I couldn't find her.
Hours and hours of searching, of prowling across every inch of Quileute soil, and I couldn't find her. She had to be here; I would have felt it if she had tried to leave. Or rather, if the shapeshifter bastard had tried to force her to leave. But willing or unwilling, she had not attempted to cross the border; she was still here.
But I couldn't find her.
I. Could. Not. Find. Her.
And it felt like I was going insane because of it. She was all I could think about, the only thing remotely important.
Because I just couldn't stop imagining what he was going to do her; what he was doing right this second. It would be bad, that I knew for certain; I had seen her scars. I had seen the knife she carried round 24/7 as protection from him, because she was that scared of him. And though I had only a vague idea of how he'd hurt her, my mind all too easily filled in the rest.
I tried to squash it down. I tried to distract myself, I tried to stop myself from thinking all together, but my brain wouldn't stop.
Because about 20 minutes ago, the imprint had suddenly overflowed with fear; her fear. She hadn't even been awake at the time, and I had told myself over and over again that she was dreaming, just dreaming, but it wasn't enough. She was still scared, and that was so wrong it made me feel sick to my stomach. But I had still been handling it, clinging to one small fact.
It wasn't real. It was not real.
And that had been enough; enough to keep me in control.
Until she had woken up. Until she had woken up, and her fear had rocketed skywards to such uncontrollable terror I had found myself sprinting in her direction even though I knew she wouldn't be there. It hadn't mattered though; the imprint had taken control, and it would not let me leave the spot of nothingness in the middle of the woods. It needed her, and since this was as close as I could get, this was where I was.
Sitting on the forest floor, trying to keep myself together, as wave after wave of panic assaulted me.
She was scared. She was so unbelievably scared.
And there was nothing I could do.
That was the worst part; not being able to do anything. She was alone in this; and that killed me. I was not there. I was not with her. I could not protect her. And I could not save her.
All I had was the imprint. The imprint that I had thrown myself into, trying to pull her closer because this separation was tearing apart. The imprint that I was tugging at in a vain attempt to figure out where she was, and why the imprint said she was here. The imprint that I had opened up, trying to let her know that I was searching for her; that I was still here. Trying to tell her that she wasn't alone; but she was.
She was alone.
And so was I… or maybe not.
Soft sounds had begun to reach my ears; the rustle of leaves, the crack of a twig. I lifted my bowed head – I'd been staring at the ground – and let my eyes roam the trees; they effortlessly picked up on the tanned figure that was approaching.
'Embry.' My voice was quiet and dull, but he heard it easily. His worried and wary expression deepened as he looked at me, dropping to the ground and sitting back against a nearby tree.
'No luck?' He asked, his sympathetic tone indicating he already knew the answer. Still, I shook my head.
'Nothing.' I sighed. 'It's like she's vanished into thin air.'
'And the imprint really can't find her?' Disbelief laced his tone, and I shook my head again.
'The imprint thinks she's here.' I said miserably, digging my fingers into the dirt in front of me, before clenching my hand into a fist. 'Though god knows why, because she's not.' I couldn't keep the frustration from my voice.
'You'll find her, Jake. We'll find her.' I knew that. I did.
'Yeah, but when?' That was the problem; the question I desperately need answering. When? How long would she, would I, have to wait? And what awful things was she going to suffer before I did find her?I didn't want to think about it, and yet I couldn't stop.
'I can't answer that.' Embry said softly. 'I just hope that when she wakes up, you'll be able to get a lock on her.' I was shaking my head before he even finished his sentence.
'She's already awake, Embry. And I still can't figure out where the hell she is. All I can pick up from her,' I paused to take a shuddering breath. 'Is how scared she is.' My voice was almost a whisper at the end, and Embry gave me a stricken look.
'Jake…' He trailed off, lost for words. 'I wish I could help.' He said sadly, and I sighed.
'There's nothing you can do Embry. There isn't even anything I can do, and that–' I cut off abruptly with a strangled growl, my forearm suddenly burning as the imprint seared with pain.
'What…?' I started to say, stretching out my right arm; before freezing as my eyes widened with disbelief.
Where just seconds ago there had been smooth skin, there was now an angry red slash from my wrist to my elbow.
