Espionage | Teen Ink


July 2, 2011
By livelaughlove195, Exton, Pennsylvania
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livelaughlove195, Exton, Pennsylvania
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Favorite Quote:
"That which doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."

Author's note: I used to dream about these characters for nights, formulating a story before I slept and while I slept. Suddenly they conquered my day dreams, my stray thoughts, and every time I was zoning out I was thinking about these characters. My goal was to write down my story, and I hope other people enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

It was the first day of spring. The word itself held little meaning for Emily. Spring was supposed to mean blooming, growing, and sun; a small preview of the heat that summer would bring. In the northern most part of upstate New York, however, spring meant it wasn’t winter, and that was all.

For Emily, the first day of spring meant rain. She stared out the large bay windows in her living room, where rivulets of rain streamed down the glass. This signaled one and a half miles of walking to school in the cold, wet, condensation.

She grabbed her bright yellow rain coat off the coat rack by the front door and tucked herself into it as she stepped outside into the brisk, wind-snapped rain. Disappointment shot through her every nerve ending. It was not even a little warmer than it had been for the past few weeks. It was still the same bitter, pinching cold that made her wish that she hadn’t lived so close to the school so she could at least have a bus.

Emily pulled her hood over her head and hugged her arms around her body to keep from shivering. “Just one and a half miles, Emily. You can do it,” she muttered to herself. Almost like an omen, a familiar red sports car zoomed past her on the street spraying her with water.

She sighed and kept walking.

“You are wet,” a keen voice declared. Emily turned away from her locker with a roll of her eyes.

“Amazing observation,” she smiled, shaking the water out of her raincoat before stuffing it in her locker. “I just did one and a half miles in the rain, Kara.”

Kara shook her head. “If I had a car I would drive you, Emily. It’s ridiculous that you have to walk in that.”

Emily laughed dryly. “If I had a car I would drive myself.” She swung her backpack over her shoulders and began to walk in step with Kara.

The two of them took a seat on one of the benches in the hallway between the front entrance and the biology wing. Kara kicked up her legs, but Emily sat stiff as a board, leaning against the wall, feeling damp all over.

“Why don’t we have cars? Everyone else has cars. We should have cars,” Kara mumbled to herself.

Emily picked at her nails. “My mom thinks I don’t need one,” she sighed. “Really I think she’s just doesn’t feel like putting the money into it.”

Kara smiled thinly. “I have to wait till Chris is done with the car and he can buy his own,” she stated, referring remorsefully to her older brother. “And that’s not until this summer.”

Emily was about to reply when a group of people entered through the front doors. Kara turned to look at the crowd and then averted her eyes. Emily had to do everything in her power to restrain the natural instinct to get up and run.

A brunette with jade green eyes pushed past the others in the posse, carrying a coffee in one hand and twirling her car keys on another. They were the keys to the shiny red sports car that had so mercilessly sprayed Emily minutes ago. Behind the gorgeous brunette girl, the posse buzzed with conversation that seemed to be humming Shelby…Shelby…Shelby. They reminded Emily of a swarm of obsessive bees. Shelby, however, didn’t even bother to acknowledge their presence.

A group of guys strode into the school right behind the girls, swiping at the moisture on their over-gelled hair. They were all just like the girls. Too perfect. Too handsome, too athletic, too charming… Shelby pushed her way into the group of boys and next to one of them. This boy had copper-colored hair and high, angular cheek bones. He glanced quickly at Shelby with striking blue eyes. Everything about his features looked as if they had been specially built to compliment Shelby’s. Emily racked her brain for a name…Aaron? That was it.

Her silent observation was ruined when she realized that her innocent glance had turned into a glare sent towards Shelby. If she thought it had gone unnoticed, she was wrong. Shelby turned her glance sharply away from Aaron and to Emily, looking amused. They held a glance for a few seconds until she casually broke stride with Aaron and pretended to walk closer towards the trash can next to the bench that Emily and Kara occupied. With a swift flick of her wrist, Shelby tossed the coffee cup.

“Ouch!” Emily exclaimed, jumping up suddenly. Coffee was all over her. Shelby’s coffee.

Shelby’s posse had stopped walking and instead began laughing at Emily when they realized what had happened. Shelby shrugged, so obviously trying to hold back a laugh and said, “Woops. I missed the trash can!”

Kara was standing up too, yelling something out at Shelby that Emily was too distracted to hear. A brown stain covered her shirt and jeans, and the hot liquid was seeping through her already damp clothes and onto her skin. Without thinking, she bolted towards the bathroom.

Kara stormed into the bathroom after her and started pulling out paper towels from the dispenser and handed them to her. “They’re jerks. Each and every one of them.”

“You think I don’t know that already?” Emily responded angrily, dabbing her shirt with the wet paper towels. “They don’t care about anyone but themselves.”
Kara pulled more paper towels out from the dispenser and helped Emily try to take the stain out of her shirt. It was a futile attempt though, and the best they could do was to wait for it to dry.
“If you told the nurse she’d let you go home…or change,” Kara suggested, staring critically at the stain.
Emily shook her head. “I don’t care about the stain, Kara. I’m just confused. What have I ever done to Shelby?”
The bell rang, and the two exited the bathroom into the quickly-filling hallways. “I don’t know. Don’t take it personally, Em. She hates everyone.”
“That’s true,” She shrugged.

As they approached Kara’s homeroom, Emily turned to leave. “Wait, Emily!” Kara called out as she turned. Do you want to hang out this afternoon or something? It’s been a while since we’ve gone to the movies, and I know you wanted to see that one with the—”

Emily looked down at her soaking wet sneakers to avoid eye contact with Kara. She hated having to lie, but she cut her off quickly. “I can’t. I’ve got to go to the gym tonight.”

Kara groaned. “Again?” Emily nodded ruefully. “Seriously, Emily. You don’t need to go the gym.”

“I already paid for my classes there. Non-refundable…sorry,” she was still looking down at her feet.

“Ah, whatever. Maybe another night,” Kara suggested, but the dryness of the suggestion was evident in her eyes.

The rain had cleared up, much to her pleasure, when Emily jogged home that afternoon. She didn’t have much time left before she had to leave, so she quickly changed into her track suit and pulled a brush through her wavy blonde hair. Her mother, Jan Olsen, was in the kitchen when Emily jogged to the front door.

“Where are you going?” Jan asked, looking up from her cook book. She was sitting at the island, her similar blonde hair pulled up into a bun on top of her head, and her black-framed glasses on the tip of her nose. “You just got home.” Many people often said that Emily was a striking image of Jan when she was younger. Emily, however, didn’t see any similarities in them other than their hair color. Where Jan was blonde and green-eyed, Emily was blonde and blue-eyed. Jan was petite, whereas Emily was tall and lean.

Emily pointed at the gym bag she was carrying over her shoulder. “Gym, Mom. I have a class in ten minutes.”

Jan didn’t seem entirely convinced, but she trusted Emily enough to believe her. “You spend so much time at that gym, Emily. I swear you spend more time there than you do here.”

She made a mental note to make up a different excuse sometime soon before Jan decided to call the gym and cancel her ‘classes’. “I’ll cut down my time there, I promise, but I already paid for these lessons…”

“What time will you be back?” Jan asked, tapping her fingers on the island.

Emily winced. “I don’t know…around six, maybe?”

Jan shook her head. “That won’t do. I’m having people over, I told you this already. I ran into one of my old high school friends yesterday and she’s bringing her family over for dinner tonight.”

Emily groaned. “I’m not going to entertain a slew of five year olds again, Mom. You can get Lana or Jake to do that this time,” she huffed, attempting to throw the responsibility on her siblings.

“Oh stop your complaining,” Jan smiled. “The kids are your age. I’m sure they won’t bother you to play hide-and-go-seek with them. I just need you here because I want you to help me cook dinner.”

She nodded. “Fine, I’ll be here around five then?”

Jan nodded in approval. “That’s more like it.” Emily sighed with relief and walked out into the muggy, cold air.

The gym that she was supposedly going to was only a few streets away, so it was expected of her to walk there. She methodically took the route down towards the gym, passing by the stores located on the block before stopping in front of the Paws and Claws pet store, waiting for her ride to come.

She sat on the rusty park bench in front of the store, staring at the road in front of her and clutching her gym bag close to her chest to fight off the cold. If she had a car everything would be so much easier. She could drive right to where she needed to be without having to wait for a ride everyday.

The familiar ancient blue Volvo pulled up along the curb. She grinned and slid into the passenger seat.

“Hey, Chase,” she threw her gym bag into the backseat of his car next to the wrappers from various energy bars and several empty cans of Red Bull.

Chase hit the gas immediately and started driving. “Hey yourself, Olsen,” he grinned. “How’s it going?”

She sighed and leaned back in the seat. “It’s livable.” Emily watched through the window as Chase swerved onto a back road behind the pet store and started speeding down the long, hidden road. “I have to be home by five today.”

Chase didn’t take his eyes off the road. “Yeah, that’s fine. I don’t think we’re doing anything too important today anyway.”

Emily groaned. “That’s not good news. I haven’t been on an assignment in three weeks.”

His concentrated look shattered into a smile, “Well that streak’s over, Olsen. The agency stumbled upon a case this morning.”

She felt a shiver of excitement run through her nerves. “Who are they putting on it?”

He tapped the steering wheel with his fingers. “I’m pretty sure they want a double-0 agent and rumor is she’s a female,” a smile crept up his lips.

She laughed. “There’s only one of those.”

The car bounced as Chase took a sharp left turn onto another back road, this time shielded by an arc of trees. “But I hear you’re going to be getting a partner for this one.”

Emily scrunched her face. “I hate partners. They are all just a pain. They never focus on the investigation at hand.”

“That’s because you’re kind of a distraction to them,” he was trying to keep a straight face, but his eyes were laughing.

Emily turned away. “Oh shut up. I just hope this one isn’t as stupid and cocky as the rest of them are.”

Chase parked the car behind the old run-down Jackson Saw Mill a good ten miles away from town. The area was shielded by forests of trees, forming a large shadow upon the whole mill. As far as the town knew, the mill had closed down almost fifteen years ago and now served as an abandoned storage house. As far as Emily, Chase, and the rest of headquarters knew, it was home to one of the most secretive and highly-protected criminal investigation agencies in the eastern United States.

U.C.A., standing for undercover criminal agents, had first rooted in upstate New York almost ten years ago. Emily had learned that it had sent its own agents to recruit new agents all over the east coast. Emily remembered the day that she herself was recruited almost as if it were yesterday.

She had been walking home from school in the winter of her sophomore year when a man had kidnapped her and taken her to the UCA headquarters. There she met with the director of UCA and learned about their roles helping several federal organizations such as the CIA and FBI in crime solving. The reason they had picked her was because they needed a teenage agent who seemed fit for the part. Emily had not known what they had meant, but for some reason the UCA needed her to be their agent. And so she accepted.

After a year and a half of hard work, training, and many crime busts and operations, Emily had earned herself a respective double-0 agent position amongst the higher-ranked agents of all ages at UCA, 004. She was fourth in command, the most talked about agent, the one that every guy hoped they’d be fortunate enough to be partnered with, the only female double-0 agent, and the youngest. She lived two lives. At school she was Emily Olsen, genius, geek, and unknown. At the agency she was Agent 004, smart, attractive, extremely talented, and an idol.

The two left the car and jogged swiftly up to the back doors of the saw mill. The doors were obnoxiously large and sported a dusty faded black and framed by a large, cracked wooden overhang that only further blended them into the run down appearance of the building. Unbeknown to the public, there was constant federal watch over the mill at all times of the day. Guards were everywhere, and Emily and Chase often used to make a game out of trying to spot them in the trees, surrounding shrubs, and even disguised as gardeners innocently plucking weeds.

Emily flipped up a tiny wooden box attached to the side wall and pressed his finger against the pad lying underneath. The pad slid downwards revealing a small computerized screen that was now humming to life. “Speak your name,” the machine robotically ordered.

“Agent 004, Emily Olsen” she replied slowly. The doors clicked next to her and slid open to reveal the main entrance hall of headquarters. Chase stepped in quickly and she followed behind.

As the doors slid to a close she snuck one quick glance back outside through the diminishing crack between the doors. As they sealed perfectly shut and blocked out all view of her first life, she took a deep breath and turned around to meet up with Chase and dutifully begin her second.

“So how did you meet this lady again?” Aaron was slouched in the backseat of the Lawson’s 2009 Ford Explorer, playing with the cuffs on his dress shirt. His mother, Laura, had forced all of them dress up as if they were going to a formal dinner.

Laura glared at him through the rear-view mirror. “I told you already, I met her at the grocery store. She was one of my best friends in high school.”

Aaron’s older sister, Mandy, snorted. “If you guys were best friends then how come you didn’t know you’ve been living in the same town for the past ten years?”

Laura sighed. “We lost contact after high school and I guess it was just a pure coincidence we were both at the Super Fresh on the same day at the same time.”

Nick, the oldest son in the Lawson family groaned. “Does she have kids?”

“Yes, two daughters and a son.”

“How—“ Aaron began, but Laura cut him off.

“Enough questions! We’ll be there soon enough and you can see for yourself!” Her voice was thick with irritation. “What did I say the house number was again?”

Aaron picked up the directions from the seat next to him. “526 Birchwood.”

“Well then, this is the one.”

Everyone peered out their windows to stare at the massive stone house in front of them. It was ancient, something that would have fit in perfectly in a 19th century setting. The only thing modern about it was that it was nestled in the center of suburban New York. “Wow, it’s…big.”

“That’s an awfully large house for just Jan and the kids,” Laura declared, cutting the engine in the driveway.

“What about her husband?” Mandy asked, fixing her black skirt as she stepped out of the Ford. Aaron and Nick followed her with grim expressions on their faces.

Laura reprimanded her with a stern glance. “He died a few years ago, she said. Car accident, I believe.” The three went silent.

Aaron did the liberty of pushing the large brass door bell. They waited only a few seconds before a woman opened the door. She was petite and had blonde hair held up by a large black crocodile clip on the back of her head. Black-framed glasses shielded her green eyes.

“Laura!” She exclaimed brightly. The two embraced tightly. “Come in, come in, everybody,” she said, eyeing Aaron, Nick, and Mandy waiting on the doorstep.

“It’s so good to see you, Jan,” Laura said sweetly.

“Come into the living room, please, take a seat,” Jan led them into the spacious living room. In contrast to the exterior’s aged décor, the inside of the house was shockingly modern. The floors were carved out of marble, not aging wood, and the walls were plaster, not stone as Aaron would have expected. A brick fireplace sat against the earth green walls, and dark tan carpets covered the living room floor. Cream lay-z-boys formed a sitting area around a glass coffee table in the center of the room. Aaron, Nick and Mandy occupied one couch, while Jan and Laura took the two single seats.

“Where are my kids...?” Jan looked up towards the stairs between the kitchen and the living room.

“Right here, Mom,” A burly looking dark-haired boy pushed his way out of the adjoining kitchen and padded into the living room, holding a platter of chips and salsa. He stared at the three of them sitting on the couch and gave them a nod.

“This is my oldest, Jake. He’s eighteen,” Jan introduced, motioning for him to sit on the cream lay-z-boy opposite Aaron. “Where are your sisters?”

Jake placed the tray on the coffee table and fell onto the couch. “Lana’s upstairs doing whatever it is girls do in front of their mirrors for two hours.”

Jan didn’t look surprised. “…and Emily?”

Jake reached for a chip and slathered it generously with salsa. “She’s…not home yet.”

Jan made a noise of irritation that was muted out by the sound of footsteps skipping down the staircase. They watched as a short, blonde-haired girl with crystal clear blue eyes stepped into the living room. She, much like Jake had, stared at the guests with a surprised expression.

Jan looked exasperated. “This is my youngest, Lana. She’s sixteen.” Lana smiled at them and seated herself next to Jake on the couch, giving him a smirk as she did. Jake muttered something incoherent under his breath.

“Emily will be coming in later, I hope. I’m sorry, I told her to be on time—” Jan was cut off, however, by the sound of frantic footsteps in the entrance hall. Moments later a figure passed through the archway leading into the living room.

Her blonde hair fell in loose waves on her shoulders and back, and her dark blue eyes were distressed. She had a long, lean stature and walked with a certain amount of admirable grace. Aaron couldn’t help but stare at her. She took one look at him, however, and her jaw dropped a little and her eyes went wide. That still didn’t stop him from staring at her though.

Mandy nudged his side, “Stop staring, will you? You look like an idiot.” Aaron kept his eyes on the girl though, watching as she stared back at him with a different kind of look; one of shock and anxiety.

“Oh, well here she is. This is Emily, she’s seventeen.” Jan finished, not looking very happy. Emily, Aaron thought to himself, smiling at her. She avoided his glance though, occupying herself by staring at her feet.

