I missed her.
It had taken me a while to realise it, because I had been so consumed with panic and fear and trying to find her that everything else had been hidden and pushed deep inside me. But now; now that I had stopped, now that I was just waiting and doing nothing, it had filtered through.
I missed her. And it had nothing to do with knowing where she was and what was happening; this was different. I didn't want her just so that she could be safe. I wanted her because she would be able to calm me; something that was impossible for me right now.
She had done it so many times before, sometimes without either of us realising it. A light touch or a soft smile; sometimes that was all I needed. And then there was her facing me down when I was raging wolf, or kissing me in the kitchen; she had calmed me then, even though I'd felt like I would explode.
Which was exactly how I felt now. I was so tense, so wound up, the wolf aching to come out; but I wouldn't let it. The wolf; the wolf was more out of control than it had ever been. The imprint – the frantic and off-kilter imprint – was driving the wolf round and round and circles, urging it to find her find her find her. And not being to complete that one crucially important action was destroying it.
I couldn't phase. Not now; I didn't know if I'd ever be able to get back. I had to stay human.
But I needed her. I needed her.
I sat upright with a start, moving so fast that Quil, Jared, and Paul all turned to give me a strange look. I didn't pay them any attention though; I was too stunned by what I'd just heard.
Or thought I'd heard.
My name. Thea had said my name. I had heard it, clear as a bell in my mind.
I had heard her, exactly the same as I heard the pack when I was a wolf. And of course this was different, so very different, but I had still heard her. I didn't know how, I didn't know why, but it didn't matter; all I wanted was to hear her again.
Thea. I said her name in my mind, soft and questioning. Thea, can you hear me?
Silence. I held back a sad growl, reaching for her through the imprint; she was close now. So unbelievably close, closer maybe than we'd ever been before. There was a chance she could hear me.
Please, please hear me.
For a moment, I was too stunned to react; I was unable to believe that I really was hearing her. But then, in an instant, my emotions were suddenly bursting forth, a violent tidal wave as the knowledge sunk in.
Oh, thank god you're there. I gasped. I've been so worried. I said with a mix of relief and fear, exhaling sharply. Jared, Paul and Quil were still staring, all of their faces confused and concerned.
'Jake, what's going on?' Jared asked, giving me a careful look.
'I can hear her.' I said softly, only half seeing them as I waited for her reply.
I don't understand. How can I hear you? Her voice was slow, faint; something I hadn't noticed before.
Because of the imprint, I think. But we can figure that out later. I said quickly. It's more important that I find you first.
Find her. I needed to find her.
'No way.' Quil's shocked voice brought me back to my surroundings. It had taken my pack brother's a few seconds to figure out what exactly I'd meant, but now they were all giving me looks of amazement.
'You mean in your head? Right now?' I only nodded at Paul's question, paying more attention to Thea's confused words.
Find me. It was as if the concept was foreign to her; as if she had no idea what she was talking about.
Milliseconds later, it occurred to me that maybe she didn't. That bastard had hurt her so much; it wasn't unreasonable for her to be not all there, though the thought of it was agonising.
I've been searching everywhere for you, but he's gotten you hidden away somewhere that I can't find. I couldn't hide my frustration.
Thea, do you know where you are? Do you know anything that can help me?
There was a long silence before she answered, and I could feel her confusion through the imprint.
I don't know. I don't know where I am. Was it just me, or was she getting quieter? I tried not to think about what that might mean.
What can you see? I asked softly.
Nothing. It's dark.
Dark? Are you inside?
It was still light outside, so it seemed the only option.
Yes. But there are no windows.
Hope flared with in me; there might not be windows, but what about a door? If she could get outside, I was sure that I would be able to find her again.
What about a door?
She took a while to respond, and I could feel my heart racing with anticipation.
I can't see one. But…
But? Thea? Her sudden stop had made me worried.
I think… there might be one… on the far wall.
She had trouble saying the words, her voice weak and fading. Panic made my reply fast and urgent.
Can you reach it? Can you try and find it?
Another pause between us only increased my concern.
Something's… wrong. She gasped. I could feel her fading through the imprint, the distance between us growing by the second.
Thea? Thea, try and find the door.
Nothing. No reply. She was almost gone now, and not just from the bond; I could feel her consciousness slipping. For a moment, I thought that I'd already lost her; that I wouldn't get an answer. But just as I was about to give up, her soft and weak words came quietly into my head.
Two words. Two simple words, but they struck horror and pain into my heart. Because she was gone now, so very gone, the imprint weak and distant as it always was when she was unconscious. And because I knew what they meant; what she hadn't said.
'Jake? Is she still there?' I shook my head at Quil's words, both in answer to his question and to clear my mind.
'She's gone.' I said sadly.
'What did she say?' Jared asked eagerly.
'That she didn't know where she was, but it was dark. And she didn't know how to get out.' I felt myself frown, and Paul gave me a strange look.
'What?' He asked.
'I asked her if she could try and find a door or something, because she said she was inside. But she said… that she couldn't.'
