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The Persistence of Gravity

"Everyone knows his father was a complete screw-up who hurt and abandoned everyone who needed him, but he tries very hard to be a good kid, a good student, a good friend and son. And he swears to himself as he watches Leah sleeping now that he'll always be good to her." The untold story of Sam/Leah starting from before he became a werewolf.

A ridiculously old WIP I'm finally finishing. Because I'm really interested in Sam and Leah as characters and their relationship we don't know many details about, I wanted to write a fic trying to show their story in a very personal way that would make the heartbreak it caused Leah (and also the guilt Sam has over it) very real and understandable. But I was totally unprepared for how invested in this I actually became and how much it ran away with me and got much longer than expected, so I'm really crossing my fingers that there will be readers interested enough in these supporting characters to enjoy this fic in a bittersweet way like I enjoyed writing it.
As a nitpicky note, I know Seth's age in this is way off. At the time I started it I somehow had the idea that he's only about three years younger than Leah, and I just left it because it's a kind of integral detail in one part that would have been hard to work around fixing.

5. Part 5/7

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It does not gradually sink in, but hits him all at once, how much of a mistake he has made. And the next time he sees Leah, he can hardly stand to look her in the eye.

So, he's a freak. Some kind of not-completely-human monster. And this is something that isn't going away. But now he thinks he'll be able to learn how to manage it. The second time he made the change, he could feel it coming again as the fire started crawling up his spine and kept it smothered just long enough to get hidden away in the woods, ignoring friendly waves from neighbors he passed and keeping his fists clenched at his sides with the concentrated effort it took to hold it off. He was able to get a hold of himself after a few hours and discovered that focusing on trying to force the change to reverse was only effective once he could clear his head of all the anxiety about whether or not it would work. He can't force it and must simply let it happen, let it pass. He has to get used to it enough that he can learn to make himself calm down. It seems to make it completely real at last that there is no fighting this.

So he understands it now. A little. There is at least some method and order to the madness of the kind of world in which something like this could happen to him. This makes it somewhat easier for him, but somehow just brings more into focus for him how everyone else cannot possibly understand. Nobody else should have to know about something so nightmarish, and he thinks he knows how to keep this hidden now.

And he has no idea what the hell he could possibly have been thinking before, but clearly, he has absolutely nothing to tell Leah except that he can't tell her. After they got closer than ever before that night he first saw her again, he has to shut her out, and he can't stand it but can't help it, though he knows he could have a little if he'd been thinking before and hadn't let himself fall into a such a moment of weakness.

And after she waits for an explanation and finally he can only tell her, "I'm so sorry, but you just have to trust me about this," the contained hurt he sees in her face quite clearly acknowledges that he is sorry about more than just the way he has to keep this from her. But he can't bring himself to say he is sorry about that certain thing, that he came over to see her at all that night before he had a chance to figure anything out and led her to believe everything would eventually make sense. How can anyone possibly apologize for something like that? It's done. Maybe she said she didn't care how it happened, but there is also what happens afterwards which is a part of it, the way it changes everything afterwards, or at least the way it is supposed to be different after.

Inevitably, she starts to harden a little around him, closing herself off in stinging little ways. He knows it is a more self-protective than angry or punitive reaction, because the thing is she does trust him so completely and otherwise everything that night would not have happened and it would have occurred to her to expect more from him before letting everything pick up where it left off. He can see that deep down she knows there has to be a good reason for him having all these secrets and wants trust to be enough. But it can't be helped. He knows it was easier for her to accept being kept in the dark at the time, when he had so obviously just been through something horrible and wasn't simply just fine after all the time she had been worrying. But now, as time passes and everything cools and crystallizes after the emotional heat of the moment, it just begins to look more like he let her and his mother believe he was hurt or worse and it was obviously nothing, here he is.

He has gotten himself run into a complete dead end. If things were a little different, he could probably make up something to account for where he was, where he keeps slipping away to sometimes now. It might not excuse his disappearance or make him look very good, but it could allow all of this to mostly go away after enough time. But he can't tell Leah it was anything normal and practically inconsequential, not after what happened afterwards. He starts to be tortured constantly by details of that night, the way her naked skin looked in the gentle glow of the light from the lamp with part of her in shadow and the way they were both just about splitting open with the effort it took to not make too much noise and how she was crying a little again when she came, and it makes him feel sick to his stomach to imagine the memory demolished in any way for her and what she might think now. Even though it isn't like he was the one who got it started, as he keeps thinking as he grabs desperately for anything. Yeah right, you snuck into her fucking room in the middle of the night, what else could you have been thinking would happen, why else would you have said all that bullshit at first.

