Leah Clearwater stood in the shadow of primeval redwoods at dawn, shifting nervously from foot to foot. She had picked this spot because the age of the trees ; the sense of permanence, was of considerable comfort to her. But perhaps more significantly, this small patch of trees casts it significant shadow on Quileute land; a full five hundred yards from the nearest border. This was her home. Since becoming Beta of the Black Pack, the idea of home had taken on a new and deeper meaning. She finally had achieved the sense of family that she had been missing more and more. Since her first phasing and the death of her father, her mother and her had started growing apart. It was not her mother's fault. Leah accepted her part in this debacle and was glad when her mother found Charlie. Charlie was a good man and her mother deserved a good man. But practically speaking, how could it not be another wedge being driven between her mom and her. Charlie was an outsider despite the years of friendship and trust he shared with the tribe. He had only been let in on the tribe's secret origins recently, and only because Jacob felt cornered and had ran out of options. And more than "outsider" Charlie was a vampire sympathizer. How could he not be now that his daughter had been turned. And this was just the latest in a series of complications that kept driving her further from those she cared about. There was Sam, the only man she ever loved. First there was the broken trust. He had not confided in her when he had phased. She would have told him anything. He had disappeared for two weeks with no explanation and no apologies. And just when she had come to love the new Sam, just when she had changed herself completely and altered every expectation she had about life and love in order to accommodate the new Sam, the new Sam imprinted on her cousin and forgot she existed. It was a heartbreak that she would never get over if she lived to be a hundred years old. And given the next development; her becoming the first woman in Quileute history to phase, Leah would likely live long past one hundred years. It was not her fault. She never asked for the pain the Sam had inflicted on her. She never asked to phase. She never wanted to share her every excruciating thought with Sam and his cronies. And somehow they all hated HER for it. It made no sense. But nothing had made sense since Sam first phased and her perfect world began crumbling. And the vampires were the reason for all of this. The tribe has gone through generations without phasing, and suddenly the Cullens show up and and woman and children are phasing. She'd damn them if they weren't already damned. And now….what the hell did they want with her?
It was two days since the battle that wasn't. Since the vampires they called the Volturi had turned and ran, with their tails between their legs. Cowards. She did not know what Alice had said to them, but she saw the fear in the eyes of the one they called Aro. His fear was so palpable she could smell it from a hundred yards away. Even the collective stench of the mass of vampires that surrounded her in all directions could not cover the smell of Aro's dread. Alice had turned a literal army of vampires on their heels with a touch, and now she wanted to talk. This was Jacob's territory, consorting with vampires. The request for an audience with Alice had come from Jacob, and although he did not know what it was about, he trusted that no harm would come to Leah. He told her to trust Alice; to trust a vampire. She could feign trust, but the knot in her stomach would not untangle.
Leah stood, fingers fondling the trunk of the three thousand yeah old redwood, the knot twisting in her gut, until… Alice approached…and was not alone. The one called Esme was with her. Leah instantly felt better, like the lead ball in her stomach suddenly dissolved. She did not know why, Esme, the mother of the clan, had always had this effect on her. In all the meetings between the wolves and the vampires, Leah had been drawn to Esme. She studied her carefully every time she got close. She viewed all the vampires through distrustful eyes, but those eyes always softened for Esme. Leah saw how much she cared for the others. And although Esme would always route for her boy Edward, she felt Jacob's pain, and sincerely cared for him. Leah had seen it. She was not only a wolf and knowledgeable in the ways of the pack, but she was also a woman and this opened for her a world of knowledge that the rest of the pack would never share in. She could empathize in a way that only a woman could. It's was drove her to care for Emily after Sam had nearly killed her in a fit of rage; Emily who had stolen her reason for living. Everything in her heart told her that this one, this vampire, Esme, still had a heart that beat fierce and protective of those she loved. She felt if Esme had been her mother, she would not have let things fall apart the way they did. And although those thoughts always made her feel disloyal to her mother who had raised and loved her, she forgave herself for thinking them. It brought a small comfort to her, for whatever reason, and she allowed herself that small comfort. Even small comforts had been rare occurrences in the last few years and she would not beat herself up for indulging in them.
When the two vampires reached the shade of the redwood, Alice spoke her name. The sound of her voice sent a brief shiver down Leah's spine. For an instant she considered phasing and darting away over the brush that grew along the river and bounding deep into Quileute territory. Esme must have sensed the twinge of panic and engaged, "Leah, I'm so glad you came."
The words had the desired effect. Leah settled and her shoulders dropped from the space they had risen to, near her ears. "W-W-What do you want?"
