?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Twilight Fic: Singing in the Dead of Night 2a/4

June 28th, 2010 (01:47 pm)

A/N: See chapter one for notes/disclaimers :) This chapter is a bit longer and has significantly more action.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Leaving Nessie was always a hard thing, but it was particularly hard today. Because he didn't have much of anything to look forward to. Just a long night of running through the woods while everyone else went out and had fun.

Yes, this was his own doing, but going to the party seemed like an even worse option. He just wanted it to be a normal night, hanging out with Quil and Embry, maybe playing the wolf version of capture the flag with Sam's pack.

Running lone was too appealing to really enjoy because every time he remembered he was doing it for the pack, it was just too much of a letdown. It wasn't that he didn't like the pack and it wasn't that he didn't like his life; it just seemed...monotonous. Like he was going through the motions. Not all the time, but enough of it to matter. For every breath of fresh air, he was drawn back into the routine, same as always.

Same as it would always be.

Nessie told him his immortality was a choice; Jacob wasn't so convinced.

So, the duty of the night. Run the patrol. See if there was a mountain lion, maybe something else. Easy and mundane. Tasks to fill the night. Jacob was good at killing time. Killing time until the next crisis. Wasting hours until he got to see Nessie again.

He started by working his way to the coast, intent on angling next to it for awhile before branching out toward the walking trails that were popular with hikers. It was a good circuit, enough to preoccupy him, and he was so set on his task that he almost didn't hear Seth's thoughts until the sandy wolf crashed through the brush beside him.

Jacob came to a sudden halt, a growl escaping. He swatted at the other wolf, trouncing him a bit. What gives, Clearwater? You ever think of saying hi first?

Seth yelped a little when Seth nipped at his right flank. He scurried to his feet, tail between his legs. I've been saying hey for the last ten minutes. Ever since I phased.

Jacob glowered. Speak up next time.

Seth stood, flexing a bit. Your thoughts were pretty loud. And messy. You feeling okay?

The concern was evident in the kid's voice, but that didn't mean that Jacob really wanted to hear it. I can handle it. Speaking of which, what are you doing out here? Isn't the party getting started?

Seth looked indifferent. Leah's spent all afternoon in the bathroom. It's worse than when she was dating Sam.

Jacob grunted. Sounds painful, kid, but it still doesn't tell me why you're here.

Seth's massive shoulder shrugged, his head dropping a little. Just figured you could use the company, was all. He sounded sheepish.

You're missing the party, Jacob reminded him.

Seth looked up, eyes just as big and earnest as Nessie's. So are you.

That's different.

Seth shook his head. No one should have to celebrate alone.

Jacob sneezed at that. As if there was much to celebrate.

He didn't let the thought formulate. The last thing he needed was well intentioned questions from Seth's bleeding heart.

Instead, he shook himself. Fine, he said. But keep pace. And no excessive talking, okay?

Seth perked up, moving on the balls of his paws with fresh excitement. No excessive talking. Got it. Not going to be a problem, Jake. I promise.

Somehow, Jacob couldn't be quite as sure.

He gave Seth one more wary look before he broke into a jog again. When Seth's feet padded in time just a step behind, he picked up the pace, keeping his nose to alert as he bounded through the trees.

-o-

Not going to be a problem.

Yeah, right.

He should have known better than to take the kid at his word. Not that Seth hadn't meant it when he said it, but there was just something genetically off when it came to Clearwaters. At least, that was the only explanation Jacob could come up with to adequately explain them.

From Leah's uncontrollable bitter commentary to Seth's incessant presence. Usually smiling, looking at Jacob as though he were the best thing in the world.

It was kind of a funny contrast, actually. Leah never had anything positive to say. Seth could never stop saying positive things.

Wow, nice night out tonight, huh, Jake?

Jacob pressed on, moving on. No response was required from him.

Do you think they've started the bonfire yet?

Seth skipped over a log, stumbling a bit over his own long feet.

I wonder if the Cullens ever make bonfires. Though they don't seem overly big on fire. Maybe that's a cold blooded thing.

Thinking about why leeches didn't like fire was sort of low on Jacob's list of priorities at the moment. Though, he wasn't sure he could even remember his list when Seth wouldn't stop talking.

