"Are you ready?" Agent Moore had joined the little party in the basement and paused when he met the depressing mood that radiated from me.
"Ready? What time is it?" I asked.
"Plane leaves in an hour but we have to get through "security,"" he did air quotes considering the fact we pretty much waved our badges and there was no questions asked; even with pistols and knives. They just looked the other way. Sometimes it was amusing to let them give you a hard time at first just to see their faces afterwards.
"You ride commercial airplanes to and from your agency... thing?" Kaleb asked.
"Well, yeah. If we didn't then we'd get carried away and beef it up with missiles and bombs and cameras and then if there was a technical failure it would be kinda hard to explain it all and then if we did say it's a government plane then there might be some terrorist group that would like to get a piece of that and then there'd be a whole new problem," Fletcher said from where he was packing up the last pieces of equipment he had been using to monitor everything. He was on a later plane with Kelly since he still had cameras in the school and on some of the streets and just too many to count. He had to leave them until the last minute pretty much so he could be sure that Kaleb was okay. In this case Kaleb had been with us for the last couple days but there was no guarantee he would have. His blonde hair was ruffled from stressing about something but I didn't know what.
My stomach rose to my chest again from the sudden deceleration. Kaleb was next to me and he looked nervous. He probably hadn't been on a plane before. He rarely saw his parents so he didn't exactly go on vacation frequently. When we deboarded he had only a small look of relief and I wondered what was still bothering him.
"You feeling okay?" I asked him. I had saved his life three times and I wasn't in the mood to rush him to the hospital for a fourth. Especially with my aching side.
"Yeah," he replied. "I'm just not used to this."
A smile spread across my face. "You're not homesick are you? Just a couple seconds off the plane and you're homesick. I dealt with your high school for two weeks."
"You're used to it." He jabbed a finger into my side and he was lucky it wasn't the hurt one.
"I guess thats true but usually I'm only gone for two days maximum. I don't exactly have to go undercover all the time."
"I wouldn't have been able to tell." He looked away from me.
"That's what being part of this does to you." I made the gesture. "You get paranoid. Start to learn people inside and out and when it comes down to it, you can play a role like it's your own personality."
"So then... everything that happened between us wasn't real right?" he asked. I felt another pang from my conscience.
"Was it? You know me as whoever you know me as. I can't change your feelings but I can tell you my own. I don't have them for you."
He looked down at his feet and yet another pain from my conscience laced through me. I sighed.
I flipped the paper over and started on the other side. It was annoying since the paperwork was harder to fill out than usual. The mission had been so different that I had to write out completely different answers than what I was used to.
A shadow passed into my doorway and I looked up at Asher.
"You're back," he said cheerily. "So how'd it go?"
"Horrible," was my response and I let my forehead hit the wood of the desk.
"I see." He hopped onto the window sill and sat there. "Doin' the paperwork?" he asked me another question.
"Yes and it's a pain in my ass." I stared down at the blank lines and wrote something down. I had seven more pages of crap like it. The next paper was only slightly easier to fill out.
"What do you even tell them? It's not like they need to know every bullet you fired and every stitch you have in your arm."
I glanced down at the deep gash from the first bullet I had taken for Kaleb. It had been throbbing painfully on and off since I got back. "Actually they do. Every bullet, every gun, every stitch and every person."
"You were gone for much longer than usual. What was this about?"
"Still not supposed to talk until it's cleared." I muttered through my palm that I had rested my chin on.
"Can you tell me who the new kid is then?"
"Kaleb Coleman. His parents are involved in this," I made the gesture that had become so familiar to me.
"Yeah." There was silence and I moved on to the next paper. I suddenly clenched my side as the painkillers failed to take away my agony. My hand found the bottle Maria had given me in my drawer and I took one. It had been six hours so I trusted it was okay.
"What's wong?" Asher asked.
I shook my head. "Just a wound. Nothing too serious."
"If it's enough for you to take painkillers it probably has some amount of seriousness." He looked at me sideways. It was cute when he did that.
My pen tip stopped. I thought he was cute? Those kinds of things never crossed my mind. "It's fine," I said in a slightly shaky voice
"Oh come on," he smiled. "Do you think that I'd fall for that? If it hurts you of all people then it's probably painful."
"Of course it's painful," I snapped at him. It was a teasing snap rather than just me being rude.
He laughed a little. "Anyways, how 'bout that movie?"
"Tomorrow," I told him. "I have to finish this paperwork."
"Okay. Which one do you wanna see?"
"Don't care. Only been to the movies twice. Once a really long time ago and once... well, you know." I reminded myself I wasn't supposed to talk about my mission until the papers went through.
"Twice? That's it? You've been depraved." Asher didn't know just how depraved. Living on your own for four years could do that.
"Yeah. That's my life."
"Tomorrow then? We can go around... four maybe?"
"Four?" I asked. I forgot he wasn't using military time. "That's early."
"What?" Asher asked. He gave me that sideways look again. "Oh, sorry. Four PM. That would be..." He thought hard which just made the sideways look cuter.
I shook my head. "Sixteen hundred hours," I told him.
"Right," he nodded and stood up. "Tomorrow at sixteen hundred hours."
"See you then," I told him before he left.