Leah's memories of a box, among other things. Alternate-BD. Blackwater.
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Once, not too long ago, I plotted ways to die.
You're standing there now, looking more nervous than I've ever seen you, hands clenched by your side to keep from running under your collar.
You didn't know, of course. No one did. I hid things too well, or none of you wanted to look deep enough. Can't say I blame you.
You're shifting from foot to foot, your bare feet already dusted with a thin layer of white sand. I'm not sure if you're going to run or pass out – both are likely – but there's a hint of something about your smile that makes me think you've been wanting this for as long as I have.
I was the master of secret plans never carried out, of nightmares I never released from the box underneath my bed. A Swiss Army knife, a box of Dramamine (with two pills missing), a bottle of Robitussin, and eight ounces of Scotch. I'd plans for every conceivable way to do it too – blade in electrical socket, Robo-trip, plastic bag – in ways where, when Mom and Seth found me, it'd be too late.
At first the plans were almost serious, the box waiting for the day when I couldn't handle it any more, that pain which seemed to eat me alive. The pain of seeing him with her – the life and future I was denied; of knowing that, despite what everyone said to the contrary, I alone was responsible for Dad's death and Mom's sorrow; of being the freak amongst monsters, too girly enough to fit in with the rest the pack and too masculine (or something) not to have not phased in the first place. I swear I wikipedia-ed every intersexuality disorder known to man and wolves, trying to find an answer, but an answer never came...
I don't know exactly what it was that changed, or if anything changed at all, and I just got used to the pain. All I know is that, one day I discovered my plans weren't really plans any more. Oh, I still made them, but where once a bad day would've thrown me over the edge, sending me spiralling into an abyss of songs from musicals and jingles from commercials as I fought to hide my thoughts from the pack's hive mind, I struggled through. Instead of laying on my bed in what hours I wasn't required to be a giant fur-ball, staring sightlessly at popcorn-finished ceiling as I contemplated life, the universe, and everything, I started living again. Not big steps, really, or things anyone else would call living, but they were steps: Watching you and the others plan and plot for Call of Duty campaigns more than we'd ever for anything real and laughing when your plans failed spectacularly, or, more rarely, laughing along with you when they succeeded. Hanging out with you and the boys at First Beach, swimming no matter how chill the water was, how rough the waves, and ending these days with evenings spent around a bonfire lit more for imprints (if they joined us) or light than warmth; some of those nights the Elders would come down and tell us the legends of the tribe that we knew better than to doubt the veracity of now, but most it'd be just us pack, and it grew easier to be around my “brothers,” even if you did expect me to fly off the handle at any time (which, admittedly, sometimes I did).
And then there were the days when we were just wolves – not overgrown teenagers who happened to be werewolves, but the times when we spent so many hours or even days as wolves we forgot what it was to be human. We were one with Mother Earth at last, taking joy in the height of the pines that sheltered us and the softness of the needles they dropped to make our beds, exulting in the murmur of the wind and the roar of the ocean that crashed endlessly against the crags we sometimes leapt from; delighting in the dark, rich earth that sank beneath our paws and sweetness of the streams that quenched our thirsts and served as playthings when the desire overcame us. There was no worry, no pain, no sorrow when we were wolves. Nor was there any thought of tomorrow, or duty, or death. I loved those days the most, even when it meant that the reality we phased out into was all the more painful for its fresh shock.
Now you're turning towards me, and, as you see me, all fear and uncertainly falls from your face. You are completely happy, the image, not of a boy, but of a man. A man who knows he will never have anything to fear ever again.
Your hand starts to rise and you quickly snatch it back, changing the movement midway into an attempt to fiddle with your boutonnière. It's a calla lily – white – not something you'd have ever chosen yourself, if ever, and there's something endearing about the faint tinge that stains your cheek when you see I've seen it.
You know what they say, though: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership, and he only ever made problems, Sam did. -
'What are you fighting over? It doesn't matter. Just shut up, all of you.'
'You don't like my idea? I'd like to see you come up with a better one. Now shut up and get back to work.'
'Let's kill the half-breed. I don't care if you don't want to kill a baby, you gotta do it. So shut your trap and get to it.'
