Title:  Not Afraid to Die

Author:  Goddess Evie

Date:  Octover 15, 2002

Genre:  Action/Adventure

Rating:  PG

Summary:  Jessie, Jonny and Hadji get caught up in a robbery hostage situation.

Author's Notes:  Hmm, just a lil' lighthearted fic that I sat down and whipped up one day when I was very much NOT in the mood.  Not my best fic, not my worst either.  And if you don't believe me you can go read all my worse fics at Suze's site or ff.net.  You can go there to read a better fic, too, although it's X-Men Evo and not JQ.  Sorry!  Still, I hope you all enjoy this lil' diddy!  Tah-tah!

Not Afraid to Die

"What the hell!" Jessie cursed under her breath as the three men in black entered the music store, toting guns and yelling for everybody to get down.  With a huff Jessie sat down and leaned herself against the CD rack she'd been looking at.  She'd hope maybe this month would be uneventful; no crazed maniacs trying to take over or destroy the world, nobody who wanted to see her father, or Dr. Quest dead or hurting.  And she'd almost made it.  It was the twenty-ninth, just a couple more days to a relaxing month.  That was until these thugs had decided a robbery would brighten everyone's day.

Quickly the doors were closed, and people made to stand up against the windows as a human shield-and fortune would have it that Jonny would be one of the lucky winners.  Already sirens were sounding outside, that was odd.  Jessie hadn't even heard any sort of alarm, although it might have been a silent one.  Still, that was the quickest response she'd ever seen from the Rockport Police Department.  Unless these guys had already committed one crime and were now hiding from the cops.

But hey, while they were here it looked the three might as well take the money in this store's cash registers, too.  And wasn't it nice of them to send one of the three around to make sure no one was fixing to make trouble for them.  Jessie lowered her head as the guy came down the aisle she was in.  The two other people in the aisle with her, a girl and a guy who had to be more than just friends from the way they'd been acting before, hugged each other close, shivering and whimpering with fright.

The store wasn't very big, but from her position on the floor Jessie couldn't see where Hadji was.  She wasn't worried about him; she knew he could take care of himself.  But how were they supposed to kick some cretin ass when they were all separated.

One of the thugs ordered the other two to get everyone together; it would be easier to keep an eye on their captives that way.  Aisle by the aisle, the two thugs escorted everyone up front to sit behind the first wall of human shielding, facing the back of the store.  There was Hadji, in the Imports section with another young man who looked just as scared as everyone else.

"What's up with you?  Why are you so damn calm?  Aren't you afraid you're going to die?" one of the thugs addressed Hadji.

"I do not fear death.  It is a natural part of life and it comes when it will," Hadji replied sagely.

"Whatever," the MIB replied, shoving Hadji rather roughly to the floor two people from Jessie.

Calmly he righted himself to the lotus position, straightened his clothing, gave Jessie, then Jonny a glance, and then turned his gaze forward.  Right about that time, a voice came from outside, with the help of a bullhorn, demanding the three criminals to let the people go and to come out unarmed and with their hands up.  One of them laughed, turned his gun to the ceiling, and shot his refusal.  People shrieked, a mother held her daughter close; others put their arms over their head for protection.  One of the victims for the human shield fainted, and a teen-aged boy not much younger than Jonny was quickly forced to replace him before the cops could take any advantage in the momentary weakening of their defense.

"Dammit, three!" one of the thugs rounded on the one who'd shot off his gun.  "I'd take that away if I wasn't afraid our hostages would attack you without it."

Three didn't say anything, but he sure did look mad.  And angered people always made mistakes.  Jessie kept that in mind, plus the fact that maybe she could use three's underdog status to gain her something.

"Well, you sure are pretty," the third guy said, tapping the knee of a blonde Jessie's age further down the line.  He looked up at the one who'd scolded three and asked with a grin, "Hope we get to use hostages to get ourselves out of here cause they can be used for more than just assuring our freedom."

Jessie cringed.  That man was disgusting; there was no other way of putting it.

"Please no," the girl softly pleaded.

The man crouched down beside her and lifted her face with a finger under her chin.  The girls brown eyes were glittering with fear.  "Don't worry honey, I'd treat you right."

