Because in his hand was the same knife had been torturing me with earlier, the blade clean of my blood now; and it was glowing a dull red. The dull red of metal when heated, the dull red that meant touching it would burn, and burn painfully.
He was walking this way now, his purposeful stride carrying him over to me in just seconds. I was shaking my head before he even reached me, my eyes wide with fear that was making my heart race.
'No.' I hadn't meant to say it out loud, but to my surprise it came out as hoarse whisper. Leon, who was pulling my head up to face his, grinned at the sound, making me tremble.
'You know this is going to hurt, don't you?' He asked, the softness of his voice a stark contrast to the murderous gleam in his eyes. He brought the knife up so that I could see it, holding it so close to my cheek that I could feel the heat radiating from it.
'You could stop it. If you tell me where it's hidden, I might spare you.' His voice was sickeningly sweet as he dangled the knife in front of me. I wanted to slap the smile right off his face at the lies he was spurting, but I couldn't even a muster a glare.
Somehow, though, I managed to choke out one hate-filled word.
In a flash, the knife was gone, and I was being yanked forcefully off the ground. His grip on me was too tight and painful; I screamed as his hands dug into my cut covered arms. The knife was gone, and that made my panic rise to new levels; where was it?! I looked around frantically, but pain and Leon's rough handling made me dizzy; I couldn't find it anywhere. It wasn't until he pushed me hard into the ground right next to the fire, that I finally caught sight of it.
It was in his hand, and being shoved back into the flames.
I tried – pointlessly tried – to crawl away. But my arms and legs wouldn't obey, and before I could even stretch out a hand Leon was hauling me closer to him, my skin scraping across the ground. I barely noticed that pain though; because he was once again pinning me to the floor, before, with angry snarl, the red-hot knife was plunging into me.
I screamed. It was a terrible scream, the worst one he'd torn from me yet, because excruciating agony was roaring through me and I felt as if I would die from the pain. This was nothing compared to what he'd done before; because he was still digging deep into my skin and scraping against my ribs, but now he was burning me at the same time, and it was too much.
Too much. I was sure I would faint from the pain, I wanted to faint from the pain, but when the knife's burning touch finally disappeared I was still awake. I was still awake, even though my back was burning fiercely with lingering agony. It didn't matter that the knife was gone; it still hurt.
It still hurt. Tears were trailing down my cheeks, my fingers clawing pointlessly at the ground, because it needed to stop. It needed to stop. I was going to die if it didn't stop.
Please, just stop.
It took five more slashes with the burning knife before I got my wish; before it stopped. And not because Leon relented; that, he wouldn't do. No, it stopped because the blackness that had been skirting me for so long finally overwhelmed me.
I had never been so glad to fall unconscious.
I woke up hurting.
Hurting badly. My whole body was thrumming with it, overloaded with it. I couldn't hold in a whimper, my body trembling against the cold ground.
Everything hurt. Even opening my eyes was a challenge, but I managed it, blinking slowly to clear the hazy blackness that greeted me; only to realise that the black was the darkness I had been kept in before the fire.
Before the fire.
I shuddered at the memory, my eyes searching the room for the cursed blaze; now, all that was left of it were the slightly burning embers. Embers that took me too long to find; my brain was so scattered, so slow, it took all my concentration to focus on something. But once I did find them, I couldn't help but think how the softly glowing coals didn't look like the cause of all my pain anymore; now, they looked almost pretty, the soft sparks drifting in the darkness. It reminded of another, far nicer fire; a purple and blue one Jake had built for me what seemed like an eternity ago.
The thought of him sent a pang of longing through me. How long had it been since I'd seen him? Minutes? Hours? Days? I didn't know. I couldn't keep track of time, of anything; my brain was too sluggish. There was only the knife.
The knife. I started, my heart racing as my eyes swept the room frantically. Where was it; and where was Leon? And how the hell had it taken me this long to remember them? My breaths were fast pants as I searched the darkness, but eventually I let out a relieved sigh; he wasn't here. And neither was the blade.
I let myself once again crumple against the ground, my eyes fluttering shut as a choked sob escaped my lips.
