Here it is, my lovely readers, the last chapter of Clandestine Bluebird. There will be an Epilogue, so don't start shedding those tears yet. Haha.
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Two Days Later.
R.E.D. Headquarters Medical Facility
"Good morning, Agent McDonald." Dr. Gloria Reinhardt smiled as she entered the room Casey had been staying in for the past couple of days while recuperating.
"It will be a good morning if you say I'm finally free to go." Casey smiled back with a sigh from where she sat perched upon the hospital bed.
"How are you feeling?" Dr. Reinhardt asked, ignoring Casey's comment as she approached the young woman to inspect her injuries.
"Still a bit sore but definitely not as exhausted as three days ago."
"That's good to hear. Let me take a look at your neck." The doctor said.
Casey leaned forward and turned her head, wincing slightly as Dr. Reinhardt proceeded to peel off the bandage covering the burn she'd been inflicted with thanks to her captors figuring out where her GPS was hidden. The memory still sent shivers down her spine.
"You seem to be healing quite nicely." The doctor commented as she changed the bandage and rubbed some healing cream on the wound.
"Does that mean I can go home?"
"You sure are eager to leave. Don't you like seeing my face everyday?" The woman chuckled after finishing on Casey's neck and checking the bandage on her shoulder.
"Of course I do. I just can't stand being confined to this room much longer."
"Plus you've got that hunky stepbrother to return to, right?" Dr. Reinhardt grinned and Casey's face turned red.
"The infection has gone down," the doctor changed the subject, noticing Casey's discomfort as she continued to look at the young agent's bullet wounded arm. "You're very lucky to have gotten here when you did. Another day and the infection would've spread, resulting in major surgery and reconstruction."
Casey let out a breath and looked at her doctor, "I know and I appreciate everything you have done to heal me."
"Well, I speak on behalf of the entire world when I say that we appreciate everything you have done to save us. You're a brave woman, Agent McDonald."
Before Casey could respond there was a knock at the door and a familiar voice that caused knots to form in her stomach spoke, "Can I come in?"
"Yes." Casey croaked out.
Derek entered the room looking like he'd just gotten out of the shower. Casey's breath hitched at the sight. His reddish-brown hair was damp and beginning to form natural waves across his head and his face was freshly shaven, instead of the stubble he'd been forming the last few days. He was dressed in dark stain-washed jeans, a white v-neck shirt and his typical black leather jacket. Hot was the first word to come to Casey's mind, which surprised her because she'd never so blatantly checked out her stepbrother before.
"Hey," Derek grinned, noticing the tint of red forming on her cheeks.
"Hey," Casey returned, averting her eyes as she bit her lip anxiously.
"I'll leave you two alone now." Dr. Reinhardt spoke up as she finished with Casey's arm and winked at the young agent.
"Wait," Casey grabbed her hand before she could go. "You still haven't answered my question."
"If Derek promises to look after you, then my answer is yes."
"Yes to what?" Derek's brow furrowed in confusion.
"I can go home today." Casey beamed with excitement.
"You are staying with her, correct?" Dr. Reinhardt asked the young man.
"Unless she decides to kick me out the moment she returns..." Derek nodded as he rubbed the back of his neck while shooting a glance Casey's way.
"Well, she's going to need someone to help her change the bandages every couple of days, so I nominate you."
"Derek can't even clean up his baby sister's puke." Casey snorted. "I doubt he can handle this."
"Challenge accepted." Derek grinned at her before shaking the doctor's hand.
"I'll be back to instruct you on how to do it later then." Dr. Reinhardt smiled before exiting the room.
"You know you don't have to do it if you don't want to." Casey stated as Derek took a seat in the chair next to her bed.
"I don't mind." Her stepbrother shrugged indifferently. "Besides, then you'd be stuck here longer and I know you're dying to be free."
"Yeah," Casey nodded. "I just don't want you doing it because you feel forced."
"I don't." The young hockey player frowned. "But if you don't want me to do it then I don't have to."
"No," Casey frowned. "I'm grateful you're willing to..."
"But...?" Derek added, knowing something was bothering her.
Casey sighed, "I'm just not used to this, that's all."
"Used to what?"
"You offering to help me out."
"I'm not that horrible, am I?"
"No... but the old Derek would've run for the hills at the mention of being my aid for a couple of weeks, or suggested I get my Mom or Lizzie to come do it."
"Well I've changed." He said as he suddenly reached out and took her hand in his, sending tingles to ignite throughout her skin, "and so have my feelings towards you, as I've already stated."
Casey gulped as she stared into his chestnut eyes. The question of whether Derek's confession was real or not became exuberantly clear in that moment just by the longing look in his gaze. He really was in love with her.
