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I'm nothing but a monster burning in a hell that only exists in my head. There's no hope left until one harmless glance chances logic and binds two eternal enemies together in a twist of fate. Can the escape from this hell be found in an infuriating dimpled grin? Or is this another dark, dirty trick of my own mind? A forbidden passion, heat, and intense anger—this is no fairytale.

[Disclaimer: Monster is an originally plotted fic. The ideas within this fic are not to be copied in any way, shape, or form—I have not given my consent to any manner of copying. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of their respective owners. All canon concepts and characters are the property of the Twilight Saga's author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Similarities are for the sole use of fan fiction, and no profit has been or will be benefited from the posting of this fic.] Emerging Swan Award 2012, nominated into Fandom Choice Awards.

45. Favors and Fevers

Rating 0/5   Word Count 5216   Review this Chapter

"Tie a knot in the rope, tryin' to hold, tryin' to hold,
But there's nothing to grasp so I let go." - P!nk.

Chapter Forty Five

Favors and Fevers

The gloom of the grey skies is infectious. My expression has morphed into a dark mask and my senses have set on high alert as I slip through the forest, ducking and twisting to avoid leaving any trace of my presence behind. The heat of my body saturates the air, pulsing out in large waves. I imagine the forest around me bowing beneath the fire, the brush crippling and bursting to dust as I pass.

I keep my mind working, picking out sounds and sights. The quiet intensifies my guard, keeping me ready to act in a moment's notice. The sting of leech is already seeping into the air long before I have even neared Cullen property. I swallow back the bile in my throat, inhaling slowly as I pick out a perfume much sweeter than the rest. A fragrance that can only belong to one man and one man only.

The scent strengthens as I approach the house the tree line. I pause there, standing at the edge as I survey my surroundings. There isn't much of anything different other than the soft lights and tang of celebration in the atmosphere. I don't dwell on it, though, because as I come closer, someone hisses inside the house. The sound is followed by a victorious whooping, and then a low mutter. A familiar boom of laughter rings out into the forest.

"And here she is!"

Emmett's gloating shout is followed by the swing of the door. He takes a single stride before hopping off the porch. My eyes skim over his clothing, noticing as the wind of his small leap reveals the muscle beneath the open buttons of his shirt. My body heat spikes again with some sort of fluttering emotion, but my expression remains neutral as Emmett approaches.

"Hey, babe," he greets. The huskiness of his voice is clearly intentional, and so is the smirk that rises on his face as goose bumps crawl over my skin. He leans down and presses his lips to mine for the briefest moment before pulling away, his eyes gleaming with the usual child-like amusement.

In different circumstances, I might have picked up on his teasing and gave him a taste of his own medicine. But this is business, and my focus is centered on getting answers instead of getting lucky. I flash a simple smile and nod once, quickly gathering my thoughts.

"Now, I know you're not coming all the way over here for the graduation party. So that's gotta mean that you came to give me a congratulations gift?" Emmett asks, wiggling his brow.

"No, that's not it." I find myself breaking out into a grin as I reach up to twist a button on his shirt in my fingers. "I'm here on duty."

"Oooh, a woman on the job." Emmett laughs deeply. "Even better." He rocks back on his heels, his hands rubbing together eagerly. "What kind of duty is this? It wouldn't be some sort of private, secretive thing, would it?"

I'm grinning again. I reach up and slide my hands around Emmett's own, feeling my fingers brush lightly against his marble skin. I step close to him, allowing little distance between us. "Not just yet." I breathe the words without minding the attentive ears just inside the walls. "There were little wolves on the TV, saw something about mass murders of humans in Seattle." I watch Emmett's expression start to brighten as I speak. "And I'm playing the secret spy who casually strolls over and questions you to find out if your family is behind it all. Really, I'm on a mission."

Emmett is mirroring my grin. He studies my expression before shaking his head. "Spy, huh? Forgot the heels and tight pants. And the whole secret part." His left eye flutters shut in a wink. "But it just so happens that we might have your answers. I think you'd be interested in this."

"Mmm." I squeeze his hands. "Your definition of interesting, or mine?"

"Both." Emmett chuckles, squeezing my hands in return. His fingers slide through mine as he drops one of my hands, leading me up toward the steps. "We don't have long before the life of the party shows up, so we'd better make it quick."

