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Kat didn’t have many regrets in life. She had killed many people, both living and undead, but it was always for a good cause. She broke the law numerous times a week, but it never hurt anyone. At least, not too badly. She had created widows and orphans and monsters but all that paled to drugging her sister.

Everything she had ever done was to protect Hadley, who couldn’t protect herself even if she tried. Her sister would throw herself into a pit of lava if she thought it would help Kat, and she couldn’t stand by and watch that happen. Tonight could be the end of all this- the lying and protecting and sacrifices- on both their parts. But she couldn’t do her job if Hadley was breathing down her neck or trying to move them across country again. It was for the best. But to Kat, it still felt like she had swallowed a canon ball that was currently weighing her down with guilt.

“Did she take it?” Oliver asked sheepishly when Kat returned to the kitchen. He wasn’t any happier with the situation than Kat was, but they had agreed it needed to be done. Kat nodded and dumped the rest of the water down the sink with a grimace.

“Snoozing like a baby.” She acknowledged and sat down at the table next to Oliver. He was flipping through some files that hadn’t been out when she took the drugged drink to her sister. It was the case file that Kat usually brought everywhere she went, but last night Oliver had asked to look it over. “What are your thoughts?” She asked, sliding the note John had left her sister on top of the file.

“Classic John. Short, to the point, but infuriatingly cryptic. I’d say it’s genuine.” He decided and pushed the note back towards her. “You think it’ll happen tonight.” It wasn’t really a question, but Kat still nodded.

“He must have been planning this for weeks, if not longer. I know it was him who planted the information about Harken in that database in Florida. And then he killed the man to cover his tracks.” She muttered the last sentence with a glower that could send a priest rushing for a Bible. Oliver was used to such looks though, he had to be after the years he had spent with Kat.

“I called Mitch and filled him in about Harken while you were back with Hadley. He’ll clean everything up on his way to get us. Should only be an hour or so.” Kat nodded stiffly, sliding the whole file in front of herself. She’d read it a hundred times, and knew every detail, but she still went through it once a week. Oliver could never understand why. It wasn’t like the file held the comprehensive report that was back at the Institute.

The file had only the bare bones- the facts and dates and a few pictures. Honestly Oliver was a little worried that Kat obsessively went over it with so little information available within. But then again, he was a little worried by a lot of things Kat did.

“What are you going to do about Hadley?” Oliver asked apparently randomly a few minutes later. He had moved on and was instead checking his weapons- laid out in an orderly line on the table- but Kat was still staring intently at the file in front of her. His younger companion looked the absolute picture of distressed in that moment.

“Honestly? I have no idea. She’s going to want the truth.” A guilty little voice in her head chose that moment to remind her that the truth was all Hadley had ever wanted. Truth and revenge, but Kat could barely allow her to have one, let alone both.

“Are you going to tell her?” Oliver thought that he knew the answer, but he had learned to never make assumptions when it came to Kat O’Neal. And while he hadn’t been able to get to know Hadley in person quite yet, he knew she was just the same.

“I don’t know if I’ll have the choice.” Kat admitted with a heavy sigh. Oliver shrugged.

“You could lie. Tell her you work for the CIA or something.” He suggested, but Kat shook her head.

“I’ve been lying to her for four years. As much as I’d like to keep her away from what we do...I think I owe it to her by now. I have to tell her.” It was still going to be a difficult discussion. Kat foresaw a great deal of cussing and maybe some whiskey. Maybe she’d ask Mitchel to pick some up on his way into town.

“What do you think she’ll do?” Oliver’s voice was now full of apprehension, which pretty much mirrored Kat’s thoughts. The younger of the pair looked at the table in front of her with glazed eyes, trying in vain to keep her mind from jumping to worst-case scenarios.

“Yell. Maybe cry if she’s particularly emotional. And then...she’ll probably want to see it with her own eyes.” Which is where it would get tricky.

“I should call the Madame, make sure she approves.” Oliver pointed out, but hesitated to actually pull out his phone. He waited until Kat nodded in agreement to fish his phone out of his back pocket. Kat knew that Oliver preferred being alone whenever he spoke with the Madame and gestured that she was going to her room just as the line started ringing. She needed to get her things ready anyway.

