When Brynn drifts back to consciousness she doesn't want to move. It feels like she's surrounded by a pleasant warmth all around her, enveloping her in a cocoon of safety and comfort. She wonders what it is, though, because her blankets are soft and fluffy but not this good. Her eyes open, vision blurry with drowsiness which she tries to blink away to focus on the green numbers of her clock. It's a little after ten in the morning. She groans, pressing the side of her face into the pillow. She should probably get up now, before Jack decides to drag her out of bed feet first again.
She's just steeling herself to sit up when something moves behind her and something tightens around her waist, the stirring bringing with it the fresh smell of pine trees. Then she remembers. Seth and Sara have returned. The bed in front of her is empty meaning Sara must already be up, but Seth is still here, spooned around her from behind with an arm around her waist. Carefully, she turns to lay on her other side, facing Seth. He's sound asleep, mouth slightly open, and she just stares at him for a few moments. It's hard to believe that this is real, that Seth is here with her, like this. That he gets to stay. They have a real chance now to be together, to find out where a relationship is going to take them. She's a little nervous. She's never had a boyfriend before. Everyone at school always avoided her because of who her father is. But Sara said she's never seen Seth care about anyone like he cares about Brynn. That probably means he's in the same boat she's in. But they can figure this out. Together.
Seth breathes in deeply, tightening his hold on her, and then his eyes slowly open. When he sees her a soft, sleepy smile lights his face. "Good morning."
She smiles back, snuggling closer. "Morning. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, I did actually."
She raises a hand to his face, touching the dark circle under one eye with her fingertip. He definitely looks better, more rested, but there is still a heavy air of exhaustion about him. "Then why do you look like you were run over by a freight train?"
He takes her hand and presses her fingers to his lips. "When we returned home, my parents, sister, and I worked tirelessly on the project to save our planet."
"I can understand that. The situation on Sorrel must be getting worse by the day. You need a solution as fast as possible." She squeezes his hand. "But did you really need to run yourself ragged? You look horrible."
"I did push myself. Hard. But it was not just for my people. It was so I could return to you."
That is either the stupidest or the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for her. Brynn tries to be mad at him for working himself so hard just for her, but she already knows what he'll say. So she just snuggles closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and their legs tangling together. "I missed you, too."
Seth presses his face into her hair, breathing in. "Yes, very much so." He brushes hair away from her face, kissing her forehead. "What about you? The nightmares have returned?"
"Yeah," she says with a sigh. "They've been bad. Especially since Mr. Wolfe has made it abundantly clear he isn't simply going to let me go."
Seth's eyes go hard. "He's been after you again?"
She nods. "He just won't leave me alone, Seth. I don't know what to do."
He shifts so that he's lying on his back, drawing Brynn to his side with her head resting on his shoulder. Like he can keep her safe just by eliminating as much space between them as possible. "You lived with him the majority of your life, correct?"
"Then you know what goes on inside his house and the workings of his operation. Is there some secret you could use against him? Something he would do anything to protect?"
A secret that she knows? Mr. Wolfe keeps everything pretty close to his chest. Not even Sebastian, the person who would probably be considered closest to Mr. Wolfe, knows all of the details of what goes on in the gang. How is she supposed to know anything then? She's his pet. He keeps her on a short leash, locked away until he decides to play with her. She doesn't know about his "business" at all. He keeps all of that out of her reach in his study.
She grins, propping herself up on her elbows to lean over Seth. "You are amazing, you know that?"
He quirks an eyebrow at her, an amused smirk spreading across his face. "I am not going to argue with you but what exactly brought you to that conclusion?"
Instead of answering she kisses him and then jumps out of bed, running excitedly out of her room and down the stairs in search of the others. She finds them in the living room, Jack reading the paper, Alex reading a science journal, and Sara on the floor playing with Junkyard. When she comes bounding into the room they look up at her.
"Hey, kiddo," Jack says. "About time you decided to get up."
"Guys, I need your help with something," Brynn says, her mind already racing a mile a minute with her plan. It's crazy and dangerous and if they get caught they will live only just long enough to regret it. But if they succeed….
"Brynn," Sara says, looking confused as to what she hears going on inside Brynn's head, "are you sure about this?"
"Sure about what?" Seth asks, having caught up and coming to stand beside Brynn.
Alex sets her science journal aside on the coffee table. "Yeah, what's going on?"
Brynn bites her lip nervously, but yeah, she's sure about this. It's the only way. "I need your help to break into Mr. Wolfe's house."
Two weeks later…
Jack's car pulls through the gate of Mr. Wolfe's house, the mansion that had been Brynn's home for sixteen years looming ahead. It comes to a stop and one of his men opens the doors for them. The five of them pile out, heading inside with men flanking them. Mr. Wolfe is trying to intimidate them and regain some of the advantage he's lost. After some serious planning they were able to break in and out of his house without setting off a single alarm, thanks to Seth's and Sara's abilities. Of course, Mr. Wolfe doesn't know they had extraterrestrial help. The break in made him appear weak and defenseless to his men. And they were able to take something very precious to him. Brynn clutches the strap to her messenger bag in her hands, keeping her head held high. This time, she has the upper hand. This time, she's going to make him squirm.
