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.
7. Part 7/7
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He finds out the extent of his sins the next day. Besides the huge gashes on her arm and face, Emily has a broken rib and clavicle. For a long time she seems to still be in complete shock, he hears, but then after a while he hears that she's started asking about him a lot and wants to see him. At last there is some small glimmer of hope for him to follow again.
And then everything finally comes together the way all the pieces are meant to fit. It is almost anti-climactic how easily and naturally things settle into place, with little feeling of great change, like he and Emily together is something that has simply always been and just had to be uncovered. After she kisses him the first time, he closes his eyes and slowly sinks into her, laying his head down in her lap with his arms wrapped around her as he just says her name in an exhausted sigh of finality. Her name on his lips will always feel like surrender, like finding himself at rest inside a home that is somehow bright despite having no windows or doors. And as he rests at last with her, it is like the world all around him goes completely motionless, never to resume.
Several weeks later, Emily cuts his hair for him. She is as good at doing it as Leah, if not better, and Sam has a feeling somehow that she taught Leah half of everything she knows about things like giving haircuts and cooking. He is learning quickly that Emily is one of those remarkable kinds of people who seems to know how to do everything. Get stains out of shirts better than anyone, bake better than anyone, make a tourniquet, cut the meat from a freshly dead rabbit, make him able to sleep when he's restless by giving him the right kind of tea. Or maybe she only seems remarkable in that way to him. He could probably never be sure.
As the scissors quietly snip snip snip in her hands, the dark pieces of his hair fall to the white bathroom floor around his feet like useless old pieces of himself being shed in some kind of rebirth. When he looks at the mirror afterwards, he barely recognizes himself.
He has the dream of the two wolves again, and it is worse than ever before because this time he finally understands it.
The black wolves look almost the same because they are both him. Levi Uley left a long time ago. He is not here. It is just him, all alone in the dark and endless woods and fighting himself. One of the wolves, he thinks, may be the more selfish part of him, the irresponsible one. The other would be his half that has some greater destiny to meet. They are choice and fate, good and bad, right and wrong.
But he doesn't know which one is which. Which is the stronger one. Whether it is the right one or the wrong one that is winning anymore. It seems like he understands which wolf is him, in the life he is living now, in the dream, but as soon as he wakes up with Emily's slow breathing in the dark next to him the understanding slips away and is forgotten.
He doesn't know which side of himself has won, if either. When he imprinted, he stopped fighting. He submitted and was instantly relieved of the entire struggle. Who does that mean he is now?
Most of the time, when he is in Emily's presence and everything feels perfect and right, it is easy not to think about it. In some ways maybe he cannot afford to think about it. He cannot reconcile what he has now and what he has done. It was all too easy, falling down and letting himself be overcome. She is his ultimate destiny that has always been written in his blood, passed to him through his ancestry and always waiting dormant to claim him one day, and there is no running from that. Leah is collapsed on the kitchen floor, abandoned forever. This part of himself can't be fought, it has nothing to do with the kind of person he is or how he was raised, it's just what he is made of, it just is. And everything that came before it in his life means nothing.
But what becomes of the smaller, weaker wolf? Is he really just left dead?
It wasn't him who killed that, he tells himself. He needs to hate something besides himself sometimes. After a while whenever he phases, the fiery determination that allows him to make the change so easily at will is the controlled but always strong hatred that he has grown used to, a burning hot coal he always carries. And sometimes he doesn't know what he would do if he was ever to meet one of the Cullens face-to-face.
Sometimes he thinks of what Old Quil Ateara said to him once about destiny and how he should have been grateful as long as he still had a choice when it came to Leah, as if he should have been happy that he could break her heart to keep her safe from him. He broke her heart anyway, but maybe there is some denied resolution in not being able to completely own one's mistakes. Sometimes Sam is sure that he must have been warning him in his own subtle way that all of this could happen with that strange piece of wisdom, and sometimes he thinks he's just imagining that the words had any intentional connection to that possibility. After a while it just makes his head hurt too much to consider it, and what he can never stand to think about are his words "the choice to do the right thing." He knows when there is no choice there is no right or wrong at all and that's terrifying, because he will never know himself enough anymore to be sure if he could have chosen to do the right thing.
