gillian_icon.gif lene_icon.gif

Scene Title Undertow
Synopsis After being rescued from an attempted kidnapping, Lene breaks down.
Date March 12, 2018

Red Hook

Twenty-eight minutes ago Gillian Childs received a text from an unknown number claiming to be her time-spanned daughter Jolene. It indicated that she was “mugged” and stranded somewhere in Red Hook down by the canal in the undeveloped part of the neighborhood. Just on her approach, Gillian could tell something about that story was wrong. Something fabricated, or lied about through omission.

There are two plumes of coal black smoke rising up from that part of Red Hook. She can see it from a few blocks away, fingers of ash twisting up from the derelict I-478 overpass. One block away from the smoke she can see the presence of Military Police, cordoning off the streets with sawhorses. A medical examiner van is parked on the street corner, those only come out when there's bodies.

But the street intersection Gillian was given is a few blocks away from that chaos. That's where she finds Jolene, stepping out from an alley with a lurching hop-step, trying not to fall over. Her mascara is streaked down her face, eyes puffy from crying, and there's just the littlest bit of blood in her tousled hair at her right temple.

It wasn't a mugging.

Normally, Gillian is good at maintaining an illusion of normalcy. That all changes anytime one of those she cares about seems to be in danger. Even just the possibility that it had been a mugging had her grabbing her keychain and heading out the door as quickly as her feet would carry her, only stopping to grab a spare set of crutches that she keeps in the house just in case Jolene needs them.

The drive took far too long for her tastes, and the smoke visible in the distance did not help. It took everything to obey traffic laws, everything to keep her hands from shaking whenever she stopped gripping the wheel as tight as she possibly could. By the time she pulled and parked to get out, her knuckles hurt.

This was not a mugging, but questions about the lie and why she might have said it are unasked. Instead, when she quickly crossed the distance to get to her daughter, Gillian instead starts with the simple, “Are you hurt?” as she reaches out to varieft before the poor girl (who isn’t really a girl anymore) can fully respond.

Just ignore that her hands are shaking— and she looks paler than normal.

Guilt is immediately present in Jolene’s face. “I've had worse,” is absolutely true, but she was also briefly a regenerator so that's not really the best answer. “I— got punched.” In the head. “I think he— had a ring on. I don't— I'm not sure.” Lene slips against her mother with trembling shoulders, her good arm winding around Gillian’s waist.

“We— we've gotta go.” Lene warns as she looks back to the smoke. Then turns green eyes back to Gillian. “I— I'll explain I promise.” Then, more certain. “I'm— I'm ok. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Gillian remembers worse. Much worse. It had been one of the most horrible experiences she could ever imagine, even though she’d been through that before herself. They’d had no way of knowing Claire had been nearby— no way of knowing that the poor girl would put herself back together again.

In a brief moment, she’d almost lost her— and that had been carried with her. And that didn’t even include that biological weapon that had nearly killed her as well. Her hands still shaking, she touches the girl’s head, but doesn’t touch where the blood is, so as not to ja her too much. “I— you— “ No, she’s not mad, mad would be easier.

“Let’s get you home,” she settles on, after a breath, supporting the girl where she leans against her so that they can get to the car as quickly as their feet can move. Because she didn’t want to talk to the police right now either. “Are you sure you don’t need a hospital?” she asks.

“I'm not concussed,” Lene assures as Gillian helps her into the waiting car. It's only once they're both inside that she nervously starts to explain things. It's clear she'd been crying sometime earlier, but she seems calmer now, more assured, if shaken and nervous.

“I was coming out of class, and— I saw some guys following a girl who’d crossed the street. Like— ” Jolene furrows her brows. “You know the way.” Green eyes navigate to her lap and Jolene wrings her hands together slowly. “One of them grabbed her by the arm and… there wasn't anybody else around. She started shouting, so— so I went across the street and started shouting at them.”

Sighing, Lene closes her eyes. “The girl just— she disappeared. Invisibility or something, camouflage? The— the men all turned on me. One of them grabbed me and he— I tried calling for help but I dropped my phone and— and—” Lene tries to steady her nerve-damaged hand. “They grabbed me and dragged me into a truck. I — couldn't even fight back.”

Teeth press into Lene’s bottom lip as her jaw trembles. Fat tears drop from her eyelids, spatter on her jeans. “They drove me out to an underpass, there was a g-guy waiting with a van. I was screaming and— and nobody was— I thought they were gonna…” Exhaling a shuddering breath, Lene looks up to Gillian with new tears in her eyes. “I'm so sorry.

“No, you did the right thing,” Gillian responds quietly, even as she grips the steering wheel again to keep her hands from shaking. She did exactly what Gillian would have done— well— after dialing 911 maybe. She did exactly what her father would have done, too. Her mind starts to work in overdrive, comparing the situation to Hailey’s, wondering if, maybe— they had been brazen enough to try and grab a girl with invisibility out in the open.

