Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fence Jumpers: Part 38

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)
"Hannah?" Sarah Pelton spoke first.

"Mom?" Hannah squeaked. Skyler vaguely registered Hannah rushing forward and being enveloped in their mom's arms and tears. Skyler's eyes flicked up to his dad, Arnold Pelton. His dad was still taller, but he didn't seem as tall as before when Skyler was a runty fourteen-year-old.

Skyler didn't move. He knew he should do something. Anything. But he couldn't make himself move. He stared, shocked, as his parents held Hannah close. All three cried. Skyler tried to take a slow breath and process this.

"Skyler?" Hannah looked up at him. "What's wrong? Come on."

It was different for Hannah, Skyler realized. She wasn't the one whom their parents had basically sold out. Hannah didn't have to run away, but she took Skyler and ran, even though all she could have done was make him run away. She could have safely stayed.

But now here they were. His parents. They looked healthy, but what did Skyler care? They hadn't cared enough about him to keep him safe from Horatio.

"Skyler." Sarah stepped forward. Skyler's instincts took him a step back. Sarah stopped, frowning. "Skyler, it's okay. It's me."

"I know who you are," Skyler found his voice and hated how shaky it sounded. "What are you doing here?"

"We-- we came to see you," Sarah replied. "Why else would we be here?"

"I don't know. You tell me."

"Skyler." Hannah glared at him. "What's wrong with you?"

"They're what's wrong!" Skyler snapped.

"That's enough." Arnold stepped forward. "I will not--"

"Since when do you care?" Skyler shouted, letting months and months of held back frustration vent. "Why do you care what I say or do?"

"I am your father!"

"Yeah? Where've you been the last two flipping years, huh?" Skyler glared. "Where were you? Or mom? Oh that's right, you were busy giving me up!!"

"Skyler!" Hannah snapped.

"What? It's not true?" Skyler felt hot tears sting his eyes.

"Will you shut up a minute?" Hannah approached him. "We've talked about this."

"Yeah. Doesn't make it any better."

"They had no choice!"

"Yes they did!!" Skyler shouted. "And they chose money and promotion over me!"

Skyler glared at his shocked parents. "Get out." He turned and walked off, anger and distress roiling inside him like hundreds of snakes.

A strong hand grabbed his arm so hard it hurt. Skyler yelped and twisted, but Kip held on. "What the heck was that, kid?!"

"What do you think?" Skyler wrenched free.

"I think I've never seen you be such a disrespectful idiot," Kip replied sharply. "And to your own parents!"

"They sold me out, Kip!" Skyler fumed. "And now they decide to come back? After two years?!"

"What makes them any different from Grace?" Kip asked instead.

"What?"

"What makes them any different than Grace?" Kip repeated. "She sold us out too."

Skyler blinked. "That was diff--"

"Was it?" Kip cut him off. "She was coerced, your parents were coerced. Granted she didn't do it knowingly, but your parents were doing what they thought best for you and Hannah, Skyler. Neither they nor Grace had any choice, and you know it."

"They could have--"

"Done what? Refuse and watch you and Hannah die or be taken away? Or both?" Kip interrupted again. "You've known your parents for years, Skyler, and you've only known Grace for two. You forgave Grace, so why can't you forgive them?"

Skyler looked back. He couldn't see his parents, but he thought he could hear their voices. He looked back at Kip, who nodded with a gentle smile. "I know it's hard, but we don't know what's going to happen in the weeks to come. If forgiving the ones we love is the last thing we can do, shouldn't we take every opportunity to set things right?"

Skyler nodded slowly. He still felt betrayed, but Kip was right. Who knew what would happen? His parents were here. He had a chance to reconcile. He had the chance to make his family whole again. Whatever happened to him, if Hannah made it out alive, he wanted make sure their family was together.

Kip squeezed his shoulder. "Go on, kiddo. Your parents miss you."

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)
Skyler nodded again and backtracked. He found his parents and Hannah talking by a warm fire, plates of food in hand. Skyler watched as Hannah talked, her eyes bright but misty with remaining tears, and her voice energetic and eager. Their parents listened closely, taking in every detail. Their mom was still crying, and their dad held her hand.

His family looked up at his approach. Skyler stopped. Another lump rose in his throat, but this one he feared held a sob. Suddenly his anger melted under only one boyish desire: His mom's hug.

"Hi," he said weakly. "Mom... Dad, I'm sorry--"

Sarah was standing and closing the space between them. Skyler wrapped his arms around her as she hugged him. That sob escaped him, and his mother held him still tighter, stroking his hair and crying too. Skyler held on, afraid that if he let go he wouldn't be able to hug her again.

"Oh baby, I'm so sorry," Sarah whispered.

"It's okay," Skyler choked out. "It's alright. I know you were doing what you thought best. I'm sorry for yelling at you."

"Shh." Sarah kissed his cheek. "You deserved a chance to get that out of your system."

Skyler felt a firm hand rub his back. He looked up at his father, who pulled him into a bear hug. Skyler held on. "I'm sorry."

"I am too," Arnold said. "But here you are now, and your mother and I won't ever let you or your sister go. I promise."

