The polar bear tank, it turned out, had a leak. Well, maybe more like a break. Maybe more like someone had put their fist through it, someone unnaturally strong who could punch through that reinforced glass like it was cardboard. I wasn't stupid. I could take a hint.
Dimitri knew there were only two things that I cared about in the whole world at the moment, and he wasn't stupid enough to take a swing at my family. Largest coven outside of the Volturi, that was what I'd heard—and with talents like Alice's and Edward's? Forget about it.
But I had isolated myself. I had taken myself away from them, I had put myself out here on my own, and on my own I could be taken down. Brilliant, Rosalie. Brilliant.
So I went into the polar bear exhibit with my hackles up and my paranoia set on high, watching listening waiting for Dimitri, he had to still be here. It wasn't like him to drop a bomb and not want to pick through the aftermath.
The water sloshed around my ankles, soaking into my flat-soled red boots. Fabulous. I'm sure aquarium water was really great for suede. I was worried about the bears, though, honestly, because I could see the water pressing against the broken glass as I came closer, piling up against it with a slow creak until—with the sound of a bad car crash, a thousand dropped dishes—it imploded.
Water washed over me up to my waist, no hope for those boots now, and I braced my feet against it so it wouldn't knock me over, the sudden wave of it with bits of glass and fish heads, old bones. The female bear, Ida, swung her head around at the noise, letting out a low, annoyed growl, but Gus was going to take a more active role. He was already padding down to the "shallows" where there had been water ten seconds ago, looking down at the gaping lack of glass as if he'd just figured out what to do with it. He put one foot carefully down into the waterless pit, then the other one, and he knew exactly where he was headed. Out.
"Oh no," I said, rolling up the sleeves of my nice dress shirt. I suppose I should have listened to Alice's advice about dressing casual. "No, you don't. You're not going anywhere." As sad as it was to see them cooped up in their tiny artificial Alaska, I couldn't say much for the safety of the streets of New York. For everyone's sake, it was really best that they stay in here.
Gus didn't seem intimidated by my threats, though, and kept coming straight on towards the missing glass. Gus was a seven hundred pound polar bear. When you're a seven hundred pound polar bear, there's not a lot that can beat you out in a game of chicken. Gus was used to being run away from, especially by these puny, pink humans with their frozen fish and their long-distance prods. He wasn't expecting me to keep coming at him. No way for him to know, of course, that I wasn't one of those humans. Not even close.
As we met in the middle of the damp empty pool, he veered suddenly and tried to dodge around me, but I wasn't having any of it. I stepped quickly forward and grabbed his muzzle with both hands, trying to control his head like you would with a horse. I wasn't afraid of him. This seemed to shock him at first, but even in a zoo polar bear there were specific instinctive responses to people grabbing your face. He surged forward and I barely kept my feet, swiping at me with a paw the size of my head. Behind me, I heard Ida's dissatisfied moan break into a roar.
And against the roar there came the sound of a sudden, alarmed human yell—I blocked Gus's paw with my forearm and turned to see Emmett standing there with his flashlight pointed in at us, horrified at what I'm sure he thought he was seeing. I did a quick reassessment of what this probably looked like, and swore quietly to myself.
"Hey, don't worry!" I yelled back to him. "Don't, um, don't worry. I'm fine! I'm okay!"
But he was already climbing into the broken tank, tazer in hand, ready to rescue me, stupid boy. I'm a vampire! I wanted to yell. Don't worry! I'll be fine! I had to admit I was a little impressed that he was charging right in here with all his mortality—it took quite a human to face down a polar bear.
That didn't mean it was going to work, though. I turned as far as I could, getting my hands under Gus's jaw and pushing his head up, teeth as far away as possible. It was going to be difficult to explain how I wasn't dying here, wasn't it? But the priority was keeping anyone from dying, so secrecy be damned.
"Get out of here," he was instructed me, bringing his walking talkie up. "Go, run, get out of here! This is McCarty in the polar bear exhibit, we've got a situation here. I need all guards to the polar bear exhibit now, and someone call the trainers, the bears are loose."
As Emmett got within polar bear range, I freed up one hand to shove him away—it was obvious he wasn't going to go anywhere by himself—but as I did, there was suddenly someone behind me saying, "So how's that modeling career going, Rosalie?"
It was Dimitri. Standing back there in the exhibit with his arms crossed and his head tipped to the side, so unwelcome and so unexpected that I completely what I was doing. Gus didn't forget anything—he took advantage of my slack grip to bull past me to get to the man with the tazer, slashing at him his inch-long claws.
Emmett didn't scream. I don't know why he didn't, it was the kind of thing that you screamed about, but he just fell without a sound, crumpling to the ground with four long slashes diagonal across his chest. Gus got there before I could and bit down on his shoulder, barely missing his neck, paws coming down on his ribs right where the slashes ended. I could hear them crack.
I hit the bear with all my strength, which was unnecessary. I was just suddenly panicked, and furious, and very concerned about the blood that was inking the remnant puddles of water red, staining it in thick clouds out from his veins. Gus went skidding back and slammed back into the wall, stunned and offended. He'd just been being a polar bear, and I knew I couldn't blame a bear, but it was hard when I saw Emmett struggling to breathe, bubbles of blood on his mouth.
"Oh dear," Dimitri said sardonically, as I dropped down to my knees next to him, pulling him up, tipping his chin back, trying to keep his airway open. "Look what's happened."
