A/N: Alright, how long has it been? Six months? My longest delay to date…I think. However, exams are over and I've gotten down to this at last. Thank you all SO much for being so patient and for the wonderful response to this story. :D
I could almost feel my ears being severed off my head as the deafening explosion shook the whole place. A gigantic black cloud of smoke loomed above the little shops. For a fleeting moment, the sight reminded me of the sentence 'Hell's taken over.'
The next moment, however, all thoughts were banished from my head as Jesse put one of his long arms around my shoulders and started dashing for safety. I blindly followed him as he led me through the wild crowd.
My senses were so overloaded that I couldn't distinctly make out what was happening. There were so many shoves and pushes from everyone around, I went numb. I couldn't distinguish one person shoving me aside to passing by from another. All the shrieks and shouting blended into one ear-splitting buzz, furthering what the explosion itself had done to deaden my ears. The only things I could feel were my feet thudding against the hard concrete and Jesse's protective arm wound around my shoulders.
I felt rather than saw Jesse veer to the right, away from the crowd. Before I could make out where we were going, he shoved me into a little niche and said, "Stay here, Susannah. Don't move. I'll be back."
His ragged voice brought me out of my shock. Another emotion was rapidly taking its place. Anger.
Grabbing his hand as he made to leave, I furiously asked, "Y-you planned for this to happen, didn't you? You…you jerk!" I was so angry, it was hard for me to form my words.
Anger that reflected my own, glinted in Jesse's eyes. "You think I planned for this to happen? That I would plan an attack and bring you along with me? Much use you'll be of, when you're dead," he ruthlessly snapped.
Then, shaking my hand off his hand, he reached into his waistband and pulled out a rifle and darted out into the crowd, leaving me alone in the dark corner. Narrowing my eyes in rage, I huddled against the wall and listened to the chaos just around the corner.
I couldn't believe it. He'd actually had the gall to lie to me about his reason for coming here and bringing all his men with us. Protection, indeed! Ha! How could I have been so stupid? Of course he'd brought his men along to launch another attack on the place!
But a second voice was nagging at the back of my mind. It told me that Jesse had told me the truth. He'd had no intention of bombing the peaceful market. It was that second voice which made me recognize the raw honesty in his voice as he'd snapped angrily at me earlier.
I never knew how long I sat there in the dusty little alcove, waiting for the terror around me to fade and for Jesse to come back for me. It fleetingly occurred to me that this was my golden opportunity, that I could escape now without any difficulty at all. I even stood up and haltingly took a step to flee…but my infuriating conscience reminded me of the words I had spoken to Jesse right before the bomb had exploded. I'd never do that, I'd said. It wouldn't be right for me to break my promise (well, it was a promise of sorts even though I'd never actually mentioned the word 'promise'.)
But the devil in me persisted. Well, it's not like Jesse has been all that honourable and innocent, either. He deserves to be disobeyed. And that's the least of punishments you can give him, Simon.
But…I couldn't. I didn't know what it was, but some invisible force kept me from fleeing. Jesse's first genuine smile that morning floated in front of me. I remembered how it had made my heart skip a beat, knowing I had roused it.
And that was it. I couldn't go. I had to stay, at least until Jesse willingly let me go or I told him I was going to go. This stealthy business was not for me. At least, I knew now, where he was concerned. Scowling at my own weakness, I huddled back against the wall and waited.
Of course, all this resulted in me feeling like a fool. I mean, what if Jesse never came back for me? What if he totally forgot about me and safely escaped instead? I banished the thought before I could give myself leave to feel even more idiotic.
My wait seemed endless to me. I itched to go out and see what was going on and maybe help out. As soon as the thought came to me, another ironical one flashed through my mind. Help out? Question is, which team?
However, the practical side in me understood that I would be of no use to any side if I was seen. It would just result in trouble, especially considering that I myself didn't know which side I was on. I made myself do the sensible thing, even though I was dying to see what was going on – I sat quietly in the alcove and stayed out of trouble.
Suddenly, a figure sprinted around the corner and grabbed my arm. I had a fraction of a second to recognize it as Jesse before we were both running as fast we could towards the motorcycles.
"So," I panted, trying to keep up with his ground-eating pace. "You came back."
He turned and gave me a half-quizzical and half-incredulous look, his grip on my wrist unfailing. Before he could answer, however, a shot erupted somewhere dangerously near us. Jesse pointed his gun to our right and fired. Then, he moved me to his left and slid his arm around my shoulders, making the both of us duck our heads.
