. Rachel got a suspicious glimmer in her eye when asked, but continued to keep her mouth firmly shut. Sue did inform Emily in no uncertain terms that Leah would not be attending her wedding, let alone standing as her bridesmaid. Emily was upset for days, but there was nothing she could do. So on a cloudy day in July, Sam wed his imprint.
Ironically, the very next day, Sam finally found Leah Clearwater in the very last place on earth he would have thought to look.