Jan did not seem pleased with her oldest daughter. “Take a seat next to your siblings,” she ordered. “You can get a shower in a little bit.” It was only then that Aaron noticed that Emily was wearing a track suit and was carrying a gym bag. Her hair looked slightly damp from the rain that she must have been walking in, and a light sheen of sweat coated her forehead. She didn’t say anything as she crossed the room to sit next to Lana.

Laura took over then, beginning the introductions with her family. “My oldest,” she began by resting her hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Nick, he’s nineteen. She moved over to Mandy. “And this is my second oldest, Mandy, she’s eighteen.” Lastly she rested her hand on Aaron. He saw Emily’s eyes flutter up to look at him. “And this is my youngest, Aaron. He’s seventeen.”

“What school do you go to?” Jake asked, directing the question mostly at Mandy when the introductions were finished and Jan and Laura had immersed themselves in conversation.

“Arthur J. Roberts,” she stated.

“So do we,” Lana grinned. Aaron glanced at Emily. If she was a junior as well, then why was it that he had never seen her before?

Jan and Laura reminisced about high school days and Jake and Mandy started chatting. Nick looked like he was about to fall asleep, but Lana looked energetic and ready to speak. Aaron glanced occasionally at Emily, but she looked at her toes for a few minutes until she got up to go shower. When she left, Lana looked over at Aaron with a smile.

“I think I’ve seen you at school before,” she beamed. She gave off a glow that seemed contagious.

He hesitated, unsure what to say. “I—I don’t think I’ve seen you, but maybe we’ll see each other now that we know each other.” Next to him, Nick snorted.

Lana said quietly, “It’s probably because I’m a sophomore.”

“Well, Lana, I’ve seen you before,” Nick commented, smiling wryly at her. “You have Spanish in the room next to me.” Aaron knitted his eyebrows and gave Nick a skeptic look, watching as she grinned at him, showing off her pearly white teeth. And just like that Nick and Lana started to chat, leaving Aaron as the only quiet one.

After a few painful minutes, Emily came down the stairs, her wet, blonde, hair tied back in a ponytail. She glanced momentarily at Lana, who was engrossed in vibrant conversation with Nick. “Lana, could you help me with dinner?” Her tone was quiet, but Lana turned, startled, towards her.

“Sorry,” Lana excused herself and followed Emily as they walked towards the kitchen. Aaron stared after them, feeling restless.

“Where’s the bathroom?” he asked suddenly, desperately trying to find any excuse to leave the living room. Jan pointed him towards the direction of the kitchen. Aaron walked down the small hallway through the kitchen and into another hallway down towards the bathroom.

Along the way, a set of doors was left ajar, and Aaron could hear Lana and Emily. “—didn’t know that they would all be so attractive,” Lana chirped. There was a short silence and a shuffle. He presumed this was the pantry, because they seemed to be getting ingredients for dinner. Aaron turned to go back towards the bathroom.

“Don’t be so fooled,” Emily’s voice was morose. “They’re jerks. All of them. Haven’t you ever heard of Aaron Lawson?”

He stopped, taken aback. Are they talking about me? Lana spoke, “I don’t know anything about your stupid drama or whatever in the junior class. And what do you mean they’re all jerks? Nick seemed nice…”

“They don’t think anyone’s good enough for them,” Emily sounded angry. “Aaron hangs out with all these snooty, stuck up girls who mock people like me all the time. And his guy friends are just…jerks.”

Aaron furrowed his eyebrow and looked through the small gap between the two doors. Emily was holding half a dozen cans of tomatoes, and Lana was carrying boxes full of spaghetti. “Aaron didn’t seem like a jerk,” Lana muttered. “And he didn’t look like he was about to laugh at you. Didn’t you see him staring at you?”

“No. And of course he wasn’t going to be a jerk in front of everyone.”

Through the crack, Aaron could see Lana roll her eyes. “He was staring at you. Pretty intensely, if I do say so myself,” she giggled.

“Whatever,” Emily made her way towards the pantry doors, and Aaron slid out of the way just as she passed through and turned the opposite way to go into the kitchen. He leaned against the far wall and waited until the two sisters were in the kitchen, then counted to five before he followed them.

When he walked into the kitchen, Lana had set down the boxes of spaghetti and was already walking out the opposite side back towards the living room. She didn’t see him coming in, and then it was just Emily and Aaron alone in the kitchen. He watched Emily as she emptied the cans of tomatoes into a cooking pot on the stove. There was a large window overlooking the living room in front of her, and she was looking through it quizzically as she stirred the tomatoes.

“Do you want any help?” he asked, breaking the silence in the room. She yelped, and the wooden spoon she had been stirring with flew across the floor, leaving a trail of sauce behind it. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to catch you off guard.” He bent down to pick up the spoon as she wiped the sauce away with napkins.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” she mumbled, looking at the floor. He smiled a little. She had been avoiding looking at him in the eyes for the entirety of his visit.

“Do you want any help with that?” he nodded towards the pot of boiling sauce on the stove.

She shook her head quickly. “No, I’m fine…thanks.” She stood up clumsily and started stirring the sauce again with a different spoon. Aaron stood next to her, watching her look down into the sauce.

“Are you sure? I’m a good cook,” he tried to smile at her, but she only looked queasy, still managing to avoid eye contact.

Emily shook her head, “No thanks.”

She didn’t look like she wanted him to stay around much longer, but he stood there and watched her anyways. Emily started sprinkling salt into the sauce she was making. “Are you a junior at Arthur J.?” He asked reluctantly. Emily’s hands shook a little as she finished sprinkling the salt.

“Yeah.” She said. He sighed. She still refused to look at him.

He tried again. “It’s weird, I’ve never…I’ve never seen you before.”

To his surprise, she turned to look at him with disturbed blue eyes and let out a sigh of defeat. “Aaron, I’m in your Calc class. Third period. Every day.”

He looked down at her, meeting her ocean blue eyes with his own. The blood flowed to his cheeks in embarrassment and guilt. “Oh…I’m sorry. You probably don’t sit near me. It’s a big class.” Aaron felt dim and self-centered as he looked into her disappointed eyes.

“Whatever, don’t worry about it.” She turned back to her sauce with a perturbed expression. He didn’t want the conversation to end, though.

“Why don’t I start the water for the spaghetti? It’ll go faster that way,” he reached for a pot on the counter before she stopped him with her hand. But just as quick as Emily had touched his hand, she recoiled and brought it back to her side.

“No, stop, it’s okay. Really. I’m fine, I’ll get it done. You’re the guest…why don’t you just go back to the living room?” She looked at him for the second time that night, which only made him want to stay back and help her even more.

He shook his head. “I’m helping anyway.” Emily watched him with a defeated expression as he filled the pot with water and set the stove. Aaron then occupied himself with snapping the dried spaghetti to fit in the pot.

Emily picked up a can opener and started working at the edges of another can of tomatoes. He watched her struggle for a few seconds before he brushed away her fingers gently and popped open the lid with one swift turn of the handle. “There you go,” he pushed the can towards her.

“Thanks,” she mumbled, and emptied the contents into the large sauce pot.

He sat on the massive marble island near her and started opening another sauce can. “I don’t understand why I haven’t seen you before, especially since you’re in a class of mine.”

Emily shook her head. “Your friends aren’t friends of mine. Your friends…” She trailed off, poking at the sauce with her spoon.

“My friends aren’t as big jerks as you make them out to be.”

Emily hesitated. “I never said—“

“I overheard you talking to Lana in the pantry,” he smiled at her, just to show he wasn’t taking any offense from what he had heard.

Her face visibly paled, and she looked queasy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“

“Whatever, don’t worry about it,” he grinned, mimicking her indifference. She bit down a smile and turned to face him.

“But I stand behind what I said.”

Aaron raised his eyebrows, lying back on his hands. She didn’t seem as reluctant to look at him, but there was an underlying…challenge… in her tone. “So you’re calling my friends jerks?”

“Self-absorbed, more like,” Emily tapped her fingers against the counter. Aaron cocked his head to the side and laughed.

“You’re calling me self-absorbed then?” he tried to read the expression in her eyes.

Emily laughed without mirth. “You just said that you had never seen me before. I’ve been going to school with you for about five years and you’re in my class everyday third period.”

“I guess it’s true, when you put it like that.”

“It’s true any way I put it,” She smiled at him, and Aaron automatically smiled back, because he couldn’t help it.

“You must be very quiet then,” he began, watching her smile fade. “You must be introverted and shy. There’s no other way I would miss someone like you.”

Emily bit her lip. “That’s partially true.”

“So then it’s partially not my fault.”

“Only partially though,” she said. He looked into her eyes again, which were now swimming with a lighter blue in the fluorescence of the kitchen lights.

“Well then maybe we need to see each other more often,” he smiled wryly at her, but something in her expression changed and she was hovering over her sauce once again, avoiding eye contact.

Emily shook her head. “You say that now, but tomorrow when you go back to school you won’t even remember me.”

He frowned. “What makes you think that?”

“That’s just the type of person you are.”

He raised his eyebrows at her. “You seem to know a lot about me even though we just met.”

Emily seemed to catch her fault. “You’re right. I’m sorry, that was rude. Just…don’t say things you don’t mean.”

Aaron slid off the counter to stand next to her. “I do mean it.” Emily shook her head just as Lana came back into the kitchen.

“Em, hurry up they’re getting hungry. And have you seen—?” She stopped when she saw Aaron leaning against the counter. “Oh, never mind, there you are,” she smiled at Aaron.

Aaron glanced at Emily, “I’m heading back to the living room. Just shout if you need me.” He grinned at her, as Lana watched them speculatively. He wiped his hands on a dishtowel as he retreated back into the living room, giving her a parting smile, but Emily only continued to look down into the sauce.

The author's comments:
I'll add more soon as soon as I'm done editing! I hope you guys enjoy it :)

Emily stood in utter despair as she stared out the large bay windows in her living room. It was raining again. This meant walking in the rain again. She plopped down onto the couch feeling miserable. Lana skipped down the large staircase on the far side of the living room and sat down on the couch next to her.

“Just come to school on time today,” Emily begged. “I don’t want to have to walk through that alone again.” She pointed to the torrents of rain flooding the streets.

“The beauty of first period study hall,” she smiled, “is that I can come in late everyday.”

“It’s just my luck that you and Jake both have first period study hall,” she mentally cursed herself for not leaving any study halls in her packed schedule.

Lana glanced back out at the rain. “Just save up for a car and you won’t have to go through that.” Emily smiled to herself. She had a car, just not one that she was allowed to use out in public, and especially not one she could drive to school. It was strictly to be kept for the agency, and nowhere else.

“Wish me luck,” Emily groaned as she pulled her hood up and walked out into the downpour.

The only thing she liked about having to walk to school was all the time that it gave her to think. Last night had been one of the strangest experiences of her life to date. After Lana and Emily had finished making the food, the dinner itself had sped by swiftly. She and Aaron hadn’t had a chance to converse afterwards, not that she would have wanted to anyways. Even when the Lawsons were leaving and Aaron had tried to wave to her, she had ignored him. Emily hated people who acted one way one day and then acted completely different the next. She refused to fall victim to his flattery or sweet-boy façade.

About two minutes into her fifteen-minute walk, she heard the sound of an engine coming down the street. She braced herself for a spray of water, but was shocked when the car slowed its speed near her instead. Emily turned to glance appreciatively at the glossy, silver Cadillac XLR with its hood up, but when she saw the driver she felt her stomach lurch.

“Emily!” Aaron stopped the car and called to her out his rolled down window. She paused mid-step and looked at him in confusion. “I stopped by your house, but Lana said you had already left. Then I saw you walking. I was wondering if you wanted a ride to school.”

Emily’s stomach lurched again as she shook her head. “No. I’m fine.”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “Come on, Emily. It’s pouring. Just get in the car.” He patted the passenger seat.

“No thanks. I’m used to walking in the rain,” She tried to mute the desperation in her tone.

“If you don’t come I’m going to walk with you,” there was a challenge in his voice. She knew he was bluffing.

“You would never leave your precious car,” she turned and started to walk along the sidewalk towards the school. After a few seconds she heard a car door slamming, followed by footsteps, and when she turned, Aaron was sloshing through the rain puddles alongside her without so much as a coat on. “What are you doing?” She exclaimed.

He smiled at her. “I just told you, if you weren’t going to take a ride with me, I was going to walk with you.”

“You can’t just leave your car here!” She pointed out, looking back at the silver car parked along the curb.

He shrugged, “Yes I can. I’ll just pick it up later. It might get towed, but so what?”

“Aaron!” She stopped walking and stared at him. “It will get towed. That’s a no parking zone.”

“Which is why it would be a lot easier if you just accepted a ride from me. It’ll save me on the cost of a parking ticket.”

Emily sighed, feeling miserable. “Why?” When he looked at her quizzically, “Why do you care that I’m walking to school in the rain?”

He watched her with inquisitive eyes. “You said you didn’t think I meant it when I said that I wanted to see you more.” Her breath caught in her throat, and she was positive he noticed. “But I did mean it.”

“You don’t have to prove it to me,” she began, feeling sick. “I barely know you.”

He sighed. “You don’t get it, Emily. I’m not a bad guy. I don’t understand why you seem to think so.”

They stood there in the rain in silence. Aaron’s hair was soaked, in all its gelled-up perfection. Emily felt nauseous, but she was determined not to let him see her queasiness. “Fine, let’s drive. We’re going to be late if we walk now anyway.”

Aaron’s face brightened noticeably, and he held open the passenger door as she slid into the warm, leather interior. He took the drivers seat and turned on his windshield wipers as they made their way toward the school. “This isn’t a good idea,” Emily spoke quietly. His car smelled pleasantly of peppermint and lavender, and didn’t carry a faint hint of smoke like most guys’ cars did.

“If you’re going to complain, we’re walking,” he turned to smile at her. She hated how he had pointedly said we are walking versus you are walking.

“Aaron, you’re going to go walk in the school with all your friends. It’s going to ruin your reputation to be seen with someone like me.”

He looked utterly disgusted and partially amused at what she had just said. “My reputation? To be seen with you? You’re insane, Emily.”

“Isn’t that what you guys care about the most? Your friends aren’t going to be happy. Especially not the girls,” she mumbled the second part.

“Now you’re going to give me a breakdown of how snotty my female friends are?” He guessed, staring straight ahead at the road.

“Well that Shelby one isn’t very nice.” Aaron turned and grinned at her.

“Actually, I really don’t like her. She treats everyone like road kill. Everyone except me, basically.”

“Well that’s because you two are a couple,” she pointed out. As soon as she had said it though, Aaron jerked in his seat a little. “Are you okay?” She asked hesitantly.

“Are you serious? You think we’re a couple?” He looked at her in disbelief. “You’re kidding me, Emily. I can’t stand the girl.”

“Oh…I just thought, the way she acted around you…” she felt stupid and prodding, but Aaron didn’t seem to mind that.

“Your superior person-analyzing skills failed you,” Aaron grinned. “We’re not a couple; no matter how much she wants us to be one.” Emily didn’t feel like touching upon the subject any more, and it was a good thing because they had just pulled up to the school parking lot.

Before he had even cut the engine she was stumbling out the door, trying to leave his car unnoticed by the student body. “What are you—?” Aaron cut the engine and jogged after her, trying to catch up to Emily’s speedy pace.

“Thanks for the ride, but I can take it from here,” Emily gave him a sarcastic look when Aaron finally caught up to her.

He looked taken aback. “Hey, you could at least pretend you like spending time with me?” She shook her head disbelievingly.

“Why do you care so much what I think? I told you. You’ll forget about me, I know you will,” They were standing out in the rain, Emily at least shielded by her hood. Aaron was soaking from head to toe already, and he didn’t even seem to mind.

“Stop saying that—” Aaron was interrupted by the sound of footsteps sloshing behind him. Emily felt her stomach drop as one of Aaron’s guy friends strode up next to him. “Oh, hey.”

“I have to—” Emily turned around, ready to retreat.

“No, Emily, wait!” He grabbed her hand, and she unintentionally recoiled under his touch. “At least let me introduce you.” She sighed, not having much of a choice. Emily hoped he saw how much it pained her to hang around him.

Aaron’s friend looked at her quizzically. “Jesse, this is Emily Olsen. Emily, this is Jesse Jones.” Jesse was staring at her, so she took the opportunity to analyze him as well. Jesse had the same perfect hair as Aaron, except his was a darker shade of brown instead of the tousled copper bronze that Aaron had. His eyes were deep brown and he was just as perfect as the rest of Aaron’s friends. Emily looked away sheepishly.

“Nice to meet you Emily,” Jesse spoke, surprising her. She smiled awkwardly, but it was short-lived, because more of Aaron’s friends were coming over, and this time of the female variety.