My eyes narrow slightly, the amusement leaving my expression. I can already feel the sizzle in the air without Bella gifting the place with her presence. There isn't any reason for her to know about the Seattle issue before the pack does—it can't concern her, a human. Unless there's another round of misfortune set for her to unleash over all of us.

I don't speak as Emmett pulls me along. The feel of his secure hold on my hand is enough to keep my head together, but my instinct has other ideas. My eyes roam around our surroundings with suspicion.

As we pass through the house, my shoulders square and my nostrils flare. Everything is exactly the same, yet somehow different. It only takes seconds for my sight to zero in on the wall of graduation caps. A few new additions have been tucked neatly into the corner. That is insignificant, though. It's the whiff of cheap strawberry shampoo coming from one of the them that has caught my attention—the scent of a human.

The caps on the wall are only a flashing reminder: that very scent will burn in a short matter of time.

I'm bristling by the time the odor settles into my nostrils. Emmett remains silent, but the relaxed slump of his shoulders show no sign of unease, even as he senses my rigid posture and draws me closer. Despite the reassuring gesture, I have to swallow a growl as Emmett leads me into the main room.

Decorations light up the dull room, turning it into something that might actually pass for a celebration. The mood of the place is exciting, like a match about to be lit, but to my sharpened senses, the stink of leech instantly restores the bleakness. The two male Cullens in the room are already aware of my and Emmett's presence, their backs stiff and their heads turned to greet us. The two darkened pairs of wary eyes follow our every movement from the moment we step onto the carpet.

"Damn, sure is quiet! Anybody awake in here?"

Even Emmett's good humor fails to thin the tension that hangs above our heads. I take note of the others in the room—Carlisle and Jasper—carefully analyzing their positions. Carlisle, standing by the large window, has positioned himself to face Emmett and me. He's almost smiling, but the angles of his brows suggest concern. Jasper averts his gaze as Emmett speaks, focusing only on the low mutter of the stereo as he leans against the wall, his arms folded over his chest. He's still enough that it seems like he might melt right into the wall in any minute. Warning signs shoot off in my head. I know better than to fall for the harmless act.

"Oh, c'mon!" Emmett continues. "We're supposed to be throwing a party. Who hit the snooze?"

"Even a small lapse of focus could become a weakness."

My eyes instantly slant at the low tone of Jasper's words. My gaze burns into the side of his face, yet he remains frozen, as if oblivious to the steady stare. Emmett slips closer to me, his fingers falling from mine as his arms wrap around my waist. My knuckles pop as my fingers curl.

"I'm certain a night of celebration won't cause any harm, Jasper," Carlisle says gently.

"That's exactly what they want us to believe," Jasper mutters in response.

In the corner of my eye, I watch Carlisle's brow furrow. His eyes shift over to Emmett. There's a long pause before he speaks. "Perhaps it would be best if she—"

"I came here for that," I interject. My gaze doesn't move as I speak, my voice sharp as ice. "An explanation."

Each yellow gaze meets the others, exchanging another wary look.

"If the threat is coming closer, they're gonna have to get involved anyway," Emmett suggests. "Even though we could take them down alone." His voice rings with clarity, reminding me why I don't need to tear out any throats.

"Don't overestimate—"

"Why not, Jazz?" Emmett's mouth quirks into a smirk. "Not scared, are you?"

I feel my lips twist, unable to stop myself. A newfound appreciation forms inside me at Emmett's own nerve. Although his tone is teasing, Jasper only hears the words.

Finally, Jasper's eyes rest on me, acknowledging my presence. He studies me with caution for a minute before his lips twitch and his jaw clenches. "What's happening in Seattle is the cause of our kind. Many of our kind."

Adrenaline floods through me. "Good. It won't be much of a problem, then."

"No." Jasper's words are spat, brisk and sharp. "This is an army. An army of newborn vampires. Young, ravenous, and strong—stronger than you'd think them to be. We shouldn't expect that they can be dealt with so simply."

The flood evaporates instantly. My eyes flash with irritation and words fly off my tongue. "You're right. It is underestimation that'll get you killed. My teeth pierce my tongue for a moment, drawing a prick of blood. It's the only thing that keeps my lips from peeling back.

Jasper's eyes darken to topaz, shaded with agitation. "You don't understand what they're capable of."

