Children of the Gods: Part Three, Chapter One.
AT LONG LAST, THE PLOT FICS ARE BACK, BAY-BEE!!! AND B O Y ARE WE KICKING OFF WITH A DOOZY!!!
As you can see by the title: this is chapter one of three for this fic; I had to chop it up due to length.
Also, this fic as a whole makes for my 100th part of the CHC! I feel like I should do something to celebrate. Let me know if y’all have any suggestions.
Summary: It's been months since anyone's seen or heard of Allison Ricci. At last, you think the storm might be over.
And then Karen Page gets kidnapped again.
Pairing(s): Piotr Rasputin x Reader, Nathan Summers x Wade Wilson, and Frank Castle x Karen Page.
Rating: M for kidnapping, attempted murder, attempted suicide, canon-typical violence, gun violence, and depictions of injury. Like I said, we’re kicking off with a doozy.
Word Count: 4.9k.
Set after “Children of the Gods: Part Two.”
Taglist: @marvel-is-perfection, @chromecutie, @super-darkcloudstudent, @girl-obsessed-with-things, @leo-writer, @emma-frxst, @sadstone-s
There’s no mention or sighting of Allison for nearly six months. Every trail you had for her before goes stone cold. The apartment is cleared out and abandoned. She doesn’t show up in the fighting rings, and even Karen and Frank don’t report anyone following them.
You start to wonder if she died for good this time. That maybe she revived and got herself and her mentor out, but didn’t survive after that.
(You wonder who’ll bury her body, if she’ll be lain to rest next to her family or in a random patch of ground somewhere.)
The storm seems to be over.
And then Karen gets kidnapped again.
Wade and Nathan are the ones that technically call it in –by showing up on your doorstep with Frank in tow.
“Allison’s back,” Nate says when your eyes bug out of your head. “Figured Xavier would want to have his people try and round her up, rather than there being an issue with mutant control.”
You blink rapidly, then nod. “Uh… yeah. Let me call Piotr.”
The perks of being on a technically-special-law-enforcement team with fancy jets: you can get to the scene a hell of a lot faster than conventional authorities.
You, Wade, Nathan, Frank, and Piotr meet up with Illyana, Mikhail (the two Rasputin siblings are there to “assist” with Allison’s specific powers, considering how things went last time), and Neena in the mall parking lot. After a brief rundown of the plan –get the civilians and Karen out of harm’s way, then detain Allison before the actual cops show up—you all split up and head in through the four major entry points.
The mall is packed when you walk in –go figure, it’s a weekend. Shoppers stroll from shop to shop, vendors at the pop up stands call out to passersby, music plays on the overhead speakers.
“The picture the kid sent me had a pretzel stand in the background,” Frank growls through the speaker in your earpiece.
“Food court, then,” Neena replies –in perfect, crystal clear audio, no less. “The kiosk map doesn’t show too many food stands outside there.”
Illyana tugs on your sleeve and directs you to the left. “We are close.”
You dodge to avoid a cluster of shoppers. “There’s a lot of people here. If she –if she has… weapons, like last time—”
“We’ll deal with it,” Nathan growls over the comms system before softly reprimanding Wade for trying to detour into Hot Topic. “Our goal right now is to capture Allison before she escapes again.”
“Civilian lives still matter,” Piotr insists before putting a hand on the small of your back to usher you around a “Wet Floor: Caution” sign. He’s armored down, but he’s wearing his X-Men suit under a black sweatshirt. “We must consider their well-being.”
“And if we tell them they’re in danger, we’ll make a panicked stampede, and that won’t help us or anyone else,” Nate says tersely. “Just stay calm. Our best bet is to try and talk Allison down without alerting anyone around us.”
“If she tries to hurt Karen—" Frank grits out.
“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there,” Nathan declares, tone permitting no room for argument.
The lot of you round another corner, passing by a shop that boasts having “all the latest console games at all the best prices” and a Victoria’s Secret—
“I see her,” Neena says. You hear thuds her footsteps pick up, and a second later you see her jog around a Starbucks stand and head down the hall to the food court. “Twelve o’clock, dead center of the court.”
Twenty meters away, sitting at a little food court table, are Allison and Karen; the former is dressed in all black, leaning back in her seat while staring down the latter –who, all things considered, doesn’t seem too much worse for wear.
Frank inhales sharply, then appears through the crowd a few minutes later, walking so fast he’s practically running. “Too many people here.”