Shelby was walking in front of the rest of the girls, and she was already staring viciously at Emily as she strutted over to Aaron. Emily didn’t even let herself hesitate this time. “I’ll see you around Aaron,” she turned to leave.

“Hope so,” he grinned.

Kara was routinely waiting at Emily’s locker when she approached it. “Wow, I expected you to be a lot wetter than that considering the weather,” Kara commented, looking at Emily’s dry rain boots. Emily debated explaining.

“I got a ride today,” she said reluctantly.

Kara picked at her nails without looking at her. “From whom?”

“It doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t believe me anyways.”

Kara looked up at her with a quizzical expression. “Why wouldn’t I believe you?”

“Aaron Lawson gave me a ride today,” she tried, holding a serious expression. Kara, on the other hand, started laughing.

“No, seriously,” Kara laughed.

Emily bit her lip in frustration. “I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”

Kara’s smile faded away. “Why the heck would Aaron Lawson give you a ride to school?” Emily flinched at the way she annunciated you.

“Our parents are friends. We met last night at dinner and he was just trying to prove me wrong.”

Kara looked doubtful. “What?” Emily shook her head, signaling she didn’t want to explain any further. “What do you mean he wanted to prove you wrong?”

“He said he wanted to see me more often, and I told him he was just saying things he didn’t really mean. So this morning he picked me up so he could prove a point.”

“So Aaron Lawson gave you a ride to school?” Kara gasped, mixed emotions crossing her otherwise-angelic face. Emily nodded. “What the hell?”

Her tone was sharp, and when Emily glanced sideways at her, Kara looked angry. There was a frown on her lips, and she seemed irritated. “What?” Emily asked.

“So, what, you’re going to be getting a ride from him everyday now?” Kara’s tone was pitchy and unsteady.

“No! I never said that. I told you, he was just trying to prove a point to me. I don’t even want to get rides from him. I don’t care whether it’s raining or even hailing outside,” Emily thought she felt as furious as Kara looked.

“Really…?” Some of Kara’s bitterness had begun to fade.

“I hate riding in his stupid car,” Emily spoke through gritted teeth.

Kara smiled, and Emily felt her eyes roll reflexively. “Well in that case…” Even though her words were unspoken, Emily knew that what Kara had really feared was that she would discover that Aaron and his brainless friends were all much cooler to hang out with. Fury seared through her veins.

“Well we should start heading to class,” Kara broke the awkward silence between them. Emily nodded in agreement. “But…Aaron giving you a ride, that’s pretty cool.”

“Forget it Kara,” Emily rolled her eyes. “I bet he doesn’t even remember my name anymore.”

“Emily,” Aaron muttered under his breath. He hadn’t been able to keep her off his mind at all the whole day. She was all he could think about. At first, he didn’t know what exactly had made him so eager to see her or be with her, but after a while he realized it was because she, unlike other girls, didn’t reciprocate the feeling. Emily didn’t like him at all, that was clearly evident, and yet he didn’t want to give up on her. There was just something about her.

Jesse turned to look at Aaron once had had spoken. “Still thinking about that girl?”

Aaron glanced at him sheepishly. “Yeah.” Jesse didn’t look surprised.

“How did you say you met her again?”

“I met her at a dinner party last night. She didn’t even want to talk to me, but I got her talking.”

Jesse rolled her eyes. “So why are you so obsessed with her then?”

“I’m not obsessed. It’s just—” He hesitated, and Jesse looked at him skeptically. “She has so many opinions about me and my friends that I want to prove wrong.”

“Such as…?” Jesse slathered his French fry with a copious amount of ketchup and stuck it in his mouth.

“I overheard her telling her sister not to fall for my ‘tricks’. She called me and my friends self-absorbed jerks,” Aaron frowned. Jesse laughed, and Aaron looked up, alarmed. “It’s not funny, man.”

“Why do you care so much about what she thinks?” Jesse bit his tongue to keep from laughing. “She’s just one girl.”

Aaron shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself.”

Jesse took another fry and shoved it in his mouth. “Well, she’s pretty hot.” Aaron looked up, surprised that Jesse would admit that to his face.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

Jesse laughed again. “Dude, you are so pathetic.”

Aaron ignored him with a smirk. “Have you seen her before? I mean before I introduced you two in the parking lot?”

Jesse didn’t put much thought into it. “Nah…she probably hangs out with people we don’t know. She must be some freak girl super-genius or something who has no friends—”

“Don’t say that,” Aaron cut him off, gritting his teeth. “So what if she is a freak super-genius girl? What does that matter?”

Jesse raised his eyebrows at Aaron, searching his face. “What is wrong with you?”

Aaron set his jaw. “She was right, Jesse. My friends and I are self-absorbed jerks.”

Jesse stared at him. “So you’re so angry because she was right? It doesn’t matter if we’re self-absorbed jerks. If you haven’t noticed that before, then you’re blind.”

“I’m not angry that she was right, I’m angry because I didn’t want to believe what she was saying.”

Jesse snorted and got up, picking up his cup of fries with him. “Aaron, you care way too much what she thinks about you. You better figure this out before you start ditching your real friends because of her. She doesn’t even like you.”

Aaron watched him leave the table with a defeated expression. What is wrong with me? He didn’t have time to ponder the thought too long though, because someone else quickly slid into Jesse’s newly vacant seat. “Hey, Aaron!”

It took everything he had to keep himself from telling her to go away. Shelby’s bright, energetic green eyes were falsely polite. “Hey,” he grunted, not looking at her but instead at Jesse’s retreating figure.

“You haven’t eaten any of your lunch,” she pointed out, looking at his untouched slice of pizza.

“Yeah, I’m not hungry,” he bit down a smile before offering,“…why, do you want it?”

Shelby looked repulsed if not completely offended. “No! Of course not!” Aaron swallowed down his laughter and shrugged his shoulders. He started to pull out his phone. “So…who was that girl at your car this morning?”

Aaron looked up sharply to meet her speculative eyes. He could see that behind the carefully constructed elegance, she was seething with curiosity on the inside. “A friend.”

Shelby stared at him critically. “I’ve never seen her before.”

Aaron shrugged, “Maybe you were too busy with your own friends.” She didn’t seem to catch his offensive slip, and continued.

“But she looks like a total rag doll. Did you see her rain coat? That was so twenty years ago. And her rain boots? She looks like a—”

Aaron pounded his fist on the table unintentionally, cutting her off mid-sentence. “Did you miss the part where I told you she was my friend?”

Shelby was uncharacteristically quiet as she stared back at Aaron. “I was just trying to tell you that you shouldn’t hang out with those types of girls.”

“What type of girl?”

“She obviously doesn’t give a crap about appearance. Her hair was a wreck—”

Aaron couldn’t describe the emotion that was flaring from him. “So you’re saying that I shouldn’t hang out with Emily because of her hair? Which, by the way, I thought looked pretty.”

Shelby’s jaw dropped down a little, but she closed it and looked at him in disbelief. “She’s a freak.”

“You’ve never seen her before this morning! How can you know that?”

“You can just tell by looking at her. If she was worth your time she would be hanging around me. And I definitely would have at least noticed her.”

Aaron sighed, finally realizing where Shelby was trying to go with her mad rant. “I don’t think its any of your business who I spend time with and who I don’t.”

Shelby took this chance to jump. “Speaking of hanging out, are you going to the tune fest at Squeeze tonight?” Squeeze was the town’s juice bar, and a favorite hang out of Aaron’s and Shelby’s friends.

“I can’t come, I’m working tonight,” Aaron said.

“When are you not working?” Shelby asked rhetorically. “It seems like you work more than you breathe. Where do you work again?”

“Rocco’s,” he named the local pizza parlor. He hoped that Shelby didn’t go and check the liability of his story, however, because he had never even stepped foot in Rocco’s before.

“And you can’t take one night off?”

“Strict hours,” he stated, looking absently at the slice of pizza in front of him. He thought about how strict headquarters was about their agents being present. There was no way he would take a sick day to go to a tune fest with Shelby.

Shelby groaned and then started playing with her nails. “But we should still definitely go out some time…”

He didn’t answer, and thankfully the bell rang at that second, signaling the end of their lunch period. “I’ll see you around.”

Aaron placed his finger against the scanning pad in front of headquarters.

“Speak your name,” the computer-generated voice on the scanner demanded.

“Agent 040,” Aaron spoke in enunciated syllables. The security system hummed meditatively, and then made an approving ‘beep’ when it confirmed his identity. The bolted doors slid open, and he swiftly jogged through before they closed again.

Chase was sleeping on one of the overstuffed chairs in the agents lounge when Aaron walked in. “Hey! Wake up, man.” Aaron threw one of the pillows sitting on a love-seat at his face. Chase flinched in his slumber and sat up, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Oh, hey,” Chase stood up, straightening out his jeans and undershirt.

“Come on, I wanted to go train today. I’ll meet you in the practice room,” Aaron said, walking out of the lounge.

Chase stopped him. “No, wait, Lawson. You can’t train today.” Aaron stopped, looking at him with confusion. “You’ve got an assignment,” Chase grinned.

“Don’t joke with me, man.” Aaron looked at him doubtfully.

“I’m not kidding, we have to get to booking so I can file you with your partner,” Chase picked up a dark green jersey from the sofa next to him and slipped it on.

As they walked to the booking area, Aaron pushed Chase for more information. “What kind of assignment? I swear if I get recruiting responsibilities again—“

Chase cut him off. “No, it’s not recruiting. It’s nice and big. A crime ring I think.”
Aaron grinned, cracking his knuckles.“Finally something worthwhile.”

They arrived at the large glass sliding doors that emptied out into the slick tiled floors of the booking room. It was here that Aaron had been partnered with agents for all types of assignments from murders to recruiting. As they walked in, Chase took his position behind a booking computer while Aaron leaned impatiently against the desk. There were only four other people in the room getting booked for assignments.

As Chase searched through the database for his assignment, Aaron pressed him. “So what kind of a partner do I get?”

“A girl,” Chase smiled inconspicuously. “I think I know who it is because I talked to the department head a couple of days ago.”

Aaron waited as Chase scanned the screen. “Why a girl?”

Chase shrugged. “Maybe you two need to do some role-playing. Maybe brother and sister, maybe a couple…” Aaron let a stream of breath out through his lips. He hated role-playing. He liked working alone where no one was there to drag him down and make him slower.

“Could I at least get an agent with a higher ranking than mine? I don’t want to be slowed down on my first major operation in a long time.”

Chase looked skeptic. “I told you man, I don’t make the assignments, I just book them for you. Besides, if it is who I think it is you definitely won’t be slowed down.” Chase snapped as he found the assignment. “Here we go.”

Aaron leaned in to look at the screen. “Who is it?”

Chase grinned wide. “Agent 004.”

Aaron looked at him disbelievingly. “Don’t kid me man. Seriously. Who is it?”

“Agent 004.”

Aaron shook his head. “Let me see the screen, then.” Chase turned the monitor towards him, and sure enough, written blatantly in type font was his assignment. Agent 040 and Agent 004. “Wow.”

“I told you you’d like it,” Chase stood up, pulling out the booking forms to fill out. Aaron shook his head in amazement.

“So you mean to say I’ll be partnered with possibly the most famous female agent in the UCA. Not to mention the best?” He couldn’t believe it.

Chase nodded, “The only female double-0 agent this agency has ever known. And she’s only seventeen.”

Aaron grinned. “Man, I’ve never even seen her.”

“Me and 004 are friends,” Chase said as he filled out the written forms. “So I do know her. I’m her mentor, like I am for you.”

Aaron rolled his eyes.

Chase laughed. “No, I’m serious, man. You can even check her mentor assignment. I’ve known her ever since she joined.”

Aaron shrugged, deciding to believe him. “Well is she all that like they say she is?”

Chase nodded, “It’s crazy how good she is.”

“When will I get to meet her?” Aaron signed his name on the booking form Chase handed him.

“Well the assignment doesn’t officially start until…” He paused to look at the computer monitor, “…a couple of weeks. But I’m sure you’ll be able to introduce yourself at the UCA ball next week.”


Chase grinned, filing the slip and coming out from behind the desk. “I’m sure she’s eager to meet you too.”

Jake was waiting for Emily and Lana by his beat up Chevrolet at the end of school that day. He only routinely felt the need to give the girls a ride home, and today seemed to be one of those days. “Hey,” she mumbled as she threw her backpack in the back and sat shotgun.

“Good afternoon sunshine,” he teased in response to her frustrated expression. “What’s got you so peachy?”

Lana climbed into the backseat of the car and turned to look at Emily with a quizzical expression as well. Emily groaned. “Shut up, Jake. It’s been a stupid day.”

Lana watched her. “Does this have to do with Aaron giving you a ride this morning?”

Emily turned to look at her. “How did you know about that?”

“He came to the house to ask me if you were there, remember? I just assumed that he caught up with you along the way,” Lana smiled, despite Emily’s poisonous expression.

Jake looked at her sideways as he started up the groaning engine. “Aaron gave you a ride? That kid that we met last night?”

Emily nodded. “I hated every second of it.”

Lana stared at her incredulously. “Why? He’s so sweet and so good looking. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you.”

Emily felt like ripping her hair out. Why didn’t they understand? “Aaron’s a jerk who always needs to have it his way and hangs out with bad people. Did I clear it up for you or do I have to tell you again?”

Jake snorted. “You obviously like him.”


Jake looked at her with surprised eyes. “I was being sarcastic, no need to get all defensive, Em. But maybe you do like him, and this is just your stupid teenage girl way of conveying it.”

She wished she could punch him, a nice, meaty punch that would leave bruises, but he was driving and if she did that she would end up killing all of them. “Shut up Jake.”

Lana intervened. “Emily, just give him a chance. The poor guy’s obviously just trying to get you to like him.”

“Aaron is not a ‘poor guy’, Lana. Stop being so naïve. And the only reason he’s hanging around me is because he wants to prove a point.”

Jake rolled his eyes. “What point?”

“That…that he’s not a jerk.”

Jake turned to glance at her with defeated eyes, and Lana was making unhappy noises in the back seat. “You’re not serious. You think he’s a jerk because he’s trying to prove a point to you. And the point he’s trying to prove is that he’s not a jerk? Emily, you’re insane.”

She was quiet because he was right. She hated when Jake was right. She hated that Jake was right about this. Lana said, “It looks to me like you’re the one who’s the jerk, Em.”

They had arrived at the house now, and Emily was storming out of the Chevrolet before Jake even had the chance to cut the engine. She stomped her way up to the safety of her bedroom, and slammed the door behind her.

Aaron had to ruin everything. He made her uncomfortable in front of his friends, he made Kara get mad at her, and now Jake and Lana were calling her the jerk. She hated him. She hated every bit of Aaron Lawson. She never wanted to see him again. If he had caused this much restlessness in her life after only one day of knowing her, how much more would come?

Emily sat on her bed, hugging her chest to keep from screaming out all the locked up emotion. She was planning on napping, seeing as how today was her off day from UCA, but a knock on the door changed her plans. Lana walked in cautiously, allowing herself to sit on Emily’s dark blue furry butterfly chair next to the bed. “I’m sorry for what I said, Em. It’s none of my business what’s going on between you and Aaron.”

“Nothing’s going on between me and Aaron.”

“And Jake is sorry too but he’s too man to come up and apologize,” Lana added.

“I don’t care whether Jake is sorry or not. I don’t care whether you’re sorry either, Lana. I just wish I had never met Aaron.”

Lana rolled her eyes. “You’re overreacting. You’re so used to having complete control over everything that when someone comes in who changes things for you, it just makes you...blow up.”

“Your apology is going downhill, Lana.”

“Sorry. I’m just saying, I think Aaron is good for you. Maybe its time you met someone who’s a lot like you,” Lana stood up, leaving the room.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Emily asked, but she had already left.

Emily stood looking out the bay windows the next day and an odd sense of relief flooded her. She thought it was mostly due to the fact that there wasn’t a single rain cloud in the sky, but instead a brilliant sun glow. But she knew the relief lied in the fact that she would be able to go to school today without such a disastrous entrance as the day before.

The relief was gone as soon as it had come.

The doorbell rang, shaking Emily as its repetitive chime rang through the hallways. Oh please no. Please, please, please. Her fingers shook as she unlocked the door and swung it open…and then her stomach dropped.

“Morning,” Aaron smiled, leaning against one of the stone pillars on her porch. She didn’t say anything, and just stared at him with a miserable expression. “I came earlier today so I could catch you at your house.”

Emily finally found her voice. “What are you doing here?”

He looked confused. “I’m picking you up so we can go to school.”

“Aaron—” She was quiet again. What was she supposed to say? “No.”

He raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean by that?”

She sighed. “Exactly what it means. No. I’m not driving to school with you.”

Aaron watched her speculatively for a few seconds. “Well then let’s walk.”

Emily groaned. “There’s no let’s about it. I’m going by myself. Like I do every other day. And you’re going to drive to school and meet up with your friends there, like every other day.”

