Surprisingly, things had pretty much gone back to normal after that stressful day. Wrench didn't talk about the family reunion incident any further than responding to Riley's question of if he was alright.
"Just peachy." He'd replied in a cheery tone, and it sounded genuine enough. The brunette had thought it would garner some other sort of emotion from him; apprehension maybe, from having seen the people he hated after all these years? Maybe anxiety that his parents would track him down? Garrett had threatened to reveal where he was to them if he didn't show up to the house. Maybe since things hadn't turned out how they'd hoped, he'd still follow through.
Riley still didn't feel like that one day was the end of it however, despite Wrench's optimism that his past was now entirely behind him. So saying, she was a bit more prepared for a few days later, when Garrett stepped through the entrance of the garage for the second time. Her eyes locked with his, and he stopped just inside the threshold of the building.
Riley glanced at Wrench, who was working on his newest modification for one of his pistols. He was so preoccupied finishing his thoughts about the movie they had just seen earlier in the day, he didn't notice the change of atmosphere at first.
"…might have been praised for its pacing, but I still don't know what the fuck was actually going on half the time. And, the characters? I've never seen a rehash of a comic character be so cookie-cutter." Riley tuned out what he was saying, watching as Garrett cautiously approached. She wasn't sure what to say.
"What did you think?" He asked suddenly. When she didn't respond, he looked over at her. His mask flashed question marks, confused by her silence, before turning around to see what she was looking at, instantly spotting his brother slowly approaching. The question marks disappeared, replaced with irritated equals signs, and he set the pistol down with a deep sigh.
For a moment all he did was lean against the table with his hands flat, head turned down as if pondering what he should say or do. And then he rapidly reached for the sledgehammer under the table and spun in place, walking towards Garrett with a purpose. A violent purpose.
"Woah, ok. Wrench, wait." Riley stood from her seat and moved to intercept him in the same moment that Garrett took a step back with his hands up, trying not to be provocative. She hadn't anticipated he'd be quite this reactive to seeing his brother again.
"You've got five seconds to get the fuck out or I start swinging." He warned in a growl, angry slashes glaring brightly. Riley gently laid her hands against his chest, hoping he'd back down long enough not to resort to immediate violence.
"I'm only here to talk." The older brother reasoned in an even voice, but Wrench wasn't prone to listen to him. He'd stopped advancing predatorily towards him at the very least, most likely only because Riley was now standing between them. He wasn't about to risk her getting hurt just because he really wanted to do some damage to the man standing before him.
"Talk? What the fuck makes you think I want to talk to you?"
Garrett shook his head. "I just need you to understand…I only briefly saw you in front of the hospital that day, and I mentioned it to mother and father. They saw an opportunity, and instructed me to find you and bring you back. It wasn't ever my desire or intention to have you return to the house."
"I don't care who's idea it was or wasn't." Wrench retorted with venom, letting the sledgehammer head fall to the concrete flooring with a cracking thud. "Why the fuck couldn't you have just left me alone? I was doing just fine before you showed up to drag me back to that shit hole you pricks call a home. To me, it was nothing but a fucking prison!"
The brunette took a step back, letting them face each other. Now that it didn't look like Wrench would use his sledgehammer at any second, she was put a bit more at ease. But she stayed close, just in case.
Eyes narrowed from discomfort, Garrett sighed, running a hand through his hair with regret. Riley couldn't help but think Wrench did the same thing quite often. How peculiar seeing it from his brother too. "I know…I was too young to really understand what was happening but, looking back, I wish I could have done something. For that I'm truly sorry."
Wrench pointed an accusatory finger in his direction. "No one deserves to be treated the way I was. And your sorry is too little too late. Maybe it could have helped me 20 years ago, but what does it matter now?"
Garrett opened his mouth to reply but Wrench beat him to it. "And don't you tell me you fucking understand, because you'll never be able to understand what I went through. You were the fucking 'Golden Child.' The one who could do no fucking wrong." He said with quotations, now beginning to pace back and forth, angry eyes never leaving his brother.
