I couldn't find a way to save her.
And it hurt. I couldn't deal with it, couldn't handle knowing it all. It was too much, an overload as I tried and failed to not believe it; to find a way to keep her alive. At first I had been consumed by it; I didn't know what I was doing, didn't have any control. Until suddenly, she was there, stopping me in my tracks with her light touch. And the contact had been good, so good; enough to jerk at least part of me back into sanity. But even though she was sitting next to me, leaning into me, it didn't stop the pain.
Pain made even worse by knowing that she could feel it to. She was hurting because of me. It went against the imprint so completely that eventually, I managed to figure out how to force it down; how to hide the pain that came from knowing I was going to lose her. But it wasn't just pain I was hiding; it was guilt; guilt and annoyance.
Guilt, because she was the one dying, not me, and yet I was the one that couldn't deal with it. Guilt, because she was hurting now; and it was my fault. And from that came annoyance – annoyance at myself – because it took hours of trying to finally repress my emotions. It shouldn't have been so hard; it should have been easy to stop, because I was hurting her, and that I should not, could not do. But it took too much time, way too much time; though once I managed to get my feelings locked up from the bond, it did at least seem to work.
I had felt it in her; a relief, her body relaxing against mine. I had thought that I had successfully hid the fact that I was still slowly dying from the knowledge; but I had been wrong. She had seen right through me; already she knew me to well. After just five days, all she had to do was look at me to figure me out. Yet I still might have been able to keep it together, if not for those two words.
They had sent me reeling again, pacing as my emotions boiled over, because this was all wrong. She was sorry. She was dying, and yet she was the calm one, apologising to me. Apologising because her dying had upset me. It was all back to front. I should be comforting her, not the other way around. She should be upset, not me.
And yet she was the one asking me what was wrong, and I was the one that couldn't bring myself to answer. Even with my head in her lap, her smell filling me with every breath, I couldn't calm down; couldn't think, couldn't squash my feelings down again. Not until she began to speak.
'You know, I don't usually like red.' Thea said with a soft smile, looking down at me. 'I like your red though.' She continued, her hand slipping through my fur. I wondered if she knew how damn good that felt; if I hadn't been so troubled, I would have been rumbling and shivering at the sensation.
'Russet. It's beautiful. And it suits you.' Despite my distress, satisfaction flooded through me; knowing she liked my wolf made me rumble in happiness. But at the same time, I couldn't help but be a little confused; she had said she didn't like red, and yet unless I was seeing things, she was wearing a red shirt this very moment. I shifted forward and let my teeth nip at the fabric softly, whining quietly in confusion. Her eyebrows crinkled for a moment before she seemed to understand, frowning.
'I know, I'm wearing red now. But I wasn't really thinking this morning.' I made an unhappy noise at that, knowing what she was referring to; an image of her sprawled in the corridor flashed in my mind. I shook my head slightly to clear it, nipping at her shirt again; she hadn't said why she didn't like red, and her frown had made me a mixture of curious and wary. Yet this time, she didn't pick up on what I was asking, giving me a confused look.
'I don't know what that means.' She said, and I grazed my teeth along her shirt a third time. 'Are you saying you like red?' Thea guessed uncertainly, and I shook my head.
'You don't like red?' She guessed again, but I shook my head a second time. She paused for a minute, thinking. 'I don't like red?' She ventured, and I nodded, yipping softly. She thought for another few moments, before her eyes suddenly widened with realisation.
'Oh. You want to know why?' She asked softly, sounding strangely hesitant. I nodded slowly, watching her carefully; I felt a sliver of dread through the imprint, and it made me tense. She was silent again now, and for a second, I thought she might not answer. But she sighed then, giving me a sad look before answering quietly.
'I don't like it because it reminds me of blood.'
Terrible pain. It was all I could feel, all I could think about. It was everything, all around me, consuming me.
And it hurt. It hurt so, so badly, I didn't know how I was still alive. I didn't know how I was still awake, because it seemed just moments ago I'd been sinking into a wonderful blackness where I couldn't feel anything.
But then, with a burning flash, I was on fire. Fiery pain, burning pain, red hot pinpoints in my back, in my side, in my shoulder. It seemed to be growing by the second, and even though at first I was crippled by it, I couldn't stay still any longer. I could feel myself shaking, heaving as the pain rolled through me and over me, relentless in its intensity. It was just so strong; strong enough to force my eyes wide open from the agony.
Red. At first, that was all I could see. A terrible, sickening bright red that was just everywhere. But I was blinking now, blinking frantically as I shivered almost violently, and there was more than just red now. I could see myself; my arm, smeared with red. My hands, thickly coated with a darker red. My shirt, soaked and heavy with the darkest red of all.