Aaron shook his head. “I told you what the deal was, Emily. Either you accept a ride from me or we’re walking.”

She bit her lip to keep from screaming at him. Instead, she swung her backpack over one shoulder and shoved past him through the doorway and out onto the sidewalk. He stood on the porch watching her for a few seconds and then caught up with her. Emily was silent as he locked his car and started walking alongside her.

They walked like this for a few more minutes until Emily finally cut the silence. “I don’t understand you.”

He chuckled, soft and low. “What don’t you understand?”

Emily shook her head and sighed. “I don’t understand why you even bother with me. Haven’t you figured out already that I don’t like you? Or would you like me to slap you or something to make it even clearer?”

Aaron laughed. “You might have to slap me.” In response to her poisonous expression however, “I’m just kidding, Em.”

“Don’t call me that,” she ordered, glaring at him.

Aaron bit down a laugh. “Well, I don’t understand you much either, Emily.” She was quiet, so he continued. “Every other girl I know would find it amazing to be able to get a ride from me to school everyday. But you don’t.”

“Is that why you stay around me? Because I’m the only girl who doesn’t gush over you and kiss your feet and isn’t head over heels for you?” Emily felt the blood rush to her cheeks and she prayed he didn’t notice.

Aaron shook his head. “It’s just one of the reasons why I find you so interesting.”

“I’m not a science experiment, jerk.”

“I never said that,” he chuckled again. “I hang around you because I like you and you’re funny, and for some reason I just keep coming back.”

She stared at him incredulously. He wasn’t grinning anymore, and a distant look had come upon him. Emily swallowed, “You don’t know why you keep coming back to bother me?”

“You call it bothering but I call it trying to be friendly,” he pointed out, still a distant look in his eye. “But yes, you’ve got me really confused.”

Emily sighed. “Then why don’t you just leave me alone?”

Aaron looked at her, finally losing the distant look in his eyes. “I’m hoping that eventually you’ll learn to like me.”

She snorted with laughter. “Are you serious?”

He shrugged. “Yeah.”

The school was in their sight now, and Emily was losing some of the tension she got when she was around Aaron. “You left your car at my house. How are you going to get it back?”

“Guess I’m walking home with you,” he grinned.

She was happy to crush his smile. “I get a ride with Jake in the afternoon. You’re walking alone.”

His smile didn’t falter though. “Oh, well, I guess I’ll meet up with you there.” Emily grunted. “But you should have just accepted the ride so you didn’t have to deal with me twice in one day.”

Emily shook her head. “If I had accepted the ride, I would have had to meet up with your friends.”

“What’s so bad about my friends?”


He rolled his eyes. “Do I have to tell you again that they’re not jerks?”

“No, it’s just—” She cut herself off. “Never mind. I don’t even know why I’m still talking to you.”

“Tell me,” he urged.

She rolled her eyes this time. “It’s overwhelming to be around them. I feel really self-conscious. I hate it.”

Aaron was quiet, to her surprise, for a few seconds. “I don’t know why we have that affect on people.” Emily laughed again, but it was out of distress instead of humor.

“You’re kidding. It’s because you’re all a bunch of—“

“Jerks?” He suggested.

“Stuck up, snooty jerks,” she finished, eyeing him. “People tend to get overwhelmed by that.”

Aaron shook his head, looking away from her for once. “You’re getting way too comfortable with insulting me to my face.”

Emily stared at him. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” he smiled at her weakly. They were quiet for a little while, and Emily took this time to count out how many minutes until they would reach the school. “We should hang out more often.”

Emily stared at him incredulously. “Are you serious? Aaron, trust me, this is enough for me to last a lifetime.”

He laughed. “Well, Olsen, I don’t think you have much of a choice. Our parents are going to be seeing more of each other. They were best friends in high school.”

“That doesn’t mean that I need to see more of you,” She said. They were approaching the school, and nearing the parking lot. “I’m going to go now. I have to catch up with Kara.”

“Kara?” Aaron asked questioningly.

She rolled her eyes. “Kara. My best friend Kara. I have to go meet up with her.” She tried speeding up her pace, but somehow he matched his stride with hers.

“Can I meet Kara?” He asked.

“No.” She exclaimed, realizing how harsh her words sounded. “She doesn’t want to meet you, Aaron.”

“That’s not fair, Emily. I introduced you to my best friend yesterday,” Aaron pointed out with a grim look on his face. “Now it’s your turn.”

“Give me a break,” she groaned. “Kara got mad at me yesterday for getting a ride with you. I’m one hundred percent sure you’re the last person she wants to meet,” Emily pushed past Aaron, desperate. She was done. She was completely done with this. He wasn’t going to mess anything up anymore. She jogged her way to the front door.

Entering the school was like heaven to her. Its loud, overcrowded halls were relieving after the quiet conversation with Aaron. “You run fast,” Aaron was standing beside her, brushing the hair out of his face.

God damn. “Okay, bye now. I’m going to go to homeroom now. Have a wonderful life.” In response to his blank expression she said, “Go away.”

He shook his head. “Not till I meet Kara.”

“What the heck? You didn’t even know who Kara was until a couple of minutes ago, I don’t—” Emily was cut off.

“Emily?” Kara was at Emily’s side now, looking intently at Aaron standing across from her. Emily felt the air leave her chest like a deflated balloon.

Aaron grinned at the bubbly brunette. “You must be Kara.” Kara nodded, looking confused and flustered. “I’m Aaron, Aaron Lawson. It’s nice to meet you.” He stretched out his hand to her.

Kara looked questioningly at Emily as she took his hand. “I’m Kara Lewis,” she smiled meekly. “I didn’t know you and Emily were…friends.”

“We’re not,” Emily mumbled poisonously. Aaron just smiled, as always. It was silent for a few dragging seconds. “Kara, let’s go to homeroom. I don’t want to be late.”

Emily didn’t wait to see whether Kara actually followed her and pushed past Aaron further down the hallway. She heard Kara say good-bye, and then the vibrant girl was in step with her, taking long strides through the halls. Emily thanked the heavens that Kara wasn’t making any comments. In fact, they walked in remote silence until they reached Kara’s homeroom.

“I’ll see you later, Em,” she waved. “Take it easy. Don’t worry about him too much. You’re overreacting.”

Emily sighed. “I’ll try.”

Aaron stood against the scratchy teal metal of Emily’s locker. He hoped he had found the right one. But it had to be this one, because he had watched her throw her books into it right after she had ran off to homeroom. Aaron sighed inwardly. He himself didn’t understand what compelled him to hang around Emily, but now that he was he couldn’t seem to stop. And he didn’t want to stop. He only wished that she would at least pretend to return the feeling.

“There you are,” Jesse’s familiar voice sounded from behind him. Aaron turned around reluctantly. “What are you doing here?” Jesse eyed the lockers accusingly.

Aaron didn’t see any point in lying, Jesse must have already guessed. “I’m waiting for Emily.”

Jesse didn’t look surprised. “Well are we riding home or what? Or are you just going off with Emily?”

“I left my car at her house this morning, I have to go pick it up.” Aaron mumbled, not feeling like resting on the question.

Jesse raised his eyebrows and looked at him with a critical eye. “Has she loosened up towards you yet?” Aaron grinned as he shook his head. “Eventually, man.”

A suppressed sigh from next to the locker caused the two of them to turn around. Emily stared at them painfully with her blue eyes. Aaron grinned upon seeing her, but her face was etched into a permanent frown. “I was really hoping you would forget about the car.”

He laughed, “Guys never forget about the car.”

“It was pretty easy for you this morning,” she raised an eyebrow as she spun in the combination on her lock.

Jesse gave Aaron another accusing glance. He replied, “Well I enjoy walking with you more than I enjoy driving my car.” Emily winced noticeably, and Jesse chuckled under his breath.

To his surprise, Emily shut her locker and walked right past him; the second time that day. “Where are you going?”

“I have to catch up with Jake,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Good-bye.”

“Hey,” he jogged up to meet her ever-increasing pace. “I’m coming with you.” Emily didn’t argue with him, she just ignored him. He guessed that was her new technique at avoiding him.

Jake was leaning against a beat up Chevy when Emily and Aaron arrived. Lana was already standing next to him, and the two were engrossed in a conversation. All talk stopped when the two of them came to stand in front of the car, however.

“Aaron,” Lana seemed surprised, but in a pleasant ‘oh-how-nice-to-see-you’ way. “Are you getting a ride with us?”

“If it’s alright with you. I left my car at the house this morning…” He eyed Jake.

Jake nodded. “Yeah, it’s cool with me.” He had a haughty, amused expression on his face, and he kept looking back and forth between Emily and Aaron. She looked distressed.

“Shot-gun,” Emily muttered, and jumped into the passenger seat. Aaron sat in the back with Lana. At least she would talk to him.

“I’m sorry it’s not much,” Lana began, motioning to the car. “The car used to belong to our dad years ago before he died.”

Emily interrupted menacingly from the front, “You don’t need to apologize, Lana. If he has a problem with Jake’s car he can just get out and walk.”

Aaron swallowed his laugh. “I don’t have any problems with it, actually.”

Lana glared at Emily, and Jake turned to look at her with a grim expression. The three held their glances for a few more seconds until Lana turned away to face Aaron again. “I just meant that this car isn’t as nice as yours. I wish we owned something like that.” She glanced out the window in embarrassment.

“I bought it myself,” Aaron said. “I saved up the money I earned from work for a couple of years and I spent it on the car.”

Jake scoffed, and Emily and Lana looked at him astonishment. “What job could you possibly have that would pay you that much?”

Aaron paused, regretting ever speaking. The UCA, he thought to himself, but the words he spoke were different. “Rocco’s pizza.”

Jake snorted, “One of my pals used to work there. I heard they pay minimum wage to everyone under eighteen. There’s no way you’d be able to fork up anywhere near fifty thousand in a couple of years of working there.”

Aaron shrugged sheepishly. “It’s doable.” Emily turned back around with a confused expression as they pulled into the driveway of the Olsen’s house. Aaron shut the creaky door of the Chevy behind him and patted the hood of his Cadillac. Lana watched him with a grin.

“Guys just have a connection with their cars don’t they?” She asked. “You and Jake both. You should see how attached he is to the Chevy.”

“Well, it took years of sweat, dirt, and Italian food to pay for her, so I tend to be a little protective,” Aaron said.

Lana smiled and started to go inside. Aaron stayed behind, already pulling out his keys from his pocket. “Aren’t you going to come inside?” She asked, watching him. “You don’t have to leave just now, you know.”

Aaron thought it was a good idea that Emily had retreated inside the house as soon as they had arrived because she would not have liked this. He nodded, “Sure, why not?”

The house was no different than when he had been in it a few nights ago. The size of the thing overwhelmed him, but it didn’t have any effect on Jake, Lana, or Emily. Aaron could see Jan cooking through the small window in the kitchen overlooking the living room.

“Well, well, do we have guests?” Jan smiled and walked through the kitchen doors so she was next to Aaron. “Aaron, how nice to see you here.”

“I just stopped by for a little bit because I left my car here this morning,” he explained.

Jan nodded, “It’s so nice that you’re giving Emily a ride to school. She used to complain so much about having to walk. Speaking of, where did she go?” Jan looked around in confusion.

“She went right up to her room,” Lana explained. “If you want, I can show you around upstairs, Aaron.”

“Yeah, sure, that would be cool.”

“Won’t you stay for dinner?” Jan asked. “I’m barbequing since it’s a nice day outside.”

Lana nodded in encouragement. He was hesitant, but this would mean he would get to spend some more time with Emily. “I’d love to.” Jan looked pleased with him, and Lana led him up the flight of stairs to the second floor.

They were silent as they walked across the hall, which, Aaron realized, fit the house perfectly. It was large and had many intricate turns and branches leading to different rooms. Lana spoke suddenly, “Emily’s been acting really weird since she met you.

“She doesn’t like me, I bet that’s why,” Aaron said.

Lana shook her head. “I think it’s the opposite actually. She does like you, and she doesn’t want to. She hates that you’re nice and sweet and not the jerk she thought you were.”

Aaron smiled, liking this interpretation. Maybe the unreturned feeling was being repressed because Emily was afraid of actually liking him. “You think so?”

“Well, Emily would tell you that it’s none of my business, but that’s what my opinion would be,” she shrugged.

“I like your opinion,” he said.

Lana grinned, “But I bet you’re tired of talking to me now. Emily’s room is this one,” she pointed to the door they were standing by. “I’ll meet you guys in a few minutes; I told mom that I would help her carry some of the junk from the attic down to the basement.”

“Are you sure you don’t need help with that?” Aaron couldn’t picture the petite blonde carrying large boxes down the never-ending staircase

“I’m fine, I’ll see you later,” she waved and left Aaron standing alone in front of Emily’s bedroom. He debated actually entering, because he didn’t feel like irritating her anymore for the day. He knew that she could only handle so much of what he served her. But for some reason Lana’s new insight on her cause of hatred towards him had made him just a little more curious…

Aaron knocked a few times on the door. Emily opened the door. “Wow, someone finally decided to knock—” she froze when she saw him. “What are you still doing here?”

“Can I come in?” he asked. “Your mom invited me to stay for dinner and I’m trying to kill time.” Emily looked distressed, one expression he had seen several times in the past couple of days. But something about her seemed to just give in, and she held the door open for him.

Emily’s room was surprisingly a lot more average than Aaron had thought it would be. The walls were painted a bright teal and her bedspread was lime green. Her laptop sat on a white desk in the far corner of the room, and in the back of the room was a large walk-in closet. The one thing that Aaron found unique was the row of bookshelves that lined a complete wall. The shelves were so full of books they looked as if they would snap in half.

“You have a lot of books,” Aaron observed, walking up to a shelf. He recognized many classics, such as Charles Dickens’s, Tale of Two Cities and H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Emily stood next to him shrugging. “I like to read a lot. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.”

Aaron nodded, and looked at her. “It’s one of mine too.”

She raised an eyebrow disbelievingly. “Really?”

He nodded again, “I’m more into things like mythology rather than the classics though. I mean, they’re still good, but for some reason I like reading the different versions of how certain things came to be, and the different portrayals of the gods. I like going way back to the beginning, too. Homer’s The Odyssey is one of my favorites.”

Emily stared at him with wide eyes. “Who would have ever known that you liked mythology?”

Aaron smiled wryly and looked back at the bookshelf. “This is a pretty admirable collection you have here. It must have taken years fill this up.”

“Not really. Most of the books belonged to my dad. When he died I took his book collection and used it to fill up the shelves. I’ve read every single one of them though.”

Aaron was quiet for a few seconds, debating on questioning further. “How old were you when your dad died?”

Emily looked away, visibly uncomfortable. It was obvious that her father wasn’t anything she was interested in talking about right now. “I was…thirteen.”

“How did he…?”

She sighed and plopped down on the bed, wrapping her arms around herself. “A car crash. He was hit by a drunk driver.”

“I’m sorry,” Aaron sat down next to her on the bed, a sullen tone in his voice. “I didn’t mean to prod I was just…”

“Curious? It doesn’t matter, I don’t care. It was a long time ago and I’m over it now.” Emily stood up and started pacing the room. “What happened to your dad?”

Aaron flinched, and hoped she didn’t notice. “How did you know he was…dead?”

“I had guessed since he wasn’t at the dinner a few nights ago, and Mom confirmed my assumption,” she stopped pacing and looked at him, awaiting an answer.

“My dad had a heart attack a few years back. He’d had some major cholesterol problems and all for a while, and we knew he was really sick. It ran in his family, you know? It was really hard for me back then but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I can barely remember him.”

Emily nodded, wincing. “Sorry.” He just smiled and watched her begin to pace again.

“We should help Lana bring down those boxes from the attic. She doesn’t seem fit to do the job herself,” he said, breaking the awkward emotion circling the two of them.

The two walked out into the hallway, where Lana was already carrying a large box full of knick-knacks. Her frail arms seemed to be handling it well, despite the size of the thing. “What is mom making you haul?” Emily asked, walking next to her sister.

“A bunch of stuff,” Lana started as she approached the staircase. “Books, tools, toys, and some CDS too I think.”

Aaron watched as a hammer from the top of the box clanked to the floor on the second step of the staircase. Lana hadn’t noticed and was already beginning to descend. “Lana! Watch out—”

But it was too late; she had already slipped on the hammer. Emily screamed as the tiny blonde girl tumbled down the staircase, the box right behind her. Emily stood rooted to the floor in horror, but Aaron was right behind her.

Lana hit the floor with a ‘crack’ and a scream. The box, with the majority of its contents on the staircase, landed on her feet, and the girl screamed again. Aaron rushed over to her, just as Jake and Jan sprinted over.

Jake and Emily pushed the box and its contents off Lana’s body, while Aaron helped her sit up. “Where does it hurt?” he asked, seeing drops of red blood on the floor.