"Two, leave them alone.  They're scared enough as it is," the obvious leader of the group ordered.

"Gosh dang it, one, you never let me have any fun," two whined, standing up.

"Right now, we have more important things to worry about than hostages and pretty girls," one replied in a tight voice.

Two frowned, but walked away from the girl to pace the line again.  He leered at all the girls, that were Jessie's age and up, including Jessie herself.  She dared not look at him as he passed her, and luckily he left her alone.

How clever of the three men to use numbers instead of names.  Not only did it leave them completely anonymous, but also it gave them a sort of status among themselves.  One was most obviously the leader.  He kept his priorities straight, didn't let anything distract him and kept his emotions in check.  Not to mention that two and three seemed to listen to and obey whatever he said.

Two was cocky, but he obviously didn't have the same kind of know how or authority that one did.  He carried his gun as if he knew how to use it, but one could tell by the way he always had it in hand that he was scared underneath his womanizing façade.

Three was at the bottom of the criminal rung of the three.  He did what he was told when he was told.  By the way he stood next to one and eyed the hostages from a distance, it was obvious that he was just back up.  His gun he held tightly, in both hands, unsure of his ability with it and his place in this robbery.  He'd probably been recruited for the manpower and not for his brains.

"Mommy, I gotta pee," the little girl whispered to her mother so that everyone could hear.

The mother looked helplessly at the men, then back at her daughter.  She whispered quietly in her daughter's ear.

"But mommy, I can't hold it.  I gotta go now."

"Keep her quiet," three ordered, pointing his weapon at the two.

The whole group of hostages gasped as one, every eye on this exchange.

"Please, she just needs to use the bathroom," Hadji, who was sitting right next to the mother and daughter, tried to reason with the thug.

"Shut up!" three yelled at Hadji, turning the aim of his gun on the turbaned young man.

Suddenly there was a fist clenching very tightly around Jessie's heart and she found that half her mind was occupied with a "Please don't kill Hadji" mantra and the other half was trying to plot a way to save him from getting hurt.

"Three, back off," one intervened.

Three hesitated before lowering his gun and Jessie began to breath again.  One went to squat in front of the mother and her child.  For a moment he was quiet as he looked at them, then he stood back up and turned to the store employees.

"Is there a rest room here?"

"I-in the back," one of them answered.

One looked at two.  "Take them back and let the little girl use the bathroom."

"I'm not a babysitter," two objected.

"Just do it," one ordered.  "And don't try anything."

Two scowled as he motioned with his gun for mother and daughter to stand up and lead the way to the back.  Briefly, Jessie wondered if maybe she could get away with taking out these two gunmen, but knew that the one in the back could easily use either mother or daughter to stop her.

The phone rang.  Everyone looked at it.  It rang again.  One and three looked at each other, then back at the phone.  Another ring.  One walked over to it.  He picked it up and spoke into it.

"Hello?"

A pause.  One's face hardened as he listened.

"No, you listen to me.  We have the hostages therefore we will do the bargaining.  Unless you want dead bodies-perhaps the tortured, lifeless bodies of some of these young women-to start coming through that door, you better just shut up and let us go because you know we aren't going to just give ourselves up."

One hung up and calmly walked back to stand by three while his words hung in the air.  "Dead bodies" was bad enough.  But "tortured, lifeless bodies of some of these young women" made Jessie's mind turn to the missing thug in the back and his earlier exchange with the blonde and she shuddered.  And she was sure everyone else had made the same assumption.

"So, are you gonna let me have fun with some of these beautiful women?" two swaggered to stand by one as mother and daughter took their place by Hadji again.

Three just smiled across the group entirely.  Jessie wondered if he was more excited about actually getting to shoot someone or if he had the same thing on his mind as two. Or even worse: both.

"Did I say I was gonna let you 'have some fun'?" one asked two.

"But you told the cops on the phone…" two let his sentence trail off as he looked into the hard face of one.  Two shook his head, scowling once again and resumed his pacing back and forth in front of the hostages.

