The feeling swept over me, strong and powerful as the house came into view.
This feeling was strong, so strong; stronger than almost all the others the imprint had given me. It seized me, fast and undefeatable; I wasn't leaving. Not that I wanted to, but still.
But while I was perfectly happy – more than happy – to stay by her side, I couldn't help but wonder why. Why was my every instinct screaming at me not to move even an inch away? It was a question, one of many; one I didn't have an answer to. Not yet, at least. Thea still had secrets; secrets she was keeping hidden. Secrets I wanted to know, but secrets I would wait for.
I would wait for her. However long it took, I would wait. Looking at it from the outside, I already knew so many, and after so little time; I was sure she would tell me. It was only a question of when; when would I find out? I didn't know, and I wondered if maybe she didn't know either. Regardless, I would wait. I would happily wait, if it meant I got to spend more time with her.
We were almost at the door now, her small hand still in mine as we approached. She paused for a second as we cleared the stairs, turning her gaze to mine.
'Come inside with me? You'll probably end up back here anyway, if the last two nights are any indication.' She said with a slight smile, one which I returned far more widely as I nodded.
'Of course.' I replied, following her easily through the dark house; like she had to ask. The need to stay had softened somewhat now that I was inside, but the feeling was still within me, still powerful as we entered the bedroom.
I wasn't leaving; quite the opposite as I sat on the bed beside her. She was less than a metre away, stretching out wonderfully over the bed covers as she rolled to face me.
'How did you know?' I asked, as I lay down beside her. She gave me a confused look, and I amended my question. 'Earlier today, you knew Quil wanted to ask you something. How?' She shrugged.
'I like to think I'm good at reading people.' She said softly. 'Plus, he's Pack; I think I've got a sixth sense that's wired to pick up things like that from you guys.' I hmmed softly as I thought that over.
'The Pack thing I get. But why are you good at reading people?'
'Practice, I guess. I've got plenty of secrets that I don't want most people to ever pick up on, so I'm always careful to watch out for those getting too curious.'
'That sounds hard. To always be on your guard.' I said, and she frowned.
'Not as much as you'd think. It's not like I'm 24/7 watching everything they say or do. It's more just being prepared to pick up some warning signs. I'd say the hard part is the fact that I have so much to hide in the first place.' She turned sad at that, her eyes downcast; but that was nothing compared to the raging sadness that I could feel she was trying to hide.
She hated it. Hated hiding everything, because I could feel the strange combination of sorrow and guilt tearing her apart. It was strong, ridiculously so, the sadness blasting through me and almost making me shudder.
I understood why; all of the Pack had people they wished could know the truth, but couldn't. It was hard, beyond hard, to always try to keep our existence a secret. The guilt I understood too; knowing you were lying, but having no other option. Yes, I knew what she was feeling.
But I still needed to stop it. It was wrong, so incredibly wrong, for her to be so consumed by melancholy. The imprint was screaming at me to do something, anything to make her smile again because she shouldn't be like this, she should never be like this.
And so I took her hand in mine, lacing her fingers between my own.
An hour later, she was almost asleep, her hand still holding mine. Her eyes were closed – they had been for a while now – but she had still been responding, her voice quiet and laced with tiredness. Now, though; now she was all but silent, her light breaths the only sound she was making.
If I was someone else, I might have been insulted that both last night and tonight she had fallen asleep on me; but I wasn't. I was her imprint, and even after three days, I knew her; some of her, at least. I knew that she was the type of person that wouldn't ever fall asleep unless she trusted who she was with, because that meant letting her guard down, and that she hardly ever did.
But she had fallen asleep next to me, touching me; she trusted me. And it was good, so good, that she did. I wanted her to trust me, needed her to trust me, because she was my imprint, and that meant so, so much. Trust meant that she would tell me more; tell me more secrets. And then I would really, truly know her, and she could mine. Mine in all ways, any ways; mine to protect, to understand, to touch.
Soon. She would be mine soon; but not yet. Not yet, because even though the imprint was still telling me to stay, I didn't know why, and I didn't know if she would let me. She trusted me, yes; but enough to let me stay? I didn't know.
I should probably go. We were friends, more so than that, but even for imprints, three days seemed soon, too soon for her to let me stay. It would be safest to go.
Yes, it would safest to go; but the imprint did not want me to. The imprint hadn't been wrong yet, and I really, really wanted to stay right where I was, but that was me, not her.
What to do? Stay, not stay, stay, not stay–
'Stay.' She whispered, so quietly that if I'd been human, I wouldn't have heard. My eyes, which had drifted to stare at the ceiling while I thought, flicked to her face, half expecting to see here staring at me. But she was asleep, her eyes closed, breaths soft, her hand still limp in mine. And yet she had answered; somehow.
How or why wasn't important though; what was important was that I had my answer, and it was the one I had oh so desperately wanted to hear.
I woke to the soothing and tingling feeling of Jake's warm and deft fingers playing with my own. His touch was good, so good; almost as good as waking up and feeling his presence next to me. Knowing he was there, less than a metre away; I couldn't help but smile softly at the knowledge.
But as the mattress suddenly shifted beneath me, his weight next to me disappearing, I realised it wasn't his hand holding mine that had jerked me from sleep.
