A/N: Wherein the author goes way over word count and has to split the chapters (the next one is coming soon; I had to set it up with a silly filler), Kim just wants a friend, and school sucks. Hope you're all doing okay!
just say the word
we'll take on the world
You Me At Six, "Take on the World"
Sitting through yet another week of school whilst Jacob runs around after vampires who would quite happily kill him — or rather, stand on the side-lines and watch him die in their place — proves to be a whole new kind of torture for Leah. Especially now that Sam has started to ramp up patrols again, what with the redheaded leech being back and all. As if Jacob's schedule isn't hectic enough already.
And it's only Monday morning.
By lunchtime, she feels like she's been at school for nineteen hours and has forty assignments in her rucksack, weighing it down and giving her sleepless nights already. It's no wonder that the boys have all dropped out when she herself can barely keep up. Not to mention that she's going to have to spend her lunch and free study period drafting out Seth's boring-as-shit freshman History essay instead of her own boring-as-shit senior English Literature essay, all because he was too busy risking life and limb instead of spending his weekend working on his assignments.
She refuses to complain. Refuses to give in, because she knows that the second her little brother catches wind of her frustration he will plead his case to join the pack full-time again. It wouldn't matter if she were on the other side of the world and so much as scowled at her textbooks, he'd call her out on it — he's been listening out for the signs, watching and waiting, all for a reason to argue. Just as he has been nearly every day since she made the decision that they were both going to graduate.
So if she has to do his assignments for him to make that happen, then so be it. She might not have control over Sam needing all hands on deck, she might not be able to stop him from breaking his promise to keep Seth at home studying, but she does have control over this.
The school library is tiny, just like the school itself, but Leah spreads her bag and books out over a whole table they're usually meant to share between three or four students, and she settles in for the next two hours. She gets a few looks — including a particularly stern glare from Mrs Irving, the school's librarian, especially when she breaks out her sandwiches and threatens to leave crumbs everywhere — but Leah feigns ignorance and starts penning an introduction for Seth's essay on Steinbeck's use of nonfiction sources in 'The Grapes of Wrath' . . .
It's riveting stuff.
Honestly, it's so boring that she'd rather be sitting in a lecture for one of her crappy electives — electives she is only taking to boost her GPA, otherwise she'd drop the extra workload in a heartbeat. She'd only signed up for them in the first place because she had been planning to follow Rachel and Sam to college and she needed the extra credit. Now she needs them to simply graduate.
By the time she finishes eating her lunch, she has already stifled a hundred yawns or so when someone approaches the table and pulls out the free chair that is closest to her.
Leah doesn't have to look up from the page she is reading — and loosely plagiarising from — to know who it is.
"That's taken," she says, blinking away tears of exhaustion.
"Oh," comes the timid voice she has been expecting. "Are you saving it for Seth? I can sit on one of the other ones."
Leah keeps both her pen and her eyes on paper. "Don't you have friends your own age, Kim?" she asks with a weary sigh.
She doesn't mean to be rude. Well, she does. But Kim Lowery is barely a year older than Seth, is in a committed life-long relationship and doing the dirty already, which is nine kinds of weird (even without factoring in the supernatural secrets), meaning that Leah has about as much in common with her as she does Bella Swan.
Which is to say, not much at all. Nothing. Zilch. Squat.
Except for one thing. And apparently that one thing is why the other girl has made it a life mission to become friends with Leah by seeking her out — and following her around — ever since she returned to school. Mostly it happens every lunch period, almost as if Kim thinks that the girls are bound like the boys are bound.
Leah remembers telling Embry that she didn't think she was going to like Kim very much.
She was right.
(It's not a 'girl thing' — it's a 'people thing'. Leah can count her friends on one hand; she knows who she can trust, who she can rely on, and who she can't. Unfortunately for Kim, she just isn't one of those people. Pack or not.)
"What are you working on?" the girl asks instead.
"The Dust Bowl." Leah blinks, hard, trying to clear her vision. Her handwriting is getting sloppier and sloppier with every sentence. "I think. It's Seth's."
"I did that last year," Kim replies, and she makes it sound like an offer.
