When Jakes finally made it back to Graceland just before dawn, he wasn't expecting to find a makeshift slumber party in the living room.
He let the front door shut behind him and trekked across the foyer into the house. He halted when he saw his roommates; Briggs and Charlie were cuddled on the floor and the others actually managed to look comfortable on the couch.
Jakes considered joining them for half a second, but he shook his head a few times and decided against it. He was holding onto a folder and thought about waking up Briggs to let him know what had happened at the police station, but he figured the news could wait until morning.
He turned and made his way up the stairs, wanting to fall asleep before the sun stole the night away from him completely.
Jakes hadn't realized it, but his boots trotting up the steps were the cause of Jessie's eyes shooting open once more. The girl took a sharp breath in and quickly glanced around the space to locate her protectors.
She kept herself still, and she relaxed when she felt the rise and fall of Johnny's chest up against her cheek.
Jessie tried to go back to sleep, but she wasn't very tired anymore. She did her best to just lie still, wanting to wait for someone else to wake up, but she knew that it would take forever for the agents to stir on their own.
Johnny seemed like the most vulnerable target. She didn't want to make him angry, but nevertheless, Jessie picked her head up a bit and poked Johnny in the shoulder to see if she could wake him up.
She hesitated for a moment when he moved his head slightly, but he let out a funny snore and she realized that she had been unsuccessful. She tried to wake him one more time, tugging on his shirt, but she didn't want to mess with him too much incase he got angry at her. She just couldn't be sure.
One thing Jessie was sure of though, was that she was thirsty. She convinced herself that she could walk to the kitchen on her own.
One of Johnny's arms, which had previously been holding onto her, was now stretched up over his head, making it easy for the little girl to slide down off the couch from under the blanket.
Feet planted firmly on the floor, Jessie moved around the coffee table on her tiptoes and stepped up into the kitchen. She walked over to the refrigerator and reached up for the pitcher of water. She used two hands to safely lift it off the shelf, but it was too heavy to carry over to the table. Not having any other option, she placed the pitcher down on the floor and let the refrigerator door close.
"You need some help there, kiddo?"
Jessie gasped and jumped away from the voice, but within seconds she was being lifted off the floor. There was a hand on her back and soft voice apologizing for startling her.
She knew it wasn't Mike's voice, but she was relieved to see Paul when she finally got the courage to look up at the person who had gathered her off the floor.
"I'm sorry..." Briggs whispered again. He sat her up on the counter and slowly ran his hand through her hair. He smiled again before bending down to pick up the water pitcher.
"You're thirsty?" He had already grabbed a cup before she could answer.
He poured her some water and she reached out for it with both hands, swallowing it in one gulp. He refilled her cup and poured himself a glass as well.
Briggs had so much to say to the girl, and yet, he had no idea how to start the conversation. It wasn't like him to be at a loss for words, but he truly didn't know how to play his cards. He looked back into the living room and was able to tell that no one else had woken up.
He hadn't been able to sleep very well on the floor and had no intention of lying back down there with Charlie.
"So... I don't want to wake anyone else up," Briggs tried. "But I have some questions for you. Do you think we could go up to my room? Should we get Charlie to come with us?"
Jessie nodded and put the cup down next to her on the counter. She ever-so-slightly moved her hands out towards him and Briggs lifted her into his arms.
He walked over to Chuck and gently placed Jessie down. "Just one second," he whispered to the girl.
Briggs knelt next to Charlie and gently kissed her. She playfully swatted at him in her sleep. "Come on, Chuck," he said softly. "Let's get upstairs."
Charlie nodded and squinted her eyes up at him. "Everything ok?" she said groggily, noticing Jessie watching them carefully just steps behind Briggs.
"Yeah," Briggs said cooly. "Moving this party to my room. You need sleep. She's up for the day. I want my bed... and we need to have a chat."
