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“Maybe we should all have a pill.” Angus said observing Jessica with a calmness he didn’t feel. She was terrified. Absolutely terrified.
“Maybe.” Jessica agreed. “Sean and the others.” She began when silence had dragged on for too long, “Should leave. I know it’s not fair to you … it decreases our odds of fighting Earl, but Earl will follow the boys. If Sean and everyone else go back home now Earl will never even know to look for them.” She looked around at the men as the suggestion sank in, “There would be less of us to protect the boys though. I don’t know what’s better.”
“I’ve never seen you so worried about something Jess.” Jim said.
“If we were dealing with Daryl or Paul, or anyone whose only interest was in having a gunfight,” Jessica shrugged, “It would be easy. But Earl. He doesn’t come to kill, he comes to capture, and torture. I mean, poisoned wells and gassing? How can you ever be sure you’ve accounted for the right things … or everything?”
“You and the boys should go with Sean.” Riley said.
“No!” Jessica almost yelled, bolting up on Josh’s lap. “I’m staying with you no matter what. Please …” she said looking around at the men, “Please don’t ever even consider sending me away for any reason. Please.”
“Okay, okay Jess, shhhh, it’s okay.” Josh said in a soothing tone and pulled her back against him. She looked between Riley and Angus.
“Promise me!” she demanded.
It took a few minutes but eventually they nodded. Relief had her collapsing against Josh.
“But the boys, I don’t know. I want them as far from danger as possible but if Earl is chasing them he’ll chase them to Sean’s place. I think we can limit the number of people who get hurt if we keep the boys with us.”
“Okay.” Riley said, “I’ll talk to Sean about it.”
“And I think we have to learn more about Earl.” Scott said, “If we want to cover all possibilities we need to know how he operates.”
“I’ll go through the videos.” Jim said, “Here in the studio so no one else needs to hear or see them. I’ll start tonight.”
“We’ll help you.” Scott said indicating Riley with his head.
Jessica shook even harder.
“I think that’s enough for tonight.” Angus caressing Jessica’s head with his hand.
“Two more things.” Jessica managed. Her teeth were chattering so hard it was getting hard to understand her. “The boys have a lot of energy that needs to be directed.”
“You don’t say …” Riley said managing a smile in an attempt to calm Jessica.
Jessica smiled back. “Yes, I do. Working out, training, chores, all help but we should do things with them. Dog training, horseback riding, working on the cars, motorbiking, going to the pond … definitely going to the pond. They need a chance to be kids again, and have some happiness even for a little while.”
“In case things go horribly, horribly wrong?” Angus asked in a quiet voice.
Jessica nodded. “I was thinking that maybe tomorrow we could go into town with them. Buy them some new clothes. What they have now barely rates as rags.”
“That’ll make the girls happy.” Josh said, “More dolls to dress up.”
That brought on some laughter and helped decrease the tension a lot.
“Was there something else?” Riley asked but his tone and expression implied that he wasn’t sure he could handle anything else.
Jessica nodded with a mischievous gleam in her eye. “Will you sing for me?”
“Hell yeah.” Riley said in pleasant surprise. He looked back at the instruments and microphones.
“Just here, with me.” Jessica said motioning Riley, Angus, Scott and Jim closer. “I want to be close to you. Oh, before that …” Jessica said looking at Angus, “You had issues you wanted to discuss …”
Angus nodded. “But they can wait. They’re not that important.”
“You’re sure?” Jessica asked.
“Positive.” Angus said.
The men moved as close to her as they could get and sang.
An hour later Jessica had stopped shaking and they were all more relaxed than they had been in what seemed like days.
When Jessica’s phone rang there was momentary panic but when Jessica dug her phone out of her back pocket and heard calmness in Leah’s voice the unexpected phone call seemed less ominous.
“Hey.” Leah said, “I didn’t want to walk in on anything so I thought I’d call. The boys are ready for bed and want to say goodnight to you and the guys.”
“Oh, okay, we’ll be right over.” Jessica said.
She smiled at the men, “The boys want to say goodnight. You know, if you’re going to be out here all night.” Jessica said to Riley, Scott and Jim, “maybe the boys should all sleep in the bedrooms. I won’t be able to sleep until you come to bed. We can sleep in the living room.” She looked at Angus and Josh, “You guys should sleep because of patrols but if a small light won’t bother you I’ll just do my homework on the couch or something.”
Angus nodded, “I think Chris went into town today and picked up extra air mattresses. I think boys were falling out of bed there were so many packed in there. bağcılar escort So, I guess you’re not planning on taking any meds?”