A few more shots were fired before we reached the bikes. Taking my seat in front of him without a word, I kept my head low as he sat behind me, fired a few more shots and revved the bike into action.
My last impression of the previously merry, bustling market was of a torn down, smoking place with police cars and ambulances scattered all over. I noticed a single ice cream cart fallen on its side. Behind the police cars, reporters and cameramen were getting out of their vans. Wow, they're fast, was all I could think before I fell into blissful oblivion.
The sound of voices stirred me awake from my unconsciousness. I cracked my eyes open and tried to discern the blurry image in front of me. Something was being rhythmically flapped in front of my face. My vision clearing, I realized it was a hand fan. My gaze followed the arm holding it and I recognized Helene sitting next to the bed where I was lying down, her face pensive.
I looked away from her to stare straight ahead, towards the foot of the bed, where Jesse was pacing the room, muttering angrily. He was angrier than I had ever seen him. He was livid.
Before I could say anything, Helene sighed with relief and said, "You're awake at last."
That brought me up short. Awake? What was there to be so relieved about that? Then, I looked at the fan in her hand and remembered the last few seconds of consciousness and comprehension dawned on me. Along with extreme embarrassment.
I had fainted. Me. Suze Simon, who had never ever fainted in all her sixteen – almost seventeen – years. Oh hell.
My cheeks suffused with heat, I rasped, "Yeah…I'm awake. So…what's up?"
Helene blinked bewilderedly. Well, I couldn't really blame her. Who woke up from a - most embarrassing, I must add – faint and simply asked 'What's up?'? But I didn't know what else to say and, well, I actually wanted to know how things stood at the moment. After the whole arcade debacle.
Before she could answer however, Jesse who had stopped pacing as soon as Helene had pronounced me awake, strode over to the other side of the bed and gently but firmly took my shoulders in his hands. His hair, I noted, was dishevelled and his face was still slightly grimy from the bomb scene. I knew this was quite unusual for the usually neat and tidy Jesse, even though I'd only been around him for four days.
"Are you alright, Susannah? You weren't hurt when I left you in there, were you? The doctor says you seem fine but you fainted and weren't waking up…" He trailed off and flicked a worried gaze around my face.
Despite my condition and everything we had been through that day, I felt a ticklish warmth in my stomach. Against my will, my lips twitched into a smile that didn't really express the extent of fuzziness inside me. The cause of this was – surprise, surprise – Jesse.
The concern in his eyes as they intensely looked into mine, was unmistakeable. It delighted me and at the same time it was maddening. Maddening, because I knew that I shouldn't have been delighted at the fact that he cared for me. I managed to look quite unruffled though.
Tearing my eyes from his powerfully intense ones, I coolly replied, "I'm okay, Jesse. I guess there was too much noise and smoke there for me or something, so I dropped out for a while."
Shaking his head and muttering under his breath again, he withdrew and started pacing the room again. For a second, I was disappointed. Then, I smacked myself inside. What had I been expecting? Passionate kisses with him saying in between how tormented he had been as I lay unconscious and how they had been the worst few hours of his life?
Welcome to the real world, Simon. Here, there were no passionate heroes to kiss away the fears and weaknesses of their damsels in distress. Not that I had any. Fears and weaknesses, I mean.
Well, actually… I did. At least, the fears. And at the moment, the biggest one was: what were the consequences of the unplanned attack at the arcade? Was the warriors' 'camp' going to be overrun by police at any moment? Was there another bombing in line?
However, the biggest question nagging me was: how the hell had that bomb exploded when it had not been part of the plans?
Turning to Helene, who was looking at Jesse with an odd look on her face, I said, "You didn't answer me. What's going on? Are there police cars surrounding the place this very minute or are we decamping or what?"
The pensive look coming back over her face, she answered slightly worriedly, "Jesse says they have managed to throw the police off trail…but that doesn't mean they won't find they're way back, right Jesse?"
"Of course - there can be no guarantee about such a thing. If their chief is smart enough, they can be approaching this very minute. If not…lucky us," he replied, not halting in his steps or even looking at us.
"But," I ventured. "It may not be such a bad thing if they come. Maybe you guys can talk and come up with some sort of compromise, you know?" Though, secretly, I knew that kicking butt was a much more efficient way of sorting something out. But then I was tired of all the violence around me. I'd had enough to last a lifetime. The last thing I wanted now was more gunshots and bombs in the place.
Jesse paused to give me a dark, inscrutable look and then resumed with his routine of walking up and down the room. Not exactly understanding the look, I glanced at Helene. She looked distinctly uncomfortable as she fidgeted with fan in her hand.
