Chapter Summary: "I withdraw the question!" I declared so bravely to her. That was supposed to work. That always works in the talkies. How come is doesn't work here?

I found I couldn't speak; my voice had deserted me, with my courage.

... which I had never had, anyway.

So as I tried to say something, anything, I violently shook my head no as my eyes pleaded my case.

Then I finally managed to gasp out a "No, Rosalie, please!"

Rosalie's countenance grew darker and darker as she scowled at me.

"That," she spat out, "was not the question. The question was: 'Rough or gentle?' The answer you gave me just now doesn't tell me which way to proceed."

"Rosalie," I begged, "I don't want to proceed. I don't like this game, and I don't want to play it any more."

She snorted her contempt. "It is not your game, and you are not playing it. You are the game, and you are being playéd."

The way she accented the second half of the word 'played,' made it a two-syllable word, just for her.

Just for Rosalie.

"You asked the question," she said. "You knew the importance of it, even as you pushed for it, time, and again. You knew you had to put your life on the line for everything you do, for everything you are. Do you think I was joking when I said that?"

Before I could answer she snarled her own answer. "Well, I'm not."

"You don't write checks with your mouth that can't cash with your ass," she continued hotly. "Everybody else has been doing that for far to long in this country, and look where it got us: a full-blown financial crisis, and worse, a people dispirited and dispossessed. You wanted to know. You needed to know. You have to know. Time to pay that check, little girl. Time to play."

My eyes sought anywhere to rest other than her. A way out. An escape.

And although they darted around, they always failed. They always returned to her.

"Then," I gasped desperately, "I withdraw the question. I don't want to know anymore, Rosalie. I don't care!"

This didn't help. It was supposed to stop her. It was supposed to work.

It didn't work.

Rosalie eyebrows clouded.

"You cannot have already forgotten that I told you to finish what you start," she said coldly. "You back out of one thing, then you permit yourself to back out of anything. What's to separate you from the mass of humanity otherwise?"

"No, Rosalie," I shouted forcefully. "You're wrong. I told you that you're wrong. I am just like everybody else. You made a mistake, okay, Rosalie?" — and I thought helplessly, and your making a mistake now, so I added a desperate: "So, just stop this, Rosalie. I don't know what the hell you're doing, but I'm just a ... I'm just a ..."

I was starting to lose it, and I couldn't even wipe away the tears as they came, so tightly she held me.

"I'm just a girl, Rosalie, that's all. I'm just a girl. I just wanna go home. I just wanna ..." I sobbed. "I just want this to stop."

There was absolutely no sympathy from her. Her face just kept getting harder and harder.

"I was about to say 'two things,' but you, 'just a girl' just added another one to my list, and now I have to say 'three things.'" Her voice was filled with laughing surprise.

Her face showed no pleasure at all.

"So, three things, little just-a-girl," her lips curled contemptuously.

"Firstly," she hissed. "It's you. It's you. It's all for you, isn't it, little girl? Well, now it isn't. Not any more. You aren't living your sheltered, little secluded life any more. It's called 'growing up' and facing the fact that you are responsible for your actions, because they always affect others."

"You withdraw your question?" she continued. "So what! I, I, Rosalie Hale, said I will answer this question, and I swear by my own self I will see this through."

I had an out.

"But you didn't say that, Rosalie. You didn't!"

She didn't say that.

But she didn't care.

"I measured your resolve," she said. "That is why I committed to this course, girl. I may not have said the words out loud, but said them in a much more important place: in my heart."

"I am," she said in a voice that shook heaven and earth.

"I am true to myself, regardless of what others, of what you, say or do, or don't do what they say they will."

"But ..." I stuttered.

"Zzzit!" was the closest I can come to the ferocious sound Rosalie made to shut me the hell up, her face as severe as a whip.

"Secondly," she continued, "Okay, let's pretend. Let's pretend that you're right, and you're this nothing girl from this nowhere town, just like everybody else, and I was wrong."

She glowered at me for a full second, then said: "Let's pretend."

And then I felt the wind do two things. It left my lungs in a whoosh and then it whistled past my head in ... well, a whoosh.

And I saw Rosalie get smaller and smaller as everything blurred past me, and I realized that she flung me from her, like I was a little raggedy doll she no longer liked playing with.

It's a miracle I didn't smash into a tree as the forest whipped past me.

God's providence? Or a deliberate act of Rosalie?

I was beginning to wonder if they were one and the same thing.

I didn't slam into a tree, but my feet finally touched Earth, that is: my heels, digging into the snow, and I broke through the solid crust of snow, landing, hard, on my back.

What little air didn't escape my lungs before ...? Yeah. Gone. All gone.

But Rosalie wasn't.

I saw her.

As I was desperately trying to suck a thimbleful of air back into my lungs, I saw her coming toward me, walking, gracefully, without a care in the world, or thought of hurry. She was walking, but it seemed that all the trees in the forest where bending out of her way. It looked like they were trying to uproot themselves, so that they could run from her.

Because they were smart. Not like me.

She walked so casually, but in no time, she was right above me, God-height.

"Let's pretend all that is true ..." she hissed.

