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Trial by Water

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The first time I laid eyes on Isabella Swan, I was less than impressed. The girl looked like a simple breeze could topple her over.

Pathetic.

And don't even get me started on the way Jacob Black fawned over her. It was nauseating.

The hilarious part was that she didn't even seem aware of his advances. It was a wonder her dad made her attend some dumb Super Bowl party. She looked like she'd just rolled out of bed, her eyes glazed over with apathy. The only one who seemed to elicit a reaction out of her was Seth.

My little brother was a bother at the best of times. Why she looked at him like he'd hung the moon every time he talked at her, was anyone's guess.

And then Seth tricked me into inviting her to his own birthday party.

At least this time she looked like she'd recently showered.

And then I became the pathetic one, somehow spilling my guts to her about the hell that had been my life for the past year. What the fuck. I should be moving past this, not rehashing the foul details like I wasn't over it. Because I so was.

But then―

"So, you want to know why Sam fucked off with Emily? I'll tell you why."

"…You're fucking with me."

Her face twisted into a frown. "I wouldn't. I'm sure you'd deck me otherwise."

"You bet your ass I would." I'm not sure how well I hid the waver in my voice.

"Come on," Isabella sighed, abandoning the bag of chips on the bench and rising to her feet. "It's not meant for just any ears. Plus, I'd rather not get caught."

"Caught by who?" I demanded, jumping up and following after her.

Her answer was not one I expected. "Your father. Or any of the tribe elders, actually."

"What the hell do they have to do with Sam and Emily?" Fortunately, there were enough brats running about that no one batted an eye once we disappeared past the treeline.

"You said it yourself―your dad's in on Sam's cult," she reminded me and then shot me a look, "Or maybe, it's Sam who is a part of your dad's cult."

I bristled. "My dad may be a pain in the ass, but he's not the one who made Sam disappear. And he sure as hell isn't the one who made Sam leave me for Emily!"

Isabella held her hands up as we continued our trek. "Right. He didn't. But you don't think it's weird that he doesn't disapprove?"

I violently crushed the hurt that rose up at the reminder. "Duh. I think I noticed when my own father started acting the traitor. So what?"

She huffed a small sigh. "Look―how well do you remember your tribe's legends?"

"…Well enough," I bit out and kicked a twig out of my way. I didn't tell her I knew them nearly as well as the elders. I didn't explain how much Emily had loved listening to the stories growing up. Didn't bother trying to recall how we would stay up late, as she tried to recount them from memory alone.

"Right, then here's another question―when Sam came back, he was different, wasn't he?"

We finally drew to a stop in a small clearing. Isabella dropped against a rotting log bisecting the area, but I didn't bother. I was too agitated.

"He was," I admitted. "He'd shot up like another foot. And his skin―it was feverish, but he refused to go to the hospital. And his hair…" His beautiful hair had been shorn off. Sloppy and jagged.

"And I'm guessing," Isabella said in a tone that implied she was doing anything but, "That he refused to explain any of it."

"Yes," I snapped. "How do you get to know any of this?"

Isabella scowled. "Because I'm not normal."

I sneered. "Clearly."

"Leah," she said, tone suddenly softer, "How inclined are you in believing in the supernatural?"

I frowned. "What? You're telling me you have some sort of freaky ability that lets you know everyone else's secrets?"

"I am."

"…Right," I said. "Say for a second I'm actually buying any of this bullshit―what then?"

"Then," she sighed, "I would reveal that I'm a small blip in the supernatural world. Sam, on the other hand? A much more notable individual. In layman's terms, the legends are true and he's now a werewolf. Or, a wolf shifter."

"I know what a werewolf is," I retorted. "Also, this sounds like a load of bull."

"I would also tell you," she continued, speaking over me, "That he's not the only one. That Jared, and then Paul, shifted as well. That they're a pack. That when they're wolves, they share a telepathic connection in which no thoughts can be hidden. That when they get angry, they can't control the shift. That they won't be the only ones who will join."

"Yeah, I'm out." I pivoted on the heel of my foot and retraced our steps, feet stomping into the mud with a foul splash.

And then she called after me, "Do you really believe your dad would be on speaking terms with him otherwise?"

I paused, and tried not to remember the first time I realized just how close my dad was with Sam. After everything he'd pulled.

