Thea had trailed off midsentence almost a minute ago. It wasn't the first time since she had started explaining that she'd stopped for a while, frowning lightly as she stared at the dagger we were both still holding. But it was the first time she hadn't continued, and if her sad and not-quite-there eyes were any indication, she wasn't going to be doing so anytime soon. A fact that I should have been able to pick up immediately, and would have if the imprint was at its usual strength; except it wasn't.
The imprint at the moment was a poor, weak version of what I had grown used to, and it was grating on me. At first I had thought it was just the fact that I had grown used to its strength, and that its sudden change was why I was feeling so off balance. Now, I wasn't so sure. It wasn't so much that I wasn't used to not feeling her, but more that I needed to feel her; and needed it badly.
And I couldn't help but wonder if that was the cause of Thea's scatteredness, because as shocking and horrifying some of the things she was telling me were, I didn't think they were completely the reason. Of course, it was hard to judge, because I couldn't feel a damn thing from her at the moment, but was sure that I was right. Some of this stuff she had known for years; and apart from a shudder or a frown, it didn't seem to overly bother her. Besides, yesterday she had been perfectly fine; something had to have changed since then.
The obvious answer would be that now she thought she was going to die before the end of the week. Which made me cringe every time I even thought about it, and even now I couldn't contain my shudder. But while impending death would be enough to make anyone upset, as she so obviously was, I had a feeling there was something else. Because this morning, she had also been upset, but right now was entirely different. Something hadn't just changed since yesterday, but between this morning and now; and I could think of only one thing.
The imprint; or lack thereof. It wasn't gone, but nether-the-less, it was hitting us both hard. It was so, so disorienting, to have it so messed up; my sense of her was so whacked that if I hadn't been able to see, hear or smell her, I would've been a challenge to figure out whether she was 10 metres or 10 miles away. I hadn't even noticed she had left me; it had been surprising and scary to wake up alone, not having a clue where she was. And then I had come out and found her; on the floor, small and shaking, with an impressive line of knives stretching across the wall; her failed attempt to get it together. Failed, because when she turned at my words, the knives were no longer in a perfect line, tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked at me. Yet I hadn't had a clue of just how troubled she was, because I couldn't feel her.
Even now, with her leant against my arm, head on my shoulder, I couldn't feel her. She was right there, but I couldn't feel her; and it was killing me. It was killing me, because even as I turned her so that she was looking at me, I couldn't quite get a read on her slightly dazed eyes, and that worried me. Not just because she was ill, but because I didn't know how to fix it. I had hoped she would sleep it off, but that clearly hadn't worked. It had been hours, which might not be that long considering what went down, but I had hoped for shorter. Yet I didn't really have a choice, and since I still thought resting was the best option, I knew what I needed to do.
'Thea.' I said quietly. She blinked at me, her brow furrowing as she looked at me. Clearly, she hadn't been at all aware she had zoned out; again.
'I'm sorry, Jake…' She paused midsentence, looking even more confused. 'I must have been distracted. I don't remember where I stopped talking though…' Again she trailed off, her voice light and slow. I tightened my grip on her hand and the knife we were both holding, and hooked my other arm around her waist; she needed to rest, and this state, I didn't trust her on her own. Of course, that wasn't the only reason; after everything she had tried to explain tonight, I didn't plan on letting her away from me anytime soon. I still didn't quite understand everything to be honest – it was going to take time to properly think over – but there was something I had to do first. And so I stood, pulling her up with me; it made her blink again as she swayed slightly, my arm keeping her in place.
'What are you doing?' Thea murmured, her hair brushing tantalising against my bare chest as she moved, looking up at me with blue eyes that were now slightly more aware. If she hadn't been so unwell, I would have loved to kiss her; if I couldn't feel her through the imprint, at least I could feel her through touch. But I resisted, because now was not the time; she needed to get better first.
'Taking you to your bedroom, so you can sleep. Then hopefully the imprint will go back to normal.' I replied, gently steering her down the hallway. She frowned at my words, which had me worried, until she spoke.
'The imprint still isn't right.' She said quietly. 'I don't like it; it was better before. I could feel you then; I can't now.' It seemed she disliked the distance as much as I did, which should have made me smile; it was good to know I wasn't the only one who liked the imprint. But the fact that the imprint wasn't all there at the moment stopped me from grinning.
Because I couldn't help but wonder if I was ever going to get it back.
No. No, I couldn't think that. I would get it back; I had to.
