Pairing/Character(s): Leah/Jake, Sue Clearwater/Charlie (background)
Word Count: ~2,400
Warnings/Spoilers: Harsh language; mentions of The Bell Jar
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights. It wouldn't be worth the cost to sue me anyway.
Summery: Leah buys a new mattress. Jake helps. Blackwater.
A Blackwater Story
"You used to think that someone would come along
and lay beside you in a space that they belong,
but the other side of the mattress and box springs stayed like new.
What's the point of holding onto what never gets used?"
"Why am I doing this again?"
"'Cause you love me?"
"Yeah, right. Why really?"
"'Cause it'd look strange for someone – especially a girl like me – to carry a mattress by herself, and we don't want the neighbors thinking we're on steroids again?"
"That was all your fault – you should've have told Claire that Quil was tired all the time 'cause he smuggled drugs across the border at night."
"Well," you said reasonably, or, rather, as reasonably as I ever heard you, which was not very, "she shouldn't have told her teacher 'bout it, now should she?" I could've pointed out that Quil's imprint was only five years old, and blaming a five-year-old for doing something any one her age would've done is ridiculous. But this is you we're talking about, so I don't. "'Sides, it's not like you were doing anything."
I had been sleeping. But, again, this is you, and were I to point it out to you, you'd have simply mentioned all the times I'd woken you up to go patrolling, or join in pack "bonding" time, or, generally, 'cause I was bored and Seth wasn't home. Though, in my defense, that last one happened only once. "Sure, sure," is my only response, coming 'round a yawn as you unhooked the last of the bungee cords and tossed it carelessly with the others already tangling in the backseat of your mother's car.
The mattress starts to slip a little, and I pull it back into place with one hand – without, hopefully, any of the neighbors seeing. You don't seem to notice. Instead, you're looking at the mattress and, after a strange moment of this intense starting, "I've come to a decision."
You haven't noticed the sarcasm in my voice or, rather, you have and don't mention it. "I've decided I'm resigned to it."
"To the mattress?" You've just driven two hours to the nearest mattress store (while I slept in the front seat), spent another two hours picking out the perfect one (while I napped on one of the displays, earning me a glare from the old man who ran the place), and another two driving back (as I sat in the front seat, pretending, unsuccessfully, to doze while you complained about how generally unfair it was that of all the eligible guys in the world, Sue had to go and marry Charlie, giving you, and I quote, "stupid bloods-sucking, Bambi-killing, shiny-car-owning leeches" for a stepsister and in-laws). I'd've rather hoped you were in love with the mattress after all that.
You turned briefly away from your purchase to glare at me, but only briefly. "No." You wave me towards one end, and start pushing the mattress off the hood and into my arms. For the benefit of any neighbors that might wonder what a twenty-something girl and a half-dressed teenaged boy might be doing bringing a mattress inside at seven o'clock at night, I pretended it was heavy. You take your end, and we wiggle the thing through the open front door.
You drop it almost as soon as we're inside, and close the door behind us, turning the key in the deadbolt before turning back to see me leaning the mattress against the wall. "Then what?"
"'Then what' what?"
"What are you resigning yourself to then?"
"Nosy Alpha, aren't you?"
"You're the one who brought it up, Beloved Beta."
You don't say anything. You just walk past me and into your room. I follow, to find you stripping the sheets off your bed and, balling them up, throwing them into the depths of your closet, from which little has ever emerged.
The room is a lot like you, with warm yellow walls and homey curtains, but oddly Spartan. There are no pictures or posters on the walls. The only things on the desk by the window is a thin white paperback; a spiral bound notebook missing its cover and, so the torn scraps of paper about the rings would suggest, most of its pages, and a pencil showing tooth marks around the eraser. There are suggestions of hidden messes under the bed you're now pushing off the box springs, poking out from your closet or one of your desk drawers, but they are well hidden.
This is not the first time I've thought this.
Curiously, I go to your desk and pick up the book. There's a picture of a butterfly on the cover – not something I'd've thought you'd willingly read yourself, but there's a dog-eared bookmark towards the end of it, and, when I open to that page, I see the cheap scrap of paper covered with your scribble-scrabble writing.
… felt like a race horse, I read on the top of the page, in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like a date on a tombstone…
I looked back to the cover. Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar. I looked up to ask you something, but you – and the old mattress – were gone. I figured you were getting the new one. Don't know why you needed a new one anyway, the old one had seemed fine; don't know why I had to come with you either, but you'd dragged me along. I may have been your Alpha and you my Beta, but God knows I've not the slightest idea how your mind works. I've learned to go with it when it comes to you. You've never led me wrong yet.
I replaced the bookmark, and turned to the first page. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York... and then the book was pulled out of my hands, and you were back, snapping it shut and shoving it in one of the drawers. "Happy book," I said, trying to laugh but unable to, seeing the strange, pained look on your face.
"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to touch other people's things?"
"God, Lee, it's just a book. Strange one at that."
