Jake stayed wolf with me for a while. Stretched out next to me, we sat in silence; and it was wonderful. Being with Jake the wolf felt different than being with Jake the man. Not better or worse, just… different. The silence between us was easier now, probably because Jake couldn't talk even if he wanted to. He could growl though; he was growling now, though it sound more like a low purr to me. Whatever the sound was, it was strangely comforting. I found myself calmed by it, almost subconsciously stroking my hand through the fur of his back as I let myself get lost in thought.
I was so lost in thought that at first I didn't notice he had left. It wasn't until he suddenly reappeared before me, man instead of wolf, that I realised he had disappeared to begin with. I felt almost guilty about that for some reason; but as always, the emotion was beaten down by my ever-present confusion.
Speaking of confusion...
'Why did you show me your wolf?' I asked quietly.
'I figured since you were asking so many questions about shifting, you'd want to see it.' He replied, his voice sounding almost sad.
'You were right. Thank you.' I said with a soft smile. It was a smile Jake didn't even seem to see, his gaze distracted and contemplative as he looked at me. I reconsidered the comment I'd been about to make about his wonderful softness as wolf, instead opening my mouth to ask him what he was thinking–
'Is there a reason you're so interested in me being a werewolf?' He suddenly asked, cutting me off even though I hadn't started talking yet. I threw him a slightly puzzled look.
'Because I'm curious?' I said slowly and unsurely. Jake shook his head slightly.
'I mean besides that. Today you've been asking a lot of questions about me; I was wondering what had changed.' For a moment I was stunned, surprised that he was paying such close attention to me. It was true; today, my questions had been oriented more about him than anything else. I was curious about him, about the man that seemed to know me so well. He was the only person I felt comfortable with. He was spending hours talking to me, helping me.
And yet I knew almost nothing about him.
It didn't seem right not to know. I wanted to know, especially because he was always so nice and friendly and wonderful to me.
But that wasn't the only reason.
'It's easier to think about someone else for a change. I'm so confused all the time, trying to figure out who I am and everything I used to know. But you… you make sense. You're not a huge question mark like I am. And so I kinda just wanted to distract myself with you so I could at least understand something.' Now, it was Jake's turn to be surprised. Whatever answer he had been expecting, it wasn't this. For a moment I wondered if maybe my questions bothered him, and he just hadn't said anything until now; but then he was suddenly speaking again.
'Is it helping?' Too absorbed in my own thoughts, I was thrown by his question.
'Is asking me questions helping?' I paused for a second, considering it.
'I think so.' I replied quietly.
'Well, ask me some more then.'
I woke in the middle of the night. For a moment I was frozen, completely bewildered by the darkness. But then, ever so slowly, realisation sunk in.
I was in my bed. I had been a sleep. And I had woken up…why? Surely not because I wasn't tired. I was always tired, mentally and physically; my brain exhausted from trying to remember and understand, and my body exhausted from healing itself. And yet, I was still awake… I shifted against the sheets, thinking it over; before, in an instant, I figured it out.
Jake was gone.
The bed seemed huge and cold without him, and I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it immediately. Because now that I had, I realised just how strange I felt.
Empty. I felt empty. And not my usual empty; this was different. This was bigger, completely engulfing me. It wasn't that my emotions were gone, but as if my very life was gone. Which was stupid; if my life was gone, I'd be dead, and here I was alive. And yet I couldn't shake the feeling that a part of myself really had disappeared, that I was somehow less whole than I had been before.
And the only explanation seemed to be that Jake was gone.
He hadn't disappeared like this before. He had just about always been there, so much so that he had become a constant in my world. But now, he was gone. Now he was gone, and I felt empty.
It didn't make sense. I shouldn't be this affected by him leaving me alone. I didn't blame him for leaving; he spent so much time with me, I couldn't be upset if he wanted a break. I spent half my time with him in silence anyway, trying to think. It didn't bother me at all that for now, I was thinking alone.
And yet, I felt so unbelievably incomplete.