You know, I was thinking, and I think running in the forest is way better than anywhere else. There's privacy, you know?

Jacob really didn't know since here he was, running in the forest at night, with Seth Clearwater talking nonstop in his head.

I haven't caught scent of any mountain lions, but I do think I can smell some deer.

That was great except they weren't looking for deer. Jacob picked up his pace out of sheer desperation.

When he settled into his new rhythm, Seth was still there, keeping stride. You really keeping at it tonight, huh? You must be pretty focused on this mountain lion.

Or just really focused on getting this voice out of his head.

Jake? Seth asked. You okay?

It was probably kind of mean, but Jacob just wasn't feeling very nice. Great, kid. What do you say about a race?

Seth's spirits seemed to perk immediately. A race? Sure? We can--

Jacob didn't listen to the end of the thought, instead he jerked hard to the left, veering off into the night, moving with speed and stealth.

Seth tumbled in the brush behind him, and it only took a moment before Jacob could sense the kid's presence behind him.

Pushing harder, Jacob picked up his pace, moving with far reaches across the ground. He took a difficult path through the trees, dodging and ducking in an intricate back and forth. He was moving at his best, smooth and fluid and fast.

And still--Seth was there. A little farther behind, but still easily on his trail, within striking distance.

The kid's persistence was noteworthy and really kind of impressive, but Jacob wasn't in the mood to be impressed. He just wanted some time alone and he was going to get it even if it meant ditching Seth.

Mature? Not so much. But Jacob was tired of being mature. He had to be an Alpha but that didn't mean he always had to act the part. For one night. He wanted one night.

With a growl, he pulled up short, Seth skidding past him as Jacob changed directions. The move was drastic, and he plunged into the dark, keeping low. He was moving fast--almost too fast to see--and he trusted his instincts to guide him. Up an incline, along a ridge, then down, quick and hard. He circled, twisting his path around across itself before pulling out in a straight away.

That had to do it. It had to. Seth would be chasing him around too much to even think annoying thoughts. Freedom. Peace and quiet. Finally.

Then, a grunt and the sound of leaves kicking up. Wow, Jake, that was--that was amazing! How did you do that?

It was almost too much. How had Seth followed him through that? How was Jacob ever going to get away? Would he ever catch a break?

As if in answer to his question, the ground gave way.

He fumbled, yelping, feet scrambling to find some kind of footing. But he was falling blind, unprepared when he hit the bottom.

For a moment, Jacob was vaguely aware of Seth's surprise cry, a dark shape falling above him.

But then there was pain.

Pain.

Pain.

His consciousness ebbed, eclipsed by the harsh sensations.

Then, a voice. Crap. Oh, crap, Jake. Your leg. Jake. Your leg. Are you--your leg!

Seth sounded about as coherent as Jacob felt. Yeah. Oh crap. His leg.

Blinking rapidly, Jacob's eyes tried to focus, looking first at Seth's huge face right above him. Even as a wolf, the kid looked totally freaked out.

What do you--do you want me--your leg, Jake. What about your leg?

What about his leg? Jacob didn't know. With slow movements, he turned his eyes down and finally saw what Seth was losing it over.

His back right leg was limp, turned unnaturally. That wasn't really the problem, though, not with the white shafts of bone sticking through bloodied fur and muscle of the limb.

It was grotesque, and looked like it hurt like hell, but for a moment, Jacob wondered if it was really his.

Oh yeah. It was his.

As if to make that point clear, the pain spiked again, with a fresh intensity that made Jacob howl.

Seth was teetering, pawing pointlessly at the ground, head bobbing uncertainly. What do you want me to do? Should I go get help? Do you want me to get help?

Jacob didn't want anything except for the pain to stop.

That wasn't going to happen though as long as he was like this at the bottom of a hole.

He looked up, surprised. The bottom of a hole? Why the hell was he at the bottom of a hole?

Reading his wayward thoughts, Seth whined a little. I think it's a trap. Came out of nowhere. And it's too well built.

A trap. Someone had built a freakin' trap and he'd fallen right down it and busted his leg open. Brilliant. Brilliant.

I'm sorry, Jake. Seth sounded truly remorseful, almost like he was going to cry. I can go get help. I can do it fast. Ten minutes. Fifteen.