"They put you on a pedestal, gave you everything you could ask for, and made sure you knew you were wanted. You had these expensive vacations and birthdays and shit. You had friends. And you know what I got?" He pointed aggressively to his own chest. "A 10 square foot fucking cell disguised as my bedroom. I got homeschooled because the other kids couldn't look at my fucking face without laughing, and then they treated it like I wasn't ever going to amount to anything.
"I had a shitty life wondering if my own family actually loved me, because nobody seemed to act like they did. You all avoided me like the plague because of something I couldn't take away or control. And I couldn't tell you the last time I heard either one of them tell me they loved me, or were proud of me, or any of that shit. I couldn't even be around my own fucking brother because I was a 'problem' or a 'bad influence!'
"So don't you come in here looking for my fucking forgiveness, because you all lost that opportunity the second I escaped that shitty place. I couldn't care less if you can't sleep at night because you feel guilty for doing nothing. For all I care, you fucking deserve to feel that way after everything I had to go through!""
Both Riley and Garrett were speechless through a heavy, tense silence as Wrench finished his rant breathlessly, walking back to his table with the sledgehammer in hand. It dragged along the ground with a hollow scratch, until he propped it back up against the wood.
Riley was near tears, hearing how much it affected Wrench from his own mouth. He might try to act like he didn't care, but he wouldn't be so angry about it like this if that were the case. It still left wakes of pain and emotional turmoil even to this day, but he tried to hide it. Maybe even deny it was even there.
Garrett took the tirade bravely, eyes downcast as he let Wrench have his say. His voice was surprisingly even despite Wrench's obvious anger towards him. "I don't expect your forgiveness. I never did."
"…" Wrench said nothing, arms tense as he gripped the edge of the table. He didn't bother turning to look at his brother again, too angry to ensure he wouldn't start something physical if he did.
Garrett continued, despite the silence. "That's not why I came here anyway. I didn't lie to you when I said I wanted to get to know the brother I never really had. You were this mystery to me for sixteen years. Almost a ghost. Kids learn to follow rules, so when they restricted me from seeing you I just…followed instructions. It wasn't from any intention to actively shun you."
Wrench snorted derisively. His brother ignored that.
"I guess I just want you to know that I didn't turn out like our parents. And I never hated you."
"Can't exactly say the same about you…" The hacker muttered darkly.
As if pretending he hadn't heard his remark, Garrett continued with a small smile. "Truthfully, I'm impressed with the life you've set up for yourself. I mean, you started from the bottom and look where you are now. A garage full of projects, the means to do what you want to do whenever you want, a lovely and…fiery partner…" he gestured to Riley with a pointed twinkle in his eyes. She gave a small, slanted smile, knowing the exact conversation he was referencing. "I don't see what more you could ask for."
Still, Wrench remained silent, but he did glance at Riley when she was mentioned. His expression was neutral. At least he was still listening.
Riley watched as Garrett smirked and scratched the back of his head. "And if I'm being honest, I sort of envy everything you've got."
"Bullshit." Wrench finally said, whirling in place. "You'd never trade your lifestyle for mine."
"Right. Because I just love working a career I never fully wanted to pursue, or marrying a woman I barely know for no other reason than because her family is influential, or stooping to follow my parents' wishes no matter if they conflict with mine or not." The older brother raised a brow, and surprisingly, the younger man had nothing to say to that. "You know, just because I'm rich doesn't mean I don't have problems and regrets like everyone else, Damien."
"I know that." Wrench's angry slashes returned, and he shook his head. "And that's not my fucking name."
"Right, sorry. I'll try to work on that." Garrett promised, shuffling his feet awkwardly in place. There was a stagnation in the conversation, both brother unsure of what to say next.
Riley finally stepped in, having stayed out of the conversation up to that point to let them vent their thoughts. "Things didn't exactly go as planned the other day…so, do they know where Wrench is now?"
Garrett turned to her and shook his head adamantly. "Oh, no, no. I never had any intention of actually telling them."
"So why the fuck did you demand I go over in the first place?" Wrench asked suspiciously, crossing his arms.
"It was an order from Father. I couldn't exactly refuse." He said evenly, locking gazes with his younger sibling. They held the stare for several seconds, before Wrench sighed and nodded slowly.
