A/N: Well, here we are. The very last chapter of "The Fallen Kind." It's been an amazing journey. Thanks for all the reviews - I read and appreciate each one! Please stay tuned... more Warehouse 13 fanfic soon!
Until then, enjoy!
(The song near the end of the chapter is "Home" by Vanessa Carlton, with a few changes made by me.)
Six Months Later
"Claudia, you're going to be late to your own birthday party!" Steve called, banging on the bathroom door.
"I'm fixing my hair!"
"We're going to the Mellow Bean," Steve said. "Most of those people have alternative hairstyles. You'll look fine."
"What kind of a birthday party takes place at a coffee shop on open mic night?" Claudia asked, opening the door.
"The kind that was going to take place at Al's Steak House, but which was rescheduled to the B and B shortly after Al burned down his Steak House… so instead we're going out for coffee and desserts," Steve said. "But I got you a present."
"Did they ever figure out why Al burned down the steak house?" Claudia asked.
"Insurance money… or some sort of revenge deal," Steve said. "There are rumors his wife was having a seedy relationship with the guy who owns the pancake house."
"Nothing that interesting ever takes place in Univille," Claudia said.
"Ask Pete if you don't believe me," Steve said. "We were at the scene of the fire. We talked to the man himself."
"Are you guys ready to go?" Pete hollered up the stairs. "I want cake!"
"Since when do they have cake at the Mellow Bean?" Claudia asked Steve.
"Since we're bringing our own," Steve said.
"Oh, no, who made me a cake?"
"Myka," Steve said. "I would like to tell you that she volunteered, but I can't. She lost the rock paper scissors throw-down."
"Come on!" Pete yelled.
"Pete, it's the Mellow Bean," Claudia said as they went downstairs. "The Mellow Bean."
"Once those people get all hopped up on caffeine, you know they'd kill their mother for a good spot to tune their guitar," Pete said.
"Most of them have renounced parents," Claudia said. "And showering."
"We'll puzzle that one out later," Steve said. "You know, after cake."
"Where's Artie and Myka?"
"They went ahead to… cut the cake," Pete said.
"Why would they cut it before I blow out the candles?"
"They went ahead to… order the coffee."
"What if I want a smoothie?"
"Then get a smoothie," Pete said. "The rest of us are having coffee."
"Are you sure there's not something else going on here?" Claudia asked.
"Well, if we never leave the house, we'll never find out, will we?"
"Did you fly my brother in from Switzerland?'
"Who makes that much money?"
"Okay, you flew Fargo in?"
"He makes his own money, he could fly himself in," Pete said. "Now, come on."
The Mellow Bean was filled with the usual open mic night crowd – hippies, wannabe hippies, good-looking guys with angelic voices, knit hat enthusiasts, off-duty baristas, and, oddly enough, Brenda from the post office. And, in a far corner, Artie, Vanessa, and Myka.
Artie waved enthusiastically as Pete, Steve, and Claudia came in.
"As if we don't know who we're here to have coffee with," Pete said.
"I think it's cute," Steve said.
They crossed the room to the sounds of two men in overalls tuning banjos. Myka stood up and threw her arms around Claudia. "Happy birthday!"
"Thanks," Claudia said with a grin.
"Happy birthday," Vanessa and Artie chimed in.
"Sit, sit," Artie said, beaming as he pointed to a chair next to him. "We didn't know what you wanted, so we got you a coffee and a smoothie."
Claudia took a seat next to Artie. "Wow. Coffee and a smoothie. Big spender, Artie."
"And cake!" Myka said, bringing out a somewhat heap-shaped cake frosted thickly in pink.
"Mmm," Claudia said.
"Claudia, are you going to play tonight?" Vanessa asked. "Sure would be nice to have some music that's not bluegrass."
"Working on my birthday?" Claudia laughed. "Maybe, we'll see."
Myka opened a box of candles and started sticking them into the frosting. Pete produced a lighter from somewhere and began lighting them. "Get ready, everybody!"
While Claudia blushed furiously, the Warehouse's family sang "Happy Birthday" in a silly, off-key way. Claudia laughed as Pete prompted: "Now blow out the candles!"
"And make a wish," Vanessa added.
Claudia held her hair back from the candles and thought about a wish for a moment. I wish we could all be happy like this more often. And she blew out the candles.
Then there was cheering and clapping, and Myka reappeared with a knife and a cake server. Pete jumped out of his seat and headed across the café to wrangle up some plates and silverware from the barista.
"Steve," Artie said as Myka began cutting the cake, "where is your present?"
"Oh! My present!" Steve said.
"Why are you guys talking like that?" Claudia asked.
"Like what?" Steve smiled.
"Like you're trying really, really hard to clue me into something."
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Claudia," Artie said. "Steve, perhaps you should go and get your present."
"Perhaps I should," Steve said. "Back in a jiffy."