Ten minutes. Fifteen. A lifetime of pain and agony he did not want to endure. Didn't know if he could endure.

And he had to think. Think without Seth in his head interrupting even his meagerly coherent thoughts. He had a broken leg at the bottom of a hole--not just any hole a trap. A wolf trap.

He cursed.

Seth flinched, pacing now. Anything you want. I can get the Cullens, maybe. They'd be closer.

Seth would have to go for help eventually, but they needed to think this out. Jacob had been hurt before and it really did suck, like majorly sucked, but he could heal. He could heal if everything was in place. As much as this break hurt the first time, he didn't want to have to break it a second time to start things on the path.

Which meant Seth had to set it.

Seth blanched. Set it? Like, the bone? Like, here?

Jacob growled. Yes, here.

But Carlisle would be better at it. I mean. It's bad. It looks bad. Are you sure--

Jacob snapped his jaw at him.

Seth yelped, curling in on himself a bit. I can't do it while I'm a wolf.

Then phase, genius, Jacob thought tersely. I'll phase, too.

Seth's eyes widened. What? Are you sure?

We're wolves in a wolf trap, what do you think will happen to us if someone finds us? Jacob asked, a sharp edge to his voice. Sarcasm was his thing more often than not, and considering there was a bone sticking through his shin, he was really in the mood for Seth's naive reasoning skills.

Seth blinked his huge eyes before understanding dawned on him. Oh. Right. His muzzle scrunched up and he sat down submissively. That would be bad.

Jacob hissed with pain. You think?

Seth nodded, going to all fours again. He paced the small space again, large tail swishing in Jacob's face. So, uh, human then? Even with the leg?

The mere mention of it made it hurt with fresh vigor. Jacob growled. I'll take the pain over ending up as a pelt on some idiot's wall.

With a shake of his head, Seth moved back and forth. I really don't want to make it worse.

We're at the bottom of a wolf trap while in wolf form and my shin is sticking through my leg. The entire pack is at the party and there is no one here to help us. I really don't know how you think this could possibly get any worse.

Seth stopped again, sitting on his haunches. You sure you don't want me to go out and get help first? I can be really fast.

It was just too much. Jacob's shin was snapped in half, poking clean through, and Seth was still talking. Jacob had never had the urge to flex his Alpha muscle, but right then? He would have liked to take a chunk out of Seth just so the kid would get the idea that now was not the time to ask questions. Now was not the time to make suggestions. Now was the time to shut up and listen.

Seth flinched at the weight of the words, head bowing reflexively.

I'm phasing first, Jacob thought purposefully. You're phasing second. You will put your pants on and then set my leg.

Seth looked up again, head cocked. When you're naked?

You will set my leg, Jacob said again, ordering it this time with a resonating strength he hadn't even been aware he had.

Seth whimpered under them, collapsing to his stomach.

Jacob might have felt guilty if it didn't hurt so completely. His vision was still red around the edges and it was getting worse with each passing second. He needed to finish this and they needed to move ahead. Now. Then you will phase back and get help. Do you understand?

The only response Jacob got was a whimper, meager and submissive.

It would have to do.

Gritting his teeth, Jacob endured a long shudder. Even as a wolf, tears burned his eyes. He swallowed hard. I'm going to phase now, he thought. He paused. Just...be quick, okay?

It wasn't an order this time, but a request. Because Jacob knew, wolf or not, this was going to hurt. A lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. He was not looking forward to this.

Seth whined, scooting back a little to give Jacob the space he needed.

Taking a deep breath, Jacob rallied his courage. Bracing himself, he started the process. It was always a bit weird to phase, to feel his body transform, synapse after synapse. But doing it with a broken leg?

Was kind of like ripping off a band aid. Hot, intense torture, searing through him with a ferocity that he couldn't even explain, couldn't even comprehend. All there was was pain, deep and vast, and as he teetered on the brink of unconsciousness, he half wondered if maybe he would have been smart to set the leg while a wolf.

But the point was still the same. Without medical equipment, phasing back would just screw with the setting anyway, and there was no way in hell Jacob was going through this--twice. And excruciating pain or not, Jacob really wasn't going to end up as a hunting trophy. Because getting his leg broken sucked, but it was still fixable.