Time passed. I tried to fall asleep again, but despite how completed drained I was of energy, I just couldn't seem lose consciousness. The strange, empty feeling was keeping me awake; it wouldn't leave me alone, and it wouldn't fade. Against my will, I found myself thinking again. It was something I was almost loathe to do now, because of how hard it was to try and make sense of the thoughts spinning around in my head. Still, I couldn't stop.
Not until soft voices suddenly made their way through my confused haze.
'How is he?' The male voice was unfamiliar, and almost inaudible.
'Not good.' Another man replied, his voice deeper. The first man said nothing, seemingly waiting for more of answer. Briefly, I wondered who they were talking about.
'He'll never be the same after this.' The deep voice eventually said, his tone sad. 'Even before the memory thing he was at breaking point.'
'I guessed as much. When he first showed up here with her… I don't think he even recognised me at first.'
'He probably didn't. I tried to help him, help her, after it was all over. But he… he was somewhere else entirely.'
'You should have seen him when we were trying to save her. One moment, he didn't seem to have clue we were there. And the next, he was trying to tear us all apart.' Someone sighed heavily.
'I doubt he had a clue what he was doing. What happened… it would have driven any of us crazy. Before she was taken, they hadn't spent more than few hours apart. And then, suddenly, she was gone. But not only that, she was being hurt. And Jake could feel every single bit of her pain. But he couldn't stop it, because he couldn't find her. You have no idea how hard that would have hit him.'
'You don't need to justify it, Embry. I don't blame him. I'm worried. Seeing someone snap like that… seeing him go from not hearing a word we're saying to bloody murder… it's not normal. And his strength; it took Emmett, Edward and Jasper combined to hold him back.'
'He thought you were going to hurt her. There's nothing a wolf will fight harder for than his imprint.'
'Even if they only met a week earlier?'
'It wouldn't have mattered if they'd met 2 hours ago or 2 years ago, it still would have been the same. It wasn't knowing her or caring for her that drove him, it was the bond.'
'Is it that strong?'
'For them it is. Or was.'
'Jake says it's different now. Much weaker. He can barely feel her. And it's taking its toll on him.'
I didn't remember eventually falling asleep. And, when morning came around, I didn't remember the conversation I'd overhead either; not that I'd understood it anyway. I did, however, vividly remember the strange empty feeling that had haunted me last night. I couldn't seem to get it out of my mind, couldn't seem to stop remembering how lost I'd felt. Until, suddenly, the memory burst from my lips without me even deciding to speak.
'You left last night.' The words flew from my mouth fast but quiet, and in the corner of my eye I saw Jake freeze.
'What?' Turning away from the widow I'd been staring through, I met his confused gaze.
'You disappeared sometime last night. I woke up, and you were gone.' I said softly. Jake's face became an expressionless mask, his eyes watching me intently. He said nothing, apparently waiting for me to continue.
'And I felt… strange. Empty. I figured it had to be because you were gone, since nothing else had changed, but I don't know why it affected me. And now, I can't stop thinking about it, trying to work it out. But I feel like I'm going crazy, because I've got nothing.' I sighed heavily at the end of my words. Without thinking, I found myself glancing back through the glass beside my chair; watching the wonderfully green forest through the window calmed me. I would have preferred to be outside in the actual forest, but it was raining today, and Carlisle had told me to stay inside. Which I understood, but for some reason I really wanted to be outside, almost more so because of the rain.
'Thea.' I jerked at the sound of my name, having for the moment forgotten that I was waiting for Jake to respond. It happened a lot lately, me losing focus like that. I struggled to pay attention to anything properly with my mind nothing but a confused whirlwind. However, I forced myself to concentrate as I once again twisted to face Jake.
'There's something I have to tell you.' He said quietly, his face set as he walked over to me. His gaze was uncertain as he sat in the chair opposite my own, leaning forward slightly instead of relaxing into it.
'I thought it best not to tell you, because I was sure it would only confuse you. But I think at this stage, it doesn't really matter anymore.' The words were almost sad, though I couldn't figure out why.