Oliver tended to carry all his weapons on him all the time, with the excuse of being prepared. Kat preferred to only have one or two things with her, but she kept a large stash in her room, and even more back at the Institute. The most effective ones were kept in a safe beneath her bed, and it was to that safe that she immediately went upon entering her room.

She technically needed special permission to even open the safe. The contents within had been deemed unsafe for the public by the Institute, and only three people knew the combination to get into it. She should have asked Oliver to pass on her request to open it to the Madame while he was on the phone with her. But Kat reasoned with herself that it was special circumstances and the Madame would understand.

It wasn’t every day that their Number One Most Wanted crawled out of hiding. It had been nearly two years since Kat had last seen John. He was frighteningly good at vanishing off the face of the earth, and she needed to use this to her advantage. If this was the night when John would creep from the shadows, she needed to be ready.

Kat pulled on one of the gloves sitting on her dresser and typed in the code. The Madame insisted on the utmost security for the safe, and the oils on her fingers could give some dedicated safe cracker just the information he needed to get in. The safe opened with a small hiss and Kat discarded the glove to carefully sort through the contents.

She moved a few syringes and vials to the side in order to retrieve the small, cold case she was looking for. Kat closed the safe and made sure it was secure before pushing it back under her bed and grabbing the gun next to it. The case in her hand slid into the gun perfectly, and the bottom of it lit up with a red digital twelve. Twelve bullets left in the specialized ammo clip. Plenty for what she needed to do. She hoped.

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with guns?” Kat didn’t allow herself to panic at the voice, instead merely pointing her gun towards the window. It wasn’t who she expected, it wasn’t even in the top three. The dark shadow lingering on her window sill only smiled at her, unconcerned. “What a warm welcome.” He drawled softly.

“You must know what’s in this gun.” She hissed with clear warning, but the man only shrugged and tilted his head forward.

“You must know I’m smarter than to come defenseless.” Kat could only barely see his smirk in the dim light from the hallway. She hardly ever turned on her lights when she came into her room, but now she was really wishing she had.

“What are you doing here? We told you to stay away Laveau.” She gritted out between clenched teeth, standing slowing so she could keep her aim dead on. The man across from her did the same, his smirk softening to a pleased smile.

“It sounded like an invitation to me.” He cooed, straightening to his full height. Kat was convinced it was his subtle way of establishing dominance, since he did it every time they met. He would slouch in front of the others, but never her. “Besides, from what I hear, you could use my help this time. If you want to keep poor Hadley safe and sound.” He added, tilting his head towards Hadley’s room. Kat felt her disgust boiling in her stomach.

“No offense. But I’d rather take a clerical job in the records room than accept help from you.” Laveau blinked at Kat for a moment, and then another, and then burst out into laughter that managed to sound genuine and malicious at once. It made Kat want to shoot him then and there.

By the time the laughter stopped, the sound of running feet had started, and seconds later Oliver stood in the doorway with a gun aimed and ready, his phone forgotten in his other hand. Unlike Kat, the weapon lowered once he realized just who the intruder was, though he clearly wasn’t happy to see Laveau. He brought his phone back to his ear and hissed a quick, “I’ll call you back.” before hanging up.

“What in the seven circles of Dante’s inferno is he doing here?” Oliver demanded of his partner. Before she could say anything Laveau snickered.

“I think you mean nine circles, darlin’. Read a book now and then, you have the time.” Oliver only tightened his grip on his gun, glancing at Kat. “I can be a valuable asset to you.” They had heard that before, and not just from Laveau.

“Even if that was true, your fee for your service is too pricey for us humble hunters.” Kat sneered, finally beginning to relax her stance a bit. However she still kept her gun aimed firmly at the man in front of her. If she had to pick the most important thing she’d learned over the last four years, it was to never trust Adym Laveau.

“My dear Katarina, you have a surplus of what I need. You’re just being unreasonable.” Laveau let his eyes drift longing to the gun in her hands. More precisely, to the bullets she had just loaded into it moments ago. Kat knew that if he thought he could succeed, those bullets would already be in his hands.

“Don’t even think about it. One step and you’re dead.”

“Kat...as much as I hate to admit it, he could actually be helpful. He’s the only one who might be able to keep up with John.” Oliver whispered, the admission sounding almost painful. Kat didn’t even acknowledge him.

“We don’t have time for you right now Laveau. The answer is the same as it always has and will be. No.” Laveau didn’t exactly frown. But his lips did press into a tight straight line that somehow managed to look more threatening than any Bond villain’s sneer.

