"Leah? Are you okay in there?"
A swirl of emotions threatened to swallow Leah whole. She could hardly see her door through the swell of tears clouding her vision and hoped she could keep her voice steady for her mother's sake. With her brother Seth in the other room baking from the intense heat of his own fever along with the havoc she had already wreaked upon her home and their belongings, the last thing Sue Clearwater needed was more drama.
"I'm fine, Mom. I'll be out in a minute."
Leah contemplated if those words could ever be true. Would she ever be fine again? This afternoon had been too much. The horrific change she had endured into the beastly four-legged animal had been unreal, and the direct line into Sam's thoughts was even more disturbing. She hadn't known what to think when the new voice entered their conversation, and when the explanation had been given and the shock of it must have been what triggered her to phase back. Leah had quickly realized how the devastation her mistake with the talisman had affected Jacob's and this other person's lives. Surely the contact between the two with the special stone had been an accident.
Nevertheless, it had been all her fault.
This was yet another moment in her life where she wished she was never born. Leah hated herself and her life. After wiping away her tears, she grabbed a backpack from her closet and stuffed her wallet and some belongings into it. She would miss her mother and Seth, but soon he would join the pack, and they would all be happier without her…particularly Sam and Emily. And as she opened her window and ran off into the forest, this is what she kept telling herself.
Sam had been surprised how quickly Leah had phased back into human form once she'd heard Edward's frantic explanations. Peculiar though it was, the pack's leader couldn't focus on how or why she was affected when he considered the oddity of Edward and Jacob's situation. Other than in movies, he hadn't ever thought such a thing was possible. And, he couldn't help but be a little amused by his beta's predicament.
He had decided to give her a little break to pull herself together but had ordered her to meet them shortly. Now with the instability of Leah's moods, he was unsure of her ability to phase back.
Meanwhile, Edward remained in wolf form and willingly followed Sam's directions. Sam had noted, though, how Edward's thoughts had been distracted. They would wander back to Bella at Billy's and if he would be able to return to human form. For now, he only needed Edward to focus on tracking scents and following commands.
The order he had given just an hour before to the pack about not betraying his secret had sounded confident, but Sam did not know how to feel toward Edward. His every instinct told him he was the enemy, but the tone of Edward's fears and uncertainties made Sam feel sorry for him. Nevertheless, Sam's communication toward Edward came out gruff and authoritative.
What if I can't phase back? What if I'm stuck like this?
Focus! You will change back when you are ready, but now you need to stop worrying about everything else.
Sam couldn't help but be taken aback by Edward's submissive posture as Jacob's wolf form lowered to the ground with his lips and ears drawn back. He had never seen such a display from the russet colored wolf.
Get up! Next we're going to run.
He gave him the direction to head northeast a quarter mile while he was going to run directly opposite. Getting used to being in this form and remaining in tight communication was important if he was going to be of any use to the pack. This reminded him of Leah…and her absence. It was irritating to him that she was taking her time to return.
Sam. Sue's looking for you. Leah's gone, Jared's voice jumped in unexpectedly.
The pack leader held back his internal string of curses. Got it.
The message had been delivered, and Jared's voice had faded as quickly as it appeared.
Well, Edward. Looks like there's going to be a change in plans.
Bella hung up the phone and tried not to panic. From what she gathered from Billy's side of the conversation, Sam already explained to him that his son would be guarding Bella the rest of the night in Forks. Billy hadn't seemed too concerned about it, but when he gestured for Bella to take the phone, she had a sickening feeling of dread. In the briefest way possible, Sam explained that he was aware of Edward's situation and that it was best for now for him to remain in wolf form.
That was it.
No explanation as to how it happened. No opportunity to ask any further questions as the dial tone played like a dirge in her ears.
She rushed to the window, but only saw the beginning of a drizzle coating the dirt surrounding the property. "I'm going to look for Jacob," she told Billy absently, not listening to his reply as she stepped outside. Her eyes searched in the direction of the mouth of the forest nearby sweeping west toward the scattered older homes. That was when she heard a whine…like a dog that had been punished.
