Truth and Trust
Brynn gasps, clutching the headrest of her seat tightly in both hands. Jack, he used to work for Mr. Wolfe. He knows her. Knows who she is. Whose she is. She doesn't think he's recognized her yet, but if he does? What will he do? He might take her back to Mr. Wolfe, use her as a bargaining chip to get Mr. Wolfe to never bother him again. She can't let that happen.
"Hey, kid, you okay?" Jack asks, concern in his voice.
Brynn takes in a shaky breath and lets it out slowly. "Yeah," she says, still facing the back window of the cab, "I'm fine. It's just that, yeah, this is my first time leaving Vegas."
"Don't worry, kid, the first time's the hardest. You'll be back home again before you know it."
She turns back around in her seat to face forward again, praying beyond hope that his words won't end up becoming truth.
"Brynn," Sara says quietly from the other side of Seth, quiet enough so Jack won't hear. "Brynn, it is alright."
"But, Sara," Brynn whispers, looking at her with wide, terrified eyes. "You don't understand-"
"Yes, I do." Sara gives her a small smile. "He can be trusted."
Seth huffs but doesn't say anything. Still, Brynn decides to trust Sara's judgment. Though how she knew to give it, Brynn has no idea. It's like she's psychic or something. But she pushes all of that from her mind, sinking back into the seat again and deciding to talk as little as possible so as to not draw Jack's attention. She was really little when she last saw him, no more than six, but there is still a chance he could recognize her.
The trip is long and mostly silent, only with the occasional whispers between Seth and Sara. She debates on asking them exactly where it is they are going and what their "mission" is but wonders if it's really worth it. Based on Seth's attitude towards her, they're probably just going to leave her as soon as they get to wherever it is they're going, leaving Brynn on her own again. The thought makes her chest constrict uncomfortably. When Sara called her a friend she had hoped they really could be. Maybe she and Sara could be, but that probably won't ever happen with Seth. No, most likely after this ride she won't ever see them again. Brynn better get used to the idea now, just like she has to get used to the idea of possibly never seeing Las Vegas again.
In order to help pass the time and bury her thoughts, Brynn pulls out her notebook and a pencil and starts flipping through to find a blank page.
Seth looks over curiously, getting a look at the pages. "You are an artist?"
Brynn pauses her flipping, a self-conscious blush rising to her cheeks. "Uh, yeah, I like to draw. Usually with just a normal pencil, but I, uh, used to have some colored pencils as well."
Those, unfortunately, were among the items she had to veto bringing with her.
"May we see?" Sara asks and Brynn reluctantly passes the notebook over. She doesn't usually let people see her drawings. Then again, no one usually asks to see them. Sara slowly skims through the pages, holding the book so her brother can see them as well. "These are quite good."
Brynn scoffs. "No, they're mediocre at best and never of anything good. It's usually just what I can see from my bedroom window or…or the people around the house." She glances at Jack, glad he seems to not be able to see them, though his eyes keep darting back to try to get a look. Hopefully he doesn't see the ones she's done of Mr. Wolfe's men or her father. Jack would recognize them for sure.
"Who is this?" Sara hands the notebook back to her, the pages flipped to a drawing Brynn looks at often. It's a woman, lounging on the couch in the living room of Mr. Wolfe's house and staring out the window. It's done in colored pencil so that Brynn could capture as much detail as possible. Like the shimmering brown of her hair, the dusting of freckles across her cheeks, the way her green eyes stare out the window in longing.
"It's my mother," Brynn says quietly, stroking a finger across the drawing. She had to draw this from an old photograph her father has, taken sometime after Brynn was born, only working an hour at a time so she could return the photo to her father's room before he noticed it was missing.
"Oh," Sara says, eyes turning soft and sad. "I am sorry for your loss."
Brynn looks up at her, surprised that she knows that her mother is dead, but then again it's probably obvious from the moisture starting to build in her eyes. She blinks it away. "Thanks."
"So," Sara says after a few moments of silence, trying to bring the conversation back to the bright and cheerful, "what were you planning to draw?"
"I don't know." She looks out at the scenery around them, at the dry dirt, sparse bushes, cacti, and mountains. She could do a general sketch of it but it would be hard since they're constantly moving. She needs something more stationary. "I could draw you guys."
"Oh, please do!" Sara says excitedly and even Seth looks a little interested.
"Um, okay." She finds a blank page and situates herself into the corner of the cab, angling herself towards the others. "I'll do Seth first since he's the easiest for me to see."
