The plane Mitchel murmured about prepping turns out to be a private jet, which he assures me is one of the best, safest models ever made when I’m reluctant to get on board.
“She was designed and crafted by some of the brightest minds in the world. And the pilot is top notch.” He had bragged, only to grin happily when I asked who the pilot was. Admittedly, the ride is smooth with hardly any turbulence, but I’m tense as a rock from the second I sit down. Kat keeps glancing at me every few minutes, concern creating creases all over her face, but I can’t really give her any comfort for her concerns. I’m not at that point yet.
She lied to me, for years. Four years to be exact! She knew I was looking for John, knew exactly who he was this whole time, and said absolutely nothing! And then, when she knew I was looking for the very organization she works for, she continued to say absolutely nothing! I just can’t imagine getting over this.
An annoying part of my brain reminds me that I thought I was lying to Kat for much longer than four years, and I didn’t think it was that bad then. The fact that I wasn’t actually hiding anything from her is besides the point, because I too was lying. I was purposefully trying to deceive my sister, the only person still alive that I care about. At least I felt bad about it. I just wish I could be angry at her without feeling guilty at the same time.
Oliver keeps trying to draw Kat into conversation, but even I can hear how disinterested she is in talking when I’m sitting tense and angry a few feet away. She gives half answers in distracted tones, but Oliver patiently pretends not to notice. Finally I can’t take it anymore and get up to wander into the cockpit. Mitchel looks over his shoulder when I open and close the door. A big smile crosses his face.
“Hey! Come to backseat drive?” He nods to the empty copilot seat and I drop down like a brick. I still feel heavy and fuzzy around the edges, but I’m hoping it’ll go away by the time we get to “The Institute”, as they call it. Because Rosemont is apparently not pretentious enough already.
“I don’t know the first thing about aviation.” I tell him honestly. He chuckles.
“It’s not so hard really. Even Kat can fly in a pinch.” I must be frowning, because when he glances over at me he frowns as well.
“There seems to be a lot of things she can do in a pinch. Kill vampires, keep massive secrets, drug her sister.” He makes a face that almost looks sympathetic, but is too recognizably a cover for a smirk. I glower at him.
“Aye, she can be very resourceful. It can get on the nerves sometimes, but generally I end up glad to have her around.” I roll my eyes and look out the window at the vast sky around us. It’s almost brighter up here surrounded by clouds than on the ground surrounded by snow. No wonder Mitchel is wearing big aviator sunglasses. I’m almost tempted to ask if he has an extra pair. “She did it to protect ye, ye know.” He states after a few minutes.
“I never asked her to protect me. I don’t want her to protect me.” I bite in return. His eyebrows almost hit his hairline.
“Alright, at ease there.” He insists and I mutter, sinking down in my seat. “It really bothers ye.” He observes.
“Wouldn’t it bother you?”
“Eh, not so much, but then again my brother died before I found out he was involved in all this.” He says it so calmly, like it was really just off the top of his head, that it takes me a moment to comprehend what he’s said. He stares straight ahead, his face a perfect mask, and I wonder if he’s regretting letting that slip out.
“Is that how you got into this? Your brother’s death?” I ask after a stretch of silence. He glances at me and nods.
“Taylor was an idiot, hotheaded twat. Before Oliver showed up at my door to give me the news, I hadn’t heard from him in years. To be honest, I had been glad for the silence on his end, right up until that moment. And then I missed him more than anything.” Before I can help it, I imagine myself in his shoes. I imagine getting a knock on the door and seeing Oliver, and hearing him say the words a distressed police officer said to me 14 years ago.
All my anger seems to melt away in the face of despair. It hasn’t even happened. I know if I took four steps I could see Kat, alive and breathing and definitely not murdered in the line of duty. But at the same time, I can feel the heartbreak. Mitchel looks at me carefully, judging my reaction.
“So you joined the organization that got him killed?” It comes out a little forced, but I think he’s glad I’m not cooing and calling him ‘poor baby’ and cuddling him to my chest. A lazy smirk pulls up the corner of his lips.
“Yeah, well, I’m an idiot, hotheaded twat too.” He drawls, and before I realize it, I’m smiling. His smirk turns into a self satisfied grin, and he whispers, “Gotcha.” I try to make myself revert to my blank face, but it doesn’t work, so instead I look away. “You two didn’t yell much. Back at the house.” He observes.