Her attention turned to the side of the house, and the huge familiar form of Jacob's russet body came into view. Bella rushed toward him, helpless to aid him in this situation. The drops fell heavily as she braced her arms around his collar. "Oh no, Edward."
There was something holding Leah back from leaving the reservation. It was almost as though there were some magnetic force, some invisible shield preventing her from crossing.
Determined, she shook her head and began charging the boundary as though the force of her will could break past the barrier. Her backpack bounced heavily against her back, and she wiped away the drops of rain from her vision. This time she would make it through. She had to.
She was one step away from crossing over into Forks when she felt her body being thrust backward, causing her to land roughly on the dirt but with the cushion of another body to break her fall.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Leah?" Sam cried from underneath her, crooking his neck to the side of her backpack and keeping his arms tight around her arms and waist so she could not escape.
"What does it look like? I'm leaving, so let me go," she bit out sourly, trying to break free from Sam's iron grip.
"Are you nuts? You were just going to leave, disappear, just like that?"
Leah grunted as she strained against him, giving his abdomen a sharp blow with her elbow, not hurting him, but effectively separating herself from his grip. And as she turned to face him, she found the expected disapproval on his face. "Just like that."
"Even if it weren't the most selfish thing I've ever heard, Leah, it's impossible. You CAN'T leave." Though he stood there with arms folded across his chest, he had every confidence he could catch her again – not that he would have to.
She moved toward the boundary again, but found once more her foot would not move forward. As she backed up to get a running start, she could see her ex out of the corner of her eye, watching her…and she would have liked to smack that smug look off his face.
Ignoring him, she straightened her backpack and charged forward, but as she reached the boundary, her body was halted to an abrupt stop, almost causing her to trip over her own feet.
"Told ya," Sam said, gloating. He knew right away that since her intent was not to return, she would remain trapped within the confines of the reservation.
Tears of frustration began to spill from her eyes, and her words were accompanied by loud sobs. "Why me?"
He had no answer for her. Sam moved toward Leah and set his hand upon her shoulder. In his twenty years of life, he came to believe the worst thing in the world besides vampires was to see a woman cry. There was no doubt in his mind she had been dealt an unfair hand.
She pulled her shoulder away from his grip. "I don't want this, Sam."
"None of us wanted this. We had no choice."
She turned to face him. "Please, let me go."
His brows pulled together, and he looked at her incredulously. "It doesn't work that way."
"Please?" Leah was begging now; it was one thing she thought she would never do, but she was desperate.
"I'm sorry, Leah. You're stuck…like the rest of us."
Since the transformation she had known it was true but had been refusing to accept it. And when he removed the backpack from her back and set it upon his own shoulder, she felt numb with that realization.
"Come on. Your mother's worried about you." Sam placed his arm around Leah's neck and began to lead her back toward La Push.
"We could call Jacob," Bella suggested, running her fingers along the soft rust colored fur of Edward's Jacob collar.
The wolf beside her shook his head, the action as deliberate as a human. They had moved into the garage and out of the rain, and Bella was hoping to find a way out of this mess.
"Why not?" she asked, but realized he could not answer her. "Sam's orders?"
Edward's whine gave her his reply.
With a heavy heart, Bella made her way out of La Push, driving carefully in the darkness as the windshield wipers pushed the heavy drops from her sight. Jacob had done it all the time, she reasoned, but knowing that Edward was now in this unfamiliar form made it all the worse as she drove in the comfort of a dry interior as the ridiculously-sized wolf ran beside her outside in the pouring rain.
However, that was nothing compared to the guilt Bella felt retreating to her room for the night, even though she knew Edward was obligated to remain outside and protect her as he had done before. When she had offered him shelter in the garage, he refused it, and even if Charlie weren't home, fitting the oversized wolf through the narrow doorway would've been difficult. For the first few hours she remained at her window, every now and then catching a glimpse of him as he circled the property, each time considering going against Sam's orders and calling Jacob. And each time she would see the sorrowful expression in those eyes. It was clear to her that they had not wanted to involve him, but she had resolved to call first thing in the morning and insist that Jacob help Edward return to his regular Jacob form. She was grateful when close to midnight the rain had finally stopped and had hoped with the dawning of the new day that at least this problem could be resolved.
