Outwitting the Fox Ch. 05bykitten101©
Jess hid out in the basement for nearly a week before Gabriel came looking for her. He was concerned about her long absence from the general day to day life of the house, and he wanted to find out if she was ok.
She reassured him that she was just 'doing the fox thing' which had become their code word for the times she withdrew into her own company for a bit of personal space. She'd done it before, and it was kind of what Gabriel been expecting to hear, so he took her at face value.
All the same he made it clear that if she needed anyone beaten up she just had to say the word.
"That obvious huh?" Jess asked.
"Pretty obvious. He's been acting like someone shot his puppy all week, and Marcus and Sabeen are pretty pissed with him for something - I'm guessing it's the same something that got in your antisocial fox mode." Gabriel said, hoping for a little more information.
"Not in the mood to share then?" He asked.
"Nope. I think I'll sit on it and brood a bit longer." Jess said with a wiry grin.
"Suit yourself. I'm in the mood to share though. Or at least get your opinion on something... I'm thinking about asking Max to marry me." Gabriel said, watching her face carefully.
Jess thought about it for a moment before grinning, and giving him a gentle punch in the arm. "Why are you telling me this? You should be telling her! You know we all love her to pieces, and it's pretty clear she's destined to be your mate."
Gabriel snorted. "It's clear to everyone but Max that we're destined to be together. And I'm asking because I didn't want to misread the situation... Who better to ask than you right?"
Gabriel and Jess had been working together ever since he had launched Hunter Enterprises five years ago. She had been young, stupid, and living with a mixed pack of shifters involved in gun running and stealing cars.
Gabriel had been in the country only two weeks before he'd caught onto them and decided to set down the law. Being an alpha male, and older than all the shifters in Jess's old pack it hadn't taken much bloodshed to convince the ring leaders to shut up shop and move the business elsewhere.
Jess had taken one look at Gabriel and decided she was done being dictated to by a group of street kids no better than a human gang. She shadowed Gabriel for a week before he gave in to the inevitable and gave her a job. He hadn't regretted it once.
She was a loyal friend, and didn't pull her punches when it came to the important stuff, so he tried to do the same for her whenever he got the chance.
"Listen.. Jess. I know it's not really on the table for discussion, but I just wanted to say that Finns a good guy. I don't know what's going on between you two right now, but you were pretty good friends once upon a time, and you go well together. He's a complete clown, and he brings you out of your shell a lot..."
Jess stared at him for a beat. "I know he's a good guy."
"Good. I just wanted to get my two cents in. Than being said, just remember, we were friends first, so I'm totally on your side if you want me to hit him."
"Gottcha. Thanks for the offer, but like I said, I think I'll just brood a bit longer." Jess said with a sigh.
Once Gabriel was gone Jess curled up on her couch. Max and Gabriel would be married and popping out babies soon too, which was nice for them. Gabriel would be a good Dad, and Max would be a kickass Mum. They'd be the parents that all the other kids wished they could belong to.
Jess had known a few parents like that. She had been in the state foster care system for all of her childhood, so she'd taken a lot of interest in other kids families. Not that being a foster kid was too bad. She'd only been re-homed a few times, and none of the foster parents were too bad, she'd just been acutely aware that they weren't hers.
When she had become old enough to shift for the first time she was lucky enough to be with a few other young shifters. They'd introduced Jess to the pack, and as soon as she was old enough she left her foster home and become a full member, learning how to live on the street, handle weapons, and tear apart cars. It wasn't an ideal childhood, but she'd done all right for herself.
Now that she was faced with the possibility of having to raise a child though? She felt in no way capable. Jess didn't have the first clue about how to be a mother to a baby, and she wasn't really interested in learning.
Wrapping her arms around her waist she took a deep breath, trying to still the panic growing in side of her. She had waited long enough, it was time to go find out whether or not she was pregnant.
On her way out of the house Jess hadn't seen anyone, so shrugging she decided not to bother with going to find someone to report her activities to. She took an overnight bag and one of the cars into town, stopping at a chemist for a pregnancy test, and a couple of bottles of hair dye.