"What must I do?" he asks, surprisingly up for being a model for her.
"Just lean back, move your head to the left, and don't move." Once he's positioned himself how she wants him she puts her pencil to the paper, creating a profile of Seth from the shoulders up. She's nervous at first, afraid of messing it up in the jostling of the car or that Seth will criticize her once it's finished, but over time she looses herself in the familiar movements of the pencil in her hand, how it glides across the paper, and the feel of the graphite on her skin as she smudges it to create shadow and depth. She's not sure how much time passes, but when she tells Seth he can move again and shows him and his sister her work he rotates his head back and forth to work out the stiffness in his neck.
"This is wonderful!" Sara says with a huge grin. "It is a very accurate depiction of Seth. Will you do me next?"
"Yeah, sure." She looks down at her notebook as she flips to a blank page again so she isn't looking at Seth when he speaks.
"It really is good," he says, and she can hear it in his voice that he means it. It's the most sincere thing he's said to her since they met instead of his usual stony coldness.
She smiles to herself and gets to work on Sara's drawing.
She's about halfway through with the portrait when the counter for the fare reads close to $400 and Jack decides to speak up.
"Are your parents going to be okay with you guys spending all this money?" he asks.
Brynn pauses in her drawing as Seth leans forward in his seat. "We have previously agreed upon our financial deal," he insists in annoyance. "If your concern is regarding your compensation-"
"My concern," Jack interjects, "is the fact that I got a couple of kids in the back of my cab with a big wad of cash, with a drop-off location that's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Now in my book that's a little chapter called running away."
Brynn squirms in her seat trying to stay out of the line of sight of the rearview mirror and glad that she is the one sitting behind Jack. She's not sure what Seth and Sara are doing, but she really is running away. If he decides he doesn't like this anymore, will he turn the cab around and take them back to Vegas?
Before Jack can say more a voice comes in over the radio. "Jack, you better be getting desert miles on that fare. And they better be able to pay. And you better get me an ETA, capiche?"
Jack picks up the mic to the radio and says, "I'm losing reception, Dominick." Then he hangs up on him.
Seth and Sara suddenly look behind them out the back window and then look at each other with concern. And no little amount of fear. Brynn looks behind them but sees nothing.
"Jack Bruno," Sara says, "the vehicles behind us are indicating a pattern of pursuit."
"There's no vehicles following-" he stops short as he looks in the rearview mirror and Brynn turns to look behind them again. Coming over the horizon is a black SUV, one that reminds Brynn an awful lot of the one at the taxi lot that morning that Mr. Wolfe's men were driving.
"At your current rate of speed versus theirs" Seth says, "they will overtake our vehicle in less than one minute."
"Relax, kid, I'm just gonna let 'em pass," Jack says without any worries. Sara and Seth exchange concerned glances again and Brynn knows they aren't just going to pass. Jack slows the car down, allowing the SUV to catch up to them. When they still don't go around them Jack rolls down his window and waves them on. "Open road, people! It's all yours!"
The SUV speeds up to drive alongside them, revealing yet another SUV still driving behind them. Brynn peers through the windows but they are tinted too darkly for her to see who's inside. She prays Sebastian isn't in one of those cars. The car fully passes them, merging into their lane again in front of them, and Brynn breathes a sigh of relief. Maybe Jack was right after all. But then the SUV steps on the breaks, fishtailing to block off the road. The other SUV slams hard into the back door Brynn sits next to, denting the metal and causing them to go into a spin. Now she can see that there's not jut two of them but three. Jack gets control of the car again and speeds around the stopped car to race ahead, the three SUVs tailing after them.
"I said I was out and I meant it!" Jack shouts angrily, more to the men chasing them than to his passengers.
"Will one of you please explain who exactly Mr. Wolfe is?" Sara says, worry filling her voice.
"How do you know that name?" One of the cars slams into the rear of the cab, causing the back end to raise in the air a little and slam back down. "Get down, now!"
They do as they're told, ducking down with their arms over their heads. The SUVs knock into them again and again, making them feel like a pinball. One of them hits Brynn's side of the car hard again and Jack jerks the wheel to the right, pushing the SUV out of the way. As he does so Brynn's door goes flying open. The latch must have become broken or something from the constant banging. It slams open and shut, open and shut, as Jack drives, the wind roaring about the car, and during another hard swerve, forcing another SUV off the road, Brynn's notebook falls from where it had been sitting next to her. She holds her breath but it doesn't fall out of the car. It's perched precariously in the doorway. She reaches for it, stretching her arm as far as she can, but the seatbelt is locked around her, constricting her movements so she can't bend down as far as she needs to. Paying no heed to her safety she unbuckles her seatbelt so that she can grab her notebook before it falls.