He can't think about this much at all before his mind seems to shrivel away from it like he is literally incapable of caring too much, but sometimes in his dreams his mind seems more free, and also in a way more weighed down. It explores the dark unknown sockets of his life without knowing what it is doing, and so even someone who has imprinted can sometimes still have nightmares.
On one of his last days of school before graduation, Sam spots Ray Parks in one of the halls with another student who looks no older than fourteen and is slipping some money into his hand while Ray discreetly passes him a small bag of something. After they part ways, Sam watches Ray for a moment with a frown and then follows him around a corner. As soon as he catches up to him, he grabs him and slams him against some lockers so hard that it gets the attention of everyone within view, pinning him in place with his hand grabbing hold of the neck of his shirt.
"What the hell, Uley?" Ray says, and it's obvious he is pretending not to already be a little scared. It's all too easy for Sam to intimidate people now if he really wants to.
By now he has trained himself to stay as calm as he can all the time, and besides that he has much bigger problems than some sophomore loser who has no idea how lucky he is to be safe from things living on the other side of the treaty line that shouldn't exist, so he looks and sounds completely self-possessed and at ease, not out of control with anger at all. "We want this to be a nice and safe place for people to grow up, right?" he says. "We're supposed to protect each other. Right?"
"Whatever, man," Ray says, shaking his head and looking at him like he must be out of his mind.
"If you've got nothing better to do with your life than get high every day, I really don't give a crap. But get a job to pay for it. If I ever see or hear again that you're pushing on these grounds, I'll go right to the chief of police and see that your life as you know it is ruined. If I don't just kick your ass myself."
Then he lets go of him and leaves him leaning against the lockers wide-eyed as he walks off. All the other students in the hall stare after him, probably wondering who he thinks he is, not to mention if he's gone a little crazy. He realizes all at once how young they all look to him now.
Time passes, flowing past more gently and unnoticeably than it ever did before he imprinted, and then one night after he phases there is the incredibly strange immediate feeling that he is not alone in his head. Panic that is not his own grips him hotly, accelerates his own heart rate for a moment as he first processes it. Then he becomes aware of a scared and slightly incoherent voice spilling out disjointed questions and exclamations, accompanied by vivid images seen through some other pair of eyes somewhere else. Wolf eyes.
Who?—Who is that? comes the confused voice.
It's not a spoken voice, Sam realizes. It's thought.
That can't mean he's seeing me, what is this? What is this it's...No this still is not real I can't be...
Paul? Sam thinks. Is that you? Can you hear this?
There is nothing but a jumbled processing of information coming from the other's mind for a moment as he registers everything going through Sam's head, reluctant to accept it as anything that makes sense, but slowly starting to latch on.
Sam Uley? he finally says in more of a directed piece of speech. No way. What the fuck?
How long have you been like this? As soon as he asks, the vague recollections fire through Paul's head and his as well—he felt really weird while driving and had to pull over and get out for some fresh air, then phased right there and has been hiding away in the woods since just before dark. Hang on, Paul, I can see where you are. I'm coming to find you and I'll help you change back. It's gonna be alright.
It is a little surprising how naturally it comes to him after all, doing this Alpha thing.
From that point on, being in the woods as a wolf isn't lonely anymore. He has a pack. He didn't even realize how much he was waiting for this. After Paul, there is then Jared Morganroth. Then Embry Call.
And then Jacob Black, who is in love with Chief Swan's daughter. He says he needs to see her. He all but gets down on his knees and begs Sam to make an exception for her.
He just keeps telling him the same things, not letting himself budge at all. Absolutely not. Too dangerous. It's out of the question.
Finally, after Jacob finally sees her long enough to have a painful conversation with her about how they can't stay friends now, he says angrily to him, "I can't believe this. You know the risk of me hurting her is almost nothing. You said yourself I'm learning to control myself faster than anybody else did."
