A/N: ...aaaanndddd CHAPTER THREE! Prepare to be amazed! (or not, whatever, just tell me your thoughts in a REVIEW!) Thank you for your support!


Disclaimer: I own nothing, not Twilight or Foreigner or whatever pop culture I reference in the following chapter.

"I've been waiting for a girl like you to come into my life
I've been waiting for a girl like you, your loving will survive
I've been waiting for someone new to make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you to come into my life."

— "Waiting for a Girl Like You", Foreigner

My first conscious thought is that someone ran over my head with a fucking steamroller.

And then I remember the cantaloupes. Either one. I mean, why the fuck do the Atearas even stock cantaloupes in March? They are completely out of season! That just can't be a good business venture. And why are they on the top of a shelf? Cantaloupes are heavy, I mean, hell-o! Why? If those stupid cantaloupes had been on the floor like they should have been I wouldn't have—

Ouch. I might be thinking too hard for my cantaloupe-smashed brain.

Am I concussed? Am I alive? Am I dead? Did I die by getting crushed under cantaloupes? Are you fucking kidding me? Why do I have such shitty fucking luck?

Oh my fucking god would those stupid fucking angels or whatever shut the fuck up already!? Stop fucking growling! Shut up!

"Son, I'm the doctor. I understand you're worried about your friend, but you have to let me through." Wait. Dr. Gerandy is dead? What?! He was so young…

Well, maybe not young, per se…he's definitely been packing on the years. Wow. How old is he? He must be seventy at least. Getting up there.

Oh my god. shutupshutupshutup—

"Embry, please calm down!" Oh, hey Kim! You here to throw cantaloupes at my head and rip out my soul again, you soul-sucking, best friend-ditching brainwashed goon?

Wait. Embry? Embry's here? And I'm suddenly flooded with about a million little snapshots of the incident. Kim, cantaloupes, canned corn, Embry, closerclosercloser—

Holy shit I actually hit Embry Call in the head with a cantaloupe.

…and then I got knocked out by more cantaloupes after goggling at him for five minutes. Why do I have such shitty luck? (Although I must say I'm a little impressed he's here at all; I wouldn't hang around with the freak who beaned me in the brain with a cantaloupe.)

Wait. If I'm dead, and Embry is here…did I cause his death by cantaloupes?

Oh. My. God.

"He's just the doctor, man!" shouts another voice, immediately grating on my pounding head and interrupting my internal freak out. "Come on, you want to help her, don't you?" WHAT NO FUCKING NO WHY THE FUCK IS STUPID JARED HERE—

I mean, I'm not crying if we are all dead or anything, but I'd rather not spend eternity listening to Jared's stupid fucking voice—

"Embry! Let him in!" Ah. Kim again. (All things considered, I'm not sure how I feel about Kim being dead with the rest of us. Like, she's my best friend and yes I'd like to make up, but only if she grovels and admits to the fact that, yes, I, Natalie Wright, was right about the brainwashing theory.)

Are you there, God? It's me, Natalie. Please tell Kim to shut up.

"Don't touch her! Stay away from her!" Is that an answer? "She's mine!" What? God, I'm only semi-confident in your existence…I mean, I have years of anecdotal evidence that you really don't like me, but I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment.

"C'mon, man!" Jared knows God? What.

"Shut the fuck up, Jared—" Oh my god it's not God.

It's Embry.

Has his voice always been like that?

Embry actually took me to the hospital. I would have left me there if I were him and then myself was someone else. Or something.

Wait. Am I dead or in the hospital? Someone should decide that, shouldn't they?

"Boys, please—step aside, I need to examine the patient!" More growling. Oh my god, shut up. Shut shut up shut up—

Fuck that noise, I think, and I decide to be alive because at least then I've got a shot at ditching the Kim and Jared Show A burst of pain centered behind my eyeballs courses through my brain like a lightning strike, and in a flash I'm brought crashing down into the world of mind-numbing cantaloupe-induced pain.

I let out an embarrassing half whimper, and immediately the same rolling, feverish heat from the general store is washing over my body

"Natalie? Natalie, come on, baby, wake up—" A voice, frantic and hushed and vaguely terrified, right by my face, is calling me baby. A really nice voice. Like a voice dipped in painkillers that go straight to my throbbing head. Ah, beautiful disembodied voice! Please, don't stop talking.

I make a sound akin to a beached trout as I peel my eyes open.

And Embry Call's face is shoved about two inches from my own.

My reaction should be: "—what the—?" and an attempt to jerk away.