She rented a nice hotel room in the city, and spent the first night out having a nice meal and then took herself dancing in one of her favourite clubs. She was approached a couple of times by men, but declined their drinks and propositions. She was just out to have a good time on her own.
The next morning she gave herself a quick hair cut and then dyed her hair black and blue. the colours suited her and she gave herself a grin in the mirror as she inspected the handy work - it felt like the first real smile she'd had in days.
After lunch she sat down and considered the pregnancy test. It took her two hours to decide she wasn't ready yet. She needed a little more time to just be herself, so instead she went window shopping at a knife and sword shop, and took herself to a couple of movies she'd been wanting to see.
Finally on the third day she did the pregnancy test. It looked simple - pee on the stick, wait three to five minutes, count the number of lines.
Jess nearly drove herself crazy in those three to five minutes. She chewed all the nails on one hand, and paced the bathroom trying not to hyperventilate. The timer dinged, and she pounced on the stick - only to stare unbelievingly at the empty window.
If one line meant no baby, and two lines meant a baby, what did no lines mean? Puppies? Two babies? Was shifter biology too different to humans to use one of these sticks? She didn't think so.
With a shriek of frustration she swept the stick and packaging into the trash. It was time to bring in a professional. She grabbed her purse and headed to a Shifter friendly medical centre that she used to frequent back when she was younger.
It had only taken the doctor ten minutes to pronounce Jess baby free. She did her best not to cry and faint in gratitude. Instead she got herself a prescription for the pill and filled it at the pharmacy. Outside the clinic she sat heavily on a bench and tried out her smile again - it was back to feeling fake so instead she scowled.
She shouldn't have had to come into town and take a pregnancy test. She shouldn't have had unprotected sex in the first place. She knew better than that, and Finn should have known better too.
He also should have known better than to not want her. She was a good catch - even if he didn't think so. She might not be able to stop her stupid feelings for him, but she could do herself a favor and stop hoping.
Finn had brought her nothing but trouble, and Jess was finally ready to give up hoping.
Back at the mansion it had taken Gabriel a day to realise that Jess wasn't anywhere to be found. Finn had known the minute he walked back into the house, the day before, that she was gone. He assumed that she'd gone to run errands or something for Gabriel.
When she didn't come home that night he paced his room rather than asking anyone where she was. Finn was beginning to suspect he'd been a complete and utter fool about the way he'd approached the situation.
He was also wondering if perhaps he'd been a little quick to judge relationships.
The next morning he'd walked into Gabriel's office - intending on casually finding out where Jess was without actually having to ask, or even make it seem like he wanted to know - only to be slammed up against the wall by a furious Gabriel.
"Where is she?" Gabriel demanded.
"Jess? You don't know where she is?!" Finn shot back just as urgently.
"Wolf, if anything has happened to her I will take it out on your hide." Gabriel's voice was rough, and his eyes had shifted subtly closer to his leopard form. Both clear indications that he was more pissed off than Finn had ever seen him.
Finn dropped eye contact with Gabriel, and bared his throat a little, making it clear that he wasn't challenging the bigger man. Gabriel seemed to realise that Finn was telling the truth, so backed off a little.
Behind him he saw Marcus and Alex, who looked pale and shaken.
"She took a car yesterday. Gabriel is pretty sure she's in the city. Get your ass on a bike and find her. Take your phone. If you find her call us. I'm tracing her credit card. I'll send the others in as soon as I've rounded them up..." Marcus said.
"We need to find her - what if the council has her?" Alexis sounded as panicked as she looked.
"Alex, you need to sit down. I'll find her." Finn said, sounding more confident than he felt.
Finn strode out of the office towards the garage, his mind racing a mile a minute. If she wasn't being held by a kidnapper, or hurt somewhere in a ditch, then he was going to shoot her himself. Of course if she was hurt, or in trouble he would never forgive himself.
It took a day and a half but he found her.
Finn skidded the bike to a halt, seeing a familiar figure on a bus stop bench. She had dyed her hair black on top, and dark blue underneath. It made her skin seem paler, and her eyes stand out a little more against her face.
She looked good, as usual. Cute even. And a little pissed off. Good - that made two of them then.