They're taken straight to Mr. Wolfe's study, where he stands at the window with his back turned to them. He seems perfectly calm but his hands are clasped firmly behind his back, knuckles turning white. He is furious, Brynn can feel it in her bones, and it won't take much to set him off. She swallows thickly as she steps into the room. There are two chairs in front of the desk but Brynn just stays standing, too nervous to sit. Suddenly she's thinking about all the ways this could go wrong. They've walked into the lion's den. There may be no walking back out.
Seth's hand touches the small of her back and she takes in a breath, not realizing that she had been holding it. It reminds her that she's not alone. She doesn't have to face her father alone, like all the times before. Seth, Sara, Jack, and Alex are all standing with her.
"So the mongrel returns," Mr. Wolfe says, his voice dark, cold. He turns to face them and there's no trace of the false friendliness he showed last time. Now it is just the storm. "Have you come back to grovel before your master, mongrel?"
Brynn clenches her hands at her sides. No. No more. She will no longer be his mongrel. "I'm not here to grovel," she tells him. "I'm here to make you grovel."
He sits down at his desk, folding his hands neatly in front of him. "Oh really?"
"Yes. Because I have something you want." She pulls out a book from her bag. Mr. Wolfe's ledger, where he records all of the gang's dealings, from every drug distributer to every weapons cache. "If the police gets ahold of this your entire empire comes crumbling down."
"And what's to stop me," he leans forward, eyes gleaming, "from simply taking my ledger from you right now and slitting all of your throats?"
Seth steps in front of her protectively. "If you want to touch her you will have to go through me," he warns, but Mr. Wolfe doesn't even bat an eyelash. Instead, he laughs.
"Why, Brynnley, have you turned into your mother at last and slithered your way into this boy's heart in order to gain his measly protection? It won't do you any good. We both know it didn't help Samantha."
"Don't you talk about my mom like that!" Brynn snaps, moving out from behind Seth to stand next to him. He shoots her a disapproving look but she ignores him. "She wasn't like you. We don't treat people like playthings to be used and then thrown away."
He shakes his head in amusement. "You are so naive, Brynnley. But believe what you will. There is still no denying that I am a part of you. You have my blood."
"Brynn is nothing like you," Seth growls. "Blood is the only thing you share."
Mr. Wolfe narrows his eyes at Seth. "I tire of this little pet of yours, Brynnley." He snaps his fingers and his men draw their guns.
"You touch any of us and I will end you!" Brynn says, eyes hard and steady, making sure they know she's not bluffing. The men hesitate, glancing at Mr. Wolfe.
"You keep saying that but I find it hard to believe."
Sara touches Brynn's arm. "Brynn, his patience is wearing out. It will not be long before he decides to simply kill us. You must act quickly."
Brynn nods almost imperceptibly. It's now or never. "Do you really think we didn't prepare for this? Why do you think it took us a couple of days to approach you after stealing the ledger right from under your nose?" His jaw clenches and she smirks. "Jack?"
Jack reaches into his jacket pocket and Mr. Wolfe's men all shift their guns to him. He stops, holding up a hand to show he means no harm. "Easy, fellas." He pulls out several photos from his pocket. "It's harmless, I swear. Unless you don't like paper cuts."
"What is that?" Mr. Wolfe asks, sounding curious. And maybe even a little worried though he's trying to hide it.
"Proof." Jack slaps the photos down on the desk. Mr. Wolfe fans them out to inspect. They're pictures of packets of paper with information that Mr. Wolfe is sure to find familiar. "We made copies of the ledger."
"One we gave to a close friend," Alex says. "If he doesn't hear from us at least once a week he will take his copy to the police. And we have three other copies locked away in separate locations for safe keeping."
Brynn walks forward, placing a hand on the desk, and leans in close to his face. "It's over, dad. You're finished. So unless you want to go to jail you are going to let Jack and me out of the gang and we are all going to go our separate ways."
Mr. Wolfe glares at her, his dark eyes meeting her green. She can see the storm in them about to burst, the dam of his control close to breaking, but then she sees it die. He leans back, sagging in his chair with a deep sigh. "Let them go," he says, voice full of defeat.
"But sir!" one of his men protests but Mr. Wolfe shakes his head.
"It would seem I have been beaten at my own game." His eyes follow her movements as she straightens in triumph and places the ledger back in her bag. "My hands are tied. For now. You and your friends may leave, Brynnley, but you will be seeing us again."
"Perhaps," Brynn says, "but just remember that if you aren't careful, the next time we meet will be with you behind bars."
