With too many thoughts on my mind to sleep, it was with relief that I had let the wolf take over; let it run, let it hunt, let it prowl. I was too distracted, too preoccupied, to really care where the wolf took me. The only thing I really knew was that I was running, and that I was running fast.
The speed was one of the reasons I loved being a werewolf. The wind tearing at my fur, my claws digging into the cool soil before launching me forwards; it was effortless and familiar. Running made me feel free, made me relax; it let me channel my emotions, let my thoughts run wild. There was nothing I had to do, no place I had to go; there was just simply the world, flying passed in a blur.
And it was times like this, times when the rest of the world seemed so distant it was barely there, that I liked to think.
And tonight, I was thinking about her. I was feeling her; feeling her every emotion, feeling her very being. Feeling the distance between us; distance that felt like a never-ending chasm, one that seemed to only be growing with time. She felt restless, and it was making me restless. She also felt inexplicably sad; an overwhelming, all-consuming sadness. A sadness that until now, I had been feeling just slight hints of; sudden flashes that were always repressed.
Now, though; now it was taking over. She felt lost, she felt drowned; she felt overpowered.
A need to know why, a need to stop it flared to life within me. She should not be sad; I did not want her to be sad. She didn't feel right sad; she should be happy. She should be happy and she should be smiling, and better yet, she should be smiling at me.
But she wasn't. She needed… something. Something that I couldn't identify from the bond, something that I didn't think she even had words for. She was reaching, reaching and searching, the bond growing taut and pulling at me fiercely with her need.
That was as much of an invitation as I needed. Without me realising it, the wolf had already started taking me closer to her, an unconscious response to her pull. It wanted to go to her, and with the imprint tugging ever more strongly, I couldn't disagree.
Because while I was fairly sure it was just wishful thinking on my part, I couldn't shake the feeling that the something she was searching for, the thing she needed, was me.
I felt it the moment Jake started heading in my direction. I couldn't help but sigh softly at the knowledge, part of me wishing that he was in fact heading for me, but fairly sure his change in direction was pure happenstance. It was, after all, around two in the morning, and he was probably going home to sleep, as any sane, normal person would.
But as I felt him grow ever closer, not veering away from his path – one that seemed to lead directly to me – I began to hope.
I was being smothered, surrounded by my thoughts; bad thoughts, sad thoughts, depressing thoughts. Thoughts I couldn't shake, thoughts that wouldn't go away, thoughts that haunted me. They were strong, so strong; digging their way into the deepest corners of my mind, sinking roots into every recess they could find.
They would not go away. No matter how much I wanted them to, no matter how much I needed them to, they refused to disappear; but I desperately wanted them to.
I didn't know if Jake could help; Jake, who I'd known for all of half a day and had one conversation with. All I knew was that Jake was coming, even though it was two in the morning, and that despite the fact that I barely knew him, I already felt better because of it.
There was something about his presence – his very being – that I couldn't help but respond to. His proximity, his closeness; it affected me in ways that it shouldn't; not in a normal world. In a normal world, I should not feel better simply because he was near. In a normal world, I shouldn't be able to sense him across the reservation, and we shouldn't be so tightly bound by the imprint that it was a physical relief to have him close.
This wasn't a normal world; a fact that I was very much glad for as my eyes caught sight of his tall form striding through the trees. If this was a normal world, and we were normal people, this situation would be beyond strange. But for us – or for me at least – it was both familiar and comforting to watch him approach me. I couldn't repress the soft smile that formed on my lips, and I didn't want to; it meant I got to watch him smile at me in return, his grin captivating in the darkness.
'You do know it's almost two in the morning, right?' Jake asked, seeming completely at ease as he joined me on the stairs, lithely draping himself over them and bracing his back against the rail opposite mine. It was impossible not to watch his body as he did so; his tanned chest beautifully muscled, his abs rippling as he moved.
'I could ask you the same question.' I responded, and he chuckled, making me smile.
'I'm not the one sitting outside my house in the middle of the night.'
'And walking around the rez is better?' I felt a flash of emotion through the bond, but he stifled it almost instantly; fast enough that I couldn't pick up what it was. He gave me a considering look before he responded.
'I suppose not. But I'm not tired; you, however, look dead on your feet.' I gave him a sad smile, and his tone softened.
'Can't sleep?' He queried, and I nodded; he gave me a sympathetic smile.
'I never sleep well here.' I said quietly.
'Why not?' He asked, surprise colouring his tone.
'Bad memories.' I said, sighing.
'You don't like it here?'
'No, I do. But bad memories always seem to stick around more than the good ones.' I said, somewhat forlornly. He nodded at that, smiling ruefully.
'I can understand that.' He paused for a moment, seemingly debating something, before speaking.
'You weren't surprised to see me.' It was a statement, but he phrased it as a question. 'Do you usually meet up with people at two in the morning?' He asked with a grin, and I laughed, smiling as I shifted position, crossing my legs and letting my hands fall to my lap.
'No,' I said, a hint of a smile still playing with my lips as I shook my head. 'I felt you coming.' I said quietly, glancing at him as I spoke, my hand impulsively lifting to hover over my heart. Jake was giving me a curious look, his eyes strangely fierce as he processed my words.
'You know about the imprint.' He half asked, half stated, still staring as he tilted his head slightly in curiosity. I nodded, meeting his gaze.
'How?' He questioned, confusion lacing his words.
