Front Desk

Title: Front Desk
Rating: PG
Pairing/Character(s): Leah/Jake, Bella/Edward (background)
Word Count: ~3,800
Warnings/Spoilers: Language; suggestion of violence towards children.
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: Jake didn't come back for Bella's wedding. No, he stayed away a little longer. This is why he, eventually, came back.


Fronk Desk
A Blackwater Story


"Buried deep as you can dig inside yourself, and hidden in the public eye,
such a stellar monument to loneliness."

It wasn't much this new life of mine, but it was something. I know some will say it's cheating, running away, but I just had to get away. It's not enough that I have to fight monsters – that I had to become a monster – for the rest of my life, some kind of "sacred duty" or other that no one bothered to tell anyone about until it was too late to back out, oh no. No, my best friend had to want to become one of those monsters.

I mean, okay, I get it. Bella doesn't like me that way. To honest, I'm kinda grateful. Whenever we were together, she was always pouting about that leech who left her, and, after he came back, I was completely forgotten. I didn't want to be the rebound-guy, chosen just 'cause he happens to be the closest monster in the vicinity. I just wanted to show her there was a choice. Her mind was made up, though, and she chose the cold-blooded, Bambi-killing mind-reader anyway.

She didn't have to be such a bitch about to send me a wedding invitation, though. Now that I'm away from it all, I wonder if she's even capable of feeling anything for anyone besides herself. She probably doesn't even care that Charlie's probably heartbroken from whatever disaster they pretended when they turned her. It still hurts. I had to run away. I had to go somewhere where I didn't have to see her in her perfect, undead happiness while all the rest the world was in mourning for the girl they thought had existed. They never saw the monster that I can see now so obviously was underneath.

Except for maybe Leah. She always hated Bella. She kinda hates everyone, but at least she's honest about it. And- but what does it matter anyway? I'm never going back to La Push; I'm never going to see either one again, or anyone from my old life. And I'll at last be free.

Free but lonely. I miss the Rez. I miss being a wolf. I miss everyone, even Leah. I mean, I've made a couple of more-or-less friends at work and all, but it's not the same. (Yes, I know. Me, working, whoever would've thought? It's a gym in Anchorage where all the retired fishermen and thirty-something-mothers-of-two go, and it always smells like wet and mouldy shoes, but it's eight-twenty and hour, and all I have to do is swipe cards and fold towels. And make small talk at the front desk with old people and the women with hair so platinum you know they're here 'cause they think they're husbands are having affairs or want a divorce, or something that requires "drastic action" on their parts. And occasionally have to explain to said old people that, while, yes, the usual version of things is No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service, they can't wander around pant-less either. It's a job, though, and requires no skills other than me standing there looking muscle-y. They think I'm twenty-three, of course, and don't have a clue the references I gave them all forward to one of the Denali's cell phones.) I can't even hate the Denalis, who I ran into while I was still doing my wondering werewolf act and who fronted me the cash to set up here on the promise that I stay out of their forest, the way I could the Cullens. With the Cullens, I never knew if they wanted too make me their pet guard dog or kill me; the Denali vampires at least are honest about their intentions, and so long as I stay away from the national park where they live, we're cool.

I guess I had to start over somewhere. Anchorage is as good as any.

My days are all alike. It's another five-to-three shift, there's another load of towels to be folded, and the only thing of any excitement going on today is a fire drill set for one, when I plan to be on lunch. After my shift, I'll go to the deli three blocks like I always do and, after that, I'll go the tiny closet of a space I'm subletting from a junior at the University of Alaska and listen to the radio until I fall asleep. It isn't much, but it is something, and there are no patrols or vampires or assorted monsters to worry about. I tell myself that's enough, but that's a thin lie at best.

If only I could go home without worrying about the Cullens and the people who want to kill them and, therefore, us...

If only Sam would get his head out of his ass and at least be decent about the whole werewolf thing...

If only I'd a reason to go home. But things will suck just as much there as they do here, no improvement.

So I stay. There's nothing else I can do.