Lana, shaking, held up her right arm where a quarter-inch deep gash ran along her wrist all the way up to her elbow. It was seething with blood. The CD case responsible lied on the floor next to them, blood coating its cover. “Get me a first aid kit,” Aaron asked from Jan, who was holding her chest and staring wide-eyed at Lana. She immediately nodded her head, though, and was off.

She returned a few seconds later, and Aaron went right to work. He cleaned out most of the blood from the gash and applied the antibiotics to help it heal. Then, he wrapped gauze and a bandage over the wound till it was covered. Aaron had had practice with dealing with wounds before. He had patched up his partners numerous times when they were on missions, and this wasn’t any different to him. He worked quickly and effectively. Emily stared on in curious confusion.

“Did you break anything?” Aaron asked Lana. She had relaxed a little in the time that he was patching her wound up, and shook her head.

“I don’t think so,” Lana said, and stood up. Jan sighed in relief and guided the girl to one of the La-z-boys in the living room.

Jake, Aaron, and Emily picked up the junk from the box all over the staircase, and Jake did the liberty of carrying it all down to the basement. “Thank you so much for helping Lana,” Jan said to Aaron as he entered the living room.

“No problem,” he replied, taking a seat on the sofa. Emily took a seat next to him, examining Lana’s bandaging work as she did.

“How did you learn to bandage like that? It looks almost…professional,” Emily asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I took a first aid course last year. Two weeks straight of learning to bandage people up,” Aaron said.

Lana smiled, “Well, it came to good use.”

Emily nodded, still hesitant. “Yeah. It did.”

Emily sat on the doorstep the next morning waiting for Aaron to come. It was nice weather, and she was perfectly capable of walking, and in fact, she could have just gone if she wanted to, but she didn’t. It was a mere minute and half of waiting when Aaron’s Cadillac pulled into her driveway.

Emily didn’t say anything as she assumed shotgun of his car. Aaron watched her disbelievingly as he backed out onto the street. “Well, this is a change of pace,” He said. Emily shrugged in response, sitting back in the seat. “Why aren’t you arguing with me and bargaining to let you walk alone?”

“Things have changed.”

“Such as…?” He asked, grinning. She didn’t like how pleased he was that she wasn’t arguing with him.

Emily sighed in defeat, “I realized that you were a lot different than I thought you were.”

“What changed your mind?” Aaron asked.

She turned to look at him, “Last night, you ran to help Lana faster than I did. And you’ve only known her for three days. I never thought anyone would do something like that.”

He met her eyes with his own. “I don’t need to know someone for a lifetime to help them. I didn’t want Lana to get hurt.”

“That’s why I changed my mind about you. You actually do care about someone other than yourself,” she smiled.

“You’re flattering me,” he grinned.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re friends or anything, Aaron. It just means I tolerate you. I don’t think two people as different as us can ever really have anything in common.” Emily knew she had to point that out because knowing Aaron he would have already jumped to conclusions.

“That may be true.” Aaron pulled into the school’s parking lot and quickly filled a vacant parking spot. “I still consider this progress, though. Maybe one day I will finally succeed in getting you to like me.”

Emily grinned. “I commend you for trying, at least.” The two exited the car and Emily made her way to the building while Aaron stayed behind to meet up with his friends.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Olsen,” he said.

“I know,” she replied.

“Chase, seriously? Wake up.” Emily shook Chase for the third time and waited for a sign that he was still alive. “Chase!”

Chase shook in his seat, and opened his eyes reluctantly. “Oh man, where are we?” He asked, rubbing his eyes.

Emily rolled her eyes, “We’re in the lecture room. You fell asleep during lessons again, and everyone’s gone now.”

Chase stood up, stretching his limbs. “Oh crap, not again. Lester didn’t notice did he?” Chase asked, naming the lecture professor that evening.

“You’re lucky he didn’t. This is the seventh time this month, Chase. Don’t you ever get any sleep at home?”

He grinned, “I’m so busy attending to agents like you that I barely have any downtime, Olsen. Don’t expect so much out of me. A guy needs his Z’s.”

Emily rolled her eyes, “Come on, let’s go. You promised to book me with my partner today.”

“Oh right,” Chase said. “I just booked him yesterday, actually.”

“Is it a double-0 agent?” She asked nervously. While having a double-0 partner was considered an honor to most other agents, since Emily was the only female double-0 agent, whenever she was partnered up with one things didn’t turn out well. They were always cocky and arrogant, and seemed more focused on putting her down than solving the case.

“No, thank goodness for that. I’m tired of them picking on you all the time like you’re some sort of chew toy,” Chase said. Emily looked at him gratefully as they entered the booking room.

“So who is it, exactly, then?” Emily asked while Chase pulled out the booking forms.

“Agent 040,” he said as he filled out the forms. He handed the form to Emily so she could sign it.

Emily furrowed her eyebrows in concentration. “I think I’ve heard some agents talking about him in the café. They say he’s ‘downright gorgeous’,” she smiled.

Chase grinned, “Well if I do say so myself…”

“Shut up, Chase,” she laughed. “Do you know him?”

He nodded, “He’s one of the agents I mentor.”

“Is he cocky, stupid, stuck-up, or helplessly in love with himself?” She went through the routine questions with Chase.

Chase shook his head, “No, I actually think you’ll moderately approve of this one. “He filed the booking form and the two walked out of the booking room. “040 wants to meet you at the UCA ball next Saturday.”

“Really? Well, I guess that gives me actual motivation to go,” Emily said.

“All double-0 agents are required to attend,” Chase reminded her. “It’s not that bad. It’s a ball. Don’t girls love dances?”

Emily smiled wryly at him. “Most girls. It’s normally not that fun for me because I don’t like socializing with the other girls there. The agents my age are all so…strange.”

Chase laughed, “They idolize you, Emily.”

“I don’t like it,” she said. “Besides, don’t most people who go to the balls come with a date? Everyone I work with is thirty-something years old. I don’t know anyone I could bring.”

Chase fidgeted next to her and then offered, “Well, I could take you.”

She turned to meet his eyes. “Really? You would go with me?”

Chase shrugged. “If I must…” He laughed. “I’m just kidding, Emily. I’d be honored to take you.”

“Don’t start any of that idolization crap with me, Chase. Take me as a friend not because I’m 004.”

Chase smiled awkwardly at her. “Right. I’ll take you as a friend. Just a friend.”

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For a week, Emily put up with Aaron. Every day she sat and waited on the doorstep of her house, and every day Aaron came right on time to pick her up. For some reason that Emily could never quite understand, he always would find pleasure in it. He would beam when he saw Emily sitting there every day, as if it was the best thing in the world. She seethed with curiosity as to why exactly this was, but Aaron never told her and she never asked.

Emily told him her limits, though. She always left momentarily after they parked in the lot, and she never stayed to greet his friends or walk with them. Aaron was content with this, also. He never asked to meet Kara again, or even asked her to talk to Jesse. He had become part of her daily routine, but not one that she particularly enjoyed.

Lana absolutely adored Aaron. If it wasn’t for the fact that Aaron spent all his time at the Olsen house with Emily, she was sure that Lana would have been asking him for rides every morning. Ever since he had oh-so-heroically patched her up after her downhill tumble, Lana was obsessed with him. Emily wasn’t so sure she liked it either.

Because of all the abnormalities in her life, going to the UCA every afternoon was almost like a haven. She spent most of her time in the lecture room or training with Chase. He felt like the only person nowadays that she could really hang around without going insane. He was smart, sweet, kind, funny, and more importantly, not Aaron.

The morning of the UCA ball, Emily walked into headquarters in search of Chase. Surprisingly, he was seated at his cubicle-desk in the main room rather than in the agent’s lounge where he usually was. She walked up behind him and peeked at the computer screen he was typing into.

“Hey,” She said, resting her arms on the back of his chair. He flinched a little in his seat.

“Way to sneak up on me, Olsen,” he smiled, turning around to look at her.

“Field agents should be a lot less jumpy,” she reprimanded, pulling up a chair next to his. “What are you doing in here, anyway?”

“Well, I’ve been assigned to trail you and 040 during your mission, and I’m filling out the paperwork for it. I have a lot of work to get done before we leave,” He replied, running his fingers through his chocolate-colored hair.

“Leave where?”

He paused to look at her. “The UCA ball…you didn’t forget did you?”

Emily bit her lip, mentally scolding herself. “Well...”

He winced. “Emily you have to be there. The department chief requires it.”

“I’ll be there, don’t worry. I promised you, didn’t I?” She grinned, resting her blue eyes on his sharp green ones.

“I’ll meet you in your office at six, then,” Chase said.

“I will be here. I’ve got to go home now, though, and make sure I have a clean story to get away with tonight,” She waved a good-bye to him, and rushed back through the agency’s doors.

When Emily got home, Jan was at work cooking in the kitchen. Emily strode in casually, and took a seat on one of the barstools at the island. “What are you cooking for, mom?”

“I invited the Lawson’s over for a late lunch today. I haven’t seen Laura in a couple of weeks now, even though you see Aaron almost every day.”

“How long is this ‘late lunch’ supposed to run?” Emily asked hesitantly.

“I invited them over at 3 o’clock, and they’ll probably stay till around six or seven,” Jan stirred a pot meditatively.

Emily improvised. “Well, Mom, I told you I wasn’t going to be here tonight, remember?” Jan looked over at her quizzically. “Kara and I are going to a mixer at the private school.”

Jan raised her eyebrows. “You must have told me earlier, I tend to forget those kinds of things a lot. At least try to be here for the majority of the meal.”

“Yeah, I’ll try,” she grunted as she walked out of the kitchen.

Emily jogged up the stairs and through the hallways until she reached Lana’s bedroom on the far west side of the second floor. It was isolated in its own hallway, but Lana enjoyed the privacy and had picked the room especially from all the rooms on the second floor. Emily pounded on Lana’s bedroom door four times before she opened it. “What’s up?” Lana asked, eying Emily speculatively.

“I need you to help me buy a dress,” she mumbled.

Lana furrowed her eyebrows. “A dress? What do you need a dress for?”

“I’m going to a mixer tonight at the private school with Kara, and I don’t have a dress yet,” Emily explained.

Lana raised an eyebrow. “Emily, you don’t wear dresses to mixers. It’s normally casual-wear. You’ll be fine if you wear a t-shirt and shorts.”

“No…this one has a special theme. It’s…ballroom dance. Everyone’s dressing up in ball gowns and such.”

“Ballroom dance? Are you sure? That seems a little too formal for a mixer, don’t you think?” Lana didn’t seem to believe Emily’s weak explanation.

Emily sighed and hoped she sounded convincing. “Yeah, I know it’s strange but it’s their last one of the year and they want to make it special.” She waited until Lana had a look of satisfaction on her face to continue. “Anyways, I need a gown in the next six hours.”

“Okay, okay. Come in, I’ll see what we can do.” Lana held the door open, and Emily helped herself to a seat on her sister’s puffy, pink, goose-feather duvet.

Lana brought up the websites of several dress-shops at their local mall, and the two girls browsed through the pages. Emily cringed as they viewed the draping, sheer, dresses. She wasn’t the type that enjoyed dressing-up, unless it was required for a mission.

“What about this one?” Lana pointed to a white dress with puffed up sleeves and a corset-like waist. “It would highlight your figure.”

Emily shook her head and made a face. “Look at the sleeves, Lana.”

“Well, most ball gowns look like that,” Lana frowned, and continued searching through the pages.

It took twenty minutes and three different websites before Emily spotted the dress she wanted. “Wait, Lana. Go back. What about that dress?” Emily clicked and enlarged the picture.

Lana nodded in approval. “It’s gorgeous, Emily.” Emily analyzed the dress for a few more seconds before she put the item on hold at the store.

“I’ll get Jake to go pick it up for me,” Emily said. “Thanks for helping out, Lana.”

Lana nodded, “Maybe the next time I help you pick out a dress you’ll actually tell me where you’re really going.”

“What?” Emily pretended not to notice Lana’s accusation.

“A ballroom mixer at the private school? I would have heard about it. I go to all the mixers. Nice try, Emily.”

Emily shrugged with a grin as she left the room. “I have no idea what you mean.”

Emily answered the door when the bell rang later that afternoon. Laura, Nick, Mandy, and Aaron stood patiently on the doorstep, smiling at her. Emily’s eyes floated quickly up to meet Aaron’s and then back to look at Laura. “Come in, guys.”

Jan met them in the entrance hall. “Welcome, everyone. I’m glad you came.” She went through the routine hostess greetings.

“Aaron drove separately because he’s going to be leaving early, around five,” Laura said. “I told him to just stay at home but he insisted on coming for some reason.”

Emily felt a blush form hot on her cheeks, and she avoided Aaron’s glance in her direction. Jan smiled, “Well it works out perfectly, then, because Emily has to leave at five as well.”

While Jan and Laura went to the kitchen, Mandy and Jake retreated to the living room, and Lana and Nick went down to the basement. Aaron and Emily stood alone in the entrance hall. “I’ll just take you up to my room, I guess,” Emily grunted, leading Aaron to the staircase.

As the ascended the flight of stairs, Aaron asked, “So why are you leaving early tonight?”

Emily glanced at him and hoped he didn’t notice her lie. “Kara and I are going to a mixer at the boy’s school.”

He nodded and furrowed his eyebrows, but seemed to accept the explanation. “What about you?” She asked, more out of politeness than honest curiosity.

Aaron hesitated for a noticeable second before replying, “I have to work.”

“At Rocco’s, right?” Emily asked. Aaron nodded in response.

As they walked into Emily’s room, Aaron took a seat on one of her dark green canvas butterfly chairs, and it sunk under his weight. Emily sat next to him on the bed. “Why didn’t you just stay home?” She asked. “There really isn’t much to do here.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Aaron said. “I jump at every chance I get to spend time with you.”

Emily blushed again, not expecting the blatant reply. “Oh right, I almost forgot.”



Aaron laughed, still locking his gaze on her. Emily didn’t like it. Everything about him made her feel uncomfortable. No one had ever taken so much interest in her before. It was strange to suddenly have Aaron act as if she was the center of his life.

“So this mixer at the private school…” Aaron began, watching her reactions closely. It was because of this that she assumed he caught her wince. “Which boy’s school did you say it was at again?”

Emily regretted not doing her research. She couldn’t name even one boys school in the area. “Why? Are you planning to follow me there or something? Because, quite frankly, I think you follow me around enough.”

Aaron stared at her with a half-smile etched on his eerily perfect face. “You’re avoiding the question, Emily.”

“Dobson Prep,” she declared, her eyes challenging. Inside, though, she was yelling at herself. She had pulled the name out of thin air, and she prayed that Aaron wouldn’t catch her fault.

He raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never heard of that before. Where is it?”

“Near…the Super Fresh…”

He laughed, “The grocery store?”

Emily bit her lip. “How am I supposed to know where it is? I’ve never been there. Kara’s brother is driving us.”

“I’m sorry, I thought you would know,” his lips were forced into a straight line, but his eyes were laughing at her.

He knows you’re lying, she thought. But what does it matter? He won’t tell.

Emily sighed, “Well what about you? I thought you worked at Rocco’s after school?”

Aaron smirked, “Yeah, on weekdays. It’s Saturday if you haven’t noticed.”

Emily bit the inside of her cheek in frustration. “I did notice.”

Aaron seemed to have sensed her aggravation and was thoroughly amused with it. Before he could open his mouth to make another smart comment at her, however, Jake pushed open Emily’s bedroom door.

“Hey, Em, I picked up your—”

Emily cut him off before he could continue. “Yeah, thanks. I’ll take it before I leave.” Jake looked at her with a confused expression, but he glanced between Emily and Aaron and decided to leave.

“Picked up your what?” Aaron asked once Jake had closed the door.

Emily glared at him. “I don’t see how that is any of your business.”

Aaron furrowed his eyebrows, “…Sorry to intrude.”

She rolled her eyes, “Anyways, do you spend every Saturday night working? I thought a guy with as much of a social life as you would be doing…other things.”

Aaron shifted in the seat. “I don’t have to work every Saturday night. The nights I’m not working I usually just hang out with Jesse.”

“…and Shelby and them?”

He made a face and shook his head. “Not if I can help it. Shelby always invites me to go out places with her, but I always turn her down. I can’t stand her.”

Emily stared at him, perplexed. “If you don’t like her then why does she always hang around you? Just tell her you’re not interested. Only jerks lead girls on.”

He stared back at her with a distressed expression. “I don’t lead her on, Emily. Don’t make her seem like the sick little puppy that I’m abusing.”

Emily laughed, “Trust me, Aaron. That’s not what I mean.”

Aaron shrugged at her. “She stays around me because that’s what she wants. Shelby knows that I don’t like her. I’m just trying to figure out a way to get rid of her.”

