The silence that followed my words was heavy, pressing. Jake seemed lost for words as he stared at me, his eyes burning with emotion, but one I couldn't identify. The imprint seemed to have closed off; I could feel him holding back his emotions, keeping them carefully locked up.
Until, in violent wave, they suddenly burst forth.
For a moment I was frozen from the onslaught, my breath sucked from me by the overwhelming weight of it all suddenly flooding into me. At first I couldn't even figure out what the emotions were, because them all hitting me at once was crippling. But then, in a flurry of action, when the world seemed to suddenly jerk, I figured out what it was.
Deep, burning pain. Pain and fear. Pain and anger. Pain and emptiness. It was wild and uncontrollable, so consuming I had no idea what was going on around me.
Not until I heard terrible snarling whine which tore through me, yanking back to the present.
The first thing I noticed; Jake was gone. He was no longer holding me, his delicious warmth gone, and the suddenness of it left me lost for a moment. But then my eyes were searching, searching around me; and were landing on the huge russet coloured wolf standing just metres away.
Even without the imprint, I would have recognised him; his fur was the same colour as the red-brown flecks in his eyes. And then there was the look he was giving me; a burning, smouldering look. A look that matched the pained howl he let out as, with one last glance in my direction, he suddenly flew into a frenzy.
His movements were almost too fast to follow as he moved, violently tearing at whatever he could get hold of. His jaws easily sliced through and destroyed one small tree, even as his claws left deep gauges in the wood of another. He was tearing up the ground as well, dirt flying as he ravaged a third tree, sending it crashing to the ground with a terrible growl.
A terrible growl that screamed pain as he continued to maul the forest around us, the piercing sound of it sending me scrambling to my feet. Unsurprisingly, the dizziness from before came back in a roaring rush as I stood, making me sway as I stumbled forward. I fought it though, fought it back; because I had to stop this.
He hurt. Jake hurt. I could feel the horrible sting of it burning into me, and the pain was made only worse knowing that I had caused it. I had hurt him.
And it needed to stop. I had to fix it, had to help him; I couldn't stand him hurting. Not just because I could feel it to, but because it was wrong, so wrong. Stopping it was all I could think about as I staggered towards him, barely paying attention to all the trees and shrubs he was destroying; all I could see was him. Him, turning and snapping and lurching, pausing only to let out another growl or snarl.
Him, freezing as he spun and suddenly came face to face with me.
'Jake.' I breathed. His head was just higher than mine, his fur bristling as he shifted restlessly at the sound of his name. Instinct made me step forward; though it was more of a fall really, my head swimming and making me close my eyes for a moment as I reached for him. My hands found soft fur as I skimmed his jaw, and though he whined softly, he didn't move apart from a slight shiver.
I exhaled softly as I moved closer, leaning into him more than I should as my fingers slipped around his neck and up to his ears, making him rumble. He stepped forward then, the top of his muzzle grazing my left cheek as he snuffled into my hair. I smiled softly at the feeling, somehow managing to lean even more of my weight onto him; he was probably the only thing keeping me upright now, and I wondered if he knew.
A second later, when my knees buckled beneath me, I got my answer.
I huffed softly as I fell against him, but it was dwarfed by his sudden mournful howl, his body shifting to keep me upright. With my nose buried deep in his fur, I couldn't help but marvel at how wonderfully soft he was; though my musings were cut off by a sharp whine from Jake, accompanied with a burst of concern through the imprint.
'I'm fine.' I mumbled, rubbing his neck gently. 'I just… shouldn't have stood up.' I continued in a murmur. He grumbled unhappily, and I felt him move again, before I was gasping in surprise as we suddenly hit the ground with a soft thud. Somehow, I was still leaning into him, my legs bundled beneath me as I breathed in his woodsy smell. A smell I loved, but even it couldn't ease the pain that was still surging through the imprint.
Because while Jake was no longer taking it out in a violent frenzy, it was still burning within him. Burning fiercely, so fiercely, and it was strong and clear as he let out another pained and sad howl, one that made me whimper softly against him.
It hurt, but I couldn't stop it. I had stopped him, but I couldn't stop the pain.
And now, all I could do was wait.
At some point over the last few hours, we had shifted positions. The dizziness had faded fairly quickly as I leant into Jake, but I still didn't quite remember when exactly I'd sat up and started stroking him. I had a feeling it was quite a while ago, because my legs seemed frozen in their crossed position, but it certainly didn't feel like that long. It was just so easy to get lost in the motion of running my hands over him; my fingers slipping through his wonderfully soft fur, tracing small circles and skimming against his skin. Over and over again, moving back and forth, back and forth; repetition, repetition. I didn't have to think; which was probably why at first, I didn't notice he had moved. It was only once my hands started groping at thin air, not finding the pelt I had been so absorbed with stroking, that realisation struck.