"Doesn't make any difference," Sam says tiredly; they've been over all this before.
"This isn't just about the risk of physically hurting her, is it?"
He looks him straight in the eye, unaffected, but says nothing.
"You think just because I haven't imprinted on Bella it's going to end badly," Jacob says. "The kind of love you have isn't the only kind that means something, you know."
He thinks distantly of him and Leah walking along the beach hand-in-hand, laughing in the dark at movies at the theatre in Port Angeles, and he realizes for the first time that there is something about those moments that slightly resembles the pictures of Jacob and Bella together he has seen in his head.
"I do know that," Sam says, now speaking a little quietly. "It still doesn't change anything."
Too much happening in one evening. All during an angry building storm, the redheaded vampire has escaped them again and Bella Swan almost got herself killed diving off a cliff and now Harry is getting rushed to the hospital because he saw it all and had a heart attack when his kids...
Both of them. Son and daughter. It is like a cruel joke getting played on him.
Everyone in the pack is on overload only able to deal with one thing at a time, and Sam feels like his blood never stops pumping rapidly for hours on end with everything he has to react to so quickly. Make sure Bella's okay, watch for where Victoria's gone off to, help Sue and Harry without letting anyone see Seth and Leah. Sam is still with Jacob and Bella while the others stay phased and try to help the two of them through it, explaining what is happening to them and trying to get them back to normal as soon as possible. Finally, about forty minutes after he and his sister both phased, Seth manages to turn back first but Leah is still having trouble and can't relax.
At last Sam joins them. And the tone of the chaotic mental conversation among the pack shifts intensely right away.
You! she is just saying, not thinking in complete and completely coherent speech. You you—oh this is too—
After he and Leah become linked this way for the first time, it isn't long before a few of the voices start gradually dropping out. The others are changing back, feeling like they're intruding way too much as they perceive the deeply personal things that helplessly and naturally start to be collectively remembered in his and Leah's heads, very distant memories now sharp and much too close again.
"I bet I know what your mind would sound like"..."I just wish I understood what it is about yourself you seem so afraid of"..."You're really warm"..."I promise you'll be able to get away from me from now on"...
And this is something he never could have been prepared for and which he is defenseless against. Living those moments again as they flood over him powerfully with the emotions that she still has attached to the memories makes it almost like he can still remember those feelings. Even if it is just in a fleeting and vicariously experienced way, it is impossible to feel disconnected from her right now. He is her, he thinks what she does and sees what she does and feels what she does and it is too much but his heart can't not ardently reach for her once again.
Suddenly he has no control of his thoughts, what he says or what he remembers. She sees his own memories of that past, Emily's face the very first time he saw her, what the elders told him about imprinting being the way werewolves sometimes find their soul mate, and all at once he feels the singing pang in Leah in response and her recoiling desperately away from what he is showing her, like she is locked up in the tight darkness of her mind and banging against the walls trying to break herself out and escape this.
Emily—EMILY—She's your—Oh no no no I don't want to know this please—
He pulls his head away from those thoughts and back to the present situation. Listen, Leah, don't be scared. You're going to be okay, but you've got to try to listen to me and calm down like Seth did. You've got to get to your dad.
Her head is still on fire and thrashing, panicking and communicating only uncontrolled fragments of terrified thoughts. My—dad—NO! He was—oh God oh no he was here—
I know. He's not dead, he's in the hospital. He wills himself to sink below the distracting storm of her thoughts and emotions to find the quiet and calm center he always has in himself, but it is hard even for him to completely guard himself from what she is experiencing. Don't think about it right now, just clear your head and relax. Try to focus on what I'm feeling and just feel that.
but—No no I can't Sam—This can't be it's like burning I can't think—
Yes you can, trust me. You only feel hot because that means you're still too upset to change back, but you're fine. It'll pass, you just have to calm down, baby. It'll be okay...
And finally she can.