"Nobody under the age of sixty-five says 'jiffy,'" Claudia informed him as he got up from the table.
"Don't mock me, or I'll run into a door on the way out."
"You apparently don't know me that well."
"It's my birthday, you cretin," Claudia laughed.
Pete came back with a stack of plates and laid them out on the table. "All right, Mykes, start cutting some cake!"
"You got too many plates," Claudia informed him.
"No, I didn't," Pete said.
"There are six of us, and you clearly have eight plates," Claudia said.
"Hey, easy there, math whiz," Pete said. "Those are for me. I'm planning on having three pieces of cake."
"Why not just put them all on the same plate, like you did with the pie at Thanksgiving?" Claudia asked mischievously.
"Because we're out in public, and I'm a classy guy."
Pete turned to supervise Myka in the cutting of cake slices – "No, bigger, Myka! What is this, daycare? I'm a man!" – and Artie and Vanessa just laughed, basking in the glow of the bluegrass-playing banjo brothers.
They finished their Def Leppard bluegrass tribute, and a scruffy-looking man stepped up to mic: "And that was Anders and Andrew Dahl. Next up – well, there isn't anybody up next. So, come on down!"
"Claudia?" came Steve's voice from behind her. "There's someone here who wants to say happy birthday."
"If it's that Rupert guy, tell him I figured out he's not British, and I am not interested in dating him, and…" Claudia turned around. "Oh."
Steve was standing next to a gray-haired woman in a pale green pantsuit. She was wearing wire-rimmed glasses and gaudy earrings that off-set her spiky hairdo perfectly. "I'm Joyce Bradley," she said. "Happy Birthday."
And next to Joyce was someone Claudia had thought she'd never see again.
"Adelie?" Claudia asked softly.
But it wasn't the Adelie who had fallen into the Warehouse. She was older, taller, more grown-up; it had only been six months, though, was that even possible? A pair of thick glasses magnified her gorgeous eyes, and she was looking right at Claudia as though she could see her; Claudia got the distinct feeling that she could see her. She was wearing a dark blue flowered dress, light blue tights, and black Mary Jane shoes. In one hand she was carrying a perfectly-sized white cane of the kind favored by blind people. In her other hand was a somewhat-messily-wrapped present.
And though Claudia could still see the burned scar tissue on Adelie's neck, and though Adelie was still as skinny and awkward-looking as before, the girl before her was focused, standing still, looking poised and calm. No rocking, no flapping, no screaming – no matter what trauma had been done to her, this was the real Adelie.
"Happy," Adelie said, as though to prove a point, and held the present in Claudia's general direction, smiling. "Happy, real girl?"
"Happy," Claudia repeated, and threw her arms around the girl.
"Happy," Adelie said into Claudia's shoulder. "Happy, ow."
And Claudia laughed.
"It was fortuitous that Mrs. Frederic contacted me," Joyce Bradley said. "My husband… he had passed away a couple weeks before Agent Bering and Agent Latimer came to see me. I was devastated. My son tried to talk me into moving in with him and his family, but for some reason I just couldn't leave my house. And then Mrs. Frederic came to see me and asked if I would consider taking in Adelie."
"Cake," Adelie said.
"Here you go," Myka said, and put a plate in front of her. She waited until Adelie looked at her, and then put the fork in the girl's hand.
Adelie carefully broke off a tiny piece of cake and brought it up to her mouth. Then she set it down.
"Mrs. Frederic told me that there were some things I needed to be prepared for. And I told her that whatever they were, they didn't matter. Adelie was mine," Joyce went on. "She's been mine since I found her in that basement – I just didn't know it at the time."
"So she's been with you for six months?" Artie asked.
"Yes," Joyce said, beaming proudly. "And in that time, so many wonderful things have happened. She had surgery on her eyes, and they were able to give her back most of her sight. She'll never drive, of course, but she can see well enough to be classified as legally blind, rather than light-perceptive blind. And she took to cane usage and reading Braille just as quickly as we could find someone to help her learn, and she's been working very hard at speech therapy. It's like she was hungry to learn."
Joyce laughed. "Which is funny, because I gather that after whatever transpired out here, that was when she stopped eating."
Claudia looked at Artie, who mouthed "Downside" as unobtrusively as he could.
"But it was all right. She had the feeding tube put in and it works like a charm. She's still interested in food, but won't actually eat any of it," Joyce said. "It's all right. My son Carson has had a feeding tube for years – muscular dystrophy made it hard for him to get all the calories he needed. So I'm an old hand. Didn't even faze me."
Joyce smiled at Adelie, who had abandoned the cake fork. "And I love her to pieces. She fills our home with music and I honestly can't imagine life without her."
"Cake, Joyce?" Myka asked.
"Oh, yes, please," Joyce said. "Adelie, give Claudia her present."
Adelie reached for the present and held it tightly, as though she couldn't quite bear to let go of it. "Piano," she said.
"Adelie," Joyce prompted. "The present is for Claudia."