She turns, weaving between the armed men to exit the study, the others following behind her. They pass several other men as they go through the house, all of them staring at her in shock. Shock that she and her friends could have defeated the mighty Wolfe. She just stares straight ahead and keeps moving. These people don't hold any power over her. Not anymore. Now, she is leaving it all behind. Now, finally, she is truly getting out for good. As she approaches the front door she can feel the excitement and anticipation building inside of her. Freedom is right there through those doors.
But then Sara's eyes go wide. "Brynn, look out!"
Before she can react someone grabs her arm and yanks her away, spinning her around until her back is pressed against someone's chest, a constricting arm keeping her from moving, and a familiar knife at her throat. Everyone tenses but no one moves.
"You're not going anywhere, little Brynnley," Sebastian says, mouth pressed to her ear.
Brynn struggles against his hold but he presses the knife harder against her skin. She hisses as the cold metal stings. Seth takes a step forward, cold fury in his eyes, but Sara takes his arm to hold him back. They have to wait for the right time. Sebastian and his knives have caused her a lot of pain in the past. She knows he won't hesitate to use them. But she will no longer fear them, because she is not the same scared little girl she used to be. She is not powerless. And she is not alone.
"It's over, Sebastian," Brynn says. "If you do anything to me, Mr. Wolfe and everyone will be finished. Including you."
"No, we won't. I just got to find your little friend. And once I deal with them, I'll finally deal with you. Teach you that lesson I promised. I'm sure Mr. Wolfe would love to see that."
Brynn laughs humorlessly. "Sounds like you're more of a pet than I ever was. Always wanting to impress your master; doing as you're told, trying to find ways to please him. You're just a dog, Sebastian, looking for your treat. But there is no treat for you now."
She can hear the boiling anger in his voice when he speaks, "Is that right? Well, if I'm a dog, then that makes you a little kitty cat. And we all know what happens when a dog catches a cat." His knife digs in a little deeper and she can feel a bit of blood drip down her neck.
"I don't think so. This cat has claws."
She looks at Sara. "Now!"
Brynn and Seth move at the same time. She stomps down on Sebastian's foot, causing him to cry out in pain and his hold on her loosens a little. Seth rushes forward, grabbing the knife's blade, his abilities keeping him from getting hurt. He yanks it from Sebastian's grasp as Brynn knocks her head back as hard as she can. Something snaps, it feels like Sebastian's nose. He shouts out a curse and Seth grabs her arm, pulling her free. She presses herself as close to him as possible, her arms around his middle and his arm going around her waist. Sebastian holds his nose, blood gushing down his face and between his fingers. He lowers his hands, glaring murderously at Brynn, and lunges for her. Seth moves them back and Jack steps forward, punching Sebastian in the jaw and sending him sprawling to the floor, unconscious.
Jack looks around at the other men defiantly. "Anyone else want to try something?" No one moves. "Now if you don't mind, we'll be leaving. Come on, guys."
Jack leads the way out, everyone trailing behind him with Seth still keeping ahold of Brynn. She doesn't take a full breath again until they are out of the house and into the sunlight, walking down the front steps. She breathes in deep, filling her lungs. Her first breath of freedom. They get into Jack's car, Jack and Alex up front, Brynn, Seth, and Sara in the back with Brynn in the middle. It feels good, familiar. Right. As they drive off the property Brynn can't help but turn around in her seat and look back, a lot like she did when she left Vegas for the first time. That house had been her home, her prison, for a good portion of her life. It feels odd to finally leave it behind, but also such a relief.
"Are you alright, Brynn?" Sara asks quietly.
Brynn faces forward, a soft smile spreading across her face. "Yeah. Yeah, I am." She takes Seth's and Sara's hands. "Thank you. All of you. I couldn't have done any of this without you."
"No problem, kid," Jack says. "Really, I should be thanking you. Because of you, I was able to get out for good, too."
"We helped each other. Now Mr. Wolfe won't be lingering over any of us anymore."
"We're actually really lucky Dr. Harlan agreed to be our fail safe and keep a copy of the ledger. That's what really got Wolfe to back down."
"Indeed," Sara says. "He is oddly enthusiastic when it comes to standing up to authority figures, whether they be legal or illegal."
Alex shakes her head, looking back at them. "That's not luck, it's-"
"Science?" Jack finishes for her with a grin.
Alex grins back. "Precisely. It's all part of the Chaos Theory. You see, Brynn? I told you. The universe has righted itself."
Seth wraps his arm around her shoulders and she leans into him. "Yeah," she says. "It has."
When she came into this world, it was to a mother who loved her. Then she came under the control of a father who abused her, turned her days dark and her nights darker. He stole her mother from her and she no longer knew the light at all. But now she's found it again in these four friends, this family who loves her. And she loves them, very much. She misses her mother, she thinks about her every day, but now she's where she belongs. Everything is right in her universe again.
"So," Seth says, kissing the top of her head, "where to now?"
Brynn shifts closer to him, pressing a kiss to his lips. "Now we go home."
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