Getting stuffed and mounted by an illegal poacher? Would do a whole lot more than suck.

Of course, at the moment, sucking and not sucking didn't make a difference when there was only pain.

He screamed, a human scream, and felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Wow. Jake. Can you--? Are you okay? Are you--?" Seth's voice was clipped and strained, as scared as he'd ever heard the kid.

That might be something to consider were he not about to bite through his tongue from the sheer agony of it all. His leg was on fire, and the blood was flowing with a new intensity. Human skin was far more fragile, and the tear was more visible without the thick coat of fur.

It looked bad. It felt worse. He needed to get this taken care of. Now.

Seth was still hovering, a bit shell shocked, and it took all of Jacob's concentration to grab him hard by one shoulder, shaking him purposefully. He looked up into Seth's eyes, holding them with determination. "Do it," he said through clenched teeth. "Do it now."

Seth's face looked hesitant just for a moment, but then he nodded, pulling out of Jacob's grasp.

Distantly, Jacob felt a hand on his foot, another on his thigh. "This, uh. Is going to hurt," Seth said.

What the hell, it hurt now.

"I'm going to have to pull pretty hard," Seth continued.

Jacob cursed. "If you don't set it now, I'm going to phase back and rip your head off."

Seth blanched but the threat must have done the trick. Seth jerked backwards, with a strength Jacob didn't expect.

His body convulsed, kicking out wildly, a spasm of pain overtaking him. Seth stumbled back with a yelp and as the white hot pain lanced through him, Jacob screamed in earnest.

The redness faded into encroaching blackness and Jacob heard his own screams echoing far too loudly as he passed out.

-o-

When he woke up, his mouth was dry and his neck ached.

Oh, and yeah, his leg was still on freakin' fire.

A shiver wracked his body and he startled to full awareness. He blinked rapidly, putting the pieces together.

He'd fallen down a hole. Broken his leg.

Looking down, he could see that the limb was still bloody, but it was set at least. It would start to heal correctly, and Jacob remembered all too well that that was a good thing. In fact, it probably had already started to heal, even if Jacob couldn't feel it yet. Though he had to suspect that the fact that he was conscious and marginally coherent was a sign that his werewolf side was still doing all the hard work.

But at least it'd had some help. Seth had pulled it out--literally.

Blinking, Jacob tried to remember where the kid was. How long had Jacob been out anyway?

Shakily, Jacob pushed himself to his elbows, squinting up. The gray daylight was still visible through the trees, so it hadn't been too long. Maybe Seth had gone for help.

Carefully, Jacob eased himself against the wall, closing his eyes for a second. It was better than before, but better was only a relative term. His leg still felt like it was being stabbed by a thousand knives, and his body was still flashing hot and cold to numb the effects with a regular intensity that made him a little sick.

Swallowing hard, he opened his eyes again, trying to see what else he could piece together.

That was when he realized that Seth hadn't gone for help after all.

Perplexed, Jacob blinked again, trying to see if he was imagining. Because it looked like Seth was sprawled on the ground on the far side of the hole. He could see that the kid was breathing, but he looked to be asleep.

Why would Seth be sleeping?

Had they been her longer than Jacob thought?

Nothing was making sense, nothing at all, and now Jacob couldn't be sure if he had a concussion, too.

Licking his lips, Jacob called, "Seth." The words were grating in his dry throat.

There was no reply.

Determined, he tried again. "Seth."

Again, there was no reply.

It was true, Seth was a deep sleeper. All wolves were. But to sleep now? When they were stuck in a hole? When Jacob was injured. This was off.

Sighing, Jacob knew what he needed to do, even if he really didn't want to. Besides the fact that this whole thing was weirding him out, he was the Alpha. Knowing what was up with his pack was his business and if Seth was sleeping on the job, then it was Jacob's place to know (and thoroughly kick his ass for it later because really).

It was by sheer strength of will that Jacob was able to move at all, a small, startling motion. The spark of pain was expected, but powerful. He saw black for a moment before his vision cleared.

With a steadying breath, Jacob steeled himself. He could do this.

Keeping his leg as still as possible, he used his arms to move himself. The next movement jarred his leg less, and though it still hurt (a lot), it was easier. Clenching his jaw, Jacob moved again, slowly and purposefully until he was close enough to see Seth's face.

