Frederic caught up to Naomi before she was halfway down the driveway, "Naomi!"
"Leave me alone," she told him.
"Stop," he put his hand on her arm and moved in front of her, "I can explain."
She extended her head palm up and a small flame flashed near his face, it stunned him and he blindly reached out and grabbed her jacket sleeve.
"I said to leave me alone," she screamed.
"What are you going to do?" he put his hands in front of his eyes and gave a sigh of relief when he could see just fine, "You can't bloody well walk home now can you?"
"Did you know that she was one of them?" she demanded through her tears.
"I didn't know until just recently."
"How did you find out?"
He hesitated; how was he supposed to explain to her that he'd been to the future and that it was her that had told him? She'd probably think he was insane and he doubted that she'd be willing to listen to his long drawn out explanation right now.
"It's very hard to explain."
"I know you've been to the future, dad. Starkson told me. Does that clear a lot of the complication up?"
Frederic sighed, "You were the one that told me about Miriam."
"Any chance I forgave her by then?" she demanded and he could see that her eyes were starting to fill with tears.
"I don't know," he looked towards the cabin and then back at her, "What are you even doing here? Especially with Starkson of all people. Don't you know who he is?"
"I know," she said, "But he said that mom was in trouble and he needed my help."
"And you believed him?" He wanted to smack her upside the head sometimes, "He's a Guardian Naomi."
"It looks like I was right in believing him," she snapped, "Yeah, I'm aware of whom he is, but it was mom that was in trouble and came because I thought that she was innocent in all of this."
"I doubt your brother was alright with this little development. How did you get to leave without him throwing a fit?"
"I left him a note in my room. He won't be happy, but he'll understand."
"This is your brother we're talking about," he muttered.
"I need to go home," she pulled out her phone and pressed a button on the speed dial.
"Sh!" she hissed angrily, "Hey Joseph it's me…can you come pick me up? Wait, stop freaking out…I'm fine, Joseph. I'm standing at the end of mom's driveway and dad's with-"
"Are you kidding me?" Joseph appeared right in front of them and demanded as soon as he saw his father.
"Never gets old," Frederic said, referring to his son's teleportation.
Joseph just gave him a glance and walked over to Naomi, "What are you doing here?"
"It's a long story. I left you a note on the dresser."
"Other things took priority," he put his hand on her shoulder.
"We need to take dad with us," she said quickly.
Joseph opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it and studied Naomi closely, "Are you alright?"
She nodded and wiped a tear from her face, "I'm fine. I'll tell you what happened but not now."
Joseph glared at Frederic, as if it was his fault that she was upset.
Joseph grabbed Frederic's shoulder a little harder than necessary and teleported. Frederic closed his eyes as quickly as he could. The disorientation wasn't so bad if he closed his eyes.
He felt his son release him and that meant the teleportation was probably over.
He opened his eyes, well that wasn't so bad….
And found himself in one of the cells of the warehouse.
"Oh," he held his hands up and tried to think of something to say, "Perfect."
Unlike her father, Naomi didn't think to close her eyes when her brother teleported her to the warehouse. She was used to the feeling that the teleportation gave her and now hardly treated it with a second glance.
Starkson had approached her yesterday when she was taking out trash. He'd told her that her mother was in trouble and Naomi would be the one to straighten it out.
She didn't believe him, but from the urging in his voice, she could tell that there was something wrong.
It could've been any number of things. She knew it could've very well been a trap or Bernard Harving had found her and was projecting Starkson as a way to get her.
But then she thought of another sleepless night that she'd had the night before. A part of her hoped that it was a trap because it'd give her the reason she needed to kill a few Guardians for what they did to her and countless others. She should've just killed him then, but he was still useful. He was the only one that could tell her what was going to happen and it was doubtful the other Guardians would really appreciate it if she killed their 'beloved leader."
The last thing they needed was more trouble.
Then she realized that she was thinking just like one of them. She shouldn't want to keep Starkson alive because he was useful. She should want to keep him alive because despite all that he was, he was still a human being. She shouldn't lower herself to do the things that he had even though every action he did towards her robbed her more and more of her humanity.
Despite the fact that she'd been used to it all the other times, when Joseph teleported her this time, the nausea hit Naomi and she bent over and emptied the light lunch she had on the floor.
"I wish you'd teleport them over to a trashcan first," David muttered.
Naomi glared at him and accepted the towel that Jane gave her, "What' going on?"
"Well, I could ask you that same question," Joseph said, "where were you?"
"What kind of a question was that? You saw where I was! I even left a note."
Joseph looked at Jane, who shook her head.
"There wasn't a note there," Joseph told her.
"I imagine our little shape shifter friend had something to do with that," David said while leading someone to the center of the room by her hair.
Naomi's eyes widened when she saw how roughly he treated whoever it was and then she stepped back when she saw that the woman looked exactly like her.
"What the-" Naomi exclaimed and stepped back.
"Starkson sent me to take your place while you were gone," the shape shifter pleaded, "He knew that Joseph would bring everyone with guns blazing if he knew that Naomi had went with him, so I was brought in to just keep things going until Naomi returned."
She winced when David pressed the gun against her head, "Is it telling the truth?"
"Stop," Naomi said, "She's telling the truth."
"You were with Starkson?" Joseph demanded.
"Let her go," Naomi said.
"Were you with Starkson?" Joseph yelled.
"YES!" she yelled back.
No one said anything for a few seconds; even the shape shifter looked stunned that Naomi admitted it.
