(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)
Hannah wondered if this was what it felt like to go into hysterics.
She had been out looking for Skyler with her friends all night, but it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. He could be anywhere.
Tag and a few other Coyotes had gone to scout around, but no word. Kate searched the tunnels twice over with no luck. Hannah was convinced Skyler was in the city, and it took a lot of yelling and tantrum-throwing to get Tag to let her and the other Jumpers to head into the city.
But two hours later, they still couldn't find him. They went to the place where Ethan saw Grace and worked from there, but the city was dead quiet. Hannah refused to consider that he might have been captured. She wouldn't let that happen. Not again.
It was noon by the time Tag found them. Conway had heard about what Skyler had done, and he was furious.
"He's only just now heard about this?" Wes lifted an eyebrow.
"He has other sleeping arrangements. To save room for us at the hideout." Tag shrugged. "You guys should head back. I'll do a quick look around. Maybe your friend is just blowing off steam--"
"No." Hannah shook her head, panic threatening to choke her. "He's trying to find Grace. I know he is. I should have told him sooner. I shouldn't have kept it from him, and now he's gone, and he might be hurt, or captured, or--" Hannah failed to suppress a sob. Wes pulled her into his arms and held her soothingly.
"We'll find him," he promised. "I'm sure he's just fine. This isn't your fault."
"We're gonna draw attention, guys," Tag murmured. "Head on back to base. Maybe he's already back there."
Of course he wasn't. But Hannah hadn't expected him to be. She knew when Skyler was mad, he could be stubborn. It would take longer than a night to make him come back around.
"Hey." Darcy's voice made Hannah stop as she was making her way back with a mug of soup.
"Hi." Hannah forced a weak smile.
"I thought you might like to see." Darcy patted the ground beside her. She turned her laptop toward Hannah. "I have access to lots of outdoor cameras around the city. So if Skyler is wandering around out there, we'll see him here."
Hannah's smiled became more genuine. "Thanks, Darcy. That means a lot."
"You're welcome." Darcy smiled. "I'll be watching them, but you can come over and watch too if you like."
Hannah nodded. She watched the cameras for a bit before joining her friends. After lunch, she kept busy by helping finalize sleeping arrangements. It was a boys and girls dorm setup, like the Jumpers had in their old hideout, but with the Coyotes, they didn't have bunk beds. Instead it was mattresses lined up on the floor, but the dorms were bigger than the Jumpers'.
By dinner time, there was still no sign of Skyler. Hannah tried to eat, but her anxiety made her stomach hurt. Wes found her up top near the door to the Wal-Mart, keeping watch.
"You know, they already have people on the lookout up here." Wes sat down beside her.
"I want to know he's alright," Hannah said. "Wes, what if he's captured? I can't... I can't lose him..."
"Shh." Wes hugged her. Hannah crumpled against him, sobbing. Usually she would have felt conflicted about hugs from Wes, but right now, besides having Skyler back, it was all she wanted.
Wes shook Hannah suddenly. She looked up quickly, realizing she had fallen asleep. This became awkward when she realized she had fallen asleep in Wes's arms, but Wes put a finger to his lips.
"Someone's coming," he whispered. "Three people."
Hannah tensed. She crept to the window with Wes. The Coyote on duty was peering through a window a little ways away, watching closely. Hannah peeked over the edge and squinted in the dim light at the three figures.
"Skyler!" Hannah whispered. "It's Skyler--"
"Yeah." Wes nodded. "I know. But we don't know who's with him."
Hannah watched the three people as the Coyote on watch duty slipped carefully into the darkness outside, a small pistol in hand.
"That's far enough!" The Coyote ordered. "Who are you?"
"It's me, Skyler. I'm one of the Jumpers who came the other day. These are friends of mine. It's okay."
"I don't care who they are," the Coyote said. "No one comes any closer."
"Tell my friends I'm here," Skyler said. "And so is Grace."