The younger boy had his eyes closed, his head turned away from Jacob toward the wall. His mouth was slightly open, wheezing breaths passing in and out. It was almost normal, but not quite. Something was off. Something in the color of his skin. The sheen of sweat matting his hair. The slight rasp of his breath.

"Seth?" he asked this time, more tentative. He reached a shaking hand out, touching the younger boy's shoulder.

At the contact, Seth came to with a shuddering gasp. His eyelids were blinking rapidly, his face screwed up in surprise.

"Seth?" Jacob said again. "Hey, you with me, man?"

Seth's frantic movements stilled and he sunk back down, all the way to the ground. He blinked lazily at Jacob, eyes unusually bright. "Hey, Jake," he said with a wayward smile.

"Seth, what's going on?" he asked.

The smile reached Seth's eyes and he closed them dreamily for a moment. "You know how you said you didn't think this could get much worse?" he asked.

"Yeah," Jacob said slowly.

Seth opened his eyes, and Jacob realized suddenly that Seth was more than sleepy. Seth was feverish. "I think it got worse," he said, his voice quiet and strained. His eyelids drooped again, slipping shut this time without opening. His breathing picked up the wheeze again, falling into a rapid and steady rhythm.

Worse? How could it get worse? Jacob was naked down a hole with a broken leg. This was the epitome of worse.

Not to mention that Seth was choosing now to sleep.

He was too tired for this. He was just too tired and he hurt too much.

What was he missing here? Besides his pants. He was getting dirt in places where it just shouldn't be.

First things first, as awkward as it would be to end up as a pelt, being found naked in a hole would not exactly be easy. Where were his pants?

Eyes scanning the area, he looked into the shaded corners. Ducking down, he squinted to see under the small outcropping where Seth was partially laying.

And then he found what he was looking for.

Not his pants, even though, yes, they were there.

But the piece of the puzzle that he was missing. The information that made everything else make sense. What Seth meant when he said that things would get worse.

Because Seth's long legs stretched into the shadows, dark enough to obscure it, but not dark enough to block it entirely. It made a horrible kind of sense. The hole was only half the trap.

The other half?

Was a rusted steel trap with jagged teeth, clamped down tight into the tender flesh of Seth's leg.

Seth was right about that much; it had definitely gotten worse.

-o-

It was a funny thing about being stuck down a hole with someone who was grievously injured. It suddenly made everything else seem not so important. Missing the party? No big deal. Not getting to see Ness? He'd manage. Barely healing broken leg? It was doable. Getting dressed with said broken leg? Somehow possible, but not without a few colorful adjectives to make the process go along.

The one thing that he really couldn't deal with, and he meant really, was the fact that Seth Clearwater was passed out cold on the floor of a hole with a steel trap around his leg.

Where did he even get started with that one? His wolf instincts were to attack or herd, which left him pretty much without much to go on when it came to first aid.

More than that, just looking at Seth's leg, Jacob was pretty sure they were looking at more than first aid.

The trap was thick, fierce metal teeth that cut jaggedly into the flesh of Seth's lower calf. The kid must have stepped back into it when he was setting Jacob's let. Probably never saw it coming.

The garish wounds surrounded the leg, the points ripping into the skin all the way down to the bone. Even with an untrained eye, Jacob could tell that the damage was extensive, probably complete with muscle damage, maybe even injury to the bone itself the thing was clamped that tight.

There wasn't as much blood as Jacob might have thought, but there was still plenty of it. The thick red substance slicked Seth's lower leg and foot, staining the dirt beneath him a dark black.

All in all, Jacob knew enough to know that this was bad. This was very, very bad. Wolves could heal quickly, but they weren't invincible, something Jacob knew all too well from the throbbing pain in his own leg. Too much injury too quickly could still be a deadly proposition. Jacob had always had immediate medical care when he'd gotten hurt in the past. Even now, he could trust his healing leg since the bones were set correctly.

As long as the trap was still embedded into Seth's leg, Jacob had no idea what would happen. If the wound would try to heal around it, or if it would stay open and festering. The puckered flesh already looked inflamed, and Jacob began to worry that infection could be a very real problem.

In conclusion? They needed to get out of there. Now.