“We’ll talk her down,” Nathan says, rounding the corner nearest the Macy’s with Wade.
Illyana tenses, then grabs your arm before breaking into a run. “We need to move. She has seen Castle.”
Sure enough, Allison’s scowling. She shoves her chair back hard enough to knock it into the table behind her; she stands, ignoring the complaints from the nearby diners. Her eyes start glowing blue as she glares at Frank.
“Ah, shitfarts,” Wade grumbles.
“Everyone down!” Nathan bellows before yanking Frank back and erecting a telekinetic shield.
A massive shockwave of blue energy erupts across the food court, sending shoppers and tables alike flying into the air. The glass, domed skylight over the food court shatters, raining shards of windows and broken lights down on the panicked, shrieking bystanders.
Illyana erects a shield before the shockwave can hit the rest of you. She grits her teeth as debris and a few of the shoppers closest to the epicenter bounce off it, tumbling along the tiled floor. “Still think we will ‘talk her down?’”
No, you think, gulping when you realize that some of the blast victims aren’t getting up. I think we’re well past that.
“Karen!” Frank charges towards Allison, shotgun –loaded with bean bag rounds—in hand. “Get down!”
Karen dives behind a toppled table.
Illyana charges at Allison, clothes shimmering as they morph into black body armor. She leaps over an overturned table, then extends her hand and fires a blue bolt of magical energy at the younger girl.
Allison ducks. She stumbles briefly, but quickly rights herself. She grits her teeth, then screams as she unleashes a volley of azure-colored energy blasts at Illyana.
“Go! Get out!” Piotr waves a few stragglers –with their phones out to film the ruckus, go figure—away. He ducks another round of fire from Allison, then armors up and strides towards her. “That is enough—”
Allison whips her head to the side, then back at Illyana. She quickly fires a blast at Illyana –successfully knocking the older girl off her feet, then turns and unleashes a beam of blue energy square into your husband’s chest.
Piotr sails into the food court’s Subway stand with a groan and a resounding clang.
You cram down the urge to run after your husband –he’ll be fine, he’s taken a lot worse before—and focus on the fight at hand.
Nate, Wade, and Frank are pinned down; they’re using some trash can stands as cover, but Allison’s got enough firepower to keep them from risking getting any closer.
Piotr and Illyana are both down for the time being; your husband’s tangled up with the condiments trays, while the youngest Rasputin’s on the floor, groaning.
Neena’s working the perimeter, getting shoppers out while setting up to flank Allison from behind.
And Mikhail’s… disappeared—
No, there he is, you think when you see him blink into existence. You let out a short sigh of relief when you see him take Karen’s hand and teleport to a safer distance, then do a short run before launching yourself in the air. Alright, let’s get the boys some cover.
Allison’s head jerks back as she follows your trajectory. Her eyes glow, bits of blue smoke wafting off at the corners, and then she fires another bolt of energy at you from her eyes.
You flit out of the line of fire, then fling an arc of wind at her.
Allison topples onto the tile floor. She yelps, then disappears into the ground to avoid being ensnared in one of Illyana’s spells. She pops back up a few feet away moments later—
Just in time to see Wade duck behind an overturned table.
Your brother snarls, cursing and panicking when Allison renders the table to a pile of ash with a flick of her wrist. “Something tells me that murder baby’s leveled up!”
“Gee!” You holler back. “What was your first hint!”
“Go!” Nathan hollers when Allison uses a bolt of magical energy strong enough to rip through several store fronts. He waves Karen and Frank off. “Get out of here! We’ve got this!”
Allison whirls. She bares her teeth when she sees Frank and Karen escaping, then slaps her palm against the food court floor.
Brilliant, bright streaks of azure energy zip along the floor, twinkling against the tiles before disappearing a few feet ahead of Karen and Frank.
The floor –from edge to edge of the hall, leaving no area untouched—crumple into ash, leaving a pit more than twenty feet deep. The ground between the doors behind Allison and the girl in question evaporate as well, along with the spaces in front of the emergency exits.
“Just when I left my rock climbing gear at home,” Wade grumbles, sounding somewhat winded.
Allison charges towards Karen and Frank, rendering tables, chairs, and random debris to ash as she runs to get a straight shot. She knocks Wade off his feet with via chucking a bolt of energy at him, forces you to duck behind a Pizza Hut counter with another one—
And then runs smack into Mikhail when he teleports right in front of her.