Hannah stared at Wes, who stared back in surprise. Hannah crept to the door and came out.
"Skyler?" Hannah said. The Coyote glanced at her, but didn't lower his firearm.
"Hannah?" Skyler sounded relieved. "Hannah, I'm sorry--"
"Later," Hannah said. "Grace is with you?"
"I am," Grace's voice somehow made Hannah homesick for the old Jumper hideout. "Hi Hannah."
"It's okay," Skyler said. "The tracker's gone, Hannah. Grace isn't been followed or watched."
"Then would you care to explain the other person with you?" The Coyote demanded.
"This is Doctor Emma Kelly," Skyler said. "Emma, meet my sister, Hannah."
"Hello," Emma said. "So... Is Hannah the one with or without the gun?"
"Without." Hannah grinned. She made the Coyote lower his pistol. "It's okay. They're friends."
Skyler, Grace, and Emma were brought inside the Wal-Mart while Wes ran down to fetch Conway and the other Jumpers.
"What kind of idiot are you?!" Conway exploded as soon as he saw Skyler. "You assault my friend, you run off--"
"Ease up, Conway." Wes shoved him lightly. "Your guy is fine."
"I don't care!" Conway shouted. "I'm having a hard time trusting you people! I have at least a hundred people down there that I need to take care of!"
"I'm sorry, Conway," Skyler said, "but I was worried about our friend. We haven't seen her in two years."
"Hi." Grace waved. Hannah realized now, in the beam of the flashlights brought up, the Grace had dyed her brown hair a dark shade of teal. Otherwise, she looked healthy and well. "I missed you guys."
Hannah felt guilty about not looking for Grace sooner, but Grace didn't seem to hold it against her or anyone. Conway looked at Grace critically. He caught Hannah glaring at him and nodded.
"Fine." Conway looked at Skyler. "But now more stunt like that and--"
"Conway, lay off," Wes snapped. "Yes, he's an idiot, but he's knows when he's crossed the line."
"Does he?" Hannah smiled teasingly at her little brother. Skyler laughed.
"So." Emma shifted uncomfortably. "Which of you are Fence Jumpers, and which aren't?"
Skyler pointed to his friends. "Jumpers." He pointed to Conway and the kid on watch duty. "Coyotes."
Emma nodded, looking at each face as if she were committing them to memory.
"How do you know Grace and Skyler, Doctor Kelly?" Aggie asked.
"Grace has been living with me for quite a while," Emma said. "But we've just come back to Cincinnati six months ago."
"Back?" Conway repeated. "You've been here before?"
"Born and raised." Emma smiled. "I moved out north to finish college. I've been away for almost... six, seven years, maybe?"
"Why did you come back?" Conway asked.
"Dude, cut out the interrogation." Wes stared at him. "If she's a friend of Skyler and Grace, we can trust her."
Hannah wanted to point out that Claire had also been a friend of Skyler and Grace, but bringing up the topic of that filthy traitor probably wouldn't go well.
"I'm in charge here," Conway snapped. "I have people I need to protect--"
"Hey, hey," Emma cut in. "I'm not staying. I'm headed back to my place. I just came to make sure Skyler got back safely. And Grace, if she wants."
Grace looked at the other Jumpers. Skipper grinned and rushed to her and hugged her tight. Grace smiled and hugged her back.
"I'll stay," Grace said. "Thanks for everything, Emma."
"You're welcome. If you guys need a place, you can always come by." Emma looked at the Coyotes before she left. "Nice meeting you both."
Emma hadn't even made it to the door before the Coyote on watch duty cocked and aimed his pistol. Emma froze in place, raised her hands, and turned slowly.
"What are you doing?!" Grace exclaimed. "She's a friend!"
"I'm not taking any chances," Conway said. "Grace, that goes for you too, I'm afraid."
Wes stepped forward. "You little--"
He froze when Kate's knife appeared at his throat.
"Stop it!" Skyler shouted. "Conway, they won't hurt anyone!"
