She loved coming home from college. The weather was always rainy, the sky overcast and grey, a stark contrast to the lush shades of green and blue that made up the forests. Their home on the edge of the boundary between La Push and Forks was large and open, made of hardwood floors, huge windows, and plush furniture on one hundred acres of forested land.
Her parents, much like her, loved their personal time and space, expecting as little conversation from her as she did from them. They spent their weekends together, sitting in their preferred, well-worn armchairs in their home library, quietly reading or, in her case, studying.
She was never as much at peace as she was when she was at home.
On the other hand, the town made her want to rip her hair out piece by piece from the roots.
Small towns were nosy by nature, and Forks was a very small town. There was little to gossip about, and her family was an easy target.
Until the Cullens arrived her senior year, the Alaa family was one of the town's favorite conversations- just behind Nathan Stanley's affair with a woman up in Port Angeles and Chief Swan's flighty ex-wife.
Since she’d graduated two years ago, she’d avoided going into town for a reason.
This is why when her parents warned her about the upcoming renovations that would force them out of the house for a month from 8 am to 4 pm, she'd stomped her foot, smacked her head against the dining table, and sulked for a week.
Despite her above-average talent for whining, the renovations started as scheduled, and Iara found herself studying at a small wooden table at the little diner- and the only restaurant- in La Push.
She finds herself falling into a quick schedule within the first few days. She comes early and orders unlimited coffee. She studies until four, cleans off the table she used, and tips well. It's quiet, and she almost feels as content as she is when she’s at home.
Later, she'll reflect that she probably jinxed herself by acknowledging that.
For now, someone is clearing their throat repeatedly to get her attention. She can hear them over her blaring headphones, but she knows it's not the waitress, so she refuses to look up until she finished reading her section.
She makes a quick note- oxy-Hb is more negatively charged than deoxy-Hb- and then looks up. And up. And up at a tall, tan boy with shaggy dark hair and a wide smile.
She pulls out a headphone and raises a brow in question.
“Hi!” he greets quickly. He's bouncing on his heels, practically vibrating in excitement, and he looks familiar. "Ara, right?"
“I-ara,” she corrects.
“I-ara,” he repeats, over-pronouncing the first syllable. She doesn’t correct him again, resigned to the fate suffered by those with an even slightly-foreign name.
“I’m Seth. Seth Clearwater,” he introduces himself and slides into the chair across from her. She wants to get up and leave, but she recognizes his last name.
She hums. "Clearwater? Like Leah Clearwater?" she asks, gesturing to the waitress that's always on shift when she's at the diner.
“Yeah!” Seth confirms, turning around to grin at his sister. Leah, for her part, looks as annoyed as Iara feels. They share a grimace in camaraderie before Leah serves the only other group of customers at the diner.
It's a group of tall, muscled, and tanned men. They're sitting three tables away, trying desperately not to look like they're watching her and Seth's conversation. They're failing spectacularly.
She squints and faintly recognizes their tattoos as wolf tribal patterns. Then it clicks, “Oh!” she exclaims. “You were with that creep on Monday,” she accuses Seth.
One of the men's shoulders tightens, and Iara tries to smoother a smirk. She loves being right.
Seth blushes, his ears turning bright pink, and Iara has to admit that while the boy shows poor judgment in his taste of friends, he's adorable.
Scrubbing his palms together nervously, Seth replies, “Uhh, well, he’s not really a creep. Jake’s really cool!”
Iara must look unimpressed because Seth’s eyes flicker wildly across the books she’s been studying, desperately trying to change the subject.
“You’re taking chemistry?” Seth asks, pointing to an amino acid chart. “So is Jake’s friend, Bella!” She hears a heavy sigh from the men and stifles her own. Why’d the kid have to speak with so much punctuation?
“Biochemistry,” Iara clarifies.
Seth furrows his brow and asks, "They offer that at Forks High?"
“I’m in my second year of university,” Iara says. His brows raise sky-high, and she almost laughs at how expressive Seth is. Before he can ask more questions, she firmly asks, "Seth, is there something you needed?"
He pauses, unsure at her stern tone, but quickly shakes his head like a puppy before he answers, “There’s a bonfire on Third Beach tonight. Do you wanna come?”