“It was hard to get anything from my brain to my mouth, let alone at a higher decibel.” I admit, and he nods with an acknowledging hum. “What does one say to their sibling who’s been lying to them for years anyway?” I figure he’s had plenty of time to think over what he would say to his brother, so maybe he’d know.
“If it was me...” he glances at me, and I nod to encourage him. “I’d probably milk it for all it was worth. Ye probably shouldn’t do that though.” I roll my eyes.
“When else am I ever going to get such good material to work with?” He shrugs.
“Ye have a point. Just be careful that ye don’t let it get in the way when it counts.” He advises, and I nod. “I can promise you’d never forgive yourself.” He whispers that part, but I don’t pry. Some wounds need to be left alone or they never heal.
It soon becomes apparent that Mitchel is just the Scottish version of Oliver, with better humor. Anytime I get quiet for too long he brings up another random topic with no real weight behind it, but it keeps us talking.
He tries to stay away from the subject of Rosemont, or his job as a ‘Field Agent’- “Kat’s always trying to make it sound fancy. We hunt shit and kill it, we’re hunters! I mean how hard is that?!”- but he’ll let me bring it up. His answers start getting cryptic after a few question though, so I leave it alone. It’s not like I won’t be getting answers soon here anyway.
“Wyoming to Kansas is a short trip. No more than an hour, unless there’s turbulence.” He explains when he starts to flips switches and prepare to land.
“Should I leave you to-”
“Nah. You’re no distraction. And I like the company.” He assures me. For some reason it makes me smile, and I watch him as he goes through the complicated process of landing.
“What was that about it being ‘Not so hard’?” He smirks but doesn’t even glance at me, keeping most of his attention on his systems. He mutters something in another language- probably Gaelic if his heritage has any influence- and then pulls on the huge headphones with the speaker that pilots usually wear.
“This is Bird 4 coming in, do ye read me R Tower?” I smirk at the code names and Mitchel very carefully doesn’t look at me. I can hear a muffled reply and Mitchel flips another few switches. “10-4, prepped for landing.” Now he glances at me, and seeing that he has my attention, he nods towards the ground.
We’ve finally dropped below the clouds and beneath them the air is clear; providing the perfect view of the small airstrip we’re heading for. It’s behind a massive building that I would sooner guess to be a castle than a top secret research and defense headquarters. The building is surrounded by an empty field covered by a thin sheet of snow that turns into a perfectly spaced wood half a mile away from the complex on all sides.
“How old is it?” I ask Mitchel, leaning forward like it could help me see better.
“The building has been around for almost three hundred years, but it was converted into the Institute in 1935.” He explains in his best impression of a tour guide. “The trees are relatively new, the Madame had them planted sixty years ago as an additional layer of privacy when she discovered ye could still see the roof of the Institute from the gates set up on the perimeter.” He points to his left where I can just discern a line of black that must be the freeway or something.
“How old was the Madame when she planted the trees?” She couldn’t have been very old if she’s still in business now.
“I’ve never asked.” He shrugs. “I value my life, ye see.” He adds and I roll my eyes.
“Is she really so scary?”
“Scary isn’t the word I’d use. It’s more like she demands respect without having to say a word. She’s...intimidating!” He looks so proud of himself that I have to snort a laugh. He pretends to pout. “Laughing at me Hadley? That really hurts.”
“I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.” This time he snorts, but more with derision than mirth.
“That’s what all the pretty girls say.” He sighs dramatically and I would reach over and punch his arm if I didn’t think it would cause him to pretend the plane was crashing. It seems like something he would do.
The next few minutes pass in silence until we get close enough to the ground to see the group of three people waiting for us at the end of the ramp. Mitchel sees them too and promptly reaches forward to switch channels on the radio, unplugging his headset as he does.
“Lola sweetie I know you’re in denial about your feelings for me, but I told ye not to wait up.” There’s a scoff from the other end of the line and one of the figures raises her hand pointedly. I can’t see individual fingers, but it’s pretty easy to guess which one of Lola’s fingers is up. Mitchel chuckles to himself.
