"...She said, 'I think I'll go to Boston. I think I'll start a new life. I think I'll start it over,
where no one knows my name. I'll get out of California, I'm tired of the weather.
I think I'll get a lover and fly 'em out to Spain'..."
Part Three, The First...
There was a phone ringing by my head, annoying me as it shouted, rather loudly, "Take me down to Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty."
"Lee, get your phone..." I mumbled, turning onto my side before remembering that Leah wasn't here. She'd gone to Charlie's with Nessie and apparently run into Sue there. I guess Sue had wanted to have a "talk" with her or knit booties or something, as I don't think they've seen each other since Seth, er, kidnapped Leah. She's probably going crazy... unless Sue's making cookies. She makes very good cookies... When we were in elementary and middle school, she'd make gingerbread men every Christmas and decorate them in all sorts of crazy icing-clothes and send a huge bag of them to school with Seth, and, since I think I've been friends with Seth for like ever, Quil and Embry and I always got more cookies then anyone else in our class... and all the bits of broken extras when we went to his house.
One of my clearest, earliest memories is of right after my fifth birthday, when Mom died in that stupid accident at Forks' one stop light, all because we'd run out of milk and Jenny's Quik Mart and Gas Station closed at ten and for some reason we really needed some... only some guy didn't stop at the red light because he was too drunk to see straight, and stopped instead when he T-boned Mom's car... Like half the town was at the house in the week afterwards, with casseroles and whatever else people bring when someone dies. Sue was a near permanent fixture at the house for a while afterwards, and Harry and Charlie would always take Dad out fishing, trying to keep him from spiralling into depression. And with Sue came Leah, who was like eight at the time, and Seth, who was four. I remember my sisters locked themselves in their room and wouldn't come out, so Leah was bored stiff and reduced to helping her mother in the kitchen, by which I mean licking the bowl and stuff like that. Seth and I had been fighting over something stupid, like a toy or the remote or whatever little kids fight over, and, as we stopped, we heard laughter coming from one side. It was Leah, holding the biggest plate I think we owned, was laughing her ass off.
"That was the girliest fighting I've ever seen," she declared, thrusting the plate into my hands. On it were six large chocolate chip cookies and a whole lot of crumbs. "Next time just pull each other's hair; I think it might hurt more than whatever you were doing."
I think I said, "Okay," just staring at her in wonder. Usually people shouted at you for fighting. She didn't, like my sisters would've, nor did she look all weepy like everyone else. I didn't quite understand then what had happened. I just thought Mom was taking a real long time to get milk, and would be back soon. At least, that's what I think I thought.
"Good. Mom said for you to stop fighting and to give you these." She looked down at the plate, then back at the two of us. "I got bored while you were fighting and ate the others." And then she stalked off back towards the kitchen...
…and them sometimes she made these wonderful cookies with M&Ms in them, or Hershey's Kisses, and she had these sugar cookies where she put something like cinnamon on them...
And how I want a cookie. Way to go Jacob. Must get Leah to bring back some.
"Dude," Embry called, "answer the damn phone already."
Zack gave an agreeing mumble, and I searched with my hands closed for the thing. I swear, if it was Kate calling to ask how I liked the names Alexi and Aloysha Black, I'm going to burn her in nice tiny pieces, and Leah would just have to find another maid-of-honour or whatever. "'Lo?"
"Jake," came a soft whisper. Everyone else must be asleep already.
Trying to wake myself up a little more, "What's up, Lee? How're Sue and Charlie?" Leah I'll wake up in the middle of the night to talk to. Leeches who don't seem to be able to read a clock, not so much.
"I'm not with Mom or Charlie."