For a moment, all I could do was stare; stare blankly where he had been just seconds ago, trying to figure out how and when he'd disappeared. But then he was suddenly all around me, nudging my shoulder gently with his nose, and when I turned to look at him, I found his eyes glittering with a silent question.
'I'm okay.' I murmured, lifting my hand to lightly graze my fingers along his muzzle. Jake made a contented noise that sounded almost like a purr, settling down next to me with a soft huff. I let my hand drift to his ear, scratching softly, eliciting another purr, but this time I noticed the sadness that was in his eyes as he stared into the trees around us. It made me pause for a moment, and Jake's eyes flicked back to mine at the sudden stop.
'What about you?' I asked slowly, watching him closely. The hurt I had been feeling through the imprint before seemed to have disappeared, and while at first I thought it had gone, his eyes said differently. It made me wonder if he was holding his emotions back; and why. Yet Jake didn't seem to know what I was asking about, because he whined softly, sounding confused.
'You were upset before. Are you better now?' His tail twitched, but that was the only movement he made. He was silent as he looked at me, his eyes showing indecision; that was all the answer I needed. I gave him a sympathetic look, starting to scratch his ear again.
'I'm sorry.' I said quietly. He turned to look at me then, and if I wasn't mistaken, he seemed to be frowning; it was difficult to tell expressions on a wolf. But he was standing up now, growling unhappily as he shook his head, nudging me softly in the process. It was clear my words had upset him; if only I knew why. All I could do was stare at him as he paced back and forth in front of me, occasionally glancing in my direction; but after a minute of watching him, I finally caved in to curiosity.
'Jake?' He paused at his name, but only for a moment; then he was back to pacing, faster now as he whined unhappily. And it was then that I felt it again; his emotions trickling back through the imprint, so faint I almost missed them. But while they were faint, they were there; and were easy to recognise.
Sadness. Guilt. Confusion. Annoyance. Pain.
Some of which weren't at all surprising; sadness and pain had been there for a while. And confusion; I supposed there was plenty for him to be confused about. But the other two; those, I couldn't figure out.
Especially when he suddenly stopped right in front of me, dropped to the floor, and with a sad and quiet howl, rested his head in my lap. Instinctively, my hands reached forward to once again scratch at his ears; I knew he liked it. But his miserable look didn't soften, his eyes just as sad as ever as I spoke.
'What's wrong?' I asked. He shook his head slightly, letting out a low whine. I frowned a tad at his lack of response; I couldn't help but worry about whatever was going through his mind, and making him act so very strangely. I repeated the question, quieter now.
'Tell me? Please?'
'Tell me? Please?' Her voice was soft, so soft, even with an edge of worry; worry for me. She was worried for me. A fresh round of guilt swept through me.
She shouldn't be worried for me; I did not need to be worried about. I was fine. I had not been passed out on the floor this morning. I was not going to di–
No. No no no no no.
She was not going to die she was not going to die she was not going to die–
Another sad whine escaped me. My fault. This was all my fault. She would not be – I choked on the word – dying, if not for me. She would be able to leave. She would leave, and she wouldn't have to die.
If only the imprint would let her. But we were too close now, too close for her to leave, for either of us to travel far from the other. And it should have been a blessing; yesterday, I had been glad to know that she would stay; glad to know I wasn't going to lose her. But that was before; before I knew her secret, before I knew just how wrong I really was.
Because while she was going to stay, I was pretty sure I was going to lose her. And I didn't want to lose her; I didn't know if I could stand to lose her. I didn't know how to go back to not having her, not knowing her and feeling her; I didn't think it was possible.
And yet I had terrible feeling that all too soon I was going to find out. Because even though the imprint absolutely, steadfast refused to accept even the thought of Thea dying, my entire being balking at the merest idea, there was a small part of my mind that was thinking over what Thea had said; and was miserably curling up into a ball, because like her, I just couldn't see a way out of this.
If she stayed in La Push, she would die. If she tried to leave La Push, she would die. And if I didn't keep a close eye on her, there was a chance that she would die at the hand of a rogue shapeshifter; as if the first two weren't more than enough to end up with Thea dead. And no matter how many different ways I looked at it, no matter how I tried to find a way to save her, I just couldn't find a way.
I couldn't find a way to save her.