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Dreamcatcher

Summary:
Dream Jacob/OC. Post-Eclipse. Elizabeth Foster is your typical grad student. When she interns on a summer research project looking for dire wolves in the Olympic Peninsula, she finds more than she bargained for.


Notes:


3. Beware of Dog

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2427   Review this Chapter

PART THREE: Beware of Dog

"Hey, ya gonna eat that?" Jared's hand darted out, snagging the last piece of bacon from Quil's plate. Quil was just a heartbeat too slow to prevent the thievery, and he glared balefully at his pack brother.

"Give that back."

"Give what back?" Jared grinned, making the bacon disappear... into his mouth.

"Boys, don't fight." Emily drifted behind them like a cool spring breeze, depositing two fresh strips of bacon on each of their plates. Jared grinned in triumph while Quil somewhat sulkily accepted his consolation prize. Neither of them left the bacon sitting long enough to cool.

"You can have the rest of mine too, Quil." Jacob shoved his nearly full plate towards him. Quil shared a worried glance with Embry across the table, and then made a show of accepting the offering, keeping it clear of Jared's sticky fingers.

Only the older members of the pack were present at the moment, enjoying Emily's hearty breakfast. Leah was leaning against the counter, daintily demolishing a second muffin while the boys circled the table, engaging in their usual mealtime war games. All except Jacob. He was silent, his eyes studying the pattern of his placemat as though it were the most fascinating thing in the world. The others walked on eggshells around him, uncertain of how to help him through his heartbreak. Except for Leah, every time she looked his way, she scowled.

"What was it you wanted to talk about, Sam?" Paul was down to sipping his coffee, and he looked at the pack leader expectantly.

"Well," Sam swallowed down another forkful of eggs, "seems the university is sending a research project down to this area." Curious looks were passed around as they waited for him to continue. "Curious thing they're looking for. Seems someone is convinced there are giant wolves running around these parts." As a whole, they all turned to look at Paul, who spit hot coffee out on the table.

"I wonder where that idea came from." Leah's voice dripped sarcasm, but she quickly took a large bite of her muffin when Sam gave her a quelling look.

"It should've been too dark for those pictures to come out. How was I supposed to know?" Paul grumbled, mopping up coffee with a napkin.

"Dire wolves," Jared mused thoughtfully. "It has a certain ring to it." Quil elbowed him, rolling his eyes. "What?"

"Anyway," Sam raised his voice just enough to command attention again. "It has come to our attention that the project is looking for guides familiar with the forests." He smiled. "I can't think of any better guides than us."

Embry was the first to see the bright side. "If it's a college research project... that means college girls." He grinned, sharing an enthusiastic look with Quil. Even though Quil had imprinted, given Claire's age, that didn't stop him from enjoying the company of a pretty girl.

"It may or may not mean that," Sam chuckled quietly. "The point is, this way we control what they see and what they find. We give them a thorough tour, flush out a few real wolves for them, and send them home with their questions answered the way we want them answered."

"Nice and neat," Embry said with satisfaction.

"Exactly." Sam nodded. His eyes moved briefly to Jacob, and it was obvious that he would have liked to ask his second in command to take charge of the task, but his frown made it clear that he didn't consider it an option. Instead he moved on to Embry, then Quil. It made sense, the two worked well together, and Jake might be willing to play relay for them as necessary. "Embry and Quil, I'll be sending you two for this."

"Aww man!" Paul sank down in his chair, pouting.

"C'mon dude, one temper tantrum and it'd be all over," Jared poked him, seemingly content with the fact he'd been passed over.

"Shut up, you've got a girlfriend," Paul grumbled back, twitching away from the pokes.

"You're better off without one, Paul." Jacob's voice was a soft growl, and again looks flew around the room, but Jake wouldn't meet any of their eyes.

"So when and where do we need to meet up with these people, Sam?" Embry drew the attention back to himself, trying to take the pressure off his friend.