But at least for now, it is still natural for her to never assume the worst about him, which he's pretty sure makes her one of the only people who isn't doing just that. He knows what people have started saying about his mysterious long absence. It's hard to miss when he has vastly better hearing than a normal person now. The kindest idea he has heard from anyone is he must have let it get to his head that he'll be one of the only students in his class going on to college and just felt like getting away and skipping a couple whole weeks of his last days of high school. But with the way he is so completely aloof and unsociable around people now when before he was just known as reserved and quiet, it is easy for most people, if they think anything, to think other things. That it must be drugs or something like that if he is being so secretive about it. That he's obviously turning into a no-good loser like Levi...

No, they probably don't actually say that much. But he figures they might as well.

He would think that on top of everything else, this would be incredibly embarrassing for Leah as his girlfriend, but she seems to somehow completely ignore all the rumors and negative attention surrounding him at school and all around town now. And he thinks to himself that Ray Parks couldn't have been more wrong about what he heard him say to her once. She really doesn't care what anybody thinks of her, or she just doesn't anymore.

Not every girl would stay with someone after something like this. And Leah is definitely not the type who never stands up for herself and will put up with a whole lot more than she should from somebody, so he knows it certainly isn't weakness. A lot of the time he thinks he has never felt closer to her or been more in love with her than now, when he can't even be with her the right way without some distance between them all the time.

Sam has a chance encounter with Old Quil Ateara, who is able to recognize almost right away what he is. He understands what he is and what it means, and Sam is stunned and very lost until he tells him they'll have to meet with the other elders as soon as possible. So the elders know. Everything finally starts to make some sense. Later in the Atearas' house, not bothering yet to get into the more eloquent explanations from the legends they just give him the short version in modern vernacular. Werewolf. Vampire. And he can't believe he is really listening to this stuff, but it does explain everything a lot more easily than anything else.

One of the first things he wants to know is "But why me?" It is said in the legends that their people are descended from wolves, but the elders didn't even know this had started again because out of everyone on the entire Quileute reservation it's just him. They explain that the transformation ability is only in certain bloodlines, direct descendants of the first wolf pack, and that it was passed to him by his father.

Of course. He can't help but think it, of course it always comes back to him somehow. He left but the son of a bitch never goes away. And Sam has to wonder a little if it was somehow part of what he wanted to run away from, as hard as it is to believe. So did you know about this, Lee? he thinks bitterly. Did you know the legends were true and what that meant for you and any sons you had? Could you have helped me understand right from the start and helped me through this in a way Mom couldn't if you were here? If you cared?

Billy Black asks him if he has told anyone, and Harry interjects. "Obviously you've kept it from your girlfriend all this time or I think I'd be able to tell," he says with a sympathetic smile. "Now that I know, I'm pretty astonished."

Sam shakes his head, answering wearily, "No. It's been a hard time with all my weird behavior but I haven't told Leah anything."

Billy looks to the side at Harry. "Your girl? He's her boyfriend?" When Harry nods, he shakes his head and mutters under his breath, "Shit," and Sam isn't sure why he seems to take that as bad news.

"And I didn't exactly tell my mom," he goes on, "but there was one time I started losing my temper and had to hurry out of the house to get somewhere dark, and she tried to follow me and I'm pretty sure she...saw me. Just for a second. She kind of let me have some space after that and stopped asking about what I'm going through, like she's waiting for me to be ready to talk about it with her."

They seem a little impressed with how Sam has managed to keep going to school most days and going through the motions of normalcy while dealing with this, especially without accidentally revealing it to anyone besides his mother. But they tell him for now he should probably be spending as much time as he can away from public places.

Then they tell him, at the end of a list of simple items of concern, that he has to break up with Leah.

"Sometime in the future you'll be able to worry about things like having a girlfriend again," says Old Quil when he sees Sam's expression in response to that. "But you can't ever tell her the truth. And it's too much right now to be spending time with her. Trust me, it is better for now to just let her go."

He stares at all of them a long moment, his eyes lingering on Harry who looks down sadly, and then asks dauntedly, "What am I supposed to tell her?"

"Anything. Anything to keep her away from you. If you want her safe, it's out of the question to keep seeing her."

"You just got done explaining to me that I'm not a monster! That this is all to protect people, and now you're saying—"

"Yes, but you're still too new to this," Billy says. "You can be dangerous as long as you haven't learned enough self-control yet. It takes time. Very bad things have happened before when protectors weren't careful. You don't want that to happen to her."