"We can't overlook anything," Carlisle says slowly as my lips part again. "The situation is a growing issue, but we can't pinpoint what the initial cause is or the goal. Of course, at this point, it's clear that this is much more than a human criminal."

"What the hell are we doing standing here?!" I snarl. "We need to go deal with this now!"

Emmett's chest shakes with laughter, as if my outburst amuses him. "I second that. About time there's some action."

"You don't have the experience," Jasper snaps. He speaks in an exaggerated tone, as if he's talking to a child. "Which is why you shouldn't plan on interrupting the situation and ending up with more scars than you're bargaining for."

Jasper finishes with searing stare. My veins throb and my teeth grind, but it's all useless, because Jasper has already pressed his luck. There's only a split second of reasoning—just the feel of Emmett holding me close to him—before my control shatters.

"And by what right can you assume that?" My lip has curled back, my teeth bared and ready to shred. "By what right do you know that I can't blow you to pieces in the blink of an eye?"

The wolf shudders at the words. I lean forward, challenging the still yellow gaze. "By what damn right?"

"Emmett, she—"

"Shut the fangs, Doc."

Carlisle seems to recoil at the sharp bite of my tone. He steps forward and then pauses, seeming at loss for how to react. I send a flash of teeth his way, taking another step forward. My gaze is trained on Jasper, waiting for him to react.

Jasper's nostrils are flared wide, burning with my scent. Irritation is clear in his stare, yet he doesn't react. He keeps his lip curled but his teeth hidden as if he somehow knows better, his hands clenched together behind his back, his body still as a statue.

"Hey now," Emmett says carefully. His arms are around me again, holding me close in a way so much more intimate than before. The wolf roars inside of me, sending images of his disassembled leech chunks flashing behind my eyelids.

I need to kill. The desire courses through every nerve in my body, buzzing, drowning out everything else. But below the surface, my own voice speaks above the impulse.

No, I need to stop. I know I'm on the verge of going ballistic and falling into the pit of fire expanding deep inside of me.

The two orders clash in my brain. They struggle against the other, neither of them able to win out. My chest heaves and my clothes tear with the strain of my shaking. Carlisle darts forward and rests a hand on Jasper's shoulder. I watch his lips move, his gaze resting on Emmett. Something there—whether it's his expression or his feelings, I don't know—causes Jasper to nod and retreat. Even as he backs away, I don't relax and my eyes don't leave the yellow until they've disappeared, completely out of reach.

A howl of frustration leaves my lips. I start to thrash in Emmett's hold. The stink of the Cullens is pumping into my lungs, my brain sending out stream after stream of heat. The wolf is swelling inside of me, her power growing with each moment. Emmett's soothing words are in my ear, and his hold is still tight. His words are stalling the wolf's advance, but it's not enough to calm her.

Shreds of my clothing fall to the ground. I feel my eyes spin around wildly, looking for escape. My heart hammers loudly in my ears, my breathing ragged and wheezing. My fingers are raised and waiting for the chance to strike. Waiting for the chance to tear through flesh.

And then, suddenly, the arms disappear around me and I'm spun around. My hands close around Emmett's throat as his cold lips press around mine. He's kissing me with a sort of desperation, but my hands remain constricted around his throat. They shake and burn against his skin. A small voice inside me screams wrong, that it's all wrong, but the wolf's voice defeats it.

My hearing strains out through the walls, searching for the music of the forest. I can only hear the crackle of stone as a car slowly rolls into the driveway. Emmett's mouth pauses as the sound reaches his ears. His hands slip over my own and slowly pry them away. He breathes out loudly, not bothering to look over his shoulder as he all but drags me to the door, his breathing stopping in mid-pull as my hands constrict his neck.

Suddenly, I hear a sharp crack, and my heart sinks. Cold mist blows across my face and splinters rain down on me. I am about to turn on myself until I realize the crack is only the sound of the breaking of the door, but my body still doesn't relax. My hands slash through empty air as Emmett sets me down outside.

There it is. The line of green freedom is just in reach. I'm about to sprint to it, to enter it and fall back into the form that's bursting out of me, but a cold grip stops me. I snap my head back and growl, one low, sharp sound, but the large hand remains locked around my own.