"This afternoon. They're staying at the Dew Drop Inn in Forks for now, but they're coming to La Push to meet with their guides." He looked from Embry to Quil. "Can you handle this?"

Quil grinned. "We've got it covered, boss."

With a soft snort, Jacob pushed away from the table, rising to his feet. "I'm going out." He turned to go.

"Take care of yourself," Sam said quietly. He made no attempt to stop him, he knew, perhaps better than any of them, that the only thing that would heal Jacob's wounds was time. Jacob didn't answer, but simply nodded brusquely before disappearing out the door. Embry and Quil again traded looks, but one look at Sam's face kept them in their seats. "You have important work to do, brothers. Jake's just going to have to sort himself out today."

****
(Two days later)
[Elizabeth POV]

So. Washington. Land of moss and rain. Don't get me wrong, I spent most of my time in Oregon, so it wasn't vastly different. But somehow working on a real research project should have been exciting; instead I kept checking myself for mold. Even less impressive was our base of operations in a dinky motel in an equally dinky town called Forks.

It was hard to take things too seriously. Our little 'project' was less about research, and more about digging up a special for some basic cable channel. The film crew hovered, while their harried producer ran around and flailed, holding out the hope that a story would materialize through sheer force of will. On the bright side, the lead scientists, Dr. Austin Graves and Dr. Indira Shah, seemed to know their stuff. Dr. Graves was older, balding and rather fussy, Dr. Shah was in her 30's, practical, and did an excellent job of containing Dr. Graves' more neurotic tendencies. Strangely enough, they were dating.

Also on the menu were three other research assistants. Two guys and another girl. I shared my motel room with the girl, Chelsea. She was neat, quiet, and generally made me all but forget her presence. In a matter of hours I was homesick for Kat.

I don't think she missed me nearly as much.

"...Did you give him his special food?"

Kat sighed, and I thought I heard her ask a deity for patience. "Yes Betts, he got his special food."

"And you're spending some cuddle-time with him, right?"

"Yes Betts, Casper has never been more cuddled in his life."

I frowned. "You're sure he's coping okay?"

There was a pause. "Betts, do you want me to put the cat on the phone?"

I thought about it for a moment. "No, I don't want to upset him."

"Wise choice." Seizing on the opportunity, she changed the subject. "So did you do anything deeply interesting today?"

"Oh incredibly, if you like tree fungus." My voice dripped sarcasm. "The thing is, I have the oddest feeling the guides are laughing at us."

"Tell me a little more about them again?" Her voice was eager. Kat seemed to like the idea of being led through the woods by a tall, handsome native guy.

"I don't know. They're both pretty good looking. Really tall, that's for sure." I still hadn't figured out what the Quileutes were feeding their kids to make them grow like that. "Quil's got a good sense of humor. Embry's a little shy, but he seems to be warming up." I shrugged. "Neither of them was very friendly at first." That was an understatement. Both of them were well over six feet, heavily muscled, and when they'd arrived they'd worn identical expressions of stony disapproval.

"So which one do you like best?" Kat had that tone to her voice. The matchmaker tone.

"Kat..." I sighed. "They're cute, really. I'm just not... looking for that right now." I frowned. "Actually I was thinking of going out on my own for a while this afternoon. It's weird, but I think Embry and Quil have been careful to only show us the Disney version of things."

Kat laughed. "Because the Olympic Peninsula just screams 'seedy underbelly'."

Pulling the cellphone away from my ear slightly, I scowled at it. "I'm being serious, Kat. I just... think it would be worth it to look around without a guide." The first two days of tromping through the underbrush, we'd seen nothing more remarkable in the woods than an ill-tempered badger. I couldn't explain the why of it... I just needed to see things for myself.

"Betts... " She sighed again. "Do what you need to do. Whatever you need to do, to find some peace. I've got to run, babe. Be careful, and I'll expect a full report later."

"Will do." Frowning, I closed the phone, sitting in silence for a long moment. Then I got to my feet and started gathering my hiking gear.

