"And you're sure you're going to be okay?" Christine asked for the fifth time, looking anxious as she fiddled with the clasp on her bracelet.
I sighed deeply and walked over, snapping the clasp shut. "Yes, I'm sure, please go and enjoy your night."
Mason placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. "Just looking out for you, Champ. It's been a tough couple of weeks, and we want to be there for you."
I forced a smile for their sake. "Guys, seriously, I appreciate all this, but I really just need a night of video games and trash movies to feel better."
"Good man," Mason smiled and half-hugged me goodbye, before trudging out the front door.
Christine, ever the worrier, looked at me critically.
"Do you not love him anymore? Is date night getting boring after ten years of marriage?" I asked her, feeling amused and a little smothered by her.
Christine lightly swatted my arm, gently scowling. "Oh hush, I've had enough of the two of you!" She kissed me on the cheek and pointed at the fridge. "Food. Eat something other than processed junk. And please sleep by a reasonable hour."
I leaned against the counter and bit into an apple to appease her. "What if it's already the a.m. by the time I decide to go to sleep, and it's unreasonable to go to bed that early?"
Before Christine could scold me, Mason honked loudly outside. Christine rolled her eyes and grinned at me.
The second she left, I flung the apple into our compost bin.
The house was weirdly, blessedly quiet now. I grinned, clicking some music onto the Bluetooth speakers with my phone.
Finally, something other than Christine and Mason's old-timey tracks played through the house, and everything vibrated with the beats of my well-worn songs.
I wasn't lying about the gaming and movies, and it was a challenge to figure out what I wanted to do first.
There was a time I would have been ecstatic that the parents were out, so I could literally go crazy. But ever since this past month of nonstop insanity, I felt dead inside.
I had no idea what to do when I wasn't lying to someone, talking about my feelings with someone, being harassed by people, or being coddled by Christine.
No. This nonsense couldn't control my life. Tonight I was going to go back to being me.
I pulled open the fridge, whispering. "Come to papa,"
It was a challenge to carry my food-loaded tray: pizza, random cheese string things, coffee, and as a healthy afterthought, I stuck a bowl of grapes onto the tray too.
Christine would be proud.
I blew through the first two hours, gaming with Trevor. All my problems became objectives on the screen that I shot through with an AK 47, and it was a long time before I noticed that someone was knocking on the door.
I frowned, "Yo, hold up, Trevor, I think someone's outside."
"Didn't the parents leave on date night?" Trevor drawled back, voice garbled from his munching on chips.
I groaned, hearing more knocks. "I'm gonna go check."
"Dude, that's how people in horror movies-"
Heavily, I jogged back upstairs to open the door and regretted my decision immediately.
The two adults who were arguing outside stopped to simultaneously stare at me.
"Do you have any idea how long we've been trying to get in touch with you?" Mariam asked, sounding annoyed.
Geoff asked, "Can we come in?"
I frowned at them in complete disbelief. "No," I answered automatically, shocked. I hated how they just did this. How the hell were they just-
"It's an emergency. We wouldn't be here otherwise." Mariam insisted, and I scoffed at the lie.
They would definitely be here otherwise because my biological parents had an obnoxious habit of just waltzing back into my life whenever they wanted.
Starting four weeks ago, when they just randomly showed up.
I eyed the bruises on Geoff's face and knew I should feel something. I didn't, but because Christine and Mason had wasted their lives trying to make me a good, worthy person, I stepped aside and let them in.
So much for a night by myself.
I watched as Mariam and Geoff entered Christine and Mason's house. It felt like an invasion, like the separation of this place from all their craziness was gone.
Mariam settled herself on the pristine, white couch without any asking. Figures, since she steamrolled her way back into my life without any warning either.
"What do you want?" I asked, trying to keep my voice neutral. Every time these two spoke to me, I ended up sounding like a complete idiot.
I would rather die than let them think they still meant something to me.
"Somebody is onto us and our research," Geoff said after sharing a loaded look with Mariam.
"Am I supposed to care?" I itched to get them out of here, feeling like I was betraying my adoptive parents with each second I spent with these people.
"They're coming after us, and they've killed a lot of our researchers." Mariam's voice was indignant, and I resisted the urge to smirk.
Finally, she was the one rattled, and I couldn't care less.
Quirking an eyebrow, I continued my quest of annoying them. "Okay, and the reason you're in my house?" I wondered if I could get away with messing around on my phone in front of them.
It was disrespectful and that was the whole point.
Geoff and Mariam shared another look.
Obviously, these idiots thought I would be more worried.
Screw their precious research. That was their justification for abandoning me in front of a random hospital.
I should get the person who was messing with Geoff and Mariam's research some flowers or something. Maybe a Starbucks gift card.
I crossed my arms as Geoff turned to me, his deep voice grating. "Marcus, we understand your anger. Believe me, we waited as long as we could to come to you."