Emily smiled wryly at him. “I kind of feel the same way with you.”

He grinned. “Man, I must be really annoying.”

For a while later, the two talked about their lives. Emily talked grudgingly, only feeding him answers that he requested. Aaron talked more freely, trying to show Emily how normal his life was, and how different it was from her stereotype. Aaron didn’t seem to mind that Emily glared at him continuously, or smirked or threw rude comments at him. It was strange to her. Why does he still like me?

Five o’ clock arrived before the two of them even realized it. Emily waited impatiently while Aaron got ready to leave. She couldn’t actually leave until Aaron was well out of range of his house, so she could walk down the street and meet up with Chase. Emily had to pick up the dress from the closet, as well, and she definitely didn’t want Aaron snooping on that.

“I’ll see you around, Emily,” Aaron waved a good-bye as always, and jogged out of the house and into his Cadillac.

Lana skipped down the stairs to meet Emily while she hastily grabbed the dress from the large closet in the foyer. Nick trailed right behind her. “Are you leaving now?” She asked sweetly.

“Yeah, I’m kind of in a rush too, so could you tell Mom that I won’t be back till around midnight?” Emily swung her gym bag around her shoulder. In it was a pair of strappy heels, make up, and a hair brush.

Lana examined her quizzically. “Will you be getting ready at Kara’s house?”

“Obviously, Lana,” Emily tied her hair up and opened the front door.

“I don’t see a car out there, Em,” Lana said, furrowing her eyebrows.

Emily hesitated. “What are you talking about? It’s parked a little down there. I’ll see you guys. Bye, Nick,” she waved, and, dress in hand, jogged onto the driveway.

Thankfully, it was a nice day outside, and Emily didn’t have any trouble finding Chase’s rusty blue Volvo. When she approached it, it was parked neatly alongside the curb. Emily threw the dress in the backseat and assumed shotgun with the gym bag on her lap.

“Do you have all your stuff?” Chase asked when she sat down, examining Emily’s slightly flustered appearance. He’s probably regretting ever taking me to this stupid ball.

“Yeah,” Emily nodded towards the backseat, which was currently coated with the crème fabric of her gown.

Chase nodded with a smile as he started to drive. “It’s going to be kind of crowded at headquarters today, so we kind of have to rush to find a parking spot.” With that, he hit the gas so they were flying down the empty roads, overtaking any cars in their way.

At Chase’s 30 mph over the speed-limit rate, they arrived at headquarters in a mere five minutes of driving. Chase opened the back seat doors to carry the dress, but Emily reprimanded him.

“No, Chase. Isn’t it a rule of thumb that your date can’t see your dress before a dance?”

He laughed, “Emily, that’s for weddings.”

Emily laughed as well, “Oh well, I’m still carrying it. I want it to be a surprise.” Chase raised his eyebrows quizzically but allowed her to haul the large bundle of fabric out of the car.

The UCA had taken extra precautions tonight with keeping the area secure. Guards lined the parameters of the UCA grounds, disguised as innocent bystanders. They would keep any curious eyes out of the area while hundreds of UCA’s most talented agents were attending this important event.

UCA balls, in Emily’s opinion, were just the agency’s idea of a social event. It wasn’t required to throw social events into an agency whose sole purpose was fighting against crime, and therefore she them pointless. It was just a chance for girls to buy expensive dresses and for the guys to drag themselves to the ball for the sake of the girls. And of course, it was a chance for all the double-0 agents to whisper and gossip about their youngest co-agent right in front of her.

“Man, you look nervous,” Chase commented.

Emily glanced sideways at him. “I’m really not looking forward to this.”

Chase scoffed. “Olsen, when we’re at the front door of a criminal hideout, you’re perfectly ready for the challenge. But when we’re about to go to a dance you’re nervous?”

Emily laughed, “Yes, that sounds about right.”

“Relax, it’ll be fun. I’ll be there,” He pointed out, as if that would make her feel better. “And you’ll get to meet your partner tonight. I know he’s been looking forward to meeting you.”

“That isn’t anything new, Chase. All my partners worship me,” Emily stated. As they approached the front doors, Emily placed her eye against the identity scanner.

“State your name,” it spoke.

“Agent 004,” Emily replied. After a few seconds, the door popped open, and Chase and Emily walked through.

“Please just try to enjoy yourself,” Chase said, handing her the gym bag. “I’ll meet you in your office at six. You’ll be ready by then?”

“Yeah, I’ll see you then,” Emily waved.

When Chase retreated, she pulled out her beautiful ball gown from its plastic dress cover. It took her a little while to get into it and she thought the whole process would have gone much faster if Lana had been there to help her get ready. After she brushed out her hair and applied her make-up, she sat on her large oak desk and waited till six o’clock when Chase would pick her up.

Two knocks sounded at her office door. “Come in,” she said, and hopped off the desk. Chase entered the room in his fancy black tuxedo and took in the sight of her dress.

“What do you think?” She asked, spinning around playfully.

He smiled wryly, “You look amazing, 004.”

“Emily,” she corrected, grinning at him. “We haven’t entered the ballroom yet.”

His eyes darted across her dress once more, and then he stretched out his hand for her to take. “Right then, let’s go.”

Aaron straightened out his tie in front of the bathroom mirror. He swept his fingers through his bronze locks, and then, with one last glance at his appearance, he made his way down to the ballroom.

He didn’t know many of the agents at UCA, and the only person he really spent time with was Chase. Unfortunately, Chase was nowhere to be seen, leaving him alone amongst a sea of highly specialized agents. What bothered Aaron the most, however, was how every female agent would turn to glance at him speculatively when he walked by. It wasn’t something he wasn’t used to, it was just the fact that he didn’t even know who they were.

The grand ballroom was decorated elegantly with ribbons, bows, sashes, candles, and chandeliers. In the far corner, an orchestra was playing a cheerful piece, and several couples were dancing around them. The ladies all wore elegant ball gowns, and the men all wore tuxedos.

Aaron slouched against the far wall opposite the dancers and near the grand buffet table. He helped himself to the veal that the chef was slicing, and took a seat at a small dining table adorned in white lace fabric. As he ate in solitude, he hoped that Chase would show up sooner or later. The only reason he had even come to the ball was so that he could meet 004. As far as he knew, she could be anyone in the room.

“There you are, man,” Chase walked over from behind him and took a seat in the chair opposite him. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

“Same here,” Aaron said.

Chase glanced curiously at him. “Didn’t you bring a date? Where is she?”

Aaron shook his head. “Chase, I don’t know anyone well enough to bring them to this thing. I wasn’t even planning on coming. Where’s your date, anyway?”

Chase grinned boyishly. “I told her I had to look for you and left her with some of the other agents back by the orchestra. Guess who I brought.”

“Your mom?”

“Very funny, Lawson. Seriously, guess,” Chase said.

Aaron shrugged, “I don’t know, who?”

“Agent 004. Your future partner,” he grinned widely. Aaron raised his eyebrows, impressed.

“So are you going to introduce me now, or am I going to have to sit here and wait all night?” Aaron asked impatiently.

Chase laughed, “Come on, she’s back there.” Chase guided him through the crowd of people, some dancing, and some chatting and laughing in small groups. They arrived in a small clearing where chefs were carrying hors d’oeuvres on silver trays and small flutes of champagne for the ladies.

“She’s the one with the blonde hair,” Chase pointed out, walking up to the group of girls.

Aaron took a minute to assess the girl from behind. She was turned the other way, her back to him, conversing with the other girls. Her hair fell down her back in golden-blonde waves, bringing out the crème colored fabric of her dress. She had a lean and slim figure that her gown accentuated perfectly. Aaron stared, feeling an odd sense of déjà vu pass over him.

Chase tapped her lightly on the back. “Agent 004 I’d like to introduce you to your new partner, Agent 040.”

The girl turned around smiling, but the moment she saw Aaron, the smile vanished. The champagne flute she was carrying dropped to the floor and smashed into a thousand pieces of broken glass. She gasped and stared at him with wide, terrified, strikingly brilliant, ocean blue eyes. Aaron cursed under his breath as he looked at the beautiful, familiar face in front of him.


“Oh my god,” Emily breathed.

Aaron stared in disbelief back at her. “Emily?”

“Oh my god,” she repeated, her wide eyes full of emotion. “I can’t believe this.”

Chase stared back and forth between the two of them in confusion, and then at the broken glass all over the floor. “You guys know each other?” He asked.

Aaron nodded silently, still staring at Emily. She stuffed her face in her hands and kept muttering remarks of disbelief under her breath. Emily felt light-headed and disoriented. Aaron? Aaron Lawson? She felt a wave of nausea come over her. It was all too much information to process at once.

If he’s my partner then he’s an agent here. He’s an agent at UCA. Oh my god. He’s an agent at UCA. He’s my partner! Agent 040!

“Emily, are you okay?” Chase placed a comforting hand on her back.

Emily took her face out of her clammy palms and stared up at Aaron’s confused and bewildered eyes. He looked equally as surprised to see her as she was to see him. This can’t be real. I’m dreaming. “Excuse me m’am,” She was startled by a waiter in a black vest who had come with a broom and napkins to clean her champagne from off the floor. In the heat of the moment, she hadn’t realized she dropped it.

“Emily,” Chase put both his hands on her shoulders, blocking her view of Aaron. “Are you okay?”

She shook her head and snapped out of whatever daze she was caught in. He’s my partner. Oh my god, he’s Agent 040, my partner.

“Chase,” she hissed under her breath. “We. Need. To. Talk.”

Chase looked at her, flustered. “Emily, we can’t leave we have to—”

Emily groaned, “Chase. We need to talk.”

From next to her, Aaron nodded in agreement. “Dude, let’s get out of here and straighten this out.” At the sound of his voice, Emily felt disoriented again. Oh my god it’s not a dream. Oh my god.

Chase nodded, staring back and forth between the two of them again. “Follow me.”

Emily, shaking, followed him through the crowd of dancers and then through the quickly filling dining area. Aaron was at her side, avoiding eye contact as effectively as she was. They ended up in the main hall, and Chase led them to the mentors’ hallway where his office was located. He unlocked his door, and they filed into the small space.

Emily took a seat on one of the small love seats in the room, and Aaron took the other one. Chase sat on the coffee table, looking at them with a questioning look. “What do you want to talk about, 004?”

Aaron noticeably shook when he said that, and in response, Emily glared poisonously at him. This can’t be happening. “Chase, I want to talk to you alone.”

Chase shook his head, adamant. “Not happening, Olsen. Say what you want to say right here.”

She bit her lip to keep in the fury and stood up. “He is my partner?” She pointed accusingly at Aaron. He stared back at her in bewilderment. “Chase this can’t be real!”

Chase, taken aback by her sudden outburst, stood up as well, now standing across from her. “Can you guys please explain?”

Emily shook her head, “I can’t do this. He can’t be my partner. Aaron isn’t an agent. Aaron doesn’t know anything about the UCA. Aaron is a stupid boy who goes to my school. He isn’t an agent and he certainly isn’t my partner!”

She was breathing frantically, her face the color of a tomato. Chase was looking at her in shock, and Aaron looked frustrated. He, too, stood up.

“You think you’re the only one who can’t believe this?” Aaron started, looking at her accusingly. “Emily is the girl I drive to school every day. Emily is the girl whose mom is friends with mine. Emily is the girl I—” He stopped, his face red with frustration, and continued again. “Emily can’t be an agent, she couldn’t be. She’s just a sweet, innocent girl who is one of the most fragile-looking people I know. She can’t be agent 004.”

The two of them stared at each other, faces like balloons, with racing pulses and frantic breaths. The room was quiet for a few long minutes while Chase tried to make sense of the information they had provided.

“So you two go to school together, then?” He asked, directing the question at Aaron because Emily looked like she was about to cry. Tears of frustration were already dotting her eyes and ruining her makeup. But she couldn’t even think about that. All she could think about was Aaron. Aaron is an agent.

“Yes, we do,” Emily huffed out, cutting off Aaron’s reply while refusing to take a seat again. Aaron stood standing as well, leaning against the wall and breathing deeply to calm down.

Chase shrugged, “Well I see how this is a surprise, but surely you two knew that there are other agents your age in the area. Very likely from your school. There’s no reason to—“

Emily was frantic again. “No, Chase, you don’t understand. Aaron is different. He’s not just a boy at my school. You don’t get it!” She was close to screaming at him, and Chase looked flustered.

“So please explain,” Chase tried to maintain a controlled tone.

Emily sighed, “I can’t explain. I don’t know how. All I know is that I can’t be partnered up with him. I want a switch, now.”

Aaron, whose head had been in his hands, looked up at her in surprise. “What?” Chase, too, stared at her, his carefully constructed composure lost.

“What?” Chase echoed.

“You heard me. I want a partner switch right now,” Emily hissed, a single tear falling down her face. Aaron watched it dribble down her cheek with an unsettled look on his face.

Chase groaned, “Olsen I can’t do that. You know I can’t! The agency chooses the partners, not me. You two obviously have been formulated to work well on this case so it’s going to have to stay that way.”

Emily tried again, more tears falling from her eyes. “This is a personal conflict. I want a new partner!”

“It can’t be done!” Chase exclaimed, distressed.

It was too much for her to handle, and she wasn’t about to start bawling in front of one of her best friends and one of the most popular guys in the eleventh grade. She stormed out of the room, wiping away tears from her eyes. She made her way through the web of hallways, pushing past various agents. They looked at her quizzically, but then, realizing who she was, pretended not to have noticed her outburst. Emily navigated until she reached the haven of her office, and slammed the door closed behind her.

When she was finally alone, she broke down crying. How could this be happening to her? What had she ever done wrong? Nothing made sense to Emily anymore. There was no way that the guy that followed her around like a sick puppy was actually an agent. She thought she was unique and special. She had liked the thought that there was something about her that Aaron would never know. But as it turned out, he was part of that secret. Chase knew Aaron. Chase wasn’t just her friend; he was Aaron’s as well.

It was impossible; she had just seen Aaron only an hour or so ago. He was sitting right in her bedroom, telling her about how he was going to go to work at Rocco’s at five and that’s why he needed to leave early. Lies. Just like hers. He was going to the UCA ball to meet her, and she was going to meet him. Oh my god.

A knock sounded at her office door, cutting her off mid-thought. She didn’t want anyone to see her like this. A quick look at the mirror by her desk confirmed that her appearance was terrible. Her makeup was running in black streaks down her face, and her eyes were red and puffy. Unfortunately, in her mad haste to run into solitude, she had forgotten to lock her door, and Chase allowed himself in without permission.

“Get out, Chase,” she mumbled, trying to wipe away the mess on her face.

He stood by the door, taking in her appearance, and then came up to stand next to her. “Emily, calm down, will you?”

“How can I calm down?” Rage bubbled inside of her like a volcano about to erupt. She was full of hot molten anger. “You just wouldn’t understand.”

Chase sighed and took a seat on her large, oak desk. “Emily. You know in my year and a half of knowing you I’ve never seen you cry, not once?”

She brushed her hair away from her eyes and looked at him weakly. “That’s probably true.”

“It is. I know you don’t get upset over little things, so I know that something about Aaron has you really aggravated.”

Emily continued to wipe at her face while she spoke. “I met him about two weeks ago when he came over to my house for dinner. Our parents were best friends in high school. Aaron’s the jerk of the eleventh grade. He’s one of the most popular guys who hangs out with the types of girls you see in Mean Girls. He’s one of those guys.”

Chase furrowed his eyebrows, “He doesn’t seem like one of those guys. I’ve known him just as long as I’ve known you.”

She shrugged, “Ever since then he’s showed up at my house every morning to give me a ride to school so he can prove to me that he isn’t a jerk. Every day I have to sprint inside the school just so I don’t get bombarded by his hoard of self-obsessed friends. And he will never leave me alone.”

Chase looked confused, “Don’t most girls like it when guys pay that much attention to them?”

She seethed with irritation. “Ever since I’ve met him I’ve had this nagging suspicion that the only reason he comes to my house is because of a bet he made with his stupid friends or something. Or maybe to make fun of me just like the rest of his friends do. I don’t want to have anything to do with him.” More tears dripped from her eyes.

He looked at her with a disturbed look on his face. “Why would anyone want to do that to you, Emily? You’re one of the most amazing people I know.”

“That’s here, Chase. Here I’m 004, one of the most famous agents UCA has ever had. But at school I’m just Emily Olsen, the geeky girl.”

“Well maybe Aaron—”

“Chase, shut up. I don’t want to talk about Aaron. I hate Aaron. I hate everything about him.” Her body shook with the force of the words. “Please, Chase. Couldn’t you at least try to get me a switch?”

“I’ve tried before, Emily, trust me. You’re stuck with him. They pick partners based on all sorts of things, and you two are a done deal,” Chase held out his hand to her. “I’m really sorry this had to happen, but just relax. It’ll be okay.”

