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You Keep Using That Word

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The first time Quil said it, Leah thought she was having a stroke (or some other mind-altering malady yet to be determined).

By the time she’d puzzled over his statement, he’d moved on to wrestling Jared on the increasingly saggy couch centred in Emily’s living room. The poor thing (the couch, that is) had no chance of surviving an onslaught of violent tussles between two-hundred and fifty pound behemoths.

And that was with her being especially generous to Jared, who was steadily stacking on a sizeable bulk. He’d argued it was in support of Kim - a sympathetic pregnancy, or something of the like, but Leah knew the truth. It was an obvious one.

Jared was a bona fide lazy sod.

Anyway, that part wasn’t that important. Of higher priority was the critical state of the couch, bending so deeply that the furniture more closely resembled a banana than something actually functional. Emily was making that very clear in her booming reproach of the two men, who had frozen in place, wide-eyed and somehow surprised they had been caught. It was comedic, really, two fools frozen in stasis.

She made a mental note-to-self to taunt Quil about it later; Jared, straddling the younger boy, was excellent teasing material.

“And you, Jared - you should know better. Actually, you do know better, and you do it anyway. Unbelievable,” Emily seethed, fixing her hands firmly on her hips. “Do you have any idea -”

Abruptly, the slats gave way, sending Quil ass-first through the strained fabric with a sudden pop. Quil yelled; Jared cackled; Emily shrieked with rage.

All in a day’s work, really.

Leah didn’t pause to consider Quil’s intellect for the next week. It had been clearly established as non-existent.

The next time he said it, he was under the Fuller family’s truck, puzzling over some issue with the catalytic converter. Leah didn’t care for the details - car maintenance was boring as shit, and she had unfettered access to the minds of the best mechanics the Olympic Peninsula had seen in years. She could probably tune-up an engine in her sleep, and that was without ever setting eyes on the contents of a toolbox.

At least there were some benefits conferred from her altered state...aside from being buff as all hell, because that part definitely helped her bed men and women alike.

Quil was ranting about the pack’s ongoing dramas with the Cullens. That part wasn’t unusual.

The Cullens, despite the years that had passed since the Newborn Battle and the Volturi Visit and the birth of the Frankenbaby, still had an unceasing grip on the minds of the wolves. 

First, it was Jacob’s imprint that troubled them. Losing their alpha to the mindless devotion of an imprint sucked, and it was only further complicated by the nature of it all - the fact that they had become eternally enmeshed in the lives of their mortal enemies.

Sure, they weren’t actually killing people, but that didn’t make them any less awful. Edward was nothing short of a pain in the ass, and that was at a distance. He was even worse up close, in the times when she couldn’t - or wouldn’t - conceal her blatant resentment of him and his family.

It was hard for the wolves to not become fixated on things; the pack mind seemed to inadvertently reinforce the chaotic thought patterns coursing through their connected brains, prodding and pushing until they eventually perceived as one. 

The torment was, at times, inescapable. 

After they had gotten used to The Thing taking up the vast majority of Jacob’s mental space - Leah even freaking dreamed of her, doing that repulsive thought-crime business, and Jacob had the audacity to be offended by her own offence - they had to wrap their heads around the Cullens’ persisting dogma.

At first, weekend babysitting had sufficed. The creature hadn’t cared for more, and Jacob kept her at arm’s length - whenever he had the mental fortitude to do so (which was as rare as Leah’s steak).

Then, the Seer had demanded weekday visits, citing some BS reason about how the child needed more stability, some extra support. 

It was almost as if they considered Jacob a deadbeat father - never mind the fact he was a seventeen-year-old boy, still pathetically obsessed with The Thing’s mother.  

Funny how those things worked out.

Jacob had eventually succumbed to the pressure, and resigned himself to dropping into the Manor each evening. He sported dark rings around his eyes and a permanent five-o’clock shadow, regardless of Leah’s constant prodding to take some fucking care of himself.

It was pretty obvious from the get-go, but the irony still made Leah laugh. The bloodsucker was sucking the life from him, like some sort of nightmarish LaVeyan creature.

Sometimes, on the long nights she’d spend patrolling the boundary line, she’d repeat some of the tenets, willing Edward to be within range. As they suffered, so should he. 

One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

People are fallible.

To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own.

It was as close as she could get to unleashing the hate she carried in her heart for those who had stolen Jacob from her, before they could really become something.

She had hurt for Sam, but she burned for Jacob.

It was a line that could never be uncrossed, and a betrayal that could never be forgiven.

Despite the angst that threatened to consume her, she knew it would be selfish to try and claim a monopoly on the pain. Jacob’s absence was a deep, unhealing laceration to the entirety of the pack. Each day tore the hurt anew; watching him live, breathe, and exist solely for the creature’s dark machinations twisted at her heart a little more each day.

So when Quil had immediately launched into a diatribe about Jacob’s latest undoing, releasing some of the tension that was coiling under his skin, she had listened.

And puzzled.

His intentions were clear, sure. His language? Not so much. 

“Leah? God, you’re not even listening. Typical,” he grumbled, shuffling around on the dolly under the truck.

She kicked one of the wheels, hard, with the steel toe of her work boot. The wheel snapped loose, skittering away into one of the shadowy corners of the workshop.

She tried not to appear too pleased about Quil cracking his head on the dirty blacktop.

That part was pointless.

He always knew what she was thinking - now, or later. 

It didn’t make things any less satisfying.

The final time he said it, mid-rant in one of the weekly pack strategy meetings, Leah was positive she’d had enough.

“Q, are you mentally deficient?” she snapped, scowling in his direction.

His rant cut off abruptly as he frowned, cocking his head as he studied her. “Whaddaya mean?”

She rolled her eyes. “You keep saying that word, and I don’t know what you’re trying to say, but it’s definitely wrong.”

Paul sniggered, watching the two argue with rapt attention. He’d cooled considerably since meeting Rachel, but he had to get his jollies somewhere.

“That’s kind of titanic,” Quil said, attempting - and failing - to appear patient.

Leah scoffed, rubbing a hand across her brow. “Pedantic, idiot. Titantic is the ship that wrecked, kind of like this meeting is getting wrecked.”

“Thanks for the history lesson, Lee,” Jared said with a smirk, rudely gesturing at Quil. 

“Whatever,” Quil muttered, looking sourer than ever. “What were you bugged about, anyway?”

“Every time you talk about the Cullens, and us having to put a foot down, you keep saying -”

Her lip quivered, threatening to release the laughter she was so desperately trying to squash down.

Quil gestured impatiently. “What?”

“Alright, alright,” Leah muttered, pulling herself together. “You keep saying we have to give the Cullens an all tomato. It’s ultimatum, dumbass. Ultimatum.”

Paul had to step outside for a moment, needing to take a moment to quell the laughter - and the shaking - before he truly lost it.

Jared choked on his beer, sending bubbly froth shooting from his mouth and nose.

Even Sam had to take a moment before attempting to calm the chaos.

And Quil? Quil only grinned, flashing that trademark cheeky look. “Sorry, Lee - we can’t all have SAT lists for brains.”

Later, once they were suitably serious - or at least, pretending to be - they agreed to pass an All Tomato, resolving to ban the word ‘ultimatum’ from the pack vernacular.

The La Push pack was, above all, the height of professionalism.