~12~

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We make our way up to Kota and Victor's apartment and all four of us are grinning like fools. When we enter, all it takes is a glance at Owen's face before the room breaks out into cheers.

"You're really staying?" Luke asks, and I press my finger to my lower lip as I nod. I'm not used to being the focus of so much attention and it's making me nervous.

Kota steps up to me and pulls my finger from my lip. "We're family, Sang. No need to be frightened."

I feel tears pool at the statement.

Family.

I instinctively know that none of these guys would ever hurt me like the Sorensens.

Kota gives my hand a little tug and smiles. "Why don't you and Gabe go and check out your new place and I'll order dinner. Vegetable stir fry okay?"

I'm still speechless, so I nod and Luke hops over to me. "Come on!" I laugh at his energy and I see North shake his head and mouth something that looks like '...too much sugar.'

He and Meanie lead the way and I find myself bouncing along with them. Meanie holds out his hand to stop Luke before we enter the apartment next to his.

"No, man. Give Sang the fucking keys and let her open the god damned door first. It's a right of passage or some shit like that." He winks at me and Luke drops a surprisingly large keyring into my hand.

My eyes go wide as I look at them. "Do I need this many keys to get in?" I gasp.

Luke chops me lightly on the back of the head and chuckles. "No, silly, they're copies of all our keys." He pulls out a similar one from his pocket and jingles it. "We all have them."

I feel my eyes water again and I wonder what I could have possibly done to deserve them. I look at the bits of metal in my hand and immediately know which one to use. It's pink and sparkly.

I insert my key and unlock the door. The room is dark and I fumble against the wall for the switch. The light clicks on and after a quick glance around, I hastily retreat from the apartment.

I turn to the guys with panic written all over my face and Gabriel's color goes pallid. "What is it, Trouble? Is it a fucking spider, because I can't handle that shit!" He is slightly trembling and it shocks me back to reality.

"N-no, Meanie. There's no spider, but I think someone is living here!" I gently close the door and lower my voice, afraid that I'll disturb the residents.

Luke looks at me quizzically and sweeps past me and into the room. "What do you mean, Cupcake?" He plops down on the dove grey suede couch and puts his feet up on the honey oak coffee table.

I hesitantly creep into the apartment and look around. "Who's stuff is all of this?" I turn to Gabriel, who has come up behind me. "Meanie? Is this yours?"

He gives the room a critical once over and rolls his eyes. "No, Trouble. It looks like the guys decided to give us some starter furnishings until I can pull an idea together for our final appearance." He fingers the dark drapes. "These were North's." He runs his hand along the back of the couch and smirks. "This is Mr. B's, and all of the wood stuff is from Silas and North's workshop." He does a slow turn in the center of the room and nods. "This could work."

Luke takes my hand and pulls me down the hallway and into the room that would have been Kota's in the other apartment. There's a queen sized bed with light pink sheets and a pale gold comforter. "We all pitched in." He looks timid and I want to smack myself. Did I really make them think that I was so ungrateful that I would have an outburst at such a thoughtful gift? It's way too much, but it's not like I can do anything about that now.

"Thank you," I whisper. I pull him into a hug and in true Luke form, he scoops me up and tosses me onto the bed, causing me to burst out into giggles.

"Why don't we just lay here for a bit until Gabe's done plotting out there." He winks at me conspiratorially and plops down beside me. "Trust me, it could take a while, and it's best that we leave him be."

I sigh in satisfaction and sink down into my new mattress.

***

I watch Sang, Mr. Coleman, and Mr. Taylor skip down the hall to the new apartment and can't hide my smile. I steal one more glance before closing the door and turning to my team. I arrange my features into my default Mr. Blackbourne look and the boys all immediately assemble on the sofa.

"What have you found, Mr. Morgan."

He shifts in his seat and folds his hands on top of his lap. "Nothing, Sir."

Interesting. Mr. Morgan is not one to usually slack off. "And why have you failed to put together the information I requested?" I demand.

He shakes his head. "You misunderstand me, Mr. Blackbourne. It's not that I neglected my duty, it's that I can't find her anywhere. There's no record of a Sang Freeman anywhere in this state or any other. She doesn't exist."

I frown and look at my brothers. To them all, I say, "List what you know of our bird."

Mr. Lee stands and looks at the mural on his dining room wall. "She's lived in Charleston. I mentioned that it was our home and she just about bolted out of my moving vehicle. She's running from something there." He pauses and looks directly at me. "She knows those trees, Mr. Blackbourne. She recognized them."

He sits and Mr. Taylor stands. "She's let slip that her home life was like some of ours. She said something about needing to escape when she told us that she would climb out her window." He looks thoughtful for a minute and furrows his brow. "Whenever she talks about home, she sounds a bit like Gabe. I don't think it was a happy place, and it might have even been dangerous." He clenches his fist and anger flares in his eyes.

Sean stands. "She's got scars. A lot of them." I hold my hand up to silence the boys before they can get going. "They're faint, but definitely there. Also, I'd say that she's actually from somewhere up north. She doesn't appear to have an accent, so I'd say Illinois or Ohio. She knows snow, so I don't think that she's been in Charleston long."

"She dances like an angel," I hear myself add. They all look at me funny and I raise an eyebrow. "She's had training, but it's more than that. She's gifted."

"She's smart," Mr. Lee muses, "and she speaks Japanese and Sign Language."

Everyone seems lost in thought for a moment. "She is a mystery. I'm willing to bet that Sang is her real name. It's too unique, and I imagine that if she were to take on an alias, she'd choose something more common." I look at Mr. Morgan. "Can you check the high schools in Charleston for students with her first name only? Freeman sounds exactly like the kind of name that someone who is on the run would adopt."

***

We have a mini celebration back in Kota's place and I decide that I like vegetable stir fry. I slurp down the last noodle and sigh in contentment. We chat for a bit, but I'm tired from my busy day and Sean notices me nodding off. He claps his hands together and everyone quiets.

"Time for bed!" He winks at me and I feel a flutter in my stomach. Victor collects the empty containers and North scoops me up in his arms.

I'm still angry with him for his treatment earlier, and I glare at him. "I'm sorry, Sang. I shouldn't have tried to stifle your fun, and I know better than to doubt Mr. B."

I relax a bit at his apology as he carries me into my new apartment.

"You're going to have to trust me too," I murmur as he places me gently on my bed. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time, North. I don't need a babysitter."

He nods and offers me a soft goodnight as he backs out of the room.

He clicks the light off as I'm already falling asleep.

***

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