My name is Jake. Just Jake. I can't give you my last name or where I live. If you're reading this, you probably know why-the Yeerks. You also probably know that my brother has one inside his head.
I was infested with one for three days, almost a year ago. With my brother's first Yeerk, of all Yeerks. That slug is dead, now.
My brother is still a Controller. He still has a Yeerk wrapped around his head. Except, this Yeerk doesn't really control him against his will. She's part of the Peace Movement, which is a small group of Yeerks who don't want to be conquerers or enslavers. They want hosts, sure, but only ones who want them there. They also don't take control all of the time.
At least, Tom's doesn't. Her name is Liliss 325, and she's been his Yeerk since his first one was supposed to be promoted, but ended up being starved from my head. Long story.
It's been a little weird, to be honest. I was thrilled to have my big brother back, but I always assumed that it would be Tom alone, not Tom with a decent Yeerk. It's not that I don't trust Tom or Liliss. It's just still kind of weird.
It's been a week since I found out.
Maybe, it will feel less weird over time. I trust Tom, and if he says that Liliss is decent and hasn't hurt him or anything, I believe him. Right now, though...
I called a meeting for yesterday evening, because I knew Tom had a Sharing meeting. They always meet on Friday evenings. Tom told me that he and Liliss usually go to the Yeerk Pool before, because it's in the same place. Saves time, I guess. Tom's officially involuntary, even though he and Liliss are friends, to avoid any suspicion. It might be weird if a known involuntary host suddenly became voluntary. At least, that's what they think, and I am hardly one to pretend to know better.
Anyway, Tom headed to The Sharing that afternoon, and I made an excuse about a school project with Marco and Cassie to miss dinner. We all headed to Cassie's barn using our bird morphs, demorphing a little ways from her barn.
Cassie opened the door, and I saw that Ax and Tobias were already inside, both in their regular bodies. The rest of us gathered around an open space, several feet from the cages of injured animals.
Without making it too obvious, they were waiting for me to speak.
"Hey," I began, managing a smile. "Look, first off, I want to say this isn't an emergency or anything. Erek hasn't told us about any new Yeerk plans. It's more..." I frowned a little, trying to think of the right word or phrase. "I know the last one was kind of unexpected."
"That's an understatement," laughed Marco. "Hey, you know how my brother is a Yeerk slave? Well, turns out his Yeerk is on our side."
Cassie frowned and Rachel flat out glared at Marco.
I had to laugh. Yeah, Marco would be the one to break the ice.
"Right," I agreed, still smiling, "and, without Tom and Liliss here, I wanted to see how you were all doing."
"How are you doing, Jake?" Cassie asked, quietly. "I know that I would think it was a lot to take in."
I nodded, swallowed. "I'm glad he's okay. I mean, he's still a Controller, but it seems like if he has to be one, Liliss isn't too bad. She's left his head a couple times in the last week, too, and it's not like Tom tries to run or anything. When he puts her back in his ear, it's pretty much the same thing." I shrugged. "She's not hurting him."
There was a pause as what I didn't say sunk in. I hadn't told the others much about my time as Temrash's host, but I had revealed that he'd been Tom's Yeerk first, and he'd really hurt him.
"I know it's not what we'd pictured," Rachel spoke up, "and you wouldn't catch me dead with a Yeerk in my head, Peace Movement or not," she continued with force. "But if this Peace Movement is on our side and Tom's our connection, and he doesn't mind...Well, the enemy of our enemy is our friend."
"And he doesn't, does he?" Marco asked. "You see him a lot more than we do."
I shook my head. "I mean, I'm not in his head, but it seems like they're friends."
(What I do not fully comprehend,) Ax began, (is why Tom's Yeerk would not have freed him at the beginning?)
"Tom explained that," I answered, glad that I had an answer to this question. "Being underage, Tom can't just go missing and flee the country or something without the authorities getting involved."
(Yeah. Too many Controllers to make the connection that he's an escaped Controller,) Tobias put in. (Underage kid and a Controller goes missing? Bad combo.)
I wondered how Aftran had managed to free Karen, then.
Cassie had reported seeing her since, and learning that she was free.
Maybe, they'd told Karen's parents, even showed proof, and then gone into hiding. Her dad was a billionaire, after all.
I cleared my throat, forcing myself to concentrate on the matter at hand.
"Right. Plus, Tom told me he couldn't manage being in control for very long at the beginning," I added. "It took awhile to get to where he was now."
