I think I stare at her, a lot.

She was stunning. As tall as any supermodel, as regal as any monarch, as stone faced as any sculpture. Her nose curved slightly, aquiline in its profile and perfectly suited to the bow lips, the high cheekbones, the deep, piercing eyes. She looked like a bird of prey. Deadly beautiful and beautifully deadly.

Her back was always straight. Posture always perfect.

It could be mistaken for pride. The stiffening of the spine, obstinate against gravity, refusing to give an inch even to the only omnipresent force in the world. And, who knows, it might be pride. At the very least, it's that something that allows her to shoulder responsibility, even if it hurts. I see how she looks at people. How she stares (with those eyes) enviously across the cafeteria, across the parking lot, across at the people in the passenger seat of passing cars. How she watches them breathe, and beat, and buckle, in such a quintessentially human way, under the force of their emotions. And it hurts her to be around them. It hurts her to not.

But she refuses to be selfish. She refuses to rail against her lot in life - death - and go for the easy way out. That hurts her more, in the long run.

I think of Atlas, when I see her. He wouldn't have let down himself, had he given up. Only the people around him. She knows this. And yet she continues on. Because, in the end, letting down the people around her is letting down herself. She's the strongest person I know, to burden herself so heavily with the happiness of others. Not too many see it. Not enough.

The back is where the blows are given - and taken. Where the fist, the foot, the whip meets flesh, blood, bone. The back is what they aim for, when one is tied to a whipping post. Where else to punish, but the place that holds you up?

That's where she was punished. Not literally, not with a whip or a stick or anything, but even so. He tried to take her strength, take her fire, and leave her with only an empty cell for company.

She's anything but empty. Her eyes flash with irritation when Edward insists on escorting me everywhere. Her lips twitch with mirth whenever Emmett whispers something in her ear. Her eyes roll playfully at Alice and her endless exuberance, while her brows furrow ever so slightly at the sight of the bruises on my elbows and knees, before turning to Edward and, almost angrily, enquiring at his aptitude for taking care of "his human."

Her fingertips hesitate over the pulse point hidden beneath my skin. Her lips trail over the outer shell of my ear. Her hair, when it's unbound, is brushed back impatiently from her face, as she tries to study my features.

When my fingers touch her back, she trembles.