“Give them to the boys. I’d prefer that they sleep.”
Back in the house it took a half hour extra to get the big mattress out of Jessica and the men’s room, blow up the mattresses for the boys and get them all arranged in the rooms. And then Tom kept insisting that Jessica take the med he was supposed to take. The dark rings under her eyes and paleness of her skin seemed to be affecting everybody, But his repeated pleas were met by steadfast refusal from Jessica. Finally Angus had to step in and although he spoke incredibly gently … for Angus, the affect was immediate. With a ‘yes sir, sorry sir’ Tom swallowed the pill and went to bed.
Angus smiled when Jessica rolled her eyes at him, “I guess being scary has some advantages.” She said.
“Scary? Me?” Angus asked with such a great mixture of mock innocence and hurt that Jessica slid into his arms and laughed into his chest.
Scott and Jim went on patrol and to no one’s surprise Jessica went for a shower.
Despite feeling guilty about hogging the shower for so long, Jessica stood under the boiling hot water for at least half an hour. When she finally made her way back into the living room she was shocked to see that all of her men and the others were quietly waiting, getting up when she arrived. No one was on patrol which brought immediate panic.
“What happened?” Jessica asked.
“What happened,” Sean said, “Is that Riley just finished bringing us up to speed on your conversation in the studio. We appreciate you looking out for us …” he said sweeping his eyes around the room, “But there’s no way in hell that we’re leaving you, the men and the boys to deal with Earl. No way.”
Sean’s tone was forceful. He was clearly angry that she’d suggest such a thing.
“No, don’t say anything.” Sean continued, “I know you can’t help yourself, it’s your nature, it’s you. But if we’re really a family like you say then you have to stop looking out for everyone else and start letting us look out for you. You said that family members, this family’s members don’t kill one another. Leaving you on your own against Earl would be the same as killing you … or worse. So none of us, me or anyone else here …” he said looking around again and when Jessica did also she was sad to see that everyone looked mad at her, “are going anywhere. Now or ever. Is that clear?” Jessica nodded and felt tears coming to her eyes. Her men stood off to the side and seemed to be in agreement with Sean.
“Good.” Sean said but his voice wavered. Jessica wiped her eyes and worked hard to not cry. Sean looked around the room. He hadn’t intended on making Jessica cry and it seemed that seeing Jessica so upset was diminishing everyone’s resolve. Even his was starting to go, but they’d agreed that an impression had to be made. She was too quick to sacrifice for everyone but herself and given how things turned out with Daryl the consequences of such a sacrifice with Earl were beyond what any one of them could handle.
“Sean, isn’t that enough?” Leah asked when Sean looked back at Jessica and it was clear that Sean had no intention of letting it go.
“I don’t know Leah. You know Jessica as well as we do, do you think it’s enough?”
Leah grabbed some tissues and went to Jessica. Lifting her face she wiped Jessica’s eyes. “What Sean is trying to make very clear.” Leah said, “Is that we’re all in this together. All of us. Do you understand?”
Jessica nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“You better be.” Abe said. Jessica looked up at him in surprise. He looked at Jessica like he wanted to strangle her and like he wanted to say more but instead he shook his head and turned away in frustration.
“On the upside, your other ideas were great.” Corey said.
“Even the one about the cyanide.” Mark said.
“But especially the one about going shopping tomorrow.” Sara said in a light tone, going to wrap an arm around Jessica.
“Yes, that’s my favorite too.” Justine added.
“Do you think they have anything pretty for boys?” Amanda asked and succeeded in making Jessica laugh but only for a moment.
Jessica cast furtive glances at Sean not sure what to say, if she was allowed to say anything. He studied her at the same time and finally sighed.
“No more hair brain ideas okay?” he asked.
“I’ll take patrol.” Abe said heading for the door.
“I’ll join you.” Chris said casting a ‘don’t ever do that again’ look at Jessica as he followed Abe out the door.
“How about some warm milk?” Leah asked, rubbing Jessica’s arms. “I’d offer something stronger but honey you just don’t look like you could handle it.” She said gently tilting Jessica’s face up by her chin.
“Milk is great, thanks.”
“Come sit on the sofa.” Justine said directing her toward the sofa, “I have some catalogs we can look through for some ideas for boys clothes.”
“Back in a second,” Justine said once Jessica cihangir escort settled on the sofa.