From that point, time passed slowly.  The phone rang, more than once, and went unanswered.  One stood calmly next to the heavily sweating three, his eyes calmly sweeping over the hostages.  Three continued to hold his gun in a tight grip while his gaze darted around, paranoid.  Two paced back and forth, ogling the women and touching one every so often, licking his lips as he did.  Once Jessie felt his touch on her shoulder and she looked up at him, daring him to go any further.  Jonny and Hadji both flinched a reaction, instantly quelling their instincts to protect her.

"Feisty," he whispered at her approvingly, then moved along.

Jessie watched his back as he walked on down the line, then forced herself to look away.  Hadji caught her eye and she saw the tightness of his jaw and the worry in his eyes.  She returned his look with the slightest of nods and a small smile, then took a deep breath and made herself relax.

"You," one's voice sounded.

It took a moment to realize that he was talking to her.  She looked up at him, trying to keep her face blank, while questions ran through her head.

"Get up," he ordered.

Jessie stood.  Hadji and Jonny's hackles rose, both ready to spring.

One looked at the man sitting at the end of the line next to the blonde woman, and the criminal leader pointed his gun at the man.  "You too.  Change places with her.  Neither of you better make any sudden moves because I can't be sure that three won't shoot you for it."

Jessie and the man slowly changed places as commanded.  At first, Jessie couldn't understand why, until she realized she was farther away from both of her male companions.  Previously she'd been sitting two people away from Hadji and Jonny had been standing only three people down the opposite direction.  Now Hadji was on the other side of the line of people and Jonny was four or five people away.

"Now," one continued his orders, "everyone on the floor is to sit with their legs out straight, their hands flat on the floor and their eyes facing forward."

Quickly, the hostages situated on the ground followed suit, wondering why their captor had suddenly gotten stricter.

"You can hold your daughter on your lap, but keep her still and keep her quiet," one told the mother, who nodded and swiftly settled her daughter.  "And if anyone deviates from this position without express orders, you will be shot, no questions asked."

The hostages reacted to this news with shortened breaths and tightly closed eyes.  Any other movement and they were afraid of being the first to die.

The phone rang again and this time one chose to answer it.

"I hope you're ready to negotiate, because here are our demands.  We want you to remove any snipers you have.  We want an armored car to be provided for us, fully loaded and ready to go.  We want a clear road out of here.  If you meet our demands I promise that no one will be hurt."

One stopped talking for a moment, then sighed as a regretful look came over his face.

"Of course you can't do that.  Not until someone's actually dead.  Well, if that's the way you want it."

Without waiting for any kind of reply he hung up and looked directly at number two.

"Go ahead," one told two, "have your pick."

The smile that spread across two's face was sickening.  He swaggered his way down the line of hostages, caressing a cheek here, feeling a lock of hair there, pinching some girl's side in another instance.  Finally he stopped at the end of the line, looking between the blonde he'd initially had interest in and Jessie.

Both Jessie and the blonde looked up at him, their eyes locked on his face.

"Now here's a dilemma, which one to chose," he mused aloud.

"Just get it over with," one said.

Two shrugged and leaned over.  Jessie watched with her eyes as his hand reached for the blonde's shoulder.  Blondie began to silently cry.

"Take me," Jessie suddenly offered in her softest voice.

Two's hand stopped and he turned his head to look at her.

"What if I don't want you, yet?" he asked with a grin.

"Take me anyway.  At least I'm willing," she replied confidently.

Blondie's eyes were darting between two and Jessie, half full of hope that she'd be spared this time and half scared for Jessie sacrificing herself.

"Well, I guess I can't argue with that."  Two looked at the blonde.  "Sorry, sweetie, maybe next time."  He caressed her cheek and winked at her then grabbed Jessie by the upper arm and pulled her roughly to her feet.

Still cautious, he kept his gun pressed to Jessie's neck as he started to escort her away from the rest of the group.  The phone began to ring.  Jessie heard cries from both Jonny and Hadji and then the sounds of rustling.  She wasn't in the position to see anything, but that didn't matter to her.  Quickly, she jammed the heel of her hand upward into two's nose.  He lost his grip on her to put his hand to his now probably broken nose.  Jessie lost no time in grabbing both his gun and hand in both of hers and twisting them in a direction and degree they weren't meant to go, causing two to howl in pain and release his weapon.  Jessie grabbed it before it hit the floor, kicked two in just the right place to knock him out and turned her attention back to the hostages.

