Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story is a canon-divergent AU. In other words, I altered a couple canon elements for the sake of the plot. In this story, Leah and Sam were still together when she phased. The Emily imprint happened later. Leah didn't stick around La Push like she did in canon, and I threw in one extra twist that drove her away.
If you read my oneshot, Sweetest of Words, parts of this will seem familiar. It should. The oneshot was based on this idea and while some ideas will transfer over to this story, parts will be completely different, including the fact this version is NOT all-human, as well as some of the conflict, the resolution and the ending. Overall, this story will explore how pain and loss can destroy someone's self worth, as well as the journey Leah will take to restore it.
I don't see this being a gratuitously long story, but I am willing to bet it will have at least a dozen 5-7,000 word chapters or so. My GOAL for updates will be once per week. In conclusion, I hope you all enjoy and stick around for another crazy ride with me! :)
Suggested Listening: "Hardest of Hearts" by Florence + The Machine, "Come Along" by Vicci Martinez, "Painted On My Heart" by Cult, "Hurricane" by MS MR
"There is love in your body but you can't hold it in
It pours from your eyes and spills from your skin
Tenderest touch leaves the darkest of marks
And the kindest of kisses break the hardest of hearts."
The red beneath her eyelids only intensified the more the warmth – the heat – pressed against her.
Each thrust driving her horrible day, the feelings of helplessness and emptiness, further into the depths of her subconscious.
Tension built within, mixing deliciously with the whiskey-induced haze in her brain. The combination causing parts of her to go numb. All except the parts that mattered. Right now, the only thing she allowed herself to feel was the hot flesh of someone else's hands digging into her hips. The sensation created when he drug his teeth across the exposed skin of her neck. The friction as he moved in and out of her.
Trying to see his face, she knotted her fingers in his hair, pulling back his head. He struggled to keep his hold on her thighs, her back slamming gracelessly against the door to the bathroom stall. The unsteady structure shuddered beneath the force of it.
Growling, she tugged again.
She needed to see a face. Just for a second. It was the best way to remember.
So this wouldn't happen twice.
But he didn't budge, a labored grunt leaving his throat as he unceremoniously fell against her. Clenching her teeth, she released his shoulder with her other hand. Reaching up, her fingers curled around the top of the partition to her right, his cold hand pushing the black dress further up her thighs. Heel-clad feet uncurled from his waist and fell limp, finding the back of the toilet behind him with a thud. Bracing herself.
Swearing silently, the frustration simmered. It overtook the pressure building inside her, diverting her focus from the end result. This wasn't new to her, and this wasn't a new concept, yet it obviously wasn't a task to which he was cut out for.
What the fuck is his name?
It doesn't matter anyway.
Closing her eyes again, her other hand stretched upward, anchoring herself, using the leverage she had with her legs to match the man's movements.
They'd already gone this far.
She was going to get every last bit out of this guy.
It was going to be worth it.
Taking a deep, labored breath, she focused on the friction once again and pushed back the rest. The fact he wasn't tall enough for this. The way his muscles stretched taut under skin. They didn't ripple, moving gracefully when they strained beneath the force of his grip. How his flesh wasn't dark enough. How it wasn't warm enough.
She shuddered viscerally, squeezing her eyes shut.
Stopping herself from looking too long.
Stopping herself from remembering.
Not here. Not now. Not like this. Not when the man before her was the only salvation she had. A brief moment of darkness, obscuring what she desperately needed to forget.
Gritting her teeth, eyes still closed, she matched the man's labored movements with her own. The advance of her hips just enough to set the heat on its course once again, she could feel her skin tingle. In the same moment, the numbness inside returned as the pressure grew. As it overtook everything.
With one cry – the only one she allowed herself to make – her entire body exploded, an intense, delirious sensation. Limbs quaking, she clenched her fingers around the wall, sweat collecting on her palms as her pulse throbbed through every inch of her veins.
This was it. This was what she wanted.
Nothing but fire. Nothing but exploding light behind her eyelids.