As Charlie pushed herself up onto her feet, Briggs scooped Jessie back up. He turned towards the stairs and spotted the duffel bag that he and Charlie had brought back from the foster home the night before.
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Briggs whispered excitedly. He bent down with Jessie in his arms to unzip the bag and pulled out Paige's purple blanket. "Look what I've got," Briggs said smiling at her. Jessie graciously took the blanket and brought it up into her chest, her little knuckles turning white from the death-grip she had on it.
Charlie took Briggs' other hand and they walked upstairs. Jessie looked around the new space when Briggs opened the door to his room, and she giggled when he plopped her down onto the bed. Charlie immediately tucked herself under the covers and curled up into the pillows to get a few more hours of sleep.
"Okay, kiddo," Briggs said to Jessie. He sat up against the headboard and situated the girl in his lap so that they could talk. "How are you feeling?'
Jessie shrugged her shoulders and kept her head up against his chest.
"I promise that life in this house isn't always quite this crazy," Briggs added. "But... we are real agents and we do have some days where we need to be away from home for a long time, or maybe we need to work in a dangerous place. We have to pretend to be other people sometimes. And we don't always get to decide our schedule, which is why... why the FBI didn't think it was a good idea for any kids to live here. They don't think we can do our job and take care of kids. Do you understand that?"
Briggs knew that he had rambled on and that she probably hadn't kept up with him, but Jessie nodded at him anyway.
"And you and me were the only people to see that new family yesterday. If you lived in that house, well, the FBI thinks that they would take better care of you because their jobs aren't as tough." He felt as though he was indirectly bragging on himself a bit, but continued on anyway.
"Did you like those people? With Luke?" Briggs asked. Jessie shrugged her shoulders once more.
"Were they mean?"
Jessie shook her head to say no.
"But, you don't feel safe there, right?"
Jessie nodded, glad that he was speaking for her.
Briggs sighed. "So, we have a bit of a problem." He shifted her in his lap so that they were sitting face to face. "We want you here, kiddo, we really do. But what happens if everyone has to be at work at the same time?"
Jessie looked down into her lap and held onto the purple blanket.
"That's what's gotten us into trouble so far..." Briggs reached out and put a hand across Charlie's forehead. "But in a few months we would have had to make that work out anyway."
He smiled up at Jessie and tried to regain eye contact. "Charlie's having a baby," he reminded her. "Would you want to still live here with a baby living here too?" Jessie smiled from ear to ear and nodded happily.
"Maybe we'll have to add babysitting to the chore wheel," he joked to himself.
"And school. You would start school in a few weeks. You would need to do all your work. No getting into trouble. No talking about the FBI at school or with your new friends. If you want to train to be an agent, you have to get good grades in school. You would have to follow all our house rules..."
Jessie continued to nod at him as Briggs rambled on about her potential life at Graceland.
"Is this really where you want to live? With all of us in this secret house?"
Jessie stared at him for a few seconds and then gently leaned forward, falling onto him in a warm hug.
Briggs sighed. "Ok, little one, we will try to make this work."
They heard someone running up the stairs and Briggs realized his mistake. The door to his bedroom flew open and an exasperated Johnny stood in the doorway. "You can't do that, man!"
"Shhhh! Johnny!" Briggs aggressively whispered, gesturing down at Charlie asleep in the bed.
"We didn't even know you were back! And I wake up and she's gone!" Johnny's hands were up on his head as he paced the room.
"Go give Johnny a hug. He needs one," Briggs said, turning Jessie around. She ran down the length of the bed and jumped into his arms.
"We were just having a chat about her future at Graceland, John boy."
"She's talking?" Johnny whispered.
Briggs shook his head, "Not yet," he said calmly. "Is Jakes back?"
"I can go check," Johnny said. He looked down at Jessie. "If he's back though, you're waking him up. I'm not about to feel the wrath of Jakes this early in the freaking morning. You're cute. He won't hate on you."
"Don't be too sure about that Johnny," Briggs said.
