"Remember, you can't say anything to my mum!" Adrian reminds Hermione. They're walking back to Adrian's house together from the institute under the guise that Hermione's coming to do homework with Adrian. They would've gone to Hermione's place but Adrian's home happened to be closer, probably due to the fact that the IMF housing department liked their best field agent - retired or otherwise - to live pretty close to headquarters.
Hermione rolls her eyes and playfully pushes Adrian off the sidewalk and into the grass.
"I know, I know! You've told me at least six times in the past what - four minutes we've been walking? I can speak thirteen languages fluently, I think I can handle your oblivious mum." Adrian groans before picking himself off the ground.
"I'm not kidding. One accidental mention out of context and dad would kill me." His eyes are serious. They continue walking down the path in a comfortable silence. Hermione starts to hum a familiar tune which Adrian couldn't quite place properly. She asks him something out of the blue.
"Do you ever think of becoming… something other than an agent when you turn eighteen?" Adrain furrows his eyebrows.
"No, of course not… Although being in the Navy wouldn't be that bad I guess." Hermione nods in agreement but inputs her own opinion in the conversation.
"I'm thinking of going to university though… I know for sure I'm going to be a field agent or some kind of Analyst for the IMF, but I just want to give myself a few options. Just in case." Hermione looks determined, but a bit unsure on the side. Adrian can completely understand where she's coming from. He laughs a little.
"Yeah… I'm not sure my mum would be too impressed if I told her that I got a job like dads. She'd be thinking I was working in the department of traffic!" There's a mutual light laughter that doesn't really hold in much joy, as Adrain is reminded of his deep desire to tell his mother of everything that he's done and everything he's doing. He really wants to tell his mother everything and anything that she wants to know.
Adrain doesn't want his mother to be proud of his worthless 'Mathematics Academic Awards' that the school hands out to every other student to give a non-aware parent some sort of coverage to hide what they're really doing at the institution. Somethings he just really needed his mother to know about. Like when he perfected nine accents from ten languages that he knew how to speak fluently. There was just something in Japanese that couldn't quite get down.
Just around the corner stood his parents house. Adrain basked in the warm feeling the sight gave him. Hermione hums thoughtfully.
"Number three it was, wasn't it?" Adrian nods. She walks ahead of him and rings the doorbell. Immediately the door opens and there stands Julia, with a cooking apron on. She's obviously been preparing for the engagement party that Ethan and she are hosting the day after tomorrow at their home.
"You must be Hermione! I'm Julia, Adrian's mother. Actually… where is Adrian?" Julia asks politely to Hermione. In turn, Hermione sighs and gestures down the street to where Adrian is stood dumbly for almost no reason. Julia rolls her eyes and yells out.
"Adrian! Come on in, your tea's going to get cold!" That snapped Adrian out of it, and he came running over with an unnatural speed for a nine-year-old. Hermione huffs when he gets to the door. The three of them walked in, Harry being slightly disappointed when there was, in fact, no tea in sight.
Julia laughs in good nature. "Of course I wouldn't have made tea for you yet, I had no idea how long you were going to take to walk home. In fact, I'll put the kettle on now." She fills up the kettle with about a litre of water and puts it on the electric kettle station.
"Hermione," She calls out "how do you take your tea?" Hermione doesn't miss a beat and answers right away.
"Black. One-ninth milk, no sugar." Julia sets out the three teacups while Hermione and Adrian set out their homework for the day. They're doing a unit on geography in rural India. Once the tea is made and served, Julia resumes baking. Julia finishes baking around five in the afternoon, and she sits with the two children, probably hoping to aid them in their homework. When she finds that she knows close to nothing about rural India. Instead, she makes conversation.
"So, Hermione, what part of England are you from?" Hermione tilts her head.
"Hampstead, why?" Julia fiddles with her fingers.
"We had Adrian in Kensington. Pretty close to Hampstead, don't you think?" Hermione nods, then scribbles something down onto her map of rural India, as if just remembering an important note about a certain village. Hermione narrows her eyes. Something about the way that Julia says that she 'had' Adrian told her that it wasn't the full truth. Adrian didn't seem to think anything of it.
Hermione's mobile phone goes off. It's a message from her dad. She's due back home. She taps her fingers against the table a few times before gathering her things and telling Julia and Adrian that she's got to go and that she had fun. Adrian gives her a platonic hug, but Hermione lingers a few seconds too long before returning the hug.