Different reds, but yet they were the same.
They were all blood. My blood. And god, there was so much of it; it seemed impossible that I could have any left in me. And yet I knew that there was; I curled in on myself as a new burst of pain assaulted me, and now I could see the blood that was pouring out of my side, hot trails of it dripping from my waist down to my hip.
So much blood.
It was as if I'd been dipped in it; my back, my front, my arms; even my legs were covered with spidery webbed trails from the many wounds it was spilling out of. And I knew, even as fresh agony hit me and forcing me to crumple on the ground, that there was too much of it. No one, no one could survive this. I should be dead. And if not dead very close to it; at the very least I should be out cold.
And yet somehow, I was awake. I had known, when I felt myself slipping away, that I wouldn't be coming back again. If I didn't bleed to death, he would kill me–
With a sudden gasp I was jerking upwards, eyes wide with fear and surprise.
Leon. He was there, just as I had thought; watching me with a sickening smile, his eyes maliciously alight as my gaze met his. His grin widened as he looked at me, the blood coated knife he had been playing with in his hands dropping to the ground.
One word. It was one word. But it struck such terror into me I thought that perhaps my heart might give out because of it.
I shouldn't have woken up. I should not have woken up. I should have died; I had more than injuries to do so. It didn't make sense for me to be awake; it shouldn't be possible.
'You took longer than I thought to wake up again; for a moment I thought I'd lost you.' He said wickedly, cruel anticipation clear in his voice.
This was him. He had done this, done something; he was why I was awake.
And now, more than ever, I wished I wasn't. It would have been better, far better to have died by now; because that grin, oh god, his grin; I felt my heart clench as fear overwhelmed me.
He was going to hurt me.
He was going to hurt me, and he wasn't going to stop.
The moment the words were out of her mouth, my tortured and mournful howl was tearing through the air, loud and sharp as I buried deeper into her lap. Damn it, why did I have to ask her that? It would have been better, better for both of us, if I hadn't. Because her words, her answer; the second I heard it, I wanted to forget it.
It reminds me of blood.
That was what she had said. And now blood was all I could think about; her blood. Her blood, spilling out of her from those four horrifying gashes on her stomach. Those scars; god, I would not ever get those out of my mind. And then there was what she had said last night about the knife; about being stabbed.
More than once. More than once, she had said, in a voice so quiet I had almost missed it. And now I was imagining the knife as the cause of the blood, her body covered with stab wounds, more and more of them appearing by the second. It was all I could do to hold back another howl as I imagined it, the scene taking over my mind; until a sharp gasp tore me away.
It was Thea who had brought me back, her sharp inhale gaining my attention. And it was only then, only as I looked at her and shoved my own emotions and thoughts away, that I figured something out.
I wasn't the only one imagining things.
Her eyes were glazed, her skin a shade too pale as she sat there, frozen. And now that I was paying more attention, I marvelled that I hadn't immediately noticed how stricken she was; I could feel through the imprint an overload of fear, and a sharp sense of hurt. The combination of the two launched me to my feet, my muzzle nudging her shoulder to try and snap her out of it.
She didn't even blink.
I nudged her again, whining softly with sadness; I had to bring her back. But even though I was bumping her harder now, pushing her against her shoulder, her knee, her cheek, her back, she still didn't move. It wasn't until I pushed her perhaps a little too forcefully, sending her topping backwards onto the ground with a soft thump, that I finally got a reaction.
She huffed softly at the impact, her eyes widening with surprise. In less than second I was standing over her, peering down at her with concern; I probably should have been more careful, but worry had made me act without thinking. But she was looking up at me now, her expression a mix of surprise, amusement and confusion, though she settled on the latter as she spoke quietly.
'Jake, what are you doing?' She asked, and I huffed happily, nuzzling her on the cheek with my nose. Thea made confused sound as I buried into her hair, inhaling her scent with a contented whine; I loved her smell. Sweet and flowery and foresty and her; my wolf side couldn't get enough of it. And she was smiling now, just the slightest touch; that made it even better. The fear and hurt was gone, thank god, and I couldn't stop my tail from wagging happily as I looked at her.
I had her back.
I had her back, but even as I continued to brush against her, inhaling her scent, it wasn't enough. I needed more of her; to hold her, to talk to her. But it went against almost every instinct to leave her and phase back; because after today, I knew it wasn't safe to ever leave her alone. Still, I pushed back my hesitance as I backed away; it would take only seconds. Seconds, and then I would be back next to her.
Back next to her, and staying there.