'Probably because that bastard tied her up or something.' Quil said angrily, but I shook my head.
'That's not what she meant.' I said, my voice hard as I sighed. 'She meant that she physically couldn't do it; that he's hurt her too much.' I said with a pained tone. The three of them gave me sad, sympathetic looks as I continued quietly.
'Even if the door was wide open right in front of her, she wouldn't make it.'
I twitched at the sound, my brain still asleep and my body too heavy to move. Barely stirring, I easily drifted back into blackness.
There it was again. I was so close to unconsciousness, but I couldn't quite reach it; not with that noise.
Despite the iron strong hold the blackness had on me, I could feel it fading. I was waking up; and I had a strange feeling I didn't want to.
I shuddered slightly, the sound making me flinch; I had a bad feeling about this. I could feel dread settling in my stomach, though I didn't know why; I was nowhere near awake enough to even know what the sound was.
With every repetition of the noise, I could feel myself drifting upwards, growing closer to consciousness. My body wasn't just heavy any more, but aching; an ache that was increasing in intensity with every second that passed.
It hurt. Everything hurt now. I wanted to go back; go back to being unconscious. I didn't want to know why that sound had my heart clenching in fear. But my mind was stirring, kicking into gear; I couldn't stop it.
It was familiar; so familiar. The horrible scraping noise, and the snick that followed; somehow, it seemed almost metallic–
My eyes flew open, my whole body freezing.
I knew what that was. I knew what was making that sound. And I didn't want to believe it, didn't want it to be true, but all too quickly my eyes found the source of the noise in the darkness. I couldn't hold back a whimper at the sight, by breaths catching.
He was sharpening a knife.
Leon, who was sitting just metres in front of me, was methodically sharpening the dastardly blade in his hand. Even as I watched, he was scraping a whetstone along the knife's length, filing off the point with a horrible snick. His eyes lifted to meet mine as he did so, alight with cruelty as he gave me a scary grin.
A grin that told me everything I needed to know.
Because he was stopping now, twirling the knife in his hand as he looked it over, running a finger down the flat side of the blade. And then he was standing, moving slowly and gracefully as he approached me; still wearing that sickening smile. I felt my stomach churn, fear rising up fast and fierce as he crouched in front of me, his head tilting to the side as his moved over me.
'You don't look too good.' He remarked smugly, his pleasure making me tremble. Even worse was the fact that he was right; I was not good. I was the opposite, actually. Pain; pain was everywhere. My body was frozen with it, my muscles locked, my arms and legs leaden. And then there were the lines; burning lines, covering my back and arms. They hurt.
It all hurt. So badly that I couldn't even reply to his words, my lungs seizing up in the attempt and making me cry out. He smiled again.
'I hope by now you've learnt your lesson? And that you're going to tell me what I want today?' He said in the same satisfied voice. I stiffened, but not just because of the pain his voice was promising; confusion had almost made me freeze. He had said 'today'. As in a whole day had passed? My bewilderment must have been written across my face, because his next words answered my question.
'Yes, I'm afraid you spent the whole night unconscious. A shame, really; I would have liked to continue our little chat.' My heart stuttered at his disappointment; I knew it wasn't the conversation he was missing.
'But never mind that; you're awake now. Which means we can get right back into it.'
Before the words were even finished coming out of his mouth, he was jerking me upwards. I couldn't stop myself from crying out at how much it hurt; I could feel the gashes in my skin stretching, the pain making my head spin. That was until I was suddenly slammed into the wall, the dizziness disappearing in a flash as Leon forced the front of my body against the hard surface.
In just seconds he had my wrists once again chained high above my head; a task made easy by the fact that I couldn't put up a fight. I couldn't even stand; I was resting all my weight into the cold wall, slumping against it even as Leon stood close behind me. I shivered as he trailed the point of the knife down my back, gritting my teeth to hold in a groan as the point skimmed my already sliced open skin. Eventually, the point came to rest against my lower spine, the feel of the cold metal making my breaths shake.
'Now. Tell me where the sword is hidden, or you'll find out just how sharp this knife really is.' Gone was his satisfied tone from just moments before; his voice was cold and hard now as he threatened me. I said nothing though; not even when the knife pressed harder into my back, Leon pushing me further into the wall as he growled into my ear.
'TALK! Or I will carve my name into what little bare skin you have left, and I'll make sure that it hurts!' He said furiously. Again, I said nothing; I would not tell him. He would hurt me, even if I did. Besides, I wasn't even sure if I could talk; not just because my body wasn't working properly, but because the countless screams Leon had torn from my throat should have killed my voice box by now.
They should have, but they hadn't; not quite. I couldn't scream; screaming required energy, and that I did not have. But I was not silent. The pain tore from my throat a desperate, pained cry, quiet but still terrible as the knife pierced and sliced through my skin.
It hurt. The sharp tip digging into my flesh, moving excruciatingly slowly as Leon roared in outrage.
'YOU BITCH! WHERE IS IT?! WHERE! IS! IT!?'