Mikhail wraps his arms around her, then leans back so he clears her feet off the ground. He stumbles a little while Allison rages and snarls. “Got her!”
Allison swears –then twists and drives her heel into Mikhail’s crotch.
Mikhail drops. He curls in on himself, groaning. “Kroshechnyy kon'… O Bozhe, moi yaytsa.”
Allison tumbles to the ground. She dodges more wind strikes from you, then lets out a feral snarl as she charges towards Frank and Karen.
Frank yanks Karen behind him, then shouts as he barrels towards Allison.
He has no game plan. You can see it in his eyes.
You vault yourself over the Subway counter, intent on tackling Allison, or knocking her over with a wind slice, or –something.
Before you can do anything, a blue circle forms around Allison, glowing brightly before expanding into a domed shield.
Allison skitters to a stop. Her dark curls jerk and bounce as she looks around wildly. She seethes, then launches a blast of energy at the shield, only for it to bounce off the veil of energy harmlessly.
A few feet away, Illyana lowers her hand. She smirks. “There. Much better.”
“Will –will that hold her?” Karen asks, voice rough and shaky.
“Until we can find way to transport, da.” Illyana reaches up her sleeve, then pulls out a spell book. “I have potent sleep spell. Will take but moment to find proper runes for casting.”
Behind you, Piotr groans as he finally disentangles his head from a –now very crushed—oven. He staggers, shakes himself, then turns and sags with relief when he sees Allison in the shield bubble. “Oh. Good.”
“Are you okay?” You jog over to him as he armors down and all but collapses into a nearby booth. “Babe? What’s wrong?”
“Ears are ringing.” He groans and clutches his head in his hands. “I hit my head very hard.”
You rub his shoulders, reassuring yourself as much as you are him. You can only imagine where else he’s hurt if Allison managed to concuss him while in defense mode. All you want now is to get back to Xavier’s so your husband can get the medical treatment he needs. “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be—”
The ground shakes.
You steady yourself on the booth opposite Piotr –then suck a breath between your teeth when it happens again, harder than before. “Shit.” You whip your gaze back to Illyana. “What’s—”
You see Illyana, teeth gritted and eyes glowing blue as she holds both her hands towards the shield.
You see Nathan, Neena, and everyone else slowly backing away from the dome of energy.
And, inside the containment bubble, you see Allison, flinging attack after attack at the walls of the shield.
Your eyes widen when you watch Allison unleash a sustained burst of energy at the shield walls. Fuck.
Glowing, white cracks form along the shield.
Oh holy fuck.
“Get down!” Neena screams.
Piotr all but tackles you –despite his head injury—to the floor just as the shield gives way. He armors back up, then covers your body with his.
Magic energy explodes through the food court, flinging the remaining tables and chairs into the walls. All the windows –in the skylights, the automatic doors, and the nearby shops—blow out, spraying glass everywhere. The ground shakes, cracking and dissipating into clouds of ash in various places.
Allison crawls out of the crater left by her explosion. She pants, shoulders heaving with each breath. Her mouth tugs into a fierce scowl; her eyes glow so brightly that they’re almost white.
Cracks form on the ground next to her, glowing white and smoking. They widen into gaping holes, with vortexes of energy swirling inside them.
And then these… beasts crawl out of them. Snarling, slobbering monsters with fangs the size of your arm. Their claws shatter the tiles underneath their massive paws. Their eyes glow red, not unlike hellfire. They almost look like wolves, if wolves had crossbred with the Hulk and had ichor and tar dripping off their skin.
Your jaw drops. “What the…”
Mikhail lets out a whoop. “Puppies!”
“Do puppies normally look like they want to turn humans into sausages?” Wade yelps, skittering out of reach when one of the hellhounds lets out a howl that sends a plume of fire into the air.
Illyana swears up a storm. She flicks her wrist, summoning the Soul Sword to her hand.
Before she can do anything else, though, one of the hellhounds charges her, knocking her off her feet and into one of the nearby shops.
“Snezhinka!” Piotr shoves himself to the feet, armors up, and barrels off after his sister –with Mikhail hot on his heels.
The other hellhound stalks towards Neena, Wade, and Nathan. It growls, acid dripping from its teeth and onto the ground, corroding whatever it touches.
“Should’ve worn the brown pants,” Wade groans. “Okay –anyone got a plan?”
“Duck!” Neena shouts when the hound unleashes another fiery howl.