“You’re poking the bear Mitch.” A guys voice comes next, but his voice is too cheery to be a real warning, his voice rich with a warm Northern English accent.
“She could benefit from a good poke every now and then.” The figure who was flipping us off- Lola- reaches for something one of the two others is holding, but he holds it away. The third person takes the radio while the second is distracted by Lola.
“You should be focusing Mr. Brùn.” The guy who grabbed the radio says sternly, and I’m stunned by his voice. It’s...familiar. I can’t place why or how, but I know I’ve heard it before. I look at Mitchel, but he’s too pleased with himself to notice my sudden distress. How could I know that voice?
“Ye worry too much Dr. Dan. I’ve landed this bird dozens of times.” Mitchel replies breezily and there’s a sigh over the line.
“Then why aren’t the wheels down?” Mitchel snorts but looks at a section of buttons and frowns. He glances at me and I raise an eyebrow as he reaches over to flip one last switch. I can’t help myself. I start laughing, and the guy on the ground with the radio looks up sharply.
“I was just waiting to put them down until we got-”
“Did Kat dye her hair?” The man on the other end interrupts. Every time he speaks a little thrill shoots down my spine. Mitchel looks a little annoyed that he was cut off but glances at me.
“No, she’s in the back with Oliver. The luscious head of dark hair ye see to my right is her sister, Hadley.” The guy doesn’t reply. He hands the radio back to the first guy and turns to walk inside. Mitchel’s brow furrows in confusion just like mine do.
“Kat has a sister?” The first guy asks over the radio and it’s breaks the tense air, at least for Mitchel. Lola replies before Mitchel can.
“Since you never thought to ask, yes she does have a sister.”
There’s a pause and then, “So...do you have a sister?” Mitchel bursts out laughing and it’s infectious enough to draw me the rest of the way out of my unease.
We finally touch the ground and come to a stop not ten feet from our welcoming committee. Mitchel turns off systems and makes sure the jet won’t roll away once we get out, then unbuckles.
“Ye ready for this? It’ll blow your mind.” Mitchel assures as he waits for me stand and stretch. I still feel physically exhausted, but I hope it’ll go away once I start walking. In any case, my mind has cleared of the last bit of fog so I can at least have intelligent conversations.
“If I’m not ready we’ll find out really quickly.” I point out, and he nods in agreement. Oliver and Kat are already outside when we leave the cockpit but they’re lingering at the bottom of the short stairs for us. They’re joined by the two who were waiting for the plane.
“Lola my dear!” Mitchel exclaims when he sees the girl standing with Kat. In return all he gets is a fierce glare that has Lola’s eyes narrowed so far I can only see a shard of green between her eyelids. The wind blows her ginger hair in front of her face and she flicks it back pointedly, not replying to Mitchel’s taunting.
“Looks like you’ll be getting the silent treatment again.” The guy with the Northern accent states as he wanders over to Mitchel. They exchange nods and smirks like they’re frat buddies. The guy has chestnut brown eyes and even darker brown hair that’s swept to the side in a fringe. He’s also unfortunately tall. He grins at me and sticks his hand out. “I’m Chris. You’re Kat’s sister I’m guessing.” I take his hand but seconds later Mitchel shoves Chris and he lets go.
“Ye think you’re so smooth. Ye didn’t even know she had a sister.” He reminds his dark haired friend, who smirks.
“To be fair to me, I didn’t know I had siblings until I was like fifteen.” He defends, but no one gives him credit.
“That so doesn’t count, and you know it.” Lola immediately cuts in. “In your situation you had no way of knowing. But you’ve been working with Kat for three years and haven’t asked about her life once during that time.” Chris perks up.
“Ah! But would Kat have told me even if I had asked her?” He asks in a way that sounds like he already knows the answer. I look at Kat, who looks like she’s considering it. She doesn’t answer, but we all know what she would say if she did answer.
“Can we go inside? I’m freezing my arse off.” Mitchel complains, already shooing me towards the building. I follow him and the others fall in behind us, Lola muttering angrily to Chris as we go. As we approach the door into the building it opens and a man stands in the doorway waiting for us. “Dr. Dan! Ye scurried off pretty quick earlier.” Mitchel greets cheerfully. ‘Dr. Dan’ sighs again- I’m guessing because of Mitchel’s pet name.