"Bothering you already?" I chuckled. Sue is great and Charlie's no so bad himself, but I imagine having to be in the same house with superhearing while your mom does your dead dad's best friend is just too much torture. Or she could've woken up and been unable to stand the smell of fish any longer. Pregnancy had done some weird things to her – yes, my fault, I know but werewolf! Hello. We're not exactly known for our self control. I mean, I was at Sam's place once while we were all still one pack and saw Embry loose it on a jar of peanut butter that wouldn't unscrew, and that was on a good day. Who'd've thought she'd actually get pregnant? She certainly didn't. I thought it was amazing. I mean, not only am I married to a woman I love, who just happens to be Leah Clearwater and doesn't take shit from nobody and is drop-dead gorgeous and has a sarcastic remark for every occasion, but we're going to have kids too. Granted, the fact that neither of us have jobs and are both werewolves living in the woods is a touch problematic, but, with a little work, I think Esme can be goaded into building us a proper house. So what if there's another bet going on about their sex? I've a Cullen-lent fifty on two boys. Quil has money on two girls, because he thinks I deserve two mini-Leah's. Seth has two hundred on one of each. Where he got two hundred bucks, I dunno, but it doesn't really matter. "Want me to wait up for you or-"
"I'm at Sea-Tac," she said quickly, confusing my sleepy mind. Sea...Tac... Oh! Airport! But what's she doing at an airport? Are Alice and Jasper finally on their way back? And why do they always send Leah on their errands? Granted, I can see why they might not want Quil driving one of their fancy cars, but Seth's a good driver...
Still, I felt a chill wind pass threw me as she said that, which was kinda odd. Not the cold part, 'cause most everything felt cold to me, but the wind part. The Cullens had built the lean-to well. How a wind might get into it was beyond me. My voice, for no reason known to me, crackled as I asked why. I even felt cold. Like my heart had stopped beating and no one would tell me why. I'm sure she was just on another Cullen errand-
"Long story. Bella begged me." (There were the sounds of people and a voice on a speaker in the background going, "Flight twenty-four fifty-eight to Seoul now boarding," which I found odd, 'cause the didn't let you onto the terminals any more to wait for people, and I don't think they do boarding calls in the places you can wait.) "To keep Ness and the twins safe."
But there was no way going to pick up people from the airport would keep you safe, unless- "Lee-" I spoke loudly into the phone. She can't be doing this. She can't be leaving. She can't be leaving me. There's got to be another explanation, there has to be. Maybe she didn't mean Sea-Tac airport, but just the general Seattle-Tacoma area. She couldn't be leaving. I mean, hadn't she begged? Hadn't she told me I could never leave her? Didn't that mean she could never leave me, even if it sounded like her voice was catching in her throat and the action was against her will? Since when did Leah Clearwater – Leah Black – do anything not of her own free will? She couldn't be doing this. She physically couldn't be doing this. There's no way-
"I love you," Leah said hastily, as if she thought she might never get to say it again, putting all her feeling and all her fears into the words so that it rocked me, and for a moment I couldn't think. What little breath I'd managed to take caught in my throat and my heart just all out stopped and shattered into a thousand pieces, or, at least, that's what it felt like as I tried to process what she was saying, what she was doing.
But that passed quickly, and I began, "I-" forcing air into my lungs before I realized she'd hung up the phone. Clambering up from my place in the lean-to, I struggled through the mass of werewolves towards the path that lead to the Cullens and the cars. I pressed redial.
It went to voicemail after only one ring. It wasn't her voice on the other end – I'm pretty sure she didn't even bother with checking her voicemail, or maybe didn't know she had one anyway – but Emmett's saying, "Hi! The Alpha wolf-girl isn't in at the moment, so leave your name, number, the name of the country you wish to invade, and the super-secret password-" I hung up and tried again. I shut Emmett off before he finished his first word. And tried again, and again, and again.
She must've shut the phone off for the flight... The tenth time I tried, I left a message. Placing all my hope that she'd listen. "Lee! Leah! I don't know what you're thinking but whatever it is, stop it. Come home. Get off that plane and come back. You can't just leave like this. You didn't even say goodbye. If you want to leave me... I'll..." I gulped, "...I'll deal with it, but tell me to my face. Let me at least say," the voicemail clicked off, and I finished somewhat lamely, breathing heavily not from running along the path but because I couldn't seem to calm it down, "goodbye."