I kept walking, tugging Thea over to the bed; she sunk into it with a soft sigh, and I let her hand slip from mine as she fell into the mattress. I followed, noting that she had taken the knife; I wondered briefly if I should be worried that she thought she needed it. I dismissed it a second later; after what she had told me tonight, I couldn't blame her for wanting security.
I looked at her then, her body lying next to mine; really looked at her. Her eyes almost black in the darkness, gazing upwards, her skin looking the same colour as mine. Her hair falling into her face as she turned to look at me, so soft when the ends brushed me; this time I couldn't resist running my fingers through it, grazing her forehead lightly as I did so. She smiled at that; just the slightest upturning of her lips.
'What are you looking at?' She asked quietly, her voice holding a hint of curiosity. I smiled.
'You.' She gave me a slightly strange look; a mixture of surprise and amusement, maybe.
'Why not?' I replied, and she laughed softly, really smiling now. God, it was so wonderful to see her smile; especially after everything that had happened today. In a split second, I decided to head my own words.
And so I snaked my arm around her waist, pulled into me, and ever so gently let my lips brush against hers. She gasped slightly at the sudden movement, but didn't protest; her palms pressed against my chest, her parted lips amazingly soft against my own. The kiss was so deliciously sweet, almost making up for the strangeness of the imprint. But while it was sweet, it was also short. Short because Thea wasn't herself, but I needed to reassure myself that she was still there; which was what I was doing as I hugged her to my chest, breathing her in.
She had buried her face just below my collarbone, her breaths warm and soft against me, and I revelled in the feeling. It felt so good to have her in my arms like this. And even though I had held her just the same when I first brought her back to the house today, this was different; and so much better. Better because while she was still lovely and warm, and still so incredibly soft, she was awake; awake, and pulling me closer. And it was beyond good to have her do that, because her curling in on me was amazing, even more so because she was doing it, not me.
'You scared me today.' I murmured against the top of her head, tightening my arm around her waist. That was why I needed to hold her; because she had scared me. She had scared me when she was upset, because it was so out of character for her, and I hadn't known why. She had scared me when she had said she was leaving, and when she had said she was going to die, because both were incomprehensible to me. She had scared me when she had stretched the imprint, because it had felt like losing her, and when I had finally found her, she had been unconscious and not breathing. And now; now I was scared because the imprint wasn't going back to the way it was before. Hell, I had been scared for her too much today.
'I'm sorry.' She mumbled sadly, her voice quiet and muffled against me. She paused for a moment, before speaking again, a bit uncertainly.
'I hope you know I didn't want to leave.' Thea said in a small voice, and I let my free hand stroke her hair gently in reassurance.
'I know.' She breathed out a soft sigh.
We fell silent after that; she was lost in her thoughts and I was lost in mine. Thea was meant to be falling asleep so she could sleep the aftereffects of today off, but that had yet to happen; probably because she, like me, was struggling to comprehend everything.
After all, it wasn't every day that your imprint informed you that she thought she was going to die. Thought being the key word, because it wasn't going to happen. It could not, would not happen. She was mine. Mine. And I refused to let it happen; if only she believed me.
She knew things I didn't; or rather, had known things I didn't. But now; now I knew. Maybe not everything, but I knew the important things; I knew about him.
Leon, the fourth member of the old pack; a shapeshifter we hadn't known existed. A shapeshifter who, with all the strength and speed of a werewolf, was trying to kill my imprint; and had already tried to kill her.
It wasn't that I hadn't already known something like this had happened; the scars on her stomach were a glaring indicator that it had. And it wasn't that I hadn't known he was still walking around, or wondered what exactly had happened. But finally hearing the explanation about it all was hard.
I couldn't feel Thea's emotions as she talked, which for once might have been a good thing; because I didn't know if I would have been able to hold myself in check if I had. Already it was difficult enough to just see her emotions; see her shoulders stiffen, mouth harden, eyes watering. It went against the imprint to watch her like this; every part of me wanted to stop it, to help her, but I resisted; I needed to know. But even worse was hearing the words, because what was she was telling me had already happened, and there was nothing I could do about the past; no matter how much I might want to.
And so while she talked, I listened. Listened with a clenched fist and stony expression, focusing in on her because she was distracting, and would help me keep control; control which became thinner and thinner as she spoke.
He had killed her aunt. The bastard had killed her aunt; just because he wanted to get to her. I wasn't sure which angered me more; the murder, or the fact that it was pointless murder. And then he had dragged my imprint away, while she was too upset to fight back; the mental image of that made me growl in anger and frustration. But that wasn't even the worst part.
The worst part was when he began to torture her.