I had broken him. Those words, his furious roar; that had been the moment his patience and restraint had disintegrated. And it should have been satisfying; satisfying to know that while he was out of control, I wasn't. To know that despite his torture, I hadn't spoken; that he hadn't broken me.
Except that he had.
My mind, my will; that remained intact. Mostly. But my body; that was so very, very broken.
I didn't blink as he let me fall to the floor. I didn't move, didn't even flinch, as I collided with the hard ground. I didn't make a sound as he flung himself onto me, forcing my back downwards as his hands locked around my throat. I didn't gasp as he cut of my air supply, and I didn't try to fight him off.
Because I was broken.
I was broken, but he was still breaking me, still hurting me. I couldn't feel my body, couldn't move, but I could feel the pain; so much pain. So much that when he lost control, slamming my head into the solid ground, that I smiled inside.
It didn't matter that my head was exploding; because I was gone.
I flinched, my breaths hitching as I jerked from sleep. My eyes opened instantly, my heart pounding in my chest as fear coiled in my stomach, my mind immediately locking onto one all-important question.
Where was he?
I peeled my ears, listening closely to the room; I barely held in a whimper as I picked up on the soft sounds I had been dreading. There were two heartbeats, two sets of breaths; which could mean only one thing.
He was here.
Starting to tremble, I lifted my head off the ground, holding in a pained cry as I searched the room. Turning and tilting my head was agonising, and was made more difficult since I was lying on my back, but I had to know; I had to know where he was.
Which ended up being only a metre to my left. Squeezing my lips and eyes tightly shut, I sucked in a shuddering breath; don't panic. Don't. Panic.
Reluctantly peeling back my eyelids, I let my gaze roam over him; he was stretched across the ground. And for some strange reason, seemed to be sleeping.
My eyebrows crinkled in confusion. In the past, he had always, always, been awake; awake, and impatiently waiting to torment me. There had been rare occasions where I'd been on my own, but never had he slept while I was in the room. And for some reason, this difference nagged at me. Even though relief was flooding through my body, it was weakened, lessened by the unexpected change.
I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. This… this was not right. He wouldn't sleep in the same room as me; that would mean letting down his guard, which he never did. That was how I had escaped him so long ago; it was not a mistake he would make again. And yet…
I glanced back to his unconscious form, staring hard. I half expected him to be awake now; half expected to realise I'd just imagined it all. It seemed more likely, more realistic. Yet he was still there, still asleep–
Oh. My eyes widened, my heart stuttering in shock.
Leon wasn't sleeping. Because the man lying next to me wasn't Leon.
Powerful new relief swept over me, and I crumpled against the ground, letting my head fall back as I sighed. It wasn't him. It wasn't him. He wasn't here. Leon. Wasn't. Here. And if he wasn't here, he couldn't hurt me.
He couldn't hurt me.
For a while, I was too relieved to think of anything but that simple statement; he couldn't hurt me. But eventually, after my heart slowed and my trembling stopped, a new thought occurred to me.
If Leon wasn't in the room with me, then who was?
Once again directing my gaze to the figure next to me, it was easy to see why I'd mistaken him for Leon. He was just as tall, just as muscled, with the same short dark hair. And more importantly, the mystery man was also a werewolf.
But a werewolf from Jake's pack.
Which meant he could save me. He could get the rest of the pack, get Jake, and he could save me. Maybe. Squeezing my eyes shut, I shoved my doubt – my fear – to the back of my mind; I didn't have time to worry about how this could all go wrong. This would work; it had to. All I had to do was wake him up.
A task that should've have been easy, but of course, wasn't.
Because while the man was lying almost close enough for me to touch, I couldn't move; not even to do something as simple as stretch my arm out. I tried, I really did. But all it earned me was a world of pain as the many cuts coating my arms flared up, burning like fire as I tried to move. The movement also sent my back into agony; just the slightest twitch of my shoulder made my severed muscles scream with pain.