"Think about it," Isabella urged me, "Sam isn't just close with your dad, but with all the tribe elders. He goes through all those changes, and then he suddenly starts working closely with them? And of course, I'm sure your dad has also explained none of it. Why all the secrecy if there are no secrets to keep?"

I hated her logic. Because it still sounded impossible. And then, a small traitorous voice whispered in my ear, I bet that's why Emily became a backstabber. Sam is everything she'd ever want. One of her precious legends come true.

I spun back around. "Then what about Emily?! What about that, Swan?!"

"You know the legends," she reminded me sadly. "It's the soul magic―they call it imprinting. When they find the one they cannot live without."

All the words―all the swears ready at the tip of my tongue, died a swift, brutal death, and my face drained of all expression instantly.

I could barely hear the thunder rolling high above over the blood roaring in my ears as I staggered back, a wave of black threatening to overtake my vision, my stomach churning with the need to throw up.

And then, I regained my balance, but the world still felt off kilter. Like everything had suddenly shifted two degrees sideways and tilted backwards an inch.

I crossed my arms tightly across my chest, as though that would keep my heart from squeezing painfully. And although I didn't know what face I wore, it felt like stone, like one shift would cause it to crack and break.

Isabella didn't attempt to add anything more. She seemed nervous, like it hadn't just been her world that had been completely flipped on its head.

The moment remained frozen in time until I couldn't stand it any longer.

"So…Emily is his soulmate?"

When Sam had disappeared for weeks, I hadn't imagined I could ever experience anything more agonizing.

But then, he'd broken up with me.

But then, he'd pursued Emily.

But then, Emily had pursued him in turn.

But then, they were soulmates. Not Sam and Leah. Sam and Emily.

How many times could a heart break, before it died for good?

"I…yeah. She is." Isabella stood then, and stepped closer to me. Her hand hovered for a second, before she pulled away. It was probably for the best. At the moment, I was sure I hated her for telling me the truth.

"That's…" I could feel my voice about to crack, so instead, I forced a harsh laugh, and wiped the traitorous tears building in my eyes. "That's bullshit."

Isabella's eyes were stupidly sad. "I know."

Fuck you.

"Do you?" I could feel my face twist into something ugly and hateful. "Tell me, Isabella. How do you know any of this?"

Yeah right, she has a superpower. There's no fucking legends about that.

And then, she had the audacity to answer her cellphone.

Whatever was being said on the other line caused Isabella to become troubled. "Um, that depends," she answered warily, lips pursed. "What did you see?"

I tapped my foot impatiently.

"Oh." Suddenly, she didn't seem so concerned. "I won't cancel. In fact, I'll just head over now. How does that sound?"

Head over where?!

There were still too many questions I needed to ask. And proof! I wanted at least some evidence, before I decided that I would kill her for screwing with my head like this.

"Wait. What?" But it was clear there was no answer to her question once she snapped her phone shut almost immediately after.

I rolled my eyes at her stupefied expression, and arched an eyebrow. "Who was that?"

"Alice Cullen."

The name rang with a certain familiarity―like an annoying itch.

Until I recalled a bonfire party from a few years back. It hadn't been much of a party. The tribe elders' stern expressions had made it feel more like a funeral. And the only legend they'd recounted had been the one about the Cold Ones.

"…Cullen," I repeated, and then I remembered. "Wait. Aren't they…?!"

Isabella said it so casually, like we were discussing the weather, "Vampires? Yep."

And over by the cliffs, are the resident mermaids. I'll introduce you later.

"…And you're friends with them?"

I took back my earlier assumption. Isabella wasn't wimpy. She was a flat out idiot.

"Basically. Yeah." Before I could slap some sense into her, she cut me off, "Look, Leah. No one told me the Cullens were vampires the same way no one told me Sam and his lackeys are teenage werewolves. I just know things. Always have."

Not this shit again.

"What? Like it's some superpower?"

Isabella had the audacity to agree. "Sure. Think of it that way. Edward Cullen can read minds, and Alice Cullen can see the future. I'm human, so I'm still not the weirdest one of the lot."

Before I could wrap my mind around the fact that superpowers were not that uncommon, she was already walking away from me.

"Wait! Now I know you're pulling my leg, Swan! There's just no way!" I followed after her, mind racing.

Telepathy? Clairvoyance? Foreknowledge? Did she pick up one of Seth's dumb comic books?

"I'd tell you to come see for yourself, but it wouldn't be safe."

