Briggs could feel Jessie's fingernails digging into his arms as the the car pulled into a driveway. The house was two stories with a small yard. The front door was open and there was a young boy standing in the entranceway, peering out to the road.
Briggs hadn't been in the neighborhood before, but he knew the surrounding area pretty well. He took note of the street name and number on the house. Clarke got out of the car and opened up the back door to let Briggs out. Jessie wrapped her legs around Briggs and tensed her muscles to stay glued to him.
"You're ok; you're ok," Briggs repeated to her. She had been silent for the second half of the car ride. Briggs didn't know if she had just given up her fight, or if she had muted herself out of fear. Clarke grabbed the duffel bag from the back and led Briggs up to the house.
A young couple appeared in the doorway; the man reached down and placed his hand gently on the boy's head. "Is she asleep?" the man asked Clarke.
"No," Clarke replied curtly. "She's just hesitant."
The woman smiled sweetly at his comment. "Please come on in," she said, backing away from the door so that Clarke and Briggs could walk into the house.
"HI!" the boy yelled up to Briggs.
"Hi," Briggs said back to him, not quite as loudly. "What's your name?"
"Luke." The boy reached up and grabbed Jessie's ankle. "HI!" he yelled again.
Jessie pulled her leg up away from him, keeping her face tucked into Briggs' neck.
"I don't think she's ready to talk to us yet, Luke," the woman said gently to him. She took his hand and got him to sit on the couch in their living room.
"Agent Briggs," Clarke said, getting his attention, "this is Matt and Annie Henderson." Briggs let go of Jessie with one arm to reach out and shake the couple's hands.
As they greeted one another, Briggs could hear Jessie start to whimper again.
"You've already met our son," Mr. Henderson said with a smile. "He just turned seven; we've had him for two years now."
Briggs sat on the couch and tried to get Jessie to sit up in his lap. Seeing her start to get emotional again, he took Paige's blanket and wrapped it more securely around her back.
"She's so small..." Mrs. Henderson thought aloud. "And we were told that she had been placed with..."
"Yes," Briggs responded quietly. "She's been with the FBI."
"Cool!" Luke yelled.
"Why don't you go play in your room?" Mr. Henderson suggested to his son.
"Actually," Briggs said, cutting him off, "it might be better if he stayed." Briggs knew that Jessie was intently listening to everything that had been going on around her. "Come sit with us," Briggs said to the boy. Luke hopped up next to Briggs and watched the little girl.
"Do you like living here, Luke?" Briggs asked him.
The boy nodded, but continued to stare at Jessie.
"Is she scared?" he asked Briggs.
"I think so... Should she be?"
"No," Luke said. He pushed up onto his knees to try and see her better. "It's really nice here."
Briggs noticed that Clarke was checking his watch, so he quickly took out his phone and texted the address to Mike. He looked across the room to get the couple's attention. "Jessie doesn't talk too much, but she is very smart. She likes to read and write and draw..." He thought about what he really needed to say. "She scares easily," he said quickly. "She's quiet, and she'll hide in small places - closets, under furniture... stuff like that. She has some bruises on her back and legs, about a week old, and we've treated burns on her back. The bandages will need to be changed within a day or so..."
He watched the couple's reaction as he talked, looking for how they interpreted the new information.
Clarke had given them some paper work and had moved back towards the front door.
"You're gonna take care of her, right?" Briggs said to the boy. Luke nodded at Briggs, who put his hand out to get a high five from the little boy.
"Ok," Briggs said softly to Jessie, "you can do this." Briggs saw that Jessie's tears were becoming steadier. He tilted his head down more so that he was whispering in her ear. "Mike's already on his way here. He's going to stay right outside in his car."
The woman walked over to Briggs and placed her hand on Jessie's back. Despite the crying, Jessie let the new woman take hold of her. The girl still had one hand in a fist around a piece of Briggs' shirt, but with a little bit of coaxing, they were able to get her to completely let go of Briggs.
"Is this your favorite blanket?" the woman asked her softly, rocking Jessie in her arms. When Jessie didn't nod her head, the woman looked over to Briggs. "She'll come around," he said.
"Can we read a Transformers book, mom?!"
"I don't know if she likes Transformers, sweetheart..."
"Well, we can try. Go get it."
Briggs rested his hand on the side of the Jessie's head to say goodbye. "I'll see you soon, ok?"
Jessie nodded once, but kept her face hidden, still refusing to look at the inside of the house.
Briggs felt empty as he followed Clarke back to the driveway.
He surveyed the road and took notice of the surrounding houses before getting in the passenger seat.
Paige nervously paced the kitchen, waiting for one of them to get a text message or call from Briggs. It had been almost 30 minutes since he had left Graceland with Jessie.
"You're sure your phone is on?" she asked Mike. Charlie, Johnny and Jakes had gone to their respective rooms. They had all said they needed to get work done, but Mike was pretty sure they just knew Paige needed space.
Mike sighed and walked over to her, tracing his fingers down her sides. His hands on her hips held her still, preventing her from walking another lap around the island.
"He'll call soon," Mike reminded her.
They had taped Jessie's drawing of the seven of them to the refrigerator and Paige's eyes were transfixed to it.
"We need a better plan," Paige said.
Mike tilted her head up and kissed her. She lingered in the moment before shaking her head and pulling away from him. She took his hands in hers. "You're right," she said, trying to be realistic. "He'll call soon..."
Mike smiled at her, not believing her at all.
"Do you want to hold onto my phone yourself?" he asked her.
Paige reached her hand into his front pocket and grabbed the cell.
"Hey!" Mike said playfully, pulling his hips back away from her.
Paige slid the phone out and checked for messages, knowing well enough that there weren't any there.
"Come on," Mike said to her. He ran his hand down her arm and then laced his fingers with hers, squeezing her hand for reassurance. "I think I know something that has to happen to make your plan work."
She didn't like how vague he was, but Paige allowed Mike to lead her upstairs.
He sat down on the floor in front of his desk and reached up behind him for the laptop. Paige sat next to him on the floor and leaned her head up against his shoulder as he opened up a web browser.
She had one hand on his thigh and kept the other wrapped around the cell phone. She also had her own phone in her lap, but she knew that Briggs was much more likely to call Mike over her.
Mike quickly typed into the search bar and smiled down at Paige after he had clicked on the site he wanted to find.
She gasped and held onto his leg, but sat up a little straighter next to him to see the screen better.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
He replied with another kiss and then opened up the file that had been linked to the webpage. Across the top of the screen it read: State of California - Application for Adoption.