“So theoretically, if this were to happen…” Zac leant forward, “what legal grounds would we have?”
“Son, we don’t have time to play make believe,” the officer looked him dead in the eye, “we are very busy here.”
“I just need to know,” Zac tried to reason, “my lawyer isn’t returning my calls right now and we-“
He jumped as his phone rang. He quickly pulled it from his pocket as the officer rolled her eyes.
“Texas number…” he muttered to himself before jumping to his feet, “I have to take this.”
“Go ahead,” she gave him a sarcastic smile.
“Yes?” he stepped away from the desk.
“Zac it’s me.”
Zac paced the waiting room, declining to take a seat. The cab he’d asked to wait was costing more and more the longer they took. He’d already been worried that it was all a ruse so when Taylor finally made an appearance he could barely hold himself back.
He managed to wait until his security escorts had left Taylor to it before throwing his arms around his brother.
“Hey,” Taylor was a little wary.
“This still isn’t a trap right?” Zac made sure, not letting him go.
“Again, not that I’m aware of.”
“Good,” Zac finally stepped back, “then let’s get the Hell out of here.”
Taylor glanced back over his shoulder before following Zac outside and to the waiting cab. He hadn’t seen Jesse again, because Zac had gotten there faster than expected and he hadn’t returned from his meeting. He wasn’t sure when he’d see him again and it had him worried.
Zac hadn’t booked accommodation anywhere, having come direct from the airport. So they headed straight back to Dallas Fort-Worth. It was a long wait for the next flight back but Isaac had already offered to collect them at any hour.
“So what happened?” Zac couldn’t resist asking once they’d found a restaurant corner to sit in, “you had to go for tests, right? Was it like animal testing?”
Taylor shot him a glare before getting back to reading the label on the IPA he was drinking.
“No,” he scorned, “it was mostly body scans. It would have been boring if we weren’t you know… held against our will.”
“Well technically you weren’t, because you went there willingly,” Zac pointed out.
“I was still locked in a cell,” Taylor muttered, setting the bottle down.
He eyed a nearby table as if to make sure they weren’t eavesdropping.
“And everyone was there, which was weird.”
“What do you mean?” Zac frowned.
“All the clones. Everyone that was in Russia,” Taylor returned the look, “Mark was there because… I don’t know, something happened in Chicago. Carey had been transferred as we know – he’s awake by the way but both his legs are broken so he’s in a wheelchair. And-“
“Wait, his legs are broken?” Zac cut in.
“Yeah, and he had bandages all over him too. Whatever happened must have been pretty bad,” Taylor shrugged, “not sure if I want that story when he gets out or not.”
“You think they’ll let him out?” Zac raised a brow.
“They let me out,” Taylor shrugged again, “who knows at this point?”
“Maybe they want to use you as an example so they can talk the others into staying longer by choice,” Zac looked reluctant to say.
“Maybe,” Taylor sighed, “but it’ll be their choice. At least they have Jesse.”
“How’s Alex?” Zac couldn’t help but feel a little worried.
“Fine as far as I know, I only saw him once or twice,” Taylor lifted the bottle again.
He was glad when their waitress made an appearance and it broke up the conversation. He wasn’t sure how much more he either could or would tell his brother.
Jesse was somber as he was returned to the cells later than night. He’d been gone all day, and not all of it was spent in the interview. Mark’s eyes glued to him as he came in but Jesse kept his down. With a promise that his late dinner would arrive soon, his shackles were carefully removed and his cell locked before the guards and handler took their leave.
Mark waited only until the door closed behind them.
“So?” he demanded, “are we fucked or what?”
Jesse groaned as he took a seat on the bed.
“Come on, I’ve been waiting all day,” Mark whined, “Keandre’s been waiting all day. Alex came looking for you too, he’s been waiting all day. I’m sure the white coat’s going to be all over your ass about it as soon as he can too.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Jesse’s brow rose as he stared into the empty cell next door.
Mark paused to see if he was going to keep talking, and when he didn’t he groaned in return.
“You know I can’t tell you anything, right?” Jesse looked over his shoulder toward him.
“I just want to know how fucked we are,” Mark had started pacing, “are the Russians coming back for us? Yes or no?”
“I don’t believe so,” Jesse offered.
“Why would you think that?” Mark stopped to frown.
“I can’t tell you,” Jesse shrugged.
Mark hesitated before glaring and continuing to pace. Jesse watched him for a moment before returning his gaze to the other cell.
“This is bullshit,” Mark muttered under his breath, “those assholes had a whole setup, why would they give up on us suddenly?”
Jesse just sighed to himself, not offering an answer.
“They went to all that trouble to fly us over there, after kidnapping us no less and that wasn’t easy either,” Mark went on, “I mean think of all the dollars that cost. They didn’t do that for nothing.”
“It wasn’t for nothing,” Jesse assured, “they just don’t need us anymore.”
“So what, they found someone else?” Mark scoffed, “don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other cloning projects out there, I just figured we were sorta the first.”
He shot a glance at Keandre who was sitting up on his bed and listening as best he could. His usual blank expression didn’t give away whether he understood or not.
