Monday came too quickly. Monday meant that Tess had seven days until her brother and sister in law returned from their vacation. In seven days, Tess had better have turned Gru in already or at least made more progress. She hadn't touched his case file in days and she knew that Daniels jump down her throat if she didn't soon.
To make up for a lack of progress on that case, she was hard on herself with her other cases. She even looked over a five year old cold case and solved it. She hoped that bought her some time with Daniels before he asked about Gru's case.
During her lunch break (the only real reprieve she allowed herself) she looked over the report of Cassie Whitlock's home inspection and interview. Technically, Tess was not authorized to view this information, but the social worker was a friend of a friend and owed Tess a favor.
The interview had taken place at Cassie's parent's house, while it went better that Tess would have hoped, Cassie's answers still showed she wasn't quite mature enough for a child, but her parents made it clear that they would be there if Cassie and Agnes fell; that helped her case. Tess looked over the home inspection report and saw that Cassie had failed that part. She had taken the social worker to an apartment she would rent with a friend. The apartment was old and run down and not in a good part of town, thus was declared unfit for a child. The social worker had interviewed Cassie's friend as well and she was deemed a bad influence on a child. While Gru was not out of the woods yet, Tess felt better knowing he had the advantage.
Suddenly, Tess' phone rang, startling her. Looking at the caller id, it was Gru. They had exchanged phone numbers after the science fair (which Percy and Edith won); both claiming it was just in case something with Agnes' custody came up. They both knew it was just an excuse to have each other's number though neither knew how the other really felt about other.
"Hello?" She answered.
"I just received a court summons." Gru said, "For Agnes' custody trial." he clarified. "Do you have any more information on the case?" Anxiety laced his voice.
Holding her cell in the crook of her neck, Tess shuffled through the papers to find the court date. It was scheduled for the first of next month. "Cassie failed the home inspection. You shouldn't have anything to worry about. The court date is just a formality."
Gru sighed heavily in relief, as though he hadn't slept well in days. There was a slight, awkward silence until Gru spoke up, "Uh, Edith was wanting Percy to come over to play tonight. To celebrate their win at the science fair." He said, nervously.
Tess knew that was a lie, but she went along with it. She wanted to see Gru, too. They made plans to let the kids see each other that night. For the rest of the day Tess had that silly school girl crush feeling, knowing that Gru more than likely reciprocated her feelings for him. She let herself forget about her troubles for the rest of her day.
When she went to pick up Percy, Gru was already there as usual. Instead in being all the way up in the tank he called a car, he was standing outside of it.
"Hey stranger." Tess said, getting out her car and walking up to him, smiling. "I just wanted to let you know if there's anything you need, just let me know. Like if you need a sitter or anything."
A small smile crept across Gru's face, "Thank you. I'll keep that in mind."
The school bell rang and the children rushed out.
"We're going Edith's house tonight, Perce." Tess said to her nephew.
"All right!" Edith exclaimed, "I can show you my bug collection!" She said to Percy.
When they arrived, Tess and Percy were led inside. Edith didn't waste a moment grabbing her and Percy and giving them the grand tour. Gru stayed close by.
The entire house had the same décor style as the entryway. Antique weapons and torture devices were displayed like art and newspaper clippings featuring Gru's crimes were hung on the walls like trophies. In the living room, the dog like creature named Kyle was laying on the couch. Tess didn't know whether to back away slowly from the creature, but Kyle seemed to be more interested in the TV than to harm Tess. The furniture was shaped like bronzed creatures, a dragon sofa and rhinoceros armchair. In the corner, there was the biggest Venus flytrap Tess had ever seen. Suspended from the ceiling was an antique cannon. The rest of the house was the same. Juxtaposing the theme of the décor, the fridge was covered in the girl's report cards and progress reports, A+ homework assignments, tests and essays, and countless drawings. It showed that despite all the weapons and evil, Felonious Gru had a heart and loved his daughters. Tess couldn't help but smile.
Agnes wondered by and Tess saw what she was holding, "Why is Agnes carrying around a toilet brush with an ice cream cone on top of it?" she asked Gru with a raised eyebrow.