Confusion flooded through me; what the hell had just happened? Last time I checked, cuts didn't just appear from nowhere. And this; this was not a casual scratch. This gash was deep; as proven by the blood that was quickly welling, and the pain that was insisting on lingering. Glancing over at Embry, I saw that he too was staring at my arm with shock, his brow furrowed in bewilderment. He shot me a perplexed look.
'Did your arm just magically slice itself open?' He asked slowly, as if he couldn't believe the words were coming out of his mouth. I couldn't blame him; this didn't make any sense.
'That's not possible.' I murmured softly, letting my fingers trail along the cut; even as I stared at it, it was healing. I could feel the flesh knitting together, the sensation making my skin itch. But though it was slowly closing up, it didn't stop the blood that was trailing down my arm; a sight that bothered me more than it should.
Probably because the first thing that popped into my head was Thea's softly spoke words: 'I don't like red. It reminds me of blood.' And now that was all I could think about; her blood. Her blood, spilling from a slash just like this one.
Exactly like this one.
I froze as the horrible truth dawned on me.
'Oh god, this is her.' I whispered, feeling my expression twist into one of horror. Horror that was blasting through me, consuming me as I stared blankly in shock.
It was her. She was the reason my arm had been sliced open; because hers had been too.
I didn't know how I'd made the leap, but I knew it was true. Just days ago she had told me the story; the story explaining why Quil had the exact same scratch she did. 'Because if the pack attacked any of the tribe, whatever harm they inflicted, they would receive themselves.'; that was what she had said. And we were so much closer than the pack and the tribe; our bond was strong. The imprint was so strong that it was physically impossible for us to even be too far apart, so strong I could everything she felt.
So didn't it make sense that everything could include more than just emotions? That if Thea was hurt, I would be to?
The proof was right there in front of me. I had felt, at the very moment the cut appeared in my skin, that Thea was hurting through the imprint. Which mean that this rapidly fading cut; this was the same thing as the story. Me being hurt without being touched; and the only explanation could be that she had been hurt the same way.
I could feel that my guess was true; I could feel the rightness of it.
But at the same time, I could feel how horribly wrong this was.
He had hurt her.
'He's hurting her.' I repeated, this time out loud, my voice full of pain.
He was hurting her.
And that hurt me. Not the gash itself; that was all but gone now, a simple red line across my skin. No, what hurt was knowing that she was hurting.
My imprint was hurting. Was being hurt. Right this very second.
He couldn't hurt her. He could not hurt her. I couldn't stand it, couldn't stand to know he was hurting her.
It was wrong. It was so unbelievably wrong, it just couldn't happen.
He could not hurt my imprint.
But he already was; he already had.
And there was nothing I could do stop it.
So much pain. Endless pain. Starting and stopping, but never truly ending.
God, I wanted it to end. But it wouldn't; he wouldn't. He wouldn't stop asking. And he wouldn't stop punishing me when I didn't give an answer.
More pain. The same pain, but it hurt so damn much I screamed every time.
Repetition. That's what this was. And you'd think it would help; repeating everything, knowing exactly what was going to happen. But knowing he was going to hurt me; that didn't help. That didn't help at all.
Because the flat blade of the cold metal knife was pressed against my cheek now, making me flinch as he traced the path of my jaw with it, my closed eyelids quivering with fear.
'You'll tell me what I want eventually; you know you will.' His words were quiet, but his tone was cold. I shuddered at the sound of his voice, wishing I could throw back a defiant reply; but my mouth stayed shut.
I didn't have the ability to talk anymore. I couldn't do anything anymore; nothing but shake my head and scream.
And so, because it was the only thing I could do, I shook my head. It was automatic now, to shake my head; every time I heard him speak, I would do it. Sometimes it was me saying no to his question; no, I will not answer. And other times, it was me saying no to the pain; no more pain.
But right now, it was both. For so long, it had been both.
I won't answer.
Don't hurt me.
I won't answer.
Don't hurt me.
I cried out as the side of the knife disappeared, the sharp edge suddenly slicing across my cheek and making me gasp at the pain. Rough hands grabbed my head, shaking me so violently that my eyes were forced open as he screamed at me.
'WHY WON'T YOU ANSWER ME?!' He roared, his face a horrible mask of anger and frustration, his eyes dark and frantic. I felt my heart stutter at the sight, an involuntary whimper escaping my lips.
Don't hurt me.