"Like Chapman," Rachel recalled, speaking softer than usual. At the blank stares, she added, "The real one asked the Yeerk to speak directly to Visser Three. When he wanted Melissa infested. He could hardly move or speak on his own."
"I don't know if Tom was ever that bad. We saw him the first time we were at the Pool. But he broke before Liliss was assigned to him." I crossed my arms, holding back a shudder. "If it was like that, yeah, Liliss wouldn't have been able to free him. It would have been too obvious."
"I think," Cassie spoke up, her voice gentle, "that Liliss made the best choice she could given the circumstances. She clearly believes in the Peace Movement, and her last human being murdered can't have made her happy with the empire. I am sure that she would have liked nothing more than to free Tom, both for his sake and to stick it to the empire." This got a laugh all around. "But she couldn't. Tom was underage and hurt. There was no way she could pull it off. So, she did the best she could. She gave Tom control and helped him get better."
"It worked," I allowed. "He seems to be doing good, now."
Cassie smiled her gentle smile at me. "Yes. Also, if Liliss freed him and he was caught, they could have been reassigned to a much crueler Yeerk."
I knew that she was right. I had told myself that, too. More than once.
"Yeah, I know." I shrugged. "I guess this will just take some getting used to. Living with an evil slug is almost second nature. A good one just feels weird."
"Man," Marco mused, holding back a shudder, "even if Visser One went all nice and brought my mom back home, I would be weirded out too. I would still want to squish her."
"I don't think there's enough good she could do to make up for what she did to your family," Rachel answered with force. "I would never forgive her, if I were you."
"Ha, Xena and I agree on something!" Marco retorted. Then, he looked wistful, then angry. "I'm not going to give up on freeing my mom."
"You shouldn't," I assured him. "Don't ever give up."
I arrived home before Tom, and was working on Biology in the kitchen when he came in. My initial familiar feelings of wariness and fear were replaced by happiness and some guilt. Like I had done something wrong by having a second meeting with the other Animorphs, even though I was pretty sure he wouldn't have minded had I told him.
He gave me a grin, a real grin, as he sat down and began his work. Tom hadn't been kidding about Liliss enhancing his abilities. He was twice as fast as I remembered.
"Show off," I muttered, still on my Biology chapter when he switched to his third subject.
"Who, me?" Tom reached over and tousled my hair. "I am just really, really smart."
"Modest, too," I answered with an eye roll. And a grin.
"Yes, and extremely humble." Tom took a look at my book. "To be fair, Physics is way easier than Bio."
"Maybe with...you know," I muttered, nodding at his head.
"Oh, naturally. That stuff comes easy to her." Tom pulled his math book from his bag. "If you need any help, Midget..."
I shook my head. "Almost done."
"Okay. Offer always stands, though." Tom put a hand on mine. "I mean it."
I nodded, managed a smile. "Thanks."
Tom finished all of his work and I finished about two thirds by the time I was tired enough to turn in. After Tom pulled me me into a bear hug, which was a regular enough occurrence that I hardly thought twice about it, we headed upstairs. We took turns in the bathroom before Tom headed to my room. Having gone first, I was already in bed.
We'd started sleeping next to each other after I woke Tom up by screaming bloody murder from a nightmare. I always slept with my door closed for this reason, but given that our rooms were right across the hall, there wasn't much I could do to stifle my screams. Tom offered to stay with me after witnessing the after effects of one, and I had been too freaked out by it to say no with any conviction.
Really, it was kind of nice. Maybe it was something about sleeping next to Tom (okay, more like half crushed to death in a bear hug, but in a good way) but I felt a whole lot safer than I had since this whole war began, and hadn't had any nightmares since.
That being said, I would probably die of embarrassment if any of the other Animorphs found out, and Marco would never let me live it down, so Tom's under strict orders not to tell anyone.
Thinking about my friends filled me with guilt again. Really, I should have told Tom that we were meeting. Until he got infested, we hadn't kept secrets from each other.
My face must have given something away, because as soon as Tom saw me, his expression changed from happy to concerned. I could tell by the way his eyebrows narrowed a little.
"You okay, Midget?" Tom asked, standing next to me.
I considered lying, or putting it off, but figured I might as well bite the bullet. I sat up in the bed, and forced myself to look at him.
"Can we talk? Just us?" I specified.
"Yeah, sure." Tom put an arm on my shoulder, then nodded at the bed. "Mind if I sit down?"