Swallowing thickly, she loosened her fingers against cool metal, listening to the man in front of her. He was panting as he let himself finish, a pathetic whimper leaving his throat as he did. She allowed her eyes to open just in time to roll them, her gaze flitting to the ceiling as her body relaxed. As the feeling subsided and recoiled into her stomach, just in time for the twisting knot in her gut to flare, remembering – for probably the hundredth time – this never worked out the way she wanted it to.
It only lasted a second. A second she was always in search of. The sensation was always too brief. The feeling always went away before she could fully savor it for what it was.
Pure and intense.
Simple and uncomplicated.
The numbness was gone and almost every part of her was back, her head where it belonged as she felt the man's hands on her ass, giving her permission to let go of the partition.
Within a moment, she was back on her own two feet, the saliva thick in her mouth. Searching inside herself, she found nothing. No shame. No regret. Yet the nothingness settled heavily in her stomach as the man pulled back to look at her, a smirk spread across his features as he reached down and zipped up his pants, chuckling as his fingers fumbled with the button.
It always worked out this way too. They got proud. They got cocky.
This time, she really got a good look at his face. So different. With the curly blonde hair and the wiry muscles of his arms peeking out from beneath his t-shirt, even she had to admit he was a little too much of a frat boy for her taste. But after he bought her a fourth whiskey and water, she figured it would be okay to make an exception. This one had made it easy. Sneaking a glance at his ass when he went to the bathroom the first time, she had the sudden urge to see if the college boy could keep up.
She also wondered what that ass would feel like if she drug her nails across it.
So the second time, she followed him. She was the one who slammed him against the outside of the bathroom stall, fingers curling into his flesh, making her intentions clear from the beginning. Letting him know this on her terms, not his.
She was calling the shots.
And judging by the oblivious look on his face, he became confused somewhere along the way.
Sighing, she leaned against the stall door and ignored his grin as she reached forward, plucking her panties from where they were tucked in the pocket of his jeans. Bending forward slightly, she hitched one leg through them and then the other before pulling them up in one swift, unabashed movement, her eyes now focused on the black tile lining the far wall.
His voice interrupted her rapt effort to avoid his glance, and her eyes bounced his way in spite of herself. The knot in her stomach tightened and her jaw tensed.
Here it comes, she thought.
He'd served his purpose, and he had no idea.
"Can I call you?"
Running one hand through her long, black hair, she scoffed, remembering rehearsed lines she spoke several times before this one. "Why?"
The man blinked at her, clearly taken aback by her pointed rebuttal. "Uh, well...I don't know. I guess I just figured you enjoyed yourself, so maybe we could get together again sometime."
This time, she stood up straight, adjusting the black strapless dress so it once again rested correctly on her body.
"It is what it is," she retorted, reaching behind her and releasing the door lock, easing it open before taking a couple steps away from the man. His mouth was now hanging slightly agape. "I've got plenty of people I know should I ever need a good fuck," she continued, arching one eyebrow almost as if challenging him. "And trust me, you won't be one of them."
Sometimes her exit was punctuated by a string of four-letter words or less than endearing names, but this time, the only noise as Leah Clearwater turned and walked out of the bathroom was the sound of her heels clicking on the tile floor.
The thick, warm air of the bar slammed into her when the heavy wooden door closed behind her. Taking a deep breath, she straightened her dress one last time, not missing the petulant, attitude-filled glare she received from the girl leaning rigidly on the wall just next to the bathroom door. She resisted the urge to wipe the snotty look off the girl's makeup-caked face herself, choosing to smirk over her shoulder instead.
"He's still in there," Leah muttered, just loud enough for the girl to hear. "If you hurry, you might get a turn too."
The busy Chicago bar had filled up quickly in the short span of time she was in the bathroom, which was uncommon for a Thursday night. The air inside was sweltering and pungent with sweat. Bits and pieces of conversation overpowered Leah's silence as she lithely made her way toward the counter, avoiding elbows and trying not to push back when some drunken asshole decided to run into her. Her eyes scanned the room as she walked, and her ears could pick up every lyric of an overplayed song filtering from speakers, fighting for space among the noise.