"Hey, we heard the good news!" The voice of Casey's partner exclaimed as he and Karma entered the room.
Karma immediately noticed the couple's intertwined hands and gasped, "I'm so sorry. Were we interrupting something?"
Casey quickly removed her hand from Derek's with a blush and smiled at her partners, "Its fine."
Derek glowered at her, obviously annoyed with the intrusion and Casey's actions as he stood up and walked towards the door.
"I'm gonna go speak to the doc about that bandaging thing while you guys chat." He said before leaving the room.
"Derek!" Casey called but he didn't return.
"I'm so sorry, Casey." Ben apologised with a guilty look. "I honestly didn't even know he was here."
"Maybe it's just fate." Casey sighed. "Every time I'm about to tell him how I feel, it never works out."
"No, it's just the stupidity and terrible timing of your partners." Karma corrected her with a stern look. Her expression softened instantly though as she patted Casey's hand with a smile, "Congrats by the way on finally realizing how you feel."
Casey's eyes widened, "You know?"
"Ben told me."
"So you two are swapping secrets now, huh?" Casey grinned.
Ben shrugged as he ran a hand through his hair, "It sorta just came out."
"It's alright. I'm glad you two are becoming closer."
"We're not like that." Ben was quick to establish as he and Karma's faces both turned red.
"I didn't say you were." Casey pointed out with a smirk.
"Anyway, we heard you're being released today." Ben changed the subject while avoiding looking at the pretty blonde standing next to him.
"Yes. Do you know how it's going with the briefcase from Phil? Have they managed to open it up?" Casey asked.
Derek had explained to her that the Agency wanted to inspect the case before she opened it herself and Casey agreed. She gave her stepbrother permission to bring the case in to R.E.D. and be handed over to Mason Marz and the other scientists immediately.
"I gave them the combination but there's some kind of other security mechanism that they can't figure out. Mason thinks it could be a DNA reader, which means the case will only open up for one person."
"Why would Phil tell me the combination if I can't open it without his prints, then?" Casey wondered with a frown.
"I don't think it's his DNA it needs."
"I think he programmed it specifically for you, Casey."
The young agent's eyes widened.
"Can you pass me my change of clothes that Derek brought me from home?" Casey asked Karma.
Karma handed her the bag as Casey began pulling the covers off of her body and trying to stand.
"What are you doing?" Ben asked when she began taking the clothes out of the bag.
"I need to see this case now, so if you don't mind turning around, I have to change."
Her partner decided not to argue, knowing there was no point, so he did as told and turned his back to her while she began to strip out of her hospital gown and put on her jeans and a sweater.
Tech Lab Level
"I am so very glad to see that you are doing better, Agent McDonald." Mason Marz said while shaking Casey's hand as she and her partners – plus Derek – entered his lab.
"Thank you." Casey smiled. "Do you have the case?"
Mason nodded, "Yes. It seems, Agent... er... Mr. Greenwood intended for only one specific person to open it and since he was so fond of you, we believe the case will unlock once your DNA is scanned."
"And you're sure it's safe?"
"We ran some tests on it and there doesn't seem to be any type of bomb or explosive device inside... But Mr. Greenwood was very smart; he knew how to disguise a threat easily, which is why we have extra agents on standby just as a precaution." Mason said gesturing towards the four other men in the room with them.
The lead tech man walked over to a security safe, unlocked it and pulled out a silver briefcase. He set it on top of one of the closest counters and motioned for Casey, her partners, and the four other agents to approach.
"It's all yours." He spoke and stepped aside.
Casey stared at the silver case for a moment in hesitation. She'd been waiting to see what was inside for days now but when finally confronted with the possibility of it being a threat, she wasn't as eager anymore.
Opening this case could be a huge mistake... Casey thought with a grim expression. But Phil was good... Wasn't he? He redeemed himself in the end... Right?
"You alright, Case?" Derek asked as he placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, not even knowing just how much that simple gesture meant to her.
"Yeah," Casey breathed out.
"You don't have to do this, Bluebird." Ben spoke from the other side of her. "We could always lock the thing away and forget it ever happened."
"No," The young agent shook her head. "I need to open it. Phil said he'd give me answers, so I'm hoping this somehow contains them." She said as she began to enter the combination into the keypad on the side of the case. Suddenly a red scanner lit up around her hand; there was a clicking sound and the red flashed to green before the case popped open.
Everyone braced themselves with abated breaths as the young agent slowly began to lift the lid of the case and opened it up.
"What's in there?" Karma asked.
Casey let out a sigh of relief and raised a curious brow as she picked up the contents of the briefcase.