You don’t duck –or run, or attack, or anything useful. No, you freeze, torn between going after your husband and siblings-in-law, helping protect Wade, Neena, and Nate, or trying to get Karen and Frank away from Allison.
Speaking of which…
Allison is lobbing bolts of energy at Frank and Karen; she’s closing in on them fast, quickly cornering them against the crater she’d made between the food court and the rest of the wall.
Frank whisks Karen behind his back. “Hey, hey, hey!” He extends a hand towards Allison in some sort of desperate attempt to get her to stop. “Just calm the fuck down!”
“Go to hell!” She rears back for another attack –and there’s no cover, nothing for Frank or Karen to hide behind or grab onto—
The choice makes itself for you.
You jump over the booth Piotr had pulled both of you behind and whip a wall of wind at her.
The blast launches her off her feet. She shrieks, sailing behind a pile of rubble before disappearing from view.
“Come on!” You leap over to Karen and Frank. The sounds of the hellhounds are too close for comfort –and, judging by Wade’s shrieks, the general amounts of swearing, and Piotr’s groans of exertion, the beasts are winning. “Let’s get out of here.” You get an arm around Karen, then start to put one around Frank, intent on lifting them over the crater and flying them out of here—
There’s a scream, and then a thin, whip-like strand of blue energy wraps around Frank’s neck.
His eyes go comically wide as he flies backwards. He lets out a choked shout, then groans –guttural and rough—when he hits the ground.
Allison stalks towards him. Her teeth are bared, and she looks entirely done with the situation. …And then she pulls a knife out of her jacket pocket.
You level another blast of air in Allison’s direction.
She manages to deflect it with a shield, then fires a volley of energy bolts at you and Karen.
You careen into the crater, narrowly dodging exposed bits of steel bar reinforcement and some leaking water lines before hitting rock hard dirt. You grunt, wind going out of you as you crumple against the ground. Fuck.
The hellhounds are still snarling nearby. You can still hear their ghoulish howls, accompanied by the crackling roar of the fire they unleash with each snap. Above the hellish din, Wade’s swearing and shrieking about his ass, Nate’s firing his future gun, Illyana and Mikhail are arguing—
Dammit. You shove yourself to your feet, panting and swearing the entire time. Once you’re upright, you launch yourself to the mall floor—
Which is when a new sound makes itself known to you.
Frank is screaming. That in and of itself isn’t unusual –he does it quite often—but now he’s doing it on his back, hands wrapped around Allison’s forearms, trying to keep her from sinking her knife blade into his right eye.
You’d think it wouldn’t be much of a fight –but she’s winning. She’s using her powers for leverage against Frank’s strength. You wouldn’t think a teenager with arms like noodles would have a shot, but Frank’s arms are shaking as Allison slowly, inexorably, pushes the knife towards his head.
Frank shouts –and Allison shrieks right back at him; she sounds like a pissed off barn owl.
You stumble forward, wincing and collapsing to your knees when your left leg screams in protest. Shit.
Allison bares her teeth at Frank –and then she freezes. Her body goes stiff. Her eyes roll into the back of her head –and then she collapses against the ground, limp as a ragdoll.
Karen Page stands behind her, stun gun in hand. She lets out a hard breath when Allison drops against the ruined tile floor, then turns the stun gun off and reaches to help Frank up. “You okay?”
He grunts by way of response.
Allison starts squirming against the ground, trying to push herself upright.
She yanks the barbs and wires connecting her to Karen’s stun gun out of her shoulder, seething and snarling all the while. She staggers to her feet, lurching wildly as she tries to regain control over her body. She whirls, dark curls flinging back and forth with abandon.
Frank snaps into action. He immediately throws Karen behind him, forcing her back and away as Allison storms towards them. He holds one hand out, keeping some space between him and the teen. His gaze snaps back and forth, searching wildly for some sort of obstacle to put in her path or some sort of cover to duck behind—
There’s a dull thud, and then Allison lets out a choked shout as she tumbles to the ground.
Behind her, standing in the wreckage of one of the shops, Neena lowers the repression cuff gun your dad created to help capture rogue mutants.
You bend over, panting as you brace your hands against your knees. “Cool. Awesome. Holy shit.”
The snarling of the hellhounds disappears, too; the only sign they were there to begin with are the mounds of ash they leave behind.
Slowly, your dad, Wade, and the Rasputin siblings come staggering out of the surrounding shops.