It wasn't the most savory of places, but it served its purpose. And it never failed her.
Leah's breath escaped her in a grateful puff when she finally made it to the bar, discovering her stool still empty and her half-empty glass resting where she left it. She slid gracefully onto the seat, lightly running the pad of her thumb across her bottom lip before leaning one elbow lightly on the counter.
As her chin came to a rest on the top of her knuckles, it only took a moment for her eyes to meet the bartender's.
She didn't miss the flash in them, the phantom bit of judgment she always saw when there was still enough night left for another drink or two.
Eyes jerking toward the marbled counter, Leah took a deep breath, steeling herself on the inside. Refusing to feel anything. Locking down the flicker of self-remorse she felt deep in the corners of her stomach, at the hands of one of the few people in that city she could call friend.
A chuckle formed in her throat, but Leah swallowed instead, refusing to release it. Friend. He was paid to be friendly, and even she couldn't deny how ridiculous it sounded.
When she finally looked up, the shadow in his eyes was gone, replaced by a neutral fondness she'd come to expect.
"Thought we'd lost you there for a minute," Kyle called out above the din, grinning at her as he swiped a bar towel across the inside of a glass he was holding. Winking at her, he turned and placed the glass on the shelf.
The twisting in her stomach gone, Leah adjusted herself on the leather barstool, a cutting smirk working its way across her lips. Crossing her right leg over the left, her fingers trembled slightly against copper skin, glowing beneath the room's faint light. Accentuating it in contrast to the dress she wore.
"I was only gone fifteen minutes," she muttered, throwing a glance at the clock above the bar before cocking one skeptical eyebrow in Kyle's direction.
"Touché," Kyle agreed, clearing his throat when he bent to snag a beer out of the cooler for another patron, muscles involuntarily flexing beneath his black t-shirt. "I kept your seat warm for you. Made sure no one stole it while you were...occupied."
Even though a part of her liked Kyle, she bristled inside. She was a regular there, and the...benefits she reaped from the frequency of her visits also were no secret to him. It was his job to be observant, and he didn't miss a thing.
But he also asked too many questions. Questions about her life. Questions about her past. Questions about what, like clockwork, led her there at least three times a week.
Questions she never answered.
Which didn't matter because she had a feeling he already knew the answers.
Because he was her first.
The first to feel the smooth flesh of his back pressed against the cool bathroom wall, inexplicably trapped beneath hands and a body more powerful than his. The first one in a town far from home to touch her, to taste her burning skin. To make a dead heart feel something as it pushed blazing warmth through every vein in her body.
The first to hear words not meant for him as they fumbled their way from her lips.
After that night, it never happened again. Neither mentioned it, but she could feel the questions even when he didn't ask. Night after night, drink after drink, the heaviness in his eyes grew with an admonishment – a concern – he had no right to feel. An opinion she wasn't interested in.
But that didn't mean she didn't feel it too.
Still, she was good at ignoring it. She was good at pushing it away.
Because what she did worked. It put a bandage on a wound she would give anything to forget.
Even if the cure was only temporary.
Leah blinked, clearing the haze from her mind, her vision focusing on the bar in front of her. "Thanks," she replied quietly, curling her fingers around her glass, the condensation causing her hand to slide up it. Bringing it to her mouth, she closed her lips around the straw, drawing the cool liquid through it while her eyes did a quick scan of the space around her.
Turning back to the bar, Kyle was suddenly in front of her, one corner of his mouth curled slightly as he wiped off the counter, cleaning up the slippery mess left by her glass. "Need me to call a cab or you sticking around for awhile?"
Placing the drink on the fresh napkin he left for her, Leah ran one hand through her long, ebony hair, casting a glance over her shoulder. Her eyes bounced from face to face, table to table, looking. Waiting to see.
She didn't have to wait long, moments later her gaze locking with a dull but magnetic pair of green eyes.
The corner of her lip twitched, the start of a cunning smile, eyes holding the man's stare. A brief invitation. Her heart pounded silently in her ears with each passing second. One...two...three, before she dropped her gaze, shifting in her chair and turning her back on the stranger.