Iara frowns and shoots a glance at Leah. The other girl’s spine is rigid, and her jaw is tight. Iara doesn’t want to be unkind to her only acquaintance- friend?- in Forks’ brother, but she also doesn’t want to go to a bonfire in May with a bunch of strangers.
She hems and haws for a moment before saying, “I’m actually going to Port Angeles tonight.”
Seth stammers, obviously having expected her to say yes. He looks at the men behind them as if asking for help before turning and staring at her sadly with puppy dog eyes.
“Is there anything else you needed?” Iara asks again, hoping to press her advantage and have him leave.
He hesitates, and Iara grins victoriously. “Great, will you tell your sister I need a refill whenever she’s free?”
He nods and stumbles to his feet. She waves goodbye, making it clear their conversation was over, before rolling her shoulders back and pulling a pen from her hair.
She's about to start reading again when Leah shuffles over and pours her a refill. The coffee smells amazing, and she knows Leah was lovely enough to put the hazelnut powder she saves for herself in the grinder.
“Sorry about him,” she mutters quietly, without really looking at Iara. Something about the tight lines around her eyes and the way the tallest man looks at Leah with equal parts condemnation and possession makes Iara uncomfortable.
Before she can stop herself- and remind herself that her trip to Port Angeles was a blatant lie- Iara reaches out to tap on Leah’s wrist. Her skin is hot, too hot to be comfortable, but Iara doesn’t comment. “Do you work late?”
Leah pauses, the coffee carafe midair, and grits her teeth. A few seconds pass by, and Leah's head cocks to the left like she's listening for something. "No," she finally answers.
“I’m going out tonight. Want to come with?” before Leah can say no, Iara presses forward, “They don’t usually check IDs, but I have a fake, and you look at least 23."
“Are you meeting people there?” Leah asks, setting the carafe on the table, neatly avoiding the stacks of lined paper Iara has chaotically- and carefully- assembled into notes.
Iara shakes her head in the negative and smirks. “Nah, I just haven’t gotten drunk and had mediocre sex since I got back from university. Seems like a good night to do it.”
Leah’s face goes slack at Iara’s blunt words, and Iara thinks she hears someone choking. Probably Seth, she thinks to herself, laughing. Eavesdroppers deserve what they get. The table the men are at creaks loudly, but Iara ignores them.
She looks Iara over, head to toe, taking in the long strands of tangled hair and the fluffy socks she’s wearing. Iara’s not sure what she’s looking for, but Leah seems to find it.
Leah throws her head back in laughter, wild howls of disbelief and amusement. She hears someone growling, and the group of men quickly hurry out of the front door. Leah continues to laugh and laugh and laugh before she finally slides into the seat across from Iara and smiles, bright and wild.
"Yeah, I'll come," she says, and Iara grins as well.
Outside, a wolf howls.
They meet a few hours later when Iara picks Leah up from a small two-story, painted dark green with yellow shutters. Iara debates knocking, but Leah comes out in a flurry of activity a moment after she parks, Seth close behind her.
“Hey,” Iara greets through the rolled-down window.
Leah's fists are clenched when she nods in response and then offers, "Seth said he'd drive us up, so we can both drink."
Iara scrunches her nose dubiously. “He’s just going to sit outside and wait while we get drunk?”
Leah shrugs, and Seth nods, looking far too excited to sit in a hot car for the night.
“Yeah, no,” Iara says. "That's very sweet," she begins, carefully choosing the word sweet to describe whatever was going on instead of a less kind option. "But, when I told my dad we were going up to Port Angeles, he booked us a room at the Lodge for the night."
Leah looks relieved. She shoves Seth aside, and Iara is impressed that she has enough strength to move her huge brother. Seth frowns and is about to speak, but Iara’s on a tight schedule- there’s only so much time to hop so many bars- so she smiles tightly and reverses out of the Clearwater’s lot.
The car is silent, save the sound of their breathing. Iara takes a moment to look over Leah. She’s wearing a low-cut tank-top and tight jeans, and Iara is jealous of the other girl's tall and lithe figure.
They speak at the same time.
“You look hot,” Iara states.
“Thanks for picking me up,” Leah mumbles.