Julia says she's welcome back any time, and then Hermione leaves.
Hermione's been gone for a few hours, and Adrian furrows his eyebrows. She tapped him a message in Morse code, but it had baffled him. Although the message was pretty clear, and he translated it in his mind quickly, he still didn't know what it meant. 'She's lying to you about Kensington.' are the exact words that had been sent through the morse code, but Adrian still couldn't wrap his head around any possible meaning of the phrase.
Why would Julia even need to lie to him at all? Adrian looks back up to the clock. It's almost seven. Fourteen minutes until his father would be back home. While his mother is preoccupied in the kitchen, Adrain reckons he could quickly sift through any documents he has regarding about the phrase that Hermione told him was a lie. In under a minute he finds a big file labelled 'Kensington 1997'. That's the year he was born. The file is full of official documents with his birth certificate - August 5th, 2.7 kilograms, Royal Brompton Hospital - and his first ever passport.
There are even a few things regarding custody arrangements since his parents weren't married, but nothing that could prove anything his mother has said as a lie. Adrian keeps note of everything in his mind but otherwise moves on after promptly putting all the files back. He'd look into it further at a later date.
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring forth a suspected underground cult into the light. There isn't any warrant for a police search, so this is where the IMF comes in. Around the Washington D.C. area, there have been a series of reports allegedly accusing a family, the Calante's, of taking in children and abusing them to a point of a mental recluse. Your job would be to go undercover to try and attract their attention, and reveal what they're doing to these children."
Adrian and Hermione watched the holographic screen in rapt attention. They were finally being assigned their very first mission. This one was, in fact, a real situation that they had to handle with the utmost amount of care. A single mistake, and the entire mission could go south.
The initiate class handler looks at them expectantly.
"Yes! I accept - um I mean, WE accept!" Hermione blurts out, rather impulsively and embarrassingly. She blushes before shutting her mouth. Adrian gives her an unimpressed stare, followed by telling their handler in a more formal way, that he accepts the mission. Their handler briefs them in on the rest of the details and sends them on their way.
The first thing to set up the mission was to move into the house that the IMF housing department had set them up with. They'd need to do it on Sunday around late morning to noon so that there would be more witnesses to back up their story of them moving into the neighbourhood for the first time. They'd be situated at that home for approximately four months, which is how long the timetabling department of the IMF had estimated the time that it would take, taking into consideration the context of the situation and the amount of experience each agent would have.
The Agents that had been placed with them to act as their parents were new recruits, both in their mid to late twenties.
The situation had already been gone over with Julia. She was informed that for a few months, Adrian would be in an experimental educational program that would provide unique learning experiences for him. She reluctantly agreed but told Adrian to write her every single week.
Adrian, too excited for words, was extremely pleased with his mother's decision to let him take part in the program and thanked her dearly.
"Are you sure you don't need to pack anything?" Julia asks Adrain, making sure her son was going to be fine for the entire time he'd be away at this weird educational program. Adrain nods, paying no mind. The engagement party was tomorrow, which Adrian would be able to attend, but he'd have to leave be at the designated drop off area for the program by seven am, the following morning.
Which meant if he had to pack anything, he probably should have packed in advance. Adrain once again explains the situation, despite Julia already having had this conversation.
"Mum - the people who are setting up this program have specifications that we arrive with absolutely nothing. I know I'll be able to write to you at least once a week though! Don't worry about me, Dad knows the person organising it, so if you have any doubts, you can ask dad about it." Julia hums, weaving her fingers through his smooth locks. Adrian looks her in the eyes.
'Funny', Julia thinks, 'those eyes look almost exactly like Ethan's'. Well, the colour looked like Ethan's own eyes, but the shape was all hers. For a child they just adopted, he looked suspiciously like how their own biological child would. Either an extremely lucky coincidence or… Julia decided not to let her mind wander too far.
Adrain's in his room, almost dying of boredom. There's only so much calculus he can take, and when he's only nine-years-old while trying to finish the assigned homework while there's an engagement party for his parents taking place downstairs? He's not so sure he's going to be able to finish it by the due date - tomorrow before dispatching for his mission.
Somebody knocks on the door. Adrian can tell by the weight of each rapt knock, the thud of footprints prior to the knock and the time allotted between each knock, that it's his father.
"Come in," Adrian calls out, without moving his eyes from the paper. Fingers still filling with the sharpened 2B pencil in-between his right thumb and index.