Setting the trap.
She kept waiting, even though she could hear the man moving behind her, the erratic rhythm of a crowd disrupted when he stepped back from the table.
It was an instinct she never lost, no matter how far she distanced herself from it.
She was being hunted.
She could feel it – the eyes on her, the movements each one made when they approached her. She could smell it in the air, a matter of chemistry she didn't understand but something she could detect all the same.
Fighting the urge to close her eyes – to succumb to some fucked up, inherent need to submit – Leah focused on something else. The eyes in front of her, even though she could still feel it. A heady high that always came during pursuit. The moment before she took control and kept the power and control where it belonged.
Always with her.
Kyle was watching her skeptically, one eyebrow cocked in stunned amazement. He'd seen it all. Her smile fell, and the swell of something in her gut changed to ice for a split second, her eyes bearing down unforgivingly on the bartender.
"I'll keep your tab open," he murmured before disappearing, leaving the spot in front of her unoccupied.
By that point though, it didn't matter. Her boiling blood, pulsing through her veins, overtook the bartender's veiled disappointment, setting her nerves on fire just before she felt a cooler, thicker arm brush the flesh of hers.
Taking a deep breath, she relaxed her mouth. She focused, letting the corners rise in the faintest of smiles.
Turning her head, she looked up. Finding the same green eyes and a cookie-cutter smirk peering down from beside her.
And it was gone.
The throbbing buzz in her veins had disappeared.
The hunt was over.
It was textbook, really.
And easier than ever.
A vicious and inexplicable resentment bubbled in her stomach, but she swallowed it down with a deep breath. Blinking, Leah kept her eyes on the man beside her. This one was different than the last. Shorter. Darker hair. A narrow nose resting below those emerald eyes. Eyebrows that knit close together, framing them.
It wasn't over.
There was much more to come.
It was child's play really. Predictable, the way he fell into her game. It wasn't even a challenge, and the agitation that scratched at her insides flared again.
Let this one serve his purpose too, she reminded herself stoically. Like a mantra she wouldn't allow herself to forget. And then you can leave him like you're supposed to.
She'd forgotten exactly how it had come to this.
How that belief seemed to be one of the few things that got her through her days.
The smirk was still there when she threw her full attention back to Emerald Eyes.
"See something you like?"
Leah cringed inwardly at his voice, the not-so-subtle suggestion dripping from it. She fought the urge to grimace, instead replacing it with a passive, sly smile.
"Guess that all depends on how hard a girl has to work to get a new drink around here."
He chuckled a deep, rumbling laugh before pulling a twenty out of his pocket. His eyes abandoned her long enough to locate Kyle and flag him back to her end of the bar. Once Kyle had taken his money, he turned those eyes back on Leah.
The conversation was almost always mandatory, and it took everything inside Leah to act interested, pretending she cared about these men and their lives. This one was a personal trainer at a gym in Lake Forest. He was twenty-nine years old, grew up in a small town in Minnesota, and moved to the city as soon as he turned eighteen. He never once paused to ask about her, and Leah fed into it by fixing a rapt gaze on him as he talked, interjecting at the right moments, and laughing when the words called for it.
It would be about him until it wasn't, but letting him believe it would be was important. Necessary.
It assured she got the best out of them. Every single time.
The deal was pretty much sealed, and she knew it the moment he reached out, eyes affixed to her lips, his fingers trailing down the length of her copper cheek.
The voice in the back of her head was prominent, fighting for space with the feel of his cool fingers against her skin. It had been a long time since she'd had two in one night, and it should have disgusted her. It should have made her stop.
But it didn't.
Her fingers reached up, eyes following when they curled around the fabric of his t-shirt. She'd gone this far, and once she reached this point, there was no going back. There was no stopping.
She tugged. The smirk was back, and her head tilted back as he bent over her.
As she begged her heart to beat.
She stopped, and so did the man hovering over her.