It was a quarter-past-twelve when she appeared, walking through the front doors with leaf litter in her hair and traces of dirt on her face, carrying herself like she did this all the time. I could see Tina, the older lady who'd worked the ten-to-eight shift, go wide-eyed, which is a bigger reaction than I've seen from her in the last six weeks. Tina was like an old schoolmarm, right down to the tight grey bun, and could stare down any of the towel-less crazies. But, for Leah, who'd just come in from from a wind chill of forty wearing nothing more than a sun dress that'd seen some better days, Tina had nothing.

"There you are," she said as if we'd only planned to meet up at the movies or something and walked right up to the desk, putting an elbow on the high counter and resting her head on her palm. "You know you were going in circles for a while?"

It was Leah's unique ability to be able to make anyone she met impossibly angry in five minutes or less. I fought the urge to snap at her, saying dryly instead, "No." I fought just as hard to quash the bubble of excitement that rose in me at seeing someone familiar, even if it was only Leah. Actually, come to think about it, I was glad that, if it had to be somebody, it was her. She could be rude, impulsive, vulgar, and completely dangerous to be around, but Leah was... well, I don't know what she was, but unlike everyone else she's not going to lie to me about all the reasons I should come back to the Rez. No, she'll probably tell me straight out that Sam wants me to get over whatever shit I'm going through then go on for a bit about how unhappy she is that she was the one sent to fetch me, and, when she's done, just sit around and glare at me until I give in and let her drag me back. I held back a smile.

"Well, you did. I thought I'd lost the trail when I made the third pass outside of Whitehorse, but no, it was just you being you."

"I didn't ask you to follow me."

"I didn't ask." She looked around idly for a moment, then turned back to me. "Though if I'd known you were here, I'd've come sooner. Woulda brought you some of those pine tree air fresheners – unless you've grown to like the smell of feet? You have, haven't you? Well, you always had strange tastes-"

"Leah!" I said more loudly than I intended, causing Tina, who'd been pretending not to listen, to jump in surprise.

Leah, however, only rolled her eyes at me. "You must be dying to get out of here."

I was, but I wasn't about to tell her that, even if I was rather glad to see her. "I'm surprised Sam waited this long to have someone drag me back."

"Sam," she said, wrinkling her nose distastefully as she tended to do these days whenever he was mentioned, "is a mother-fucking, baby-killing, leech-obessed idiot." I nodded. Leah continued. "He couldn't be happier that you're gone. He goes on now about how ungrateful you are for casting aside our 'gift' and 'betraying' the Rez, and is, all in all, quite pleased not to have you around as competition any more – it's all very Alpha male," Leah made an odd, disinterested wave with the hand she wasn't propping herself up with. "Any more excited, and he'll start humping furniture."

Her words, however, only served to confuse me. I mean, I know Leah hates Sam and all and would do anything short of making out with a leech to get back at him for imprinting on her cousin while they were still dating, but going two thousand odd miles to find me? She's totally only doing it 'cause I'm the "rightful alpha" and all that shit and therefore the best candidate to make pack life a living hell for her him, but still. I'd've thought her more likely to French a leech than try and find me. Unless...

And now I have an image of Leah and Blondie in my head that is not at helpful in this current situation. Great. Just great. Now is not the time, I told the part of my mind that created such daydreams and tried to focus on the real, clothed Leah in front of me. "Why'd you come then?"

"Complicated," was all she said, giving the area by the front desk another once over before glaring at Tina, who was still trying to listen in. "Some place with fewer ears maybe?"

Following her gaze, I looked towards Tina who, God help me, was looking between the two of us like she could spot the connection there. "Studio C's free," I said, and slipped out from behind the desk, heading towards the main hall.

She didn't follow immediately, just continued to stare at Tina, like there was something she knew the woman wanted to say and was threatening bodily harm if she so much as thought about it. But that was Leah for you, and I had to turn and go back, grabbing her by the hand so she would follow.

A quick walked down the hall, which was really just the space between the stairs and the free-weights, and then a sharp right around the divide that separated the free-weights from a sunken, open area where they did jazzercise and we were there. I peeked through the narrow glass in the door, just to make sure it was clear, before pulling us in.