"Right…" He admitted without spite. Riley had a feeling she was missing an important part of the understanding going between them. Perhaps there was something fundamental about their father's personality that Riley wouldn't ever be able to quite grasp that these two knew intimately.
Garrett straightened his posture, offering Wrench a apologetic smile. "All in all, just know that I'm on your side. I hope you find the most happiness you can with the people you're with now. I know I don't deserve to be in your life, but if you ever decide you do want to reconnect, if you do want to have a brother, I'll be waiting."
He paused, as if contemplating the offer, before Wrench switched back to his mood from before. "I'm done talking. Get out before I change my mind about caving in your kneecaps."
The older brother nodded sagely and took several steps back, but did turn back to say something else. "And you won't have to worry about them ever finding you. I'll lie, tell them you picked up and moved out of state after that encounter. My advice, though? Be a bit more careful moving out in the open around the city. Knowing them, they may still try to track you down."
The hacker didn't bother replying, simply watched his brother back up a few more paces.
"And if they ever come close to finding you, I'll make sure you know."
"…" Wrench's mask displayed three dots on either side, then shrugged. "…thanks…" There was an awkward pause between them, before the hacker stood straight with a glare. "Now get the hell out of here already."
Garrett nodded again, taking in Wrench one last time before turning and walking out the garage door. He disappeared from sight, and Wrench hoped he'd never seen him again.
The hacker gave a hearty sigh, and rubbed at his forehead in frustration. Even he was surprised with himself for remaining so civil during that exchange. Well, after the anger-fueled rant of course. But he hadn't resorted to bashing his brother's face in so…credit where credit is due. Riley approached closer, trying to gauge his mood.
"So…maybe he's not as bad as you thought he was?" Riley offered up, watching as he shook his head.
"I don't know…" He muttered. "And I don't care. Even if he is, I'm not willing to trust him enough to find out for sure."
Well, she supposed she couldn't quite argue against that. His trust in anyone from his past was sure to be shot to hell and irreparable. Still, Garrett had genuinely seemed to want to get to know Wrench personally, unlike his parents. It was a shame things turned out how they did. Riley thought that Garrett would have tried to apologize and rectify his mistakes, had he the chance to do so.
"If I never have to see those fuckers again, it'll be too soon." He said, wandering off to find another beer most likely. It may have only been 3 in the afternoon, but that surely wasn't going to stop him.
Riley watched him go, sighing inaudibly. Well, at least he was getting some sort of closure here. She'd support whichever decision he made. As long as he was happy, then she was happy too.
There was something about shaking up one's routine that always seemed to fill her with a sense of adventure. Sure, deciding to walk to the nearest coffee shop wasn't exactly the most exciting thing she's ever done, but Riley was bored. Wrench had passed out at the garage after Garrett had left through a mixture of emotional drainage and several cans of beer, and she wasn't at all tired enough to join him on the couch. Leaving her with nothing to do on a Wednesday afternoon.
Her stomach had growled something fierce though, filled only somewhat earlier that morning with half-stale pizza Wrench had leftover in his mini fridge. She could use a hot scone or something, maybe with a hot chocolate. The weather was beginning to stabilize into lower temperatures each day. The brunette was forced to zip her jacket up a bit higher as she walked, stuffing her hands in her pockets for warmth.
Thanks to the chillier temperature, there weren't too many people on the sidewalks today, either preferring to travel by car or public transit. It wasn't a nightmare dodging people or getting stuck behind slow walkers. Thank goodness, because she didn't want to spend any more time out here than she had to.
She pushed into the local coffee shop, the bell at the door jingling to signify her entrance. The heater inside immediately washed a wave of hot air over her, and she relaxed into the new environment. So warm. So, blissfully warm.
Another two people were in line before her, and she sighed. Well, it wasn't all that bad. She spent the time waiting to look for what she wanted. The menu propped up high on the wall behind the counter looked handwritten, giving it that homey, down-to-earth sort of locale. It was pretty nice.