"Piano," Adelie repeated, and pointed to the now-empty stage.
"Adelie," Joyce said firmly.
Adelie rolled her eyes behind her thick glasses and tapped her mouth, the first autistic behaviors Claudia had seen since they'd come into the restaurant.
"Don't tap. Spell for me instead," Joyce said, and from her tote bag she removed an iPad, flicking it on and setting it in front of Adelie.
Adelie leaned towards the screen until her glasses clicked against it. Then she pressed the oversized letters on the screen, spelling out a message carefully. With another press of the screen, the iPad spoke for her: "I don't want to give her that. It is silly and little and you made me buy it. I want to play the piano for her instead."
"Whatever it is, I'm sure I'll like it," Claudia said.
Adelie shook her head and pointed at the iPad screen again.
"Okay," Joyce said. "Fine. Go play the piano."
She said it as though she didn't expect Adelie to follow through, but the dark-haired girl scooped up her cane and began navigating away from the table.
"I'm sorry," Joyce said to Claudia. "We talked about gift-giving."
"It's okay," Claudia said. In her heart, she was happy – Adelie playing the piano was truthfully better than anything sold in any store.
"Somebody better tell the emcee," Pete said, and Steve jumped up and ran after Adelie.
Moments later, the scruffy emcee came back to the mic. "Um, okay, this is Adelie, and she's going to play a song for us. Give her a hand."
The assembled crowd in the Mellow Bean gave Adelie a mediocre round of applause as they watched the blind girl settle herself on the piano bench. She waved one hand in the air, and Steve went over to her. Adelie whispered something to him, and he smiled and walked to the side of the stage where the emcee had left the microphone. He brought it over to Adelie and set it up close to her mouth, then vacated the stage.
Slowly Adelie played a longing introduction, simple and uncomplicated. There was a pause, and then she began to sing.
"Some people live in a house on a hill… and wish they were someplace else… there's nobody there… when the evening is still… secrets with no one to tell…"
The melody opened up a little, and the accompaniment picked up.
"And some I have known have a ship where they sleep with sounds of rocks on the coast… they sail over oceans five fathoms deep… but they can't find what they want the most.
"Even now when I'm alone… I've always known it was you… you brought me home."
She raised her head, the enigma of a girl who singlehandedly had uprooted order in the Warehouse and changed everything Claudia thought she knew about saints, and Adelie searched for Claudia, thick glasses glinting in the overhead lights.
"Some live in towns… cardboard shack on concrete… they search for color they never quite see… 'cause it's all white on white…
"Even now when I'm alone… I know it was you… you were the one who brought me home."
She played, twisting some familiar classical themes into the instrumental break, smiling.
"For me… it's a glance, and a smile on my face, and a hug you gave me, and an honest embrace… for wherever I lay it's you I keep… in my changing world I fall asleep… with you all I know is that you brought me home."
Adelie wound up the melody, bringing the song back to the slow, longing introduction, and she smiled the whole way through. When the music was fading away, before the patrons of the Mellow Bean had time to register that the song was over, Adelie found the microphone with her fingers and leaned in close to it again. "Happy. Birthday."
Steve squeezed Claudia's hand. "A pretty good present, huh?"
"The best," Claudia said.
Adelie caned her way back to table, seemingly oblivious to the crowd of the Mellow Bean, who were applauding now. She found Claudia and dropped her cane to the floor, putting her hands on Claudia's knees and leaning in close, her eyes magnified almost comically by the thick glasses.
"Adelie," Joyce said. "Personal space, remember?"
Adelie rolled her eyes and smiled, and Claudia smiled back. "You can see me, can't you?"
"Happy?" Adelie asked, looking seriously at Claudia to gauge her reaction.
"Happy," Claudia confirmed.
"Present," Adelie said, and turned her attention back to the table. Once she found the package, she handed it to Claudia, repeating, "Present."
"Sure," Claudia said, and carefully began removing the ribbons and paper from the present.
Pete grabbed the ribbons and made a crown out of them, which he set on Steve's head. "Now you're a pretty princess, Jinksy."
"What was in that coffee?" Myka asked.
"Say hello," Adelie said as Claudia peeled back the tape on the small box. "Say hello."
Claudia started laughing when she saw what was in the box.
"Does this mean something special to you?" Joyce asked, looking over at the girls nervously. "Adelie seemed convinced that you would want this, although I tried to tell her that an iTunes gift card is nicer…"
"It's perfect," Claudia said, setting the miniature statue of Saint Catherine of Siena on the table. "She's smiling."
"Are you sure? I think it's the first time she's ever picked out a present for someone, and…" Joyce still looked worried.
"It's perfect," Claudia repeated. "I can hardly wait to take her home."
"Now stay here," Adelie said to the statue, a warning finger held aloft as though the saint could actually heed her directions. "Stay here. Be happy."
And she kissed the saint on top of her plasticene head.