Then Jack swerves again and Brynn, along with her notebook clutched in her hands, goes tumbling out the door.
There's no time to scream. She's airborne for only seconds and all she has time to do is tuck herself into a ball before she's crashing into the asphalt, the air knocked from her lungs. The momentum of the moving cab sends her rolling, her pants and jacket tearing. When she comes to a stop all she can see are stars and they refuse to stop spinning. The sound of loud revving causes everything to snap back into focus real quick though. The last SUV is coming, the other two lying on their sides thanks to Jack's aggressive driving. She sits up, her head swimming slightly, but she can see the SUV that is coming straight for her and the driver does not have enough time to stop and she does not have time to get out of the way. So this is it? Mr. Wolfe won't be punishing her, no last warning, just straight to death, run over like roadkill in the Nevada desert? She closes her eyes, clutching her notebook tightly to her chest. See you soon, she thinks to herself, hoping that wherever she is, her mother can hear her.
Then there are arms around her and the smell of pine trees. She opens her eyes to see the front of a white shirt and she pulls back in horror to get a better look at Seth, kneeling in front of her. He can't do this, he has to get away. He doesn't have to die, just her. Then they can finish their mission. But he tightens his hold on her and she looks over his shoulder and it's too late. The car is here. Brynn looks into his eyes again, expecting to see the same fear she feels detonating in her chest but there is calm in his clear blue eyes. No, wait, there is fear, but not the fear of death. She can't name it though. They are still staring into each other's eyes when the car crashes into Seth's back. But it does not break him. He breaks the car, the front of the SUV getting crushed as if it had just hit a brick wall. Just like Sebastian's fist when it hit Seth's hand. Pieces of metal spew out in every direction, the car flipping over their heads, but they are fine.
Seth lets her go, moving his hands to grasp her shoulders so tight it's almost painful, and he looks at her sternly. Whatever she saw in his eyes is gone now, masked by anger. At her. "Is there a problem with your brain's ability to function? What were you thinking?"
Brynn looks down at her notebook, tightening her grip. "It's all I have left of her," she answers quietly.
His grip loosens on her. She doesn't look up but she can hear a car approaching, probably the cab since all of the SUVs are now trashed. "Come," Seth says, much more softly now, "we must leave this place immediately."
Seth helps her to stand and they reach the cab just as it stops inches from the flipped car. He makes her get in first and then he slips in after her.
"You guys okay back there?" Jack asks, appearing not to have noticed Brynn's brush with death or Seth's performance. Or that they even left the car.
"We are fine," Seth says. "We should just keep moving."
Instead, Jack gets out of the car to go talk to the men in the SUV behind them. Brynn takes the opportunity to turn on the twins. "What is going on?"
"Jack Bruno appears to still be under the impression that these men were sent by Mr. Wolfe," Sara says.
"How do you even know that?" She turns to Seth. "And how did you do that thing with the car?" How have they done a lot of the things they've done since she met them? These are two complete strangers she's run away with, but Sara has known things she shouldn't. Seth has shown a strength far surpassing what he should be capable of. None of this is normal. They are not normal. "Who…Who are you?"
"You already know the answer, Brynn," Sara says quietly.
Brynn swallows thickly, looking back and forth between them for signs that they are just pulling her leg, but they are completely serious. And that unnameable fear is back in Seth's eyes. "So you're not…normal?"
"We are not," Seth says, his voice tight, strained.
"Okay. Not normal." She wipes her sweaty palms on the legs of her jeans. "I really want to say magic but I know that probably isn't logical. So…are you…human?"
"We are not," Seth says again.
"That is correct," Sara says, drawing Brynn's attention. "We are indeed not from this planet."
And Brynn's mind may just break a little. Holy crap, they're aliens. She's run away with a couple of aliens. She's sitting next to a couple of aliens. There are so many thoughts running through her mind, from a complete freak-out to utter excitement, but the one that slips out is, "Man, that explains a whole lot."
"You are not surprised?" Sara asks curiously.
"You are not…frightened?" Seth adds.