'I never told you how we knew each other. Or why I was here.' I nodded slowly at his careful words. Of course I knew he hadn't told me that. How many times had I wondered at the answers to those two questions? How many times had I wondered why Jake spent so much time with me? And yet, I had never asked. I had gotten so close to asking, but I had never actually said the words. Despite wanting to know, I'd always had a strange hesitation at finding out the answer. As if I knew, somehow, that the answer would change things.
Jake sucked in a deep breath.
'You're my imprint, Thea.'
'You're my imprint, Thea.'
The words seemed too loud in the silence of the room, too loud as Thea stared at me with a mixture of confusion and curiosity. They kept ringing in my head, repeating over and over again.
You're my imprint you're my imprint you're my imprint.
3 words. 3 words that were everything to me. She was everything to me now. Thea was my world, was the only thing that mattered. And she was blinking now, ever so slowly, as the words sunk into her brain. I could see her thinking, thinking hard, with an expression I had come to recognise as her trying to remember.
God, I wanted her to remember. I needed her to remember. Please, please remember.
'Imprint?' She said the word slowly, unsurely. I fought to keep myself still and silent in the chair, my hands subconsciously forming into fists as I struggled to keep myself composed. There were too many emotions battling inside of me; hope, worry, fear, anticipation, desperation, sadness. And every single one of them was hinging on whether or not she remembered one simple but all-important word.
She was still thinking. Her eyes were staring in my direction, but she wasn't seeing me; she was off in her mind still, sifting through her thoughts. I couldn't decide if that terrified me or thrilled me; was she still thinking because she was about to remember, or because she couldn't? God, the wait was killing me. I needed to know. I needed to know now. This was the only thing I could think of to make her remember. If it didn't work… I was lost. Showing her my wolf hadn't worked, and apart from this, there was nothing else. There was nothing important left to tell her, except for him. Except for the cruel dead bastard that had caused all of this to begin with. And I wouldn't – couldn't – tell her about him. I couldn't tell her about the pain. I couldn't put it into words, couldn't subject her to the pain of knowing.
Not even to get her back.
'What's an imprint?' For a moment, I couldn't process Thea's soft words. For a moment, I was too lost in my panicked thoughts to hear them. But then, in one horrible second, they were sinking into my brain.
No. No. It hadn't worked! Oh god, she didn't remember!
She. Didn't. Remember.
She was never going to remember.
Pain. Pain was burning inside me at the knowledge. My last idea, last chance, was gone. It hadn't worked. And it hurt. I felt as if she had taken the last shred of my heart that was left and crushed it in her small fist. And I knew she hadn't meant it, knew that none of this was her fault, but that did nothing for the pain.
I wouldn't be getting her back.
But I needed her back. Her being like this was slowly turning into torture. The imprint… I couldn't even remember what it was supposed to feel like anymore. I couldn't remember what it felt like to have her close, to feel everything she did. Because these days, the only thing I got from her was confusion. The rest was just gone, empty.
And it was driving me insane.
The wolf; the wolf felt like it was dying. The wolf thought that we had lost our mate, were losing her more every day, and was crumpling because of it. Not having her, feeling her; the wolf couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle it. And then there was the fact that we were so far away from La Push, from the pack. I had never been so far away for so long, and I was feeling the separation; I wasn't meant to be apart from them. They were mine. But so was Thea.
And I was not leaving her. I couldn't leave her, not even if I wanted to. And I didn't want to; I didn't want to ever leave her again. I didn't plan to ever leave her again. Even last night, when I'd been forced to head outside before I self-imploded, it had been ridiculously hard to leave the room. She had only been sleeping, and yet it had been torture to leave her. Because with the imprint pretty much out of commission, keeping her in my line of sight was the only way to know she was safe. It was the only way I could connect with her.
But I wasn't really connecting. Nowadays, she just sat and stared and thought. She was like a zombie, going through the motions of life without paying attention or even seeing what was around her.
And watching her like that was slowly killing me. That was why I had been trying to get her back. That was why so much had been hinging on her remembering.
Because if she didn't, we'd both be as good as dead.