Chapter Twenty-One: Enough
Once the song had finally ended, the various Alliance kids drifted back to their original dates, some stepping outside for fresh air, others circulating around the dance floor to find other groups of friends or rejoin the center of the dance floor.
Jesse had thanked Keisha for the dance, led her back over to Eric, and started to head outside to clear his head a little when he heard a familiar voice behind him.
"So…things over with you and Mark before it even began?"
Jesse could hear Jordan's sarcasm dripping even over the blasting music. "I could've said the same for you a couple of weeks ago."
"Very funny," Jordan replied, and Jesse could see in the darkness Jordan was actually smiling faintly. Jordan's smiles were rarely ever an indication of anything good, and it was perhaps for that reason Jesse felt his heart clench up in his chest a little when faced with one of those familiar, indecent smirks. "Are you heading outside?"
Jesse wanted to say, No, not anymore if you're going too, but somehow those words didn't want to come out of his mouth. Dammit, what was wrong with him? He was able to say goodbye to Mark, he was able to tell them both off for their (and his) childish behavior, but always when he was alone, face to face with Jordan...
Jesse merely gave a shrug in reply.
Jordan made a beeline to the door and Jesse, once again against his better judgment, followed him. They passed the outside of the auditorium, beyond the couples being far more than intimate with one another, past the roped-off section of the school and to the edge of the science wing, completely empty from prying eyes, snooping chaperones, and any stragglers who might have snuck out of the dance for a smoke.
Jordan turned to Jesse, looking squarely at him. "You wanna know something, Jesse?"
"Do I have a choice?" Jesse replied with as innocent a tone as he could get away with.
Jordan ignored him. "I'm sure you probably think this is normal for me, chasing after you like this, but really? It's annoying as shit."
"You have a funny way of showing it." Jesse replied evenly. "Besides, I'd think you of all people would find the chase fun," Jesse said with as much sarcasm as he could muster while still trying to remain polite.
Jesse thought about that for a moment. Really thought about it. Did he? This constant game of 'will he or won't he,' this stupid battle with his brain about what he should be doing versus what he wanted to do. "I...No." And it was the truth. Jesse felt weird admitting it, but there it was. He wasn't having fun with the chase. Fuck the chase. He just wanted it to be over.
Just like that, Jesse was on him. Jesse didn't know how it happened--did he ever when he was with Jordan? Jordan was caught completely off guard as Jesse grabbed hold of Jordan's shoulders and pushed him against the wall of the science wing building, the stucco walls scratching him even through his overcoat. Jesse was straddling the younger boy against the wall, capturing his mouth. Jordan didn't want to chase anymore? Fine. Jesse would stop running.
It wasn't like he could escape anyway--Jesse gasped as Jordan's hand slid down his front--for some inexplicable reason, Jesse kept coming back. This damn dance was the crowning proof of it; he told both Mark and Jordan off. And what good did it do? Jesse had spent the rest of the dance obsessing over him--a sharp intake of breath as Jordan's hand slid further and Jesse's hands found themselves underneath Jordan's shirt, clutching his back, fingers intertwined in feathers--but here he was, pressed up against Jordan like the entire conversation had never happened.
Around them, the weeds and grass we sprouting up rapidly, growing wildly as Jesse's breath quickened. Jordan broke their kiss for a moment when he heard the soft swishing of the grass shooting up and chanced a look around him, saying with a very self-satisfied grin, "I didn't know you could do that..."
Jesse did, but it wasn't something he really felt comfortable with talking about. A couple of lonely nights and suddenly he discovered his own temporary Miracle-Gro. Unable to think of a witty reply as all the blood in his body seemed to be rushing to the wrong head thanks to Jordan's wayward hands, Jesse could only let out a low moan in reply, which immediately caused his cheeks to redden and his pulse to quicken.
A little too quick.
All movement suddenly came to a halt. The weeds that had been sprouting so rapidly abruptly stopped and tauntingly shrank back to their normal height. Jesse's face was tomato red in the darkness, and Jordan looked fairly put out, but amused. "I barely touched you."
Jesse thought seriously about creating a hole in the ground and crawling into it. "Sorry, I..." Jesse's voice was rough, and he cleared his throat and said a little stronger, "We should...uh...probably head back inside. Before people notice we're gone..."
"Oh, no." Jordan protested, another evil little smirk creeping onto his face. He pulled Jesse onto him, against the wall and said, "You started this mess, you're going to finish it."
"I thought I did finish it."
"This right here?" Jordan rubbed himself against Jesse for emphasis. "This isn't finished."
Jesse learned a few moments later, Jordan took an impossibly long time. Maybe he was holding it to spite him--or shame him. "God, hurry up," Jesse muttered around Jordan's mouth, Jordan still leaned up against him, kisses indecent and impatient.
"Well...stop jerking it around like a damn fish," Jordan grunted softly.
"I am not."
Another low moan from Jordan. "Do you--" Jordan sucked in a breath, "--need help or something?"
"Look, I know how to--I mean--"
"Yeah, I'm sure you do," Jordan replied cheekily, and inhaled sharply.
But Jesse didn't get a chance to find out how long it took Jordan to finish; a dull, but rising roar could be heard coming from around the north side of the school, where the auditorium was, and Jesse and Jordan both looked up expectantly.