My actual reaction: "You're really here," all surprised and breathy, like I'm Scarlett O'Hara and he's Rhett Butler and I'm about to proclaim to the world that tomorrow is a new day. My eyes are locked on his impossibly dark ones, unable to look away even as they dart over my face in a frantic motion.

His fingers come up to trace down the line of my jaw, leaving a trail of fire in their wake. "Natalie…" he murmurs, like King Arthur might have said "the Holy Grail…" when he finally found the sacred object he'd been questing for.

closer, closer, closer! chants a voice in the back of my head that has (mercifully) lain dormant up until about this moment. Hearing voices in my head is honestly the last thing I need right now, considering I'm trying to prove that my best friend was brainwashed and I need to not be crazy.

…isn't there something people say about only crazy people thinking they're not crazy?

No, no, there isn't.

Oh, thanks, random voice in my head. Your opinion is exactly what I was hoping for.

closer closer closer closer goes the voice.

b-beep b-beep b-b-beep b-beep goes my heart monitor as it actually broadcasts my heart skipping a beat.

His fingers are replaced by the heat of his entire hand cradling my jaw, and the same fire he'd ignited deep in my core back by the cantaloupes and canned corn returns with a vengeance. I'm suddenly boiling over and yet shivering desperately, lacking heat. I am consumed with fever and Embry is my cure.

closer closer closer—

"Natalie, oh my god! You're okay!" Interrupting the voice, Kim ducks around behind Embry to hover over me. He growls at her, like legitimately growls at her, when she reaches out to touch my arm. He reflexively steps back, causing his hand to slid from my jaw, and when I'm hit with a sudden, soul-numbing cold as his warmth retreats away, I kind of want to growl at her, too.

But still, it's Kim, here, worried about me even though Jared is literally still in the room. (why is he still here? Leave.)

And I did kind of try to throw a cantaloupe at her head, so…I kinda owe her anyway. "Hey, Kim," I mumble, and I even try to throw a smile in for good measure. Bad idea. "My head hurts," I grumble, massaging my temple. Kim winces, and for a deluded half second I think it's because she's sympathetic to my pain.

And then I recognize the you so shouldn't have done that so you brought this on yourself but I still feel sorry for what's about to happen look.

Like lightning, Embry knocks her aside—Jared gives a loud snarl at this; we should really look into a muzzle for that guy—and snatches my hand away from my head. My heart monitor starts to go haywire again, which only seems to add to the apparent state of panic he's in. "Where? Where does it hurt?!" He's practically yelling at me as he says it, his (dark, dark) eyes are wild and scared. "Do you need ice? Medicine? Where's the doctor? Jared, where's the doctor?!"

(…how did Kim know he react like that?)

"Dude," Jared's stupid voice answers. I scowl, and Kim, noticing my scowl, scowls back warningly. Scowl scowl scowl. Funny word, scowl. "The doctor is right here! You just haven't let him anywhere near her since we got here!"

"Shut up, Jared," Embry snarls (he just gets more and more appealing with every word he says), but he looks more embarrassed than angry as he turns to see a stern Dr. Gerandy. "Sorry, sir," Embry says, his copper-colored skin tinting slightly darker over his cheekbones. I guess he really is the polite one.

"Yes, well," Dr. Gerandy sniffs, adjusting his glasses and his clipboard importantly. He bustles to the other side of my hospital bed, shooting Embry a few wary looks as he goes. "So, Mr. Cameron was filling me in on your latest…escapade, shall we say?"

I scowl at him.

"I must say, Miss Wright, in all my years at Forks Community Hospital I've never had someone complain of a concussion caused by cantaloupes," Dr. Gerandy's mouth twitches upwards slightly as a hint to his amusement.

I am not amused.

"Yeah, yeah, Dr. G," I snap. "You didn't figure it was possible for a child to get her tongue stuck in a Fisher Price Record Player microphone, either, and yet I proved you wrong. You should be expecting it by now." Jared lets out a guffaw at my pain. Embry socks him in the stomach to shut him up.

I like that kid more and more.

Dr. Gerandy raises his eyebrows, his amusement more pronounced. He and Kim share a long-suffering look (would you believe this isn't the first time she's accompanied me into the ER?) before he starts his examination.

"So, Natalie," Dr. Gerandy begins. He shines a light into my eyes, turning my head from side to side as a way to check my pupils. The minute his hands touch my face, Embry is hovering on my other side, poised threateningly beside me and taking my (suddenly tiny) hand in both of his huge ones. Dr. Gerandy, for the most part, tactfully ignores the sudden motion, but does raise an eyebrow. "Tell me the events leading up to your injury. To test your memory."