"A folder?" Derek frowned, probably hoping for something a bit more exciting.
"And a recording device." Casey said, indicating to the black object no bigger than her hand.
"It says your name." Karma pointed out.
"Well, since the contents pose no imminent threat and the case was meant for you, Agent McDonald, we will let you be alone." Mason said as he shook Casey's hand once again and began ushering the four other agents out of the room.
"We can leave as well." Ben offered but Casey shook her head.
"No, this involves you too. You're my partner and from now on, we don't keep secrets."
"I agree." Ben nodded with a smile.
Casey met Derek's wary gaze before taking a deep breath and picking up the recording device. She clicked the play button and Phillip's voice began speaking instantly, causing Casey's gut to wrench with grief.
"Hey, Casey," Phil spoke and there was a slight pause before he let out a sigh and continued. "I guess if you're listening to this, I'm no longer alive – for real this time. I want to start out by saying that I am truly and deeply sorry for everything I put you through over the years. I never meant to hurt you and it is one of my biggest regrets. You were the best agent I have ever trained, I mean that. I am so proud of you, Casey."
A tear fell from Casey's eye as her former-handler continued to speak.
"I don't even know where to begin when I tell you that everything you thought you knew about me was a lie. What I'm about to reveal to you cannot be repeated to anyone else..." There was another pause and Casey glanced at Ben with a perplexed expression before Phil went on. "I was hired years ago by a top secret affiliation of the government, even more clandestine than R.E.D. They call themselves The Swan. Colonel Kluess doesn't even know about this.
"The Swan hires agents like me to go undercover as an assassin and work for men like Haldega who plan on destroying the world. I was assigned to retrieve information on what they were planning and bring it back to my employers without getting caught.
The men responsible for Potion X four years agowere becoming suspicious towards me and wanted me to be the one to poison R.E.D. I wanted to back out of the whole mission but The Swan forced me to stay. They still didn't have enough to shut the operation down. I was in too deep at the time. The enemy found out where I lived and threatened to harm my family if I didn't do as I was told. I had no choice. I knew that by keeping you and Agent Blake alive, there was still hope that those men could be stopped in time.
"Anyway, I couldn't tell you the truth because just like with R.E.D. I was sworn to secrecy by The Swan.
"That day I blew up the place, I wasn't trying to destroy the evidence; I was trying to destroy the evil. When the bomb went off, I was able to hide in a secret passageway that was built as a bomb shelter in the 1800's. After I survived, I made a life for myself in Asia under an alias, knowing that I couldn't return home. R.E.D. believed me to be a traitor and The Swan would be furious with me for messing up the mission to begin with.
"Three years later, I found out that Haldega had survived the explosion as well and was planning another attack, only this one would be even more lethal than Potion X. You were the only person I could trust, Casey, and that is why I contacted you that day. I never actually intended to harm your family; I just needed your help. I went undercover once again, pretending to be allies with Haldega, but I was only trying to access information to stop him. I couldn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't believe me anyway.
"I believed in you, Casey. I knew you could stop him, and I know you did. You may have been unsure at first, but I could tell from day one that you were meant for this job. Being a spy takes a lot of courage and selflessness. You have it; don't ever let it go."
Tears were cascading down Casey's cheeks now as she wiped at them with her arm. She felt a warm hand envelope hers and give it a squeeze of reassurance, knowing it was Derek. She smiled at him amidst the tears as they finished listening to the recording.
"I don't have much time now. I'm supposed to be meeting your stepbrother at the airport. Haldega knew about your relationship with Derek; I'm sorry, Casey, but he accessed my files on you, so now he thinks I'm bringing him there as leverage. The real reason I contacted Derek though is because I know you need him there just as much as he needs you.
Casey blushed and avoided looking into Derek's eyes at the mention of her feelings. Even Phil knew how she felt towards her stepbrother before she did.
"The folder that I have placed alongside this recording is everything you need to know about my past with The Swan and the likes. It's yours. I refuse to keep anymore secrets from you.
"I wish you great success in your future, whether you stick with being a spy or not. I never stopped caring for you, Casey, and I hope that someday you can forgive me."
"My place better not be a mess, Derek." Casey grumbled as she followed her stepbrother down the hallway towards her apartment door.
"Oh, come on, Case," Derek frowned while digging the key out of his pocket and inserting it into the door they were stopped in front of. "You don't trust me to watch your home for one week?"
"Trust you?" Casey scoffed. "I don't think you even understand the meaning of the word: cleaning."
"See for yourself then." Derek grinned as he opened the door and let her step in ahead of him.
Casey's jaw literally dropped when she stepped inside her two-bedroom apartment and saw that it was indeed incredibly clean – cleaner than she herself kept it half the time.