Looking up, Jacob gauged their predicament once more. The hole was deep. As a human, he would have to pull himself into the tunnel, using his back and legs to brace himself as he shimmied up. It might be possible without his leg being as it was. It was feeling marginally better, but movement still made him wince and any unexpected jostling still made him nauseous.

He'd have more luck as a wolf, though he wouldn't have much room to get a running start. But claws were helpful for climbing, so it was possible.

But phasing really wasn't all that possible. Not with his own leg still healing. The process would only do more damage, leaving him vulnerable for longer.

The fact was, Jacob couldn't get out--not yet. He had to wait for his leg to heal. It would never support him for an escape, and he knew it, even if he didn't want to admit it.

He looked at Seth again.

The young wolf was lax, but Jacob could see the fine tremors shaking through him. There was a pasty hue to his skin, though his cheeks were flushed. He wasn't getting better; he was getting worse.

The knowledge was more numbing than his injury. There was a lot of unusual territory to cover when it came to being a werewolf, and even though he'd been one for over a year, he tended to think he was getting the hang of it. The whole leader of the pack, almighty, legendary protector: it was a bit of a power rush sometimes and a lot of a buzz kill other times. It was sharing minds and organizing responsibilities.

And it wasn't like he hadn't been in tense situations before. Their alliance with the Cullens had been tumultuous at best. Between Victoria and her newborns and the Volturi, Jacob was no stranger to action. No stranger to pain either--he'd been ripped pretty badly that first time--and he'd been afraid for people he cared about.

But seeing Seth hurt, seeing one of his own so vulnerable--that was different. It was different than sitting with Nessie ready to run should things go south. It was different than being the one in pain.

It was just different. It was like he'd been running along, normal as can be, when the bottom just fell out.

Literally.

Now he was stuck down a hole with a broken leg and an unconscious Seth Clearwater who was only getting worse, and what was he going to do about it? What was he, Jacob Black, Alpha, descendent of Ephraim Black, going to do about it?

Leaders were made in crisis, but Jacob had never wanted to be a leader. He hadn't even wanted a pack, and now he had both a pack and a crisis and what was he going to do?

Jacob was not inclined to panic, but he also wasn't particularly inclined to deal with this stuff at all. There was a reason when things got tough he had ran away before. Because Jacob was enough of a lone wolf to deal with his problems in isolation, running away and hiding from it all.

That wasn't an option now.

What were his options now? Sit there and die? Worse, sit there, in pain, watching while Seth died?

How long would it be until his leg was healed enough to move? How long would it be until someone came looking for them? How long would it be before he could phase without worrying about making his own condition worse?

Questions, questions, and more questions. And no answers.

He laid his head against the dirt wall, blowing out a long breath. This wasn't his kind of gig.

Except it was.

That grim fact meant that sitting there and bemoaning his fate wasn't in the cards. No matter how this went down, he was going to be an active participant in it.

He turned his eyes to Seth again. It was only fair to give Seth that same opportunity.

It was hard to do while keeping his leg still, but twisting his body, Jacob use one hand to pat at Seth's face. "Hey," he said. "Seth."

It felt like a pretty stupid thing to do, but what else was there? He had no sense if Seth would wake up, but Jacob knew that for himself, he would prefer to be awake if he had the choice. Seth seemed like the kind of kid who would want the same.

He tapped again. "Seth, wake up, man."

This time, Seth's facial features twitched, his brow creasing and a low moan escaping from his lips.

"Just a little more," Jacob cajoled.

Then Seth's eyelids fluttered, head rolling. He gasp, eyes snapping open, a fresh wave of intensified tremors shaking him.

"Whoa," Jacob said, putting a restraining hand on Seth's shoulder. "Just take it easy there, kid."

The plain panic in Seth's eyes began to fade as realization took hold. His gaze darted wildly for a moment before settling on Jacob's face. "J-Jake?" he asked.

Jacob nodded, trying to smile. "So, you decided that you were tired of playing second fiddle?" he asked.

Seth's eyebrows drew together. "Leah's second fiddle," he mumbled.

Jacob laughed, if only so he didn't wince. "So you are jealous of the spotlight, then?" he asked. "I thought you didn't join me for the promotion."