"What?" I asked, sure that I was missing something here. Because if they thought – as I secretly did – that talking wasn't the solution to this problem, they would have said so. No, this was about something else.
"Helene?" I pressed.
"Susannah," she began uneasily. "We know that you miss your home and would like to go back…but, please understand that obtaining the police's help to do that won't really be good for us. You do know what will happen to us if the police find us, right?"
And then it dawned on me. They thought I wanted to be set free. And that I didn't care if it got all the islanders, Jesse and Helene included, arrested and sentenced on the way.
My jaw dropped open in astonishment. "God, you can't think I'm that callous, can you? That I won't care what happens to all of you? God, I was only suggesting that because I really could do with a little less violence in my life," I said. When the both looked at me with new eyes, I hastily added, "Of course, that doesn't mean that I approve of what you're doing. I would much rather that you didn't use this whole violence method to get whatever it is that you want. But," I ended, pursing my lips. "It looks like there's nothing I can do about that. Or my situation either."
At that last one, Jesse looked like he was going to retort but a look from Helene silenced him. I wondered at the relationship between the two of them. It seemed as if she had quite a lot of influence over him. I was surprised to feel a flicker of jealousy as I pondered darkly over it. But I quickly banished the thought. She was at least seven years older than him, for God's sake.
Plus, I wasn't supposed to care about the women in Jesse's life and exactly how much power they had over him.
I blinked as Helene reached out and shook me gently, breaking me from my envious thoughts.
"I was saying, Susannah, that you and I need to have a talk. There are some things we need to get clear. When would you like to have it?" she inquired, her graceful eyebrows raised.
I opened my mouth to answer, but Jesse preceded me.
"Not now, Helene. She needs to rest. God knows she doesn't need one of your lectures now," he said authoritatively.
I actually wasn't feeling like having 'a talk' at the moment, but Jesse's autocratic behaviour annoyed me. Well, actually, his possessiveness roused a delighted flutter in my tummy…and that was what annoyed me. My reaction to his behaviour. You shouldn't be delighted, Simon! He's a terrorist, for God's sake!
So, I said, "Oh no, I'm okay. We can have a talk right now, Helene. So, what is it you wanted to talk about?"
To say Helene looked surprised would be an understatement. Clearly she'd never witnessed anyone defy Jesse's wishes.
Glancing at the scowl on Jesse's usually expressionless face, she carefully said, "It's alright, Susannah. We can talk after you rest. Obviously you've been thoroughly taxed these past few days. I wouldn't want to make you ill again." Then, with a kind smile, she went, closing the door softly behind her.
Sighing irritably, I arranged the pillow against the headboard and slumped back against it. I felt, rather than saw, Jesse come sit at the edge of the bed. Finally looking across at him, I saw him staring contemplatively out the window at the darkening sky and the tapered tops of the pine trees bordering the driveway.
Deciding not to pursue the subject of his irritatingly authoritative behaviour, I settled for asking the question which had been on my mind ever since Jesse had told me that the attack hadn't been planned.
He looked sharply at me, his eyes questioning.
"If that bomb at the arcade was unplanned, then why did it explode? Who did it? It was one of your men, I assume," I said, raising my eyebrows.
He sighed wearily, running his hand through his hair, further dishevelling it. "One of my men accidentally revealed his gun and unfortunately, there was a police officer standing nearby. He called his fellow police officers and they surrounded my man and were arresting him. Seeing this, one of my other men decided to create a commotion and notify the rest of us by exploding that bomb. Lucklily, it was a relatively harmless bomb. It was the commotion afterwards that caused more damage." Jesse frowned angrily. "A single gunshot would have done it, what was the use of the bomb? "
I remained silent, not knowing what to say to that. But as the silence stretched and Jesse's frown grew deeper, I tentatively suggested, "Maybe you guys can get walkie talkies now. You know, to communicate without causing any harm or pollution."
He rolled his eyes at my choice of reply, but I noticed the frown had disappeared. He flopped down next to me, staring up at the ceiling.
Outside, twilight approached, the sky turning orange and golden, casting shadows all over the room. The two of us remained in our positions – Jesse, lying down with his arms stretched above his head and me, sitting up against a pillow beside him – lost in our thoughts. He was, I presumed, planning on what to do next. I was just thinking of…well, everything. About my scattered family, about what lay ahead, about this mysterious 'talk' that Helene wanted to have and about my feelings concerning my captor.
The latter of which, I couldn't even begin to explain.
A/N: Please review!