“No it won’t.”

The two walked out, hand in hand, past the hoards of people forming in the halls. Apparently the ballroom was too crowded for them, and several couples had already occupied themselves in the hallway.

“Where is Aaron right now, anyway?” Emily asked, half expecting him to fall into step with them.

“He’s sitting in my office waiting for you to be done your pissy girl mood thing,” Chase replied, half-smiling. Emily glared at him venomously until the half-smile turned into a repressed grin.

“Chase, I can’t go back to the dance now. I’m too stressed out,” Emily said. “I’m going home.”

He winced, “Yeah, I kind of figured you would. Get some sleep, Emily. You’ve had a long night.” He brushed a loose tendril of hair out of her red, pinched-from-crying face.

“Good-night, Chase,” She said as she headed back towards her office to gather her belongings.

A patch of sun shining on his face woke up Aaron the next morning. He was exhausted, seeing as how he hadn’t gotten even a few hours of peaceful sleep last night. He would wake up every hour or so, very unsettled and unable to retreat back into slumber. Aaron couldn’t keep Emily off of his mind, not even in the middle of night when he should be sleeping.

He sat up, only to realize that he was still dressed in a tuxedo. It was creased and shriveled in places, and he made a mental note to stop by the dry cleaners on the way to UCA.



Agent 004.

Last night, after Emily had run out of the room practically in tears, he had left without telling anyone. Although she had been the one to make the big, overt, deal out of it, he had silently been trying to handle the new information unsuccessfully. So after Chase had left after Emily, Aaron had escaped to the refuge of his car and driven home, unsure exactly what he was feeling.

Aaron realized more than anything now, though, that he wanted to talk to Emily. Last night she had refused to have anything to do with him and had even asked for a partner switch. Aaron himself would have never thought about asking such a tall order of Chase, but she was 004, and he guessed that was what her position entitled. Now he wanted to find out whether Chase was successful in obtaining a switch.

He took off his suit and showered before he jogged downstairs. Mandy was sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal when Aaron came down. “Morning, Aaron.”

“Morning,” he mumbled, slouching into the seat next to hers.

Mandy peered up at him for a few seconds before saying, “You got back from work late last night. No one was even awake when you came.”

Aaron grabbed the empty bowl next to Mandy and poured himself some of the Fruit Loops from the box. “Someone rented out the place for a party, and I was there for a while afterwards cleaning up and refilling their catering orders.”

Mandy looked over at him curiously, but let it go. “Are you going anywhere today?”

Aaron wanted to go to UCA and talk to Chase as soon as he could. “I’m going out with Jesse and the guys in a little bit.”

Mandy frowned, “Are they even awake this early in the morning?”

Aaron, forgetting the hour, snuck a glance at the clock. “You’d be surprised, Mandy.” He slurped obnoxiously at the leftover milk in his cereal bowl, enough until Mandy made a face at him. With a grin, he tossed the dish in the sink and grabbed his jacket from the coat hook in the entrance hall.

Mandy waved at him as he jogged out to his car. It was bright and sunny outside, completely contrary to how Aaron was feeling. There was almost an ominous emotion welling up inside his stomach as he started to drive towards UCA. He wasn’t sure why, however. Maybe it was the fact that he feared Chase had actually succeeded in obtaining a partner switch on this case. But why would he fear that? Surely it was because he might lose the case. Yeah, he thought. That’s why I’m feeling weird.

Aaron waited patiently for the identification system to confirm his agent number, and then he slid through the doors. He navigated his way to Chase’s office in the mentors’ hallway and knocked on the door. Chase answered, hair disheveled and eyes red.

“Oh, Aaron, hey,” Chase yawned and pushed the door open so he could come in. Aaron glanced at his appearance and raised an eyebrow.

“You’re still wearing your tux from last night…” Aaron started. “…And your eyes are bloodshot, man.”

Chase slumped onto one of his couches and rested his head on the armrest, kicking his feet up. Aaron took a seat on the other sofa. “I got zero sleep last night. Absolutely none. I spent half the night working on a partner switch for you, and the other half filling out forms for your assignment.”

Aaron shifted in his seat. Hesitantly he asked, “Did you get the partner switch?”

“Hell no,” Chase groaned, his eyes pinched shut.

“Oh,” Aaron tried to sound as emotionless as possible. Chase opened one eye and peered at him speculatively.

“But get this. The terms on which you two were partnered? ‘Both young, attractive, intelligent, agents who will be wholly able to carry out the duties of the job and pose well as their assigned alternate identities while getting along very well.’” Chase quoted in a high-pitched voice. “They are going to be in for a rude awakening.”

“Young, attractive, intelligent? They can really match us up like that?” Aaron furrowed his eyebrows.

Chase laughed, “Stop flattering yourself, Lawson. I guess this certain mission requires two pretty-faced people. Olsen’s definitely a first-choice. I guess they just had to search everyone’s pictures until they found someone who’d look nice with her.”

Aaron sighed, “I feel like I’m on a match-making website.”

Chase’s wide grin was cut off by a frantic, demanding knock on his office door. He snuck a glance at Aaron and jumped up to go answer the door.

“Chase, did it work? Did you get a partner switch? I talked to the department head last night myself and she said she’d send word through you so—” Emily walked in, speaking vivaciously, until she stopped when she saw Chase’s other guest.

Aaron tried to smile, but something in it felt hollow. “Good morning, Emily.”

Emily bit her lip, and it looked like she was trying very hard to act composed. It had, after all, only been a few hours since she had screamed at Aaron and ran out of this exact room in tears. “Good morning, 040.”

Chase and Aaron both raised an eyebrow at her formal acknowledgment, but Emily brushed them off and turned back towards Chase. “So the switches…did you get them?”

Chase shook his head reluctantly—almost as if he was afraid she would scream again. “I told you not to have high hopes, Emily. They said you two are just too…complementary to each other.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” She exclaimed, stomping her foot. Aaron, despite how hard he tried, couldn’t hide his laugh. Emily turned around, her composed face twisted with lines of fury. “Is something funny, 040?”

Aaron swallowed his laugh so he was only smiling. “Nope. Nothing.”

Chase looked between the two of them, rolling his eyes. “You two need to seriously talk this out.”

Emily shook her head, and took a seat on his tiny, crammed desk. “I don’t need to talk about anything. I don’t feel the need to discuss this situation any further than we already have.”

“We didn’t discuss anything, Emily. You screamed in my face last night is what you did. That isn’t discussing,” Aaron pointed out.

Emily stared bullets into his eyes. It was hard for Aaron to imagine those beautiful blue eyes looking as cold as they did now. “At the agency, I am agent 004, not Emily. You have to remember where our rankings stand here, 040. I am one of the first in command agents, and you are part of the general staff.”

Chase looked at her skeptically, “Emily don’t play those cards. That’s just stupid. The only time we actually refer to agents by their rankings is when we’re at formal events or meetings. That doesn’t change no matter what’s going on between you two.”

Aaron nodded his head, again trying to contain a hysteric laugh. “And that still doesn’t change the fact that I feel we should talk about this.”

Emily stood up, looking ready to leave. “You know what, I have lots of work I need to get done and I just don’t have time for this. I’ll see you later Chase—” She started to walk towards the door but Chase stood in front of it, his arms stretched out. “Grow up, Chase. I can take you down if I have to.”

“Emily, I’m serious. I want you two to talk about this. I’m not trying to play relationship-counselor or anything but I’m going to have to be working with you two for the next few months and I don’t want everyday to be like this. We have to settle this eventually.”

“He’s right Emi—004,” Aaron said. “I don’t want to have to go through this every time I meet you. We have to talk about this.”

Emily glared poisonously at him. “Five minutes. That’s it. I have work to do.”

Chase smiled appreciatively. “Okay then. I’ll leave you two happy campers in here for the next five minutes. Be back soon.” Chase slipped out the door and closed it behind him. Emily looked back towards the door with a dejected look on her face.

“Okay, Emily—may I call you that?” Aaron asked with a smile. Emily nodded, her face etched into a frown. “I just want to let you know that I feel the same way you do about this.”

“No you don’t,” She spat. “You don’t even know how I’m feeling.”

Aaron sighed. “Emily, stop being such a bitter old hag. Don’t you remember when we were friends? You know…yesterday?”

She looked at him with a humorous expression. “We weren’t friends Aaron, we never were. I tolerated you. There is a huge difference between the two.”

“I don’t want to fight with you. I want to get along. We’re going to be partners for the next few months. I want to be able to enjoy that. You’re 004, a UCA legacy. Every guy wants to be your partner.”

She looked hysterical. “Yes, that’s right. I deserve all the attention when I’m here at UCA. But it’s totally different at school. At school I’m geeky little Emily Olsen that everyone picks on.”

Aaron looked into her eyes. “You know I don’t treat you any differently at school.”

“Yes but your friends do. You and all those people you hang out with. How am I supposed to have any respect for you when I have to deal with you in school with all those people and then see you here?” Emily plopped down onto the couch, resting her cheek on her hand.

“I’m not a supporter of how they act and I don’t expect you to like me, I just want you to accept the fact that I’m an agent, you’re an agent, and we’re partners now.” He tried to sound mature when he spoke, but his voice cracked and he felt lousy.

“Whatever, Aaron. Whatever.”

“Why are you so set on changing partners anyway? Don’t you think it would be cool to work together for a while? I mean there’s a reason they put us together.”

Emily sighed. “You’ve never worked with a double-0 agent, have you? You have to spend a lot of time getting to know your partner. We have to travel together. I don’t want to spend the next two months of my life with you.”

“Ouch,” Aaron said.

“I’m telling it as it is, because you need to know that I’m not okay with this. And that’s how it’s going to be.” She stared intensely at him, and then looked down at her watch. “Five minutes are up. I’m out of here.”

Chase walked in at that moment, just as Emily was leaving. “Good-bye 004,” Aaron called out.

She slammed the door behind her.

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Sunday went by, slow and otherwise uneventful for Emily. She didn’t stop to think often because she would just start thinking about Aaron and the UCA. What was otherwise a usually happy thought zone to ponder was now polluted with the image of Aaron sitting in Chase’s office. Her Chase.

When Monday finally came, Emily was shocked to find that she was looking forward to going to school and having something to distract her wandering mind. It wasn’t until she reached for the door to leave for school that she remembered the other terrifying aspect of school mornings.


Without much thought, she grabbed her backpack and sprinted onto her porch. To her surprise, his silver Cadillac was nowhere in sight. She didn’t slow down though, at fear that he may have just been running late. Emily jogged onto the sidewalk and began her stroll towards the school.

Every so often she would turn around to see if maybe the familiar car was following her, but it never was. It wasn’t until she reached the school that she realized that Aaron hadn’t had any intentions of picking her up this morning. The proof was visible when she passed through the parking lot and saw his shiny silver Cadillac parked neatly in between Jesse’s bright yellow Hummer and Shelby’s red Corvette.

Aaron was seated on the hood of his car, as was Jesse, and him and his friends were chatting vividly and laughing heartily. Emily felt her stomach sink. I knew it. Once he gets bored of his stupid games he just goes back to those friends of his. I knew it. A new kind of feeling took over her senses: fury. Of course now that Aaron knew who she actually was she was no longer a chew toy for him. Now he just turned his back and went along chatting with his other friends. Of course.

Emily walked into the school with a distorted face. It was distorted enough that Kara noticed right upon seeing her. “Well don’t you just look like a princess this morning!” She grinned. Emily’s furious aura shut her up, however, and she asked, “What’s wrong?”

She shrugged. Aaron wasn’t worth talking about. “I don’t know. Lana was being really annoying this morning.”

Kara rolled her eyes, “Emily I’m not an idiot. Lana doesn’t get you twisted like that. I know who does though…”


Kara smiled, “Aaron Lawson.”

Emily glanced at her surreptitiously and frowned. “I was right. He is a jerk. He didn’t pick me up today; he just ditched me to go chat with his stupid friends.”

“That’s hardly fair, Emily. You hate getting rides with him,” Kara pointed out as they walked through the hallways.

Emily looked at the floor. Kara was right; she was making no sense at all. “I don’t know, I just figured he’d be there anyways.”

Kara looked at her with accusing eyes, “Maybe he was just trying to give you what you wanted? You have been throwing a fit at him for the past few days.”

Emily glanced over at the doorway where Aaron and his friends were walking into the school together. She realized that she hadn’t seen this for a while seeing as how the group was quite broken up ever since Aaron had started picking her up. Aaron and Jesse walked alongside each other, and the rest of the boys followed them, almost in perfect step.

When he passed Emily she glanced at him, trying to see if he would give her any kind of acknowledgment; maybe a nod or a wave. Instead he glanced at her and then glanced away. She curled up her fist in fury. What is wrong with him? Why is he being like this? But she already knew the answer to that. He was always like this. It was all just a stupid little show for me.

Kara looked at Aaron quizzically as he walked away, and then back at Emily. “What did you say to him?”


Kara glanced at her skeptically. “He looks angry, can’t you tell? You obviously did something!”

Emily shook her head. “No, Kara. I told you, it would just be a matter of time.”

“No, Emily, I’m telling you. You definitely overdid your mood swings and now he’s angry. Aaron was so into you it was insane. He isn’t like this.”

She bit her lip and looked away. “How could you even know what he’s like, Kara?”

“Aaron likes you.”

Emily glared at Kara, her cheeks flaming red. “I’ll see you later, Kara.” She turned on her heel and walked the opposite direction down the hallway. Kara watched her go with a frown.

Later that day at lunch, Emily took her usual seat at a table in the back. To her misfortune, Kara had caught up with her earlier and told her that she was taking a test during lunch. That left Emily alone at the table…not that she really minded. It gave her much needed time to think.

She sat in silence for a few minutes, picking lazily at her fries, until a figure slipped into her view and took a seat across from her. “Hey, Emily,” Aaron smiled grimly, helping himself to a fry.

Emily was so confused that she laughed dryly. When she avoided his glance, he only stared more intently at her. “I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up this morning.”

She looked up at him with a glare. “It was one of the most enjoyable mornings I’ve had in a while, actually.”

Aaron shrugged, and looked at his hands. “You seemed really angry with me yesterday, so I thought I’d give us both a break for a day. I didn’t think it would have been too pleasant of a car ride.”

Emily felt a wave of guilt pass over her, but she shrugged it off. “I’m not talking about this. Not here. We’re in school, Aaron.”

“Well why not? You won’t talk about it at the agency, either. No one can hear us, or knows what we mean by UCA,” Aaron stated.

“Yes, but they are all staring at us,” Emily pointed out, mumbling most of it. It was true, they were. It seemed as if all eyes in the cafeteria were on the two of them sitting in the far corner.

Aaron shrugged. “Let them stare.” Emily frowned and looked into her cup of fries. “So how long have you known Chase?”

“Ever since I joined UCA, about a year and a half ago,” she replied. “And you?”

“About the same. I joined a year ago.” He helped himself to another one of her fries. “Are you two…” He paused, and then shrugged. “Never mind.”

Emily glared at him. “Are we what?”

“Never mind,” he repeated, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

She glared venomously, her eyes speaking for her.

“Well, I was just wondering if you two were a couple,” Aaron said, assessing her expression.

Emily laughed, but it had a nervous edge to it. “Don’t be stupid. You know that inter-agency relationships aren’t allowed. Chase and I are just friends.”

Aaron nodded, “Right. Just wondering.” There was a long pause while Emily occupied herself with her food. “So it’ll be fun. The three of us. For a few weeks.”

She looked up, half-disbelievingly into his ocean blue eyes before she realized that he wasn’t joking. “Do you honestly think that?”

“Well…yes. I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Aaron smiled wryly in response to Emily’s grimace.

At that moment, another figure approached and took a seat at Emily’s table. She raised her eyebrows and sighed. “Hey, man,” Jesse greeted Aaron, staring at him questioningly. “Sup, Emily,” His gaze switched over to her, staring at them both.

“Hi,” Emily replied, looking away quickly.

“I brought some food. That cup of fries isn’t going to sustain both of you for long,” Jesse said, pushing his tray full of food towards them. Emily stared down at the slices of pizza and nuggets on it and shook her head at Jesse.

“No thanks, I’m not really hungry,” she smiled weakly.

Aaron grinned, “Speak for yourself, Olsen.” He picked up a slice of pizza and started eating it almost instantly. Emily watched him with an expression of disdain.

Jesse said, “So, I came over to ask you if you wanted to go to Squeeze tonight with the rest of the guys.” He was mostly directing the question towards Aaron, but then turned towards Emily, “It would be awesome if you came too.”

“I have classes at the gym,” Emily said instantly.

“I’m working,” Aaron replied in unison with her. Aaron grinned with amusement at Emily, and she stared back at him with remorse.

“Sweet, sweet, rejection,” Jesse grinned. “Well, dude, Aaron, why don’t the guys and I just stop by Rocco’s for the night?”