'It was kind of hard not to notice. I almost passed out, remember?' I replied, and he smiled despite himself.
'You know that's not what I meant.' I laughed softly, and gave him an amused look. I didn't answer, having to repress a smile as I saw his eyes flicker with realisation.
'You're not going to tell me, are you?' He asked with slight frustration.
'A secret?' He cut me off, giving me a knowing look. I grinned.
'Is everything about you a secret?'
'Are you ever going to tell me?'
'Well, I might tell you some of my secrets. But not all of them.'
'Why not all of them?'
'Because that would take forever.' He raised his eyebrows at that.
'Yes, really.' He still looked unconvinced. 'Jake, I could tell you a secret a day for a month and we would get nowhere.' He grinned at that, his eyes lighting up as he responded.
'Well, maybe you should tell me two secrets a day then.' I smiled, laughing softly as I thought it over.
I wanted to tell him. I wanted to spend hours and hours telling him anything and everything. I wanted to confide in him, trust him; I knew I could; I knew he wouldn't protest. But regardless of how much I told him, regardless of how well he knew me, it wouldn't change the facts; the facts being that I was leaving, and if I was smart, never returning. Him knowing me would only make it harder when the separation inevitably came. But with the look he was giving me – his gorgeous brown eyes filled with mingled curiosity and hope – and his beautiful smile still directed my way, I couldn't refuse.
'I'll tell you three secrets,' I eventually decided, and Jake smiled widely. 'If you tell me one of your secrets in return.' If anything, my condition only made him grin wider.
Oh hell, this was a bad idea; I was going to regret this bitterly when the time came. But I wanted – I so desperately wanted – to know him. Even if it was impossible and a recipe for disaster, I wanted to be with him as much as I could in the time I had. It was selfish, so selfish, and it was going make things harder than they should be, but I couldn't bring myself to change my mind; not with him giving smiling like I'd just made his day.
'Deal.' He agreed, holding out his hand for me to shake. I took it, his large palm dwarfing my own small one, the warmth soaking in. It wasn't often that people felt warm to me, with my temperature being higher than most, but Jake was warm; and in all the best ways. But too soon the warmth was gone, our hands no longer touching, me no longer feeling strangely content at his simple touch. Instead, the contentment was replaced by sadness at the absence of the contact; an absence that shouldn't be as noticeable or dismaying as it was.
'So what did you want to know?' I asked, trying to blink away the melancholy that was descending upon me. I turned my gaze to Jake, expecting to hear his usual upbeat reply as he smiled his easy grin; instead, I was surprised to see the puzzled frown he wore, his eyes trained dazedly on the wall of trees surrounding us. He didn't seem to have heard me at all; in fact, he didn't look as if he had any idea where he was.
It was with hesitance that I reached out, gently nudging his knee with my foot and resting it there as I spoke.
'Jake?' I asked quietly, my eyes wide as I watched him. He jolted slightly at my touch, his eyes flying open as he shook his head to clear it.
'Are you okay?' I ventured softly, and he gave me an apologetic smile.
'Sorry. I was-'
'Distracted?' I finished for him with a slight smile, and he grinned.
'Yes. But I do know what I want to ask you.' I perked up with interest, silently indicating for him to ask, my curiosity flaring and making me forget all about his strange silence just moments earlier.
'It's about your sister, Sera.'
'What about her?' I asked, having a slight inkling of where this was going.
'I always thought she was an only child.'
'She is.' I couldn't help but grin at his confused expression.
'Ok, so Sera isn't my sister by blood, and Ani technically isn't my niece either.'
'But you still call her your sister? Why?'
'The same reason you call your pack members brothers. If you're close enough to someone, if you know them well enough, if you care for them, why shouldn't you call them brother or sister?' Jake nodded, smiling softly.
'You know, I think you might be the first person that's explained that to me, as opposed to the other way around.'
'Really?' He nodded.
'You'd be surprised how many people are confused by it.' I gave him a slightly incredulous look.
'But why?' He shrugged.
'Beats me.' We exchanged a look, both of us smiling.
'So, you still owe me 2 secrets.' Jake said, and I grinned.
'I'm guessing you already have one in mind?' I asked, arching an eyebrow at him, and it was his turn to grin in affirmation.
'So, if Ani isn't actually your niece, how come she looks just like you?'
'Just because she's not my niece doesn't mean we're not related. Ani's a …fourth cousin, I think?' Jake raised his eyebrows at that.
'You're not sure?' I shrugged.
'It's hard to track down family that distant.' I defended.
'Even if you are distant cousins, it doesn't explain why you look so similar.' I shrugged again.
'Well, I can't explain that. Genetic fluke, I guess.' He laughed.
I had decided that I loved his laugh; so warm, so rich, so deep and genuine. It was almost as captivating as his smile; a smile that never failed to make me want to smile in return. But I could tell that beneath the smile, Jake was thinking, and thinking hard, and it was that that drove me to speak.
'You have one more secret left.' I said, and he gave me a considering look, not replying as he pondered.
'I think I'm going to keep it.' He said eventually, giving me a playful grin. 'For now.'
'How come? Nothing to ask?' I asked, surprise lacing my words; Jake laughed.
'Quite the opposite; I have too many questions.' That made me smile.
'Well, ask me.' He raised his eyebrows at that. 'What? Not everything about me is a secret.' He grinned.
'Only most things?' He teased, and I laughed softly.
'Only most things.'