The man's eyes meet mine as I glare, lip curled and body fuming. I can see the light of my reflection in his darkened irises—my expression fierce in a way that's molded to look animalistic, the black spill of my hair whipping in the wind behind me and the blue stones of my eyes piercing into his own. The man's gaze is desperate, his thick brows puckered as he stares without fear. I toss my head back as my body struggles, held back by some heavy feeling in my chest although I'm dying to rip straight through him. My voice is thrown up into the sky, my throat screaming out a round of feral sounds similar to those of a caged animal. Finally, the man's hand opens as I screech out in rage, suddenly freeing me. I huff loudly at the loosened grip, jerking myself away from him and leaping off the porch in a single bound.

There aren't any footsteps behind me. I shoot a glance back to see the man still standing there, his hand dropped to his side. His eyes find my own, and he only nods. No shout or lunge; just a nod. No anger, fear, or hurt, just understanding.

I'm beyond the point of realizing what that look means. I rumble lowly at him, my teeth bared in warning. As the man remains in place, I duck around the house and head out for the trees, not wasting a second.

My thoughts bounce off one another like hundreds of tiny wasps trapped inside my skull. I am still jerking, my body ripping apart from inside out. I clench my jaw and tense my muscles, ready to throw myself straight into the shadows, ready to collapse into the wolf, when the crackle of churning tires distracts my attention. I snap my head to the side, my eyes narrowing at the silver car that's pulling into the drive.

Through the glass of the tinted window, my sharpened vision makes out the pale arm, seeing the veins there and hearing the even beat of a heart. The girl wears a brace on her wrist and a fancy blouse, her mouth parted in a groan. I consider approaching, my instinct suggesting that I take advantage of the unaware target, but the muffled click of a shutting door ends the thought. My gaze tears away from her, only to find a male bloodsucker standing stiffly on the other side of the car, peering over the roof with a hardening golden gaze. I rest my own stare on the leech, imagining the scorch of my body charring him to ash. Some part of me knows better, though, and I feel my eyes flash before I melt into the shadows, leaving them both without a mark.

Time speeds up the instant I hit the shadows. My body dives forward, finally shedding my human skin. I'm in motion the moment my paws touch the ground. Dashes of color smear the forest and fire flares in the air. My fur stands on end as my body shoots straight through the dense vegetation. The forest is dim and the trees are whizzing past, but I don't pause for anything as hot blood pounds through my parched veins.

Each stride is painful as the wolf thrashes inside me, forcing me faster. The brush slashes at me, blocking my way as they lean over the trails in gnarled clusters. Their fingers tear at my fur and whip deep marks in my shoulder blades. I flash my teeth and snarl at the brown, tangled jungle. The thorns bite at exposed flesh, dragging through my gums and catching in my jaws, the tiny pricks lodging in my teeth. Drops of my blood splatter onto the wet leaves churned over by my frantic paws, but the tiny wounds are sealed by another zap of adrenaline.

After minutes of twisting and tearing, I crash into the river. My body is humming with all sorts of reactions, my mind spinning. I scan the green ahead, my heart thudding heavily in my chest. I release a large breath through my parted jaws, cracked pieces of branches tumbling into the currents below. My blood runs thickly through my veins like warm honey, slowing my mind and body down. My sides expand and contract as I breathe out the vapor of my dying fire before I pace onto the bank, heading into muddy, patted-down land that's been worn by dozens and dozens of hours of pacing the same route.

The second the pad of my paw sets down on my land, the jumbled thoughts of the pack slam into my mind.

She's back!

Ugh, catch a whiff of that leech stench. Smells like she . . . nevermind.

Leeches in Seattle! Leeches are the problem!

Oh, really? Never woulda guessed. Even though that's the reason why we're all here.

Damn Cullens are standing around doing nothing!

Well, they might have a point. . .

They have no point at all! When we gonna head out there?! We outta send a patrol out today!

Er, that sounds kinda. . . Why not tomorrow?

Today? Tomorrow? Ooh, why don't we go yesterday?

Shut up, Brady.

I slide through the brush, reaching the open space if gathered wolves in minutes. Each set of paws is set at a brisk pace as the pack circles one another, round and round over the mud slick and smeared with overlapping paw prints. Heads toss in disagreements and bodies rumble with frustration. The tension crackles above our heads, humored by the heat of our bodies.

