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Jesse crouched in the forest. He dug through the backpack, hope against hope, that someone had thrown a weapon in there. Anything.

There was nothing.

He let out a groan and sunk to the ground when he heard Skye say she would be going with Kelsey. Losing one of them would have been bad enough.

Jesse scanned the road from the depression he laid in. What can I do? Think like Dylan.

But Jack's men had guns on everyone. If there was a move, Jesse couldn't see it.

Skye circled the car and got in beside Kelsey. All Jesse wanted to do is put his hands to his head, but he couldn't do that. His mom needed him. Kelsey needed him.

When Jack's cars pulled away, Jesse ran up the leaf-covered forest to the edge of the road. As soon as they were all past the curve, he rushed to Spencer and Reed.

"Are you all okay?"

"Yeah," Reed said, carefully pushing himself off the ground. He pulled up his shirt to find a large bruise already forming.

Spencer had a hand to his head. "A bit dizzy, but I'll survive."

"Can you follow 'em? Follow from a distance as far as you can."

Reed gave him a serious look. "What about you?"

"I'll back down to the store and get a car. I'll drive back home. Get Dylan his meds. Maybe the other men are back. If not, I'll get who I can. We'll come back here. Leave sign when you turn off this road."

"With what?"

Spencer's eyes lit up. "Hey, ain't there some paint in the truck with the building supplies? Let's grab some of that. We'll paint the road. You won't miss it!"

Jesse nodded and turned to go.

"Jesse," Reed said. "Wait. I think one of us should be with you."

Jesse disagreed. "I'm just going home. It's almost danger-free. You are following them, and you don't know what you're getting into. The two of you need to be together. You're the strongest."

"I'm not sure about that, kid. You're pretty tough yourself, but I get your meaning. Okay then, be careful. Take it slow around those curves, and if you see anything fishy, run."

"I will." Jesse ran to the side of the road, preferring to take the shortest route, straight down the forested mountain instead of the winding road. He skidded and rolled, grabbing on to the trunks of trees when he could, using the brush as ropes to hang onto. By the time he reached the bottom, he was covered with small cuts and bruises. But he'd been hurt more over nothing, and this was for Skye and Kelsey.

His boots hit the pavement with a thud. He looked down both sides of the road, then ran across to the superstore parking lot. Now he had to pray that at least one of those cars had some keys hanging in them—and started.

Jesse went to the closest car, a red Ford Sudan. The front door was open, and he slid behind the wheel. No keys in the ignition. He pulled down both visors, and check the glove box, as well as, under the floor mats. Nothing.

A newer car, all the tricks Skye had taught him for hot-wiring a vehicle would be of little use. He moved to the next one.

A blue Honda Civic. It was locked. Jesse peered through all the windows and spotted the keys in the ignition. He looked around the ground for a rock big enough to smash the window. Not seeing one, he rushed to the side of the parking lot and pulled one from among the weeds.

Jesse ran back to the Civic and smashed the rock against the passenger side window. The window shook a bit but stayed intact. He tried again. Still nothing.

Jesse gritted his teeth and gave it everything he had. He jumped back as the glass shattered, then ran to the driver's side, sweeping some of the small pieces out of his way and throwing the rock out the door.

On turning the key, the engine hummed, but Jesse frowned when the gas gauge barely climbed past empty. Checking the other cars, he had no success. The Honda was the best of all of them. He jumped in and slammed the front door shut, turning the car toward home.

Jesse drove faster than he should have, but careful enough not to endanger himself. Since the beginning, Skye, Dylan, and Wade had been teaching him anything and everything to survive. It was the way it was with all the kids, and adults too. Everyone needed to know as much as possible. It would mean the difference between life and death one day. Not everyone was good at everything, but a person had to at least know.

That's why even though Jesse was a young driver, he was not the youngest. If a kid could reach the pedals, they started lessons.

He kept the window down to hear anything that would possibly be coming his way and scoured any driveways for vehicles. But by the time the Civic was sputtering on the last bit of gas, Jesse had still not come across any cars to continue his journey. Too few houses, and fewer cars. This area was poor, and most families were more likely to have only one car. If they had taken off to greener pastures during this epidemic, they had taken it.

Jesse got out of the car and kicked its tire in anger. He clamped down his jaw when it caught his little toe the wrong way and a pain shot up his foot. "Are you kiddin me?" He hopped a few times before the pain subsided, and he started his walk.

He stopped at any house that had a garage or vehicle, carefully making his way up the drive to check it out. But there were few. And they seemed even further apart now that he was walking. But finally in the late afternoon, tired and thirsty, he found a red, beat-up truck on the side of the road.

Jesse snorted, remembering the story of how Dylan and Skye met. Maybe old, red trucks are a thing for them. Maybe it would be what saved Dylan.

Jesse opened the unlocked front door and saw the keys hanging in the ignition as if it had been waiting for him. He settled himself in the driver's seat and threw up a little prayer as he turned the key. This vehicle didn't hum, it rumbled and choked, but it was running. And it had half a tank of gas, more than enough to get home.

Pulling away from the roadside, Jesse overcorrected. There was so much play in the steering wheel, he felt like he was learning to drive all over again. But he got the hang of driving what seemed like a big boat soon enough.

Dusk was almost upon him as he got closer to Cole's mountain. Once the lookouts knew it was him, they radioed ahead to the other guards.

When he pulled up in front of Doc Kinder's house, Wade was outside waiting for him. One look at Wade's large, bear-like frame almost had Jesse in tears. He'd been trying to be strong for so long now. His shoulders sagged in relief. For a little bit, it was someone else's turn.

Jesse hopped out of the truck dragging the backpack with him. Wade met him at the front of the vehicle and said, "How ya doin, little man?"

Jesse choked up, and unable to speak, hung his head and shook it. He watched a tear drip from his face to the ground and felt a flush of shame overtake him.

Wade pulled Jesse into a hug and looked over the strange vehicle, then looked at the guard with a question on his face. The guard shook his head letting Wade know Jesse was alone. "You're home now, Jesse. Let's take one thing at a time. What's in the backpack?"

Jesse sobbed out his answer. "Meds. He's alive still, ain't he?"

"Yes, he is. But he needs these real bad. So let's get these to Doc, and then we'll have a conversation about what else needs talked about." Wade squeezed Jesse to him a couple of times. "You're home now, Son."

Jesse nodded, and the two rushed up to the porch and through the front door. 

A/N: Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the chapter, please click the little star below. :)

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