"We wanted to let you in on why the Volturi left without a fight. Why all our preparation ended up being for nothing. Alice, please." Esme smiled so sweetly as she spoke. Esme had always been sweeter, more motherly than the rest, but something was different. She was still Esme, in fact she was somehow MORE Esme than she was before.
"Okay." Leah wanted to say more, to respond in kind to the softness in Esme's manner, but could not call forth more than small spurts of words.
Alice, stepped closer, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. There was something intimate about her manner. Alice had distrusted the wolves more than the others, or so Leah's woman's intuition told her. Something had changed in her as well. This change was much more dramatic than Esme's. "When Jacob shared his thoughts with you about us, you saw my power, the power to see the future based on the path determined by the choices of those whose decisions mold that particular path. Aro had not come to uncover the truth about Renesme. He came to pick a fight. He has always wanted the powers of select Cullens at his disposal. He wanted to kill those that would stand in the way of taking me and Edward back to Italy. I saw the future that those choices would bring to bear. And I showed that future to Aro."
The deeper meaning of this story began to dawn on Leah and filled her with pride which quickly made room for bravado. "So we kicked their vampire asses. That's no surprise." Leah smirked uncontrollably, "So why tell me?"
"Well", Esme started, "We don't mean to single out any one of you. In Alice's vision all the wolves fought valiantly." Leah had never heard the word 'valiantly' used outside of stories about knights and dragons, and it always sounded hokey. But when Esme said it, without a hint of cloying, but with unyielding frankness, it sounded like the word she had waited her entire life to hear. It filled her with insane pride. Valiantly; she had been valiant.
"And it wasn't quite the ass-kicking you imagine it to be", Alice interrupted. Alice's intonation of the word "ass-kicking" had the exact opposite effect that Esme had invoking the word 'valiant'. Alice's words were meant to deflate her, to dispel the hubris. This was the Alice that Leah had come to know.
"My family was decimated. And the pack didn't fare much better", Alice's tone was somber. It was clear that having lived this future, if even in her mind, took a substantial toll on her.
"I…I'm sorry Alice", Leah choked out. Wolves had died. She had felt Jacob's pain when he saved her in the fight with the newborns. It took her a long time to get to the point where she could admit that fact, that Jacob had saved her life. Having felt his pain as the powerful arms of the newborn vampire crushed his body, as his bones splintered and cracked, it was hard to admit that he had suffered it for her. She wondered, how would it feel to be inside the thoughts of a pack member who was killed? Would their thoughts just suddenly cease, snuffed out of existence. Or would the connection remain as they dissolved into the ether of the spirit world and took their proud place among the ancestors who had died in battle; who had died…valiantly. Esme's words, or rather word, echoed again in Leah's soul.
Alice softened. Esme sensed the change in direction the conversation had taken and brought it back on track. "We…I don't want Alice to show you her vision. It would be too…too painful for you to see. But she did show me. She showed me even though I had to watch my husband and one of my sons die. She showed me because there was something important that I had to see for myself."
Esme took a step closed and reached out, taking Leah's hand. Leah did not pull away. "While all the wolves fought valiantly killing many vampires, and one even died killing vampires…" Esme paused and looked into Leah's eyes. Leah saw flecks of gold swimming in a sea of sunshine yellow. She had never looked into a vampire's eyes before. She saw…warmth. "…one wolf died FOR a vampire. Gave up a long life ahead to save the life of a vampire."
Leah felt what was coming and felt the tears welling in her eyes. "You Leah. You died to save me. You gave up your life willingly for mine." The burning hot tears began falling down her cheek as she stood frozen and silent. Esme, brushed the tears away with the back of her hand and pulled Leah toward her. Leah found herself enveloped in Esme's strong arms. Not strong like the vampire arms that crushed Jacob, but strong and protective, motherly.
"Thank you Leah. Thank you." Leah's body shook as the sobs came. As the ice cold arms embraced her, holding her tighter, she felt warmth she had not known since childhood, in the loving safety of own father's arms. Esme pulled back and looked at Leah's wet face. She took Leah's hand and kissed it and said one last time "Thank you". Esme turned with Alice to walk away. When Esme had moved only an arm's length from Leah, Leah felt the tug at the hand that Esme had not yet released. Esme looked over her shoulder, smiled, and said simply "Come on."
The three women walked silently out of the shadow of the redwoods towards the Cullens' land. They passed through a glade and felt the heat of the sun on their faces as dawn gave way to the promise of the new day. As they stepped across the invisible line that she knew instinctively separated the reservation from the rest of the world and walked forward off the safety of Quileute land, the strangest feeling began to grow in Leah. She was going home.