8.3

There was no sign of Jerret over the next two days, though nobody discussed it. Jessie spent any un-distracted moment finding spots to look for him to no avail. As Sam put out the fire on the second night she sat in the door of the dead ship staring out into the darkness. He could see her head bob as she started to fall asleep with the dying light, and picked her up to carry her back to the other ship.

“What if he got hurt, Misa?” She muttered drowsily.

“I’m sure he can take care of himself, Jess, he probably just wants to be alone. Like when I’m in my room at home.”

“But he hasn’t come back at all, I can’t smell him.”

“…” Sam couldn’t think of a good response but fortunately she had fallen asleep already. He put her to bed and sat in the open doorway staring out into the woods. The vagrant could take care of himself. Sam could still picture the look in his eyes taking that creature down. He wasn’t as certain the man would come back either. Still, he had a lot of questions and Jessie had a connection of some sort  to him, so they couldn’t leave him behind.

The lights brightened behind him as someone moved in the hallway and he caught a flash of light in the woods before turning around. Jessie was sleepwalking again. He turned her around and guided her back to bed.

Outside he couldn’t hear anything moving, but he stared into the trees where he’d seen the flash until his eyes ached. Nothing appeared and the lights dimmed automatically. He headed inside with one final glance around the area and shut the door.

***

Jessie moped around the clearing the next morning, ignoring the food Sam tried to give her. He’d hauled Calvin over for fresh air and she sat next to him, drawing circles in the dirt silently. Sam sat next to her and put a hand on her head, mussing her hair a little. She paused for a moment then continued tracing a circle.

“Hedgy will be here tomorrow, and then we can all go home.”

She leaned against him but didn’t look up from her circle.

“I’m sure he’ll turn up. And if not, your grandmother will send someone to get him so he can come visit.”

“Oh geez Sam, what’d the poor guy do to deserve that?” Vortran muttered from her seat on the other log. Sam glowered at her and she looked away.

“He probably just doesn’t want to be around me anymore.” Jessie mumbled.

Sam held her close and sighed, “Jess-a-belle, he went way out of his way to protect you, I’m pretty sure he cares about you. Whatever is going on here is complicated adult stuff not involving you.”

She didn’t look entirely convinced but finally focused on the plate of food he once again offered her, “There’s ants on it.”

He looked down and noticed a couple small bugs scurrying around in a panic, “Darn bugs getting everywhere.” He brushed them off onto the dirt and Jessie accepted the plate.

***

Hedgy called in the middle of the night, waking Yik from a nap at the console. Yik woke Sam to give directions and retreated to the kitchen to sleep again.

“You have med stuff right?” Sam uploaded the clearing location for Hedgy and glanced over at Calvin, who was slumped in the corner again and hooked up to fluids.

“Yeah, we’ll hook him up proper first thing. I can take two others and we’ll both head to the nearest station. Anyone else need medical attention?”

“Not that I know of, though the vagrant disappeared a few days ago so I don’t know how he’s doing.”

“Do we need to do a manhunt?” Hedgy looked slightly concerned on the screen.

“No, if he doesn’t turn up I’ll let my mother deal with it.”

“That’s a bit harsh.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that? Anyways if we’re set I’m going back to bed.”

“Yeah, see you in the morning with bells on.”

Sam signed off and turned in his chair to find Jessie ambling out the front of the ship again. He darted down the hall and caught her before she could fall out the open door, turning her around and back to her bed. He shut the door just to be safe with one quick glance outside. The clearing was dark and empty around the ship.

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