Why the hell are we wasting breath? I flash my teeth at the sets of razor-sharp jaws that brush past my own. My white form slips into the dizzying assortment of wolves, mixed in with the rest as I join in on the pacing.

You didn't do your job, Jordan. That's why. Nicole huffs at me, her grey head rising over the shoulder of another wolf. Icy eyes gleam in the dull light, searching for mine but failing to find them in the bodies. You were supposed to have gotten more information than this. You wasted all of our time by wasting minutes quarrelling with that Cullen.

Oh, is that so? My ears press flat, my body skimming across the shuddering form of a smaller wolf. And I suppose your never-ending shit talk is of valuable use to all of us, sister dearest.

The small wolf's dark fur bristles. Brady's mind presses into mind in alarm, his mind filling with the memory of the ache in his crushed windpipe.Sam—

We don't have time for any of this.Jacob's voice cuts over the other thoughts.His body pauses at the very edge of the circle, his large head angled to face the brush. We're talking human lives here.

An image of Bella Swan's worried expression reflects from Jacob's mind into the packs' mental link.

Give it a rest, Jake. Paul trots past the large russet wolf, his dark gaze purposely trained straight ahead. This isn't about her.

Various snorts and snaps of teeth back up Paul's statements.

A paw slides through the muck as Jacob's body lowers into a defensive stance, his shoulders taut.Our protection applies to all humans.

And that's why we gotta protect Bella, too,Seth tacks on as an afterthought. His eyes dart in Jacob's direction as the thought leaves his mind.

By now the pack is slowing; the wolves are less frantic as each mind starts to wrap around the news. Mutters of agreement pass through some minds while others expel uneasy whines. I stand at the back of the group, braced and ready to act if necessary, the heat of my temper still smoldering in my core. As thoughts begin to buzz with controversy, each gaze turns to Sam expectantly.

The black wolf remains in place, his paws planted firmly against the mud. His eyes follow each wolf, his mind settled and calm. It's not the sort of calm that comes with authority and leadership, though—it's the calm of something near disinterest. Sam shifts his weight as the pack gives him undivided attention, heaving a heavy sigh through his muzzle.

We should find out more before we act.

Paul continues to pace around, his anger boiling inside of him. He shakes his head, padding past Sam and in my direction, his gaze still reluctant. Spy mission already failed, Boss. His fur buzzes like live wire as he passes me, the hostility lifting the hairs of my coat like static. My claws press through the muck but my eyes remain set on the black form ahead.

We'll have to do something before we attack, Nicole reasons. She nods as she aims the thought straight to Sam as if she isn't taking any other opinion into consideration.

But how would we do that? Jared jogs around the wolves to flank Sam, ignoring Nicole's stiff posture as he unconsciously holds himself up with authority. We've already sent Jordan. We know what's going on but it seems like this is something much bigger than we think. We'll have to find out how to go about taking care of this before we rush over there and get our hides skinned.

As Jared's words slow, Jacob's flutter. His mind projects a wave of sounds and pictures, overlapping over all others of the pack. My muscles tense as the scene before my eyes shifts and changes.

Jacob lounges on the cramped couch, his arm lazily drooped beside Bella. His russet fingers are raised, aching to touch her smooth pale skin; to feel the pulse beating beneath it; to feel the warmth of life. He holds himself back, though, slumping into the cushion and folding his hands over his flat, muscular stomach. In his peripheral vision, he takes note of the chocolate of her eyes that mirror the images coming off of the muted TV.

"You're graduating," Jacob begins. "Wow. That's big. Any special plans?"

Bella releases the stink of fear into the air. It's brief, but Jacob catches it. His eyes squint as if straining to catch tiny words on the screen, suspicion hidden behind his expression.

"Nospecialplans," Bella says slowly. Her voice is beautiful to Jacob. Her words flow so easily around him. Easy as breathing. He starts to speak, to let out the relief settling into his worried brain, but Bella interrupts, unable to notice the small part of his lips.

"Well, I am having a graduation party. It's mine." She makes a sound of disgust in the back of her throat. Jacob fights a smile, his eyelids dropping as he listens in to the sound of her beating heart. "Alice invited the whole town to her place the night of. It's going to be horrible."