Riley had already made up her mind about what she wanted by the time the next person started their order, and the brunette let her eyes wander around the little shop. The walls were mainly earth tones, highlights of red and orange along the edges.
Small booths lined the walls, and circular tables were scattered about the rest of the open space. People were dotted haphazardly around the room, each taking up a space to give them a bit of privacy from the rest.
One head in particular caught her eye. Long, black hair, and a small frame. The woman was hunched over a laptop, typing away with a cup of coffee sitting on the table beside it. Riley's eyes narrowed…
"I can help whoever's next." The cashier said, garnering her attention. The person before her had apparently finished their order, and it was the brunette's turn. She stepped forward and quietly placed her order, paying and exiting the line so the next person could go.
She looked towards the black haired woman again, suddenly recognizing her. Maybe it was presumptuous of her to approach so openly, but she was surprised to see her again.
"Bailey?" The brunette asked, and the girl looked up.
She peered into Riley's face, then perked up. "Oh, it's you! Hi!"
She shut her laptop and hopped out of her seat, throwing her arms around her neck in a fierce hug. "Uh, yeah, it's me." Riley accepted it with surprise, not having expected this sort of greeting. "How are you doing?" She asked when they separated.
"I'm pretty good, considering." The college student said with a smile, taking her seat again. Riley sat opposite of her, figuring if she'd been hugged by way of greeting, sitting with her wasn't unwelcome. "A lot better since that night for sure. My feet stopped hurting a few days ago, but I've been up and walking for at least a week."
"That's good." Riley said with relief.
"Yeah, it was awful for the days after. Couldn't walk, and then it was painful just standing after that." Bailey winced, no doubt thinking back to the experience.
Riley grimaced. "I'm sorry."
"What for?" She tilted her head, confused. "You got me out of there. No need to say sorry. Sure, we might've gotten hurt but hey, that's better than what some of the other girls went through."
Her curiosity was piqued. "Really? What happened to the rest of them?"
Truthfully, she hadn't given them much thought. Her only pressing matter was getting herself out with the incriminating evidence of the sorority. Hmm. Did that make Riley a bad person?
"Really? You didn't know?" Bailey shook her head slowly. "Most were able to find their way back after awhile, but two girls were reported missing by their families the next morning. I guess they weren't found for another day or so, and both had hypothermia. Starving and without water for so long, must've been awful…"
That did sound pretty bad. "Are they doing ok now?"
"Yeah, they were released a few days ago I think. Neither of them reported the sorority though." She replied, finishing with a sip of her coffee. "People can be so stupid. What sort of idiot would risk their life for a sorority house like that? According to the rules of the game, they wouldn't have been accepted anyway."
The brunette felt her lip twitch. "Well, we were both in that group too, though I personally knew full well it was hazing so…I think that makes me twice the idiot of the rest of them."
Bailey's eyebrows rose, and she waved away her comments. "Shit, that came out wrong. But…I suppose I was pretty stupid too for thinking it was a good idea. I mean…surely there were some warning signs beforehand. Maybe I was just blind. And you had a legit reason!"
Riley shrugged. "Nah, my friend and I did a lot of research beforehand. They hid what they were doing well. You couldn't have known."
"I guess that's a bit relieving."
"Riley?" They both heard the coffee worker call, holding a plate of her food and a tall, white cup of something warm.
"Be right back." The brunette said, holding up a finger and sliding out of the booth. She retrieved her food and went right back to where Bailey was sitting. The smell of the signature sandwich was mouthwatering.
"God, that smells really good." Bailey commented, reading her mind somehow. "Now I want one."
"Go get one, then." Riley encouraged, nearly laughing when she pouted.
"I'm sort of too lazy to get up. And I'm trying to save money. I don't get paid until Monday."
"Pff. I'll get you one." The brunette said, but Bailey frowned comically.
"You sit back down. No! Get back here!" She tried grabbing her wrist but Riley was already out of the seat, grinning at her refusal.
"Too bad!" She said, approaching the counter again and ordering another sandwich for her friend. Her friend. Huh. Still a strange concept to have someone she knew outside of DedSec. The hacker group had become her life the past few months. Having an acquaintance outside of the loop was something to behold.
