Jess had trouble sleeping that night. She slept fitfully, tossing and turning through the tormented dreams that plagued her mind. She woke up with a strangled gasp as someone touched her shoulder gently, her hand locked around the persons wrist like a vice, she was slightly surprised to find that it wasn't slimy or slippery like a Skitter.
The hand she was holding onto was warm and soft, reassuring in nature as whoever it belonged to laid still. "Jess." they eventually whispered, her eyes darted up from the floor in front of her to the widened blue eyes of Ben Mason. "Sorry." she whispered shakily, pulling her hand slowly, "nightmare?" he whispered, pushing a few locks of blonde hair away from her face. She felt a fluttering in her stomach and nodded, smiling softly at him before pressing her face closer into his hand. He smiled down at her, "come on you two!" Hal whispered frantically.
Jess knew that tone, it was the tone her mother had used when they thought someone was in the house, right before the skitters had burst through the doors of their home and stolen the girls away. Jess sat up, back ruler straight as she scanned the dark room, instantly her eyes locked onto Lia quickly checking her guns and making sure the clips were full, before she turned to Jess and nodded her head.
The feelings they had were right - Clayton couldn't be trusted. Jess threw back the covers and vaulted from the bed, pulling on her boots and grabbing her guns from the floor, hooking her pistols back into the holsters and strapping the assault rifle onto her back. Ben looked at her warily, she smiled sadly, knowing that he knew she was a warrior, but now was his chance to properly see it.
They all sprinted down the stairs, but were stopped by the girl that had it in for Hal, Jess smirked as she watched Lia's hand tighten around Hal's protectively. "Did you really know?" he asked, the girl looked down at her glass of water and back up to Hal. "I was going to fix it so you could stay." she whispered, looking at him pleadingly. Jess felt the bile of disgust rise in her throat, she was going to save Hal and happily leave the rest of them all to die, stupid girl, thinking that she could ever outwit the skitters, the only ones that could do that were the Overlords… and they had their day coming.
Hal shook his head in revulsion and sprinted off back down the stairs, the rest of them following suit. "Dad!" the girl screamed, "Dad they're leaving!" Jess shook her head and nudged Matt out the door, before pulling a pistol from her belt and pushing her legs to their absolute limits, ducking and holding back her fear as a spray of bullets rained around her, one managed to clip her arm but that was it.
Panting she dived around the back of a pick up truck and saw Mike. He glanced at her quickly and nodded, looking down to Rick. Jess instantly got his meaning and turned, firing to cover Rick as he ran to Hal and Ben, both who were staring worriedly at her. "Go." Mike said to her, staring down seriously at the young girl. Her eyes widened, realising instantly what he planned to do. "Don't Mike." she whispered, feeling the cold hands of fear grab her throat quickly. He smiled grimly at her, "I don't know what they did to you… or to my son. But I want you to know that I don't think of you any different, and people need to know that you're nothing like them… show them how human you are Jess." he said, patting her gently on the head, like he would do to Rick, and took a deep breath.
"Now run." he whispered, standing up and letting loose a yell as he let his assault rifle fly, bullets spraying at the enemy, taking down a couple. Jess heeded his warning and ran, but felt a terrible weight on her chest, she could have gotten Mike out of there, they could have all made it out. Lia grabbed her upper arm and together they sprinted away, running after Ben and Hal - who had Matt slung over his shoulder - back into the forest and away from the gunfire.
The minutes blurred into hours as they walked, and soon the sun began peeking through the trees. The skitters venom allowed her to run for great distances, but even she was beginning to feel the faint touch of fatigue. Lia took one look at the rest of the children and shook her head, moving up next to Hal, who smiled softly at her.
"We need to rest." she whispered, looking back at the kids. "They're not gonna make it much longer…" Hal turned and saw Matt fighting to keep his eyes open, Ben holding his hand to make sure he stayed upright. Hal nodded and grabbed Lia's hand, ignore the slight glare from Lourdes and turned down the driveway of a nearby house.
Jess sighed gratefully as they walked inside, Lia instantly scooped Matt up into her arms, he fell asleep instantly on her shoulder, head nestled into her neck. Jess watched Hal staring at her walking up the stairs with the other kids, a small smile on his face and adoration in his eyes. "She's something else isn't she?" Jess asked Hal, walking up next to him. He jumped and turned to her, smiling a little, "yeah… she is isn't she?" he whispered, Jess smirked, "I know something happened between you two, but I think you need to properly tell her how you feel. Ask her properly Hal… she's the type that needs a straight out question to know exactly how you feel." Hal's eyes widened at her statement, he nodded a little - more to himself than her and turned to look for food.