I was alone. And while at first the knowledge had overwhelmed me with relief, it didn't seem so wonderful anymore.
I was alone. Suffering alone, trapped alone. It was just me. No one else.
Not even Jake.
It wasn't that I wanted him trapped with me; the thought filled me with horror, and I had to bite my tongue to keep in a cry. I didn't want him hurt either; he couldn't be hurt. But I wanted him. I wanted him here, with me, warm and strong and just there. I wanted him to make the pain stop, because it hurt. I wanted him to find me, to get me out of here; I wanted him to save me.
But I was alone; almost. My slow moving mind had finally picked up on something.
Jake. He wasn't here, but I could feel him. I could feel him through the imprint, pulling at me fiercely as he flooded the bond with need. He needed something; needed me. He was searching for me, reaching out through the imprint.
And so I reached back.
I didn't want to be alone. And now, it almost seemed like I wasn't; he seemed close now, so close. I could feel more of him; it was almost like he was here. Almost like I could see him, almost like I could talk to him; and almost like he could talk back.
It felt so real I found myself crying out his name in my head, need making my voice desperate.
No reply. Of course not. This was all in my head; he couldn't hear me.
Yet for some reason, surprise suddenly flowed from him into the imprint.
I froze for a moment, before dismissing it. It couldn't be because of me. That wasn't possible–
I jumped at the sound, my eyes flying open.
No. No way. There was no way I'd just heard Jake's soft, questioning voice in my head.
Thea, can you hear me?
Oh my god. It was so real. The worry in his tone, the uncertainty; it was exactly the way he would say it. But it couldn't be real. Jake could not speak to me in my mind.
Oh. A shuddering sigh escaped my lips.
I was dreaming. Or hallucinating, or something; it was the only explanation. Maybe that was why it was so hard to think now; because none of this was real.
Yet I couldn't stop myself from tentatively saying his name.
For a moment, there was only silence. And then the imprint was exploding a rush, Jake's emotions slamming into me all at once as his words came fast into my head.
Oh, thank god you're there. He said, relief lacing his words and flooding through me. I've been so worried. His words were slightly pained that time, his concern overwhelming. It was hard to pay attention to what he was saying though; confusion was consuming my thoughts, blood loss making the simplest things puzzling.
I don't understand. How can I hear you? I asked, my voice slow with bewilderment.
Because of the imprint, I think. But we can figure that out later. He said quickly. It's more important that I find you first.
Find me. I repeated sluggishly, the words not sinking into my brain; it was hard to think like this. Jake's emotions were so strong and mixed together, I couldn't figure them out; the onslaught was too much. Then there was the pain; I couldn't ignore the hurt that was enveloping me, the weakness that was stealing over me.
I've been searching everywhere for you, but he's gotten you hidden away somewhere that I can't find. His voice was frustrated, and I was confused by his words; couldn't he just use the imprint to figure out where I was?
Thea, do you know where you are? Do you know anything that can help me?
Help me. Those were the words that stood out; I had to help him.
I squeezed my eyes shut tight, trying to pull my thoughts together.
I don't know. I don't know where I am.
What can you see?
Nothing. It's dark.
Dark? Are you inside?
Inside. Was I inside; yes. There were walls; I remembered that now.
Yes. But there are no windows.
A flash of hope filtered in through the bond.
What about a door?
A door. A door a door a door. I couldn't see a door.
I can't see one. But…
I think… there might be one… on the far wall.
It was getting to hard to talk to him now.
Can you reach it? Can you try and find it?
No. No, I couldn't reach it. But for some reason, I couldn't tell Jake that; he felt as if he was slipping away.
Something's… wrong. I managed to say, my voice naught but a whisper. I felt Jake's panic rise at my words.
Thea? Thea, try and find the door.
I was losing him. I needed to reply, but I was losing him. I could feel the silence stretching between us, and fear made me choke out the words.
And then he was gone. The loss was crippling. Before, his emotions had been too much for me; too much when I couldn't move and my whole body hurt. But having them gone was even worse.
Emptiness. Complete and utter emptiness. Because it wasn't just Jake was gone; it was everything. Everything was gone.
I was gone.