Gru shook his head, "Don't ask. A couple of the minions gave it to her on her first night here. Of all the toys she has, I can't get that thing away from her!"
"It's special to her." Tess explained.
"Dad! Go show Miss Sutterfield the lab!" Edith exclaimed happily as she pulled Percy outside to show him her bug collection. Tess had the distinct impression the girls were trying to set their father up with her.
Gru thought for a moment. He trusted Tess because of what she was doing for him and Agnes. He felt something for her that he wasn't quite ready to put a label on yet. Gru was fairly certain she felt the same way, or else she wouldn't bother. She had more than enough information to bring him to prison by now.
"Follow me." He finally said.
Gru led Tess back into the living room where he pressed a button on rhinoceros armchair. The cannon above them moved down. Two of the four chains holding it place released and the barrel pointed down, open ended. A base came up through the floor and the cannon connected to it.
Gru took Tess' hand and led her around to the other side where the cannon had opened up into a clear, tube-like elevator that was lit by a blue glow with no identifiable source. He stepped up into the elevator and offered his hand to Tess to help her inside. As soon as she was inside, the doors sealed shut and the elevator took off.
After several moments of darkness, the world below her feet opened up. The lab's main area was a large metal room, about the size of several football fields, with numerous doors that led to other rooms. Hundreds of little yellow minions were scattered across the expanse that was filled with computers, machinery, but mostly weapons. Tess didn't know whether to be in awe or fear.
"H-How did you do this?" Tess asked, not believing her eyes.
"I built it." Gru replied. "Not as in I had my accomplice Nefario build it, as in I built it. It reaches one hundred miles underground and is goes as long as seven houses down from my own. You asked me if my daughters are safe here and I assure you, they are. If something happens in the lab or another villain wants to hurt them, they are protected. There are several hundred layers of blast-proof material separating my home from my lab. If anything goes wrong in lab, the girls will be safe. I have several back-up generators and a security system that is better than the President's. At the press of a button, this house can turn impenetrable from the outside. I have a security camera for each possible angle outside to capture the identity if I'm ever attacked. If, for some reason, it is no longer safe for my daughters here, I have a safe house in Russia. The coordinates are already programmed into my airship. In it, from here to Russia is only a days journey. The minions have instructions to protect them over me and get them to the safe house if needed. I am already teaching them how to defend themselves. With me, they are safe. It would be easier to break into the White House, than here."
Tess scoffed, "How do you know what the White House security is like?"
"Because I broke in once." Gru replied casually.
He walked over to a desk and pulled out an old leather bound book that read, PROPERTY OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES on the cover.
"Is that the President's book of secrets?!" Tess asked, astonished.
"It is. He has a copy, while I have the real one."
"Why do you have it?"
Gru shrugged, "It started out as curiosity over what really happened at Area 51."
Tess cut Gru off, "You broke into the White House because you wanted to know if aliens exist?" she asked incredulously.
"How else would I know?" He asked.
"Do they?" Tess asked, nervously.
"How do you think I have the minions? Or Kyle? Yes, they do exist and inside," He thumped the book, "was a formula from the aliens to create life."
"Are you creating more minions?"
"No. I have roughly eight or nine thousand. That's plenty."
Suddenly, there was a loud boom as a small bomb went off. The minion who caused it was totally unharmed but frazzled. "How did he survive that?" Tess asked.
"They are practically immortal. Shoot them, stab them, whatever, nothing will happen. They're like a cockroach. I created the minions myself as well out of mutated DNA. Kyle, on the other hand, was a fluke. He randomly congealed in a corner of the lab out of spilt lighter fluid, gasoline and the DNA of a dog, human, tiger, and a wildebeest that somehow got tracked inside."
"Lighter fluid and gasoline. That explains his disposition." Tess mused.
"I would show you the entirety of my lab, but that would take several days and the kids have homework." Gru stated, leading Tess back to the elevator.
"Before you girls can play, you have to get your homework done." Gru said Edith and Margo, who were watching TV with Percy. Agnes was on the floor with Kyle, braiding his sparse fur. There were the two minions that were charged with looking over the girls, but they seemed to be slacking on the job, watching TV.