Harry seems to get the idea that Sam isn't quite grasping what they mean. "Haven't you ever seen what happens when you phase really close to a tree or something?" he asks.

Phase. Protector. Pack. They toss these words out so casually and familiarly it throws him off. Then he thinks about it and his expression starts to sink a little. "I guess I never really paid attention," he says quietly.

"Next time you're running around phased late at night," Quil says, "I suggest you find yourself a car or a metal swing set or something you can test your claws on and see for yourself what kind of damage you can do. And then try to imagine if it were a person instead."

"Jesus, man," Harry says, cringing a little. "I think the kid gets the picture."

"Probably not a bad idea, though," Billy says, looking back at Sam. "Just make sure it isn't my car."

Sam lets out a heavy, frustrated breath. "Listen...I really think I have a pretty good handle on this by now, and I'm getting better every day. So far it means half the time I'm at school I've got tunnel vision concentrating on not getting worked up at all, but it's working. I've still been seeing Leah this whole time and it's been fine."

"Well, not exactly," Harry speaks up, looking pained to have to say it. "I'm sorry, son, I sure as hell wish it weren't you. But I happen to be able to tell it hasn't been the best relationship lately, and I know that's not your fault, but...maybe it would be safer and better overall for her if you could just let her be."

"No," Sam desperately responds right away; looking harshly beaten down just by the thought of it, he starts appealing directly to Harry. "I know that isn't true. It's still...Leah and I...it's serious. I can't just...You know she's like family to me, Harry. If my mother can know, why do I have to give her up? I could stay away from her if I really have to, for as long as I have to, but what would be better for her is if she could actually understand why."

"Who are you to say that? You aren't even thinking about what you're suggesting. How do you think you'd go about telling her something like this? Wouldn't you rather let her have a safe and normal life than have her brought into what you're in?"

Sam starts looking even more distressed by his words, but he counters, "You said yourself you're part of the bloodline, that now that this is starting again it's possible your son could be like me eventually. What kind of options for a normal life does she really have?"

"You have the option of doing the right thing as long as it's still a choice," Quil says, starting to sound a little stern. "Now, I know you didn't choose this, and right now it must seem like nothing but a just plain lousy destiny to have thrown on you and it's hard, but I'd be grateful that you at least have that as a choice."

"Most likely you won't be the only one for long," Billy adds, "and the others will be expected to make the same sacrifices. We must protect our secrets as much as possible, without making arbitrary exceptions. We have to ask you to respect that."

He sighs, caving a little under all their words, and then for a moment he can no longer meet eyes directly with any of them. Those much older and so knowledgeable eyes on him, they all make him feel like just a dumb kid again even after all he has experienced now. "Sorry...I don't mean to be disrespectful," he says in a low but sincere voice. "I know you're all trying to help me. You are helping..."

Harry comes around to where he is sitting and puts a firm, comforting hand on his shoulder. "Man, it has to have been rough for you," he says heavily, "being the first."

The other two elders meet eyes with him. "Who do you suppose could be next?" Billy asks.

Harry thinks a moment. "You know as your only son, Jacob would be the natural Alpha in a new pack," he says, addressing it with some delicacy. "His ability will be the most potent and viable."

"Yes," Billy says a little gravely. "But he's not nearly old enough yet."

"Yeah. Until that happens, it's just down to you," Harry says, glancing down at Sam.

"I'm gonna be...the Alpha?" he says, a little dazed and overwhelmed as the word feels strange on his own tongue.

Harry just smirks.

"But...I don't fucking know how you lead a pack of werewolves!" he says in a frustrated outburst before he can help himself.

Some of them just laugh lightly at that. Then, going back to the question they were addressing before, Harry says, "Of course it isn't known to be an exact science as far as when they develop, but the Walkers' boy would be the oldest of the possible candidates with the gene so he's probably our best guess for who to keep an eye on."

That grabs Sam's attention back to the subject, and he looks up at him quickly. "Paul Walker?"

"That's the one."

Eyes big with shock, he shakes his head as he tries to take all of this in. "Shouldn't we be talking to these other guys or something? Isn't there some way we can help them so they have an idea of what to expect like I didn't?"

"They'll be okay," Billy says. "Well, as much as they can be, with a thing like this. Like Harry says, it was real bad for you, but at least they won't be going into it alone."

"But how will we know when it happens to somebody else? You didn't find me for weeks."

"Oh, don't worry about that," Old Quil just says with a cryptic smile. "Believe me. You'll know."