He had drifted to sleep beside an oak in the woods a quarter mile from Bella's house. With the myriad of scents memorized, he was confident that any change would awaken him, but as it turned out, it was a sudden burst of thoughts that shook him from his nap. Edward had heard her thoughts all of a sudden, but still had not come face to face with the she wolf.
She was hesitant, but acting under command. Sam sent me.
On all fours, Edward saw the slightly smaller grey wolf come into view, noticing the shaggier length of fur that coated her body.
Where is he? I don't hear him, Edward observed, pulling out of the fog of sleep.
I think Sam is trying to get one of the other boys to run the borders with him. He saw a trail of footprints that hadn't been there yesterday and didn't want to have to worry about me.
It was odd to Edward to be out of the loop when just before he had been able to pick out the busy tone of the pack leader. The decision must have been made while in human form because Edward had heard nothing of it. Despite the fact that he had no training, he felt able enough to take on that disturbing redhead with the ferocity of his bare claws.
I'm Leah, by the way.
Nice to meet you finally, Leah. I'm uh…filling in for Jacob. Edward thought he would try to inject some humor into an awkward situation. Looks like we'll both be needing some training, Edward mused as she trotted over to join him. He thought to take it back, wondering if he would need to explain that last thought when her inner voice cut in.
I owe you an apology.
What do you mean?
Her thoughts became hazy, as though she was willing a blanket to cover what she was thinking. It was my fault, but you have to understand. I never meant for this to happen.
Wait. Slow down. What happened?
The necklace. The spell…the body-switching…
You know about it? About the power of the stone?
Her confession came out hastily. I dug it out, but I never meant for Jacob to take it. I'm not even sure how he ended up with it…I've been looking for it for days. What happened between you two was an accident.
You have got to be kidding me. You are responsible for this? What were you doing with it, Leah?
Leah and Edward both stiffened at the invasion of Sam's inner voice. Neither could see him, but they could hear his angry tone as though he were right there before them.
It was an accident.
Okay, that was an accident, but what were you doing with the stone?
No. You were going to switch bodies with Emily? How stupid could you be!
I'm sorry! I never thought it was going to end up like this.
The disgust was evident in the leader's tone, and Edward felt like he was in the middle of a lover's quarrel as Sam continued to berate Leah for her poor judgment and stupidity, but his own mind was buzzing. Then you must know how to break the spell?
No, I guess I hadn't really thought it through.
Disappointed, Edward felt Jacob's heart drop. I see.
Just great, Leah. Nothing we can do about it now. Listen, I don't ever want Emily to find out about this. Are we clear?
Now, Edward, have you picked up any unusual scents?
Sam gave orders for Leah and Edward to remain and circle Bella's house while he met up with Jared to scout the forest. Now, they could only hear the buzz of communication like a radio scanner between Sam and Jared, and Edward was truly realizing what an invasion this telepathy was as he fought to keep thoughts of anger and frustration toward Leah out of his head. The way he saw it, Sam had already scolded her enough.
I'm really sorry.
So, who are…wait, do you smell that? She rose to all fours, sniffing, and faced the direction of the Swan's residence. It burns…I'm going to check it out.
Leah had taken off and Edward ran as fast as he could. No, wait, Leah. It's not what you think.
I think it's exactly what I think.
STOP. It's Jacob. Don't hurt him. By the light of the moon, Edward could see the glimmer of the silver Volvo parked down the street as Leah's gray body bounded into the street like an angry lioness, making a beeline for the tree in front of Bella's window.
It's a bloodsucker! She was charging toward him, but his golden eyes only looked at her in amusement as he stood his ground.
No! That's Jacob. I'm him…and he's me.
She narrowly avoided hitting the tree, falling to the ground as her legs halted to a stop, just avoiding the bronze-haired pale figure.
"Nice to see you, Leah," Jacob greeted, his lips curved into a smirk as she recovered her stance. His expression changed when the larger russet wolf joined her a half second later. "Oh, no. What the hell, Edward?"