Jacob's lips curve despite himself, his tired eyes too heavy to open. "I didn't get invited," he finds himself saying. The thought of hanging around in the bloodsuckers' den flips his stomach, but Bella's pulse is a lullaby that's lulling him to the brink of conciousness, hushing the reflex that tells him to take back his words.

Bella shifts in the couch. Jacob can feel her skin brush his and his smile grows. She's so soft. He only remembers three words before the exhaustion blurs out the rest of the memory.

"Consider yourself invited."

Jacob's thoughts roar over the others for a moment longer before they go blank, draining down into quiet once more. I inhale deeply as the world around me settles, green and wet and hot once more.

Leah is quick to counter the memory, blasting out a roll of images pulled from Jacob's thoughts. The swing of a fist connecting with Jacob's jaw flashes behind my lids, followed by the splinter of bones as the knuckles hit Jacob's strong jaw. The tone of Leah mind is bitter as she hurls thoughts into Jacob's mind. It's their issue; let them deal with it. We don't need another one of us marching on over there and starting more crap.

They're out there killing tons of people, Leah!

The grey wolf flicks her ears in Paul's direction, her dark eyes narrowing to slits. They're not our people. They're strangers, dozens of miles away.

Images of blank, distant gazes and bloody, torn throats float around in my mind. I push them outward, ignoring the flinches and snarls. Which is why we go now, before they get any closer and become our problem! To hell with going over there and talking tea party. People are getting slaughtered, damn it!

Nicole is quick to step forward. Objection radiates off every fur on her coat.We should let Jacob go and found out more first. We only know the basics, as Jordan has failed to find out the rest. The Cullens know more about what's going on than we do. If we can work more out with them, it may be better for the whole pack, even if it means having patience.

I throw my weight around, sending mud flying. Instinct swells, blanketing over my thoughts. There isn't any patience for the dying!

What do you say, Sam? Jared bumps his shoulder into Sam's, dismissing my thought with ignorance. We gotta do something.

The black wolf merely nods his chin and transfers his attention to Jacob. He stares for a long moment, his mind still eerily blank and focused only on the forest, mildly entertained.

It's what we should do The russet wolf swishes his tail once and barks out a sound of determination. We'll need to know more first.

Seth whines, his sandy body lowered to the ground, sinking beneath the tension.You sure, Jake?

For the pack. Jacob dips his head, breathing out a puff of steam.

Well, you shouldn't go alone, Embry thinks softly.

The pack mind has all but banished the idea of going into action here and now. Paul grumbles at the switch of things, ranting to himself. We exchange a look as he passes, sharing the same fire, but it blinks out as Paul averts his gaze. I shake my head sharply at the worry hopping from mind to mind, displaying an image of Carlisle and Jasper seated alone in the living room.

They're separated anyway. If your tail is in that tight of a knot just because of a couple of 'suckers, don't plan on strolling on over there.

Jacob's teeth point over his lip for a moment before he thinks better of it and settles with a snuff. Good enough. Without waiting for further instruction, he hurriedly lunges into the brush, his mind set on the relief as he flips through thoughts of his human master.

Quil paces after him, ducking through the pack as they watch. He casts a cocky look my way, seeming pleased that my idea has been shot down, although he masks it with his statement. Better hope your parasite don't bite.

I raise my lips, both in reaction to Quil and Nicole's chortle, but Paul's mind beats my comeback. He shoves a push of irritation Quil's way, imagining a chocolate rug flattened out over the floor, with my feet standing over it. Quil's smugness slowly dies down at the image, his paws seeming to have a much faster pace over the mud. Embry glances around after him, breathing out quietly. He jerks his clothes free from his ankle, taking them in his jaws before he hustles after Jacob and Quil.

The rest of the pack stands like statues, all movement abruptly ended with the finalization. Pairs of bright eyes stare into the shadows, hackles raised and paws wearing away at the muck below. There's a sensation of excitement crackling above us, even beneath the gloom. I shake my head at the pack, turning my large white head toward the small space in the forest where the wolves have disappeared. Their minds are fading fast, but I to push out one final sentence before they're gone completely.

One mark on his skin and there's gonna be pairs of matching mittens.

Nervous barks of laughter rise in the distance, echoing over the trees. My ears burn with the sound and my teeth gnash together furiously. Moments later, the laughter cuts off and three trains of thoughts break off from the rest, falling into silence.