Just as I came upon the manor, I was startled to see a figure flying out of it. A figure, surprisingly, I recognized through the blurry haze he was before he stopped in front of me. "Tell me you were just dreaming," he demanded, putting his hands on my shoulders and looking with his strange yellow eyes straight up at me. It was kinda weird, and I couldn't figure out why Edward might be interested in Leah leaving me unless... Nessie! She had Nessie with her! And they were going... somewhere. Maybe Seoul, but that could've been another flight... Or maybe...
"I... no..." was all I managed, trying to get around him, wanting to get to my car, where I could drive a hundred miles an hour... take the back-roads through the Olympic Forest and hope no humans were patrolling there... hours though, even then, unless someone had found out how to run three, four hundred miles in moments? He wouldn't let me, and for one moment he stood perfectly still, as if not realizing what I said or what I was thinking besides, Must... Leah... Sea-Tac... Hurry, hurry, hurry... And then I caught it, a noise halfway between a sob and a growl forming in his chest before he spun around and rushed back into the house.
Loudly, louder then necessary, he shouted, "Bella!" and for the rest of his family.
I, feeling the same emotion writhe within me, followed, though it might've only been the reaction of a trained dog after his master – and that was what I felt like now.
Inside, Edward was standing, Carlisle and Esme looking at his stricken face with worry and doing much the same when their eyes darted and caught my own. Rose and Emmett, after a moment, joined them, Rose in a negligee that would've been inappropriate in a "gentlemen's club" that didn't even stir the crudest of insults in my mind. Kate and her nomad and the Irish women were still there, apparently not having moved, watching the weather channel as keenly as they'd Titanic, though low pressure formations had much less annoying music.
Walking at human pace down the stairs, Bella came down, looking defiant. I think this is the first hint of the old, stubborn Bella I remember from before Edward left her. But I cannot rejoice in the slow return of my friend from her self-imposed exile, filling the marble shell she has become with something you might actually call life. Not when this return is heralded by the destruction of mine. I bet you she's been holding a grudge against Leah since that time she yelled at her about me while Bella was still pregnant and, knowing Leah, she'd found a way to make even harmless words like "the" and "you" into dangerous, cutting phrases.
No, that was wrong. Bella didn't hold grudges. For the life of her, she couldn't even be angry at Jasper for almost killing her on her eighteenth. She blamed herself for bleeding forgetting that all the other vampires in the room had restrained themselves, the fool. She didn't have a cruel bone in her body...
Yet everything she touched broke, starting with herself. She'd almost broken Charlie, letting him think she was dying, before I brought him to the manor. And now, already busily in the process of breaking the entirety of the vampire world, she was taking the time to break me.
What had I done? I'd been friends with her, and maybe I'd had a crush on her 'cause she was a girl who actually bothered to hang out with me that was broken almost as soon as I realized all she wanted from life was to die, because a single lifetime with a man who could love you wasn't as good as an eternity as an undead creature, where you'd pretend to be Gods among the mortals and would never change, never know anything other then what you'd already felt, and would slowly forget everything that had ever mattered to you... I didn't love her any more. Maybe I'd never loved her, and it was just a flirtation of opportunity, and had any other girl done as she had, I would've felt the same. But she had been my friend. Once. When she was still herself.
It wasn't worth it to have old Bella back, not if that meant she... well, did whatever she'd done... and now Leah was gone. With the twins, and Nessie.
I was near shaking with anger, but didn't phase. I could do that at least. Get answers before I freaked Seth out that his sister was...
"Bella," Edward said very quietly, as if this was no more than after-dinner conversation, "I thought you said Nessie was at your fathers."
Unrepentant, "I did."
"Then why did Jacob just get a call from his wife saying she was at the airport? With our daughter?"
"Because they are at the airport – and will be flying far away from us and the Volturi by now, to some place where they'll be safe."
The room exploded into voices and noise from every direction, and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I gave up and gave in, phasing the moment I was on the porch and running before my feet hit the ground. Patrolling. That's what I needed to do. Run so I don't have to think. It worked before. It'll work again. And then I'll wake up and realize this is all some awful dream, and Leah will be there, laughing at me for having such a ridiculous dream and I'll make fun of her and the rainbow werewolves that paraded through hers and imply her thoughts were going to make the twins purple and neon green when they were born, and she'd mumble something about skittles that would lead to me having to run and get her pickles or habenero peppers or pineapple or pizza with pickles and peppers and pineapple... and I was hungry again. Great going Jake.