Studio C had two dozen stationary bikes facing a wall of mirrors. The third wall (for there were only three; the room was a weird, wedge-like shape that more or less exactly failed to have any useful purpose) was a series of several curving panes of glass that made up the outer wall of the gym, which its designers had thought a good idea to make fairly round, rather than the normal boxy model these sorts of places came in. But beyond the glass was a picture of tall, wind-whipped conifers that the wolf in me was just begging to run; this image was reflected the wall of mirrors, as were Leah's hands (which, by now, she'd snatched away, glaring at me), which were wringing themselves behind her back.

"Things are bad," Leah said, turning to the mirrors rather than look at me. She wouldn't even look at my reflection, just studied her own, frowning as she moved a lock of dirty hair out of her face. "The love-birds came back from their honeymoon two weeks ago."

"Well-" I never wanted to hear a word about those particular leeches ever again.

Intently, no, almost desperately, "Just listen, Jake! You think I like talking about Tweedledum and Tweedledum-er any more than you like hearing about them? No. So just listen, 'cause your Bella's not an icicle yet."

My ears perked up, but only 'cause it was unexpected. I'd assumed she'd be a newborn vampire by now, having to be restrained from terrorizing innocents and all that.

She seemed to catch this, continuing in that singular way Leah has, "Don't get your hopes up. The bitch is pregnant."

It took me a moment. I think I blinked a lot. "Pregnant? But- but how?"

"Freeze dried sperm, apparently. It's probably a Korean delicacy." Noting my gag, "Yeah, that was my reaction too. The she-vamps are all excited for the spawn, never mind the fact that it seems to be growing a couple hundred times faster than usual. When I left, Little Miss Suicide was drinking blood and looked halfway to popping already. She'll probably have the thing any day now, it took me so long to find you."

"Why do I care!" my words were sharp and echoed a little in the small room. Leah even flinched, though she made valiant effort to hide the fact. "She made her choice. If she wants to die so badly-!"

"It's her spawn. Sam found out about it – Seth couldn't help it; you know you can't hide anything much when phased, especially if you're Seth – and he wants to kill it as soon as it's born. A baby!"

Sam hated the Cullens even more than I did. I could see him wanting to do that. What I could not see was Leah caring so much, especially as she was calling Bella's kid "spawn".

"Oh, don't look at me like that," she said, spinning away from the mirrors, her brown eyes bright passion they had not known in, well, longer than I could remember. "He wants to kill a baby, and, much as I hate the leeches, I can't let him do that. I mean, what'd a baby ever do to deserve death? I don't care if it's half-leech and that it might've grown up to be a worse monster than its parents; if we kill it, you see, it'll never grow up, and it'll never be that monster. It'll always just be a poor little baby, who never did anything but be born, and it couldn't help that. None of us ask to be born. And that's what it'll be that we kill. A baby.

"I don't care if it's the right thing to do. I can't do it – I won't do it, not even if its death will solve all our problems forever, and make the Cullens move away, and let the Rez be safe forever without any more kids having to become like us and without any more suffering ever again. Not if it means the death of a poor little baby that never did anyone any harm. I'd love for it all to be over, I really would, and for things to go back to as they were," (were those tears welling in her eyes? This was Leah Clearwater, who never cried, who never seemed to feel pain, who'd die sooner than admit something was wrong with her), "and for everything and everyone to be safe and happy and whatever the crap else people are supposed to be, but I won't have it if it means letting them put to death an innocent kid – even a half-vampire kid. It's not worth that price; I'd rather have to deal with the Cullens for the rest of eternity than pay that price."

Leah turned away from me again, this time towards the window and the forest beyond, so I couldn't see her face, and we were silent for several long, long minutes.