“You’re making a mistake Kat.” He warned.

“I’ll deal with it.” She shot back immediately. “Now get out.” He studied the girl in front of him for a long moment of tense silence before breaking. He put his hands up in a big show of surrender and meandered back to the window. Kat kept him pinned under her cold gaze the entire time.

“Someday you’ll realize that you need me Kat. I just hope for you- and your sister’s- sake that it’s before some petty grudge gets the best of you.” Laveau muttered and in the blink of an eye he was gone, the open window letting in the last dying rays of daylight. The sun was already below the horizon, but the inky darkness of night in the countryside had yet to descend. But it was only a matter of time.

Kat stormed from her room and into Hadley’s, eyes assessing every shadow before scanning the weak points of the room and finally resting on Hadley herself. Her sister was still asleep, quiet and peaceful and oblivious. The sight allowed Kat to breathe a little better.

“What if he’s right?” Oliver murmured from behind her where he lingered in the doorway. He didn’t want to broach the subject, especially since Kat was obviously agitated now, but it needed to be discussed. “What if he could help us, and we keep turning him down just because of what he is.” Kat took a few deep breaths before turning and pinning Oliver with the most heated glare she was able to produce.

“Are you insane?” She kept her tone soft and calm enough, probably for the sake of her sleeping sister, but there was a rage there that Oliver had only seen two or three times in the four years that he had known Kat.

“Depends on the day.” Even as he said it he realized that it probably was the wrong time to be making jokes. Before Kat could snarl at him like she so obviously wanted to, he went on. “There are monsters much worse than Adym Laveau out there, as you very well know. Yes, it would be dangerous to have him as an ally, but I’d much rather have him with us than against us. And all he wants in return is one tiny bullet.”

“Do you have any idea what he could do with that one tiny bullet? How much damage he could do?” Oliver cringed at the thought, but also at the fact that Kat felt the need to remind him. They had both seen what Laveau could do with objects that weren’t meant to be dangerous. The idea of him getting his hands on a weapon that was actually meant to cause severe harm was horrifying in and of itself.

“Of course I know. I’m just suggesting that maybe it’s worth the risk. We don’t know for sure if John will show up tonight. But if he does and we miss our chance, who knows how long it will be until we get another. Laveau is the lesser of two evils right now.” Kat could only glare at her partner, trying to reign her emotions in.

After what felt like an unnecessarily long moment for Oliver, Kat simply took a large deep breath and stalked past him out of the room. He could practically feel her frustration with him as she passed by, like a physical slap to the face. When she was past him he sighed and rubbed at his forehead and then looked up at Hadley. He knew why Kat and Hadley were they way they were, but some days were definitely harder than other. This being one of the hardest.

Kat wasn’t in the kitchen when Oliver wandered back in that direction, and for a moment he panicked. Before he could rush outside to look for her, the door opened and she stepped back inside, looking less angry and more carefully blank.

“How long until Mitchel gets here?” She fairly demanded and Oliver hesitated before glancing at his watch. He wanted to ask her if she was okay, or maybe chance continuing the argument. But he valued his life and didn’t need it to turn into a living hell currently. When they got back to the Institute, he would corner her and get a real conversation from her.

“An hour. Maybe less depending on how long it takes at Harken’s.”

“The Madame approved us bringing Hadley in?” He nodded, though it had been... interesting trying to convince her. “I’m going to go pack. Be on guard for John. If he doesn’t show up by midnight, he’s not going to at all.” He had to agree with her. It was highly unlikely John would show up if it was just the two of them. Once Mitchel showed up and Hadley woke up, it was pretty much assured he wouldn’t appear.

“Alright.” He nodded softly, and Kat didn’t wait for him to say anything else. She grabbed the gun she had left on the table and took it with her back towards her room. Oliver watched her go and then sat down at the table with a sigh. That could have gone better. Then again, it also could have gone much, much worse.

Oliver dug around in his bag until he found what he was looking for. He propped the tablet up using one of his guns and turned it on. Instantly four different views of the house from outside came into focus, and at the bottom a long ribbon of the sounds around the house was displayed with fuzzy sound waves. He checked each carefully and feeling confident that everything was still for the moment, turned his attention towards the file Kat left on the table.

