I couldn't quite believe it when Thea finally opened her eyes. I blinked, expecting to discover it was just wishful thinking on my part; how many times had I imagined her waking up, only to realise it was all dream? But this time, her eyes didn't close. This time, her eyes stayed open.
Oh my god.
For a moment, I was stunned. After days of waiting, after hours and minutes and seconds of desperate hoping, it had finally happened.
Thea was awake.
A strangled but relieved cry escaped my lips, and it took my all my strength to remain still beneath her. All I wanted to do right now was to kiss her, to pull her in a bone crushing hug and never let go of her, to apologise a million times over for ever letting any of this happen. But I couldn't do it, not yet. She might be awake, but she wasn't healed, not by a long shot; I could all too easily hurt her. She wasn't even completely awake yet, her eyes blinking and squinting and glazed with confusion as she glanced around. It was a sight that made me both relieved and worried; relieved, because it was so familiar and typical for her to be wary of her surroundings, and worried, because even though she had the right to be confused, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about the question that had been haunting me ever since the sword had first been plunged through her chest.
What would the venom do to her? What had the venom done to her?
I didn't want to think of it. I shouldn't be thinking of it, worrying over it. I should be nothing but relieved, because Thea was alive, not dead, awake, not unconscious, which was what I had been praying for all week. But I just couldn't squash down the worry; especially with the words that came out of Thea's mouth just a second later.
'Do I know you?' She asked, staring at Carlisle with confusion. 'You look familiar…' I felt my eyes widen in surprise, and I threw Carlisle a questioning look. He gave me a warning one in return, his face unreadable as his gaze fell back to Thea.
'No. We've never met.' He answered slowly, and Thea nodded, seemingly agreeing; Carlisle and I exchanged another look. I could understand that she was confused after being unconscious for so long, but something about her seemed… off.
'How do you feel?' Carlisle asked. Thea's face scrunched up in pain at the question, and a quiet groan escaped her lips.
'Dizzy.' She mumbled, pressing a hand to her forehead as her head fell further back against me. 'Really dizzy.' She continued, her eyelids fluttering; she almost looked as if she was going to pass out again. Panic bloomed within me at the thought. She couldn't go to sleep again, not when I'd just gotten back. Not when I'd only just found out that she wasn't, after all, going to die.
'Thea?' My voice was nought but a whisper, and yet packed full of emotion. I couldn't stop myself from speaking, even though I was sure Carlisle was shooting me another warning look. He didn't know what I did; he didn't have an unexplainable sick feeling in his stomach from the imprint, a feeling that could mean only one thing.
Something was wrong.
Thea had frozen at my voice, her breaths stopping for a moment at the sound. I felt her recognition through the imprint, and yet at the same time, she was confused. Confused about what? Feeling the brick in my stomach harden, I leaned forward and to the side so that she could see my face. Except she couldn't see it, see me; she was blinking far too much, her eyes distant and glazed as I stared down at her.
'Jake, you need to give her time to come around. Let her wake up completely.' Carlisle said quietly, but I shook my head.
'Something's wrong.' I murmured in reply. I couldn't tear my eyes away from Thea, my gaze fierce with fear as I met her vacant eyes. Eyes, that with one more blink, suddenly weren't vacant anymore. Eyes that were staring right back, drinking in my features, gleaming with recognition. Her mouth parted, and I felt myself shiver with anticipation at whatever she was about to say. I hoped it was my name; that was why I said hers so often, so that I could mine in return, because it sounded so wonderful from her lips. But if it wasn't, it didn't matter. I didn't care, as long she said, something, anything, to tell me she was back with me.
Her lips moved. I saw them mouth a word, one I instantly recognised; my name. I had memorised the way she said my name. But though she mouthed it, shaped, she did not say it. She was silent, mute, voiceless. I watched her eyebrows crinkle in confusion, her eyes narrowing in response; for one heart-stopping moment, I feared she couldn't speak at all. Perhaps that was the venom had done: taken her voice. But the next instant, I was dismissing the idea; this wasn't her first experience with venom, and she had spoken before, hadn't she? No, whatever was stopping her now was something else. Something that terrified me, because I knew without a doubt that something wasn't right here.
But whatever it was, it didn't matter now. She was speaking now, her mouth once again moving, and this time actually saying the words. Words that were finally going to tell me, going to prove to me, that I had her back.
'Who are you?'
For a long moment, all I could do was stare. Stare, as those three little words slowly sunk into my brain. Stare, as the relief that had been rising up, relief I had been seconds away from embracing, crumpled into dust. Stare, as my heart was crushed and stabbed and punched and squeezed, all at the same time.
Until the stare was suddenly broken by the tortured and strangled whine that tore through the room.
At first, I didn't realise it was me who had made the noise. It seemed so distant, so unimportant. Everything was unimportant compared to the pain and shock that had suddenly ripped through me.
No. No. NO.
She hadn't just said that. She hadn't– She couldn't have– She wouldn't have–
A sucked in a heaving breath.