****

"Okay, this kind of sucks." Quil cleaned a bit of dirt from under his nails, making a face at his companion as Embry merely shrugged. "C'mon, you can't tell me you didn't want more girls."

Embry rolled his eyes and grinned. "The two that are with them are actually pretty nice, you know." Chelsea had a shy smile he rather liked, and Elizabeth could be quite pretty when she cleaned up and wore her hair down.

"Yeah." It was his turn to shrug. "They're alright." He leaned back on his elbows on the bed, sighing heavily. "Just kind of bored I guess."

Embry flipped through the limited channels the motel TV offered, pausing on a movie. "Boring is good. The more boring we make it, the faster they'll pack up and leave."

Making a face, Quil let his head fall back. "That's kind of a boring thought, too. The leeches have been pretty tame lately. It feels like such a big letdown after that awesome fight." His lips twitched, and he cast a sly look Embry's way. "I suppose we could stir up a little trouble."

"Right, and if Jake didn't kill you for it, Sam would. And I'd let him." He glared back. "Just behave yourself."

Grumbling, Quil flopped back on the bed, then he went still, listening. "Where's that Elizabeth chick going?" Embry went still as well, tilting his head to the side.

"I don't know, but that's definitely her car."

"Some girl thing. Shopping or something," Quil tried to shrug it off, getting up to check the window. The Honda was already gone.

"In Forks?" Scooting to the edge of the bed, Embry stuck his feet into his tennis shoes "I mean, it's possible. But do you really want to be the one to do the explaining if she gets in trouble?" He stood, not bothering with a shirt. "We at least need to see if Jake's out there and give him a heads up."

"Alright." Quil followed suit. "Damn girl, I bet she just wanders around for an hour or two and gets lost."

Embry sighed and turned the doorknob. "That's what we'll hope for."

****

[Elizabeth POV]

The afternoon drifted seamlessly into evening, with no more to mark its passing than a shift in the light that filtered down through the trees. I'd picked this trail at random because it was remote and looked interesting, but the farther I went the more I wondered if something had drawn me here. The forest closed in around me like a lover's arms, walls of green rising to the canopy as far as the eye could see. It was incredibly vast, and yet almost intimate.

Like my dream.

A shiver went through me, and I pulled my jacket a little closer. Everything was damp here, and even at midsummer there was a chill. I put my hand on the mossy trunk of an ancient tree, stepping over the jutting knees of its roots and down into a quiet hollow. I imagined an explorer, or a native finding this spot generations ago, using the sheltering lap of the tree to make camp. Had they been lost in this verdant maze? Doomed never to leave it?

Taking a deep breath, I put my hand in my pocket, closing my fingers against the comforting weight of my GPS unit. Even if that forgotten wanderer had not been so lucky, I still had a way out. Turning it over in my hand, I climbed to the lip of the hollow. As I stepped over the threshold, I heard an odd sound. Louder than a breath, but not quite a sigh, it raised the hair on the back of my neck.

"Just the wind," I murmured, although the foliage around me was still. Then I felt the eyes on me.

Heart pounding, I tried to resist the urge to turn around. But it was as though this scene were already scripted, and I merely had to play my part.

I turned, and just as in a every dream that preceded that moment, he waited for me. Reality did not disappoint, my brain choked on taking in his massive shape. Some detached part of me declared that there was no way this was a dire wolf. While large in comparison to the grey wolf, dire wolves had still been natural, reasonable. 50 kilo, 80 at the most. The monster staring me down with his dark, intelligent eyes was at least 250k, maybe more.

Taking a deep breath, I wondered what the value would be in screaming. Did dying feel better if you screamed first? Like you'd at least done something? Or was going quietly into the jaws of a hungry wolf the better part of valor? Suddenly I had the ignoble urge to giggle.

The desire was fleeting, as the giant wolf crouched, lips drawing back from his huge, white teeth as a growl like thunder rumbled through me. Then I knew... karma had finally caught up with me. I was going to die.