Jess' eyes caught Ben's, who was sitting on the couch next to Rick. A lance of hurt sprang through her chest as she stared at Rick, knowing he would feel no remorse for his Father's death, all because of the Skitter's and their idiotic experiments on innocent children. "Play something?" he asked, nodding towards the dusty grand piano sitting in front of the couches.
She nodded slightly and smiled, feeling the butterflies returning to her stomach as Ben smiled at her. Sitting down she raised the cover on the piano and hovered her fingers over the ivory keys. She felt strange, as if she had been here before, in a place like this before. She shook it off and pressed down on the keys, the soft sounds of Beethoven's 7th symphony drifting effortlessly from the piano.
She closed her eyes and let the music consume her, instantly transported back into the lounge room of her old house. And then it hit her. A loud banging sounded from inside her mind and the screams of her mother could be heard, Jess heard the sound of a Mech gun powering up and the deafening reverberations that came when it fired.
A loud scream tore from her throat as hands grabbed her shoulders, pulling her back and away from her dying parents. "Jess!" someone yelled in her ear, she snapped back to the present and cut her screams off, she was shaking violently and tears were streaming from her eyes, wetting her lips and stinging her cheeks. "It's only us Jess." Ben whispered, holding her closer as they lay sprawled on the ground.
"I'm sorry" she whispered in a small, childlike voice. Ben's eyes widened curiously. "What have you got to be sorry for? I was the one who asked you to play." he whispered guiltily. Jess shook her head at the boy and laid her head in the crook of his neck, breathing in his smell and focusing on that to calm her racing heart. It felt like she was never going to get past her nightmares and recollections of that night, even Lia, who was strong and brave and everything she wasn't, had nightmares about it every night, and that coupled with their time with the skitters was enough to send her to the brink of insanity.
"I cant do it Ben." she whispered, clenching her hand around his t-shirt. He looked down at her sympathetically, both of them forgetting they were in a room full of people as his hand reached up, and brushed her hair from her sweaty forehead. Her heart began pounding in her chest, but it wasn't a reaction to something frightening, it was the good kind of drumbeat, the one that played whenever she was around Ben.
"You can.. you have me, and you have Lia and Hal… and Matt." he added on as an afterthought. Jess smiled and pressed herself closer to him. "We need to warn the second mass. Those fighters aren't coming back." said a voice from behind them. Jess looked over Ben's shoulder to see Lia staring down at them with a knowing smile on her face.
"I'll go." Ben said, Hal instantly began shaking his head, Jess looked at Ben curiously, "if you go, I'm coming with." she whispered, this time Lia shook her head. "I'm not letting either of you go." Hal said, crossing his arms. Jess shot up off the ground, staring angrily at Hal. "You know what Ben and I can do. I can run for miles without stopping. It's our only chance." she said, trying to keep her voice down so she wouldn't wake the kids upstairs.
Hal pursed his lips, but was interrupted by Jimmy before he could speak. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked, looking between Ben and Jess, then back to Hal. Jess crossed her arms defensively, trying not to run and hit the boy. "Why wouldn't it be?" she questioned, staring down at him. Jimmy winced but didn't back down. "You might just keep going." he said, Jess shook her head in anger, feeling the torrent bubbling in her stomach. "And where would we go?" she asked, stepping closer to him, she felt Ben's hand enclose her arm as a warning, but she ignored it.
"Back to the Skitters." he said, shrugging. "Back home" Jess' anger spiked at an all time high, she lunged for Jimmy but was dragged back by Ben, he held her tightly against his chest, one arm around her chest and hanging to her shoulder, the other around her waist. "Why the hell would I ever want to go back to them!" she yelled, disregarding anyone that was sleeping. "You have no idea what they did to us in there! I'm going straight down that main road and back to the school! I have no desire to do anything to a Skitter but blow it's fucking brains out!" she clamped her mouth shut at her language, but her eyes were still burning blood murder.
Jimmy blinked at her in complete surprise, before he stood up slowly and cautiously walked up the stairs, keeping his eyes on her the whole time. "Great." Jess whispered, looking to Lia who had a small smirk on her face, "now he thinks I'm going to rip his blooming head off" she huffed and relaxed in Ben's arms.
Hal walked forward and handed Ben his jacket, Ben nodded and released Jess, who slumped gratefully. "Straight to the school. Once you get there stay there." he said forcefully, putting emphasis on his words as he stared them both in the eyes. "Tell Dad and that's it." they both nodded and took off, Jess only stopping to give Lia a hug. "Nice work." Lia whispered to her, before releasing her.
"Math geek." she heard Hal say to Ben, who nudged him playfully and smirked back, "dumb jock." he said, hitting him back, before holding his hand out to Jess, who took it and walked out the door behind him.
She just hoped they wouldn't be too late.