Johnny walked out of the room with Jessie in his arms and slowly went over to Jakes' door. He knocked a few times, but there was no response. "Jakes!" Johnny yelled. "You up?!"
Johnny backed away from the door when he heard a grunt and some movement. He was expecting the door to open to reveal a very irritated version of Jakes, but what he got was a folder slipped under the doorframe out into the hall. Johnny grabbed the folder and shifted Jessie so that he could open it. There were only two pieces of paper. The first one disinterested him and the second seemed to be useless as well. But a short phrase caught his eye at the bottom of the paper.
In a standard typewriter font, the end of the correspondence script read: BARONE, JESSICA: CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT. EMERGENCY CUSTODY = GRACELAND. GUARDIANSHIP TO ARKIN, PAIGE OF D.E.A., PENDING TRIAL OF BARONE, JOSEPH.
Underneath the title statement it said:
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT STATUS: JULY 2014. $20,000 AWARD. CASE #27410. TO BE CLAIMED PENDING SECURE ACCOUNT WITH GUARDIAN.
Johnny read the paper three times, processing the new information. He was in shock, but the time stamp on the document was only a few hours old.
"I love you, Dale Jakes!" Johnny yelled through the door.
"Tell him you love him," Johnny said to Jessie, bouncing her once in his arms.
Jessie's facial expression was priceless and she threw her head down into Johnny's shoulder, the smallest of laughs escaping through her smile.
"Go away!" A pillow slammed up against the back of the bedroom door. "Just... go build the case, Johnny!" Jakes yelled from him bed.
Johnny shook his head in disbelief at what Jakes had accomplished overnight at the police station.
"He did it?" Briggs asked. He was now standing out in the hall in front of the bathroom.
"Emergency custody. Paige's got her. Pending the... the trial." He didn't know how to phrase the condition in front of Jessie.
Briggs looked back and forth between Johnny and the stairs. "Go!"
Johnny held onto the folder and carried Jessie down the stairs to Paige and Mike. He stood her on the floor quietly at the foot of the stairs and whispered something in her ear. She nodded at him and took the piece of paper, trading the blanket with him for it.
She walked over to Paige and Mike, with some encouragement from Johnny, and held the paper up over her chest. Mike's arm was still wrapped around Paige and Jessie poked into his biceps to get him to open his eyes. Mike yawned loudly and blinked a few times before noticing who was standing in front of him.
"Are you ok?" he said instinctively.
"Hey," Paige said softly, opening her eyes. Mike's movements had woken her up as well.
"What is that?" she asked, grabbing the paper from Jessie.
"Check the bottom, P!" Johnny yelled. She could hear the smile in his voice.
Paige was speechless. "Mike! Mike! She's staying. She's... she's... mine?" The agent didn't know whether to be relieved or terrified.
Mike grabbed the paper and was beaming. "Did Jakes do this?" he asked. Jessie nodded, remembering where the papers had come from.
Paige sat up and grabbed the girl, holding her close to her chest. Mike read over the rest of the documentation, sitting up and leaning into Paige for comfort.
When he had finished comprehending the page, Mike looked up over to Johnny.
"You need to..." Johnny said.
"Yeah. Everything," Mike responded. "Statements, photos, crime reports, medical records. Hell, even her drawings." Mike turned to Paige and passionately kissed her in celebration. "This file will need to be perfect."
Paige looked down at Jessie and got her to make eye contact. "Do you understand sweetheart? Do you want to stay here with us?"
Jessie threw one arm around Paige and reached out with her other hand for Mike.
They held onto the girl for a few minutes, and just before they tried to move off the couch, the agents heard a small murmur.
"What, sweetheart? It's ok. You can talk." Paige moved her hand in circles on Jessie's back, hoping that the positive news was enough to get the girl to speak to them for the first time since she had been removed from Graceland.
It took a few seconds, but with some encouragement, the faintest little voice whispered, "I love you."