"You were with that mass murdering psychopath?" Joseph asked, "Are you asking to get caught again?"
"He said something was going to happen to mom," she argued.
"I'm sure that he'd have a hand in it," Joseph said, "What kind of stupid action was that?"
"Stop," Naomi turned and walked away, "Just…let it go home. I'm not going to argue with you tonight."
Joseph turned angrily on his heel and stormed towards the front door, "She'll never learn."
Jane, Lisa, and Kyrie all stood in silence for a few more seconds after the front door closed and Naomi had gone to her room.
"What do we do with her?" Lisa asked and nodded to the shape shifter.
"I have a suggestion," David said while keeping the gun aimed for her head.
"No," Lisa said. She understood where David was coming from. She'd never met a shape shifter herself that didn't ruin the lives of everyone around them. Lisa knew that she'd taken part in hurting people, but to take the identity of a loved one and use that to live comfortably while the family had no idea that said loved one rotted in the woods somewhere had to take a special kind of evil.
Jane said, "Let her go."
David sighed and squatted down. He had never liked shape shifters. The idea that someone you trusted wasn't all they were cracked up to be didn't sit well with him. He much preferred being the one to have the edge over his opponent; it'd ensured his survival all these years and had ensured his survival countless times during his many confrontations with Joseph. To be in the same room with a shape shifter made him feel vulnerable, especially when he was looking into a copy of Naomi Braun's icy blue eyes. They were so realistic that he could see the trauma, fear, anger and fading innocence, as if he was looking at the real thing.
Just like the shifter that had taken the form of his wife all those years ago.
"Now you listen to me," he said, "I usually harbor resentment to those that attack me without cause, especially when I'm being nice."
"It happens so rarely," Kyrie muttered.
David ignored her; the shapeshifter didn't even acknowledge Kyrie. That was probably a smart thing on its behalf because if it had looked away then David would've forced it to look back at him.
To be honest, David would like nothing more than to twist this little…thing's neck and be done with it. Now that it knew all the security protocols they'd have to be changed and everyone was going to be tense after their paranoia made them turn almost animalistic in their fear that their partner could try to attack and kill them.
"If I ever catch you around this warehouse again, I'm not going to hesitate to put a bullet between your eyes. I've done it to another one of your kind and I'll do it again."
"David," Lisa started.
But if he killed it right here, then he'd probably hear about it for the next five years.
He lowered the gun, "Get out."
He didn't watch the shifter race out the door. The others did and when the door shut they all watched him in uncomfortable silence.
David took a breath and holstered the gun. It didn't relieve the tension in the room.
He hoped he didn't regret that.
"I'll be in my office," he said and walked up the stairs.
Miriam stared ahead blankly as Starkson sat next to her and sipped some tea.
He hadn't offered her any, and she was sure that it was from her own supply.
"So, I'm guessing it's over now," she said heavily and looked around the room. This was her home for the past thirty-one years and now it seemed like all that time had flown by. So many memories in this house, but that were all over and done with. Her secret was out and she wasn't sure how her children would react when they found out the truth. They were a temperamental bunch and she didn't want to stick around to figure out how Joseph would react.
"You'd probably be right," Starkson took another sip.
"What are you going to do to me?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
She pushed her blonde hair over her shoulder so she could watch him out of the corner of her eye, "Are you really going to make me ask?"
He didn't look at her, "You could be referring to any number of things. I'm a time traveler not a mind-reader. How am I supposed to know what you're talking about?"
Ever since she'd met him, she'd been his favorite. Everyone had talked about it behind her back and she was fully aware. Her not being punished in the incident with Frederic and what she'd done to Diana had only increased those rumors. However, she knew that one day; her use would come to an end, "What's going to happen to me now?"
"Oh! That," he put the cup on the coaster and stood. He didn't bother using a cane in front of her. He didn't need it really. He just used it to make people underestimate him and she'd called him on faking the limp years ago.
"Enough games Joseph," she snapped and then winced at the time. She hadn't named her son after him; she'd named her son after his grandfather which shared the same name. It'd only ended up being more fuel for the rumor mill about their relationship. It seemed people loved judging her based on half-truths and things that they knew nothing about.
She could admire him, but she could've never brought herself to love him, there was just something in her stomach that told her not to. Besides, he was too obsessed with his 'cause' to have ever thought about a relationship with anyone.
And she loved Frederic.
"Well, we can't necessarily avoid your insubordination all those years ago, now can we?" he asked and grabbed the umbrella, "You'll be taken to trial for disobeying orders."
"And I'll be found guilty and killed."
He pulled on his overcoat before he answered, "Possibly not."
She looked up, "What?"
"I'm going to make sure that you don't get killed for what you did."
She furrowed her eyebrow in confusion, "Why not?"
"Because I'm not sure if your use to me is ended or not."
She winced; she'd been his favorite and now her life was measured in how valuable she was to him.
"What happens now?" she asked.
"Just do what I tell you and I can guarantee that you won't be executed for what you did to Diana."
She looked up as two guards came into the room. She could see the weapons attached to their belts that they would no doubt use if she tried to put up a struggle.
Without saying anything she stood, despite Starkson's sudden drop in favor of her, he wouldn't let her die. She knew that he never lied and he wouldn't start now. Why would he lie to her if she was pretty much useless now?
"One question?" she asked.
"He wouldn't have killed me, would he?"
Starkson didn't say anything at first, as if he was thinking about it, "It'd probably be best if you got in the van."