Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Later chapters may contain slash.
When he has stopped running, he raises a sandy coloured snout up to the swollen moon, taking in the crisp scent of winter air. The forest smells cleanest in December, the atmosphere is at its thinnest and he can clearly make out the tang of melting snow, and the sad decay of falling leaves. Behind him drifts the scent of his companions, who are following far behind him at a leisurely pace.
And then his nose catches something that he doesn't recognise, like a handful of thick black smog, but with a nasty yellowish tint to it. It's a sickness almost, the smell oozes and bubbles like pus.
Do you smell that?He asks nervously as the two other wolves stop besides him in the clearing. They both raise their heads skywards and sniff sharply.
Leah winces and replies, Yeah…what is it?
I don't know- something new. It's familiar but... different. He takes a few steps further, following the nauseating smell, a large paw slopping into a pile of dirty slush. It's the height of winter and yet the snow is thawing in clearing as though it were spring.
Maybe we shouldn't go this way, says the rust coloured Jacob and Seth stops in his tracks.
I don't like this at all, Leah adds, Seth stay close.
But before Seth can do anything Leah begins to snarl, her grey back stiffened and arched, baring her sharp, yellowing teeth, salvia glistening in the pale moonlight. Before he can turn to see what has startled his sister, Seth feels something rip into his haunches. A white hot pain rips through his muscles as the sickening yellow smell overwhelms him.
All dead. Pain…hurts, hungry…tired. What he hears isn't Leah or Jacob, Seth knows that for certain.
Through watery eyes, he can just about see Leah leaping forwards and whatever has a struggling Seth clamped tight begins shaking him like a rag doll. He howls in pain while his front paws move and sway uselessly. Turning around, he can just about see the snout that is buried into his flesh, its own dirty white fur soaked with his own blood. However, despite the strong grip it has in Seth, he can almost sense the creature's blinding pain- it's struggling to stand up and its breathing is jagged.
And then he is flying through the air, his fur feels damp with melting snow and something warmer and thicker. He hits a tree branch with force and yelps as his back muscles begin to ache, the dull pain of impact contrasting the sharp pain in his back legs.
He can just about make out the dark shapes of Jacob and Leah tearing at the white wolf-life creature, though it is much larger than both Leah and Jacob in wolf form and something about the way it stands and moves looks hideously twisted. It's white flank is also teeming with sores and yellowing wounds. Which, to Seth, are slowly turning to black.
Everything aches, his head, his back, his very human arms and legs feel like they could snap off if he even attempts to bend them. In front of him he can just about see Leah, her face very close to his, her long black hair trickling against his bare skin.
"Seth, wake up or so help me I'm spitting right in your ear!"
"Alright, alright," he mumbles, "I'm up, I'm ugarrarrarrgh!" A wave of pain hits him and his back legs feel like they have been plunged into an oven. Gripping a tree, he tries to sit up, but finds he can't. What's left of the snow is awash with his blood and when he looks down at his legs he feels sick.
"Why haven't you healed?" demands Leah, pointing to Seth's wounds. It looks as though he's been bitten by a shark; the skin of his right thigh has been ripped clean off and the flesh beneath is shades of red and pink and- to Seth's horror, white. The left is a little better, though he can still make out (and feel) a set of sharp puncture marks like fangs trailing up to his hip bone. "Why hasn't he healed?" she says baring her teeth at Jacob.
Jacob - who's also sporting a mysterious set of red and raw scratch marks along the bridge of his nose and down to his cheeks, frowns and stares at Seth's legs, who feels an almost boiling sensation in his face when he realises that he's butt-naked in the snow. And in a serious amount of pain, he tries to put this into a coherent sentence but finds that he's gasping for air.
"Ugarrarrarrgh!"he repeats and Leah nods like she understands.
"That leg wants stitching up if it isn't going to heal by itself, we need to get him to a hospital. Now."
"But how do we explain what happened?"
"Yes thank you for your input there, Seth," says Leah flatly, "but shut up and save your energy, okay?" she turned to Jacob, an impatient hand on her hip. "Dr. Cullen won't ask too many questions, at least not many he doesn't already know the answer to."
Jacob nods and crouches down besides Seth, a bead of blood dripping down what would have been his snout. They haven't looked this worse for wear in a long, long time and Seth wonders why none of them have been able to repair themselves.
"Okay Seth, buddy…can you walk?"
"Don't be a moron, look at him- you'll have to carry him, at least to a road or something."
Jacob must have pulled a face because Leah says, very firmly, "You're carrying him!"
"Yeah, I know, of course…but can we at least put some underwear on him?"