Seth's eyes wandered a bit. "And I didn't step in a wolf trap for sympathy," he muttered.

"Well, that's reassuring," Jacob said. He paused, watching the younger boy. "How you feeling?"

Seth looked at him tiredly. "Been better," he said. "You?"

Jacob motioned to his leg. "Healing, thanks to you," he said. "I can't say how long it'll be, but at least I can think through the pain now."

With an absent nod, Seth wet his lips. "Good," he said breathily, letting his eyes close for a minute.

Jacob nudged him. "Hey, stay awake," he said, not because he was sure that was the right thing to do, but because he wasn't ready to be alone with this.

Seth opened his eyes, meeting Jacob's demanding gaze with weary resolution. "So is now a bad time to ask about your master plan to get out of here?" he asked, and Jacob could tell that under the pain and exhaustion, Seth really wanted to know. After all, Jacob was the Alpha. He was supposed to have all the answers.

Sam had always been better at the whole planning thing. Jacob was more about going on his emotions and hoping that it all worked out in the end. It usually did, but sometimes no thanks to him.

However, he was pretty sure that Seth didn't want to hear Jacob's doubt. The kid was barely staying awake as it was; he didn't need the burden of Jacob's uncertainty, too.

But what they did need was for Seth to start healing. As long as that trap was on there, the wounds wouldn't heal, or at least they wouldn't heal right. Seth was bad off enough as it was, and he was clearly only getting worse, which meant that the trap had to come off.

He sighed. That was easier said than done.

"That optimistic, huh?" Seth commented ruefully. His face was tight with pain. He hesitated. "Any reason why you think it hasn't started healing yet?"

So Seth had noticed, too. Jacob gave a halfhearted shrug. "The trap's still there," he said. "I don't know all the ins and outs of this stuff, but I don't think there's much to heal with it...like that." He finished vaguely, nodding toward Seth's foot.

Seth grimaced. "You mean having rusted metal in your leg doesn't help with healing?"

Jacob laughed despite the situation. "Yeah, I guess not," he said. Then he let his eyes drop to the ground. "So I was thinking the first step would be to take it off."

The suggestion was tentative, because Jacob knew how it sounded. Hell, he was pretty sure that he wasn't looking forward to taking it off any more than Seth was. But it was their best bet in terms of getting Seth on the mend. It would still hurt, it would still take awhile to heal, but he'd have a fighting chance. They both would. They could right this out, and it would suck, but it would work.

Seth took the suggestion impassively. He took a shuddering breath. "I got to admit, that really isn't my first choice," he said.

"If there was another way..." Jacob would do it. In an instant. "But I can't get out of here, not on my leg. It's getting better, but it's a ways to go."

"What about phasing?" Seth suggested, a little desperately.

"You know it'd just screw with the injuries even more," Jacob said. "I can't even be sure the pressure wouldn't snap your foot off as a wolf."

Seth's brow furrowed. He laughed hoarsely. "Well, that sounds pleasant."

"I know, I'm sorry," Jacob said, and he was. But there wasn't anything he could do about it. "It's the best I can come up with."

Seth turned his head away miserably, and Jacob saw a lone tear trickle down his cheek. It was hard to watch, to see Seth in so much pain and trying not to show it. Wolves were a macho group and this kind of vulnerability wasn't easy--for any of them.

It didn't help that Seth looked so young--that he was so young. The kid was still in high school. He should have been spending his weekends hanging out with his friends, talking about girls, but there he was, in a hole with a steel trap around his leg.

The kicker was, Seth had never once complained about it. He'd joined Jacob's pack without a second's hesitation and had never looked back. No matter what conflict, no matter what orders, no matter anything. That was the way Seth was. A pure and innocent mind, Edward had said.

Edward hadn't even known the start of it.

He gave Seth a lot of crap, and Seth could be annoying sometimes, but the pack wouldn't be the same without it. Jacob wouldn't be the same without him. His earnestness, his commitment, his unfailing sense of right and wrong--Seth was a remnant of innocence in a pack that had been forced to grow up far too quickly. He was the unbridled conscience in a group of wolves that didn't always want to make the right decisions.

It suddenly seemed like Jacob should tell Seth that, tell Seth something positive, something uplifting--anything--but his mouth didn't seem to want to work. For a moment, he wished they were wolves so Seth would just know.