- That's the kind of 'leading' Sam did.
With you, though, it was so much easier. In your pack, I didn't even make plans – Tuesday morning, right after Mom left for work, while Seth is still zonked out from late night patrolling; Friday evening, when I could say I'm not feeling well and go to bed early, not being disturbed until late Saturday when someone finally decides to try to pull me out of bed – any more. Not the kind of plans I couldn't tell anyone about, at least. I did make the other kind, to do this or that, but that didn't matter so much. They were always with you. You had helped me so much, even if you never guessed it. You must've been sniffing glue to be so good at putting people back together again.
I remember – oh, God, how I remember. No, it isn't even memory. It's like someone's pulled down a white sheet next to you and the sun has fast-forwarded through evening and into dark of night so that the scene can play like on one of those old fashioned projectors as I walk slowly, hesitantly, stupidly towards you – when it all changed.
I was, futilely, trying to start a fire the ol'-fashioned way, without benefit of lighter or matches (which, even worse than clothes, are notoriously hard to hang on to while you're phased) when you and Seth came up, the sound of your human voices in continuing your telepathic argument startling against the silence that hung about me. I could go for days without talking, if I wanted; it'd happened before.
“-make sense. I mean, okay, you're on a spaceship with limited supplies, okay, maybe, but sneaking a tribble into Volterra? A, there's going to be nothing for tribbles to eat there, and, b, how do you know the leeches won't just think we sent them a walking, all-you-can-eat bar?”
“Well, if they only drink human blood, they won't touch the tribbles until its too late, and I doubt that even with super-speed they could get rid of them fast enough.”
Yes, you and my brother were arguing over Star Trek.
“Okay, assuming all that, how, with their super-hearing, super-smell, and the fact that their castle is probably super-something-else, would you sneak a tribble in? And don't say transporter.”
“Lob it through a window?”
You shook your head at my brother's stupidity and sat down on the log next to me. “Having trouble, Lee?” You seemed amused by my difficulties. Stupid boy.
“Least I'm not the one having a serious discussion on tribble warfare. You both know tribbles aren't real, right?”
“I dunno,” Seth said, taking the flint from me and doing his amazing boy scout thing. Half the time I think the pack should just pretend to be some kind of adult boy scout troop, which would explain the amount of time we spent in the woods. Wouldn't explain what I was doing hanging around them all the time, but I suppose it was slightly better to be considered the whore of a group of boy scouts than the whore of a band of drug smugglers – less STDs and all. You caught Frank Lisbon, the lady who works at the post office's son, calling me a whore once, not long after I first started phasing, saying that the only reason Sam “let” me hang around him now was that I put out for all of his friends. I wasn't there, but Quil and Embry were, which was good, 'cause they were able to keep you from doing more than breaking Frank's jaw. I always thought you were kinda sweet for that. Mostly an idiot who should learn to ignore what everyone else things, like I do, but kinda sweet too. “If vampires exist, and werewolves, who's to say that tribbles and zombies and Vulcans don't exist too?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose at that point, trying to think of an appropriate rebuttal, but couldn't think of anything vitriolic enough. When I removed my hand, I saw Seth'd gotten the kindling to light, and so immediately brought it back and said in a manner that recalled someone who was babysitting twin two-year-olds, one of whom has just emptied his dinner in one's hair, “I love my brother. I don't want to murder him. I will not do evil things to him while he's asleep,” and the like.
After a minute or to of this, I looked up and found my brother gone – out patrolling, you said – so that I was just us by the fire. Neither of us knew what to say, which was odd, 'cause we'd knew each other's heads better than anybody else could. Then, after a long, drawn out moment, in which the constant fall of rain onto the leaves grew until reaching marching band quality, you said, “I never did thank you.”
“Thank me for what?”
“For coming over to my pack.”
Shrewdly, “But you didn't want a pack in the first place.”
“Sure, sure. But I've changed my mind. If I have to have a pack, you and Seth are the ones I'd want in it.”