I hardly heard him. I was too busy pressing my hands against the bleeding slashes as if I could trap the blood back in, watching Emmett's eyelids lurch sickeningly closer to closed, his eyes rolling frighteningly back to white. He couldn't die. I couldn't let him die. I looked at him, black curls and bright green eyes, spots of color high in his cheeks, and there was something so familiar and important about him, somehow impossibly irreplaceable. I think I'd known it the first time I'd ever looked at him—the strange blue-sparked static electricity between us, for no reason I could think of. For absolutely no reason at all.
I looked at him and I knew that I was not going to let him die.
"Rosalie," Dimitri said impatiently. He'd meant to provoke me but I don't think he'd imagined it going like this. "Rosalie, are you listening to me?"
I was not listening. I was realizing that I was not going to let him die. I looked at him and I knew that, I looked at him with blood on his face and I knew that if I could save him I would never be alone again. And I knew that Dimitri didn't matter, of course not. And modeling had just been a stop on the road.
"Dimitri," I said, and I was surprised at the clearness of my voice, the steady finality. I guess some things just came out right. I guess it just all went right, when it finally had to. "You don't have to worry about me. Consider your mission accomplished, you won't have to worry about me again. But please shut up."
I swept my hair over one shoulder and bent down to Emmett, opening my mouth to him—he was torn to pieces, there was no way he was going to make it unless I changed him. I stopped halfway down, hit by the smell and the heat of his blood, pumping out of him far too quickly and far too close. I could almost taste it on my tongue. I closed my eyes and tried to get control of myself—why hadn't I gone hunting yesterday? I couldn't do it. I wasn't stupid, I knew I couldn't do it, I didn't have enough control. I would drain him dry and I would only regret it later.
Right. Different solution, then. I leaned farther and slid my arms under him, picking him up with some difficulty. It wasn't that I couldn't do it, though he was absolutely huge—it was just that the closer I held him, the stronger I could smell his blood. The more it started seeping into my shirt and my jeans, the more it started dripping into my boots. I didn't know if I could make it a hundred miles. I didn't know if I had that in me, to carry him all the way to Carlisle. I did know, however, that I was going to give it a damn good try.
"What are you doing?" Dimitri demanded skeptically, still standing in front of the entrance. This had gone not at all how he'd planned, but he didn't need to worry. He was going to get his way. He already had. I just didn't care so much about him anymore.
"I'm saving his life," I said impatiently. "Goodbye, Dimitri. Get the hell out of my way."
I was tapping my nails on the bedpost. I had long nails, and I'd been doing it for almost ten minutes straight. They were making a lot of sound. I'm sure it was irritating. I couldn't stop.
I just didn't have a lot of experience with finding healthy outlets for nervous energy. Usually I just yelled at people or glared regally at them, but neither of those outlets seemed appropriate. The only person I could have yelled at would have been Carlisle, but that would be counterproductive. Not to mention ungrateful—after all, he'd agreed to turn Emmett based on nothing more than the look on my face when I showed up on his doorstep.
"Is he going to be okay?" I asked for the thousandth time. We were both sitting there in chairs on the edge of the bed, watching Emmett twist against his restraints, still silent. He hadn't screamed once, not even when Carlisle had bitten him and the venom had gone straight to his veins.
"I'm sure he'll be fine, Rosalie," Carlisle reassured me patiently. "Look, his wounds have already bound together. You can't tell because of the blood, but they're all healed, see?" He flicked Emmett's shredded shirt aside with two fingers to show the smooth, paling skin underneath, and Emmett flinched hard at the touch, wrenching painfully away.
"Carlisle," I said. "I think I love him."
"I thought so," was his reply. We sat there for another few minutes in the silence, watching Emmett. I don't know how long we'd both been sitting here—days. More than one day. Possibly as long as a week. A million years. I had no idea. It was torture to sit here so close to him with his blood all over the clothes and bed, but I had refused to go hunting. I couldn't leave him till the moment he opened his eyes.
"Rosalie," Carlisle said finally. "He won't remember anything when he wakes up. He'll be disoriented, he'll remember nothing but the strongest moments from his human life—his family, maybe, or his death. It's all going to be very much of a blur for him for a very long time. He's going to need your help."
"I'll be here," I said. I knew that this came as a surprise to him—I wasn't exactly the poster child for commitment and responsibility. But he believed me. He'd been here before. "I don't care if he doesn't know who I am. He's going to need me."
"Good," Carlisle said. "Then I think you'll both be fine."
He came awake like a swimmer breaking the surface, gasping air, eyes flying open, violent forward motion carrying him up against the restraints, sitting up as far as he could until he hit them and slammed to a stop.
I was there instantly, coming to his side with my hands on his face, pulling his chin up so he was looking me in the eyes. I remembered this part—the pain, the dizzy confusion, the violence of everything that you'd just become. I made him look me in the eyes.
"Emmett," I said. "Look at me. It's okay. You're all right, we saved you. We're not going to hurt you. You're not going to understand, but I want you to trust us. You're safe."
He looked up at me with his new red eyes, brighter than the dried blood on his neck and collar. New-blood red. His breathing was already slowing, and his hands were wrapped around my wrist. He wasn't fighting me at all.
"Rosalie," he said, and I forgot to let go. I forgot myself in looking at him, and I oh God, I hoped that he loved me back. Because I wanted to be looking at him for the rest of my life. I couldn't think of anything else that I wanted to do. And he was looking right back.
"I remember you," he said. "I remember you."