casting love on me as if it were a spell i could not break / when it was a promise i could not make
Mumford & Sons, "Hold On To What You Believe"
Billy Black has known Sue Clearwater since they were children. He was Harry's best friend, his best man. His brother. He is Seth's godfather. So Leah believes it stands to reason, surely, that if he hasn't learned by now the Clearwaters live by their own rules then he never will.
She has been watching — spying — rather inconspicuously through the window as the man tries his damned best to coax Sue back into some semblance of living, but even after an hour or so he's still apparently unable to understand that it's only something the woman is clearly only going to do when she's good and ready.
And Sue is not ready. At the moment she just looks unnervingly fragile, like a light breeze will easily knock her over and shatter her into pieces.
Ordinarily, Leah would have stood her ground and let her mother be. She would have told Billy just where exactly he could stick his nosy interference, but . . . well, it's been four days since Harry died, and not even having Seth back in the house has changed anything.
Leah hasn't said it out loud, but it's Sue's lack of awareness of Seth which has her worried more than anything else. The little punk has always been the light of their family; he is the favourite, the brightest, and Leah had really believed that he was going to be the game changer once he came home again. And yet Sue had barely blinked at his return.
So Leah is willing to let Billy try. He is the Chief, after all, and the Chief should know what to do when nobody else does. She will let the man soothe his own ego, let him fulfil his incessant need to try and fix things within his tribe, even if it only results in her mom telling him to leave. At least that would be something.
Sue has to snap at some point. It feels like they're all on tenterhooks, waiting for it, waiting for some kind of dramatic reaction. And it'll happen soon — it just has to. Maybe not for a few days yet, and only on Sue's own terms. Not anyone else's. Not hers, not Seth's, and certainly not Billy's.
The man is being very, very careful, as if he anticipates the very same — a snap. Leah watches the way he handles her mom like she is a frightened kitten, and what might be worse is that the comparison is accurate. Leah can almost hear his sage, quiet tone from the patio, can see her mother's discomfort in the way she shies away—
—but it's Jacob who Leah can feel behind her, quietly watching her just as closely as she is watching their parents.
He's not made a sound and she doesn't understand how she just knows he is there — she just does — and quite frankly, it frightens the living shit out of her. Enough that it's a small mercy she manages to keep her eyes trained on her mother and her voice steady as she speaks.
"Where did you go?"
Jacob's gulp is audible, but something (a sixth sense?) tells Leah that it's not because he's afraid. "If we get too angry . . ."
"It gets ugly," she finishes for him, remembering his cautionary words — only yesterday, in this very room. Leah thinks maybe she should start getting out more; since Harry died she's only left for his funeral and it feels as if she has been cooped up in this kitchen since. It's starting to drive her insane.
"Yes," Jacob says hoarsely from behind her.
There's a heavy pause, and she knows he is watching with her as her mom buries her face in her hands. She knows that he, too, can see how suddenly so very small Sue seems in the bathrobe she was wrapped up in before being brought downstairs. It does less to hide those awful pale, sharp features than Leah had hoped, though, and somehow makes all those meals which her mom has refused a little more obvious.
Leah briefly closes her eyes. She's failing. She needs to do better, be better.
She breathes deep, steadying herself and listening as Jacob shuffles on his feet like he wants to take a step closer but doesn't know what to do. She doesn't know, either.
"Are you okay?"
God. She wishes his voice didn't wash over her like that. When did that start happening? She wants to turn around and face him, but she knows what she will see. He will have that look. The one she doesn't know what to do with except stand her ground and hope that he breaks first. The one that burns and burns, that feels like Jacob is seeing her more deeply than she usually allows the naked eye.
It means something, the way he has been looking at her. It's more than him watching out for her little brother, more than him whispering poems in Quileute and sharing secrets in this kitchen. It's more than him being a second away from tearing poor Quil into pieces on the driveway.
And just like her mom, she is not ready. For this, whatever it is. And she wishes it would just . . . stop. Whatever this is, whatever it threatens, she wishes that it would just stop.
"No," she answers honestly. There's no use in lying. She has a feeling he'll know. "Are you?"
She's pretty sure at this point that she'd know if Jacob lied, too, and she finds herself grateful that he doesn't. She doesn't need or have time for more dishonesty on this reservation.
He takes a ragged breath. "Leah—"
For the first time that day, she is relieved for the interruption of the ringing phone. Relieved that, when she finally spins around, Jacob has fixed his heated gaze on it instead of burning holes in her back. He glares at the phone as if it has ruined something somehow, his expression halfway between desperate and murderous.