Jess looked up from her self involved reflection and found herself staring directly at a leather clad biker. A biker with a very familiar scent. Her breath froze and she wondered vaguely whether her lungs might have accidently fallen out of her chest. Something had dislodged in there, that was for sure.
"Crap." she said under her breath
Finn slid the visor of his helmet up and scowled at her. "Where the hell have you been? I've been worried sick. Everyone has been worried sick. The girls have all decided you're dead and rotting in a dumpster somewhere."
Jess remained silent.
"Do you have any idea how much stress you've put Rider through? Do you have any idea how pissed off Gabriel is with you? Alex can't handle this sort of thing right now."
She flushed with shame. She should have left a note. She hadn't even thought about Alexia.
"I wasn't gone that long. Two nights isn't really grounds for panic and mayhem. I came into town for a break, and crashed at a hotel. I'm an adult, I can go away for a couple of days without having to ask permission." She sounded defensive to her own ears.
"No but it sure would be nice to let the people you live with know that you're going to disappear without a trace suddenly." He growled.
She opted to stay quiet. He shook his head and pulled out his mobile phone, calling the office.
"Grey, call the others in, I've found her. She's fine... I'm bringing her home now." He ended the conversation quickly and snapped his phone shut, putting it in his pocket.
Finn shoved a helmet at her coldly. "Get on. I'm taking you home, and once you've reassured everyone that you're alive you can do whatever the hell you like."
"I can't ride that thing home."
"It's called a motorbike. You should know that. You're the mechanic that keeps them working."
She could hear the sarcasm a mile away. Sure she kept the things working, but that was the issue. She knew exactly how little stood between the riders ass and the road, and it sure as hell wasn't enough to make her feel safe.
"I'm not riding on that thing Finn." She said with a note of finality in her voice.
"Well, Jess, it's the only way you're getting home."
"Fine. I'm not going home." Jess said shortly.
Finn had apparently reached the end of his temper. He jumped off the bike abruptly, towering over her. "PUT THE FUCKING HELMET ON AND GET THE FUCK ON THE BIKE!"
Jess stared at him for a moment thinking about how a few days ago she's wished he'd stop grinning so easily. It seemed she'd granted herself her own wish. Lucky her.
Jamming the helmet onto her head Jess slid reluctantly onto the back of the bike. Finn mounted the bike in front of her and slammed his visor back down. She fumbled with the strap under her chin, and only just got it in place in time to grab Finn's waist as he put the bike into gear.
She screamed the entire way home. Finn yelled out at her to shut the hell up every so often - a request she was in no way capable of considering.
Upon reaching the house she only waited for the bike to slow to walking pace before she clambered off it, and doubled over trying to will herself not to throw up.
Finn turned the bike off and kicked the stand down. In his temper he threw his helmet to the gravel near the bike and stormed towards the house scowling and rubbing at his ear. It felt like the fox had pierced his eardrums - wolves have very sensitive hearing.
Gabriel exited the house at the sound of the bike in the driveway. Seeing two figures he breathed a sigh of relief, he really hadn't been looking forward to beating the crap out of Finn - he was usually such a level headed, genuinely dependable guy. Not today of course, but usually.
Storming past him on his way back to the house Finn growled "There. I got her home, now you can deal with her."
Gabriel sighed and rolled his eyes a little. Oh good, this whole group living arrangement thing was working out just fine. What a fantastic idea, cramming ten adults into a confined space.
"Jess, my office, now."
As an afterthought he added "And if you're going to throw up do it outside, not on my floor."
It took two hours of apology before Gabriel would look her in the eyes again. Almost everyone else forgave her after a (not entirely truthful) explanation for her stupidity - bar Rider. He was pretty pissed off with her for scaring Alex.
Jess considered telling the girls the truth, but decided that it would be worse to reveal that she had had a pregnancy scare and not gone to them in the first place.
Instead she slunk through the house towards her room. She hadn't seen Finn since he left her in the driveway, and was hoping to keep it that way. Unfortunately Finn hadn't received that memo. He was pacing her room waiting for her.
She paused for a moment before entering the room and shutting the door behind her. Finn ran his eyes over her, double checking that she was ok. Once he had assured himself that she was fine he dropped into her armchair tiredly.