You sidle up next to Piotr, who’s already armoring down and looks beat to hell. You nod at him when he nods to you, then focus on the scene at hand.
Allison crouches on the floor. She snarls, yanking at the repression cuff on her wrist.
“Okay –ow, fuck!” Wade cringes as he resets his dislocated arm, then limps towards Allison. “Alright, murder baby. I’ve been chewed on, used as a tug toy, had a shop light fall on my nuts, and I’m pretty sure my third cervical vertebra is never going to feel whole again. Your whole ‘vengeance blood lust’ was pretty cute, but I draw the line at spinal reconfiguration. Time for you to head over to Xavier’s Home for Extraordinary Children and do group fucking therapy like the rest of the X-Dweebs.”
Allison bares her teeth at him, then kicks him square in the crotch.
Wade shrieks, doubling over and dropping to the floor. He curls into a fetal position, whimpering over his “dangly unmentionables.”
“Enough, Allison,” Nathan grits out. He uses his telekinesis to drag her across the floor, steadily sliding her towards him. “It’s done. Let it go.”
“Eat –eat shit!” Allison scrabbles against the floor, searching for a handhold –then snags a loose gun (most likely dropped by Mikhail at some point) and fires at Nathan. She struggles to her feet when he ducks –breaking the telekinetic hold—then whirls and aims at Frank.
“No!” Karen flings herself in front of Frank –which results in a lot of protesting from him—and holds out a hand. “Allison, no! Killing him isn’t what you want!”
“Like hell it is!”
“No, it isn’t. He’ll be dead and you’ll be in jail, and you’ll still have all your anger with no outlet for it,” Karen insists, voice ragged. She fixes Allison with a hard stare. “Let it go, Allison. Killing him won’t change anything.”
Allison sneers. “Fuck you. Like this is about ‘change!’ My family’s never coming back, and I have to live with that every single day. I have to remember waking up to them being gone, to their brains on the walls, to his—” she whips the gun wildly to point at Frank “—stupid graffiti tag on the floor. No, fuck you! I’m the one who has to go through the nightmares and the loneliness and the grief and has to bury my family! I don’t care that this won’t change anything. I’ll feel good for five seconds, and that’s better than the past few months have been!”
Your stomach clenches. Shit.
Frank gulps. Eyes shining, he steps out in front of Karen –even though she tries to stop him—and puts himself right in Allison’s line of sight. “You want me dead? Do it.”
“Frank,” Nathan says, voice sharp with warning.
“Pull the trigger,” Frank says, stepping closer as Allison’s hands shake. “Take me out. I killed your family. I did the same thing to you that happened to me. I’m a hypocrite; I deserve it.”
Allison seethes, body trembling as Frank slowly approaches her. “I will! I’ll do it!”
“Pull the trigger,” Frank says, voice soft and thick with emotion. “Do it, kid. Take me down if you want it so bad.”
Wade pushes himself off the ground. “Castle, I swear to God—”
Allison growls –and lowers her gun. She sobs, shoulders slumping. She falls to her knees, body shaking with each gasping breath she takes. “You couldn’t just… kill me? Do me the favor of not having to live without them?”
Frank flinches, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows reflexively. “I don’t do shit like that, kid.”
Allison looks up at him –and her gaze sharpens. She smiles, sharp and manic. “Oh. So that’s what it takes to break you.”
And then she put the muzzle of the gun under her chin.
“No!” You fling yourself at Allison, colliding with her before she can pull the trigger. You tackle her to the ground, wrenching the gun out of her hands before hugging her tight against your chest. “No, sweetheart. No. No, no, no—”
Allison shrieks. Tears stream down her face once more. “Just let me die! Please! Why won’t any of you just let me die!”
You shush her gently, rocking her back and forth. You cast your gaze over your shoulder, looking to Piotr.
He’s scrubbing at his face with his hand. He meets your gaze, eyes widening before he shrugs, as though to say, “I don’t know how to handle this, either.”
“Okay.” Nathan crosses the distance to you and Allison. He crouches behind her, cuffing her hands behind her back before helping her and you stand. “Alright, kiddo. Let’s… let’s get you some rest. Okay?”
“I –I need Ar-Artemis,” Allison sobs. Her body heaves with each step she takes. “I need Artemis, I need her—”
“Okay, munchkin,” Wade says as he walks Allison in the direction of the jet. “We’ll get her called for you. Do you have her number? Anyone else you want us to call?”