"You too, Perce." Tess added.
The children huffed and retrieved their backpacks.
Suddenly, there was a large explosion that nearly knocked Tess and Gru off their feet. He caught her in his arms and held her protectively as the aftershocks reverberated. It was much larger than the one caused by the minion and felt and sounded like it came from outside. Paintings and pictures fell from the walls with a crash. Bookcases fell over, littering their contents on the floor under them. Tess could hear things falling from the floors above them. Another, larger explosion shook the house and everyone inside it.
Blast shields instantly dropped down from the windowsills and top of the front door, covering the door and windows. With the windows blocked, the room was covered in darkness. An alarm sounded throughout the house. Tess felt her heart pounding hard in her chest and noticed her hands were shaking. Despite her job, she had never been in real danger before. She heard another explosion and seriously began to wonder if this was the last day of her life.
"Everyone come with me!" Gru called, scooping Agnes up with one arm and keeping his other on Tess as Margo, Edith, Percy, Kyle and the two minions followed them to the lab.
"We are safe down here." Gru said, putting Agnes down and hurried over to an array of computers. "Jacob! Ready our defenses!" He ordered to a minion at another console.
Kyle began to whine and hid under a desk. The two minions that came with them ran off to help Gru. Edith was silent, Tess could tell she was swallowing her fear and Margo didn't know what to think.
"Someone has attacked us." Gru said after several long moments of analyzing the screen in front of him. Tess walked up beside him and looked at the screen. It was security footage of the front of the house, facing the yard and street. Tess saw a midsized bomb fly towards the camera, coming from some straight ahead distance. It landed in the front yard, doing only damage to the ground and sidewalk, but still sent the shockwaves that everyone felt. Two more came towards the house, but never hit their target.
"I'm scared!" Agnes yelled, bursting into tears.
Tess picked her up and said to all the girls and Percy, who looked just as scared Agnes, "We're going to be alright. Nothing has hit the house." She soothed, while that was true, she had no idea when the last one would be and if it would the house. Not knowing terrified her.
"Dr. Nefario! Analyze that bomb for any indications of who sent it." Gru ordered an old man who came out of nowhere. He looked at Tess then back at Gru.
"Not this again," He grumbled to himself. "I'm on it!" He said to Gru's order.
"We're going to have to stay down here for several hours until it's safe to go back up." He turned to Tess, "You probably have to call in sick tomorrow and the kids will have to miss school."
The children were so afraid that they didn't even cheer about missing school.
"I built the lab to function as a safe room or bunker of sorts. While we're safe as long as we're in the lab, there are living areas with everything we need. The girls have their room with their beds. Tess and Percy, you two can have my bedroom. I'll probably be here monitoring things all night anyway. Leon," He said to a minion, "show them to the rooms."
The little minion led them to the far side of the lab and down a hallway. At the end of the hall, he opened a door.
He spoke to them, but only the girls seemed to understand and went inside.
Inside was set up like living room in the middle of the room with a couch and a few chairs and a TV mounted on the wall. To the right was a full kitchen and to the left was a dining room with a table and chairs.
The minion jabbered and Margo translated for Tess and Percy, "He says that room is yours," she pointed to a door on the right, ahead of them. "The one next to it is ours."
Tess nodded, and ushered the kids to the dining room table. "Just because you aren't going to school tomorrow, that doesn't mean you can skip your homework." Tess said, putting on a brave face for the kids and trying to distract them. They nodded and set their backpacks on the dining room table and proceeded with their homework.
Tess needed to be distracted to. She looked at the kitchen and decided to prepare dinner for everyone if it was possible. It was a little early for dinner, but Tess didn't care. The fridge was stocked entirely with fresh food. Examining what she had available, she decided on chicken noodle soup. It would take a bit to prepare and cook, so starting dinner so early was justifiable. It was also more time to keep Tess distracted from the small war going on outside.
She hadn't heard another bomb since they came down to the lab, but Tess wasn't quite ready to take a chance in going back to the house above them. While the house had many defenses, it could not withstand a direct bomb hit like the lab could.
As time passed, Tess could tell that the children were calming down and were now playing a board game at the table. Tess felt better too.