My face flushes red under Embry's anxious gaze, and Dr. G's ministrations and barely stifled amusement. "I climbed onto the rack at the general store."

Dr. G gives a barely suppressed snort of laughter he passes off as a cough. "Will you ever learn…" he mumbles, shaking his head. I notice it's not a question.

"Yeah, Nat," Kim moves closer to the bed. I can't help but notice that Jared automatically moves with her, like metal to a magnet. "I was wondering why you were climbing on the rack…especially after last time."

"What last time?" Embry glares from me to Kim and back again, and as I turn an embarrassingly blotchy red I kind of wish I'd had better aim with the stupid cantaloupe.

"I busted my head open trying to get ruffles chips when we were eight," I say.

"Quil's mom loves her…" Kim giggles.

"Well, the loss of consciousness was worrying," Dr. Gerandy says. Embry's hands tighten around mine. "But you are surprisingly coherent, your memory seems to be fine—speech and eye movements are regular. Your movements as far as I can see are normal…I don't believe a CT scan will be necessary this time. Take it easy for a few days, and avoid any activities that could cause further head injury. You might experience some nausea or vomiting, some dizziness—"

"I know the concussion spiel, Dr. G."

"Yes, I suppose you would," Dr. Gerandy says, scribbling on his clipboard. He stands up. "Make sure you avoid any physically or mentally stressful situations for the next few days. Which, of course, is why Nancy and Holly aren't running around in here." Nancy and Holly are my favorite nurses who bustle around and cluck disapprovingly like mother hens. Mom is a big fan of theirs. "Other than that, you're free to go," he unhooks me from the heart monitor. "Your mother knows when she should contact me, I suppose. I don't hope to see you again," Dr. Gerandy says with a wink as he steps out of the room.

"I called your mother, just so you know," Kim explains with her trademark soft smile. "In the car over here. She told me it served you right for sneaking away, and that I was a dear for taking care of you."

"So my own mother is boycotting my sickbed because I snuck away? Typical." I roll my eyes. And then I remember something. "Wait, Kim, what about your mom?"

Kim's eyes turn steely and Jared lets out a growl at the mere mention of that woman. "I forgot I was mad at you about that," Kim gives me a dirty look.

"Oh! You discovered my evil plan! Kim will forgive me for my wrongdoings if I give myself a concussion with cantaloupes!" I gasp theatrically before scowling at her. "I didn't say anything to your mom!"

"You squealed to your mom!"

"I was worried about you!"

"What I do is none of your concern, Natalie! I take you to the hospital, and do you thank me? No, of course not—"

"Jared, get your girl out of here!" Embry snarls. "The doctor said no stress!"

"Hey!" I rip my hand from Embry's grasp. He gives me a hurt look like I slapped him or something. "He doesn't own her!"

"Shut the fuck up, Natalie—" Kim snarls as Jared drags her away, shooting me dirty looks over his shoulder periodically. They disappear down the hall, leaving me and Embry alone. I blink rapidly, dispelling the sudden urge to cry.

"Come on, Natalie, baby," Embry says, and everything about him is gentle; his eyes, his voice, his touch, his face, all in stark contrast to the way he'd spoken to Jared only about two seconds ago. "I'll take you home." He slowly snakes his arms under my knees and behind my lower back, and like I weigh nothing more than a pillow or something, he lifts me effortlessly into his arms so that I am essentially cocooned in the rolling heat emanating from his body. My head lolls into the space where his shoulder meets his neck, and I have the sudden urge to bury my face there and press my lips against his skin.

Holy crap he smells good!

I feel his breath against my hair as he carries me, bundled up and safe, through the usual chaos of the waiting room and into the parking lot. Somehow it's like he's barely moving, because I don't jostle around at all. When we find my Jeep, he gently sets me down on my wobbly feet, keeping his steadying arm locked around my waist. He digs into the pocket of his shorts, fishing out the key.

"Where did you get the key?" I ask, narrowing my eyes at the offending object as he unlocks the car.

"I'm guessing, since it's really not any secret that you're not Jared's biggest fan," Embry smiles wryly at this, levying me easily up into the passenger seat of my own car. "That you'll be pleased to know that you blocked him in, and that he nearly had a heart attack when Kim had to drive your car to the hospital. She fished it out of your pocket."

A stab of guilt rockets through me, accompanied by a thrill of excitement. "She was—she was actually worried, wasn't she?" The she still cares about me goes unspoken.

"Of course she was worried," Embry scowls. "You were unconscious." His arms start to tremble like they did in the grocery store when he was angry about the cantaloupe.