"I'm not taking any chances," Conway said sternly. "And if you attack any Coyote again I'll lock you up too."
"Don't you dare lay a hand on him," Hannah snarled.
Conway glared at her. "This is our turf, Jumper. You play by our rules, or you get out. We're happy to have you around, and to help you, but we need to know we can trust you."
"And you can," Skyler said. "Conway, Grace is an old friend of ours. A Jumper. She helped bring me to the Fence Jumpers in the first place. She kept the Nabbers off our tails two years ago. Doctor Kelly's protected Grace since she's been gone. She saved me."
"She what?" Hannah looked at Emma in surprise. Fear crept up her spine. "What happened?"
"Later," Conway interrupted. Hannah glared at him, but he stared back so icily she kept silent. They had to play this carefully.
"Conway," she began slowly. "You can trust us. If we're going to have any chance of finding our friends, we'll need someone on the inside. Doctor Kelly can be our eyes and ears. She might even be able to find the others for us. Since she's a doctor, and if... and Horatio will need to keep our friends from getting sick."
"I can put in my resume," Emma volunteered. "I'll need a cover story, but I can try to get in."
"Darcy can do that, can't she?" Skyler asked. "Make up identities?"
"Probably," Conway replied noncommittally.
"Conway." Kate looked at him. Conway sighed.
"Yes, she can. But why should we trust her? Doctor Kelly, I mean."
"Because she saved my life from Nabbers," Skyler snapped. "She helped Grace. She can help us. Madison Carter can too."
"Wait, who?" Emma blinked. "Madison Carter? The journalist?"
"Former journalist." Conway shrugged. "And how can she help? Nobody listens to her anymore, so we can't 'raise awareness' or anything."
"We just have to find the right people," Wes said. Everyone looked at him. Hannah was impressed by how steady his voice was since he had a knife to his throat. "If people in the city don't want to listen, why not find people outside the city?"
"In other cities?" Hannah asked.
"Maybe, but that would take longer than we want," Wes answered. "Why not the poor district? Have Darcy help design a magazine. Load it with random writings, but the main articles are for Madison. Technically they're still citizens, so they have a say in what happens around here, whether or not they give a stick about what happens."
Hannah looked at Conway pleadingly. "Conway, the only way we're gonna survive this is if we started trusting each other. If we spend too much time at each other's necks, we won't get at the one we all want to wring."
Everyone looked at Conway. The boy looked at each of them, then groaned. "Fiiine," he sighed. "But I swear, one more stunt like this and you all leave."
Kate lowered her knife, and the Coyote guard lowered his firearm. Emma looked much more at ease.
"Sooo, I can go now?" Emma asked. "I can contact Madison for you guys. She and I are good friends."
"You are?" Skyler looked at her. Emma grinned.
"Yup." Emma waved. "Well, nice to meet you all. Don't get yourselves shot or anything. I'm not entirely convinced this one is even old enough to drive, let alone use a gun."
The Coyote guard was about to snap at her, but when he saw the teasing expression on her face, he couldn't help a tiny smile. After Emma left, Conway herded everyone back down into the tunnels. Skyler and the other Jumpers talked amongst themselves almost the rest of the night. Skyler told them all what happened, and they all swapped stories with Grace, catching up on everything that had happened to them to them all.
Hannah refused to let Skyler out of her sight until they went to bed. Skyler pretended to be exasperated, but he didn't seem to mind. In the end, Hannah wanted him to still be her kid brother, and she needed to take care of him. Sure, he could easily take care of himself, but there were times when all Hannah wanted to do was hug him and tell him everything was going to be fine. And it wouldn't embarrass him like it would now.
Of course, that didn't stop her from trying. At least until she had sufficiently embarrassed him enough for him go red before she laughed and hugged him, indicating she was teasing. Skyler smiled and hugged her, humoring her big-sister/mother-moment and not putting up a fuss.