1. He's gone

Disclaimer: the characters and all recognisable situations belong to Stephenie Meyer - this is a work of fan fiction, except for the legends and histories of the Quileute that, of course, belong to them. I pay my respects to their gods.

Sam Uley stood looking down at the remnant of the girl he held cradled in his arms.

Her skin was so pale it was like alabaster. Her long dark eyelashes curled over her cheeks. She was so little and so… broken.

She was cold and wet. She shivered as he tucked her in protectively against his naked chest. For once he was thankful for his extreme body warmth. He had nothing else to wrap her in. Nothing else to offer her.

He had found her with her face in a puddle.

"Have you been hurt?" he asked her because she looked shattered.

He tried to help her up but she couldn't move, so he had scooped her up off the ground. She felt light in his arms. No effort at all to carry her. He ran at an easy, loping pace through the forest. He had run quite a way before he realised he was carrying her towards his home; not towards her own. He had stopped, frozen by the implications.

"He's gone," she said; her voice cracked and straining with the effort to speak. It was as if she was literally hanging by a thread. Maybe his stopping had got through to her.

And like a dam leaking, once she had said that, that was all she said. Over and over. As if she was trying to convince herself of the reality of it.

Sam didn't need to be told which 'he' it was. Edward Cullen and his whole family were gone. He couldn't be happier for the Quileute people. The last thing they needed was a coven of vampires camped on their doorstep. They were going to light celebratory bonfires on the cliffs when they heard they had left. He was going to pray to all the gods that they never came back and that more boys on the rez did not become like him.

But his heart hurt for this slip of a girl. He had told her his name. He wanted her to know his name; to know who her rescuer was.

But he should not be taking her to his house. He hugged her closer to his body; pressed his lips to her frozen forehead and turned to head for her home.

Bella was aware that she had been found. He had introduced himself; he had said Charlie had sent him. She should have been upset to be held in the arms of a half naked stranger; but she wasn't. She was warm for the first time in hours. She should have objected to his warm, dry lips being pressed against her forehead, but she didn't.

He shifted her in his arms and he ran again.

She heard the babble of many male voices. Sam slowed his pace as they approached. He actually seemed to hesitate to carry her into that.

"I've got her," he announced. His voice deep and booming. She heard it through his chest.

Other people spoke, but all she could hear was Sam. Her ear pressed against the warm skin of his naked chest. He was all that made sense.

She heard Charlie's voice "Charlie?" she spoke. Her voice sounded strange and small to her. She had forgotten to call him Dad.

She heard Sam again. "Maybe I should hold onto her," he suggested.

Oh please do, she wanted to say. Please keep holding me. But she couldn't speak. Sam shifted her in his arms again and now she smelt her father's leather jacket. He staggered a little under her weight. Sam had carried her so easily. Effortlessly.

She could see him hovering. He looked worried that Charlie would drop her. He ran ahead to open the front door for them. He held the door open and she watched him as Charlie carried her through. Charlie was tall but Sam had another half a head on him. Her tall, dark, rescuer. He stood, one arm extended as if he was preparing to catch her when Charlie's arms failed; catch her when she fell.

That would be nice. Someone to catch her when she fell. She fell all the time.

"Blankets are in the cupboard at the top of the stairs," Charlie told him and he hurried to get them. He handed them to Charlie when he got back and then he stood with two other, slightly smaller replicas of him in the corner of the room.

Charlie and Dr Gerandy were having a discussion, but she wasn't listening that closely. She closed her eyes. She could hear whispers about the Cullens leaving town. She could hear as Charlie whispered his thanks to the team of volunteers. As each left, the house got quieter.

She felt a very warm hand on her face and then she felt the weight of another blanket as it was gently laid on top of her. Warm, strong hands tucked it in around her. The same warm fingers brushed her face and then he was gone.

"He's gone," she muttered.

FF_2154210_ - 22/09/2011 03:24:00 PM