"Well, if that be the case, little girl, no different than anybody else, what's now to protect you from one very disappointed and angry vampire?"

She said it. She said the 'v'-word.

That's how I knew she was seriously mad.

That's how I knew I was now, seriously, in trouble.

"Get up," she snarled.

I looked up at her, terrified. I couldn't move, even if I wanted to. I just shook my head and mouthed a helpless 'no.'

She looked down at me, a bug, contempt twisting her face into this hideous, powerful, terrifying, beautiful creature, and contemplated me, as if she were deciding what to do with me. You know, like: how she would throw away this trash that's in her way.

She tilted her head to one side, and smirked.

"No matter," she said lightly, and then in one swift motion, she dropped heavily, on top of me, her knees shattering the snow around us, the force of her fall pushing it away a little, piling the snow around us like ...

Like, well, a bed.

She smiled, and with the back of her hand tenderly caressed the snow.

"After all," her gaze returned to me, "you're in the perfect position for me to do exactly what and anything that I want to do to you, and here we are, on this soft, warm, snowy bed ... for what more could we ask?"

My eyes followed her hand on the snow, and I saw, I felt, the snow, to her, was so soft, and so ... warm. That she was a creature entirely void of humanity, entirely alien.

And I was just so ... human ... so frail, so weak, so nothing. Something, that is nothing, that she could lift up and hold in the air, that she could throw across the forest. She didn't care about me: she picked me up, measured me, and cast me aside.

There was was nothing that could be between us, ever, because there was nothing at all alike. We weren't even two girls. She was God, and I was not.

And then I realized that there was actually, in fact, nothing between us because she was right on top of me, pinning me down into this snowy bed.

"So," she said, turning her attention to me again, "I will ask you again, and this time you will answer: rough? or gentle?"

I was stuck under her, her hips locking my hips down into the snow, but I couldn't fight the urge to run. And I couldn't fulfill it, either. I tried to find my voice: "No, Rosalie," I whispered, "please!"

"I said you will answer me, and you shall." She was losing patience, and her voice had an edge to it. "Or, if you refuse, then I will choose."

Then she paused, looking down at me coolly.

"... And you will not like that choice."

Finality rung in her words.

"Please," I begged, "please, g-gentle."

My voice was breaking, and I couldn't look away from her, my eyes fixed, then lost focus on the sky over her left shoulder, and I realized my clouded vision was from tears welling up out of my eyes.

"Please be gentle," I whispered helplessly.

Rosalie's face swam into my view. "That would've been my choice, too," she said wistfully, "if I had been given the choice."

"But I wasn't given that choice." Her voice was so distant, so remote.

"I would've," she continued quietly, "I would've even wanted Royce to be rough with me, and take me as a man takes a woman, as a husband takes possession of his wife, and feel his strength, and his power, and feel his seed fill me as we consummated our love for each other."

"That is," she said sadly, "if we were husband and wife, and if we did truly love each other."

She unbuttoned the top button of my coat, and I gasped in shock at her soft, delicate touch as she separated the collar from my neck while she unwrapped the scarf from my face.

I should have been fighting her, but my hands and arms where dead things at my sides. I felt one hand clench at the snow, but that was all I could do, that was all I could think because thinking and hope had abandoned me, and all that was left were sensations of touch and sight and smell overwhelming me, and all the senses so overwhelmed were of her.

She continued to speak as she unbuttoned the second button of my coat, and eased the lapels apart.

"Do you know why," she said in soft tones, "so much effort has been put into covering a woman's breasts? Corsets, brassieres, these things are so difficult to remove, are they not? Reenforced with padding, stitching, whale bone, lacing, hooks, fasteners, and material that you can't tear, no matter how strong you are ..."

Then she glanced into my eyes, "... as a human, that is."

"And do you know why," she continued quietly, "that the coverings for the breasts being such a fortress that the panties are so ... not? The panties tear so easily, are bypassed and allow probing so easily, and with the quickest of tugs come right off. Do you know why this is so?"

I looked up at her, mutely, as she undid the third button on my coat, further revealing me, little, helpless me, underneath.

"It is because of this," she explained, watching me, watching my throat work, watching the tears spill out of my eyes. "Second base is all there is to this game of baseball that we are played by, really. For once the man can get his hand under your shirt, once he can, in his primitive, stupid, neanderthal mind figure out how to undo the laces or unfasten the hooks, ..."

She gave me a sad smile. "Once his eyes see your nipple, it's game over."

"When that happens, his brain in his head, that is: his head up top, stops operating, and the only thing that works now is the little monster between his legs, and his whole body, his arms, his legs, his fists, all work to complete the act that his instinctive urge impels him to. And then it's off with your panties, fair maiden, and goodbye to that title as well, for you will now be a maiden no more. He doesn't care if he has to ease your panties off gently or if he tears them off forcefully. He doesn't care if you say, 'No! No! No!' and 'But I don't want to! Not like this! Please not like this!' ..."

Her sad smile remained, but the pleading in her voice was wrenched from her chest, as I saw the pain rip its way across her face.