It was labeled only by a date: Mar. 14, 1998. There were only three pieces of paper inside, it was the extremely condensed version after all. And it really didn’t take long to say a family of six turned into a family of two after a vampire attack. Hell, two of the three pages were just personnel reports, and the third was only a paragraph long. But Kat had spent hours staring at that paragraph. Staring at the very blunt fate of her family.

Oliver only got thirty minutes to stare at it before his phone buzzed in his pocket. He glanced at the camera screens and sound feed for a moment before answering the call.

“Mitch.” He acknowledged the man on the other end, who jumped right into talking the second the word was out of Oliver’s mouth.

We have problems.” He stated in a way that made Oliver’s fist clench.

“Big problems?” He gritted out, already standing and walking towards the rooms. His first priority was his partner and her sister.

Eh, on a scale... Never mind. What time did the sister find Harken?” Oliver glanced at his watch.

“An hour or two ago. Why?” Kat was watching the door when he came to it, having heard him approach. She raised an eyebrow, stopping in the process of packing her clothes. Hadley’s duffel bag was already done and sitting in the hall, and Kat’s room was almost empty by now.

There’s still a body here, that’s why.” Mitchel somehow managed to sound angry about it, but Oliver always attributed that to the thick Scottish accent. Oliver stared at Kat, unable to say anything for a long moment until Kat began to look concerned.

“That’s...he should be bones by now. A little soupy still, but bones. Hadley said he looked like he’d been dead a week already.”

That’s what I’m saying. And yet, there’s a body. Oozy, smelly, mostly solid body.” It took Oliver another few moments to wrap his head around it.

“Can you dispose of it?” The silence spoke for itself. “Right, of course you can. Do it and get here as fast as you can.”

Will do.” Mitchel confirmed quickly and hung up. By now Kat had abandoned any other task and her whole attention was on Oliver.

“Harken’s body was still in stage two.” Oliver reported, and Kat’s face morphed into confusion. He could see her reply without her even having to say it. “I know it’s impossible. But unless John decided to stage a vampire attack rather than going for the authentic experience, it wasn’t our fanged friend.” Which was a terrifying thought.

“Who would stage a vampire attack? Who else even knew she was looking for Harken?” Kat looked like she wanted to strangle something, the look she usually got when she didn’t perfectly understand a situation.

We didn’t even know for sure until you arrived in town.” Oliver supplied rather unhelpfully. “If it wasn’t John it...it had to be someone from the Institute.” He didn’t even want to think it, but it was the only other option. Kat obviously had the same thoughts, because she only nodded, a frown pulling down the corner of her lips. She rubbed at her forehead and pushed her fingers back into her blond hair. It was an unconscious quirk that Oliver had picked up on, and it never gave him comfort when she did it.

“Should we report this?” Obviously she knew they should, but for some reason it made her uneasy to think about actually doing it. Oliver tapped his fingers on his phone a few times before shaking his head.

“We’ll do it when we get back. The Madame is going to want all the details and we have to stay focused right now. This is exactly the kind of distraction that could work in John’s favor.” Kat’s eyes got wide and she charged past Oliver and into Hadley’s room. When it was the same as she left it, she allowed herself to relax again, though not completely.

“It was John. A distraction. Like you said.” She tried to insist, but it didn’t sit right. If it was a distraction, why wasn’t he making a move? Oliver put his hand on her shoulder, and she looked back at him.

“It probably was. But we have to consider that it wasn’t.” He reminded her, and her eyes flicked away from his face. She didn’t want to consider that it was an inside job. Mostly because she was afraid that it was true. “You stay here with Hadley. I’ll finish packing for you.” Kat usually didn’t let anyone baby her, maintaining that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself at all times. But for once she allowed herself to be vulnerable. She nodded and Oliver squeezed her shoulder, knowing how hard that small gesture was for her.

He watched the younger girl settle onto the bed next to her sister and then returned to her room. Oliver knew this would be a hard debriefing for Kat. She was going to be questioned regarding her behavior towards Hadley, Laveau, and Oliver too. Then she was going to have to explain that someone she knew and worked with may have murdered a man and framed the vampire who was responsible for killing her family. To top it off, she had to hope her sister wouldn’t try and strangle her for purposefully misleading her for years.

The next twenty-four hours were going to be some of the most difficult that Kat had ever faced. But Oliver swore that she wouldn’t have to face them alone. There was no way in hell would he allow that to happen.

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