"Well?" Derek folded his arms across his chest with an amused smirk after closing the door.
The young secret agent decided not to comment, knowing it would only boost his attitude against her, so she merely shrugged her uninjured shoulder and removed her outer-wear before making her way towards the couch in the living room and sitting down.
"I think you owe me an apology." Derek insisted while following her lead and sitting on the cushion next to her.
"Considering your past record of not picking up after yourself, I owe you no such thing." She pointed out.
"Touché." Her stepbrother grinned.
A silence fell over the two as Casey stared down at the silver case she'd set down next to the sofa. Her mind was still trying to cope with everything that had been said on that recording device from Phil. She'd even listened to it over and over as she read through the file that he'd given her.
Phil was good all along... He had only been protecting his family, just like I'd been doing with mine.
Speaking of family, before leaving the hospital, Casey had a long conversation with her mother who was very upset about her daughter missing Cousin Victoria's engagement party. She'd explained to her mother that a major research project had been assigned to her last minute that she had to go out of town for and couldn't get out of. Nora was still irate, especially since she hadn't heard from Casey in almost two weeks, but she was also understanding and willing to forgive her if she promised to visit the family very soon.
Even though her secret was out to Derek, Casey couldn't tell the rest of her family what she really did for a living. They wouldn't understand and not to mention that it's still against the rules of R.E.D. Besides, not knowing the truth kept them safe. Once her body was healed, Casey planned to take a mini vacation with Derek to their parent's house. She deserved a break, no matter how much she loved her job.
Derek still had a lot of explaining to do about his disappearance after the game in Boston. Casey reassured their family that he was alright but needed time to figure things out before speaking to them, which was the truth.
"So... It's been quite a week, huh?" Derek finally spoke up, breaking the silence that had engulfed the room as he rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
Casey turned to look at her stepbrother as her stomach fluttered profusely at the realization of how close he actually was to her on the couch. She cleared her throat with a nod of her head and smiled.
"Yes," She said and surprised even herself as she took Derek's hand in hers and stared into his eyes. "Derek, I need to tell you something."
A pained expression broke out on her stepbrother's face while he looked away from her and spoke, "You don't feel the same way, do you?"
Casey smirked as she leaned forward, tilted his face towards hers and gently placed her lips upon his.
"Does that answer your question?" She said when they pulled apart.
"I want to hear you say it." Derek breathed out as he squeezed her hands in his.
Casey took a deep breath as she spoke the four words she'd wanted to say since the experience in Russia, "I love you, Derek."
Derek grinned widely as he pulled her close, being careful not to hurt her, and kissed her deeply.
When they finally pulled apart for much needed air, Derek looked into her eyes and spoke in-between breaths, "There's something... I have to tell... you."
"Kluess... wants you to... work for... R.E.D." Casey panted out as she leaned her forehead against her stepbrother's with a glazed expression.
Derek looked at her in confusion, "How did you...?"
"He told me."
"And how do you feel about that?"
Casey sighed as she ran a hand through her now tousled hair, thanks to Derek's roaming hands, and looked him in the eye, "What about hockey? I thought it was your dream?"
"You're my dream." He winked seductively.
Casey rolled her eyes, fighting back a grin at his cheesiness, "Der-ek, I'm being serious here."
Derek breathed out a sigh, "And so am I, Case. I love playing hockey, but come
on; it's not every day you're given the option of becoming a spy. Besides, after that incident in Boston, my hockey career is over. There's no way any team will want me now."
"I understand, Derek," Casey sighed as she held his hands in hers, "but do you
think you could handle it? You've seen what it's like to be a spy. It's not just about having an awesome title to your name; we risk our lives everyday to protect this world."
"I know, and I want to fight by your side while doing it."
Casey grinned as more butterflies erupted in her gut, "You're going to need a lot of training."
"Well then I guess I'm lucky my girlfriend is the top spy of R.E.D." He grinned back.
Derek calling her his girlfriend was strange at first but Casey could definitely get used to that.
"Let's begin with Lesson number one then, shall we?" The young agent smirked with a seductive gleam in her eye as she wrapped her hand around the back of her boyfriend's neck.
"And what's that?" Derek breathed out, placing his hand on her waist.
"Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation." She replied and captured his lips with hers once again.
Lol! I know it was a cheesy ending, but I couldn't help myself!
Please, please, please let me know your thoughts on the ending! What did you think of Phil's revelation? What do you think about Derek becoming a spy? I want to know your thoughts! Especially since this is the end, it would mean a lot to get reviews from all of my readers.
Oh! And what do you think of the cover page? It blows my mind how much it looks like Casey!