Ew, I don't want anyone reading my thoughts.

And then I registered her words.

"What." Yes, Isabella, because vampires aren't going to find your blood any more yummy than mine. Idiot. "As if it's any safer for you."

I stumbled to a stop when I realized she had as well, and turned to face her. She was looking at me like I was the idiot. "That's not what I meant. It's the proximity to vampires that activates the wolf gene. And you Leah, will be the first female shifter."

And suddenly, my world tilted even further on its precarious axis. I could taste the sour hint of bile at the back of my throat. "You can't be serious."

"Remember what I said about the wolves sharing a telepathic connection?" Isabella asked. "Do you really want to share a headspace with Sam at the moment?"

"No!" If any of this was even remotely true, that would be the last thing I'd want. Hadn't I already been humiliated enough?! But if she was right… "…How long before…?"

Her expression shifted into a thoughtful frown. "About a year."

"Oh." Okay. A year. Going by my current track record, I should have no fucks left to give by then. "So, if I see that Cullen girl now, I won't explode into a giant furball?"

Her eyebrows arched. "Hard to say. If, for some strange reason, they decided to attack you, then yes, you would. Otherwise, no. But it would likely speed up the process."

That settles it.

"I'm going with you," I told her. And when she looked ready to protest, I tacked on, "I just…I need to see for myself."

To my surprise, she merely shrugged. "Suit yourself." She took in my shocked expression with disinterest. "What? It's no skin off my back. If you want to chance it, I won't stop you."

I smirked. Guess we’ll be idiots together. "Good!"

We continued our trek through the woods. And I wondered, "Is there really no way to stop it?" While it was a relief that I would have some time to process everything (assuming it was all true), I wasn't originally planning on ever seeing Sam again, let alone sharing my most intimate thoughts with him. Could I somehow scrape away every memory of him from my brain in a year?

Isabella offered an unhelpful shrug. "Like I said, it's the proximity to vampires that's causing the change. Your best chance would be getting away from here, although I can't guarantee you wouldn't run into some other vampire. Otherwise, the only thing you can really do is slow down the process."

"How's that?" I'd take anything at this point.

To my annoyance, she grinned. "Control your temper."

"Seriously?!"

"You've seen Paul?"

I snorted. Yeah, like I could ignore one of Sam's little clones. Who the fuck do they think they are? The Plastics? "Yeah. He looks a breath away from spontaneously combusting."

She tapped her nose. "Bingo."

"That definitely explains that."

Shit. I'm not much better than Paul on a good day. I'm soooo fucked.

I glanced up, realizing we'd reached the treeline, closer towards the side of the house, where most of the adults were gathered. "Oh look, your old man is here. Follow my lead."

Isabella caught up to me. "What? Why?"

Isn't she the one who's supposed to know everything? "You think my parents are just going to let me visit the Cullen girl's house?"

Isabella's face lit up with realization. "Ohh. Point taken."

Idiot. "Hurry up, Swan."

She grinned, like she could hear my thoughts and didn't give one single fuck. "Yes, ma'am."

God, I can't believe I actually kind of like her. I stalked across the muddy terrain, and ducked around the adults drinking and eating, and shouted over the music, "Hey, mom!"

"Leah, there you are," she turned from where she stood beside my dad. On either side of him sat Billy and Chief Swan. The rest of the long table, and tables around them were crowded with nearly the whole of La Push. "We're going to cut the cake soon, after Seth opens his presents. Will you help me out?"

"Actually," I hedged, knowing her temper to be as sharp as mine. "Isabella invited me to hang out for a couple hours. This isn't really our scene."

As I expected, she frowned. "I don't think so, Leah. This is your brother's birthday party. You can leave after presents and cake if you want, and no sooner."

"But mom―"

"Leah, I don't want to argue right now."

"Fine," I bit out, and turned to look at my dad, "Dad, can I please go?"

That caught him off guard. When we weren't arguing, I did my best to pretend he didn't exist. But I needed to know Isabella was right. I'd rather he be a liar than a traitor.

"Sure thing, sweet pea."

"Harry!"

I grinned and dropped a kiss on his cheek.

"You don't mind?" Isabella piped up from beside me, looking towards her dad.

"No, you go ahead Bells. Have fun."

Before anyone else could stop us, I gripped Isabella's arm and dragged her away.

"Don't stay out too late!" mom shouted after us.