Kelly's working deep cover as a girl named June when Annabelle calls.
"I need you," Annabelle says, all soft-like with that sweet vulnerability that drew Kelly to her in the first place.
"All right, love." With her mobile held between her ear and shoulder, Kelly hands Roman and Mickey their beers and tells them that she needs a vacation from the business for a little while. To Annabelle, she says, "Be there in a bit."
Roman and Mickey are very understanding, especially after the whole nasty business with Mr Cole and his beaters coming in to impress upon everyone the importance of finding Johnny Quid. It doesn't hurt that Kelly plays it up a bit and that Roman and Mickey are shaken enough to agree to anything when they finally return from their little excursion.
"Must've been rough," Kelly says, grinning as she offers them each a beer.
Roman shakes his head, and Mickey says, "You have no idea."
It takes a day or two before Kelly can slip away, shedding everything that's June — the clothes, the hair, all the accessories. It feels good to be Kelly Jones again and to make it back to St Trinian's. Kelly knows how to navigate the First Years' traps. Most of them. It seems quite a few were upgraded in her absence, so it takes a bit more time than she was anticipating to navigate them all.
Kelly could walk through the front door, but she's never one to be boring, so she scales St Trinian's walls to Annabelle's window, picking the lock and letting herself in. Annabelle isn't here, which means she's either having a cuppa with Miss Fritton or she's handling some business as Head Girl.
Annabelle's absence gives Kelly the chance to disable most of the cameras that the Geeks have placed throughout the room, and the rest — Well, Kelly hopes the Geeks have gotten the clue and will give the two of them a bit of privacy. Kelly takes the EMP device out of her pocket, sets it on the dresser and switches it on just in case, though.
Kelly's made herself comfortable on the bed when Annabelle finally steps through the door, hands full with papers, books, and what appears to be a skull from the library. Or it could be a skull from the Emos. They liked to stash their corpses in the strangest of places.
"Annabelle," Kelly says brightly.
Annabelle shrieks and drops the whole lot in her hands.
Kelly shouldn't, but she laughs. "Oh, Annabelle." She walks quickly over, grabbing Annabelle's hands before she can stoop to pick up the mess. "Plenty of time for that later. Give me a kiss first."
"How long have you—" Annabelle tries to ask, ever the curious kitten, but Kelly silences her with a quick, hard kiss that turns Annabelle into putty in her hands. "I've missed you," Annabelle whispers, head bowed so she's looking at Kelly through her lashes, all done up pretty the way a Posh Totty would. It seems Annabelle's been taking lessons.
"You said you needed me, so here I am."
"I just—" Annabelle pulls away. The moment she glances down, she's dropping to the floor, staring at the pile in frustration, which means her need is all about her fear and insecurities again. "It's impossible. I don't know how you ever managed all of this."
With Annabelle crouched as she is, it's easy for Kelly to slide a hand through Annabelle's hair and twirl one of Annabelle's curls round her finger as she points out the obvious. "Miss Fritton wasn't grooming me to be the next headmistress of St Trinian's."
Annabelle's head pops straight up, bumping Kelly's hand. She stares at Kelly with wide eyes, mouth open in a shocked O. Kelly laughs. She honestly can't help herself when Annabelle must be the only one in all the world who didn't know, who never even fathomed the idea, it seems.
"Come on, Annabelle, surely—"
"I can't!" Annabelle shakes her head and begins snatching up the papers. "I can hardly—" She cuts herself off with another vigorous shake of her head. "No. I'll have to tell auntie that I can't. This is too much already. This is — It's impossible."
"Annabelle," Kelly says patiently, but Annabelle chatters on about everything that's impossible, about the Geeks and the Posh Totties and a new clique that's formed in Kelly's absence.
"They want to burn everything down! I can hardly stop them when—"
Kelly tugs sharply on Annabelle's hair and interrupts with a rather fond, "Annabelle."
Annabelle winces but falls silent, looking up from the book that she's just stacked atop the loose papers.
"Enough of that."
"But—" Because with Annabelle, it's always 'but'. There will always be a pause.
"It can wait," Kelly reminds her, and tugs on Annabelle's hair again. She reaches down to grab hold of Annabelle's arm and pull her up. "You are going to tell me all about the trouble you're getting into."
It takes a bit more coaxing, nudging, and hair pulling to get Annabelle to the bed, but once there, Annabelle is a burst of words, pinched expressions, and ever-increasing doubt. Kelly silences it all with kiss after kiss, peppered over Annabelle's face and down her throat to the opening of her blouse.
Kelly presses two fingers to Annabelle's lips and nips the corner of her mouth for good measure. "I'm here now."
