Johnny walked over to the living room with his coffee mug gripped tightly in his hands. Jessie was leaning back against Mike's chest with her feet out across Paige's lap. The three of them looked so cozy in the corner of the couch.
"I heard about last night," Johnny said, sitting down next to Paige. Jessie looked over at Johnny and waved at him shyly.
"Did you go on an adventure last night?" Johnny asked her with an excited tone. Mike paused the movie and Jessie nodded really big.
Mike had his arm wrapped around her torso and Jessie's hands were clasped to his forearm.
"Yeah..." Johnny said, "I went on an adventure too."
"You pretended?" Jessie asked him, remembering their conversation the day before about his undercover op.
"Mhmmm, I pretended to be a bad guy. And guess what?"
She tilted her head at Johnny.
"It worked!" he said.
Jessie peeled one of her hands off of Mike's arm to reach out with a fist to Johnny. He leaned in across Paige to fist bump the little girl. Jessie giggled, making Mike and Paige snap their eyes at each other. They hadn't seen the girl this happy since they had left the house the day before.
Jakes came trotting down the steps and Jessie's eyes tracked him as he walked into the kitchen.
"Jakes!" Johnny yelled playfully. "Come watch the movie!"
"No way, Johnny," he said. "Don't you have paperwork to-" He cut himself off when he realized that his cell phone was buzzing. Actually, it sounded more like three or four phones buzzing.
Jakes read the message a few times before looking up into the living room. Johnny had tried to beat Paige and Mike to their phones on the coffee table, but he wasn't quick enough. It was a text from Clarke sent to the six agents: "Had to reschedule. I'll pick her up for transfer at noon. Be ready."
"He's trying to move it up?" Johnny mumbled to himself.
"What's 'it' Johnny?" Paige asked him. She was staring at her cell screen, trying to think of who "her" was. It was most certainly not Jessie. They couldn't take Jessie from Graceland. The girl wasn't ready yet... Paige wasn't ready yet...
"You knew this was happening?" Mike asked him. He protectively held Jessie in his lap. The girl was still clueless that she was the topic of conversation. She had heard plenty of moody banter over the past three days, and Mike raising his voice at Johnny didn't startle the girl.
Johnny didn't want to answer him, so he did the only thing he could. He turned his head to the stairs and screamed, "BRIGGS!"
Paige whacked Johnny in the chest. "He knew too?!"
"Owww, P!" Johnny said leaning away from her. "I, like, just found out!"
Briggs came charging down the stairs with Charlie on his heels.
Mike, Paige, Jessie, and Johnny all stared at him as he walked into the living room. He halted a few paces from the couch and sighed.
It was Charlie who spoke first. She felt incredibly guilty, but knew that Jessie's departure from Graceland was going to happen sooner or later. "Jessie," Charlie said sweetly, "would you like to go for a walk?"
"No," Mike answered for her. Jessie leaned her head back against his shoulder. He reached a hand out to Paige for her to grab, and she started to squeeze his fingers.
"Ok," Briggs said, "well, it's better that we all talk about this together anyway." He turned to the kitchen. "Hey, D.J., come in here a minute."
Charlie sat down next to Mike, and Jakes joined her with a bowl of cereal.
Briggs pulled the chair closer to them and arranged himself so that the seven of them were in a kind of circle.
"Do not overreact to what I am about to say." Briggs spoke with an almost monotone voice.
"Yes, Clarke is coming here... now at noon apparently. Yes, he is ordering that placement be switched to foster care. No, we can't override this." He looked down at his feet. "I already tried to reason with him."
Paige was speechless.
Jakes checked his watch. "So, uh, ninety minutes?"
The agents didn't know what to say. Deep down, they all must have known that this time would come. But after only three days?
Paige gritted her teeth. She was fuming. Briggs noticed her change in tone and gestured for her to explain it to Jessie, but Paige shook her head. "You do it," she whispered harshly.
Briggs smiled at the little girl in Mike's lap. "So..." he started, "do you remember the nice man who brought you here to stay with us?"
Jessie nodded slowly at him.
"He is going to come back here today in a little while..."
Mike could feel Jessie tense and he did his best to make her feel safe.
"He's going to... You are going to..." Briggs couldn't say it.