"It's for you," she says.
Jacob's jaw tightens. "Sam."
"He's been calling non-stop."
She shrugs, wanting to pretend she doesn't care but also wanting to keep her nerve as Jacob turns his eyes back on her. "He seems pretty mad. He said you sent Seth away before you were supposed to."
"Good," is all Jacob grunts out before he finally reaches for the phone.
His answer surprises her, but then, she thinks, maybe not. After all, Jacob has become her unlikely ally, she reminds herself, apparently having appointed himself Seth's advocate in, well . . . everything, really: finding him, bringing him home, sending him home again — even knowing it would piss Sam off.
He seems to be on her side, too, though she can't help but wonder whether the solidarity he's shown might come with conditions. It's not as if Quil looked at her like that, did he? He didn't make her squirm when offering the same thing.
Nobody makes her squirm. And yet . . .
"Sam," Jacob answers. "Yeah, it's me. He's upstairs, I can hear him. I told you he would — no, that was Quil."
Sucking in a breath as he listens, his argument building, Jacob looks furious again — more so, if it can be believed. "He's gone now, don't worry. I know. Yeah. I know—"
He looks at her suddenly, their eyes meeting. "She's here. Wait a sec," he says, and holds the phone out.
"Tell him to go fuck himself."
Jacob presses his lips together, fighting a smile. It's a nice change from the frown. "She says no. Jeez, she's fine, Sam. Chill out."
Leah scoffs nastily. Really? Like Sam is honestly worried about her! For all he was around before the funeral, following her around and waiting for her at the top of the stairs, Leah hasn't seen hide or hair of him since.
"Yep, 'kay, fine. I'll be here. Bye."
"You edited," Leah accuses when Jake puts the phone back with a grunt.
"Do you want him to come here?" he asks, and nods when she doesn't answer. "I didn't think so. He told me to tell you to stay away from Quil. And charge your cell."
She's torn between laughing or scowling in her outrage. Sam might think he rules Jacob's life, might even think he rules Seth's life, but he does not rule hers and he never has. "What's he gonna do about it?" she asks hotly. "The kid's absolutely terrified that he's next."
Jacob sighs, but doesn't look away. "He is next."
"So you're gonna make it worse by isolating him? I feel like shit for lying to him. What do I say when he comes back, huh? That I kicked your ass, like he asked me to?"
"If it makes you feel better," Jake offers with a small, unsure smile, "I think he'll believe you. You're pretty good at the whole ass-kickin' thing when you want to be, and he did look like . . . well, you know. Like that."
"Like —" Jacob's voice dips a little, his eyes turning a little more wild than she expects. "Like he likes you."
Another strange laugh bubbles inside of her throat. "Problem, Jacob?"
"No. Of course not," he says, but it's a little too quick, a little too automatic, and in spite of her frustration she can't help but smirk.
"I didn't think you cared," she croons, unable to stop herself even as he accepts the challenge in her voice and pushes himself away from the wall.
He begins to stalk across her kitchen, his scowl etched deep into his face as he moves closer and closer towards her. Everything about him says that he is not fazed by her taunts, her bitchiness or her temper. These horrible, nasty traits which have always been hers in one way or another but feel like they have manifested into something all the more terrible since her life began careering in a downward spiral.
(Did it start when Sam left? Or when Rebecca didn't come home? Before? Will she always be this way?)
He is so close than Leah can feel his breath when he warns, "Quil is dangerous, Leah. You shouldn't—"
"More dangerous than the rest of you?" she snaps, holding her ground. "Quil is frightened, Jacob, not dangerous. He's your friend!"
Jacob has the decency to look a little ashamed and her words seem to bring him up short — enough that he stops in his tracks, and the . . . burning look in his eyes which she is quickly becoming all too familiar with fades into sadness.
He swallows thickly, silent for a moment as he tries to find his next words. For some reason, he looks a little hurt. And then, "You . . . You don't think I'm dangerous, do you?"
"No," she answers honestly, because that's not what she meant or why her heart is hammering so. "And I don't believe Quil is, not really."
"Aside from the possibility of turning into a wolf at any given moment and ripping your face in two," he remarks, deadpan, and Leah knows without doubt now what really happened to her cousin.
She ignores the rolling of her stomach, the sudden sympathy she feels and extinguishes just as quickly. She wonders if that makes her truly heartless, if she is as cold and unforgiving as people are starting to believe despite it being Emily who is the traitor.