"Is tomorrow, isn't it?"
Annabelle stares at Kelly, mouth thinned. She wants to protest — must be thinking long and hard about it from the look of it — but then she sighs, and everything about her relaxes, from the slant of her smile to the curl of her fingers in the sheets.
"Thank you," Annabelle whispers, "for—"
Kelly taps Annabelle's lips and shakes her head. "I haven't done anything yet," she says, and skips her fingers down Annabelle's chest, all the way to the vee of Annabelle's legs.
Annabelle breathes out, closing her eyes and raising her arms above her head for a long stretch that pushes her more firmly against Kelly's hand. "You're here. That's all—" She gasps when Kelly pushes aside her knickers and gently bites down on Annabelle's earlobe. "It's exactly what I needed."
Dastan is an idiot. He's foolish and brash and seems completely enamored with the fact that Kelly is a girl rather than the fact that she's a spy and a thief. He doesn't know she's a spy and a thief, of course, but he should have some suspicions about it, especially when she's already taken his knife once. It's not terribly difficult to snag the knife again and leave him stranded in the desert with a bump that might remind him to pay more attention to the hand that he can't see.
Kelly's been so deep cover with this job that it's a delightful surprise when Annabelle calls and laments, "I don't know what I'm doing," before she even says hello.
"If it's a bomb you're disarming, you should probably call the Geeks or the First Years for that," Kelly says, easy as you please as she steers the camel due north.
"It's not a bomb, Kelly. It's the school. It's everything. You were right. Auntie is grooming me, so she can retire with Geoffrey. She's gone mad! I don't know what to do."
"Of course you do. You're Head Girl, Annabelle. More important than that, you're a St Trinian's girl. We do whatever we damn well please."
"Yes," Annabelle says dryly. "There's a small group of girls that now want to be known as the Anarchists. I think the twins are behind this one."
Kelly smiles at the mention of Tania and Tara. She owes them a visit, so she can give them all the nifty toys that she's nicked on her travels. "Ask Anoushka. She'd know."
"Trust me, Annabelle. Anoushka would know."
Annabelle sighs again and then falls silent. Kelly lets it go on for as long as it needs to. She's partially distracted anyway by the sight of a few gents on the horizon who don't look very happy. Particularly Dastan. He's more hard-head than Kelly thought.
"I— Will you—"
Annabelle starts and stops enough times that Kelly counts five well-armed men and Dastan behind them, who's only sporting a scowl. Kelly hates to cut the conversation short, but she doesn't want Annabelle to hear a fight and fret any more than she already is.
"I'll be with you in a bit," Kelly says, and dismounts from the camel, tucking the knife in her belt so no one can sneak up and steal it while she's kicking everyone's arse. "See you soon, Annabelle."
Some missions go swimmingly, and some take a bit more time and finesse. Like this one, where Kelly wakes up with the most awful headache and her hands tied behind her. After a bit of twisting, her guess is rope of the standard fair variety. Everything but the bump to the head is part of her plan, though, so she takes a look around.
The room can be described in four easy words: dark, dank, and poorly lit. It's all very cliche from a glance, including the brute who appears from the shadows with a menacing scowl and fists larger than Kelly's head. He's obviously the muscle, which means …
"Miss Jones, how kind of you to join us," a gent says from somewhere behind Kelly. He needs a better microphone. The one he's using makes his voice sound ridiculous — less booming and more feedback-static-screech. "Do you know why you're here?"
Kelly winces and waits for the feedback to die down. "To play the damsel in your new movie?"
"What? Of course not." He almost sounds close to normal, sputtering about how stupid the question is and whatever gave her the idea before he gets back on task, apparently increasing the bass setting to say, "You're going to help me take down St Trinian's."
"I hate to be a downer, but you've got the wrong girl for that."
"I don't think I do, Miss Jones. You've fallen right into my trap, as I knew you would."
Kelly sighs. She feels bad for the bloke in front of her that she's kindly given the name Lurch. He seems like a nice enough sort of fellow, but he's clearly fallen in with the wrong crowd.
"And you," Kelly says at the same time that she kicks Lurch's knee, "are really, really stupid if you believe that."
Lurch falls to the floor with a grunt, and Kelly slips free of the rope. She uses her chair to knock him unconscious and then spins around just in time to see the weasel sprinting for the door. That's the problem with these rundown hideouts. Can't hide in a separate room, where it's safe.
Kelly grabs hold of the ridiculous cloak that he's wearing and jerks him back into the room, securing him in a choke hold that he flails against.
