Things got both simultaneously better and worse as I felt Jake approaching. Better, because Jake gave me control which I desperately needed, as what little I had left was one wrong word or thought away from crumbling into dust. And worse, because the sooner he got here, the sooner I would have to go.

Oh hell, I couldn't do this.

I needed to stand up, I needed to stop leaning against the house, but I couldn't. My hands were trembling as I pushed against the wall, but I didn't step away, didn't move even though I knew I should.

I couldn't do this.

I had to do this.

I couldn't do this.

I had to do this.

I couldn't do this.

I slammed my head against the house in frustration; anything to stop my mind from going round and round in endless circles. It didn't hurt – I would have to hit it a lot harder if I wanted that – but it did help. For a moment, my mind went blank; incredibly and wonderfully blank. And then my thoughts were back and I was once again on the edge, fighting for control, fighting to keep myself together, until–

I let my head hit the wall again, and I exhaled at the impact. Another brief second of clarity, before–

I couldn't do this. I couldn't leave, couldn't not come back. Even 30 years ago, when coming here meant death, I had still returned. There was no way I could not come back.

Whack. Again my head hit the wood.

Why had I come here to begin with? Why hadn't I just given up on this place 36 years ago? It would have been so much easier, easier for everyone, if I had. But I had refused, had decided to risk the punishment and danger, and now…

This time I shook my head before hitting it against the wall.

Stupid. I was so stupid. I could have saved myself from this if I had just stayed away. And then I never would have met Jake, he never would have imprinted, and I wouldn't feel like I was about to break something irreplaceable with what I was about to do.

'So stupid.' I muttered brokenly, whacking my head again.

Never meet Jake? No, I couldn't accept that. He was worth it, worth this; I couldn't regret meeting him. If only he hadn't been so wonderful, so perfect; then maybe this wouldn't hurt so much.


Maybe I should have listened to my instincts, and ignored him. I had known, had told Sera, that if I saw him again, I wouldn't be able to do it; and I had been right. If only I had stayed away! Then this wouldn't hurt him or me; or at least, not hurt so badly.


God, I was stupid. All I had needed to do was avoid him.


Would that have worked though? He had imprinted on me; I might not have been able to, even if I'd tried.


'If you were anyone else, I'd tell you stop doing that before you give yourself brain damage. As it is, I don't know if you could even give yourself a headache.'

I stilled as Jake's smooth voice reached my ears, letting my head rest softly against the wall as I glared the wood. I couldn't see him, but I could feel him moving closer; he couldn't be more than a few metres away. I wanted to see him, but I stopped myself from turning; I didn't think that would be a good idea. I still hadn't decided whether to be relieved or terrified about his arrival, and the confusion was making me tremble. My hands had been pressed against the wall, but now they were clenched into fists, because I didn't know what to do, and it was all just– just–

Too much. It was all too much.

'You're right.' I said softly, my voice sounding somewhat strangled. 'I should hit harder.'

And with that, I slammed my head into the wall with all the force I could muster; or I would have, if Jake hadn't stopped me at the last possible moment.

One hand grabbed my waist, jerking me backwards, the other catching my head before it could hit, both pulling me into him so fast that I collided with his hard body. All the air blew out of me in a whoosh as I hit his chest, the hand that had caught my head now cupping my cheek as he turned my face up to his.

'What the hell was that?' He asked, but I just shook my head, turning my eyes downwards and away from his.

'So stupid.' I muttered again, and since one surface was as good as another for my purposes, I started hitting my head against his chest. He stopped me, of course, but not as quickly as last time; I got in three decent thumps before his hand was once again on my cheek, stopping my movement.

'What are you doing?!' He asked in confusion, his gaze once again meeting mine. This time, he didn't let me turn away, but I couldn't look at him, couldn't do this, and so I closed my eyes, shaking my head again.

'Thea?' Jake said softly, so softly, his worry palpable. 'I don't–' He paused then, his body stiffening.

'You're trembling.' He said quietly, moving again now. He was stepping forwards, forcing me backwards, and in just seconds my back was pressed against the house, his body flush against mine. Both of his hands were now cupping my face, but I barely noticed, because all I could think was that I couldn't do this, couldn't do this, couldn't do this–

'Thea, open your eyes.' I didn't want to; I couldn't do this if I was looking at him. But he had asked, had asked so gently, and because it was him, because it was Jake, I couldn't refuse. And so despite my reluctance, I peeled back my eyelids.

Jake was there, as I had known he would be; he was standing over me, blocking out everything, boxing me in against the wall. And his eyes, oh god, his eyes; his eyes were burning, fierce as they stared at me, filled with so much worry, confusion, panic and need that they seemed to be overflowing with it all.

'Tell me what's wrong.' He said softly, and I was sure he heard my breath hitch. I shook my head a third time, my hands digging into the wood behind me.

'I can't.' I croaked. 'I can't do it.'

'Do what?' I shook my head again, harder now.

'I can't. I can't I can't I can't I can't–' Jake grabbed me more firmly, stopping my frantic shaking and locking my head in place.

'Thea, you need to calm down.'

'I can't! I can't do it, do any of it!' I cried, making Jake back up a step at my sudden outburst, allowing me to break free of his hold. I was pacing now, frantically pacing, my fists clenching and unclenching as I tried, desperately tried to get myself back under control.

'I don't know! I don't know what to do! Oh, maybe I should have just left the moment I met you!' I exclaimed, but even as I said it I was shaking my head. I barely noticed as Jake grabbed my arm again, lightly this time, because I shook him off almost immediately.

'Maybe I should have just told you! Told you so then you could have ignored me.' I said despairingly, slumping against the house and hitting it with my fist. I let Jake pull me away, but again I broke away from him to keep pacing.

'No. No, I can't tell you. I shouldn't tell you. Maybe I should just leave right now!' I cried, turning to find Jake right behind me, too surprised to do anything but gasp as he backed me against the house again, my hands splayed on his chest. This time he had one hand on my waist to stop me from slipping away again, as the other once again held my cheek.

'Or maybe you should tell me everything now so I can help you.' He said, somehow both softly and firmly, his eyes pleading. I stared at him for a moment, temporarily stunned at my sudden imprisonment. His gaze was worried, so worried, almost panicked, and it was that more than anything that managed to still me, because I'd never seen him look like this before. But motionless didn't mean calm, and I was still tearing myself apart inside as he spoke again.

'Let me help you, Thea.' He repeated, and I shook my head.

'You can't help me, Jake.' I said, so quietly and brokenly.

'I can. But only if you tell me what's wrong.' He insisted.

'You can't help with this. Not with this.'

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