Skyler's heart swelled. He held on tighter, and felt his dad's grip tighten too, and a kiss pressed onto his head. He pulled back and looked up at his father.

"Look at you." Arnold smiled, pride swelling in his eyes. "So tall... and brave."

"That's a new thing?" Skyler managed a smile. Arnold laughed.

"No, but it's not afraid to show now." Arnold clapped him on the back. "Come on. Your sister's been catching us up. It sounds like you're all in a spot of trouble."

"Just a little." Skyler sat down with his mom at his right. Hannah sat between their parents. "But I want to hear about you guys."

"That can wait." Sarah took his hand.

Inwardly, Skyler grimaced. He and Hannah exchanged looks whenever she reached a part where it involved either of them getting hurt. Skyler's exerience in Horatio's underground lab brought his mother to full tears. Skyler hugged her.

"I'm okay, Mom," he soothed. "Kip and Cody rescued me."

"We've met Kip," Arnold said. "Where is Cody? Was he the dark-haired boy?"

"That's Wes." Hannah blushed. "No, Cody... he's gone. He was shot, but he stayed behind to give Kip and Skyler time to escape..."

It was his mom's turn to hug him. The memories were still painful. Skyler moved closer into the hug, assuring himself it was real and that it felt safe.

Hannah moved on to their two years of being fugitives. That part was easier to tell without their mom tearing up. Hannah finished up with their last mission, and their mom hugged and kissed them both.

"You both have grown up far too fast," Sarah said. "But I am so, so proud of you both."

Skyler flushed. Hearing the old stories had brought feelings of homesickness for their old hideout. He missed the days when the only big danger was being caught on the scheduled sweeps. Now, the Nabber sweeps were random. The streets were never safe now.

"So what about you?" Skyler asked, pushing down the memories. "How did you find us?"

"We guessed, actually," Sarah replied. "We had heard about Miss Carter's fall from reputation, but we had heard her stories. And there was also the news of the Fence Jumper capture, which at first we thought was good, but then we began to wonder if you two had found your way to that group. Your father was too busy in the government to really begin an investigation, and I had a new job at the mall. But then... we began to see changes. Your father grew uneasy."

"Guilty," Arnold corrected. "I hated working for the people who would have taken my son from me... even worse, having agreed to let them take him."

"Dad--"

"I quit my a year ago," Arnold said, looking at Skyler. "I refused to work for the man who was possibly doing such horrible things. We didn't entirely believe Miss Carter's articles, but we began to find clues suggesting they were true. After I quit my job and got one as a semi-truck driver, we had more time to learn more."

"You drive semis?" Skyler blinked.

"I'm not too bad," Arnold laughed. "A little while after the Fence Jumpers were caught, we heard rumors of more delinquents causing mischief."

"The Coyotes." Skyler grinned.

"Your mother and I wanted to see if you both were with them. Whenever we had spare time we would try to find a way to contact them, but of course we had nothing to go on. Eventually we tried to contact Miss Carter, thinking she may have a connection. It took time to finally find her and set up a meeting, but when we did, we talked and told her we were looking for you two."

"She recognized your names," Sarah added. "She was wary, and rightfully so, but we convinced her to take us to you."

"Horatio isn't keeping tabs on you?" Hannah asked.

"He was for a few months," Arnold said, "but I think he's lost interest in us."

"And so here we are." Sarah smiled, hugging Skyler and Hannah. "You both have grown! And all this..."

"That's mostly Skyler's doing." Hannah looked at him. "He found this place."

"Jonah and Grace did too." Skyler flushed. "Pretty sure it was Grace who saw it first."

Hannah rolled her eyes. "Fine, but you brought everyone here. Skyler's been like our leader. At least for us Jumpers. The Coyotes already had one, but now Skyler's like their leader too." Hannah grinned at her brother. "And he's pretty good at it."

"I couldn't have done any of it without help," Skyler deflected the praise. "Everyone has helped a lot."

"Skyler!" Skipper's squeal made him turn. Skyler grinned when Skipper crashed into him with a hug. "Your mom and dad are here!" Skipper looked at them shyly.

"Yeah, they're here," Skyler laughed. "Mom, Dad, this is Skipper. Skip, meet my parents."

"Hi." Skipper waved. She wrapped her arms around Skyler's shoulders from behind. "Nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you, dear." Sarah smiled. "Are a Jumper or a Coyote?"

"Jumper." Skipper nodded. "My sister is too, but Horatio has her..."

"We'll find her, Skip," Skyler comforted. "We'll find them all."

"I know," Skipper said. "You always know what to do."

Skyler's smile faded a little. "Yeah..."

Later that night Arnold and Sarah had to return to the city. They tried persuading their children to come, at least for one night, but it was too risky. They would try to keep in touch, but it would be better and safer if they kept physical meetings to be minimum. Neither Skyler nor Hannah had mentioned their being exclusively targeted by Horatio.

Skyler sank under the blankets, his heart lighter than it had been in months. Seeing his parents had been hard at first, but it was good to finally face that part of his life. Skyler felt encouraged. They could do this. They would win.

They had to.

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