So much pain. But it would all be worth nothing if I couldn't get over there; couldn't wake up the shapeshifter. I had to reach him. I had to reach him, no matter what the cost. And so, gritting my teeth at the agony I knew was about to rip through me, I shifted to the left.
And screamed. It felt as if someone was trying to tear the skin right off my body, my vision fading into a black and red haze of pain. But I couldn't stop; I had to reach him. And so I moved from my position curled on my side, using all the energy I could muster to roll towards him, flinging out my arm desperately as I did so.
It still wasn't enough. Even though another horrible scream tore through the air, pulled my throat by the pain crashing over me, I hadn't made it; I couldn't make it. Because my whole body was shuddering now, a piercing cry escaping me as I crumpled face first into the ground. My breaths were fast and desperate, because my lungs had seized up and I couldn't breathe.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move and I couldn't see, because there was just so much pain my body was shutting down beneath it all. I couldn't think either; my mind had been completely taken over by pain. I couldn't remember why I was hurting in the first place; all I knew was that I wanted it to stop.
And yet through it all, I somehow managed to feel the gentle, warm touch of someone's hand against my own.
Something wasn't right here.
Scratch that, nothing was right here. Jake's imprint should not have vanished into thin air. She should not be captive of some crazy werewolf ancestor of ours. She should not be tortured by him. And above all, she should not be impossible to find.
For some reason, that was what bothered me the most about all of this; the fact that she was so completely and utterly gone. That the imprint Jake had with her was leading him to the wrong place. That her scent had disappeared. And that while she was still in La Push, no one could find her.
It wasn't right. It didn't make sense, it shouldn't be possible, so something had to be wrong.
It was why I was currently wandering around this unimportant spot in the woods, a spot that looked exactly like every other in the forest. Because according to Jake, Thea should be here; and yet there was no sign of her.
And that wasn't right. The imprint was not wrong. It was never, ever wrong. If it said she was here, then she had to be here. But dozens of searches, of hours spent by Jake and the rest of the pack going over the area again and again, could find nothing. And if they hadn't found anything, I doubted I would. Yet still, I had to check. Even though I'd already been over the area five times, I would do it again.
Checking one more time wouldn't hurt.
If only I'd known then how wrong that statement really was.
I let my feet carry me along the familiar path through the trees, my eyes darting all around as I walked. I kept my steps slow, making sure I looked at anything and everything. But despite my care, it didn't make any difference; I ended up right back where I'd started, still with no clue where to find Thea.
Except just as I turned away, intending on heading back home, a fist was suddenly slamming into the back of my head, and I was sent crashing into unconsciousness.
I woke with a jolt at the piercing scream that ripped through the room. My eyes flew open at once, my head immediately turning to find the source of the sound; I couldn't believe what I saw.
Thea. Jake's Thea. The woman we'd spent hours and hours searching for, who Jake was going insane with worry over, was just inches away from me. I was stunned, unable to do anything but stare at her in shock as the seconds ticked by. It wasn't until she let out a desperate cry that my brain finally kicked into gear.
She was the one who had screamed. That awful sound; that had been her. And now that I was looking at her properly, it wasn't hard to see why.
Blood. There was so much blood. At first it was all I could see, but then my eyes started searching her body for the cause; only for me to immediately wish I hadn't. Because she had cuts everywhere. Her arms were covered with them, her back too–
I sucked in a gasp.
'Oh my god.' I breathed.
Her back. Oh my god, her back. There was no bare skin anymore, only countless slashes. Her shirt was falling off her, showing me just how many times the knife had sliced through her skin. But the cuts weren't the worst part.
The worst part was the letters carved across her lower back, spelling out a name; his name.
That bastard. How could he – how could anyone – do this to someone? The way she looked; I would never forget it. I had seen dead people before, I had killed vampires before, tearing them apart, but this; I hadn't seen this.
I had never seen someone look so broken.