Oh, fuck. I forgot about that.

"I still don't understand why you were throwing cantaloupes off the top of the rack in the first place," Embry pulls the seatbelt across my body a little roughly. What am I, a child? "You could have been hurt—you were hurt," dark eyes on fire and tremor returned full-force, Embry slams the passenger's door shut hard enough to rattle windows.

He doesn't say anything as he gets into the driver's seat of my car, choosing instead to sit in stewy silence. His eyes dart over to me every now and again, each glance igniting a tinny restlessness inside my bones that makes me squirm in my seat.

God, just drive already!

"I'm sorry I hit you in the head with a cantaloupe, okay? I got more than my fair share of karmic payback for it as you might have noticed," my voice is strident, piercing through the tense atmosphere of my car like a knife. My eyes zoom to his hands, which are trembling like leaves in a hurricane. "—okay, okay, I was trying to hit Kim! I missed, alright? I was upset that she yelled at me—"

"She yelled at you?" Embry snarls, finally starting the car. He doesn't take it out of park, yet.


"I kind of deserved it," I mumble, staring at my hands. Embry's concerned gaze heats "I'm just—I'm just worried about her. And…lonely, too, I guess." Why am I telling him this? I barely even know him—and he's in the cult!

"No, you didn't deserve it. She…she just—I don't know. She misses you."

"Bullshit," I rasp. "Fucking drive already."

"Your wish is my command," he says, like he's not even joking. But he does actually start to drive my car—at the speed of a snail. I try to ignore it for as long as possible, but by the time we'd been sitting in tense silence for ten minutes, we'd barely left the fucking parking lot, and to top it all off, we get cut off by an old lady who can't even see over the wheel.

"This is isn't Driving Miss Daisy!" I snap, glaring at the rain-slick road ahead. "So if you could drive like a normal person—"

"Hey! Precious cargo, here," the words sound like he's joking about himself—but the way he looks at me, out of the corner of his eye, gives me the stupid notion that I'm the precious cargo.

I don't really know what the proper response to that is, so I say the first thing that comes to mind: "I really am sorry about the whole cantaloupe thing, though. I didn't—I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Embry barks out a laugh, and the tension in the car evaporates as quickly as it had come. "Hurt me?" Like the idea of getting hurt from being brained in the prefrontal cortex with a fucking cantaloupe was so fucking laughable.

"Well, excuse me for being concerned."

Embry frowns, confused for a second, before his face lights up with a smile that makes my entire stomach attempt backflips. "You were worried about me?"

"I was until you were a jerk who drives my car at five miles an hour!" And then I realize that he totally isn't a jerk because he's driving me home from the hospital even after I brained him in the prefrontal cortex with a cantaloupe. "Shit, I'm the jerk, aren't I? I'm sorry, Embry."

(from the weird smile on his face, I'm about 90% certain that the only part of that whole conversation he actually noted was his name.)

"Come on, Embry, it'll be Christmas by the time we get home if you drive at five miles an hour. Now it's official. Grandmas driver faster than you."

He gives me a look. Precious cargo runs through my mind.

"Driving too slowly can be just as dangerous as driving too fast!" I blurt out. He pales rather comically (didn't know we Quileutes could pale so fast) and finally puts (some of) the pedal to the metal.

Mission, success.

We don't really say much the rest of the way; Embry is apparently a paranoid (I mean, careful) driver poised to slam on the brakes at any moment and is too busy looking out for potential zombies or whatever to make conversation. Honestly, the day has been weird enough that I wouldn't rule out the zombie apocalypse.

I mean, to recap: I had my epiphany about Kim's brainwashing; skipped school; formulated a plan; had brother reject plan; climbed on a grocery rack; hit Embry Call in the head with a cantaloupe; fell off the grocery rack; got concussion from cantaloupes; went to the hospital; and general Embry Call weirdness.

Sheesh. I've had a very long day.

The car stops so gently that I don't notice that we're in front of my house until Embry has hopped out of the car and crossed over to open my door for me.

"Hey, sunshine," he says, and his face is suddenly so close to mine that my only coherent thought is that he should be the one called sunshine with a smile like that. I try to return it, but I'm pretty sure I look brain-damaged (more than I am already, at least).

He shakes his head and does his under-the-breath chuckle thing with the same soft smile, so I guess he doesn't mind.

Or maybe I just always look brain-damaged. Fuck.

Oblivious to my mental turmoil, Embry unbuckles me and carefully slides his muscled arms behind my back and under my knees, lifting me easily out of the car.