This is the man who ran off when he heard my name, who’s voice is familiar even though I can’t even begin to imagine how. He stares at me as I stare at him, but somehow our eyes don’t meet. His blue eyes trace over me as I observe his thick brown hair; and when his go to my eyes, mine go to his dimpled chin. He’s got to be in his forties, but he’s kept in great shape, from what I can see beneath his lab coat, dress shirt, and pants. Everything about him feels right and wrong at the same time. It kills me that I don’t know why.
I find myself slowing down, and because of it I’m easily passed by Kat, who practically runs up to Dr. Dan. He laughs as she throws her arms around his neck, and returns the hug like any proud father would. It makes me stop in place completely so I can just stare dumbly at the two of them.
“I know, they’re pathetically cheesy.” Mitchel backtracks to stand next to me.
“Hey, they’re not nearly as bad as Oliver and the Madame. I swear, if they weren’t so cute when they talk to each other, it would be creepy.” Chris adds, earning himself a glare from Oliver.
“Don’t you have better things to do than be comedic relief?” Oliver demands, and the other two boys glance at each other and shrug.
“I mean probably, but nothing as fun.” Mitchel murmurs, and Oliver’s glower gets even darker, if it was possible. Mitchel clears his throat. “Hey Chris, help me get the bags?” His voice is a touch strangled and I snort to myself before forcing a more serious face. Chris and Lola follow Mitchel back to the plane and Oliver gestures for me to continue towards the doorway where Kat is still hugging some stranger like he’s her favorite person in the world.
“When Oliver called in about Harken I worried-” Dr. Dan is murmuring to Kat, who shakes her head.
“I told you to stop doing that. It’s giving you grey hair.” He makes a face but pulls away to hold her at arms length.
“You look no worse for wear.” He decides, and Kat rolls her eyes. Oliver clears his throat when we get close to the pair, and they both look at us. Kat takes one look at me and the most nervous expression I’ve ever seen crosses her face.
“Hadley, this is Daniel. He’s...” She can’t seem to find the right word for it, instead settling for just smiling at him. He puts his arm around her shoulder and she practically preens.
“Father figure.” Oliver whispers to me. It makes my stomach twist, because Kat had a father. We had a great father, I loved our father. But I guess if your father dies when you’re still too young to really know him, it’s easy to replace him. Daniel doesn’t seem to notice my inner turmoil, he just smiles at me and holds out his hand.
“You probably don’t remember me Hadley, but I remember you. Of course, that was a long time ago.” As he speaks I watch his face for anything suspicious. Instead of a confession of guilt I find myself lost in my own head.
Everything about him is familiar somehow. I know I’ve seen his face before, and maybe it’s his words, or maybe my brain hadn’t really woken up until now, but suddenly I can place him. I can see him getting out of the car with mom and dad when they finally got home from work. I can see him sitting at the end of the table between my mom and my brother. I can see him holding Kat on his knee while listening to my sister’s newest mastered piano piece. I know him.
“I do remember you.” It comes out a little like an accusation and I can just see the way Kat bristles, like I might attack any second. “You worked with my parents. You came to dinner once.” His smile, while perfectly pleasant before, relaxes into something more genuine now.
“More than once Hadley. Your parents and I were good friends. I thought of them as family, and you and your siblings as my nieces and nephew.” He squeezes the arm he has around Kat’s shoulders and she smiles like attention from this Daniel is what she lives and breathes for. I feel like I’m falling down a tunnel that just keeps going and going.
“No.” I didn’t think I was actually speaking until Kat’s face turns into anger and Daniel’s to blank. I shake my head. “What are you doing here? If you worked with them...what are you doing here?” Understanding dawns on Daniel’s face and he squeezes Kat’s shoulder before letting go and walking towards me.
“I know you have a lot of questions right now Hadley, and you deserve answers. Why don’t we go inside and I’ll tell you everything.” He suggests, holding out his hand again. I look at it for a long moment before relenting and putting my hand in his. He closes his fingers over mine and with a gentle smile, turns to lead me inside. Oliver steps up next to Kat, who looks only mildly upset now, and they follow us in.
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