"What the hell were you thinking?" He asked, sounding as tired as he felt.
"I wasn't thinking. Clearly. I panicked, and I needed to get out."
"So you took off without telling anyone."
"Like I said, logical thought didn't have much to do with it." Jess said dryly.
"Are you planning on doing it again?" He asked.
"I didn't plan to do it the first time."
"Jess I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean to, and I regret that it got this far. It won't happen again, I'm going to stay the hell away from you from now on. You've made yourself more than clear. Just don't scare me like that again, ok? I haven't slept since you took off. I thought you were dead, or dying in a ditch somewhere." Finn closed his eyes trying to shake the visions he'd been having, of her hurt and crying out for help, out of his head.
"Careful Finn. You're sounding dangerously close to a boyfriend." Jess said flippantly.
He stood abruptly, suddenly colder and more distant that she had ever seen him. "Trust me, nothing's changed on that front."
With that he strode from the room, leaving Jess staring in shock. Finn was the warmest friendliest person she knew. He was many things, but he wasn't cold. More than that he hadn't touched her once.
She didn't like the change one little bit - but perhaps it would make things easier on her new resolution. It was harder get all hopeful and emotionally involved if there was no encouragement from Finn.
Later on that day Gabriel and Finn drove into the city to retrieve Jess's belongings and the car she'd borrowed. Gabriel had asked Jess if she wanted to come with him, rather than Finn, but she'd been in the middle of running the others through gun regulations.
She had thrown the room and car keys at him and then gone back to teaching and bossing everyone around (there were really only a select few times she could boss around wolves, tigers, and leopards, so she relished each and every single one of them.)
Finn spent the trip mostly silent until Gabriel found himself unable to hold his curiosity any longer.
"What did you do to her? And why won't she confide in me about it? You two obviously slept together, but that wouldn't have sent her running like that. She's tougher than she looks - Jess doesn't just run off for no reason." Gabriel said trying to puzzle it out.
Finn wondered how much he should tell him. Clearly she hadn't told Gabriel because she was embarrassed. "We did sleep together. She... She has feelings for me."
Gabriel stared at him for a moment. "And? What? You don't have feelings for her?"
"Of course I do. Jess is... Well she's special. She always has been."
"So what's with all the drama? You like her, she likes you... Why not date or something? Try a relationship together? Hell you could even go the whole hog and mate with her - clearly you're both-"
Gabriel was about to say 'in love' but Finn broke in before he could finish the thought.
"-Because I don't want a mate. I want a friend. I've seen what all you mated couples are like with the arguing, and the tension... You're lucky you haven't all killed each other, I can't live like that I don't have time for it, I'm just looking for fun. Besides, Jess and I would never work. She doesn't want me. Not really."
"Have you heard what you're saying? Because it's pretty much all bullshit, and you know it." Gabriel shook his head and let out a frustrated growl. Finn sounded far too much like him back before he met Max.
Finn stared out the window silently. Gabriel kind of had a point. Maybe.
Reaching the hotel Gabriel parked the car, and they both got out slamming their doors.
It only took a few minutes to locate Jess's room. Walking in Finn let out a low whistle. Jess certainly knew how to pick a hotel room. Gabriel started gathering the clothes she'd left on the bed, checking under the pillow for the knife he knew would be there. Finn opted to check the bathroom.
Ten minutes later Gabriel was done and wondering what the hell was keeping Finn - unless the bathroom was the size of a football field there was no way she could have left too much crap in there.
"You know what your problem is Finn? You're acting like a teenager. You've never wanted to take on more responsibility than Marcus has asked you to. You don't have ambition to lead or set out on your own - which isn't necessarily a bad thing - but you don't ever want that to change. When are you going to grow up?" Gabriel asked swinging the door to the bathroom open.
Finn remained where he stood, staring at the trash can in horror. "Oh I don't know. I'd say that it's going to happen soonish. If it hasn't already."
Frowning in confusion Gabriel looked between the wolf and the trash can before seeing the packaging for a pregnancy test. Both men stood staring for another couple of minutes, both minds racing in opposite directions towards the same conclusion.