Riley put in an order for another sandwich before returning to her seat, grinning at the pouty expression her friend sported.
"How am I supposed to repay you if you keep doing things for me?" The black haired woman asked, crossing her arms. "That's not fair."
"Life's not fair. Deal with it." Riley teased, sticking out her tongue mockingly. They both shared a laugh, before Bailey looked down at her laptop again.
A heavy sigh passed her lips. "Jeez, I'm never gonna get this paper done."
"What's it about?" Riley took the time to sip at her drink, reveling in the warmth that flowed through her body as it traveled down her throat. Bailey gave her a blank look.
"Weather patterns in California and how they've changed over time. I need to use facts from certified sources, and include information from two different interviews with professionals in the business. Ugh."
"Sounds fun?" Riley ventured, not really meaning it.
"More like tedious. This is the type of stuff I'd expect for a thesis or something. Not a midterm assignment." Bailey bemoaned, tapping a few keys before closing the screen and letting out a huff. "This thing is kicking my ass."
"Well, I'd offer to help, but I'm fairly certain I'm not a professional in meteorology, and that's about the only thing that would be useful to you." Riley shrugged, honestly wishing she could help but not sure how. This one was out of her reach.
The black-haired woman shook her head, smiling slightly. "You're fine, I just need to stop distracting myself honestly. I've been poring over this for two days and I'll I've gotten is three pages done."
Riley continued talking to her while eating her meal, going over how her schooling was, and if Riley had recovered alright from the hazing. At some point, the waitress brought over Bailey's sandwich, which was eaten in record time. The college student must have been starving.
Talk was surprisingly easy too, despite the two meeting in strange circumstances. The brunette had been worried that conversation would stagnate, seeing as they barely knew anything about each other, when it really came down to it. But Bailey was inquisitive and friendly, and liked asking lots of questions.
"So, you and your friend," she asked in a hushed tone, leaning forward in her seat with an anticipatory smile, "are you guys like that one group? DedSec, or something?"
Perhaps too many questions.
"Uhh…" It honestly caught her off guard, and Riley floundered for a second, trying to come up with an explanation for why they'd been investigating the sorority.
"Oh, wait! Don't tell me." Bailey rushed with wide eyes, waving her hands to stop anything Riley had been about to say. "If you're part of something like that, it's better I not know, huh? All the secrecy and whatnot. Jeez, I don't know when to keep my mouth shut."
Riley only smiled, appreciating her understanding. She was sure Bailey wouldn't go telling everybody that she knew somebody who worked in DedSec if Riley confirmed it, but better to keep as few people as possible aware of the fact. Just to be safe.
"Let's just say…the work that I do, with the people I'm with…" She paused, trying to make her answer as vague as possible, "we have the public's best interests in mind."
"Ooh. Sounds all secret-agent like." The college student grinned.
Riley chuckled. "That's what I thought too!"
The topic shifted to something not quite as risky, and before long, Riley noticed the black-haired woman kept glancing at the clock on the wall.
"I should get out of here, and it looks like you've got somewhere else to be." The hacker offered. Bailey shrugged.
"Well, I've got a class in about an hour, and I should probably do a bit of studying beforehand. So, as much as I've had fun talking to you, I'd better go." The woman admitted, gathering all of her stuff together before standing from the table.
Riley made to stand, but Bailey had another thought. "Oh, let's exchange numbers. I finally have a person I can talk to easily. And I meant what I said that night. I'm totally down to hang out anytime. Well…when I'm not up to my neck in textbooks, that is." The student finished with a slanted smile.
"Sure, alright." The brunette agreed, pulling out her own phone. They exchanged digits, before walking out the door together.
"See you around, Riley! Text me when you have a day off from saving the world or something!" Bailey called back when they parted ways, waving a goodbye.
"Sounds good!" She said, smiling. The college student turned and began walking towards the nearest bus stop, while the brunette faced the opposite direction, intending to return to Wrench's garage. There was a possibility he was awake by now, and maybe wondering where she'd gone.
Today hadn't been so bad after all.ns 220.127.116.11da2