"Surprised? Yes. Frightened? No." Brynn gives them both an encouraging smile. "I mean, I didn't know anything about you this morning but I ran away with you. For all I knew, you could have been a couple of psychopaths. Finding out you're aliens doesn't change anything. It just means I know a little more about you now. And you've saved my life. Multiple times." She looks at Seth. "It couldn't have been easy for you to expose your secret just to save my life. Thank you."
"You," Seth says slowly, "are a very strange human."
"Well, you probably don't know many, so for all you know I'm completely normal for a human."
Before she can ask more, Jack gets back into the car and gets them moving again. When they're a good distance away he looks into the rearview mirror and asks, "How you guys holding up back there?"
"We're fine," Brynn says.
Jack's brow furrows. "Weren't you and Seth switched before?"
"Uh, yeah, we were, but the door is kind of broke so Seth made me switch seats with him."
"What's wrong with the door?"
"My holding onto the handle is currently the only thing keeping it closed," Seth deadpans.
"Seriously?" Jack takes a look over his shoulder and sighs deeply. With eyes still on the road, he digs into the glove box and hands Brynn a first aid kit. "See if there's anything in there you can use to tie it shut."
She opens the box, digging through the bandages until she finds a roll of gauze. This should work. With Seth holding the door closed as best he can with both hands, Brynn secures gauze to both the door handle and the handle on the ceiling of the car, pulling it as tight as possible and wrapping it a few times for good measure. The door still knocks back and forth, opening and closing slightly, but at least it won't fly open without Seth holding onto it now. "That'll have to do."
Seth grabs the first aid kit from her lap and looks through the contents. "We should use these supplies to take care of your wounds."
"Wait, you're hurt?" Jack asks worriedly. "I thought you said you were fine?"
"I am fine," Brynn says firmly. Honestly, she doesn't need babying. She can take care of herself and she's certainly had worse than this before. "It's just a couple of scratches because of the, uh, door. It's nothing."
"It is not nothing, Brynn," Sara says, her big eyes pleading. "Please, let us take care of you."
Brynn sighs deeply. Sara has some really effective doe-eyes. "Alright."
Seth passes some bandages and antiseptic wipes to Sara and together they get to work on her various scrapes, helping her to pull her jacket off, now just a piece of scrap held together by threads. Her shirt is mostly okay and her jeans only have a couple of tears. She can change into new clothes later. Underneath, it's mostly just road rash. Brynn considers herself extremely lucky she didn't get a broken bone.
"I'm sorry I dragged you three into all of this," Jack says apologetically.
"There is no need for you to apologize, Jack Bruno," Sara says, guilt twinging her voice as she wipes down one of Brynn's cuts. The antiseptic stings but Brynn does no more than twinge slightly. "You are not always the one to blame."
"But the urgency of our trip has not decreased," Seth presses.
"Look, don't worry, I'll get you to where you need to go. You've earned it."
So if those guys weren't sent by Mr. Wolfe, then were they after Seth and Sara? Brynn wonders.
Sara looks up from her work and nods.
Brynn's eyes widen. Can you read my thoughts?
Sara smiles and nods again.
That is so cool.
Her smile widens and she places a hand on Brynn's arm next to one of the new bandages. I can also send my thoughts through physical contact, Sara's voice echoes in her head without Sara moving her lips.
Seth's fingers ghost across her skin as he starts on another scrape and then it is his voice Brynn hears in her head, The ability can be passed to others through physical contact as well.
Wow, Brynn says in awe. So can we talk like this?
Yes, we can, Sara says. And let me take this moment to apologize to you. We should not have let this happen.
Hey, it's not your fault.
Yes, it is. We promised to keep you safe and we failed. Please forgive us, Brynn.
Brynn takes Sara's hand and squeezes. Nothing to forgive. She looks to Seth. Either of you.
Seth doesn't reply but Sara gives her a grateful smile.
Okay, so, those guys weren't after me or Jack, but you guys?
Yes, Seth says. These humans wish to capture us, which we cannot allow. We must complete our mission.
What do they want?
To experiment on us, Sara says.
Seth's face turns dark. It is why we have vowed never to trust humans.
You know, Brynn says gently, we're not all like that.
Seth places a bandage on her last wound and starts to pack up the first aid kit while still keeping the fingers of one hand pressed lightly to her arm. I will believe it when I experience it with my own eyes.
Have I not proved it enough?
He pauses in his movements and his eyes find hers. They are guarded but Brynn can still barely see that unknown fear in them. I already consider you a strange human but that is not enough to build trust.
Alright, she says with determination. I guess I'll just have to keep trying to prove it to you then.