Harry Clearwater is the only thing that is bearable for him to remember about that night he hurt Emily. After he called him, he met him at the hospital and thought of things Sam wouldn't have thought of in his half-crazed condition to give a believable story about what happened to her and how she was rescued.
He remembers how he was sitting in the waiting room, completely motionless in his misery, feeling like there was nothing to do but stay there and not leave her even as another part of him felt he should get away and never go near her again. At one point Harry sat down next to him, bringing him a cup of coffee. As he held it out to him, Sam looked at it frozen in alarm a long moment before finally taking it and saying in a hoarse voice, "Thanks."
Harry put his hand on his shoulder, giving it an assuring squeeze. "She's going to be okay," he said.
He shook his head hopelessly. "No, she won't."
"It could have been a lot worse."
Sam let out a sick-sounding, shaky breath. The remorse in his next words was so deep it sounded hard for him to even articulate it right. "Harry...I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you about Leah..."
He just sighed a little. "I know. It's okay."
"Now I know I was being so stupid and...if only I'd done what you said and broken up with her, she would have been hurt, but at least I could have ended things before they got so much uglier..."
Harry looked forward and stayed silent in thought for a while. He reached inside his jacket and Sam distantly registered some surprise when he took out a flask and unscrewed the cap. In different circumstances, he probably would have laughed at the very idea of Leah's dad sneaking a drink in a hospital, but he just watched carelessly as he took a drink with a very weary expression. Then Harry looked to the side at him with a second thought, and down at the cup of coffee he still hadn't touched, and held the flask out to him with his brow raised a little in question.
Sam looked down at it, staying still, and then shook his head in the tiniest movement. "No."
He put it back away and then started looking forward again. Then he said, "For what it's worth...I really did hope that somehow you'd still be able to work things out with Leah some day. I never meant to make it sound like you're no good for her anymore because of this. In fact...ever since all this madness got started, I've sort of come to think of you as a son."
For a brief instant, through the heaviness of his expression Sam looked a little taken aback. And touched.
"Thanks, Harry," he said. "That's...That means a lot for you to say, after everything..."
"Hey. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Given everything you're dealing with, you've actually risen to the occasion pretty honorably...You're a good guy. You've just had pretty bad things happen to you lately is all."
Starting to look very distant as he became absorbed in his thoughts, Sam said, "Do you really think it's worth all this? The treaty? The legends, they make it sound like such a great and noble thing...to be a wolf. It isn't like that at all. How am I really much better than what the Cullens are?"
Harry shook his head briefly. "Emily is only in there at all because of the Cullens," he said, gesturing toward the hallway. "Remember that. Remember they're the enemy and you'll always understand why it has to be this way. Maybe it's a lot of sacrifice for what we do to be able to protect our people. Our families. Maybe it isn't that noble or pretty, and it can't be, it just is the way it is. It's still not a bad thing to be. I'm sure it won't always seem so horrific. After a while it'll just feel like a part of who you are."
Sam vaguely reflects on this with the words echoing in his memory as he rushes into the hospital a year and a half later, the same hospital, and he's one of the last ones to make it there. He stops abruptly when he finds the others where they are all gathered there. It's a whole crowd there now: all the Clearwaters, Billy, Charlie Swan, Jared, Paul. And he stops so suddenly because of their faces, the resigned stillness with which they are sitting or standing in place like there is nothing left to wait for; right away he knows.
After the hectic non-stop chaos of the past few hours of this evening and the constant demand for quick action, help the Clearwaters track Victoria help Bella get here get back there, there is suddenly nothing to do. Harry is gone. Everything stops all at once and all his strength and drive is instantly cut away right from his legs, and before he knows it he is collapsing weakly back into a chair with a very heavy fall, nearly missing the the seat and just sinking all the way down to the floor.
Sitting in another chair directly across from him is Leah. While Sue and Seth are sitting embraced tightly with heavy shuddering breaths coming out of them, she just sits on her own, frozen still, looking somehow very coldly removed and untouched by her surroundings. Her face has practically no life in it at all, any perceivable emotion wiped cleanly away.
