At first, all I could do was stare at him, his last sentence ringing in my head.

I can't watch you die.

The words were packed full of anger and hurt and desperation; the same emotions which were surging into me through the imprint, leaving me speechless and stunned as I looked up at him.

I can't watch you die.

I didn't know what to say. What was there to say, after that? I didn't want to lie; to lie and tell him that he wouldn't have to, because we both knew it wasn't true. But what did that leave?

'Thea, say something.' He urged, his voice screaming how barely controlled his anger was right now. His eyes were burning with it, and his fingers were clenching the counter behind me all his strength; though I knew it wouldn't be enough. He needed to calm down; and the only way was to distract him.

And so I let my hands settle on top of his, feeling his fingers twitch at the contact.

'If you don't let go of the counter, you're going to break it.' I said softly. He didn't move; he was too busy shooting me a look of surprise and exasperation, his eyes still dark with rage. Moving slowly, I tried to slip my fingers beneath his to pry his grip; and with a shuddering sigh, he released his hold, his hands now enveloping mine.

'Say something else.' He asked, his tone almost pleading as his restraint broke and a growl rolled through him.

'The reason I can be calm is because I keep distracting myself; by focusing on you. Which is easiest when I'm worrying about you, because it means I can't worry about me.'

'But why are you worrying about me to begin with?' Jake asked with confusion and frustration, and I almost smiled at how bewildered he seemed.

'Yesterday, after I explained everything to you; I could see, I could feel how upset you were. And it felt so terrible, all I wanted to do was make it stop, but I didn't know how. That was why I was worried. And when I was worried, I couldn't even think about anything else; the imprint completely overrode me. Which was good, I guess; except you were hurting.' The last word was barely a whisper.

'But after that, things were better. You holding me and talking to me; that was a good distraction.' I said, smiling softly, worming one of my hands from his grasp so that I could run it through his hair.

'Well, you must have more control than me, because no matter what I do, I just can't stop thinking about it. And while I'd kill to forget all about it by distracting myself with you, every time I look at–'

Gripping his hair, I pulled his head down and gently pressed my lips to his. He was forced to stop midsentence as I swallowed his words, his lips parting in surprise against mine as his body froze. I slipped my other hand from his, trailing it up the bare skin of his chest before grabbing onto his neck.

And then, with a soft groan, he was kissing me back.

Even though I was already trapped against the counter, he was pushing me back hard against it, his lips crashing against mine as his right hand knotted in my hair. His other arm was hooking tightly around my waist, pulling me flush against him as he kissed me, and kissed me hard.

And god, it was so good.

He was everywhere, the only thing I could even hope to think about, the only thing that I cared about. But still, I needed more.

And apparently, so did he. Because Jake wasn't stopping – quite the opposite – and was only kissing me deeper as I pulled him down further; further and closer. I didn't know how he could be closer, but he was, his heat growing in intensity with every second that passed, and every kiss we shared. Fiery, burning kisses that were consuming me, searing through me and overloading my body with ecstasy.

There could be nothing better this. Nothing better as his hands suddenly vanished, only to reappear seconds later as they gripped my thighs, his mouth not leaving mine as he hiked me upwards. It was effortless to wrap my legs around him, gripping his hips as his lips continued to move against mine, different now that our faces were level.

Different, but still mind-numbing bliss.

Mind-numbing, because I hadn't even noticed that I was on the counter now, my knees still holding on to his sides as Jake's now free hands once again found my hair and waist. His fingers were drawing soft, hot circles through my shirt, pressing into my ribs, until suddenly his hand was slipping under my top. I gasped at the heat, pulling him closer as his hand drifted over my bare skin to splay across my back, my body shivering at the sensation.

Until, what seemed just seconds later – but was probably far longer – we finally broke apart. Apart being a loose term, because while our lips were no longer touching, the rest of us most certainly was; I was still wrapped around him, his forehead leaning against mine as I smiled up at him.

'Did it work?' I asked breathlessly, and he laughed quietly.

'God yes.' He breathed, one of his hands cupping my cheek as his lips brushed mine in the softest of kisses. 'Thank you.' He whispered. I grinned.

'I'm glad you're happy again.' I said, letting my hands fall from his hair to his shoulders as he pulled back; just in time to hear his stomach rumble. I laughed at the sheepish look on his face.

'You're hungry.' I said with a grin. 'Good.' He raised his eyebrows.

'Why is that good?'

'Because I am too. I'll cook for you.' Now he was the one grinning, holding onto my waist as I slid off the counter.

'What are we having?' He asked with interest, and I laughed again at his eagerness.

'I haven't got that far yet.'

Half an hour and an endless number of pancakes later, Jake was happily finishing off the last of the food on my plate. I didn't know how he was still eating, after everything else I'd already fed him; it was one thing to know that shapeshifters had large appetites, but another entirely to see it in the flesh. Still, I didn't mind; chatting with him over breakfast had been too much fun for me to really care.

