Seth, just coming up behind us now, whined; I'd offended him. Great.

I've been helpful, haven't I, Jake?

You haven't madetoo much a nuisance of yourself, kid, but if you and Leah are a package deal - if the only way to get rid of her is for you to go home.... Weil, can you blame me for wanting you gone?

Ugh, Leah, you ruin everything!

Yeah, I know,she told him, and the thought was loaded with the heaviness of her despair.

I felt the pain in the three little words, and it was more than I would've guessed. I didn't want to feel that. I didn't want to feel bad for her. Sure, the pack was rough on her, but she brought it all on herself with the bitterness that tainted her every thought and made being in her head a nightmare.

Seth was feeling guilty, too. Jake... You're not really gonna send me away, are you? Leah's not so bad. Really. I mean, with her here, we can push the perimeter out farther. And this puts Sam down to seven. There's no way he's going to mount an attack that outnumbered. It's probably a good thing....

You know I don't want to lead a pack, Seth.

So don't lead us,Leah offered.

I snorted. Sounds perfect to me. Run along home now.

Jake,Seth thought. belong here. I do like vampires. Cullens, anyway. They're people to me, and I'm going to protect them, 'cause that's what we're supposed to do.

Maybe you belong, kid, but your sister doesn't And she's going to go wherever you are -

I stopped short, because I saw something when I said that. Something Leah had been trying not to think.

Leah wasn't going anywhere.

Thought this was about Seth,I thought sourly.

She flinched. Of course I'm here for Seth.

And to get away from Sam.

Her jaw clenched. don't have to explain myself to you. I just have to do what I'm told. I belong to your pack, Jacob. The end.

I paced away from her, growling.

Crap. I was never going to get rid of her. As much as she disliked me, as much as she loathed the Cullens, as happy as she'd be to go kill all the vampires right now, as much as it pissed her off to have to protect them instead - none of that was anything compared to what she felt being free of Sam.

Leah didn't like me, so it wasn't such a chore having me wish she would disappear.

She loved Sam. Still. And having him wish she would disappear was more pain than she was willing to live with, now that she had a choice. She would have taken any other option. Even if it meant moving in with the Cullens as their lapdog.

don't know if I'd go that far, she thought. She tried to make the words tough, aggressive, but there were big cracks in her show. I'm sure I'd give killing myself a few good tries first.

Look, Leah...

No,you look, Jacob. Stop arguing with me, because it's not going to do any good. I'll stay out of

your way, okay? I'll do anything you want Except go back to Sam's pack and be the pathetic ex-girlfriend he can't get away from. If you want me to leave - she sat back on her haunches and stared straight into my eyes - you're going to have tomake me.

I snarled for a long, angry minute. I was beginning to feel some sympathy for Sam, despite what he had done to me, to Seth. No wonder he was always ordering the pack around. How else would you ever get anything done?

Seth, are you gonna get mad at me if I kill your sister?

He pretended to think about it for a minute. Well... yeah, probably.

I sighed.

Okay, then, Ms. Do-Anything-I-Want Why don't you make yourself useful by telling us what you know? What happened after we left last night?

Lots of howling. But you probably heard that part. It was so loud that it took us a while to figure out that we couldn't hear either of you anymore. Sam was...Words failed her, but we could see it in our head. Both Seth and I cringed. After that, it was clear pretty quick that we were going to have to rethink things. Sam was planning to talk to the other

Elders first thing this morning. We were supposed to meet up and figure out a game plan. I could tell he wasn't going to mount another attack right away, though. Suicide at this point, with you and Seth AWOL and the bloodsuckers forewarned. I'm not sure what they'll do, but I wouldn't be wandering the forest alone if I was a leech. It's open season on vamps now.

You decided to skip the meeting this morning?I asked.

When we split up for patrols last night, I asked permission to go home, to tell my mother what had happened -

Crap! You told Mom?Seth growled.

Seth, hold off on the sibling stuff for a sec. Go on, Leah.

So once I was human, I took a minute to think things through. Well, actually, I took all night. I bet the others think I fell asleep. But the whole two-separate-packs, two-separate-pack-minds thing gave mea lot to sift through. In the end, I weighed Seth's safety and the, er, other benefits against the idea of turning traitor and sniffing vampire stink for who knows how long. You know what I decided. I left a note for my mom. I expect we'll hear it when Sam finds out . ..

Leah cocked an ear to the west.

Yeah, I expect we will,I agreed.

So that's everything. What do we do now?she asked.

She and Seth both looked at me expectantly.

This was exactly the kind of thing I didn't want to have to do.

guess we just keep an eye out for now. That's all we can do. You should probably take a nap, Leah.

You've had as much sleep as I have.

Thought you were going to do what you were told?

Right. That's going to get old,she grumbled, and then she yawned. Well, whatever. I don't care.

I'll run the border, Jake. I'm not tired at all.Seth was so glad I hadn't forced them home, he was all but prancing with excitement.

Sure, sure. I'm going to go check in with the Cullens.

Seth took off along the new path worn into the damp earth. Leah looked after him thoughtfully.

Maybe a round or two before I crash.... Hey Seth, wanna see how many times I can lap you?