Seth has to admit that it isn't the worst idea in the world, but he can feel Leah's withering look and it isn't long before Jacob's arms around him, pulling him up. He's in almost too much pain to be humiliated by this- almost being the key word in the situation.
Jacob tries his hardest to be gentle, but he keeps shifting Seth's long gangly limbs to get a better grip on a part of him that isn't covered in blood or totally inappropriate no matter how close a friendship they have and Seth has to grip onto his shoulders to block out the pain. Besides him, Leah is frantically dialling her mobile- which was tucked into the pocket of her jeans during transformations in a typical female fashion, because apparently even in wolf form, Leah cannot bear to be parted from it. He'd almost be grateful for it, if she wasn't mumbling about how hard it was to get signal in a forest.
"Try again at the road," says Jacob and Leah stabs at her phone again before giving a half pained sigh- half frustrated grunt, Seth notices that her arm is bleeding too, that whatever took a chunk out of him had a pretty good gnaw on his sister as well. "Hey, hey, Seth's gonna be fine, Leah."
"Oh I know he is," she says, pinching Seth's ear with her good arm a little harder than was probably appropriate, given the current situation. "He'll be fine if he knows what's good for him."
But she shakes her phone desperately once more for effect and adds sourly, "I hope we killed that thing back there."
"We certainly hurt it a lot, whatever the hell it was…what the hell do you think it was?"
"I don't know…I wanna say wolf, but it didn't look or smell much like any wolf I've ever seen. Not any of our kind at least. Oh shh I'm through. Mom, mom," she presses her finger in her ear and prepares herself, "now don't freak out, okay? No, I'd never do that- no that's- mom- that happened one time stop bringing it up. It's not me, it's Seth-" she holds the phone away from her ear and winces again, "it's not that bad, just a small- barely a scratch really- savage animal attack."
"And I've had to give him about ninety stitches- which should be enough to tide him over."
"Ninety?" says Sue Clearwater faintly, her face is pale and she grips Seth's hand tightly. If he'd been feeling less swimmy from getting his stitches done he would have yanked it away because not only had Carlisle managed to wrangle Seth a private room, he'd also allowed Seth his own entourage and now Leah, Jacob, his mom, Billy Black, Quil and Embry have piled into the pastel pink hospital room. And he wants to laugh at how uncomfortable they all look, like dogs walking on their hind legs- werewolves don't do hospitals, what with the whole self-healing thing and all, Jacob and Leah have opted out of Carlisle even looking at their injuries- and Seth knows Leah, since their dad died, has an intense dislike for 'all the poking and prodding that happens at hospital."
"So you have no idea why we can't heal ourselves?" asks Seth worriedly, lying on his stomach because the majority of his wounds are at the back of his legs, he feels broken and embarrassed and is pretty keen to kick-start the whole healing process to avoid further humiliation.
Though the question is really aimed at Billy Black, Carlisle shakes his head regretfully, "Not that I can deduce, I'm afraid; understandably, I don't know an awful lot about werewolf physiology."
"Perhaps you are," suggests Leah. "It's just slower because your legs are so bad."
"It's a possibility," says Billy with a shrug. "Wound healing times can often vary." And with that Leah grabs Seth's IV blood bag, pulling it out of his skin. He howls as it rips out and Sue Clearwater smacks her daughter round the head.
"What the hell did you do that for?!" say Seth and Sue angrily together.
Leah just rolls her eyes and points, "Look." The skin on Seth's arm is perfectly intact, as though nothing had punctured it in the first place. "So he's not broken. Trust me, we'll all be healed by the end of the afternoon."
"Good point, poorly made, Leah," sniffs Sue brushing Seth down with motherly affection before cradling his head, sniffing back what Seth hopes aren't tears. Embry and Quil, look up from decimating the box of candy that they'd apparently bought him at the gift shop and snigger so Seth shoots Billy a pleading look, which he mercifully picks up on.
"Come on boys," he says wheeling out of the door, "it's getting pretty cramped in here."
Jumping a little to avoid having their toes run over by Billy Black in his wheelchair, they mutter 'later' and 'get better', patting Seth on the back as Carlisle says he has to see to some other patients, leaving the half eaten tray of candy, his mom and his sister.
"Oh Seth, honey," says Sue with a deep sigh, "I never thought I'd have to be in hospital again, not with you two at least. And then after your father…"she trails of wordlessly, gripping her son's head tighter. Brushing down her hair, which is thick and black like Leah's, only cut shorter and streaked with a lot more grey, she composes herself a little before continuing, "If I'd have known you kids were in danger I'd never let you go off at night like that."