Now, though; now, he was staring out the window with a slight frown, his eyes distant; and it wasn't hard to guess what he was thinking about.

'Are you leaving?' I asked softly and a bit sadly, and his gaze immediately flicked to mine.

'Maybe.' I gave him a confused look.

'I know you want to go.' I said, touching his arm gently. I could feel his slowly stirring worry through the imprint; worry for the pack. It was ingrained in him to watch over them, which I understood. He was the alpha; it was what he was meant to do.

'I do. But I don't want to leave you either.' He said, his voice turning hard. 'I haven't forgotten what happened the last time I did.' He continued quietly, falling silent as he thought for another moment. Then suddenly, he let out a heavy sigh; he had decided.

'Alright. I'll leave, but not for long.' He told me, standing from his stool and tugging me to my feet. I barely had time to stand before he was pulling me into his arms, hugging me fiercely.

'Five minutes.' He murmured into the top of my head as I buried my face in his chest. 'And then I'll be back.' He said reassuringly, though at first I wasn't quite sure if he was directing it at himself or me.

It wasn't until he pulled away that I realised it was probably both.

Because neither of us wanted him to leave, but both of us knew that he had to.

Five minutes. I could last five minutes without him. Hell, I had to be able to last five minutes without him; I couldn't keep him around 24/7, as appealing as that sounded.

And yet five minutes had never sounded so long, a thought Jake seemed to agree with, if his torn expression was any indication.

'It shouldn't be so hard.' He said, cupping my cheek. I nodded, smiling softly but sadly.

'It shouldn't be; but it is.' I said, and I forced myself to step backwards, slipping all but my hand from his grasp. 'Only five minutes.' I reminded him.

'Only five minutes.' He repeated.

'Enough time for you to check on the pack, and for me to change into something not red.' He laughed, grinning; though he wouldn't let go of my hand when I tried to pull it back. Instead, he came with it, grabbing me and kissing me softly.

'I'll see you soon.' He murmured, brushing a lock of hair out of my face.

And then he was gone. I could see his tall figure disappearing down the hallway, his bare shoulders drawing my attention; but too soon, they were gone as well. Because he was out the door now, out of my sight; and I couldn't hold back a sad noise in response.

I just wasn't the same without him. The imprint had done something, he had done something; changed me, made me different. I didn't know when or how or what, but sometime over the last 6 days – though it felt like so much longer – something had happened. I needed him now; and I needed him too much.

Too much.

Shaking my head, I forced myself to move, shoving my thoughts sidewards; I would not spend the next five minutes moping. This kind of thing – him not being here – was going to happen a lot; I had to deal with this.

And so I increased my too slow pace, making my way to the bedroom; I hadn't been joking when I'd said I was going to change clothes. Not just because I hated red – though I did – but because after sleeping on the ground in the woods, my clothes were in desperate need of cleaning. It was a relief to pull on a new pair of jeans and white top, and to fix my hair; Jake's love of playing with it had left it in disarray, not that I really minded. But brushing it gave me something to do, something to pass the time, which was something that I needed.

And something I was struggling to find as I found myself once again in the kitchen, standing there with absolutely nothing to distract myself. Which was bad, so bad, because now that Jake was gone, my mind was free to think about topics I'd been fervently avoiding; topics I wanted to keep avoiding.

And so, restless and desperate, I found myself opening all of the cupboards and draws I could find; searching for anything, anything at all, that would grab my attention.

Such as the book I found stuffed away beneath a stack of papers, its dog-eared corners a glaring sign that it was a favourite of Sera's. Then there was the masses of sticky notes strewn in the next draw over, all of which had confusing scrawls of words that I struggled to understand. In the cupboard under the sink, I found the gun that Quil had been so curious about the other day; once again it saddened me to think of why it was there.

And that sadness must had flooded over to Jake, because just seconds later, I felt his worry and silent question seeping through the imprint; he wanted to know what was going on. Smiling softly at his concern, I tried to push some happiness his way, bringing it up to the surface; I didn't want him to worry. But I couldn't help but bring up other emotions as well; restlessness, and a need for him that was growing by the second.

A need that sent me once again scrambling to find a distraction; only to wish I'd never found one.

I moved to the cupboards along the next wall, opening two and closing them almost immediately; I wasn't interested in cleaning supplies, or my sister's glass wear. I did pause for a moment in the pantry, unable to resist a look for my favourite snacks, though I didn't find them; if they were there, Sera must have hidden them away. The thought made me smile as I stepped back, pushing it half shut; only to find myself freezing on the spot, my smile dropping instantly as fear exploded within me, my breaths stopping.

He was standing right behind the door.

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