“Are you okay?” Riley asked. Jessica looked up as Riley sat beside her, Angus on the other side, Josh, Jim and Scott crouching in front of her.
Jessica nodded. “I didn’t mean to make everyone mad.” Jessica flicked her eyes up and saw the remaining people in the room watching her.
“We know. They know.” Scott said, “But now you know where everyone stands. You can stop trying to protect everyone.”
“They’re not mad at you Jessica,” Jim added when Jessica looked sad and kept stealing glances at everyone, “They’re … disturbed that you’d think they would actually opt to run away and leave us to defend ourselves. And it’s good that they are because it proves that they are truly committed to us. So don’t be upset. They’ll get over it soon enough.”
“I wasn’t trying to insult anyone.” Jessica said to the others in the room suddenly realizing that they may have took it as an indication of what she thought of them. She looked at Sean, Corey, Rick, Mark, Don, Caleb, Quinn, the girls and wished that Abe and Chris were still in the room. “I don’t think that you’d abandon us, not at all and I’m so sorry if that’s how it came across. I was just trying to minimize the damage. I know you’d do anything for us. You already have, helping us after Daryl, the fight with Anthony … I have no doubt in your commitment. I just want you to be safe. That’s all.”
“It’s okay Jessica.” Sean said moving between Riley and Scott who stood to make room. Sean crouched down to be eye level with her, “We know that’s not what you were thinking. We know exactly what you were thinking and we appreciate that you care that much about us. But we care about you too and we’re big boys and girls. We’re not in accidental danger. We’ve chosen this, just like you have. Every last one of us. Between your men and us, we outnumber you by a lot. Not only physically but with experience. So stop trying to protect us.” Sean couldn’t say this next part without smiling, “And make it easier for us to protect you, okay?”
Jessica nodded and was pleasantly surprised when Sean cupped the back of her head and pulled her forward for a kiss on the forehead. Letting her go he searched her eyes for a moment, grunted with satisfaction and got up.
“So we’re going to review the videos?” he asked Riley.
Riley smiled at Jessica when she glanced at him still clearly surprised by Sean’s kiss.
“Yeah. We can setup in the studio.” Riley said to Don. “We should take notes, bring paper and pens.” And in a flurry of activity the living room was empty except for Angus, Josh and the girls.
“Here’s your milk,” Leah said handing Jessica a steaming mug of milk, “Do you two want some too?” she asked Angus and Josh.
“No, thanks.” Angus said, “I’m going for something stronger.”
“Me too.” Josh said. Both kissed Jessica and headed to the kitchen.
“Okay, I have a million magazines.” Sara said settling beside Jessica with an armful of magazines. “And conveniently …” Sara said as Leah, Justine and Amanda settled around her and Jessica, “They’re not all for boy clothing.”
Hours passed. Angus and Josh rotated out on patrols. The girls finished with the magazines and moved on to homework and reading.
“What’s wrong Jess?” Amanda asked when Jessica kept looking toward the door.
“They’ve been up there for so long. We should take them some food.” Jessica said getting up.
“I’ve got it.” Leah said heading to the kitchen.
“I’ll help.” Justine said.
Angus and Josh came in from patrol. Jessica’s heart dropped. They looked so tired. It was three in the morning, definitely time for bed. She met them at the gun rack as they were putting away their rifles.
“Jess …” Josh said as she slipped into his arms. He pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.
“Leah and Justine are going to take some food to the studio and then I think we should go to bed. You guys are exhausted.” She added, leaning back to cup both Josh and Angus’ faces in her hands.
“I won’t argue.” Angus said, eyes drooping.
Sara and Amanda said good night and moved down the hallway to the bedroom they were sharing with Sean and Corey.
While Leah and Justine took the food to the studio Jessica, Angus and Josh setup the mattress and Jessica tucked Angus and Josh in. “Just need to go to the bathroom.” Jessica said. When she came back, Leah and Justine had just come in the door.
“What’s wrong?” Jessica asked when they both looked sick.
“Those videos …” Leah said.
“You’re not supposed to see them …” Jessica gasped.
“They didn’t know we were coming.” Justine explained, “They couldn’t pause it fast enough.” She fixed her eyes on Jessica’s, “I hope you’re right about the prison thing Jessica because those … those … animals shouldn’t be allowed to live.”
With that she slouched down the hallway. From behind it looked to Jessica like Justine’s body was sagging.
“That was a great insult gaziosmanpaşa escort to animals everywhere …” Leah said looking after Justine. “There’s no word to describe them.”
“Evil?” Jessica asked.
