The rain pounded against Graceland as the sunrise fought to gain control of the morning. Mike always woke up early, but a part of him was relieved that the rain was suspending his jog. He wanted to enjoy holding Paige in his arms for as long as possible. The house was dark and the clouds made him think that it was still night.
He picked his head up to look over at the clock. 5:23. He let his head fall back onto the pillow and rolled onto his side to kiss Paige's neck. She stirred in her sleep and wiggled her hips back towards him. He could hear rumbling in the distance out over the ocean.
He closed his eyes once more and tried to allow himself more sleep.
Mike shot up when he heard a scream. "You're dreaming," he told himself. "It's another one of your nightmares." He looked down and saw that Paige was still snuggled into his blankets. He tried to erase the memories of his missed shot. It was just unacceptable. He hadn't missed his aim with a handheld gun in years.
The bedroom glowed from the next lightning strike, and the roaring thunder came before he could lay back down, making his room shake.
There was another scream.
In the few seconds it took Mike to realize where the scream had come from, he was already standing up next to the bed, pulling up a pair of sweatpants he had found on the floor.
The combination of the storm, the crying, and Mike's movement was able to wake Paige from early morning sleep, but he was halfway out the door before she understood what was making him move so quickly.
She was still wearing his clothes and reached over to the nightstand to turn off the speaker. She ran after him, following him up the stairs.
Paige bumped into Mike's back as she ran into the girl's bedroom. Jessie's room was still fairly dark because of the storm.
He was standing a few feet from the bed. Paige looked over at the spot where she had tucked-in Jessie the night before, and realized why Mike hadn't gone further into the room. Jessie wasn't there.
Lightning quickly illuminated the space.
They could hear her crying and knew they needed to find her before the next roar of thunder.
Paige noticed that the comforter was flipped on top of itself and bunched together, creating a large mound in the middle of the bed.
She exhaled when she saw the comforter rustle. She took Mike's hand and led him over to the bed. Paige talked sweetly at the pile of blankets. "Do you want to come out of there, sweetheart?"
Once Paige had announced her presence, she climbed up onto the bed and Mike did the same. Paige thought she saw the corner of the blanket lift up a bit, but the thunder crashed even louder than it had the last time, and the comforter seemed to fall a few inches as if its controller was pulling it tighter to the bed.
The crying intensified and Paige could hear that it was affecting her breathing.
"Mike and I are right here, Jessie. Can you look at us? Can you come out of there?"
"We won't let the thunder get you," Mike added. He was trying to match Paige's tone. He still didn't feel completely confident in his ability to calm the girl down, especially since she had seemed alarmed the past few times he had attempted to console her.
Paige reached out and tried to peel the comforter away, but was met with some resistance and a little yelp.
Mike grabbed the other side and together they slowly managed to expose Jessie, who had been all tangled up in the sheets and blankets in the middle of the bed.
Paige gently rested her hand on top of Jessie's head to get her attention, but the girl moved away from her and shook her head.
Paige tried again. She reached out and ran her hand through Jessie's hair, and even though the girl flinched, this time she tolerated Paige comforting her.
"Is the noise scaring you?" Paige asked her.
Jessie shook her head once.
"No?" Paige asked her, doubting that she was being honest.
The room filled with flashing light once more and Paige could feel her shaking.
"Do you want me to hold you?" Paige kept her voice sweet and light. It was difficult for Paige that Jessie wasn't responding positively to her attempts at comforting her. She and Mike hadn't had a lucid conversation with the girl since she witnessed Katia get shot.
Paige inched closer to her, knowing that the thunder was coming in a matter of seconds. She slid her hands gently under Jessie's arms to be ready to pick her up.
They could feel Graceland quake against the waves of thunder. Jessie clenched her arms tightly around Paige's hands and attempted to melt into the bedding, but Paige fought against her and tried to take the girl in her arms.
As soon as the noise faded, Jessie looked up at the woman. Paige graciously took the cue.
She pulled Jessie up a little, and the girl leaped at Paige, almost knocking her onto her back. She buried her face into the woman's chest, continuing to cry.
Mike untangled the purple blanket and covered Jessie with it. He placed his hand on her back to try and get her to calm down, but she twisted away from his touch.
"I'll be right back..." Mike said quietly to Paige. He climbed down off the bed and stepped out of the room.
Paige rocked back and forth, holding Jessie as close as she could. Paige needed to figure out if she was still in shock from the night before.
"Do you know where you are?"
Jessie nodded her head in small quick movements.
"Can you tell me where you are?"
The girl didn't answer her; Paige had somewhat expected that she wouldn't speak.
She decided to try and be realistic with her. "Last night was pretty scary, huh?"
Paige felt almost relieved when Jessie nodded her head, letting the tears fall freely down the side of her face. "You know that you're safe now, right?"
There was a little nod, but her grip on Paige tightened and another lightning strike lit up the bedroom.
Mike came back in, and Paige smiled at him when she saw what he was holding- a pair of noise canceling headphones, the kind they use in firearms training.