Even though her eyes were still affixed to his, she couldn't see them. She barely noticed as her mind raced, as his bounced over her shoulder, trying to find the source of the voice that said her name. Trying to figure out who was trying to piss on the tree he'd already marked.
But it didn't matter. He didn't matter, especially as the voice filtered through her mind, registering in a place she'd tucked away. A place she kept hidden. A place she never visited.
It was close.
It was familiar.
As much as Leah wanted to turn around and tell the owner of the voice to go fuck himself, it was the familiarity in it that stopped her. A knowing knot in her stomach forming as the hairs on the back of her neck stood at attention.
The softness of it.
One she hadn't heard in so long. Practically an apparition, but one she'd recognize anywhere.
Not the one she'd ran away from, but one she'd left behind all the same.
And her heart pounded.
Which is why she understood what came next, even though it should have made no fucking sense.
A frenetic energy – a need to know – thrummed beneath her skin, and she felt her head turning toward her shoulder. To look behind her. To see to whom the voice belonged. She needed to know, even if she was right. Or, God willing, if she was wrong.
Leah wasn't wrong.
And she suddenly couldn't breathe.
Her mouth fell open when she located him a few feet away, standing at the corner of the bar. Watching her with awe and shock, almost like he'd seen a ghost.
He may as well have.
And as her mouth dried and she blinked in disbelief, tearing this person apart with skeptical eyes, she may as well have too.
Because she could feel it. He wasn't supposed to be here. In her city. In her bar. So far from home. So far from what she left behind.
With a single glance, she could feel the past six years slipping away. Dissolving faster than she could comprehend. Crumbling around her as a past she'd ran from, a symbol of it, literally stood three feet from her.
The words were choked, barely audible, and she knew no one could hear them. He could though, and that was all that mattered.
Seeing him in front of her stirred up something inside her she hated. His tousled ebony hair fell over his forehead, almost shrouding one of the darker eyes attached to her. Copper arms that matched hers leaned against the bar, and she could see the dark ink, the bottom markings of the tattoo on his right bicep.
One that matched hers.
One she never talked about when people asked her what it meant.
And she didn't know how, but he'd changed. He seemed different. Six years had added a firmness to his jaw, a natural maturity to his features that she'd never noticed before. One that only time could give.
This wasn't the same person she knew when she left home.
But in some ways he was still the same.
Those eyes were the same.
They were the same pair she looked into the night he pulled over to pick her up off the side of the road, soaked to the bone from walking in the rain to God knows where.
The night before she left.
The same pair that bled with pity the moment before he pulled her into his arms, after she told him how the man that made her this way had asked for his ring back to give to someone else.
After she'd done something from which there was no going back. Something she could have avoided had she been stronger. Had she not allowed herself to be weak.
If she had left first.
A visceral shudder ripped up her spine, and she closed her eyes, hoping when she opened them, he would be gone.
But he wasn't.
If he noticed the disappointment on her features, he didn't let her know.
"Holy shit," he murmured, his full lips pulling into a smile as he pushed away from the bar, squeezing behind the woman next to him. Approaching her. As he drew closer, Leah could feel herself leaning away from him. She only stopped when she felt her back hit the chest of Emerald Eyes behind her.
"Leah? What the hell are you doing here?" Before she could respond or protest, she was pulled from her stool, shaky feet hitting the floor when a pair of blazing arms – a heat that matched her own – wrapped tightly around her. Squeezing, almost like he had no plans to let her go now that he'd found her.
While he may have changed, Embry Call's arms were exactly as she remembered them.
But she didn't return his embrace. Her arms fell loosely at her sides before she decided to pull away, placing her palms on his biceps and pushing. Ignoring the miffed grumbles from behind her. She had to, because that wasn't who she was anymore. She wasn't the same stupid girl she'd been then.
She didn't need those arms now.
She didn't want him here.
"I was about to ask you the same thing," she replied curtly. "A little far from La Push, aren't you?"
Embry looked taken aback, blinking in surprise. "Nice to see you too, Leah."