Then, as if she just slowly registers Sam's presence and his intense reaction, she looks up after a moment and meets eyes with him. As he looks back at her with his eyes full of deep sadness and regret, there seems to be some kind of slowly settling understanding in her face. It is a reluctantly accepted reconnection after all this time she was completely in the dark about how everything went wrong. And there is the smallest glimmer of something else in her eyes that he can't begin to understand. Sympathy. As if she did have some anger against him after all this time, whether or not she was conscious of it, and now there can be absolutely none of it left to hold onto.
It already feels almost like what uncontrollably passed between them earlier when they were linked was not even real, and next to the impact of the present tragedy it hardly matters now. He knows that cannot and will not ever happen again. But it is never going to stop being uncomfortable and painful now. They will have to live with hearing each other that way all the time. He probably would have expected it would be better for her if she could have a real explanation for how badly he hurt her a long time ago, but he can already tell that all this has accomplished is bringing up the past and the entire unresolved unfairness of it all over again and making it more complicated for her to accept.
At the funeral reception, Emily goes to sit next to Leah on the couch in her den and Sam can't stop himself from listening to them while he is standing in the hall.
"Hi, honey," Emily says gently, brushing some of Leah's hair behind her shoulder so that it isn't blocking the view of her face as she sits hunched over with her arms crossed on her legs.
Leah doesn't look directly at her, but nothing in her face discourages her presence. After a while of hesitation, she says in a slightly numb and mechanical voice, "You didn't really get those scars from a bear, did you?"
Sam's mouth tightens and he closes his eyes a moment under the weight of hearing the words. Emily's silence following them is the only answer she needs.
"No wonder he seemed so messed up over it that night," she says.
The shame grips him even tighter and then Emily asks in mild surprise, "You saw him that night?"
Leah stays silent a moment, not explaining. "I guess he must be the only one who can understand at all what this feels like," she then says, speaking much more quietly than before.
Realizing what she means, Emily shakes her head and reaches for her hand to grip it. "Leah. Your dad wasn't healthy. You knew that."
She swallows deeply, lowering her eyes down to her lap.
"Harry was an elder," Emily goes on. "He already knew all about this. That's the only reason he no longer wanted you and Sam—" Her voice clips off fast as she sees something in Leah's face that seems to forbid that subject right now, and after the slight pause she continues. "He just had a bad heart. If it didn't happen this way, it easily could have happened at some other time."
Leah keeps looking away from her with her eyes mostly empty and distant, and then she slowly shakes her head. "But I'm a girl," she mutters. "That was all I heard the others thinking as soon as it happened and I was with them. 'But I don't get it, she's a girl, that's never happened.' A big shocker, I guess. Even to someone who's already seen some pretty weird things..."
Emily is silent, just squeezing her hand more firmly. Sam goes off to another part of the house, trying to find something else to focus on listening to if it's possible to try to tune them out.
He hasn't even thought of that until now. For all he knows she's right. Seth is in pretty bad shape over the way it happened too, but he's getting through it. It seems like he'll be okay. But perhaps it is an especially heavy burden in several ways being the only female in the pack, the completely unexpected one, in an undeniable sense the unwanted one. He can already see she will never want it, not after all this. She won't learn to accept and embrace it after getting used to it like the others.
Like all of the others except for him.
Leah once said that despite how much she couldn't understand about him anymore, she still knew him. And he still knows her, too.
He can't be fooled by everything she does to try to hide her pain now. She has never liked to have her most vulnerable feelings out in the open and always preferred to suffer in silence and tough it out on her own rather than have others feeling sorry for her, so it is obvious to him that having not just her thoughts but everything she feels shared with the pack is a nightmare. And he sees the way she adjusts to it by learning to just close herself off emotionally, to draw herself into a cold hard shell of bitterness and anger so the others will not get so much access to her deeper and more sensitive feelings. But after a while, it starts to seem like her habit of suppressing her feelings is extending to the way she is all the time, not just when in her wolf form. The ways she shuts herself off to bury her own emotions means she never seems to fully experience everyone else's emotions either, like she has become desensitized. When the rest of them all start feeling Jacob's suffering because he is losing Bella so she can become their enemy, she should probably understand better than anyone, but perhaps for that very reason his pain doesn't seem to touch her at all. And the more she flinches away from and discourages the others' pity and sympathy, the less eager they are to give it.