It's all only a dream. A nightmare. Think of other things. Think about... think about what Sir Edward the Annoying said about the Volturi. One of them killed his sister. Twice. First to make her a vampire, then to destroy her so her mate wouldn't leave. The second one doesn't know... They're old... old vampires make mistakes... forget human things... Powerful... greedy... bellicose...
Whoa, Jake! said Quil, who was running the border near the south spur of the border, where it was the closest to La Push, What's with the vocab words? Leah refusing to sleep with you until you get an A in Mr. Mora's class?
Predictably, Little brother here! I don't care what Leah might or might not be doing with you, I just don't want to have to see the pictures!
You're such a baby, Seth.
And you're such a baby-lover-
Stop ragging on Claire, okay! She-
But I wasn't, said Seth, who was luckily at the opposite end of the border, towards Lake Pleasant, I was picking on you. Big difference.
Can you guys shut up for like five minutes? I'm trying to think?
Of course O High and Mighty Alpha. Trying to remember what Lee wanted you to pick up from Quickmart?
No, I growled, trying to repress the memories of the last half-hour. It didn't work, and I could see through Quil's eyes as he stumbled at the news, while Seth came to a full on halt, one paw still in the air.
The cacophony I'd tried to avoid in the manor moved into my head.
Who? I snapped irritatedly. You've not said that one yet.
Seth was still standing still, unable to come to terms with the news I'd inadvertently given him. You've gotta be wrong. I mean, this is Leah we're talking about. She doesn't run away. She fights. And when she breaks an arm, she continues to fight. And when she's bleeding to death, she still fights. She just doesn't- They drugged her. That has to be it. They drugged her or one of the leeches has some kind of mind-control powers they've not told us about. She can't be gone... He seemed to realize his paw was still in the air and set it down without noticing what he was doing. I mean... Seth sat, and went very quiet.
How could none of the other leeches not know? There're like thirty of them stuffed into that house, an image of a polka-doted Volkswagen came up in his mind, and for some unknown reason, coroners were pulling the dead bodies of at least ten clowns out of it, how did none of them not notice anything?
I shrugged and continued running, trying not to think about it. I didn't need to think about it, 'cause it wasn't happening, and this would all just be some big mistake. Maybe there was a restaurant named Sea-Tac that played airplane boarding announcements in the background. That had to be it. And the food was so-
How could she just leave? I mean, I know she likes Nessie and all, but it's not like Leah. She still wanted to fight, even after knocking boots with you. For once, Seth didn't interrupt as Quil mentioned me and Leah doing anything besides being within ten feet of each other. Why'd she run away?
Clone... we heard Seth mutter, they made a clone of her and...
It doesn't matter. It's not real, I told them. This is all some messed up dream. Emmett but LSD in the vampires' blood and laced our food with 'shrooms. It can't be real... Leah was Leah and solid and permanent and inflexible and wouldn't just listen to a vampire's whim. Especially when it was a vampire she hated. But, with how worried she's been lately, and how tired she is, and all the hormones... No... It couldn't be. She was really at Charlie's and would come home in the morning and I could even go there now and check up on her...
Sure, Jake, my Beta said slowly. I'm sure it's all just a joke... I knew he didn't believe it, but he was trying to help. What do you want to talk about instead?
Penguins... Peitfores... Pie... Let's talk about pie. I like pie.
Pie is good, Quil agreed distantly.
It comes in apple and apricot and blueberry and blackberry and banana and I just don't get it. I just don't fucking understand it. She didn't even...
I know, agreed Quil, while Seth was thinking of ways to make it seem like Leah wasn't gone, just as ultimately as Harry, pictures of both Lee and their dad flickering through his mind to be wiped away by alien conspiracies and ghola before his thoughts came circling back to his dead father and his missing sister. I know.
..and the Last