Title: Long Time Gone
Characters: Jesse Bailey and the proto-Black Vipers, Clay Bailey
Word count: 976
Lyric-cut credit: from the Dixie Chicks song 'The Long Way Around'.
Author's Note: The first draft of this was lost when my laptop was flattened, but I think I've got this reconstruction as good as it can be, even if it's a fair bit shorter. Do note that I'm basing a bit off of the assumption that sheer rurality is fairly similar everywhere, so yell at me if I've not Americanised enough or included something that applies to rural Devon but is utterly wrong for rural Texas.
Summary: Jesse ups sticks and leaves home for the first and last time.
Long Time Gone
Midnight. The heat of the day rose up from the ground, escaping, while Jesse Bailey sat and stared and waited to do the same. Her eyes raked over her family's land, trying to soak as much of it in as possible. This would be the last time that she would see it from this perspective, if at all. They hadn't really decided where they were going to go.
She got up and checked over her bike for the third One Last Time, glanced at her watch again and saw that it was past midnight. Looking back at the sleeping house, she tried to still the butterflies in her stomach, tried to push the worries aside but didn't quite manage it. What if she didn't wake up? What if her parents had caught her right off the get-go and were making her pack for Houston right now? Jesse bit her lip, and checked over her bike one last time.
"Run away with me," the redhead begged. "My folks want to send me off with family on the other side of the state! If we don't... I'll never see you again, Jesse."
She'd agreed, of course she had. They'd both been drifting away from the rest of the town, going further every time they rode out, ever since they'd discovered what they were. It was the next obvious step.
"Just you, me, our bikes and the open road!" Jesse had crowed, lifting her root beer for a toast.
"And our toolkits," the redhead added, giggling and touching their bottles together. "Don'cha forget!"
"And our toolkits!" Jesse amended, laughing.
It had been a lot easier to laugh when it wasn't right now. It had seemed so easy when they were sitting on the embankment with their bottles of pop, with nothing to really worry about except for getting caught with their hands down each others' blouses. Now, sitting in the dark with Clay's snoring coming through the window... Things didn't seem so certain.
A silhouette emerged from behind the barn, throwing a shadow onto the vegetable patch. "Jesse?" it whispered, and Jesse sighed in relief.
"I was startin' to think you wouldn't make it!" she confessed. "Your folks asleep?"
As she pushed her bike closer, Jesse could just make out the girl's features as she shook her head. "They're playing euchre with the neighbours - I waited as long as I could, but in the end I went outta my window and walked her 'round quiet-like." She indicated the bike as 'her', then kicked the stand down so that she could throw her arms around Jesse's neck and greet her properly.
"We'd best get moving pretty soon." The words left Jesse's mouth reluctantly and a few moments later. Her girlfriend looked up.
"Shoot," she hissed. Jesse turned around.
Rubbing sleep from his eyes; "What're you doing out here, Jesse?" Clay asked. "It's late and..." he trailed off when he saw the other girl. "You!" he barked, his voice sounding harsher than usual. He jumped down from the veranda. "Jesse, get away from that varment - you know what they're saying about her!"
The redhead sneered. "Never took you for a gossip, cowboy."
Taking his sister's arm, Clay tried to pull her away without engaging the other in conversation - but he found he had no choice when Jesse refused to budge. "C'mon, Jesse," he tried to reason. "You don't want folk saying about you what they're sayin' about her..." He looked uncomfortable, but persevered in trying to explain what he meant. "You know, a-" He couldn't say it. "Just stay away from her?" he asked instead.
Jesse was looking more annoyed by the second, but at this stop she wrenched her arm from his grasp. "No way! No way, Big Brother - you are not telling me what to do anymore! We're in love, we're leaving, and there ain't a darn thing you can do about it!" She covered her mouth when she realised that she'd given away their plan, and ran for her bike. The other girl had already turned hers around.
Clay had stood still, frozen with shock and not even lowering the rejected arm, since the "we're in love" line. Love. But the revving motor reanimated him, and he dove at the bike just as it pulled away. He spat the dust from his mouth. "Jesse!" he cried, his adolescent voice cracking like that of a wounded animal, before he scrambled to his feet. Then he ran, paying little heed to the pitted ground as he stumbled over it, the second motor behind him not even registering in his ears.
He almost tripped, but caught himself and slowed down. "Jesse!" he shouted again, but she was gone and he couldn't keep up. The dry wind made his eyeballs prickle.
As if to add insult to injury, the redhead came up behind him, laughing, and knocked off his hat with an outstretched arm. "Come back here, you no-good Snake in the grass!" he cried angrily at the escaping girl who had stolen his sister away.
Out in front, Jesse heard the shout, and her eyes widened. No-good snake in the grass? She might have expected it from Daddy - he was old-fashioned that way - but... Clay?
She'd slowed down, she noticed, but had to wipe her eyes on the back of a glove that really wasn't suited to the purpose before she could do anything about it. Stupid Clay. Her goggles wouldn't do much good now - but maybe she could blame any tears on forgetting them. What did she need a brother for anyway, huh?
"Yee-ha!" her exuberant partner-in-crime cried when she caught up, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "A'right, Jesse? Let's get this show on the road!"
Her good mood was infectious, but not infectious enough. "To Freedom!" Jesse shouted back, hiding it, and they rode on until morning. They were in this together, now, and there was no use heeding the voice back behind that woefully called her name.