So, it's really true? Her eyes turned from the wolf beside her to the unnaturally yellow ones in front of them and back to Edward.
Yes, it's really true. Unfortunately.
"Now the pack knows…" Jacob sighed heavily.
Nobody blames you.
What a mess. I am so sorry.
"Wait. You did this, Leah?" Jacob read the guilt in her thoughts. "Of all the idiotic…" Jacob ground his teeth and balled his hands into fists.
She didn't mean to. She's already been through enough.
"Enough? What about us?" Jacob cried, shaking his head at them. "Whatever. Just tell us how to change back."
I don't know how.
"Okay, who does?" he asked impatiently. "Someone has to! We can't just be stuck like this forever!"
Leah's form lowered to the ground, and Edward and Jacob both recognized the submissive gesture as her ears pulled backward. I'm sorry.
With another sigh, Jacob looked to Edward. "Looks like we're stuck."
Do you still have the stone?
With all the business of transforming and learning how to be a wolf, Edward had forgotten all about the talisman. It was in my pocket when I phased. I think it's still on the beach.
Leah returned to a sitting position. I think you may need it. I don't know how to break the spell, but I'm sure it can't be reversed without it.
Bound by Sam's orders, the two were required to remain until morning, and Edward would return to the shore to search for the stone.
Since you're here, Jacob, maybe you can tell me how to phase back. Edward turned to Leah suddenly, realizing that she had already accomplished it.
I hadn't meant to do it. It just happened. I was really angry when I phased into a wolf.
And how were you feeling before you changed back?
I don't know. Surprised…shocked.
The vampire and two wolves moved back into the forest as Jacob attempted to answer his question. "I'm not surprised. Girls are more prone to emotional responses. But, the trigger is having control over these emotions and the will to make the transformation happen."
It feels weird, like some kind of alien is clawing its way out of my body. I hate it.
Jacob smirked at her. "You have to get past that. Besides, you'll get used to it. And I'm surprised Sam didn't tell you how already. He probably won't mind if you do a little practicing."
What if I can't? Edward wanted to know. He couldn't imagine remaining this way for eternity.
"Of course you can. To phase back, I want you to try this: take a deep breath, clear your mind of all the worry…."
The two wolves sat up cooperatively, following his directions.
"…and say this to yourself – bibbidi-bobbidi-boo."
Leah and Edward both looked up at Jacob's Edward face, and Leah growled at him. That's not funny, Jake.
"I'm not being funny. You have the power to do it, but you have to free your mind from all the outside junk. Seriously, but don't just say the word; imagine your body as it changes back, picturing it in your mind. Bibbidi- bobbidi-boo. But wait, Edward, you don't have any clothes."
Edward recalled that his clothing had been ripped to shreds during his transformation. Guess I have to go back home first. I suppose I owe you some clothes.
"No problem," Jacob told him with a smile and pulled out a fine leather wallet from Edward's back pocket. "I've got plastic." He replaced the wallet and looked to Leah. "What about you? Do you have any clothes nearby?"
Yeah. She still had her backpack that she'd purposely left at a halfway point.
Jacob directed the two wolves to opposite ends behind the cover of two large spruce trees. "This is just for practice. Now, when you're ready…bibbidi, bobbidi, boo."
"Hey, it worked!" Leah's voice called out, and Jacob kept his eyes averted.
"Now you, Edward."
Feeling discouraged by Leah's speedy result, Edward focused his thoughts on Jacob's instructions, clearing the cluster of doubts from his mind. Saying the fairy godmother's command to Cinderella was ridiculous, but at the same time, Edward could sense the truth in Jacob's voice.
He imagined the huge form of his body as it wrapped and tucked inside its human shell. Bibbidi… bobbidi… boo.
In a fleeting moment, a small but powerful tight force drew in the bulk of his body like a vacuum, leaving him in a crouch with soles and palms flat against the earth. He stood upright immediately, and though this was just a small change compared to the one the talisman could make, Edward was grateful to be on two feet once again.