“Or maybe they want to start their own,” he frowned, “but it’s the 21st century already, shouldn’t they have their own? Are they too young? Maybe they want young so they don’t have to change us as much. It can’t have been in the original plan to have to remove tatts and scars. I mean what were they going to do about you? Give you the Michael Jackson skin thing?”
Jesse raised an eyebrow at that and Mark was just glad to get a response.
“Compared to Alex you’re basically…red meat,” Mark shrugged, “like compared to the rest of us. Were they going to fake tan us all or…?”
“This conversation isn’t going anywhere,” Jesse tried to reason, “maybe we should change the topic.”
“Easy for you to say, you’ve been talking about this shit all day!” Mark scorned, “what about us?!”
“Tough,” Jesse shrugged.
“Tough?!” Mark’s eyes darkened.
“I can’t tell you anything,” Jesse repeated, slower and with emphasis, “we can’t chance any of this getting out.”
“Look around you, you moron!” Mark exclaimed, “you’re in a fucking cage! You think you’re going anywhere?! You think we’re going anywhere?!”
He stopped to take a deep breath, knowing there was no way to vent his anger in the empty cell.
“This is it for us,” he shrugged, defeated, “we might as well know how we’re going out.”
Jesse stared at him until the door opening made Mark jump. He rubbed his face and went back to sit on his bed as Jesse’s dinner was brought in. Keandre’s eyes darted between the two as the tray of food was left at Jesse’s door and the handler quickly left again. When neither of them spoke up, he did instead.
“Are we in danger?” he asked, unsure of who to focus on.
“No,” Jesse insisted as he fetched the tray, Mark just covering his eyes as he lay back, “we’re fine.”
Keandre looked over at Mark, unsure if he believed him. But maybe he’d asked the question wrong. Regardless, he wasn’t going anywhere, and didn’t see the point in worrying all that much.
Taylor had to hold himself back from jumping out of the SUV before it came to a complete stop. He could already see Natalie standing at the door and all he wanted to do was put his arms around her.
“Steady,” Zac sensed the tension, his voice bringing his brother back to reality.
Isaac pulled to a halt at the end of the driveway and Taylor threw the door open. Natalie saw him coming and was ready.
“Oh thank God,” she breathed once she was against his chest, “I was so worried.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” he rested his chin on her head, “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
When they heard the car doors closing and footsteps making their way over, they pulled apart.
“Besides, Emma was keeping me updated as best she could,” Natalie offered.
“Carey said something about that,” Taylor agreed, rubbing his eyes.
“Are you okay?” she frowned when she realised.
“Yeah I’m just tired,” he insisted, “it’s been a long couple of days.”
“And nights,” Zac added, “but he’s back, and that’s what matters.”
“You boys want to come in, or…?” Natalie wasn’t sure, considering the time.
“I hate to be a bother but I really need some coffee,” Isaac hopefully clenched his teeth, “I was a little over estimating in my ability to stay awake long enough to pick them up and bring them home and get home myself.”
“It’s no bother,” Natalie held back a chuckle before turning to lead the way inside.
Taylor took a look over his shoulder just in case before following his brothers in. The first thing he noticed were the piles of baby clothes laid out on the kitchen counter.
“What’s this?” he frowned as she went to the coffee maker, his brothers both flanking him.
“They’re for Ellie, duh,” Natalie scorned, “we gave all of Willa’s stuff away, remember? I had to borrow some from Kate.”
“Lulu’s a bit big for these ones now,” Zac was looking them over fondly, “besides, I think some of them were Willa’s to begin with.”
“And Odette’s,” Isaac added.
“We’re suddenly swamped with girls it seems,” Natalie mused, fetching some mugs, “and about time too!”
“Ellie’s not ours,” Taylor felt the need to correct, “she hardly counts.”
“If Carey doesn’t come back, maybe she will be,” Isaac considered.
“I’m pretty sure that’s illegal,” Taylor countered.
“Do you have any idea of when he’s coming to get her?” Zac’s brow rose.
“Emma’s still not sure,” Natalie answered before Taylor could, “last time I spoke to her they were going to talk to Morris about leaving before his legs heal.”
“Why would they bother?” Taylor frowned, “why not stay put where there’s a million doctors around in case something goes wrong?”
“I think he just wants out,” Natalie shrugged, “can you blame him?”
Taylor had to give her that one. He ducked around the counter to take over from her once the coffee was ready, pouring some for each of them bar Zac.
“When did you talk last?” Isaac asked, leaning against the counter as Natalie joined their side.
“Usually every day, but she’s missed a couple of days,” Natalie admitted, “she knew about Tay coming home though so I’m guessing we’ll hear tomorrow again.”
“And how’s Ellie?” Zac thought to ask.
“She’s fine,” Natalie took the mug Taylor offered, “but she’s definitely missing her parents. She knows something’s wrong.”
“Hopefully they’re not far away,” Taylor poured his own last and set the canister back.
“If they let you go I don’t see a reason for them to hold Carey,” Isaac shrugged after simply smelling his mug had managed to perk him up a little, “you and I were supposed to be the gold mines after all.”
“Maybe the twins are, we don’t know,” Taylor pointed out, “who knows how Morris’ mind works?”