There was an intolerably long silence as my question hung in the air between us. Jay's eyes were on me, sharp and hostile. I held his gaze resolutely, determined not to show weakness in front of him. The Shadow isn't dead yet Jay Hale. I thought silently. I will not be intimidated and I am still going to go after Jessica whether you help me or not. Be warned, cross me and I will treat you the same as anyone else. We are strangers-I am only trusting you as far as will keep me alive.
Eventually, he nodded. Once. I gave him a smile in return, feeling some of the tension leave my shoulders as he put the knife away again. However, his eyes still flashed angrily, watching my every move like a hawk. Evidently, you haven't learnt the art of subtle observation Jay Hale. I resisted the urge to laugh as the thought crossed my mind. From his thoughts, he was oblivious to the fact that I hadn't taken my eyes off him once since he had entered the club. A 'gunfighter's itch' as Jake would always call it. I ignored the tearing pain at the memory of him laughing at me.
"You are a super-sexy, wickedly dangerous and notorious bounty hunter with psychic powers who also happens to be a vampire. Who is now on the run. And I just got to kiss you.. " He grinned. "Sorry but that is every nerdy guy's dream." His laugh echoed through me and at that point I realised that the love we had for each other went deeper than lust, deeper than the friendship we had shared for years. We had been engaged before, in our human lives. But it was in that moment, his easy acceptance of what anyone else would see as a crashing fall from grace, from which anyone else would have recoiled, his smile, his laugh and even the traces of pride in his eyes when he looked at me after then... they all amounted to the fact that I was completely and irrevicobly in love with this guy. I had thought I had loved Justin as a human. Now I saw that was lust and nothing more. This went soul-deep and nestled in the core of my being. I knew now that whatever happened, Jake would be a part of me. From that moment on, every smile, every word, every one of his breaths became priceless to me. Because he became the centre of my universe. Nothing mattered more to me than to see him smile with the same carefree crooked smile he regarded me with after that revelation. I wanted to preserve and protect that at any cost.
He was my safety net, he kept me grounded, he found my humanity again. I was no longer numb to the life I lived as the Shadow and I saw how close I was to being a virtual slave to the job. I had become numb to the suffering and pain I caused, I functioned and I survived. I was a far cry from the terrified fledgling who had fled from humans. When Jake found me, I was a killer on a contract. Nothing more. A machine with stolen blood in her veins. Jake breathed humanity back into me with his simple kindness and recaptured my heart. He opened my eyes to a world I had turned my back on. He turned my world upside-down with a kiss and touched me more deeply than he ever knew. And now, more than he would ever know.
We were meant to have an eternity together, but Lee took him from me for a second time.
This final realisation brought an acid bitterness to the back of my throat. The sheer, raw agony it induced brought tears to my eyes. I stood up abruptly.
"Well I guess you need to prepare," I said, my voice cracking. I ignored it, striding over to the door, keeping Jay in the periphery of my vision but mainly averting my eyes. He looked taken aback at my sudden change in demeanour. "I'll come and find you when the time is right. Be ready." I struggled not to choke, feeling suffocated by the sudden sense of loss. The room was spinning and my hand shook slightly as it turned the handle. "Until then.. take care." On the last word, my voice wavered dangerously. Jay gave me a long, hard stare as he crossed the room to the door.
"You also." His voice was the kindest it had been all night.
I wondered if he was some kind of empath or if the pain was that plain on my face. I simply nodded, not looking him fully in the face. The muscles in my jaw were locked against the tearing sobs that threatened. An odd look crossed Jay's face, almost as though he was pained and then he was gone, very suddenly. I closed the door, locking it with fumbling fingers, my hands shaking badly. My vision doubled, then tripled, then blurred into nothing more than indistinct colours. I brushed the tears away impatiently, a futile task. A sob ripped out of me, triggered by pure frustration as I still fumbled with the lock. Where before, Jake would have put a gentle hand on my wrist, pulling me close against his chest and murmuring words of comfort into my hair, there was no comforting hand this time. Shaking and crying in earnest now, I buried my face in my hands, abandonning the lock. Turning, I slid to the floor, my back against the door. I felt a roaring in my ears, like standing in a wind tunnel. My mind was screaming. How am I meant to mount a rescue mission from the heart of the Council itself when I can't bear even the suggestion of his name? I saw the days I had left stretching to infinity. How am I meant to manage without him? I can't function without him. I can't do this!
Mixed in the grief and loss was a certain amount of anger. While the vast majority of my fury was aimed at Lee, some was aimed at Jake too. For making me feel again. The very reason I loved him so much was the same as the one that now illicited anger in his absence. I was angry at him for being the hero, saving me and sacrificing himself.
You idiot. You complete and utter fool. How could you not see? I would rather die by your side a thousand times than suffer this for one minute. How could you not know that losing you is killing me more surely than any poison or weapon ever could. You gave me my humanity and took away my reason to smile. Why?! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME ALONE ?!
The last thought tore out of me in a cry that I knew would never be answered.
"Come back. I need you." I whispered.
I remembered how, at my human funeral, I had used my powers to give Jake peace.
I couldn't even give him a proper goodbye.
The injustice of the entire situation crippled me. The sheer wrongness of Lee tearing Jake away from me just when we were so close to safety, when he could have let us go threatened to topple my sanity. I was startled out of my downwards spiral by a light impact on the door at my back; as though someone had raised their hand to knock, then placed the flat of their palm on the wood. A second impact suggested that my visitor had rested their forehead on the door as well. A masculine sigh sounded through the wood and the presence left, footsteps sounding on the wooden stairs outside. Curiosity got the better of me and I stood in a fluid motion, grabbing the door handle. I wrenched the door open to see a blonde head disappear from sight.
"Jay?" His name slipped out quietly and the blonde head carried on its journey. I wondered what he had returned for.