They pause and then, in unison, laugh, the awkward silence shattering comfortably.
“You too,” Leah says through her laughter, nodding at Iara’s short, short skirt. "Really, thanks, though."
“It’s good,” Iara replies. “You can’t drive up to my house if you’re not with my parents or me, so it was easier this way."
Leah frowns as she fiddles with the stereo. “What d’you mean?”
“There’s a lot of security around my house, so I would’ve had to drive to meet you at the gate anyway.”
Leah hums and settles on a station. Pop plays in the background, and Iara unconsciously bops her head to the rhythm. “Can I ask what kind?” Leah says. She quickly amends, “Only if that’s not rude.”
Iara laughs her concern off. "It's okay; it's not a secret or anything." She turns her blinker off and honks at the guy in front of them as she merges onto the highway. "There's an electric grid 50 feet high and fifty feet across surrounding the property. That's to keep things out."
Leah makes a noise like she's choking, and Iara laughs, "Yeah, it's a bit much. Then there's an inner wall ten feet high. The motion sensors on their cameras turn the alarm on. That's to keep us in."
Leah whistles. “That’s a lot.” She pauses and thinks Iara’s words over. “Why’d you need to keep things in?”
Iara looks at Leah through the side of her eyes to see if the other girl is joking. There’s no malice on her face, only curiosity.
“You haven’t heard my tragic backstory?” Iara asks, coy but also sure most of their town knew what happened behind her family's doors.
Leah barks out a laugh and replies caustically, “Have you heard mine? You first.”
Iara sighs, "My mum got sick after I was born. She's been diagnosed with everything, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety," she counts off on the fingers of her right hand. "They’ve tried to treat her for everything, but it doesn't work. She's too scared to leave the house or see other people, but when she sees or hears things, sometimes she'll run after them. Dad wanted her safe but free." Iara looks to Leah, “Freedom is important to him.”
“So, the fence keeps animals and people out, and the wall keeps mom in and her dignity intact. We have live-in security and caretakers, but they're usually quiet and out of the way cause they make mom anxious. But it all keeps us safe and happy, and that's why we moved out to Forks in the first place."
Leah can't understand having the ability or money to do so much for the ones she loves, but she can appreciate a bone-deep desire to preserve one's freedom and dignity. This Leah can understand because how could she not, so she nods.
The car is silent, both of the girls lost in thought until Iara interrupts it. “Your turn,” she says, lightly.
Leah’s expression turns cagey for a moment, but she rallies quickly, remembering Iara’s blunt honesty. "Dead dad, I can't get drunk, and my cousin stole my fiancé," she lists off, deadpan.
Iara’s face goes slack as she shuffles through emotions, trying to settle on one. She decides on wheezing disbelief as she breaks into laughter, and her shoulders shake. Leah’s almost offended, but Iara turns half-way in the driver’s seat- completely unsafely- and says, “Babe, what the fuck?”
It makes Leah tumble into laughter as well, and for once, she feels light and free.
"I heard about your dad. That sucks; I'm sorry," Iara continues. "And we can come back to your bitch of a cousin later, but can we focus on what really matters?”
Confused, Leah nods.
“You can’t get drunk?” Iara demands in outrage.
“My metabolism is crazy high,” Leah gives Iara the explanation her mother had given her.
Iara swerves across the highway, and Leah squawks, grabbing the armrest in protest. Iara takes the exit, hushing Leah's questions until they pull into the parking lot of a dingy liquor store. Iara turns in her seat again. This time, Leah mirrors her. "Okay, how high?"
Leah grimaces. “Like very high?” she offers.
Iara scoffs and slams the car door open. "Wait here," she orders Leah. She lets her skirt ride up an extra inch and flips her hair over one shoulder, exposing her neck, before walking into the store.
Four minutes later, she walks back out with two bottles of Everclear. She snaps the cap off one and hands it to Leah.
“You start drinking,” Iara demands as she starts the car. “If this doesn’t get you drunk, I’ll throw myself in the harbor.”
Thirty minutes later, Iara parks outside New Moon Tavern, and Leah, already three shots past drunk, offers her a drink. Allowing for her slower metabolism, Iara takes three quick drinks and lets them warm her.
The girls don’t remember much of their night after that.