Part 25: The Past That Haunts
"What?" I repeated dully.
"You know, I figured you for a lot of things Chloe but a liar? That one I didn't think of."
"But--" I couldn't quite think fast enough for the childish physician and he interrupted my half-assed answer.
"It kinda makes me wonder what else you weren't being honest about…" My heart leapt into my throat as I realized what he was talking about, the tests!
"Don't have an excuse." He supplied, voice turning crisp and brisk. "I'll see you back in my office by this time tomorrow or I'll be forced to send some Committee members after you and they wouldn't be too happy about that. Have a good flight! Bye!" He hung up and I slammed my head back against the wall.
"Dammit!" I exclaimed and John looked at me, jaw set.
"Get ready, I'll get our tickets." He announced wearily and I looked at him.
"…our?" I asked, trying, and failing, to keep my voice level.
"You really think I'd let you go alone?" He asked evenly, running a hand through his messy hair.
"…I'm going to go get dressed." I declared, taking off before he could change his mind.
An hour later I was sitting on the front step watching the boys wrestle on the lawn while John made final preparations, trying not to think about Dr. Harley or being back in that nightmarish lab. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried I could never quite escape that little devil. I thought of his bloody red locks, those bright black eyes that always seemed with either mischief or anger, and then there was the issue of his son. I felt a strange connection there, like I had met him before, but of course I knew I hadn't.
"Aw, I can't believe you're leaving again!" Zack lamented, forfeiting the match he was losing anyway to Andrew before collapsing next to me.
"Uh…sorry?" I replied amusedly, forcing myself back into the present.
"I'm going to miss you, AGAIN." He said firmly, wrapping both arms around my leg and holding on tightly. Now a genuine smile spread across my face and I took to playing with his hair.
"I'll be back."
"Hopefully soon." Andrew added, taking the seat on my other side. "Without you or John this place is going to be a madhouse."
"Yeah, a madhouse of fun!" Grey supplied, grabbing my free leg in one arm.
"You know what they say, when Mom's away…" Ty started, soaking wet from rolling around in the grass and covered in green shrapnel.
"The boys will play!" Grey finished, slapping him a high five. I rolled my eyes, leaning back on my elbows and observing most of my little family as they surrounded me. Xander was still a good distance away, concerning himself with the sprinkler while everyone else hung off a random limb of mine on the front steps.
"Try to all still be alive when I get back." I warned warmly, taking Andrew's hand with my only free appendage left. He squeezed it and grinned, something sparking in his light eyes.
"Only if you promise to let us show you the way to party Pack style!" Ty said boisterously, folding his arms over his chest and taking a seat.
"Chloe, let's go." John's stern voice appeared from out of nowhere, his body soon following suit. He wore only a white wifebeater and khaki shorts, a pair of Ray-Bans and sockless sneakers rounding out the look. I couldn't but grin broadly even though I was supposed to hate him at the moment and he smiled back, eyes inscrutable from behind the sunglasses. Andrew promptly let go of my hand, getting up and mumbling something about going to start lunch before disappearing into the house. Everyone else bid me farewell with lung-busting bear hugs and wet but harmless kisses even John decided enough was enough and nearly picked me up to separate us.
"This house better be standing when we return." He growled at all of them, who only shuffled their feet and tried to hide their devious looks as we took off. Hopping into the gunmetal gray Range Rover that was one of the many summer house rides John gunned it for the airport. He looked at me once we got on the road and asked curiously,
"Do you know how to drive?" I shook my head sheepishly and he chuckled briefly.
"I'll teach you when we get back, knowing you I doubt we'll live…"
"This coming from Mr. Anger Management himself?" I asked, finding myself grinning again for some odd reason. He gave a mock growl and leaned over to cuff me gently before pulling me into a tight headlock.
"I'll show you anger management." He announced playfully.
"Hey!" I exclaimed, seeming to be sharing the feeling with all of the other drivers on the road, who weren't too happy with John's one handed steering.
"You know…Lana doesn't really know how to drive either…" He said softly once he'd let go of me and I sighed, the moment broken.
"Why not?" I asked disinterestedly.
"She's always had people to do that for her…gets rides back and forth to work, ect." That made me wonder again how it was that all werewolves had so much money, remembering the state of the art Committee HQ. Surely they couldn't all have been swindlers like John had.
"So she's never bothered to learn?" I asked, looking out over the clogged, shimmering road. He simply shook his head and the drive was silent after that.
