“How did you know?” Sam’s tone sounds more frantic than Chloe has ever heard it.
“How did I know what? Look, you need to be careful, Caleb called me, he says someone’s following you.”
Sam’s laugh is the worst thing Chloe has ever heard, Chloe can’t think about where she’s walking and have this conversation at the same time, and as she’s almost walking into a parked car, Sam says, “Yeah, that would have been good to know, like, an hour ago.”
“Sam?” Chloe’s gut feels like it’s full of ice, she can’t even think about trying to figure out where she’s going anymore. She’s only gotten about a block away from the party when she sits down on the curb, props her elbows on her knees, and tries to brace herself for whatever just happened.
“They have him. They have Mark.”
It turns out, there isn't that much more to the story than that. They found Mark when Sam found Mark, and now Sam is in a car with, bizarrely, Damien, and they can see the car with Mark in it, they can see it for now, but they won’t be able to for much longer.
“Why didn’t you call Dr. Bright?” Chloe had asked Adam earlier, on the phone, as Caleb had driven Jay’s parents’ borrowed car to Joan’s place to let her know what was going on.
“I haven’t been much good as a middle-man,” Chloe had laughed. “Hey, is he at Central yet? He needs to take a left on Central.”
“Well, uh.” Adam is generally, Chloe thinks, a pretty articulate kid, but tonight has taken a lot out of him in what’s probably a whole lot of different ways. “Hey, Caleb, left up here, okay? I thought that you’d—that it might be better if you talked to her. Than, uh, us. One fifty-six, did you say?”
Chloe nodded, “Yeah, apartment twenty-two.”
“Twenty-two,” Adam tells him, and Chloe hears the door slam as Caleb gets out of the car and, Chloe guesses, rushes to tell Joan what’s going on.
“Why?” Chloe couldn’t help but ask. “Why would it be better if I did?”
“I just—if I’d had your number or, or hers, I would have called one of you instead, I don’t want—Caleb doesn’t need to be any more involved in this than he already is, you know?” Adam had asked, and all of the sudden, she’d understood.
“You’re worried about him.”
“I thought your mind-reading didn’t work over the phone,” Adam dodged clumsily.
“It doesn’t,” Chloe agreed, “But that doesn’t mean I can’t hear what you’re saying, even if you’re not saying it saying it. You know he’s going to be fine, though, right? No matter how this goes tonight. He’s a pretty tough kid.”
“I know that,” Adam said, and he sounded a little defensive. “But, like, he’s Caleb, you know? Sure, he’s a fucking football player, who risks smashing his skull for fun, but this is about scary people with government weapons-funding and super-powers, and Caleb’s superpower is pretty much about caring too much about other people’s feelings.”
He was right, was the thing, and Chloe wasn’t really sure what to say to reassure him, so it was probably lucky that, at that point, Joan came tearing out of the house and demanded a ride to the airport.
Eventually, that’s how Chloe comes to be here, huddled into a booth in an all-night diner, straining her ears to hear Damien on the other end of the phone call Joan was conducting while furiously stirring sugar into her coffee. Since Sam and Damien are currently in pursuit, Joan has allowed herself to be dissuaded from trying to join them, but now she’s trying to mastermind the thing from not-even-the-back-seat, and since Damien is the only thing close to an ally near Sam, his help is kind of necessary, even after everything. Chloe has a feeling Joan is going to grind her teeth away to nothing before this night is over.
“They’re driving like they think they’re in an action movie and your Time Lord friend’s car is a piece of shit,” Chloe can just make out Damien’s voice telling Joan.
“You don’t need to catch them,” Joan says, and her voice is as calm as it ever has been in any session, or any other setting Chloe has ever seen her in. If Chloe couldn’t hear her thoughts cycling through frantic litanies about being so close, he’s got to be okay, he’s just got to, Chloe might even believe the practiced calm.
As it is, though, the panic rings loud enough to completely drown out Caleb and Adam, never mind anyone else in the diner, and to almost drown out Joan’s own plan as it takes shape in her head. Chloe can see the shape of it, but she doesn’t quite have a picture of the particulars until Joan tells Damien, “Speed up the car a little and put me on speaker.”
“Yes, boss,” Damien says, and even his oily non-charm sounds strained.
“Good. Alright, Sam, can you hear me?”
Sam’s voice sounds strained, but she says, “Yes, I hear you.”
“Good,” Joan tells her, tapping her spoon against the table.
“Can I get you anything over here?” The waiter at the diner asks, and Chloe wants to cry with frustration. Joan’s eyes have a killer look in them, but Caleb says, “Yeah, actually, can I get a BLT?”
Adam elbows him in the side, thinking dumbass, thinking, why the hell am I in love with this guy again?, but tells the waiter, “That’s all for us, though,” and Chloe feels like she can breathe again when he leaves, mentally shaking his head at them all.
“Sam, can you see into their back window?” Joan asks her, knuckles stark and bony where they’re clenched around the spoon.
“Yes,” Sam says shakily.
“Good. Now, I’m going to ask you to do something in just a moment, but first, I want you to look into that back window for a minute and tell me what you see.”
“Not much, really. Mark’s in the back seat, I can see the back of his head, his hair...”
“That’s alright, Sam,” Joan tells her when she trails off. “Just watch for another—”
“There’s someone else in the car!” Sam shouts.
“Yes,” Joan agrees, tone steely. “And in one minute, you’re going to leap back to two minutes ago, in that car. Do you understand me, Sam?”
“I’ve never—” Chloe doesn’t need Sam to finish the sentence to know that Sam has never done anything like that before, never crossed her own timeline on any of her trips, and has believed she didn’t really have the ability.
“Mark needs your help,” Joan says, and there’s nothing steady about her tone now.
“But I don’t know if there’s any water in the car, I don’t know if I’ll be able to jump back!”
“Please, Sam,” Joan asks, and Chloe thinks there’s nothing fair about using a tone like that when you’re asking for an incredibly dangerous favor, but apparently that’s what it takes, because that’s when Damien shrieks.
“Damien?” Chloe finds herself asking—yelling, a little.
“She’s gone,” Damien says.
“BLT?” The waiter asks. “And can I get anyone another water?”