“I guess there is. Good night Jess, I hope you can get some sleep.” Leah hugged Jessica, kissed her cheek and followed Justine down the hallway.
Jessica turned off the lights and stood thinking. She highly doubted she’d be able to sleep. Everyone needed sleep so waking them with nightmares wasn’t an option. She decided to sit on the sofa and contemplate all the angles to the situation. She ran through everything they knew and tried to determine what they were missing. She thought of one thing for sure that had to be rectified as soon as possible.
Just then the door opened.
“Jess?” Riley whispered.
“Yes?” she saw the outlines of several people file in.
“We’re calling it a night.” He said appearing beside her on the sofa. “Rick, Abe and Mark are going to sleep in the studio. Why aren’t you in bed with Angus and Josh?”
“I’m not tired.” She said, “Really.” She added when Scott grumbled her name while appearing on the other side of her on the sofa. “Go to bed, all of you.” She said leaning back to look at the others, her eyes adjusting enough to be able to guess who was who. “I can help with patrols if someone wants a break.”
“No way.” Chris said leaning forward to try and see her better, “Patrols are fine and we’re so tired we could sleep through a nuclear war. Your nightmares won’t be a problem Jessica, go to bed.” Planting a kiss on her forehead he stumbled toward the hallway.
“Night Jess.” Sean said, kissing her forehead and following Chris. Don, Corey, Caleb and Quinn did the same.
“You heard them. Let’s get to bed.” Jim said scooping Jessica up and carrying her to the mattress. Within a few minutes they were all arranged and asleep. But not even half an hour later the nightmares began. This time they weren’t restricted to dreams related to the battle with Anthony. Now they included all of her loved ones being killed, or worse, sexually tortured by Earl and his clan. Not ever completely waking Jessica was vaguely aware of people coming and going at intervals for patrol.
By the time ten o’clock rolled around and everyone was getting up for training Jessica was practically delusional. She tried to drag herself out of bed.
“No.” Jim said firmly, “You and I are staying here.” But Jessica wasn’t in her right mind. She just kept trying to get up.
“She’s sleep walking.” Caleb said, “She can’t hear you.”
“Jessica!” Jim shouted when she nearly made it out of bed. He grabbed her and shook her which led to a tears and protests from the boys. “Get them out of here.” He barked at Riley.
“Let’s go, come on.” Riley started herding the boys out. It took a person on each boy to finally shove them out the door, “Jim’s not going to hurt her.” Riley kept saying. “She needs sleep. In a couple of hours she’ll be her old self, just wait and see.”
Alone, Jim wrestled Jessica onto the bed, wrapped his arms and legs around her so she couldn’t move and held tight. After a few minutes of struggling Jessica fell to sleep and slept for two straight hours.
“Feeling better Jess?” Scott asked. Jessica was at the table eating when he came in and kissed her.
She nodded. “Where is everyone?”
“Riley’s hosing them off.” Scott said just as a chorus of protests and screams intermingled with laughter erupted from outside. “We want to go to the pond later but figured that we should make the run into town first. Those boys are pretty good fighters.” He added dropping into the seat beside her.
“Yeah?” Jim asked from his seat on Jessica’s other side.
“Need some towels out here …” Riley said poking his head in the door.
“Got it.” Jim said and went to the bathroom.
Jessica and Scott went outside to see everyone except Riley dripping wet.
“Jessie!” Brett yelled when he saw Jessica. He and Nathan hurled themselves on her getting her wet but laughing.
“Guys, you’re drenching her.” Don said but didn’t interfere when it was obvious Jessica didn’t care.
“Are you better?” Nathan asked peering up at Jessica.
“Yes, tons.” She said bending down and kissing the top of his head, and then Brett’s.
“Are we really going to town?” Reese asked.
Jessica nodded. “Better dry up fast so we can get going.” She said when Jim showed up with the towels.
It took a few chaotic hours to finish their business in town. And then a tense hour at home explaining the cyanide pills. It was clear that the boys were not willing to entertain the notion of failure. But after admitting that the adults in their own clan were over powered time and again by Earl, the boys began to appreciate the little pills that they were to carry in their pockets a lot more.
“But you only take it if you’re certain, certain that Earl has you and there’s no way out.” Jessica said for the thousandth time. And the boys nodded for the thousandth time.
“And if Earl comes, you do what?” Jessica repeated also for the thousandth time.
“Run away …” the boys droned. The adults exchanged glances. It was ironic that Jessica was the one trying to hammer it into the boys.
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