It occurred to me that they might be here to protect me. Never mind that they didn't give a shit about protecting me for fifteen years. That they didn't care what would happen to me in the foster care system.
I felt boiling anger and forced myself to listen to Geoff.
"But this is serious. Our research is incredibly important, and we need to protect our colleagues."
Bitterness flooded me. Of course. The research.
"And you. You don't have any abilities, but if anyone ever found out about the experiments, they could come after you." Mariam added.
I was an afterthought, and I heard Mariam's disappointment over 'my abilities' loud and clear.
It was a testament to Mason and Christine's dedication that I wasn't like most foster kids. I didn't struggle at school, and I wasn't in trouble with the law. I was in goddamn therapy and was a decent track athlete.
And all Mariam and Geoff cared about were some stupid abilities I had never developed.
"Leave," I said quietly, my blood pounding in my ears.
Geoff and Mariam seemed to realize that they had said the wrong thing.
Mariam rubbed at her eyes, looking tired. "It's not like that, Marcus, you just get so angry every time we say we're worried about you-"
"-you haven't been targetted yet, we're just trying to protect the people who are on our side." Geoff cut across her to make it all better.
"I-I've already said this! I don't care! I really just-what is wrong with you two?!" I demanded and instantly felt awful. There goes my neutral tone.
"Christine and Mason Powell could be in danger," Mariam said, her eyes focused on me.
I looked at her, all the half-formed insults and arguments dying in my throat.
She always knew what to say to get me to listen to her.
"Because of you." I accused, my insides churning with anxiety. "When will you leave me alone?"
Mariam looked totally shocked. I laughed at her expression, the sound of it completely hollow.
"What's that face for? We are not family. Tell me what I need to do to make you go away." I hissed, determined to land some emotional blow.
Geoff seized the opportunity. "There's a leak in our security, and we think it's coming from you."
I narrowed my eyes at him, feeling a low burn of hatred. "Right. Because I go around telling people all about the assholes who abandoned me. And about their magic, top-secret research."
"Marcus, hear us out. Accidentally, you might have told someone something you shouldn't have." Mariam had gotten her brief bout of emotions under control.
She was back to being some alien droid. God, I wanted Christine here.
"I didn't." I insisted, my throat tight. "I have no interest in telling people about you guys."
"What about your therapist?" Mariam pressed, and it clicked for me then.
Wow. My rage built, and I honestly felt like I could explode. Of course, they're suggesting that one of the only people I trust in the world is betraying me.
They have no idea what it took for me to go and talk to Gabbi.
Mentally, I focused on the almost painful anger.
Gabbi would tell me right now that I can control my reaction.
I wanted to, but at the same time, it would be so satisfying just to scream at them.
Mariam was still trying to defend her accusation. "-you might've told her about us, said something about our work."
"Might've?" I interrupted her, my face twisting into a vicious grin. "You think we haven't discussed the biggest problem in my life to date? You think that you two messed with my life, and we chat about, what? My coffee addiction?"
Mariam looked lost for words.
"It wasn't her. It wasn't me, because usually, my life is devoid of the two of you." I finished and took a deep breath then.
This is not helping. I couldn't care less what happens to them, but this is not helpful to me.
"I understand that you're worried-do not interrupt me-" I raised a hand when Geoff opened his mouth. "-about your work, which is important to you. I regret to inform you that I don't know anything."
I took another deep breath and made myself look at them as they were: just two impolite houseguests that I needed gone.
"So, since your goal has failed here, why don't you leave." I got up and continued the polite tone I was using. "Now."
Mariam looked like she was going to try something. Maybe a hug, or more arguing, but Geoff firmly led her out, looking at me with something like understanding.
I closed the door behind them and sunk into the couch opposite the one they had occupied.
My bones felt weighted with exhaustion. All my plans for this evening free of parent-adjacent individuals had been destroyed. I would be lying if I said I wasn't uncomfortably close to tears.
And as I reached for the tissue box, it moved.
I blinked harshly and reached for it again. It shifted further, and I sat back, in disbelief.
Hell, so I actually did have powers. I reached for the tissue box again and it knocked over the water bottle as it ran from me.
An appropriate time to say something moody like everything in my life tries to run away from me.
I swore and got down on the floor to retrieve the water bottle. Which is when I saw it.
Blinking in the darkness, and very obviously a listening device.
The water bottle scraped against the floor as I picked it up, and I nodded thoughtfully, taking a drink from it.
Christine and Mason were the leaks. They were just trying to protect me, and they'd clearly found a way to do it.
I took another drink. Maybe I could still salvage some of this evening before my adoptive parents came home, and I had to accuse them of selling out my dickish biological parents because that was a thing now.
Quietly, I laughed. God, I needed to book a two-hour-long appointment with Gabbi, maybe just block out her whole day actually.
I rubbed at my face. What does a guy have to do to get some time alone?