“Not The Bastard and The Paedophile?” this honestly surprised me. You three had always been attached at the hip. Surgically. Like freaking Siamese triplets or something. “You didn't happen to eat any 'shrooms while you were out patrolling, did you?”
You gave a snort of laughter. “I'm completely serious. And 'shroom free.”
“You do realize that we're in the middle of the forest, right?”
“What's that got to do with anything?”
“And you know of this from personal experience...?”
“Food doesn't magically appear on the table, y'know.”
“And so you took to dealing to make ends meet?” I snorted at the idea of idea of you even pretending to be some leader of a drug cartel. It was probably the white suit and the fedora that I imagined came with the territory. Plus, though confined to that wheelchair, Billy would so kick your ass if you actually ever did try to take up one of the less legal occupations... Though I guess our patrolling might count as werewolf vigilantism, and probably isn't illegal mostly because no one thought it'd ever be possible. “You're not half so bad as I thought you'd be, Jake.”
And, with that, it all began...
But it only got better.
You were sitting by the stream, propped against a tree, the first time I kissed you. I surprised you, phasing out and straddling your hips before you noticed, covering your lips with mine before you could react.
We were by the stream again, the first time we slept together, your kisses hard and marking, your hands insistent, speaking a language of their own – I can't live without you – as they explored every inch of me. And mine responded – So don't try.
I've almost reached you. There are butterflies in my stomach – no, screw that, a squadron of rabid bats – and it's getting hard to breath with the tightness at the base of my throat, between my breasts.
We should just run away together. Go to Sin City, find the first guy dressed as Elvis and...
If only we could do that.
This being my fucked-up life, though, it couldn't last long, our happiness.
You just had to go an imprint on the Leech Lover's daughter, didn't you? Because I wasn't fucking enough for you, you needed a half-breed monster too! Because it, obviously, wasn't warmth and softness and passion and a normal life you wanted! No! You just needed that ice-cold, thought-projecting mini-bitch to complete you, didn't you? 'Cause never mind the sex we'd had, the life we'd planned, the jokes we'd shared, it was her you had to have. I had thought-
No! It hurts to much to remember you with her. Especially those early days, when the leeches were hoping, however futility, that giving birth to that thing you loved hadn't put her mother past “salvation” in the form of an eternal, undead life. When, after it became clear that the venom wasn't saving her, but killing the Swan bitch you'd crushed so hard on, you didn't seem to notice. You didn't notice her funeral, too taken with the monster that killed her were you. The same when, for a second time, her narcissistic, sleep-stalking leech went to Italy, this time succeeding in getting himself killed.
No. “Nessie” became an orphan, and it was a surprise to you. My poor, poor Jacob.
That day, when we found out, when the Cullens were trying to force tears, when you were playing with little Ness, who didn't seem to notice she'd just been orphaned, I went home and pulled out that box. Seth was with you, Mom was with Charlie and Billy. I was alone and there was no one to see as I flipped open the Swiss Army knife to the largest blade and held it against my wrist and-
-and just held it. I was in rage, yes. I was desperate. But feeling the cold metal against my skin, I couldn't do it. It was soothing and comforting and oddly everything I had expected it to be. But it wasn't what I wanted.
I threw the knife down, not caring where it landed, point first in the floor. I grabbed the box of Dramamine tablets and went into the bathroom. Popping out two, I turned on the water to fill a glass to wash it down with. But I couldn't bring the pills to my mouth. I just looked at them, letting the water run, and thought about what you would say if you knew I was doing this. If you could break away from your precious imprint long enough to care about what your ex-lover was doing to herself over you.
You're being an idiot, you would say. If I'm not enough of a guy to realize how amazing you are, I don't deserve you.
What did I do to deserve loosing you? I would've said back, if you were actually there, if there weren't the first two of pills of what could be my release in my hands. Looking at the little white tabs, I was struck by how such a small thing could do so much... just like your pale half-leech imprint... And, then I popped two more pills out of the little foil square they came in. Then two more. Then four, until the entire box (minus two) was in my hand. It would be so simple, just to place these in my mouth and chase it down with a little water, and then sleep... for ever and ever and ever. No more pain. No more doubts. No more stupid Alphas and their stupid imprints... Just... Freedom.