Quickly assessing the situation-Hadji had the unconscious three's gun in his hands already pointed at one who had Jonny pinned against the window, his own gun shoved into Jonny's jugular-and pointed her own newly acquired gun at the target of choice.

"I knew you three would be trouble," one admitted.

"Please, let him go," Hadji requested.

"No, you two put your guns down, or I'll shoot him.  And please don't call my bluff," was one's reply.

Jessie's focus was mainly on Jonny and one, but she did notice that slowly the other people were beginning to scoot away from the one remaining robber.  It was nice to see they were being so smart, though they probably didn't even realize it.  With them out of the way, it would be less likely that one of them would get hurt.

"You can shoot me," Jonny's voice was slightly muffled from his face being flattened against the window, but it was clear enough.  "But then these two will shoot you, probably only enough to harm you, so that then you have a bullet in you and you have to go to jail for such a myriad of charges you'll be in for life or worse…and probably without a chance of parole."

"And you'll be dead boy," one reminded Jonny.

"I'm not afraid to die," Jonny echoed Hadji's earlier sentiments.  "And don't underestimate my friends either.  They both have excellent aim.  They can shoot to kill, or just maim you so that you have to spend the rest of you life a miserable failure…in jail," Jonny added the last part as an afterthought.

He was also extending three fingers, wiggling them a bit to make sure he had is companions' full attention.

"It really is a lose-lose situation, isn't it?" Jessie added her two cents

Hadji voiced his opinion by disabling the safety on his gun and cocking it.

Jonny pulled the first finger away.

"So what's your choice?  Give yourself a chance and give yourself up to the authorities?"

The second finger disappeared.

"Or screw yourself over by adding a murder to your list of crimes and putting yourself at the mercy of my two associates."

"You guys really drive a hard bargain," one said, just as Jonny let his last finger go.

Jonny pushed with all his might against one, using the window as leverage.  There was a gunshot, quickly followed by the window shattering and two more gunshots.  The world seemed to freeze for a moment and then everyone reacted at once.  The hostages began to pour out of the building as the police began to run toward it.  One hit the floor, holding the shoulder of his gun arm, his weapon lying beside him.  Hadji and Jessie rushed toward Jonny who was motionless on the floor.

Jessie kicked one's gun away, although it seemed the last thing on his mind was going for it, then dropped to her knees beside Jonny seconds after Hadji, ignoring the broken glass littering the carpet.  Her East Indian friend handed Jessie his gun and carefully rolled their tow headed friend over.

"Jonny," Jessie whispered.

"We drive a harder bargain than he thinks," Jonny said as he opened his eyes and smiled at his friends.

"Jonny!" Jessie's voice was shrill, "Don't do that!"

Jonny knew she wasn't mad really; that she was actually glad to see he was okay.  They were all glad to see that each other were okay.

"Me?"  Jonny threw back at her.  "I wasn't the one that was sacrificing herself into the clutches of that…that…RAPIST."

Jessie had to admit her defeat at that one, and then let it go with a shake of her head.  They'd all pulled some risky maneuvers that day and once again they'd all made it out alive and, for once, completely unscathed.

The police were already beginning to cart the three no-goods away, and one took the guns in Jessie's hands from her for evidence.  Hadji helped Jonny to sit up, and Jonny brushed the shards of glass from himself.

"You know, we almost made it," Jessie said softly, almost sadly.  "And then at the same time, we almost didn't."

Jonny and Hadji looked at her, though neither said anything.  She had a feeling they were confused at her words, but she too kept her silence, letting them think over her statement for themselves for now.  Around them a multitude of police were questioning hostages, taking notes on the crime scene, doing whatever it was that needed doing.  For now the three of them sat by themselves, undisturbed by what was going on around them.  But soon they too would be pulled into it.

The three looked at each other, and shared a smile.  No matter what other ways they didn't make it, what was really important that once again they had.

The End