"Nice house," he remarks as he steps up onto our porch. I glance up; it is a nice house, especially by La Push standards, with its wrap-around porch and Victorian-style design. It's not exactly small, either, but that's what we get for Dad's family being nouveau riche in the logging industry.

What a burden.

"Thanks," I say, and I blush for maybe the 800th time just as the front door opens.

"Natalie Lisa Wright!" Mom stands in the doorway, all-out hands-on-hips-level Mom-mode. She has the mix of a vicious glare and a disapproving scowl on her face—it kind of looks like she's constipated, but as I value my life, I will never ever mention that to her.

"You are in big trouble, young lady!" Sgt. Noodle bounds out behind her, stepping on his own ears and tripping himself up. Mom ignores him. "Sneaking out, making a mess in the grocery store—again! Joy Ateara tried to get me to buy all the cantaloupes and canned corn you knocked over, like I'd ever—never mind! And then you land yourself in the hospital? Natalie, you're lucky they have your papers on call, because if I had to go to Forks during rush hour—" like there's actually any traffic between Forks and La Push to have a rush hour. "—you'd be admitted to the morgue!"

Mom's eyes bug out when she (finally) notices the giant, trembling he-man carrying me. "Oh—you're Tiffany Call's son, aren't you." Not a question. Mom knows everyone.

"Yeah," Embry says, settling me gently to my feet but still keeping a heavily-muscled arm around my waist. "I'm Embry," he sticks out his hand.

Mom shakes it. "Josephine Wright. Natalie's mother," she explains unnecessarily. It's a little disturbing, but I think Embry's hotness may have rendered my mother incapable of coherent speech.

Gah. Gross.

"Alright, sweetheart, say goodbye to your friend," Mom says. The words are sweet but the tone says you're lucky you brought a witness.

And, uh, Mom? He is in the cult. Not my friend.

Embry gets a weird look on his face, his eyes going all wide and puppy-dog like.

Like he's about to cry.

and I've had enough of the cult for today, thank you very much. "Uh, see you, I guess," I mumble, taking a shaky step out of his arms. I only barely get free from his impossibly strong grip to stumble into the doorway.

(I tactfully ignore the way he jerked forward as if to catch me.)

"Do you need a ride home, Embry?" Mom asks, nudging Sgt. into the house with her foot. I jerk around in surprise—he isn't walking home, is he?!

Oh, God, tell me he didn't miss his ride with Jared and Kim to drive stupid idiot me home from the hospital.

(This is what mortification is; I thought I knew when I sat on a cactus, but nope. This is the real deal.)

Embry laughs like I'm not dying from mortification in the doorway because he stranded himself for me and oh my god he might need a ride from my mother and they'd be alone in the car and oh my god the stories she'll tell about me—

I should look into moving to Australia.

"Nah, that's okay," Embry waves her away with a good-natured smile. Mom immediately smiles back and how is he fucking charming my mother? "My friend swings by here on his way home, so I'll just catch a lift with him." His eyes slide over to me, giving my body a lingering look, and I have to look away for fear I'll spontaneously combust or something if I don't. "I'll see you soon, sunshine," he says, and even though his words and tone are casual, every bone in my body screams that it's about as far from 'casual' as you can get.

He's promising he'll see me soon.

Holy shit.

My heart spasms like it's trying to leap out of my chest, straight to Embry. He gives me a brilliant and somewhat conspiratorial smile, like we're in cahoots or something which we are not and he really needs to fucking leave before I have a fucking heart attack on my front porch—

I barely register Mom thanking him and stepping back into the house because I really can't do much else other than watch his lithe movements like a (sex-crazed) hawk. I stand, transfixed, with my heart still beating a frantic and uneven tattoo in my ribcage, as he shoves his hands into his pockets. And he's walking away to finally leave (no heat attack today, please) when just as he's about ten feet away, against my volition, his name is ripped from my lips: "Embry!"

He whirls around and I'm back to being pinned under his heated gaze faster than a blink. He looks like an eager little puppy as he waits with baited breath for me to say something—like what I have to say is going to cure cancer or prove the existence of aliens or something else hugely important.

It takes me a second to really remember that he's waiting for me to, you know, actually talk.

God, I can't catch a fucking break today, can I?

"Thank you," is what I end up saying, lamely. And I cringe inwardly at my awkwardness. "Thank you for taking care of me," I amend, like that'll make it any less awkward.

His answering smile is blinding like the sun, and the feeling of its blistering heat lingers like a shadow over my skin long after he disappears at the end of my driveway.

A/N: Spill your guts in a review. What does your heart tell you? (about this story?)

oh, and vote for the POLL!

Love, Lyra