Don't be one of those girls, you would say.
You shouldn't have been one of those guys.
I'm not worth it.
It's not because of you. It's because I can't stand this life any more. I want more than this Rez, to see all my friends imprint and loose themselves; to become the crotchety old maiden aunt everybody hates-
You're already crotchety. And you'd never end up like that.
You'd healed once before. You'll heal again.
This conversation played out in my head, I found myself still looking at the pills, still watching the water rush into the bowl of the sink and spiral down the drain. Could I really heal again? I hadn't thought I'd ever be fully over Sam, but... But you were twice the man Sam was. Maybe it'd take twice as long. Maybe you would be the last person I ever loved... The only person I'd ever truly loved.
I lifted the pills, and dropped them in the sink, the water rushing them away quickly.
Leaving it running, I went back into my bedroom and grabbed the box. I emptied the cough syrup down the drain. And the cheap vodka. I threw the box in the trash and sat there for what could've been ages, watching the water wash those options away. Then, returning to my room, I grabbed the knife. I contemplated, for just one instant, using it to slice through my curtains, rip apart my sheets – to release all the anger I felt on the hapless, empty inhabitants of my room. But I folded it and, with a scream, through it into my closet, never to be found again.
Not knowing, not thinking, just wanting to forget, I ran, phasing as soon as I got to the forest, letting the wolf take me.
I've reached you at last. You take my hand and, grasping it firmly, run your thumb over the back of mine. Your touch sours my blood and makes my lips ache for yours, but, somehow, I'll survive without them. I hope.
You're by the stream again when I find you, feet digging into its sandy banks.
I offer no preamble. As I dress, I ask, “You love her, don't you?”
“What? Who? Ness? Of course-”
Swallowing compulsively, “You love her. Not me.” It hurts to say, burning my throat and blistering my tongue with each blasphemous syllable.
“Don't! Don't tell me you didn't mean to. Don't tell me you can't fight this. DON'T TELL ME ANY GOD-DAMN THING! I've heard it all already. I don't want your excuses! Just-”
“Just tell me you don't love me. Make it a clean break, so I can heal. Tell me it wasn't real. Tell me it was never real. Tell me you never loved me.”
“No!” I shouted, just feet from you now, shaking so much I appeared blurry at the edges. “Tell me!”
You took a step forward. We were in arm's reach now, and you look so hurt it would hurt me if there was anything left in me to break. I could feel your body heat, taste your sweet breath... “I love you.”
“Stop it!” I stumbled back a step, you took two forward. “Don't do this to me.”
“You're the only one I've ever-”
I put my hands to my ears, trying to block it out, but you grabbed them and yanked them away, pulling me against you in the process. You felt, smelled so good. I could have been content forever in your arms, if fate had let us. “Please,” I whispered softer, the words barely reaching my ears. “Please, don't.”
“I'm in love with you, Leah Clearwater,” you said anyway, and kissed me hard.
I could've drowned in that kiss. I wanted to. It took all my strength to break it. “You can't.”
“Why the fuck not? 'Cause you're imprinted, you idiot, and-”
“I love Ness-”
“See!” my hands flew into the air, “See what I mean.”
“Let me finish! I love Ness, but not that way. Not the way I love you.”
“While she's a baby, of course, but when she gets older.”
You made a face. “Never! She's like a sister to me – a daughter even, since her parents left her all alone.”
“You need proof? How about this: Alice can see Nessie's future.”
This gave me pause. Could you be telling the truth? I wanted to believe you – I wanted to believe you so badly – but-
You kissed me again, and I know you love me.
The wedding is more ridiculous than I would have liked – but you were right, we had to let Alice have her fun. Even if it is a stupid beach wedding with almost enough flowers to drown out the leech smell. Almost. And I've never seen a more beautiful flower girl than Nessie, who, with her Uncle Emmett, wolf-whistles when the minister announces us man and wife. I feel ridiculous in the wedding gown, about as ridiculous as you look in your tux with the pant-legs rolled up. But I forget all this when you kiss me, sending a fire down my spine and into my belly. As always, its all the proof I've ever needed.