The plane ride was just as awkward, all of our conversations somehow ending up back at Lana before crashing and burning. Finally I just flopped back in my seat, determined to get a little sleep and maybe a head start on the jet lag. As soon as I closed my eyes though I felt that rose colored heaviness and snapped back to, John starting as well. He turned to look at me, abandoning the sketch he had been working on to openly stare. I merely shrugged, putting my seat back in the upright position and trying to focus on the crappy movie playing on the screen in front of me. Needless to say it was miserable the rest of the way and I was actually sort of glad when we landed back in Colorado. The driving rain had morphed into sluggish, fat snow flakes in the short amount of time that we had been gone. Floating down it lodged in my hair or John's eyelashes as we hurried into the warm, dry confines of Committee HQ, our summer wear gaining us several strange looks. Once we'd gotten inside we weren't greeted by the diminutive doctor or even his slippery son but instead by Theo, the ERC director. He looked decidedly out of place without his ERC uniform, muscles bulging out of his white button up shirt and black slacks, his tidy dark hair separated by a severe side part and gelled into total submission.
"Mr. Stephanos, Chloe." He greeted with a head nod and John offered a stony-faced one in return.
"Where's Dr. Harley?" I asked instantaneously, looking around and expecting the demon physician to pop out from anywhere.
"He retired early this afternoon as well as Travis, apparently they weren't feeling too well. In the meantime John you will be escorted to your hotel room and Chloe, you will be coming with me." He replied succinctly and I felt John bristle next to me.
"Where will you be taking her?" He asked and Theo observed him evenly.
"If I wanted you to know that Mr. Stephanos, I would have told you. She'll be back shortly." A man I recognized as Thompson from our fateful FENRIR encounter a few days ago stepped out from the shadows to stand by John.
"Thompson will be you escort, have a safe trip." John growled but looked at me and eventually whirled on his heel, taking off and leaving Thompson running to catch up.
"We're just going to be taking care of some administrative things regarding the 'incident' and I'm going to need you to I.D a few bodies for us. This way." Theo stated, starting for the elevator just past the main lobby.
My heart leapt into my throat at the mere mention of the word 'bodies' and I immediately envisioned X's blood stained face, his wide glassy eyes, the bits of his brain that had been stuck to the window…
"We're going to need a final official statement from you and you may be subject to another interrogation, just be prepared." I nodded, jamming my hands in my pockets and following the huge agent up to the 10th floor, where I was immediately led to a cold coroner's wing. This is where I got my first inkling as to how self-contained the Committee actually was. They literally had everything they needed to function in the real world without ever getting caught or drawing suspicion. It was their own little world where everything operated according to their rules and was in turn, ruled by them. I got the eerie feeling that anything that threw this little kingdom off would not be very well received.
"I'm warning you now, this is not going to be very pretty. We cleaned them up as best we could but autopsies have already been conducted so…" Theo started, leading me down the frigid gray corridor. It reminded me too much of the lab except for the fact that there was a noticeable difference in the state of the two. The dark and frightening laboratory was very much alive but this place, this place was quite literally dead. We stopped in front of a thick metal door that read "EXAMINATION ROOM 12" on the front.
"We're just waiting for Dr. Eliot, he should be here with the key shortly." Theo stated then immediately whipped out his Blackberry, rapidly typing away on it. I, meanwhile, took to glancing around the corridor. My gaze landed almost immediately on the slightly open door to our left. I could see into it from my position and there were two ERC agents standing there looking quite bewildered, a pair of tiny, inconsolable toddlers between them.
"What the hell are we gonna do with these damn pups?" One of them asked, gingerly placing his hands over his ears.
"I don't know but they can't go back to FENRIR, that's for sure."
"You know they're gonna try to get 'em back."
"Then the Committee will probably have them shipped off to one of the international Packs. Try and get them out of their range."
"Well I hope they do it soon, my ears are bleedin' man."
"Have you two been waiting long?" A pleasant, watery eyed man asked as he walked up to where me and Theo were waiting. The ERC director promptly removed the Bluetooth piece he had placed over his ear and replied with,
"Long enough, let's get this over with." We were let into the room, Dr. Eliot turning on the bright overhead lights as we walked in and I nearly threw up upon glancing at what lay across the stainless steel table. X lay spread out there, flayed open at nearly angle and his head still half open. I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat, placing a hand over my mouth. All his piercings had been removed, revealing a scarred and bruised face that was nearly unrecognizable, jagged claw marks cutting into the bloodless flesh of his cheek.
