It wasn't a happy laugh, nor could it be misconstrued as kind. It was a harsh and bitter sound that caused all around the bonfire to flinch and regard her with alarm. Those closest to her grew even more worried as her laughter grew louder and more hysterical. Leah squeezed her eyes shut as tears began to stream down her cheeks unchecked, dotting the skin of her bare legs. Strained chuckles escaped her as the frozen spectators around her, pack and human alike, watched her succumb to her emotions.
Leah rose to her feet abruptly, scattering sand around her as she turned and bolted for the treeline.
"Leah, what's wrong? Where are you going?"
Seth's concerned voice followed her as he shadowed her anxiously, slipping into the woods just after she did. The confused voices of those left behind on First Beach faded as they made their way more deeply into the trees. Leah was silent now, a scowl marking her face as Seth trailed her. She could feel him thrumming with the urge to speak, to question her sudden hysteria. She couldn't help but feel glad he was able to quell it for even a moment. She was in no mood to reassure him of anything. Not when her life had once again been usurped by spirits who didn't give two shits about her.
How could they?
No deity or spirit capable of loving her would imprint her to Isabella Swan, bride-to-be of Dracula. The mere presence of her existence on the rez after she'd accepted the bloodsucker's proposal was an insult to all of them, Jacob's persistence be damned. Her silent agony was disrupted as Seth finally broke his silence at her side.
"What's going on?"
She came to a halt and stared at him a moment, his boyish features and sweet concern for her at odds with the man's body he now inhabited. Seeing him this way still shook her as much as her own reflection did.
"I imprinted," she said quietly.
For a moment all that could be heard was the wind in the trees.
"Oh," Seth said, his boundless energy leaving him as he looked at her and understood.
"It was Bella Swan."
Her brother's eyes widened and he stood frozen for a moment before abrupty bundling her into a hug.
She didn't fight it.
They stood there for an age, Leah accepting the unconditional affection that Seth had always shown her. Even when she didn't deserve it. Turning into a monster still hadn't stopped Seth from being a good kid.
"Thanks Seth," she sighed softly.
His arms only tightened around her in response. When he released her at last it was to peer intently at her before nodding and beginning to lead her out of the woods - towards home.
Home, where her father had died gasping on the living room floor as he beheld the horror of her transformation. Where a wake was held in their absence as they mourned in fur and bitterness. Where their mother had reassured them that it wasn't their fault as they stumbled in the back door, ill at ease in the human skins of their birth. The despair in her eyes had betrayed her, but Leah had known better than to argue. She would now have to tell her mother about this, before she or Seth phased and the pack's gossip brought it to her attention. She was sure that her mom had drawn her own conclusions from her hysteria, but an imprint was a vast guess to be sure. A white female imprint something else altogether.
She could already anticipate Sam's disapproval and Paul's lewd comments, to say nothing of the outrage that Jacob would feel was his right. She was so damn tired of all of this bullshit.
Squaring her shoulders as they crossed the edge of the woods into their backyard, she prepared herself for confrontation as she sensed some of the pack around the front of the house. Seth was a steady comfort at her back as she wrenched open the backdoor, grinning with satisfaction as she heard at least one of the pack jump at the noise. The smile fell quickly from her face as she opened the front door to face Sam and Jared.
Sam blinked at her, nonplussed by her no-nonsense tone.
"What? Really? What the hell was that, Leah?" Jared demanded.
"That," she replied, "Was none of your damn business until I've talked to Mom."
"You know everything is our business if it affects pack business," Sam said slowly, regarding her with what she was sure was supposed to be patience. All she got from it was the reek of self-righteousness.
"I just said I would tell you," Leah intoned slowly. "Or are you so important that you take precedence over my mother, a member of the Tribal Council?"
Seth huffed behind her with what she was sure was amusement as she continued.
"Get off our porch, oh mighty Alpha. I'll tell you or not when I'm good and ready."
She slammed the door in their faces and turned the deadbolt for good measure.
"Hey!" Jared yelled. "You can't just ignore us!"
Seth smiled wickedly at her as he dragged her to the kitchen.
"Man, I'm starved. Did you hear anything Leah? Could have sworn I heard something whining."
Leah chuckled as she watched him pull some leftovers from the fridge. Having Seth on her side made everything a little easier even when life lost all sense. As they began to devour the contents of the fridge, she heard the guys finally give up and leave the porch. They didn't go without muttering worlds that her enhanced ears couldn't help but pick up.
"This isn't over Leah. You can't hide behind Sue forever."
God, how she wished that wasn't true.