My thanks to PTB, and apologies to SMeyer.


Chapter 4

The next time the light flicked on, she was waiting for it. She held her hand still as she heard the voices approach, not wanting to be too "sentient" and get left alone in the dark again.

She wasn't fast enough to see them, and they always just seemed to be right outside her field of vision. The exception was a lone hand that trailed lightly over hers, the long, thin fingers tracing hers for a brief moment before gloved hands waved it on and picked up her hand.

Oh, that's what's wrong, she thought flatly, before it occurred to her that flat wasn't an appropriate emotional reaction to her arm. Had she just not been looking before, or had she not wanted to see?

About a hand-span down from her wrist, the bruising was impressive. Purples, greens, and yellows vied for her attention. They formed a strong handprint where someone had clearly not been interested in letting go. Up from there, it looked like she'd been bitten … maybe chewed would be a better description. Something had held her and chewed her.

She couldn't see the end of her arm, and her head didn't want to turn. Was it still muscle paralysis, or was there something else her mind didn't want her to see? The pieces she was assembling were not adding up to a pretty picture. Oh, goody, a math story problem …

A. No feeling anywhere.

B. Being stored on a work table by disembodied voices.

C. Throat needs to heal.

D. Chew marks on arm.

E. Can't remember anything.

Let A = paralyzation. If B = morgue/hospital, let C + D = surprise attack. If A, C, and D = Bad things, what was the value of E? She paused as the image of a report card full of B's flashed before her eyes. Was math not her strong suit?

The mental question was enough to jerk her focus back to the situation at hand. In hand. Her hand. Arm. Whatever. They were talking about her.

Ms. Sarcasm, Rosalie, must have asked something, because Mr. Even Tone was responding with a mini-lecture. "You can see the regeneration here and here on the arm," he said, a ballpoint pen in the hand not holding hers doing the pointing. She could only see the back of her forearm, not the front where he was indicating. The back just looked discolored and mauled. Boring, she thought, having already adjusted to this reality.

"Based on the present rate of cellular healing, it might be a week to ten days before she can be moved. You'll just have to take your work somewhere else in the meantime," her doctor – if he was actually a doctor – said evenly. She could see his white lab coat standing over by with her elbow, just at the edge of where her head wouldn't turn to look and Ms. Sarcasm was huffing.

"It's an imposition, Carlisle. Isn't there anything you can do? I do not want this thing in my garden unless it is one of Emmett's fertilization projects," Rosalie snapped. Garden? But where are the plants? I don't see any plants. Maybe there are flowers?

She sniffed, the sound echoing loud in her ears. There weren't any flowers.

"That thing can notbe breathing," said Rosalie, startled. "I'm looking at its lung!"

She didn't care to dwell on that particular observation. She focused on the smells. They were almost overpowering. Just one sniff had brought in a wealth of information and nuance she couldn't handle. There was soil here, rich deep loam fertilized with manure and ashes. She picked out six different cows, pine, cottonwood, and even a stray branch of eucalyptus.

She discovered she hated the smell of eucalyptus.

The worst, though, was a coppery tang that hammered through everything. Tart, crisp, and cutting, it seemed to be firing circuits in her brain she'd never known were there.

Somewhere there was a lot of blood sitting around, and it was getting old fast. The smell was vile and tantalizing all at the same time. It was ridiculously close, like it was right under her nose. Now if she could just put her finger on where that was coming from …

If A, C, and D = Bad things …

She wasn't that bad at math. The bolt of panic shook her free from her paralysis enough to roll her eyes upward into the very startled faces of a stunning blond woman and the doctor by her side. "Ah, well, that answers a part of the sentience question," said the doctor. He dropped down to her level and looked her in the eye. "My name is Carlisle. I'm your doctor."

There was a snort from above as Rosalie expressed her opinion of his introduction, stepping away from the table and vanishing into the dark. He continued, relatively unfazed. "That was Rosalie, a member of my … family. We mean you no harm, and I assure you that you will eventually recover from this experience."

The silence stretched on as her brain did frantic cartwheels. What experience was she supposed to be recovering from? Gaps, gaps, gaps everywhere were short-circuiting the calculations.

"Carlisle," Rosalie said at last, her disembodied exasperation settling down from on high to blanket both members of the non-conversation in icy disdain. "What are you expecting her to say? Half her throat's still missing. Vocalization is not happening here."

"Rosalie," he replied, not breaking eye contact, "there is no reason to continue creating panic by referencing injuries that are simply not an issue."

"Oh, right," Rosalie snapped, not the least bit contrite. "How thoughtless of me."

Carlisle stared on, unblinking. Gradually, she realized she wasn't blinking either. Or breathing, really. She was just utterly, utterly still as her mind raged around the few small facts rattling around in her skull. Carlisle's cool eyes had the most uniquely colored golden irises she'd ever seen, and she was dimly aware she was using his looks as a distraction from focusing on his words. Yet his fine eyelashes intrigued her, as did the short lock of blond hair that had broken from his carefully combed hair to fall forward onto his forehead.

She went to touch it, and he was gone, her arm falling from his grasp to flop lifelessly against the tiled tabletop even as her hand curled in a futile half-grasp.

"Remarkable reflexes," he said, at a distance. "Rosalie, hit the lights, would you?"

"Let Edward do it," said Rosalie. "He's closer."

Across the room, there was a sigh, a click, and then darkness was back, taking over her mind and setting it free from her scattered, screaming thoughts.


Thanks for reading and reviewing! Next up … we meet The Pack.