did you leave me in the vault? And why did you bring a bloody search party to my house?" James nodded towards Rob and Emma.
"Maybe Rob and I should leave."
Matt's hand shot out and grabbed hold of Emma's. "No, you're as much a part of this as he is. Stay. You're my family now too."
James's bushy eyebrows pulled together, but he didn't say anything. He had to be wondering who Emma was, and how she had come to mean so much to Matt so soon.
"We ..." Matt cleared his throat and glanced at Jess. "We thought it was for the best, to leave you there."
Jess had never wanted to, and as she heard Matt's words, she could only imagine how much they would hurt James.
He pulled at the hairs on his chin and snorted a laugh. "Wow. You turned into a true Altenbury in the last few months. Mum must be real proud of you."
"Fuck you, James. You have no idea what's been going on. And I haven't spoken to our mother since she ordered me not to report you missing."
James sat back in his chair, legs spread wide, his whiskey glass resting on one thigh. "Enlighten me then, dear brother, enlighten me."
So Matt did, with the help of Emma. And Jess reluctantly described her visions as well.
"Okay. So you know more than I thought you would. I didn't know you knew about my dreams, Matt. I know I told you about the blackness, the nothingness. The attacks on you, they sound the same as the attacks on me, but I never saw it. I still don't know what attacked me, but ... well, you saw my injuries. Whatever inflicted mine had a go at you too. I just ... I don't understand how you were unconscious for only a few hours, and I've been missing what? Over six months? I can't have been in that state for that long, surely?"
No one answered him. How could they? Jess had no idea how long he'd been in the frozen state they found him in.
"So, why didn't you come and see us when you got out of the vault?"
"Because all I wanted to do was sleep and lay low. I think I slept straight through for two days before I needed food. I was coming to see you, Jess ... well, Matt. I didn't know you were back up here, Jess."
She saw Matt glance at his watch. "It’s late, maybe we should let you get some more rest. We can meet up tomorrow and catch up some more."
James nodded, and then pulled Jess into a hug. "Missed you, rabbit."
"I missed you too. I love you, James." Jess hugged him hard, trying not to cry again.
It was a quiet walk home. Rob imagined they were all lost in their own thoughts—Lord knew he had enough flying around in his head. He hadn't known James well, but finding your brother after he'd been missing for six months after you thought he was dead? He had no idea how Matt and Jess must’ve been feeling. At least Matt had Emma.
Jess stopped outside Matt's house even though Matt carried on walking. "Where are you going?"
He stopped and turned to face her. "We'll stay at yours tonight. I'm not leaving you on your own, Jess. Not after all that."
Jess strolled towards him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'll be fine, Matt. James is fine. There's no reason for you and Emma to stay at mine."
Matt held Jess at arm's length, gripping her arms. "Jess, did you not just hear? That ... that thing attacked James and put him in that state. It attacked me too. What's to stop it going after you?"
Rob saw Jess shudder and the thought of someone—something—hurting her ...? He fisted his hands and clenched his jaw to remind himself it wasn't his place to protect her.
Jess pushed Matt's arms away and stepped back. "And how do you know it's not all over? James is back. We're all fine. I refuse to live my life scared of something happening. So no, Matt, you and Emma stay here, and I'll see you both at James's tomorrow."
Matt caught Rob’s eye, who nodded slightly at the unasked question. Matt and Emma left them both on the street, and as Jess started for home, Rob followed her. When she stopped outside her cottage, so did he.
She turned to face him,
The Wicked Ways of a True Hero (prc)