Your eyes dart toward the drawer and back to mine, "Great book. Makes me think someone can understand."
You look like you've said too much, teeth worrying your bottom lip. Then, so abruptly I think your face must be sore from moving that fast, a look of bemusement flies onto your features, "So, I've looked, and I'm pretty sure the only other sheets we have are some old Sesame Street ones. Embry will just have to make do."
I'm confused. "Embry?" What's he got to do with the book and the new mattress and the resignation you were talking about earlier?
"Well, since Mom's living with Charlie, we have an extra room and since Ms. Call – understandably – gets upset at him sneaking out at all hours of the night, we're putting him up here. It's been in the works for days, Your Royal Russet-ness, so don't look all surprised." I had a feeling I must have slept through that meeting. You seem to know this, since the next thing out of your mouth is, "You've really been running yourself too hard, Jake."
"No, I'm just surprised," I lie. "I didn't think you liked Embry all that much."
"Well, like I said, I'm resigned."
You snort. "No." You start making the bed again, as if my idea was hilariously funny. "Hand me that sheet will you – no, not that one, the fitted one." It becomes obvious a moment later that I've no idea what a fitted sheet is, 'cause you come around the bed with a huff, grab the proper sheet from my hand, and wave the elastic bit in my face. "Fitted sheet. Whatever will I do with you, Jake?"
Not to be deterred, "Then what? What're you resigned to, I mean?"
You stop halfway through tugging the sheet around the third corner and let go, the elastic snapping the thing back to the bottom of the bed. You sit down on the edge of your new, unmade bed, and that look from earlier returns to your eyes. The one that says something is wrong. You sigh, seeing I won't drop this, and tell me: "To life, Jake – no, don't look at me like that. I'm not crazy. Or," you say with some worrying afterthought, "suicidal. I'm just saying…"
I sit down on the bed next to you. Your head comes to rest on my shoulder, surprising me. You've never been one for the touchy-feely things, but I'm not complaining. I'd rather hear whatever it is you're about to tell me than have you go crazy. Or kill yourself. I can't even think about you doing that, but from the way you're talking it sounds like you've thought about it more than once. Tried maybe even once or twice. You're my Beta; I made you Beta for a reason. You're the strongest person I've ever known, and if you can think…
I put my arm around you, and you, surprisingly, don't flinch away. You burry yourself further in my shoulder. "What are you saying?" I ask softly.
"That…" You shifted slightly so that it was your forehead pressing against my shoulder, and your eyes, hiding something in their dark brown oceans, were looking blankly towards the desk. "That there's nothing more to life than this." With the hand that wasn't pressed against me, you gestured vaguely at your room.
Even I had to admit that, in the deepening shadows, it looked, well, not empty, but like a place where people stayed, not lived. Like a hotel. Or a penitentiary.
But I wanted to hear it from your own lips. "And what is this?"
You smiled tightly and pulled back – but not far enough to slip out of my half-embrace. "Emptiness." The smile fell, and your eyes went soft. "Loss. Disappointment. Meaninglessness. Death. The usual."
"The world's not like that," I protested.
"Yes it is!" you said, passion suddenly coming into your voice, the furry a loud but pleasant alternative to the blank monotone of earlier. "There's nothing. Nothing. Nothing but this Rez and the same ol' people and the same ol' things and nothing new or good or happy ever happens. They just keep on shoveling us more shit, one load of crap after another, and expect us to take it laying down – like freaking mushrooms-"
I had to laugh at that. "Mushrooms, Leah?"
"Yes, like bloody mushrooms. It couldn't just be that we we're werewolves. Nooooo. It had to be imprinting and vampires and hive-minds and-"
"It's not so bad."
"Is it, Jake?" you rage, "Tell me, in what way has magic not ruined your life?"
At least you didn't start naming ways. I know them too. So I give my best smile and say, as straight-faced as I could, "It gave me a chance to get to know you."
You snorted again.
"Like anyone would want to know me."
I frowned. "That's a low blow, Lee."
But you're smiling again. "See, what did I tell you?"
"That's my girl," I laugh, leaning down to plant a kiss on your forehead. You feel hot even to me, and I'm still worried about you, especially as you go frightfully still as I pull away. I'm about to ask what's wrong when you tilt your head just so and, almost aggressively, move forward to capture my lips with yours.
"I knew you'd understand," you said when we separated for air, before kissing me again, more deeply this time. And I'm not sure what it is I'm meant to be understanding, only that you feel so alive and warm as you tangle your hands in my hair and pull me to you, but I'm not trying too hard to figure it out. Being with you terrified me, but that was nothing new. I didn't know if this was love, wanting to make you happy, or if you felt anything remotely similar for me, but, I thought, that could come in time. We were in this life together after all, and had to make it through somehow.
"And I try not to worry, but you've got me terrified.
It's like your some kind of hurry to say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye."
Death Cab for Cutie "Your New Twin Sized Bed"