But Leah is nothing if not stubborn. "I'm sure you're busy enough as it is."
Of all the pack, Jared is the only one who is keeping up with his schoolwork, and that's purely because Kim gives him all her notes and turns in his assignments. In fact, Leah is pretty sure that Kim actually does all his homework for him and just signs it off with his name.
Much like she's doing for Seth.
Kim doesn't move, her hand still on the back of the chair. "Steinbeck, right?"
Leah finally looks up at her. It's a face she knows well, even without being followed around and the whole creepy sister-imprint thing Sam tries to encourage, because everyone knows everyone on the Reservation; there's less than a hundred kids enrolled in their school, from kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. Of that, only eight are seniors. There's about thirteen kids in Seth's grade, seven kids in the grade below that. Twelve in the junior class — eleven, without Paul. There are far, far less sophomores, of course, their number of five seeming rather pitiful with Jared, Embry, Quil and Jacob being absent. It's probably why Kim feels so lonely, being in an empty classroom like that.
Leah heaves another great sigh and pushes the barely-written essay across the table. Call it her one charitable act for the month. For the year.
Humming with something that sounds suspiciously like victory and satisfaction and pure pleasure all mixed together as she pulls out the chair, Kim's tight-lipped smile over her broad, pretty features suggests she's otherwise trying to reign in the triumph she so obviously feels.
She perches on the edge of her newly claimed seat with a straight back, looking ready for business, grasping the essay between both hands. She looks entirely too pleased with herself, Leah thinks.
"What's the question?"
"Non-fiction sources, something something," she mumbles back, her head getting lower and lower until she's resting it on her forearm and closing her eyes. She blindly offers up the pen with her other hand which is instantly plucked from her fingers. "Don't make it too fancy; he's missed half a semester, remember."
She doesn't receive a reply, so she cracks one bleary eye open and says in her best severe tone, "This doesn't make us friends."
"What about study partners?" the girl asks quietly, a fierce blush blooming.
"I guess," she says grudgingly. "I mean, if you have to put a label on it, sure."
The younger girl giggles, wholly awkward and a little bit too loud for the librarian's liking. She is promptly hushed, and Leah thanks her stars for it . . .
. . . until a few minutes later when, after the coast is clear, Kim drops her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Jared said you were funny."
Teetering on the edge of the best power nap she's ever had during school hours, Leah finds she doesn't particularly want to listen to any imprint-induced swooning and cusses something slightly unfavourable towards Jared underneath her breath.
Thankfully Kim doesn't hear a thing. She stays where she is, working dutifully on Seth's History paper until the period bell rings again.
When school finally, finally lets out for the day, Leah meets her brother as usual in front of the main building and tries to plaster a smile on her face in spite of the frown on his.
"Come on, kid," she says cheerfully, reaching up (and up) to ruffle his chopped hair. She has to jump a little; he is six-two at fourteen-years-old thanks to his lupine genes and is growing more with every day that passes, she is sure of it. "Only four more days to go 'til the weekend."
Seth takes her backpack and slings it over his free shoulder, his own bag hanging lowly off the other one. He doesn't seem to notice the weight. "If I have to sit through another double period of History, I think I'm going to explode," he grumbles, moody. "Literally."
"Good thing your essay is done, then," she replies, nodding to her pack.
"Already? Wow. Thanks."
"Don't thank me. Kim did it."
"Kim?" he asks, more disbelieving than anything else. He knows more than most people that Leah has been avoiding the girl and their traitor cousin for a reason, although Leah would bet that he doesn't really view Emily as a traitor anymore; he spends as much time at her house on the edge of the Rez than he does at home, even if he hasn't dared to say as much in fear of upsetting the balance they all seem to have found.
Leah shakes her head. "Don't ask."
"Right," Seth says slowly. "Well, anyway, now we have to do this project on it too. Group project. And they're just all . . ." He trails off, familiar anger brewing behind his eyes as he begins the walk off school premises.
She has to hurry to keep up with his long legs. It's still disconcerting that her baby brother has such an advantage over her when less than a year ago she could pat him on the head without straining.