"Mom," says Seth exasperatedly, "we're wolves…you know that we're not usually in danger, and if we are then we just heal."
"That worked out really well for you didn't it, Seth?" sniffs Sue pointing to her son's legs. "And what if that hadn't been your legs? Hey, what if it was your throat you couldn't heal…and what if Leah hadn't been there to help you albeit a little too late," she glances at Leah darkly. "You're not going back in those woods, you hear me? And maybe you don't transform for a little while as well, I've always thought you were far too young for this, Seth. Gives yourself a little more time to grow up, at least wait until you're Leah's age to do it again."
"Is he okay?" says a voice from the doorway, with difficulty Seth turns his body round to see Edward Cullen in the doorway, eyes burning intensely, "why's he here? I thought he could heal? Who attacked him? Is he okay?"
"Hey there, Ed," says Seth with a grin. His head feels a little more out of sorts now, as though his body is on dry land whilst his brain bobs about in its own little ocean, "wanna see my battle wounds?"
Sue gives Edward a suspicious look; despite the newer generation's (Seth and Jacob in particular) friendship with the Cullen vampires Sue is from a time when all vampires were to be treated with a level of disgust by the Quileutes and old habits do, unfortunately die hard. But she can't blame what happened on Edward, and because Seth is happy to see him, all she can do is stand up abruptly and dismiss herself from the room for a few minutes, "I'm going to go talk to one of the nurses," she says stiffly, "see if I can't bust out of here."
"So how is he?" repeated Edward again, very insistently to Leah.
Seth just giggled to himself, "Bust you out of here! Like I'm in prison…my Mommy's funny."
"Uh…he's fine…that'd be the pain meds kicking in there," says Leah with a shrug as Seth continues to giggle, "he got on the wrong side of a…well, we don't know quite what exactly. Look at the bitemarks for yourself."
As she pulls up Seth's thin coverlet and papery hospital gown, Edward gives a sharp intake of breath. When he see's Seth's hip and thighs which have been stitched up and his right thigh has been bandaged, his fingers hover over the wound, inches away from touching them, brushing over Seth's inflamed skin.
"What did this?" growled Edward.
"Didn't you hear me?" snaps Leah, rolling her eyes at him. "We don't know. A large wolf or a cougar probably, we were more worried about looking after Seth when it took a massive chunk out of his ass than we were about its species."
"It wasn't actually my ass," mumbles Seth, but he's too heavily medicated to be embarrassed.
Edward's still frowning, "A cougar did that?"
"I don't know," says Leah exasperatedly, "how many more times?"
He nods, "I'm going to find Carlisle, if you'll excuse me."
"Uh…bye then, Ed," says Seth, "Thanks for stopping by."
"I'll come back, shortly," he mumbles and Leah is looking daggers at him.
"Unbelievable!" she says to the back of his swiftly retreating head, "I'll bet you any money that Dracula's going to check with Carlisle, because none of us can understand who hurt you. He thinks we're all idiots I can tell." She tries to fold her arm but winces as her wound stings anew.
"Your arm looks pretty bad."
"I'll live," says Leah grimly, leaning back on the chair. "Which is more than I can say for our Mom, I'm gonna get it when I get home, I can tell 'why didn't you look out for him?' or 'how could you have taken him to such a dangerous place?' Spare me."
"You don't think that she'd seriously ban me from going out with you guys again?"
"Depends, you know what Mom's like…but then again, you also know what Mom's been like since Dad died. I don't really know, Seth."
"He'd have convinced her to let me go out again easily," says Seth sadly, Sue was stubborn in the same way that Leah was- but with the right smile and the right joke, Dad would usually be able to make her change her mind. He paused and looked at the pillow carefully, it was cool and white- especially against his own raised body temperature, almost as though it were made of snow. "Leah…"
"What, gimp features?"
"That thing, in the woods…what we smelt…is it worrying you?"
"You should have seen it's eyes," says Leah, scratching her nose pensively, "all red and crusted over. I'm almost sure it was a wolf, the more I think about it- and not a true wolf either, but that smell, and the way it moved- as though it were in pain...I think it was dying before Jake and I did anything to it."
"Not a true wolf?" asks Seth worriedly, "You mean someone from LaPush attacked me?"
Leah shakes her head violently, "We haven't got any white wolves. But, I've been talking to Jacob while you were getting stitched up and we both think we need to talk to Billy."
"There's someone else out there who can do what we do, Seth," says Leah grimly. "And whoever he or she is, I think she must be infected with something that we don't want catching."
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