I made sad noise as his fingers disappeared, my smile disappearing as I felt him move away. Without thinking, I rolled towards where his body had been just moment earlier, finding nothing but a dull warmth from where he had been laying. And while the heat was good, it would have been so much better to find him instead.
'I'm sorry I woke you.' Jake's soft and deep voice rolled over me, and I opened my eyes at the wonderful sound, surprised by the darkness in the room. Still, my gaze managed to find his; he was standing beside the bed, and looked impossibly tall from where I was laying.
'You should go back to sleep.' He said quietly, and I nodded as I gave him a sleepy smile. He grinned back at me, but only for a second, turning away and heading for the door. That made me frown; he was leaving, and I didn't want him to leave.
'Jake.' My soft call stopped him; he paused halfway across the room, turning his head to face me.
'You stayed.' I said, even quieter now, unable to hide a small smile. 'Thank you.' He smiled at that.
'Anytime.' He seemed to hesitate for a moment, before striding back over to me, and kissing me ever so lightly on the cheek.
'I'll be back later.' He said, and this time he didn't pause, disappearing through my bedroom door and closing it with a soft click.
He was gone.
He was gone, but it was bearable, because the bed was still warm from his skin, and my cheek was still tingling from his touch. If I just ignored the imprint bond that was telling me that he was walking further and further away, I could imagine that he was still here, and that he hadn't left.
And when I fell asleep just minutes later, I almost believed that.
Waking for the second time – in the early afternoon, if I wasn't mistaken – wasn't nearly as pleasant. Because instead of waking up to Jake, and his murmured words, I was jerked from sleep by my less than pleasant dreams, and I was very much alone in the bed when I finally managed to escape them. And this time, there was no smiling or warmth or kisses on the cheek, but the terrible, crushing realisation that today was day four in La Push, and that meant only one thing.
Today I would have to leave.
And it didn't matter that I squeezed my eyes tightly shut again, shook my head, and pinched myself in the hope that I was still dreaming; there was no getting out of this. No matter how much I might want to, no matter how much I might hope otherwise, there was no avoiding it.
I was leaving; and probably not coming back.
The thought made my lip tremble, and I had to fight to keep in a sob. I wouldn't cry. If I let myself cry, I would lose control, and I'd never be able to go through with it. I had to be strong.
And I had to stay strong.
But now my hands were shaking as I tried to open my dresser, and I had to clench at the handle so hard I thought that I might break it.
But how could I? How I could leave him? I liked him too much, way too much; I couldn't leave.
Never coming back. That was the only way. Not because of the poison or Leon but because forcing myself away from Jake once was going to be all I could handle.
I had to pause beside the door to calm my frantic breaths. In and Out. In. And then out. I tried to close my eyes, to centre myself, but that was a bad idea; a very bad idea. Because now all I could see was Jake and that was pushing me close, so close to breaking point and–
Did I want to die? No.
Was staying with Jake for a day worth dying for? Maybe? No. No, it wasn't. I had to believe that.
Would Jake want me to die? No. No, he wouldn't. Jake would want me to leave and live. Leave and live.
Leave and Live.
Sera found me in the kitchen, staring gloomily at the bench top as I played with the fruit bowl. At first she said nothing, though I could feel her watching me as I stared. I wondered if she was waiting for me to say something; if she was, she was going to be waiting a very long time. Because if I spoke, I would lose my control; control that I needed.
'Thea.' I stiffened slightly as she said my name, my grip on the bowl tightening. The bowl was helping me stay in control, as I spun it around, and around, and around. If I focused on spinning it, spinning it exactly 180 degrees every single time, then I couldn't think about other things. Other things that were going to tear me apart because I couldn't do this, couldn't do this, couldn't do this–
The bowl was tugged from my grasp, and I stared in surprise at the spot it had vanished from. It was a mark of how torn I was that Sera had been able to take it without me even noticing her approach.
'Talk to me?' She asked softly, placing her hand on my shoulder. That made me tense again, though I relaxed after a moment. Touch was good. I could focus on her hand now; focus on her hand as I shook my head, because speaking was a bad idea. She sighed at that, but I think she understood; understood that I wasn't ignoring her, but was trying to keep everything together.
She pulled me into an embrace then, her arms wrapping around my shoulders as she pulled me close. I hugged her back – perhaps a little too hard – but she didn't say anything; maybe because there was nothing to say. Nothing but goodbye, but she seemed to know that if she said that I would break, so when she pulled away, she didn't say it.
'Call me?' She asked, and neither of us needed for her to specify what she meant by that. I nodded, sliding off the bar stool, walking over to the edge of the kitchen before pausing. I looked back at her then; met her gaze for the first time today. She looked sad, though she turned even more so as her eyes met mine; it made me wonder what I looked like.
Like something was trying to tear me apart? Yeah, that was probably about right.
But I was moving again then, moving down the hallway and out the front door. Moving around to the side of the house and pausing, because I needed to stay strong, and if I didn't lean against the wooden wall and stop myself from trembling I wasn't going to be able to.
But despite my efforts, I was pretty sure I would never, ever be strong enough for this.