He sat up on the bed and quickly slid the headphones over Jessie's ears. She shook her head, unsure as to what Mike and Paige had just done to her, but when the thunder pounded against the house, her reaction to the noise was deflated.
Jessie looked up at Paige with a confused expression. Paige pointed to her own ear, wanting Jessie to mimic her. Jessie reached her hand up and gently tapped her fingers against the side of the giant ear cover on her head. Paige watched as Jessie processed the purpose of the headphones; she thought she saw a small smile flicker across the girl's face.
Paige pointed to Mike to show her who had brought over the headphones. Jessie glanced at him, but then quickly buried her head back in Paige's embrace.
Paige easily lifted up one of the ear covers so that she could continue to talk and try to figure out how much the girl knew.
"Do you remember being in the ambulance with us?"
Jessie looked up at her. Paige could tell she had gotten the girl's attention. "On the bed inside the truck?" Paige asked. Maybe using the word ambulance was too much.
Jessie nodded and put her hand on her own stomach. "Yes," Paige said to her, "we checked to make sure you weren't hurt. And then you fell asleep, and me and you and Mike all drove back here to stay safe." Paige was running her hand in circles on Jessie's back. "And we got you all clean - you slept the whole time, sweetheart."
Lightning struck and Paige put the headphones back over her ears securely in preparation for the thunder. The woman felt the girl's whole body tense as the noise echoed throughout the house. Paige knew that the storm was moving away from them, but it was still pretty powerful.
When the noise faded, Paige slid the headphones off once more.
Mike tried to get Jessie's attention. "I'm sorry that Katia got hurt." Jessie looked up at Mike and stared at him. He looked to Paige for reassurance. "It was an accident," Mike continued. "I'm sorry that Sulla, the bad man, tried to hurt her... and I'm sorry that you saw her get hurt." Paige could hear the tremor in his voice.
Jessie's eyes were glued to him as he spoke to her. "Can we still be friends?" Mike asked her. Jessie reached up and pulled the headphones down over her ears, but then she pushed back against Paige's arms. The woman was surprised, but let her go, and watched as Jessie put her arms out to Mike.
He lifted her onto his lap and pulled her into a hug as a small strike of lightning hit the ocean. The rain had eased up and the room was brightening as the sun broke its way through the clouds. It took longer for the thunder to arrive, and when it did, Mike held Jessie close and tried to make her feel safe, mimicking how Paige had done it.
Jessie helped him pull off the headphones after the thunder had passed, and he positioned her in his lap so that he could make eye contact with her. "When I was new here, I saw a friend get hurt with a gun when I was at work. It shouldn't have happened and it made me really sad."
Paige immediately thought of Mike's first few weeks at Graceland and his run-in with Eddie and Bello.
"Sometimes when I hear thunder," Mike continued, "it makes me scared because it sounds-"
"Like a gun," Jessie whispered, cutting him off. She reached up and took the headphones off from around her neck and placed them on top of Mike's head. He let go of her to adjust them over his ears, and Jessie wrapped her arms around his neck in a warm hug.
Paige was overwhelmed by Jessie's connection with him. "Is that what the thunder sounded like to you?" Paige asked her.
Jessie looked over at her and nodded with big glossy eyes, but then looked down at her stomach as it made a loud rumbling noise.
Paige reached out to her and tickled her belly. "I think you have your own thunder," Paige said smiling. "Let's go get some breakfast."
Mike put the headphones down on the bed and carried Jessie out of the room. Paige followed them down to the kitchen.
When Briggs walked down the stairs an hour later, he found Paige, Mike, and Jessie cuddled on the giant L-shaped couch. They were watching a movie that he and Charlie had bought.
He walked into the kitchen to get some coffee and saw Johnny standing by the sink.
"You have fun on your date last night, J.T.?" Briggs asked, laughing at him.
Johnny puffed out his chest. "Did I get Carlito all by myself or not?!"
"You did good, Johnny."
The two of them paused and looked out into the living room.
Johnny shook his head back and forth. "They leave their clothes and shit all over the bathroom and think that they can just lay around all morning..." He and Briggs both knew that he wasn't being serious, but Johnny couldn't help but laugh at the little family unit.
Briggs sighed and chugged back the rest of his coffee.
"You ok, man?" Johnny asked him.
Briggs picked up his cell phone. "I just don't know how I'm going to tell them."
"Tell them what?"
"Clarke called a little while ago. Jakes told you about Jessie being at the site last night?"
Johnny nodded, not liking Briggs' tone.
"Well, the bureau witnessed the whole thing. Clarke said that they've decided this arrangement isn't going to work."
"This arrangement?" Johnny asked, getting defensive.
Briggs put down the mug and looked Johnny square in the face. "They're putting her in foster care, Johnny. They think placing her in Graceland was a bad idea... and now that the case is over..."
Johnny looked back at Jessie on the couch. She was snuggled into Paige and Mike, looking so happy and peaceful.
"They're not taking her," Johnny said firmly.
"2 o'clock, Johnny," Briggs said softly. He turned away from him before adding, "Don't tell them yet."