Thea – my imprint – had just asked me who I was. Because she didn't know. She did not know.
She didn't know who I was.
She didn't remember me. She had forgotten me.
And that hurt.
She was my everything. My imprint, my soul mate. I would live and die for her, do anything for her. She was everything to me… and I was nothing to her. A stranger. Someone she had never met, some she didn't know. Someone who didn't mean anything.
Oh god, it hurt.
There was pain, real and physical pain in my chest, in my heart. I was reeling, the imprint was reeling, and the wolf was reeling, unable to process the sudden and completely unexpected rejection. It was a rejection, though maybe not a straight forward one.
And rejection from her was terrible.
I felt lost. So, incredibly, bewilderingly, lost. It was as if my purpose in my life had suddenly disappeared, had suddenly been destroyed; and I supposed, in a way, it had been. I was meant to protect her, be there for her, be anything and everything she needed. But now, she didn't need me anymore. How could she need me, if she didn't know who I was? She couldn't. She didn't.
She didn't need me.
The knowledge was awful, horrible, destroying.
She didn't need me.
What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to do when I needed her so badly, but she didn't need me at all? God, she probably wanted me to leave. I would want me to leave, if I had been the one waking up stranger's arms. Hell, I almost wanted to leave myself; the wolf was clawing at my insides, begging to break out so it could do something about the pain that was tearing me apart. And if I did let the wolf out, I could lose myself in it, lose myself to the wild and primal animal. Maybe then, this wouldn't hurt so much.
Yes, leaving was starting to look like the perfect idea.
Except I couldn't. I couldn't leave her, couldn't let go of her, not like this. Not after everything that had happened, not when she was hurt and it was all my fault–
In one horrible instant, I realisation struck.
Oh god, this was my fault. Her memory loss; it was my fault. The vampire venom must have done it, there was nothing else. And she had only been poisoned with venom because of me. She had been poisoned and stabbed, because she saved me. She had lost her memory, because of me.
She was gone, because of me. Gone, because I was sure it wasn't just me she had forgotten, but everything. She had forgotten it all. Every single detail of her life, every memory she ever had, gone. And who was she without all of that? How could she ever be the same, with everything she'd ever known wiped from her mind? How could she be Thea?
No, it wasn't just Thea's memories that were lost, but Thea herself. Thea was gone. She was gone.
No. No, she couldn't be gone. I couldn't have lost her. She couldn't have just disappeared on me, not when I was so close to getting her back. She couldn't have survived everything that had happened, only to be snatched away at the last moment. I needed her. There was no way she was gone. It couldn't be true. I wouldn't let it be true. I would… I would change it.
I would change it.
I would bring her back. I. Would. Bring. Her. Back. If she didn't remember, I would tell it all back to her, every detail I knew. Big or small, important or unimportant, I would tell her everything. And maybe, just maybe, she would remember. Maybe, she would come back to me. I wanted her so desperately to come back to me.
But what if she didn't? What if no matter how hard I tried to bring her back, it didn't work? What if her memories were completely gone, never to return? I balked at the thought. No. No, I would get them back. But… but what if… what if I couldn't?
Then we'd have to start again. She would have to start again. And I would help her. I would get her to know me again. I would get her trust me again. And one day, she would be mine again. Not the same – never the same – but still mine. Somehow, someway, no matter how long it took, she would be mine again.
But not now. Not now. Now, I was still a stranger. Now was only the beginning. Because she was still staring at me, waiting for an answer. It had been only seconds she'd asked me that life altering question, and yet I felt like I'd aged a year. How was it possible that I had felt so much, had thought through all of that, in just moments? It felt like someone had driven a bull dozer through my brain, my thoughts slow and sluggish as I blinked in confusion; confusion I could see mirrored in Thea's eyes.
Thea, who was suddenly moving, raising a hand up as if to touch my cheek. But she stopped just millimetres for my skin, hesitating; almost as if she was unsure she was allowed. If only she knew that inside, I was practically dying with need for her to move that final centimetre. Dying with need for her to touch me, because then I could almost pretend that it really was her. If not for her sad sigh, maybe I could have.
'You look so familiar.' She said softly, her gaze not wavering from mine. 'I'm sure I know you, but I just… can't... remember.' She continued with a mixture of frustration and confusion. Which usually would have bothered me, but I was too busy reeling over the realisation her words had brought.
She hadn't forgotten me. She didn't remember me, but she hadn't forgotten me. Somewhere in her mind, in her head, she knew me. Somewhere inside her, her memories were locked away. Locked away, but still there, still existing; all I had to do was free them. All I had to do was get her to remember, and she would come back. I would get her back. I would get her back, and she would know my name, and…
Wait a second.
She didn't know my name. She still didn't know my name. Holy hell, she didn't know!
'Jake.' I blurted suddenly, the word bursting from my lips. She froze at the word, her forehead creasing in confusion. I repeated myself, but slower this time, softer.
'My name is Jake.'