"You know you can come on down and enjoy the party. Your Uncle Rick wants to know where his favourite nephew is." Ethan smiles at him, cautiously. He knows that Adrian's building up quite a bit of stress before his very first mission. Although Ethan's a little uncomfortable himself that his only son's first mission isn't even going to be a mock, or a simulated mission in a controlled environment, Ethan still has confidence that Adrian has what it takes to pull it off.
"You mean his only nephew!" Ethan chuckles.
"Not for long, you know your Aunt Malissa is expecting." Adrian dramatically turns around to face his father.
"Yep, that's all he needs, more nibblings." They both laugh light-heartedly, then Adrian turns back to his homework.
"You know, you could relax and enjoy yourself downstairs. I'll vouch for you on the homework thing." Adrian raises an eyebrow but doesn't comment on the clear ploy to try to get him to socialise with his relatives, to prove to his relatives that his parents didn't raise a socially inept child. Adrian takes the bait anyway, being not one to decline to get out of doing homework.
He quickly scrambles down the stairs, spotting his mother by the refrigerator. Adrian playfully latches onto her back, yelling out a large 'boo!' in an attempt to start a little ramble with his mother. She gasps in an exaggerated fake shock, almost making it comical.
"I wonder who's on my back." Julia questions, rather pointlessly. She turns around quick enough for Adrian to fall off her back and lose his grip on her and tickles him on sight. There's a howl of laughter emitting from Adrian.
After the little scene has ended, Ethan joins in, leaning in and grabbing them both in a large group hug.
"Rick wants some more to drink," Ethan defensively claims to Julia's unimpressed face when he takes two beers from the fridge.
"Oh god no," Her eyes widen. "That's just how it is, isn't it? He's fine and he's fine until he's naked and hugging everybody!" Everything she says is in good nature, with Ethan trying to combat her saying multiple times that he would take full responsibility for anything that Rick did that night in relation to his Alcohol tolerance.
"You will, full? It's a huge responsibility." Julia says, dubious.
"Tonight's going great," Ethan comments. Julia can't help but agree.
"It really is." They both smile and begin to pull into a kiss, to which Adrian responds by pulling a face. They're interrupted a few seconds later by one of Julia's coworkers announcing that Julia's sister had shown up.
"So here they are?" Malissa observes the two of them - Adrian and Ethan - standing side by side together in their driveway. they've just come out to greet her with Julia.
"I hope so," Ethan smiles. They can't help but all join into a light laughter. She looks at Adrian closely. It had been a few years since she'd last seen Adrian, so looking at his features, she can see how he's matured. With every passing year, Adrian seems to look like he shares more and more features with his parents.
"Well, Adrian's certainly going to be a looker when he grows up!" She bends down to Adrian's height, which was admittedly rather short for a nine-year-old, and leaned in for a hug. Malissa passes a wrapped gift to Adrian and a gift bag to Ethan. "That's the engagement gift, and for little Adrian, it's his early birthday gift, for his birthday on Monday! Can't believe you're going to hit double digits this year!"
"It feels like only yesterday when your mother walked out of the airport with you in her arms." Adrian can see out of the corner of his eyes, his mum's fidgeting with the hem of her sleeve while smiling. Fidgeting with the hem of her sleeve was one of her tells for lying. Although she hadn't said anything, maybe she was feeling guilty about being reminded about a lie she once told?
Whatever it was, it was bothering Adrian and he wanted to get to the bottom of it.
"When Julia called and told me that she was getting married," Malissa began, with a happy expression. "I had just one thought, that it was just too bad that daddy wasn't here to walk her down the aisle." She starts to get teary-eyed, and somebody passes her a handkerchief, as they all listen with respectful attention to her. "Then when Julia told me that Ethan didn't have either of his parents anymore, I got really sad. But then it occurred to me, that this is about starting a new family - strengthening bonds, and how beautiful that is."
A few of the guests raised their eyebrows sceptically, looking towards Adrian with the thought that technically, Ethan and Julia had already started a family.
"And I'm just saying, that I am making Julia an Aunt, so I expect the same treatment very, very soon!" The whole room's once sombre atmosphere turned joyful again, with many guests joining in an occurring laughter. They all raise champagne glasses for a toast. Adrian, not wanting to feel left out, raises his juice box up to join the toast.
He's happy that his parents are finally going to get married. He really is.