His eyes were calling her out now, asking questions she didn't want to answer, so she looked away. "Why are you here, Embry?" she repeated.
He paused before forcing a smile, his eyes averting hers for a moment when he nodded. "I'm here for work," he replied, taking a small step back and shoving his hands in his pockets. "You're pretty much the last person I expected to run into while I was here though..."
He didn't know where she lived. None of them knew where she lived. She made it a point not to tell anyone when she left, and those who did know had been sworn to secrecy. She hadn't told them to avoid this. To avoid visits from people – from a life – that was no longer a part of her.
When she didn't answer, replying only with an expectant stare, Embry swallowed again. But his eyes softened by a fraction.
"So do you live here?" He paused, his expression earnest yet hesitant. "Is this where you've been the past six years?"
Crossing her arms in front of her chest, Leah nodded tightly, unable to think of a way to deny it now that he was standing in front of her. "Yup...you found me."
Embry blinked, a flash of concern rippling across his features. "Does anyone else know you're here?"
A defensive fire licked at her insides and Leah felt herself bristle, taking a step forward before she could think twice. "My family knows, but no one else..." She released her arm, reaching out and jabbing Embry's chest with her index finger. "And that's how it's going to stay, Call. I've managed to lay low this whole time, and I plan on keeping it that way. I have a life here and I don't want anyone from home ruining it."
Gaping, Embry held his hands up in defense. "Hey...your secret's safe with me, if that's how you want it."
Hesitating, Leah took a step back, smoothing her dress with clammy palms. "Good," she murmured.
She wished he would just go away, but he didn't. Instead, he watched her, intense eyes focused on her face as she stood her ground. Refusing to look away first.
"So how've you been, Leah? It's been a long time..."
"I'm great." The words left her mouth before she could question them. "Never better, actually."
Embry nodded, leaning to one side to let an anonymous bar patron past him. "That's good to hear. Your mom said you were good. That you started over somewhere, but...I still wondered. We all did."
Leah's blood simmered, her mind jumping to unproven conclusions. Assuming the worst as her brain frantically searched for a better explanation as to why this man was standing in front of her. Why, after six years, he was suddenly there. It didn't make sense. It didn't add up.
"Did he send you?"
Embry grimaced. "What? Leah, I told you...I'm here for work."
"Yeah, that's what you said," she grumbled, once again crossing her arms in front of her. "But did he send you?"
Taking a deep breath, Embry released it with a sigh, a disappointed expression pulling at his lips. "No, he didn't send me. As far as I know, he has no idea you're here."
"Well, somehow you managed to find me..."
Embry's lips pursed in a thin line, a gesture veiling his disappointment. "Dumb luck, I guess."
"I guess..." Her voice drifted off, and she shifted uncomfortably beneath the scrutiny of his stare. A feeling she wasn't used to.
A feeling she needed to get away from.
"Well, I was just on my way out," she ventured hurriedly, looking to her left and finding her clutch on the edge of the bar. Reaching out, she took it between quick fingers before turning back to the man in front of her. She didn't bother to check on Emerald Eyes. She didn't even know if he was still standing there. To be truthful, a larger part of her didn't give a fuck if he was.
Embry's head bobbed in acknowledgement before he drew in a sharp breath. "Listen, I'm going to be here for a couple weeks actually. We should get together while I'm here. Catch up." The tone in his voice was concerned, hopeful.
Leah's face screwed up as she tucked her clutch between her arm and body. "I don't think that's a good idea."
Expression falling in dismay, she watched Embry's shoulders rise and fall with a heavy breath. "Leah..."
"It was good seeing you, Embry."
And with a nod, she pushed past him, barely avoiding two small, blonde girls standing in her way.
Leaving behind Embry, his god damned compassionate eyes, and a past that no matter how far she ran, somehow always managed to find her.
Woohoo for chapter 1! :)
So lots of loose ends and unanswered questions. Everything will become clearer in subsequent chapters, so stick around, maybe? See how it all plays out? ;)
Feedback is always appreciated. So let me know what you think – I'm betting I can get chapter 2 out quicker than anticipated... :D