"You're a very bad man, Mr Pence." Kelly has more to say, but something buzzes in Mr Pence's pocket. "Nighty night." She slams his head into the wall, and as he slumps to the floor, she plucks what appears to be her mobile out of his pocket.
"Kelly," Annabelle whispers, panicked and tight, "we're under attack. These barmy brutes are attacking St Trinian's, and they have guns, and you need to stay away."
"It's all right. I think I know who it i—" Kelly jerks her mobile away from her ear when someone shrieks. "Annabelle?"
"Oh em gee," Kelly hears, and then the line goes dead.
Kelly steps on Mr Pence's cloak when he tries to crawl away.
"You won't—" He grunts when Kelly shoves him onto his back with a kick. "Get away with this."
"And you won't be getting away at all."
She kicks him in the face. It's so much easier and quicker to tie him up when he's not rattling on about his dastardly deeds. Kelly calls the higher ups in her division and then goes off grid, shedding anything that can be tracked, because she's not leaving St Trinian's to fight alone.
From a distance, thick, black smoke rises from St Trinian's walls. It's not necessarily a bad sign. It could mean the First Years are practicing with C4 again or that the Flammables have finally gotten the chance to burn the world. Or at least a few miles of it. It could even be the Ecos, railing against everything unnatural.
St Trinian's has withstood countless attacks. She refuses to believe that anyone could take it down. What's unsettling is that it seems ever more likely as she moves closer until she's reached the door without springing a single one of the First Years' traps.
Kelly slips inside and follows the wall, keeping her back to it as she sneaks through to the stairs. Everything is eerily quiet, but that's another St Trinian's staple. It's usually the sign of another trap, seconds ticking by before all the girl swarms down the stairs and barrel over trespassers. There's no one, though.
The banister is scarred with dried paint, bent and broken halfway up, and the stairs are a mess, but there aren't any unconscious bodies or guns. Whoever attacked the school left nothing behind, but Kelly wants to believe that her girls left nothing behind, that they scooped everything up and used it to their advantage to fight back their attackers. It becomes ever more unlikely when Kelly reaches the top of the stairs. The halls are still empty, still quiet, and—
A shout make Kelly drop to the floor. She barely avoids a bolt flying over her head and looks up to see Tania holding a crossbow.
"Kelly! I almost shot you!"
"Almost," Kelly says, grinning with overwhelming relief that everyone's all right. She scoops Tania up into a hug, laughing softly at how filthy and tangled Tania's hair is. "Where is everyone?"
"All around," Tara says, cheeks smudged with dirt and her hair as much of a mess as her sister's. Kelly can only imagine what the battle was like for them. "Where've you been? You missed all the fun."
"We fought back the bad guys," Tania says.
"They were ponces," the girls say at the same time.
Kelly laughs. "I bet they were. Now." She squeezes Tania's shoulder. "Where's Annabelle?"
"Kelly." Annabelle is wide-eyed as if she can't quite believe what she's seeing. "You're here."
"Of course I am," Kelly says, and peeks over Bianca's shoulder, watching as Bianca finished bandaging up Annabelle's knee.
Bianca dusts off her hands and stands. "She's all right. Didn't get buggered up too badly. Shame that. A few scars would've given her some character. They're better than tattoos, these days."
"Scars would have given you character," one of the Emos hisses.
Kelly shakes her head, fondly reminded of Andrea and Taylor, who seem to have left quite an inter-clique legacy behind them.
"Ew," one of the Posh Totties says. "Scars don't give you character."
"No one is getting scars," Annabelle says, tone so uncharacteristically firm that Kelly smiles at the sound of it. Annabelle rakes a hand through her hair, wincing when she snags a tangle. Rather than pick it out, she leaves it, shaking her head at everything before looking up at Kelly. "Everything's fine now. We fought them back, and I doubt they'll be coming back."
"Any idea who they were?" Kelly asks, sitting on the bed and draping an arm across Annabelle's shoulders so they can lean into each other.
"A league of some sort," Annabelle sighs, and finds Kelly's hand, squeezing it as she shuts her eyes, trembling a bit. "No one caught their name. They had a lot to say, and we weren't in the mood to listen."
"Of course not." Kelly smiles as she has a look around at the rest of the girls, all of them bright-eyed and as eager as ever to continue their day. "Too busy battling the hordes, yeah?"
"We fought them off." Annabelle sounds so tired, but Kelly can get the story from someone else. They all look eager to tell it, by the looks of it. "You missed it."
Kelly kisses the top of Annabelle's head, smells dust from crumbling halls and the faint residue of ash. Kelly knows that she hasn't missed a thing, because … "Come now, Annabelle. You didn't need me anyway."