"... and no court of law will protect you then, and it will even side with him," she said. "For all he has to say is, 'Your honor, she showed me her breast,' and that would be that. After all," she said, "one cannot just tear off a corset. One cannot just punch a girl to the ground and unhook her brassiere without her knowing consent and full participation, can one, or, in my case, even five? No, she has to be fully consenting to disrobe that far. And that is why they make the covering up top so strong, and the one below so weak. Once the top is gone, there's no need for struggle any more over the bottom, and no point. A girl's nipple is a signal right to the man's brain, which then shuts down, and allows bestial instinct to override any thought of morality he may have had."

And as she said this, she undid the fourth button, over my belly button, and further eased my coat apart.

"And now," she said.

And she gently lifted my back, and began to ease my coat off my right shoulder.

I gasped, and felt her hands shift as she began to easy my coat off my left shoulder.

"Rosalie," I pleaded, "you don't have to do this!"

She smiled down at me, and her smile looked kind. "What does what one has to do with what one wants to do?"

"Rosalie, no! No, please stop!"

Her hands were behind my head, cradling me in the snow, and she leaned in toward me.

"Do you see the irony in this?" she asked, her face inches from mind.

"Y-yes," I gasped.

That gave her pause.

"Oh, really?" she asked disbelievingly, her voice tinged with a bitter irony. "What is the irony that you see here, little helpless pleading girl?"

"You-you're ..." I stuttered.

"Yes?" she asked, so superior.

"You're r-raping me," I said, and two more tears spilled out of my eyes.

Her face froze.

"You're raping me, just like R-royce raped you. A-and, and you couldn't do anything t-to stop him, j-just like I...I...I c-can't stop you, and, ... and ..."

I was looking up at her, crying freely now, unable to get the words out whole, but unable to stop.

"And ... and ... he h-hurt you, and y-you're taking, you're taking that out on me, b-because you can, and, ... and I can't stop you."

She hadn't moved. She hadn't breathed. And her superior smile? It just went away, replaced but an utterly blank, unreadable expression on her face.

Her cold, perfect, beautiful face.

"B-but I can't s-stop you, Rosalie, ... b-but I ... you ... you don't have to do this. You don't. You can s-stop if you ... if you ..."

I gasped a sob.

"If you want to ... or, or ..."

I breathed in hard and tried to say something, anything that would penetrate past this monster she had become.

"Or, ..." I couldn't think of anything, "or, ..."

I just kept saying that stupid word 'or' over and over again, knowing I had failed, because I was so stupid that I couldn't put words together to say what I wanted to say, and I didn't know what I wanted to say even if I could say them.

All I could do is hope that somehow I would reach though to her, and that she would stop being this thing that was attacking me and be herself again.

Her face was inches from mine, and she had me all pinned down and wrapped up in her. She could do anything she wanted to me right now, and there was nothing I could do to stop her.

It all depended on her. It. Me. All I could do is hope that she who was so intent on taking me, regardless of what I wanted, would show mercy.

Mercy from Rosalie?

I know: a hopeless hope on my part, but it was the only thing I had, so I held onto that with all my might.

I looked up at her, her unreadable, beautiful face, hoping, and watched as I saw her transform from this hard, unmovable being into something, I don't know what, that, maybe, remembered her humanity. I didn't dare to breathe as I looked up at her, but then I gasped in surprise as her face fell away from my vision, and I felt her land, hard, in the snow, next to me.

I heard the soft thud as her body hit the snow, and I felt the ground shake, just a little bit, as it took her weight, her mass, as if it tried to catch it's own balance to accommodate her.

As if it were trying to get used to her. As if anything could.

I looked up at the clear, cold sky. All was calm. All was bright.

I waited for something to happen. It didn't. I waited for the next terror to inflict myself on me. It didn't.

I dared, as quietly as I could, to look over a Rosalie, surreptitiously drying my eyes on my shoulder.

Was she still there?

She was. She was lying on her back, right beside me, looking up into the sky.

I looked back up at the sky, trying to see what she saw. Trying to see as she did.

I saw the big sky. That's all I saw.

I looked back over at her.

After a moment Rosalie said quietly, "There's a storm coming."

I looked at her: her face, so impassive, so remote, looking up at the sky. Did she even know I existed?

I looked back up at the sky. I saw no storm, no hint of clouds. I felt no quickening of the air that would be a precursor to a snow.

I just laid there, breathing in, and breathing out. I had fought for my life, right here in the snow, fought for her not to hurt me, and she didn't, and I should be happy, or relieved, or furious at her, but I felt nothing of those things. I just felt drained.

And then, just lying here, next to Rosalie, nothing happening, moment after moment, just her and me looking up at the sky, ...

I felt ... peace.

Nothing was happening, but that was enough.

"Yes," I whispered back.

A/N: In baseball, a 'pickle' is when a base runner is caught running between two bases, where the basemen have the ball. As the baseball is thrown much faster than the base runner can run, he cannot run forward to the next base nor return to the safety of the previous one. Rosalie here is caught in a pickle between first base and second base, neither having kissed the girl (first base) nor moving onto her intended (?) target of second base: tagged out, in the pickle.