Emily raised her eyebrows and looked at Aaron. “That’s such a great idea.”

Aaron bit down his wince and looked at him. “Sorry, man. The place is booked for a private party.”

“Again, seriously? Ah, whatever. We’ll crash the party, then,” Jesse grinned, hoping to receive the same reaction from Aaron. Aaron’s composure remained calm, but he spoke quickly.

“Jesse, not this time. It’s some kid’s bat-mitzvah. I really don’t think that would go down too well with his family. I don’t want to get fired,” Aaron pointed out, talking through his food. Emily took a giant swig out of her water bottle to keep from laughing.

Jesse sighed, visibly disappointed. He looked towards Emily, “And you’re going to the gym? No offense but it’s hard to picture someone as fragile-looking as you working out.” He added a smile at the end to let her know he meant it sweetly.

Emily grinned, “None taken.” Aaron glanced over his food at her, a smirk on his face. She glared back at him in response.

“Well, I’m out, then, if you’re not going to speak,” Jesse raised his eyebrows and looked at the two of them. When they said nothing he continued, “Yeah, I’m leaving.” With that he picked up his water bottle and headed back towards Aaron’s table, not bothering to take the food with him.

Emily shook her head when he left. “Your friends are strange.”

Aaron laughed, “Well that’s an improvement considering what you used to think of them.”

“ ‘Used to’ is an overstatement, Aaron. I don’t change my mind so quickly about people,” Emily said.

“Of course, of course. I forgot,” He looked away with a smile. “It’s ironic though, how people consider you fragile when you are really agent 004, one of the UCA’s legacies.”

“Shh. Aaron, seriously. You never know who is listening,” Emily argued, her eyebrows knitted together.

“Right, sorry, I forgot,” He began chewing on the second slice of pizza. “But really, if I knew that one person from this school was agent 004, you would be the last person I would guess.”

“How flattering,” Emily grunted.

Aaron continued, ignoring her chide, “I think I’d assume it was someone with a lot of power and attitude. Someone more like Shelby, I guess.”

Emily mumbled, “No seriously, stop the flattery.”

Aaron laughed, but the sound was muted by the chimes of the bell signaling the end of lunch. Emily stood up quickly, and was already half way across the cafeteria before Aaron could say goodbye.

The days came and went, and Aaron and Emily never brought up the UCA with each other again. Their different schedules and positions separated them while they worked at the agency, so they never saw each other at UCA. Emily was especially careful when she was around Chase to make sure that Aaron wouldn’t be joining them. She was also careful never to mention Aaron’s name, for fear of having to discuss her new partner again.

Any acceptance that Emily had begun to feel for Aaron was gone. She no longer waited for his car to come in the morning, and now she was arriving at school thirty minutes ahead of schedule just so that she could avoid him. Emily knew he still visited the house everyday anyways, because he never drove up with the rest of his friends. She hoped that one day he would finally give up, but it never happened.

And just like that, Saturday rolled around.

“Emily?” Three knocks sounded at her office door, and Emily swung the door open. Chase pushed past her, carrying a large stack of file folders. “Morning, Olsen.”

“Good morning, Chase. What’s all that for?” She asked, nodding towards the folders in his hand.

He looked at her speculatively, “You didn’t forget, did you? The informational briefing about your assignment begins in a few minutes.”

A wave of nausea passed over Emily. “No…no, of course I didn’t forget.” She mentally punished herself for erasing it from her brain. It was a futile attempt at trying to avoid the truth.

“You forgot, didn’t you?” Chase grinned, but he furrowed his eyebrows. Emily shrugged, admitting herself guilty. “You’re going to be alright, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” she smiled half-heartedly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Chase shook his head and stared at her skeptically, “Oh that’s right. Because you were perfectly content with being partnered up with Aaron in the first place.”

“Chase, it’s over. I’m not going to talk about this again.”

He sighed, “I’m not trying to bring up the whole argument again, it’s a useless attempt. I’m just making sure you’re not going to kick and scream at our department head. Or do something stupid like punch Aaron.”

“You have too much faith in me, Chase,” she glared, feeling a little hurt. She was confident that he didn’t give Aaron the ‘don’t punch your partner’ lecture.

Chase sensed the hurt in her voice. “Emily, I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just don’t want your emotions to make you act like an idiot in front of the department head.”

She scoffed, “My emotions?”

“Your dumb girlie mood thing that makes you want to kill Aaron right now.”

Emily clenched and unclenched her fists while Chase eyed her nervously. “What makes me want to hate Aaron is how he acts. Not my stupid ‘girly emotions.’”

“I think he’s a good guy, Olsen.”

“You barely know him.”

Chase laughed, “You barely know him.”

Emily stared menacingly at him, still clenching and unclenching her fists. Chase stared back, but he looked worried, not angry. It was quiet for a few long seconds before Emily relaxed. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight. I’m just nervous and tired and I don’t want to do this.”

Chase pulled her in for a hug, patting her back reassuringly. “It’s alright, Emily. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Emily didn’t bother arguing with him again. Instead, Chase led Emily out into the hallway and towards the meeting room where they would be briefed about the assignment. The long walk there was quiet and to Emily it seemed as if it lasted hours. Chase didn’t seem to feel the need to fill the gaping hole of silence, only increasing the tense emotion.

When they pushed through the one-way glass doors leading into the meeting room, Aaron and the department head, Sandra Botts, were sitting patiently waiting for them. Several agents in full suits that worked behind the desk sat with briefcases on their laps next to Aaron and Sandra.

“Ah, good to see you 004,” Sandra said, eyeing Emily speculatively. Sandra was one of the few people at UCA that treated Emily as an equal. To many Emily was superior and respected, and to her fellow double-0 agents, she was a chew toy. It was only to a very small number of people that she was equal, two being Sandra and Chase.

“Sorry we’re late,” Chase said, not mentioning a reason. He took a seat opposite Sandra, and Emily took the only available seat next to Aaron.

“Hey, 004,” Aaron smiled weakly.

“040,” Emily nodded staring straight ahead.

On the large screen in front of them, a live camera feed of a city played. Cars bustled to and fro, and sidewalks were packed with people walking.

“The city pictured here is one of Mexico’s richest cities, Monterrey. Recently the city has been dominated by the drug trade and has had many criminal problems. We received a lead a month ago that many people in the city were going missing.”

Sandra pressed a button on a remote that she held, and instantly the building was replaced with an aerial view image of the city of Monterrey. “The city houses billionaires. From some in depth research, my team has determined that the foul play is associated with a crime ring in Monterrey. Locals suspect that the cities richest families are involved, but we have no solid evidence of this.”

One of the men in the suits turned to them. “We need you and agent 040 to pose as a newlywed but very rich couple in Mexico so that we can obtain more information about these kidnappings.”

“Newlywed couple?” Emily asked disbelievingly. “We’re seventeen!”

Aaron nodded in agreement, “I don’t think we’d be able to pass that off.”

Sandra shook her head, “With Monterrey’s elite, you’ll find that some newlyweds are very much younger than you. In Mexico getting married before you are eighteen is not unheard of.”

Emily felt something boil inside of her, consuming away her reasonable emotion. “I don’t want to.”

“Excuse me?” Sandra asked, doing a double take on her words. Chase groaned, and Aaron stared at her, expressionless.

“I do not want to act as a newlywed couple with 040.”

“Agent 004, you know as well as I do that once decisions are made in this agency, no one is in any place to change them. You will do exactly as the mission requires.”

“Then I want off the case,” she stated, as blatantly possible. Chase stood up, and before Sandra could even open her mouth, he was dragging her by the arm across the room and to the corner.

“!” Emily threw his hands away from hers and glared at him with red cheeks. “That was unnecessary.”

“It was completely necessary,” Chase hissed furiously. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Emily shoved him. “You can’t honestly believe I’m going to act as a newlywed with him? I don’t care if this is one of the biggest cases I’ve ever worked, I’m not doing it if this is how we have to act.”

“Emily.” Emily turned around spastically and almost ran into Sandra. She had just walked over and had her arms folded across her chest. “We put you on this case because it is very important. Our agency hasn’t had a lead like this in years. If you do not abide by the rules of this agency…you can pack your bags up right now.”

She felt the color drain from her face. Chase looked almost pleadingly at her. ‘Please’ he mouthed, and she felt her lips move before her brain did. “I’m sorry, I was way out of line Sandra.”

“Hm,” was all Sandra said, and she moved back to take a seat at the head of the room. With hot cheeks and tears dotting her eyes, Emily sat grudgingly back down next to Aaron.

“Well, as I was saying…” one of the men said with painfully awkward transition, “You two will be posing as a newlywed couple. As far as the elite of Monterrey know, you are a high-class family from southern California on vacation in Monterrey.”

Aaron leaned forward, “How exactly are we supposed to get information about the kidnappings?”

“We need you two to observe,” Sandra stated, running her fingers through her mane of fiery-red hair. “Watch the people you encounter. Anything that looks remotely suspicious, keep an eye on it. Of course you’re going to have to go as deep as you can without endangering your lives.”

“…And what about Chase?” Emily asked reluctantly. “What will his job be?”
“The same as always, of course—to watch out for you, 004,” Sandra replied. Emily glanced over at Chase. Normally he would have given her a lopsided grin, but given his temper at the moment he just glared at her. “But, as far as roles go, he will be playing the role of your brother.”

Another one of the men with the suits spoke, “We are going to need you three on this case as soon as possible. We have already gotten in contact with your school, and both of you have been granted a three week leave.”

Emily bit her lip down. What would Kara say when she learned that both Emily and Aaron were gone for the same amount of time from school? And of course Jesse would notice the same thing…

“As far as excuses go, we will be sending ‘permission slips’ home for you two to go to a three week foreign country trip mandatory for your Spanish classes. You can tell your parents the cost of the trip is covered by the department.”

Aaron nodded, and Emily just looked at the ground, unwilling to express her approval, because she had none. “Are we going to be flying there?” Aaron asked.

“You will board the UCA jet to the General Mariano Escobedo International Airport on Wednesday morning. From there your truck will arrive to pick you up. You will be spending the majority of your time living in the truck rather than hotels.”

Emily nodded, but Aaron looked confused. “Our truck?”

Sandra smiled, “Ah, I almost forgot, 040. You have never worked with a double-0 agent before. All our double-0 agents have a truck, which you will see, can easily room four people. Since you will have an extra room you can use that as a computing area to record and send us any new information you have obtained.”

Aaron still looked confused, and Emily smirked at him condescendingly. Chase noticed and rolled his eyes.

“Very well then,” Sandra stated. “I will see you both here on Wednesday morning so that you can catch your flight.”

With that, Sandra motioned for the four men in suits to get up, and the five of them carried their briefcases and exited the meeting room through the back doors. Chase didn’t look as if he was about to go anywhere, which meant that Emily and Aaron weren’t going to either.

“Getting your stories straight won’t be too much of a problem, will it?” Chase asked them. “It is pretty short notice.”

Aaron looked sideways at Emily, and when she didn’t respond, he did. “Well since we both go to the same school it’s a more solid explanation when both of us turn the slips over to our parents.”

Emily grunted in agreement. Chase stared at her for a few seconds, then spoke, “It’s dangerous in Monterrey, Emily. You’re going to need to stay with Aaron to keep safe. Don’t let stupid things like this argument take your life.”

“I can take care of myself, Chase. I think you’re forgetting who the double-0 agent is in this partnership,” Emily hissed.

“I think you’re forgetting which one of you is more sensible,” Chase retorted. Aaron watched her queasily as Emily glared at Chase.

“I have to go,” Emily stood up and started heading towards the double glass doors.

Aaron interrupted her, however. “Let me give you a ride home. I’m going that way anyways.”

“I’m fine,” Emily replied. “Chase will give me a ride.”

Chase laughed with no mirth. “I’m busy, actually. I have to finish filling these out,” He nodded towards the files on the table. “You think you could give her a ride, Lawson?”

Aaron grinned and turned towards a pain-stricken Emily. “No problem.”

“I’m walking. It’s a nice day,” she tried, already guessing his answer.

Aaron smiled wryly, “You know what? It kind of is. I’ll come with you.”

Emily looked at the floor, feeling her stomach sink. “Never mind. Let’s just drive.”

The two of them were quiet as they walked to his car in the woods. Aaron’s heart fell when he noticed how much it pained her just to walk near him. What had actually even happened between them? Nothing he had done, of course. He had only ever been nice to her and her family. But for some reason Emily treated him like he was the living devil. Something inside of Aaron ached in displeasure.

“Almost like it usually is,” Aaron smiled as they assumed their seats in the car. Emily didn’t reply, and instead just turned her cheek to look out the window. “Back in the good old days when you actually accepted rides from me.”

Again, no answer or stark comment. “...last week.” Aaron continued, feeling as if he was talking to himself.

Quietly, he pulled the car out of the pavilion in the woods and onto the hidden back road leading to the main intersection. He felt inclined to say something, but Emily didn’t look as if she was about to reply anytime soon.

“You used to take rides from me,” Aaron started. “Why did you just start ignoring me altogether?”

She didn’t say anything, not as if he had expected her to. “Fine,” he sighed. “I’ll just talk then. You don’t have to reply, I just want you to listen.”

He couldn’t see her face, but he imagined her captivating eyes twisted into a glare of hatred. Aaron had seen her give it to him many times before. “Last week you told me you realized I wasn’t a jerk because of that day I helped Lana.”

It was a very slight movement, but Emily seemed to almost tense up. Aaron continued, “You know, I really thought you would learn to like me, but then the night of the ball happened and suddenly you hated me again.”

“You don’t have to answer; I’d just like to know what I did wrong—”

Emily turned around, “Oh just shut up Aaron. I don’t feel like talking about mushy gushy feelings right now.”

He grinned, “Alright then.”

“I liked you better when you weren’t a UCA agent,” Emily said, turning to face the window again. “When you didn’t know who I was.”

“You don’t like me because I know that you’re an agent?”

She didn’t say anything so he continued. “To be honest, I don’t think that’s really changed anything about us, Emily. So what if you’re agent 004? I mean, it is a bit intimidating for me to be around you in the agency, but really, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Of all the people in this world I wish could tell, you’re the one that has to know,” she hissed, her porcelain cheeks turning red. “I can’t tell my own mother.”

“I didn’t ask you to tell me. You and I are just in the same situation.”

Emily groaned, “Lana was right. You and I are a lot alike. Just not in the ways she intended us to be.”

Aaron shrugged, “I guess. But that doesn’t mean you have to be angry about it. Angry at me at least. I liked Emily Olsen, but Agent 004 is just a bitch.”

Emily laughed out loud, an act that caught Aaron off guard, but made him grin widely. “So maybe you could act a little more like Emily more of the time rather than 004.”

“Emily is stupid, naive and doesn’t know what she’s doing. Agent 004 is smart, observant, and knows wrong from right,” Emily pointed out.

Aaron smiled, “You may sometimes forget, but you are Emily Olsen, not 004. I like Emily.”

Again she went somber, looking through the window almost as if she was in a trance. “Agent 004 and Emily Olsen are the same person.”

They had pulled up into the Olsen’s driveway now, and Emily was already reaching for the door handle. “Wait,” Aaron stopped her, putting his hand on her wrist. She recoiled slightly and then relaxed.

“What?” She asked, irritated.

Aaron said, “Agent 004 can be mad at Agent 040 but Emily and Aaron can still like each other.”

Emily winced. “Emily didn’t really like Aaron to begin with.” She slammed the door, and started jogging up to the Olsen’s doorstep.

Aaron smiled, but it faltered as he watched her walk into the house and shut the door behind her. “But Aaron really liked Emily,” he said to the empty car.

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This book has 6 comments.

on Feb. 27 2012 at 4:14 pm
livelaughlove195, Exton, Pennsylvania
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"That which doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."

Thank you! I'll be sure to, I kind of have the chapters just sitting on my computer haha

on Feb. 25 2012 at 10:56 pm
BreakingInside BRONZE, Pinson, Alabama
4 articles 0 photos 29 comments

on Aug. 9 2011 at 7:04 pm
livelaughlove195, Exton, Pennsylvania
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"That which doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."

Thank you so much! :) Please let me know what you think of the rest!

dragonbee said...
on Aug. 6 2011 at 5:04 pm
i absolutly loved it great work keep it up you'll be bigger than stephanie meyers a bonus cuz of no vamps ahahaha

on Jul. 30 2011 at 7:14 am
livelaughlove195, Exton, Pennsylvania
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"That which doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."

Ahh thank you so much! I'm glad you like it:)

Knl3398 said...
on Jul. 29 2011 at 10:24 pm
Knl3398, Canton, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
To be nobody but yourself in a world doing its best to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can ever fight and never stop fighting. -E. E. Cummings

I love the plot and your style of writing! Keep posting :)