“That checks out.”
You hang back, letting Wade take over. You feel fried; pain aside, your mind is utterly void, a swirling mass of black and gibberish and too much and screaming and—
Neena hooks her arm around yours. She smiles at you when you look up at her, then gently ushers you after Wade and the others. “Come on. Let’s get back to the mansion.”
“I’m gonna fucking murder you, Castle!”
You wince as another angry shriek bounces off the walls of the jet’s cabin. You’re sitting on one of the benches, injured leg propped up on your husband’s lap.
Allison snaps and rages as Mikhail, Neena, and Wade try to buckle her in; somewhere during the walk to the jet, she’d switched from broken weeping to insurmountable rage once more.
Next to you, Frank keeps his eyes trained on the ground. He’s got an arm around Karen, who’s watching Allison in cautious silence.
“You’re fucking dead! I will hang you up by your fucking intestines! I’ll put your fucking sniper scope up your ass, you emo wannabe piece of shit!”
Wade snickers. “‘Emo wannabe piece of shit.’ Good one.”
Now that you’re up close to her, you can see just… how not well she’s doing. Dark bags hang under her eyes, stark against her pallid skin. Her cheeks and neck are gaunt –and, under her dark clothes and slapdash body armor, you suspect the rest of her body tells a similar story of grief and an inability to cope.
Who could cope, with everything she’s been through? The only person in this jet who has a similar understanding is the one that put her family in the ground –and he did that to cope with losing his own family and being shot in the head, so that pretty much says how well he’s doing, technically speaking.
Piotr squeezes you gently when you sigh. “We are almost home.”
Not close enough, you think as Allison all but foams at the mouth while she hurls insult after insult at Frank.
Wade rears back, shaking his hand. “Not the middle one! I need that one! Motherfucker!”
Allison spits his finger out of her mouth. She plants her feet, then tries to launch herself at Frank again.
“Enough!” You stand, careful to keep your weight off your bad leg. “You’re in a jet and you don’t have use of your hands. Either let yourself be buckled in or we’re sedating you!”
“This is bullshit,” Allison growls, even as she lets Neena and Mikhail sit her down and strap her in. Her eyes never leave Frank. “He’s the one who killed my family, and I’m the one in handcuffs.”
You march over to Allison as best you can. You’re not sure what your face looks like right now, but given the way she shrinks back you’re certain you look pissed. You plant your hands on the wall behind her, one on either side of her head, then lean in until you’re almost nose to nose with her. “You’re handcuffed,” you spit out between gritted teeth, “because you tried to kill yourself in that mall. The restraints are for your own safety; they have nothing to do with Frank.”
“Isn’t in our jurisdiction,” you tell her, voice hard. “We picked you up because you’re a mutant engaging in criminal activity. It was either us or the DMC, and if it’d been them, you’d be in the Icebox or dead. Frank only came because you kidnapped his girlfriend –and, frankly, it’s reasonable that he’d want to come along to save her.”
The dark-eyed teen pouts up at you. “But –my family—”
“Is gone,” you finish, voice softer now. You lean back a little so you’re not so in her space. “And I’m sorry you lost them, Allison. I really am. What Frank did was wrong. But you can’t keep on this path. You’re endangering yourself, and you’re endangering the rest of the community by reinforcing the belief that mutants are dangerous through your actions.” You straighten up. “If you don’t calm down, we’re going to have to lock you in one of the changing rooms until we’re at the mansion. Do you want that?”
She glowers, but shakes her head.
“Neither do I—”
“We can go into one of the changing rooms.” Karen stands, and Frank stands with her. She flashes you a sympathetic, appreciative smile when you look at her. “We’ll be fine in there.”
You heave an internal sigh of relief when Neena ushers Frank and Karen into one of the changing rooms, then slides the door shut.
Allison glares after Frank. She sniffs, chin trembling. “He killed my family. I woke up and –and they were gone.”
“I know, sweetheart.” You smooth her hair away from her face as she starts crying again. “I know.
“I want Artemis,” she sobs, skinny shoulders shaking with each breath she takes. “My phone –on my phone—”
“We’ll make sure we call her for you,” you reassure her as you stroke her hair. You grimace as she collapses –as much as the seatbelt lets her—against you, weeping against your neck. You hold her as best you can, trying to ignore the twinges in your leg or the creeping sense of ‘we’re in over our fucking heads… again’ crawling up your spine. “I know, sweetheart. I know.”