"Do you know this man to be Stephen Xavier, otherwise known as 'X'?" Theo asked roughly, a clipboard materializing out of nowhere into his hands. I couldn't speak so I simply nodded, stomach churning. I could feel a tugging at the edge of my memory, as if I should know something about this, as if I should know how he came to be this way. Those claw marks stared back at me, pulling a little harder at my mind, but still I could not get a picture to form. Anytime I tried to grasp it it would be chased away by a pink fog, swirling and threatening to consume me.
The rest of my time spent on that floor became a blur of metal and bright lights, of Dr. Eliot's light, gentle voice and Theo's deep, ragged one. Eventually I was let go, sent off to the hotel where John was.
"Here is the key to your suite ma'am." The receptionist, who I could tell was a wolf, said, handing me the card. I thanked him and headed up to the top floor, where my five star quarters awaited. If nothing else could be said about the Committee, they sure did treat their charges well. I didn't even wait to get settled there before taking off in search of John. I could sort of sense him, just by the little pang in my chest that I always felt when separated from him. It would diminish when I got closer to him, and intensify when I went in the wrong direction, and just when I felt I was closing in I was grabbed from behind.
"CHLOE!!" I recognized the charming voice immediately and for a second, all thoughts of John disappeared.
"Dilan!" I replied just as happily. He held me tightly enough to make it difficult to breath and I responded by hugging him just as hard. We bounced around for a while, probably seriously pissing off all of the people in the rooms on the floor under us, as we play fought and got reacquainted.
"Did you guys get your asses handed to you yet?" I asked excitedly and he suddenly pouted.
"You mean you weren't watching?" He asked sadly and I felt my heart drop into my shoes. I had started apologizing but he interrupted me by laughing heartily.
"Gotcha! We didn't even play yet!" He announced and I growled a little, reaching out to punch him in the arm.
"Not funny." I replied sullenly and he responded by picking me up and swinging me around.
"Well what about my little wolfy princess? What have you been up to? Do you like Californ-i-a?"
"Nothing, and yes." I replied, grinning widely. "And don't call me that."
"Of course not your wolfy highness." He replied and I just rolled my eyes. "I missed you you know." He continued, swinging me up and over his shoulder.
"So much that I'm going to kidnap you right about now and force you to hang out with me for the next couple hours."
"NOOO!!!!" I fake-yelled, making a face. "Help!' I called out. "Somebody! Anybody!!"
"Ha ha, there's no one to hear you scream!" Dilan said, adding an evil laugh to the end of the sentence and I erupted into laughter too. It felt so good just to see him again, for some reason being separated from any member of my Pack even for a little while felt like an eternity. Just as I was about to try to escape from the bear-like running back I felt a sharp pain in my chest, much more than just my usual John induced absence pang.
"Um…Dilan?" I asked and something in the tone of my voice made him put me down.
"What is it?" He asked, pressing a hand to my forehead. I smiled weakly and pulled his hand away, struggling to breathe properly.
"Where's John?" I asked and his look suddenly grew grave.
"Talking to Lana…" He admitted uncomfortably. We both just stood there for a while before he finally sighed and grabbed my hand again.
"C'mon, her room's this way."
"—wait, I don't--" He ignored me though and continued plowing on, depositing me squarely in front of the door, angry sounds clearly audible from the other side.
"Good luck." He replied, squeezing me again before taking off. I didn't say anything for fear of John or Lana hearing me and when I turned to look around the hallway I found myself surrounded by completely unfamiliar doors. Great. Just great.
After a few minutes of listening to them argue, words incoherent but general tone alerting me to the fact that it obviously wasn't a very happy conversation, I finally leaned forward to peer into the room. Chastising myself inwardly but just being too damn curious to stop myself. They were standing a few feet apart, Lana holding onto a black bag and both of them breathing heavily.
"I'm sorry, I never meant for this to happen." John started but she interrupted whatever apology he was going to get into.
"I can't believe it! I gave up everything for you John! Everything!" She sobbed fitfully, throwing punches at him that he easily caught, trying to hold her still. I swallowed, feeling that this scene was frighteningly familiar.
"I'm sorry." He repeated and she tore herself out of his grasp, flying towards the door with that single duffel bag in hand.
"You'll pay for this John, I swear it on Father's grave!" I didn't move near fast enough, the door being shoved open before I could even blink and Lana stared at me, incensed.
"You." She breathed.
A/N: There, longer chapters. Hope you liked it. Thanks to all my reviewers, you guys are the best!!