"Aside from that," Leah agrees, throat dry, but it only seems to frustrate Jacob further.
"So why," he demands, pleadingly enough that she is again wondering what has changed between the two of them that makes him care so much. "If you know you could be hurt—"
"He's lonely, Jake. I know what that's like, and it's not as much fun as I make it out to be."
Although Jacob looks like he wants to protest even though he knows that it's true, he doesn't have an immediate answer. He ducks his gaze and she finally pulls away from him, focusing back on her mom sitting in the yard still with Billy, idly wondering if the Chief has learned his lesson to not push a Clearwater yet.
Jacob comes to stand beside her by the kitchen counter and sighs deeply as he leans against it, closing the distance between them again. "Quil . . . Sam reckons it will be really soon. He can feel it, he says. He'll know the truth soon enough."
"Yeah," Leah mutters. "And when he becomes like you, he's going to hate me when he realises that not only did I know but that I didn't tell him."
"He won't hate you. Nobody hates you."
Jacob's words are quick, automatic, meant to appease her quickly rather than agree with anything she says. It's irritating, like a parent soothing their child even if it means they have to lie just because of a natural instinct to comfort.
"Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. In the end . . . people just stop bothering when all you do is bite their head off. I'm sure you will too, soon enough."
"Nah. I kinda like it," he says, apparently shocking himself as much as he does her with the admission. And then, with an embarrassed look down at her, he adds, "What I mean, is . . . You're honest. A bit brutal, sure, but at least I know what's really on your mind, how you really feel, y'know?" He scratches the back of his neck, still embarrassed. "That's what Rach and Beck always used to say, anyway."
She scoffs next to his shoulder. "What do they know. I'll be surprised if they remember who I am."
Leah misses the twins something fierce, her sisters in all but blood. And she might understand now — better than she ever has before, anyway — why Rebecca's put three thousand miles between herself and La Push in order to breathe right, why Rachel keeps her college-life and her Rez-life as separate as possible . . . but she is angry with them for not being able to come for just one day to hold her hand at Harry's funeral like she'd held theirs at Sarah's seven years ago.
Jacob simply grins down at her as if he's single-handedly discovered a worldwide problem in her response. "See?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Leah rolls her eyes and looks away, wondering if he can tell that it hurts to look at him and be reminded of her friends. She often sees them winking back at her in his face. She sees Rachel's sheer nerve and her wilfulness; Rebecca's sincerity and her compassion; both of their wit and their humour. And he is so, so like his sisters that sometimes her chest aches when she pays enough attention to him to be reminded of that.
Still triumphant, Jacob nudges her with his arm which is as hot as when he carried her up the stairs and held her in one piece whilst she cried. She doesn't recall him leaving afterwards, but she knows he stayed until she succumbed to her exhaustion.
"Are you staying?" Again, she adds silently. Not to be unkind, rather because she is wondering if she needs to thank him although though she's not certain exactly what it is she'd be saying thank you for.
She feels him tense, he's still that close. "You want me to go?"
"You said to Sam you'd be here—"
"Oh." Jacob relaxes, leaning his weight against the counter. Their backs are to the window. "He asked me to stick around."
"To keep an eye on me?"
"Something like that," Jacob admits with an air of guilt.
"Because of Quil or because of what you told me? About this imprinting thing?" Knowing Sam, she thinks, it would make sense why he seems so pissed after spending so long keeping his betrayal a secret.
"Actually . . . he doesn't know I told you that."
"But how?" Leah frowns. "What about the wolf thing? Reading each other's minds and having no privacy?"
"He hasn't caught me yet," Jacob says, but his show of cocky arrogance is a little shaky and has her frowning again when her mother shuffles through the back door, looking for all the world as if she wishes she could hide completely in that robe.
They both immediately push away from the counter, and Jacob's warmth is a sudden loss at her side as she goes to her mom and he goes to his dad to help the wheelchair over the threshold.
Billy's heavy, concerned eyes tell Leah that he hasn't made any progress; he's disappointed and frustrated, lips in a thin line. She kind of wants to say I told you so, except she didn't really tell him and he's never appreciated her impertinence. (Billy has always believed she is the bad influence on his daughters, not the other way around. And — fine, he's not wrong, but she's not going to tell him that.)
They don't speak, but they do sigh together as Sue starts making her retreat back up the stairs. At least she looks like she's still breathing underneath that robe.
Feeling Jacob's eyes on her again, Leah thinks her mom might be the only one who is.