They pulled away from each other, straightening themselves up--Jesse finding use for his handkerchief shoved in his dress shirt pocket--and Jordan stood still for a moment, listening. He quirked his head sharply to the left and said slowly, "Screaming...something's going on in there."
"Screaming, in the auditorium." Jordan said, and just like that, it was like the past however many minutes were forgotten. "It sounds like—arghk!" Jordan winced, and sunk to the ground in pain, clutching his ears. "Too…loud…" Jordan cursed and balled himself on the ground, blood leaking between his fingers as he struggled to cup his ears.
"Jordan?! Jor—arrhhh!" Sharp pricks of pain erupted all over his body, and Jesse felt like his skin was being stabbed by dozens of quarter-sized points—his vines were all simultaneously forcing their way out of his skin, growing within him and then forcing their way out. "Stop it…!" he tried to command them, falling to the ground beside Jordan helplessly. Around him, the grass and trees were growing and dying, sprouting and wilting in rapid succession, over and over again in a vicious cycle as Jesse's screams grew louder.
Inside the auditorium, the situation wasn't much better.
Blaze had begun sneezing, and with each one she gave, another streamer or balloon caught on fire and then sizzled out, ashes and sparks falling to the ground as people screamed and scrambled to get out of the way. It figured--she finally gotten sick, but not until she had escaped from the lab. What was the point in that?
Michael had short-circuited the entire sound booth, the remaining mood lighting, and unknowingly caused anyone who came near him to receive a powerful electric shock. Cody had scrambled to get away from Michael as wherever he stepped, water pipes erupting from the floor beneath him and bursting at his feet, flooding the auditorium so that people were starting to take spectacular spills when they attempted to run across the unknowingly soaked floor.
Vanessa was barely recognizable, her panic causing her body to attempt to shapeshift and mimic into anyone she caught even the faintest glimpse of. Her hair was disheveled and resembled a bird's nest with the different textures of braided, curly, wavy, straight, and coarse hair fighting for dominance. Her clothing was in rags, hanging about her in a mix of dress shirt scraps and faux-prom dresses; her skin, muddled and splotchy.
Karen's struggle to keep her own soul within her body was causing some sort of pull with anyone around her; auras of all sorts of different colors and shapes were being sucked from their respective bodies, and people were dropping dead all around her as she fought to push the souls back in.
Jace was slipping in and out of both tangibility and invisibility; Eric had grabbed onto his hand to keep him from slipping into the ground and down into God-only-knew-where, but found his hand to be continuously passing right through Jace's as if he were trying to hold onto air.
Eric was already having trouble concentrating on keeping a grip of Jace as everyone's frantic thoughts within the room were screaming in his mind, talking over themselves and pounding inside of his skull. Mass hysteria was taking place entirely within his own head, and he clutched one hand to his temple and the other to Jace's hand. There voices, their shrieks and cries jackhammered inside of his head, blocking out his own thoughts. He couldn't shut them out, and they only became louder when he tried. Confusion. Fear. Anger. Pain. He couldn't get them to shut up, and his temples throbbed as he clutched at the air feebly where Jace's hand should have been. Didn't they know how loudly they were thinking. He squeezed his eyes shut, sinking to the floor as he felt his head splitting open.
Another voice now...desperate, close by, pleading not with some random outside force, pleading with him. With Eric. Jace was steadily slipping out of his reach, and sinking further into the ground.
Jace's plea finally drowned out all the others. Eric let go of his forehead and with all the strength he had, pushed his hand out towards Jace, mixed-matched eyes rolling in the back of his head, currents of psionic strength coursing from his mind to his arm. His free hand began to shake as he focused his power and he reasoned that if Jace wasn't near the ground, he wouldn't risk phasing through it. Maybe it was a futile attempt, maybe his telekinesis didn't work that way, but it was worth a try.
Eric slowly opened his eyes, and saw an astonished Jace hovering slightly above the floor as though he were on invisible strings, Eric still gripping Jace's rapidly disappearing hand so that his body was floating like some kind of hovering, low-flying kite.
"Are…are you doing that?" Jace whispered.
"I think so…" Eric replied in a similarly astonished tone.
And then, just like that—everything stopped. Eric's momentary burst of competence in his abilities vanished and Jace fell to the ground like a led balloon, but remained solid. The souls Karen was trying to usher back into their respective hosts drifted back into their bodies, reviving the people who had fallen around her as she herself was sucked back into her own body. The sound system and lights cut back on, the flames extinguished, the water pipes submerged back into the ground, and Vanessa found herself looking a little frazzled and tousled, but herself.
Outside, Jesse's vines had finally sucked themselves back into him like limp noodles while the flora returned to it's natural state, if not a little fuller. Jordan removed his hands from his ears and frowned at the blood covering his palms, noticing the reaction it caused from Jesse. Jesse, pale and shaken, had reached out to help Jordan wipe off the blood, but Jordan only brushed his hands against his pants to clear it off. Above them, the storm clouds that had been threatening their festivities all night finally came through with their promise, droplets of rain beginning to plink down on them, and the two quickly sought shelter back towards the auditorium.