"Dinner is ready." she said, opening the cabinets and ladling the soup into bowls for everyone. The kids hurried from the table and grabbed their soup.
"You like our dad, don't you?" Margo asked knowingly as she and Tess walked back to the dining room table and sat down.
Tess smiled, "I do."
"He's claustrophobic and can't ride roller coasters without getting sick. He picks the mushrooms off of his pizza and throws them to Kyle, even though he says we can't feed him from the table. Agnes started saying things like he does, like 'gleeter'. She doesn't realize he has an accent and we don't." Margo said.
"We're the only students our teachers have ever had that our dog has really eaten our homework." Edith said proudly, slurping a noodle.
"Really?" Tess asked, genuinely curious.
"Yep. Dad had to email our teacher to prove it." Margo replied.
Tess smiled and listened intently as the girls told her about all of Gru's idiosyncrasies. After dinner, Margo, Edith and Percy did the dishes as Agnes colored. Getting a clean bowl and utensils, Tess ladled out some soup for Gru.
She found him at the same workstation they left him at, analyzing the live security footage. "You need break. Have some soup."
Gru stretched and turned away from the screen, accepting the bowl of soup. "Are the children ok?" He asked.
"They're fine. Homework is all finished and are playing a board game right now." Tess answered.
A couple of minions walked by and started making a kissy faces at Tess and Gru. He rolled his eyes. "Just ignore them."
An awkward silence hung over them, to end it Tess suddenly blurted, "You'd make a great unmasked Darth Vader…"
Gru chuckled, "Thanks, I think. The girls are trying to get me to dress up for Halloween this year."
"Ugh, I don't even want to think about Halloween. Last year Percy wanted to be an octopus and my sister in law and I spent days making the costume for him. The day of Halloween when I was hot gluing the last tentacle on, I hot glued my hair to it. My sister in law had to cut off several inches just to get me free!"
Both laughed heartily, "Edith tried dying her hair pink a few months ago. I have no idea where she got the hair dye!"
Tess and Felonious fell into conversation easily. They both talked about funny stories involving Percy or the girls and a little about where they came from. It flowed easily between them with smiles and laughs long after the soup was gone.
"Why did you trust me with all that knowledge about your lab and home?" Tess asked.
"Because I know you're just as confused as I am. I have been since I meant you. I like you Tess and I trust you. You're putting your career on the line for my daughter and me. While I hope you don't make your decision about what you will do with your case solely for me, I still believe you will make the right one for all of us."
"Why did Nefario say 'not this again'?"
Felonious sighed, "It's not the happiest story or one I'm proud of. I first adopted the girls only to use them in one of my plans, but we became attached and I had no intentions on returning them as I once planned. However, Dr. Nefario thought they were getting in the way of our plans and called Miss Hattie, saying I wanted to return them. I let them go and it was the biggest mistake of my life. He's probably thinking I'll neglect our goals because of you." Felonious explained.
"And you still let him work for you after he did that?"
"He saved our lives shortly after. I wouldn't be able to do half the things I do without him."
Another pause fell between them, albeit a comfortable one.
"My daughters have to like you. We're a package deal; you can't have one without the other." Felonious said suddenly.
"I wouldn't have it any other way. You have three amazing daughters. Do they like me?" Tess asked, hopefully.
"They've been trying to set us up."
Tess laughed, not wanting to reply verbally. She didn't want to get her hopes up of having much of a future with him. It was bound to end in disaster because of his or her jobs.
Tess idly looked at her phone; it was three thirty in morning. "Dear god, it's late!" She explained, showing Felonious the time. He looked surprised too.
"You should go to bed. I'll be here, monitoring things."
Tess nodded and stood up. Just as she was walking away, Felonious took her hand, pulled her to him and kissed her.
Tess felt that familiar jolt of electricity and instantly melted into the kiss, as he wrapped his arms around her.
She didn't care if a relationship with him was doomed. She just wanted this to be her last first kiss and there to be more from him.
Author's note: Yes, I know no human has ever broken past seven miles of the earth's surface, but it's Gru we're talking about here, he created his own race of creatures! Just ignore logic and science hahaha