Not even outside the safe zone this time, if it’s the same situation.

“How did you get away?” she asks, wondering if— “They didn’t hurt you?” She doesn’t ask in detail, but— they both have an idea how bad it could have been. “What did they look like, did you get any names?” She glances away in the direction of the sirens. Maybe they should go over there— no.

But she might be introducing her to Cooper sooner than she’d thought…

They're all dead,” is perhaps not the most comforting thing Lene could have started with. She swipes a hand below her eyes, smudging already messy makeup across her face. After a moment to swallow down her emotions she looks over at Gillian. “When— when they tried to take me into the van one— the guy at the van just exploded.

The smoke, the Military Police.

“This— this absolutely primal woman came out of nowhere. Leather jacket and— and throwing like— ” Jolene makes vague gestures with one hand. “She stunned the others, grabbed me and dragged me t’safety. Carried me, like— like— ” There's a small smile there, tiny and hidden. “When the men tried t’drive off in their truck she threw hub caps at them and blew them up.”

Green eyes flick to Gillian. “She was amazing.” The tone of Lene’s voice is awestruck. “She— she took me to an alley, gave me her phone. She— she's a hero.” She's Jolene’s hero. “She stayed with me right up t’when I saw you coming down the street. I've never seen— never seen an ability like hers before, mom. She— ” Jolene is babbling.

“She sounds amazing,” Gillian admits, though she’s less impressed by the ability and more impressed by the sheer fact, whoever this woman is, she saved her daughter. That distant sound to her voice starts to fade, as if she’s been spending the whole time since they got in the car thinking too much. About what could have happened. Of what almost happened. Of her girl taken somewhere, never to be seen from again. Or worse.

But no— it’s not worse and she can breath a little. Finally, she starts the car, beginning the drive home. Slowly. Probably too slowly, but she’s distracted, still. She wants to hug her girl— even if that girl happens to be a fully grown woman who’s a few inches taller than her. But hugging in a car would be awkward, so she settles with reaching a hand over. “I’m glad she was there, whoever she was.”

And if that van had anything to do with the kidnapping of Hailey or other kidnappings? SESA will figure it out from what’s left. No need to get her daughter involved further— or so she hopes.

“I shouldn't have stepped in,” Jolene quietly chastises herself, continuing to wring one hand around the other in her lap. “It was— so stupid. It was so stupid.” Jaw trembling, Jolene hunched forward and quickly brings her good hand up to her face. A moment later the strangled sound she makes is an attempt not to cry. It, like her attempt at heroism, is a failed one.

Jolene breaks down, sobbing into one hand, face hidden by a curtain of hair. Her shoulders heave, fingers of her weaker hand helplessly paw at her lap. Moments like this used to be more common when she was still in physical therapy. But it's been months since Gillian saw her like this. But that, perhaps, is why she moved out on her own.

What’m I supposed to do?” Jolene bawls into her hand, “How’m I s-supposed to— I don't know h-how to— I don't wanna be like this anymore.” The trauma of what she just experienced has finally hit her, shock worn off, and she is spiraling.

“I think the invisible girl would think differently on that,” Gillian offers her daughter, despite knowing it probably won’t be enough to counter that fear and horror of what could have happened. Without her ability. She’d not really been thrust into a situation like that since she’d left the warzone, since that mission that went horribly wrong.

Trying to focus on driving, she reaches across to take that grasping hand in her own. “You’re safe now.” In some ways, she wishes she could fix this. Find a way to make things easier for her. But there’s some things no one can just fix. Some things no one can make right.

And her chest tightens the more she thinks about that. The more helpless she feels. “Maybe we can… talk to someone.”

Jolene squeezes the hand when it's taken, trembling in anger and frustration. She mumbles apologies over and over again, for being who she is, for worrying her mother, for being unable to protect herself. Eventually those sounds fall away, and Lene is just quiet and miserable looking. She stared vacantly into the middle-distance, hair in her face, shoulders rolled forward.

After a few minutes of that silence, she says softly. “I… I wanna see Ingrid.” Which is quite possibly the worst thing she could do for herself right now, as an exposed nerve of emotions. When Ingrid married, Jolene confessed to her mother things about herself she didn't fully understand. How she felt about Ingrid, and how the time for acting on that love passed. Now it sits unrequited on a shelf in her heart, taken out when she wants to hurt herself.

“I wanna go home,” Lene more weakly asserts after. Though she isn't clear which home, or when home is.

Home might well be unreachable. Gillian has no idea which she’s talking about. The home she’d left behind, where she had two perfectly good moms who had taken care of her for almost as long as she’d had with the woman that had actually given birth to her— or home to the woman who was the same, but wasn’t. The now blonde woman tries to ignore the tear running down her cheeks as she squeezes the hand back gently.

She’s safe now. For now. And she wished she could keep her from ever going through anything like this ever again.

But she can’t. So she just continues to drive home. Her home.

Maybe not the home she wants, in the end.

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