"You're not going to explode," she says, as gentle as she is confident. "You wouldn't be back in school if anyone thought that. Your control is almost as good as Jake's."
Usually, Seth preens under such praise. Especially when he's compared to his hero. But not today. "I don't know, Lee. I nearly flipped this afternoon. Over nothing. Had to ask for a hall pass so I could pretend to go to the bathroom and cool off."
"If it makes you feel any better," she offers lightly, not knowing what else she can give him other than sarcastic retorts and grumblings of her own (after all it is her fault that he's having such a hard time), "I think Kim is my new best friend. On the plus side, she'll probably do all your homework if I ask her to, so you don't have to worry about that."
Seth levels an unimpressed look down at her which she meets with a comical one of her own. "At least you have someone to talk to. I'm finding it kind of hard to stay friends with anyone in my class, you know, considering they've never tried to kill a vampire or regularly turn into an animal, or anything. Kind of hard to relate."
Leah's smile is the most genuine it's been all day. Let it never be said that she's not taught her brother dry humour. "I'm so proud of you, kid. Really."
Her brother snorts with a shake of his head, but at least he's finally smiling, too, his anger having fractured enough that she knows he'll be calm by the time they get home. He probably just needs to eat.
"Yeah, well. Whatever." He scratches the back of his neck self-consciously. "I know you'd kick my ass if I quit—"
A sudden roar of an engine from across the tiny parking lot of their tiny school has their heads snapping away from each other, and Leah's smile reforms bigger than before.
He's in a black tee and jeans that are smeared with grease. He's even wearing his combat boots, and Leah thinks it's the first time she's seen him with shoes on his feet and more than a simple pair of battered cut-offs covering his ass for weeks.
She hurries over with a speed she would usually mock other people running to their boyfriends for, Seth now the one who is hot on her heels instead, except he doesn't have such a hard time trying to keep up with his stupidly long legs.
"Hey man," he says for them both. He is either oblivious or politely ignoring the way Leah has all but thrown herself into Jacob's arms. "What's up?"
"I gotta go do something," Jake says by way of a reply, looking at her only. Like he is regarding her carefully as if to judge her reaction. Seth might as well not be present; they are both unaware of him and the stares of their passing classmates. If anybody didn't know that she was dating Jacob Black, they certainly do now. "And you're not going to like it."
Leah raises a brow and pulls back just enough to be able to take in his whole face. She only saw him last night, but it feels like far longer. "You need me to talk you out of it?"
"No," he says, decisive but soft. Grateful, even, that she asked. "Just wanted to let you know."
"Is it something dangerous?"
"Maybe," he says slowly, unsure whether to give her the whole truth. Which, in Leah's book, means that yes, it is. Dangerous enough that he had the forethought to check in with her first in case something goes a little bit — or a lot — wrong.
She nods, pouting slightly as she pretends to weigh her options.
"Okay," she says after a moment with a tiny shrug. "Sounds fun. When are we leaving?"
Jacob's sunny grin appears so fast that it threatens to split his face right in two. Leah repays it in kind without a thought.
"I was hoping you were going to say that." He jerks his head, beckoning her to join him in his apparent recklessness, buoyed by her quick answer. "Hop on."
There's not a single second of hesitation before she twists out of his hold and leaps onto the back of the polished motorbike. She throws both her hair over her shoulder and a look at her little brother that she hopes appears somewhat remorseful, despite the fact that she feels nothing of the sort.
"Sorry, kid. Duty calls." She knows she doesn't sound it either, unable to stop beaming in spite of the very real possibility that she is about to head to her death. She can never be certain, hanging around the pack.
That, and she has never been on the back of Jake's motorbike before. Hell, she's never been on the back of any motorbike before, and the reminder of this has her wrapping her arms soundly around Jake's waist. Her dad would kill her. Her mom probably will, when Seth spills the beans.
"What do you mean, duty — wait, no, hey, that's not fair!" he protests loudly, but his voice is drowned out by the sound of the engine being revved.
"Tell Mom I'll be late!" she calls over her shoulder as Jacob peels out of the lot and down the lane at a less than legal speed limit, the wheels of the bike kicking up dirt and dust as they go.