Seth turned his head back, blinking rapidly, his chest rising and falling quickly. He nodded convulsively. "Okay," he said. "But you-you need to be careful. It's...sharp. You could lose a finger." He gave a wobbly grin. "Even wolves can't regrow body part, right?"

Jacob's return smile was pained. "Just worry about yourself, okay?" Jacob said.

Seth nodded, but his eyes betrayed him. The kid was scared. "Are you sure you can--um, with your leg?"

Jacob was scooting as best he could, keeping his leg as stabile as possible. "Hey, what did I just tell you?"

"Right," Seth said, looking at the opening of the hole. He jerked his head again in a nod, licking his lips. His voice wavered. "Worry about myself." He laughed, nervously. "Leah's never going to let me live this down."

Jacob winced, settling into position by Seth's legs. "I can probably order her to shut up about it," he offered. "She's going to enjoy reminding me how I fell down a hole."

Seth's chuckle was choked. "At least try to remember that I was manly about this, okay?"

"Sure, we'll leave out the part about your girlish screams of agony," Jacob quipped.

A smile smoothed over Seth's face. "I appreciate that, man," he said, sounding far too grateful.

Especially considering what Jacob was about to do to him. Up close again, Jacob could see that Seth's leg was badly mangled. The torn flesh was abraded and raw, and the metal's grip was unforgiving. The pinched skin around the teeth was purple, and there were clots of blood forming loosely in the part of the injury that was open

For as painful as the wound looked now, Jacob knew that the minute he messed with it at all, it was only going to get worse. Seth was a tough kid, even pretty stoic when he got right down to it, but this?

Well, any girlish screams he made, he would be well entitled to.

With a grimace, Jacob tried to steady himself. His own strength was still meager at best, no matter how in control he tried to be. Things were still a bit hazy around the edges and his mobility was limited at best. He would be relying on every ounce of superhuman strength he had on him--because once he started pulling the trap open, there would be no turning back. If he didn't get it open that first time, he wasn't sure there'd be a second time. His own fingers would be in peril, not to mention the damage that could be done to Seth's leg if he lost control and let it snap shut again.

All in all, he was aiming for a spot between a rock and a hard place. There was no margin of error--for him or for Seth.

He looked at Seth again. The kid was still looking up, fingers clenching and unclenching by his sides. He seemed to be fidgeting, but trying not to, chewing anxiously at his lip.

Turning to the trap again, Jacob briefly considered if he was up for this. It would be a task, even without his leg as it was.

Then again, what options did he have? Leave it on and let Seth slowly get worse?

Shifting, he moved closer, gently fingering the trap.

Seth tensed, gasping a little, and Jacob hesitated until Seth exhaled. "Just do it," the kid ground out.

That about summed it up. Working to get a good grip, Jacob cautiously used both hands to hold the trap. He closed his eyes, just for a moment, before opening them again and committing to the task at hand.

With a grunt, he pulled. The metal groaned, and Jacob bore down.

Seth's entire body went ramrod straight, a pinched scream erupting from him.

It was harder than Jacob had anticipated. His grip was perilous and the torque on the trap was stronger than he'd known.

Seth was sobbing in earnest now, pleading and begging, hands clutching at the dirt and his good leg kicking.

This was torture--for both of them. He had to finish.

Jacob worked his fingers, repositioning them slightly and used his entire body to pull.

It was progress--but the movement jarred Seth more than intended. The teeth caught on Seth's skin again, bumping across the now exposed wound in a way that made Jacob's stomach turn.

And made Seth scream. His body convulsed, rocking violently under Jacob and he realized that he'd underestimated Seth's pain. It was encompassing and overwhelming--and Seth had no sense of where he was or what he was doing anymore.

Which put them both at risk.

Jacob had to get this thing off--now.

He was moving his fingers, working them free from the teeth just in case, when Seth's writhing foot struck out hard, connecting with a horrible impact to his leg.

The agony was instant and complete. His fingers went numb, losing their grip and going to his leg reflexively.

Seth flailed again with a new pain, catching Jacob harder this time.

Rolling away, Jacob screamed into the dirt, his own tears wetting his face. He screamed again, pounding at the ground with his fists before everything went black.

NEXT