"You have a new mission to play pretend," Johnny said. He puffed his chest out and pushed his shoulders back, sitting up tall. He looked right at Jessie and she looked back at him quizzically.
"Johnny- don't..." Paige said shaking her head.
"Jessie, come here," she said. Paige pulled the girl onto her own lap so that they were face to face. "The FBI thinks that it's not safe for you to live here anymore." Paige did her best to hold back her tears. She could tell that Jessie was still a bit clueless.
"That nice man is going to come back here and play with us for a little while, and then you are going to go back in the car with him, and he's going to take you to a new family-"
Jessie ripped herself away from Paige and bolted off the couch, trying to make it to the steps. Briggs intercepted her and lifted her up, her legs swinging violently at him.
Paige let the tears fall down her cheek while she watched Briggs hold Jessie, trying to keep her still.
Mike's mind, on the other hand, was racing. "We'll track her," he said to himself. Paige turned to look at him. His eyes were red and deep in thought. "We'll put a tracker on her and in the bag. We'll stake out the house - take shifts. If anything suspicious happens we..."
"They're probably very nice people," Jakes said quietly. Briggs was now rocking back and forth. Jessie had stopped fighting him and was now just crying in his arms, admitting defeat from being able to escape and hide.
"I know, Jakes," Briggs said to him.
"She needs a mom and a dad," Jakes continued, "not 6 crazy aunts and uncles who can't watch her all the time."
"I didn't think it was a good idea three days ago either," Mike said softly, "but now..."
Johnny's eyes got wide. "Ummm, when I was under yesterday at the club... 'Somebody' told me that he would be doing everything in his power to get his kid back from foster care. And this 'somebody' was very confident in his ability to make that happen."
"You think someone fed Clarke the idea to pull her from FBI custody?" Charlie asked.
"Not necessarily," Briggs responded for Johnny.
"So we stake out the house," Mike said, still going through his plan. "And if they come to take her back, we tail them." He turned to Johnny with a serious look on his face. "Is your cover still strong?"
Paige stood up and took Jessie from Briggs. She held her close on the couch and kept whispering to her that she would be ok. Paige wasn't sure if the comments were helping Jessie or just keeping herself from screaming.
Johnny nodded at Mike. "Yeah..." His eyes lit up. "My cover's going to need to make a buy."
Briggs liked where Mike and Johnny were going with the plan. "So we track her to lead us to their new site. Johnny goes in to make the buy."
"And the kid blows your cover," Jakes said, shaking his head.
Paige snapped to Briggs. "She knows too much about Graceland. How can they risk...?"
"Clarke didn't want to hear that she would be pulled from the foster home. And as far as Clarke's concerned, she doesn't know where we are right now or enough about any of us that a random foster family would matter in the scheme of things."
Paige stiffened her lips and tried to act tough. "Johnny, you think you can set up a buy once we know she's been pulled?"
He nodded confidently.
She looked down at Jessie in her arms. The little girl was crying quietly. "I will get you back," Paige said to her. "Do you trust me?" Jessie picked her head up a little bit and nodded twice. "Do you think you can be a good FBI agent and play pretend for a few days?" Jessie didn't respond.
"We'll never leave you alone, kiddo," Briggs said.
"One of us will be right outside your new house parked in a car on the street. The whole time. Even in the middle of the night," Mike explained.
Briggs didn't see how Paige thought she'd be able to get the kid back. He didn't want to make any promises, but if it helped make Jessie's departure less stressful, who was he to try and stop Paige from saying it.
Jessie looked around at the agents who were all giving her encouraging looks.
"How about we practice playing pretend with Johnny?" Paige asked her.
A spark of interest flashed across Jessie's face. She looked quickly to Johnny and Briggs.
"Can you practice being undercover with me?" Johnny asked her.
Jessie pushed up onto her knees and nodded at him.
"Good girl," Paige said. She leaned in and kissed Jessie's forehead.
"Watch this," Johnny said to them. He turned to face the little girl. "We talked about it yesterday, right?" She nodded at him again. "Ok, so if you see me outside of this house. What's my name?" She shook her head.
"Can you run up to me and hug me?"
"No," Jessie said seriously. "I'm scared of you like a bad guy."
"See?" Johnny said to the room. He crossed his arms and sat back on the couch.