I felt like I should do something, something other then stand her and watch her fight off tears, but I feared her reaction to a hug or any such thing I might've done for my sisters. It was awkward, not knowing what to do, what do say – like all the worst parts of high school all rolled into one, only much worse, 'cause this actually means something. Not just life for this half-human, half-vampire baby, who I can't feel anything towards, not after everything its mom had put me through, but for Leah too. I know, deep down in that place that says against all odds you love your parents (even when they're angry at you for the stupidest thing and grounding you for ever because of it), or that the Mariners are your favourite baseball team, (even when they're having a loosing streak and their pitcher is just throwing everything wrong), that if Sam kills that baby, it'll be the end for Leah. It'll be the straw that breaks the camel's back. The final thing in the list of things she cannot take. I don't know what that itself might mean, only that it'll be nothing good.

Not knowing what else to do, I went up to her and – slowly – put a hand on her shoulder, ready to snatch it back if she seemed ready to attack. "Er," I began, oh so confidently I know, "what do you think I can do about it?"

She laughed one of those strange, almost wet laughs people have when they've been crying or else about to, "Come back to Pride Rock, Simba."

"What the fuck?"

"Oh, come on," she said, turning around, laughing harder at my reaction, which was to jump back and look at her like she was crazy and it was catching. "It's a perfectly valid movie reference, even if it is Disney. You're the rightful Alpha of the pack, and you may do stupid things like run away to Anchorage when you could've at least gone come place warm, or, at least, exciting, but you know right from wrong. You can stop this – this and all of Sam's other madnesses. He'll have us, I dunno, chasing all the cats off the Rez or get matching tattoos or something else insane next."

There was something wild in how she said this last bit, eyes almost flashing with intensity as she moved, gesturing wildly, to close the distance between us. She grabbed my face, standing on the tips of her toes, to force me to look at her. I noticed the strangest things, like how her short, thick hair was fanning around her head like it'd a life of its own, and how I'd never really been this close to a girl before (Bella doesn't count, she didn't want me there, and always was bundled up like that kid from A Christmas Story besides) and sense every inch of her. That part of my mind that daydreamed at inopportune times wondered what it'd be like to cross that small, impossible distance between us and touch for real, but I pushed the thought roughly away, trying to think straight for once in my life.

"Leah," I said slowly, unable to look away and, for some reason, really wishing I didn't have to meet her eyes right now, "I don't want to be Alpha."

"And I," she said equally slowly, "never wanted to be this fuckingly hot, but I deal with it." More seriously, lowering her hands (which, in the fractional space between us, brushed briefly against my chest, pulling the daydreaming quarter of my brain back into the spotlight; it was taken by the idea of trying the movement again, without the stupid health club polo), "I know what you're going through. But you just can't run away. Hiding from the problem only makes it worse; the only way to deal with the pain is to fight through it."

"Like that's worked so well for you." The instant I said it, I wished I hadn't, and caught her hands as she started to turn away again. "Sorry! That was- I shouldn't've- Don't listen to me when I'm angry. I always say stupid things when I'm angry."

"You always say stupid things, period" she muttered. Then, more hopefully, "Does this mean you're coming back?"

I looked at the stationary bikes, then back to Leah, who was biting her bottom lip, waiting. I didn't want to be Alpha. Never had, never would. But I, it seemed, could at least run away. Leah didn't have that option. Sam would probably kill her for trying to find me when she got back to the Rez if I wasn't with her, to refocus his anger...

"Please? - I mean, Seth's missed you, and-"

I couldn't help but smile (Leah Clearwater saying please? An impossibility even the daydreaming part of me hadn't ever seriously considered; it quickly reconsidered its position, and several new, unbidden, and currently unhelpful thoughts crept their way across my mind). "I guess I am. Just let me grab a few things," I said, thinking that maybe we could scrape together enough cash for a boat or even a flight back to Washington. Be faster even than running, "from-"

"Your apartment? Dingy place. I looked for you first there," she said by way of explanation. "You're going to need a new door knob by the way."

I groaned, thinking of the security deposit (and not at all of Leah at my place, which the stupid, hyperactive, overstimulated, daydreaming part of my mind wanted me to; not at all) and opened the door, being very careful not to destroy the handle in the process.

"This is one time that you can't fake it hard enough to please everyone or
anyone at all. And the grave that you refuse to leave, the refuge that you've built to flee
the places that you have come to fear the most."
Dashboard Confessional "The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most"

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