At my nod, Tom crawled in, and I moved over so he wouldn't have to jump over me. A minute later, Liliss came out, and Tom held a very stretched out Yeerk in his hand. He turned back to me, looking intent.
"What's wrong, Jake?"
He spoke softly, and right then, my biggest fear was that he would be angry at me. It was almost like a year ago, when I learned that I had been one of the kids in my grade not to make the team. I almost wished I would get swallowed up walking home so I wouldn't have to tell Tom.
"I called a meeting earlier," I began.
Tom nodded. "To see how everyone felt about having a Controller as an ally?"
I was surprised, but maybe it should have been obvious.
"And to figure out what it would be like with you being that Controller ally," I added. "Um, I believe you and Liliss. It's just kind of..."
Weird, sure. But we had passed weird almost a year ago.
"Not what you expected? Kind of a disappointment?" Tom asked, softly.
"I guess," I admitted. "All this time, I fought to free you, Tom."
He nodded. "And being host to a Peace Movement Yeerk doesn't totally square with that?"
I sighed. "Yeah."
"It's not exactly what I expected either, Jake," Tom reminded me. "Of course, by the time she came along, I thought the only freedom would be in death."
"I know," I admitted, remembering the memory Temrash had shown me.
"I tried to kill myself. More than once," Tom continued, looking at me intently. Studying me. "Even when I got Liliss, it took months before I stopped wanting to die."
I hadn't known that. "Why?"
"Because I was sure it was an elaborate torture scheme," Tom explained. "Get my hopes up, maybe even get me comfortable with using my body again, and then BAM. Evil Yeerk takes over."
I nodded. It made sense. Might have even been something some Yeerks did, like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it.
"What changed?" I asked, quietly.
Tom reached over, put an arm around my shoulder, and I felt myself lean against him.
"I guess the big thing was Aftran, but it was so many little things. Her constant encouragement. Her mental hugs. The fact that she never lost her cool, even when I fought for control." Tom put his other arm around me. "I realized, finally, that she wasn't going to hurt me. That, as much as I could be, I was safe."
I nodded. "I trust you, Tom. I know that if you trust Liliss, she's on our side." Not that I would trade places with Tom. Decent or not, I would never let a Yeerk in my head. Not without a fight, anyway.
"I get it's going to take you some time to adjust. Hell, Midget, it took me months. Just, talk to me, okay? Don't feel like you need to hide anything," he added, giving my shoulders a squeeze.
"For what?" Tom asked, frowning.
"For not telling you about the meeting before," I answered, looking up at him.
Tom rolled his eyes. "You told me now. Like I said, you didn't do anything wrong, Jake."
I nodded, then took a deep breath. "I guess you should put her back."
Tom squeezed my shoulders again. "Just because she's there doesn't mean we can't talk, okay?
I watched as Tom removed Liliss from my comforter (ew!) and put her to his ear. He made a slight face when she started to crawl inside, but he relaxed almost immediately.
"Always stings for a second before the painkiller sets in," he explained, soothingly. "The painkiller is working full force now."
A thought occurred to me. "Is there any long term damage with your hearing? With her doing that every three days?"
Tom shook his head, but more slowly than normal. Probably because Liliss was still making her way in to his brain.
"I asked about that. The painkiller repairs any damage to the ear. Good thing for Yeerks, too, because it would be super easy for you guys to figure out who's infested. Almost anyone who's been deaf for a short period of time," Tom answered, with a grin. "Okay, she's connected, but it's still me."
Tom put his second arm around me again, holding me in an almost hug. I couldn't hide a yawn.
"Ready for bed?" He asked, softly enough I knew it was a question and not a decision on his end.
"Yeah, I think so," I agreed.
"I'll tuck you in," Tom offered, pulling up the covers.
"I'm not a baby," I half grumbled.
"I know that. But you are a midget," Tom laughed. "Now, let me tuck you in, before the midget bed bugs eat you."
Rolling my eyes, I got under the blankets. Tom tucked the covers over us, pulling me into an extra tight bear hug.
"I can't breathe!" I protested, which was half true.
Tom loosened his grip enough so that I could take deep breaths without feeling like my lungs were being crushed.
"Thanks. That's better," I mumbled, resting my head against his shoulders.
He laughed, letting go with one arm just long enough to tousle my hair, and then pulled me back into a bear hug.
"Sweet dreams, Midget."
I yawned, nestling close to my big brother (and his Yeerk).
"You too," I managed through another yawn.