None of them can understand because they did not know her the way Sam did before. They do not completely understand that she wasn't always like this. They don't know that not that long ago she was not this bitter and resentful person at all, that she used to chew bubblegum and listen to the same catchy songs over and over again on her stereo and go to parties wearing her hair up in a ponytail that would bounce chipperly when she was dancing. And though it gets harder with time for him to envision it clearly and exactly as it was, there must have been a younger and much more carefree Sam Uley in that time that fit somehow with that picture of her. But now they are both so heavily burdened that it is so difficult sometimes to remember and imagine they were that young and things were ever that simple. He can hardly connect his vague memory of the way she used to laugh with the way she is now. And he knows she used to have a certain way of smiling at him...
But he can't remember anymore what it looked like when she smiled like that, what was so distinctive about it. He only knows that sometimes it seemed like it meant I know you, and in those moments it did not matter if he didn't know himself, and that now it is gone.
Sometimes he dreams of him and Leah diving together that one day during the summer they spent so much time together. That very long fall that seems to never end, a story never satisfyingly closed. For him the dream and the memory is not romantic anymore, of course, and it is not happy nor necessarily saddening, but it is still strong and haunting in a peculiar way.
He sees them in the dark blue under the ocean surface, finding each other, reaching for each other, as the push and pull of the waves tosses them around. The waves, the sea, the force of the earth itself pulls and throws them but they reach and grasp onto each other anyway and hold on. They don't let go.
There must be something that is always in the human spirit and can never be completely destroyed that does this, holds on despite all the forces that rip things apart and is capable of surviving anything. The kind of passionate persistence and sheer will and resistance to submission that makes people free. There must be some part of him that is kept alive in Leah in her determination to not let go, her inability to completely give up the pain that is all of him she has left. A part of him that otherwise would be left lonely and adrift, dead and forgotten to everyone and to him most of all, but could not ever be completely killed.
He knows what some of the others in the pack can't help thinking of the profound and indescribable happiness he has with Emily. That it is mindless happiness, a meaningless kind. But even in the most perfect relationship that could never be tainted, there is still self-reflection. There can still be misery in that. He can tell Emily "I love you" every day and feel how completely true it is, and she will look warmly and lovingly at him and also know how true it is. But as mindless as it might seem he is and as much as it means everything to him, even he can never escape the knowledge that it does not and will never mean as much as when he said it to Leah. And Emily will never look at him quite the same way when she hears it as she did.
Emily's face may be the one that has been physically marred by his mistakes. But sometimes Leah's face is still the one he sees when he reflects on all the harm he has done and swears it is not forgotten, that he will repent somehow, he has learned somehow, he will hurt no more. He will not be like him. In a way it is still all for her more than anyone.
Because being a better man than the kind his father was doesn't necessarily always have its rewards, and there was a time he did not realize this, but it still never made any difference to him. Most of the time being a werewolf is all sacrifice, and on top of that he bears the weight of being the one who leads them all even though it was never his born right or responsibility, the one who doesn't have to do anything but does everything. With or without Emily, with our without vampires and magic, that is who he is. The Sam who Leah knew would relinquish any great happiness to set things right if he had the choice. In the end he would always accept the burden of doing what is good no matter what the cost for him, he would always choose to suffer rather than let others suffer, and maybe that is where there is the only justice in him being denied any choice about finally taking something he deserves.
This is why she told him once "I know I have to let you go," and why she cannot let him go. She, if nobody else, knows for sure that he never would have chosen to leave. In a way Emily never can, she knows who he is.
He cannot remember. But she always will.