Shaky fingers desperately pushed any button the pipboy’s green screen, the map phasing in and out as the coordinates were punched in. Sanctuary. A flash of white light and a searing almost tingling sensation ripped through the senses, body unbalanced as the teleporter took her out of that hellhole.
Colors faded back into existence. Familiar faces and noises cascaded through the air, grey eyes blankly stared back at them, dull and lifeless. Pain. Anguish. Betrayal. Everything flooded into her head bringing her reeling to the ground, legs unable to hold her up as the cold metal slammed into the side of her face. Anari barely felt it. Physical pain didn’t hurt. Cruel whispers stabbing into the depths of her heart, twisting and dragging the blade deeper and deeper into the tissue until everything gushed out like a waterfall- that hurt far more than any physical injury.
I will make this as clear as I can make it: where is my son?!
I understand the pain you’re going through. He’s safe. Closer than you think actually. I am Shawn. I am your son.
Two hands covered her ears, eyes screwed shut. “Shut up! Shut up! You weren’t him! You aren’t my son!” Strangled screams bubbled from deep within her throat, denial and anguish accentuating each word, each scream that came out thereafter. Fingers touched her- scarred sandpaper skin brushing against her scalp, parting sweaty strands of black hair over closed eyes.
Anari couldn’t feel it. I regret… he was.. collateral damage. It is regrettable, to be sure. But it had to be done.
Tears streamed out from the corners of her grey eyes, trailing down the skin and over dark brown lips- sliding harmlessly off the chin and onto the irradiated ground beneath. A tug was all she felt as the ground disappeared from below, support gone and replaced with something warm… and also something cold. Anari didn’t open her eyes. If everything around her was a dream- a fabrication of the institute… she wanted none of it.
I’d like you to join us. Stay here and help build a better future for the Commonwealth. For the betterment of mankind.
A shrill whimper slipped out. The sound damn well similar to a beaten- starved abused animal on the brink. Indistinguishable words floated around, her brain unable to process them properly as a hand rubbed her back- sharp and skeletal in feeling. Panic wound itself in the pit of her stomach. Synth. Institute.
A switch had been flicked in her. Police training kicked in- arms and and legs lashing out with violent uncontrollable force. Whatever support held her body up was gone- boots slamming against the ground unsteadily. But she didn’t stop fighting. Didn’t stop screaming, kicking, or punching. Anari kept hitting whatever her boots and bare hands came into contact with eyes swollen and red, hot tears bitterly spilling over reddened cheeks.
Fists collided with something solid, propelling the need to keep hitting. To drown out the voices- the lies bubbling to the top. All the pain, the suffering, the struggle- it was all for nothing. Everything that happened, everything she accomplished didn’t amount to shit. Her life, her son, her world… all gone.
Fingers grasped some sort of fabric- clinging to it like a lifeline- a preserver to keep her head above the waves crashing over head.
Ragged shaky breathing came out in short bursts, lungs seizing as her chest fell and rose erratically. “You sick, sick assholes,” The words came out in a hiss, “You took him… t-that isn’t my son.” Tears kept pouring out relentlessly. Anari shook the images out of her head. Piercing grey eyes burrowing holes into her very being, wisps of ginger hair poking from graying hair, and the same lips…
A strangled cry broke through. Anari pressed her face against the fabric heating burning the skin off her cheeks when she couldn’t hold back the sobs.
“Nick, I got this.” A deep raspy voice crept through the storm, arms wrapping themselves around her waist- the tight pressure becoming a focal point for the misery and grief coursing through every fiber of the woman’s being. Whatever was said in response was lost, raw mournful cries belaying the pain of a woman kicked to the curb- a year wasted on an unforeseeable outcome.
You had no concept of time inside that cryo-pod. You believed it was only ten years but in reality, sixty years had actually gone by.
Anger ripped apart everything, pain allowed the wound to stay open, and grief allowed infection to settle- to numb the sights and sounds around her until nothing but words of the confrontation pounced- devouring the last bit of hope beating inside a bleeding heart ripped out for everyone to see, sinew and flesh clinging to the organ weakly beating in the palm of a blood soaked hand.
The ground disappeared underneath, smoke and warmth replacing the sudden loss of her foundation. The will to fight back ceased. Depravity set in as she allowed to be carried away, face rubbing against the rough scratchy material of fabric balled in her fists- knuckles turning white from gripping it far too hard.
Anari couldn’t bring herself to care what happened next. There was no reason to keep trying. The driving force that kept her kicking was gone, replaced by a disturbing vomit inducing figure, giving voice to horrifying suggestions and temptations she would rather do without. Sharp pain from her abdomen let slip another pitiful whimper, her body curling into a ball to protect against any more pain inflicted upon her person. It was futile. Dull aches blossomed all around, bouncing around until everything screamed in agony. Physical pain didn’t amount to this. Nothing could.
Thoughts of drinking to numb the pain seeped in. Passed out on the floor dunk- unable to feel was suddenly very appealing.
Grooved rigid fingers pressed themselves against her face, lifting it softly up into the air.
Bleary grey eyes opened, mutely staring into a pair of coal black eyes flashing with concern and fear beneath their murky depths.
Thumbs rubbed her cheeks, the feeling of sandpaper against her soft skin providing her a focus for the pain gripping her heart. “What the hell happened in there?” Black eyes rested upon her form, piecing things together inside that calculating head of his. Bitter tears peeked out from the corners of her eyes, grief breaking her down bit by bit.
“Sixty years. Sixty fucking years…” The words spilled out in a jumbled mess, venom leaking out from the tip of her tongue and onto every word spoken.
Hancock didn’t response, digesting everything she offered to him- patiently waiting for her to be ready to talk about what she witnessed in the Institute’s facility.
Anari stared at her hands clinging to the front of his red coat- struggling to find the words to keep going. “… -my baby isn’t a baby anymore John.” Tremors overtook her, body shaking uncontrollably as everything flooded back in. Hands slipped off her face once again finding themselves around the small of her back, pressing her shivering body flush against his chest- heat seeping out from the folds in his clothes. Craving a distraction she clung to him greedily, savoring the heat, the feeling of him close by. Nails dug deep into the folds. They couldn’t take this away.
She wouldn’t let them.
Teeth gnashed together anger swelling in her breast, “Sh-shawn is sixty years old, Hancock. He is l-l-leading the Institute now.” A lump formed in her throat, feeling the arms around her tense up and a curse fly through the air. “They brainwashed him. Called his father collateral damaged, used Kellogg knowing what he did and he-” She couldn’t keep going. Anger wasn’t enough to prevent Anari from feeling how those grey eyes stared at her- asking her to stay underground blissfully ignoring the plight of everyone above ground.
But she had to. Hancock deserved to know; to know the monster she gave birth to and allowed to be taken, to be used and abused for the institute’s nefarious schemes. All those kidnappings… Shawn’s doing. Her fault.
A strangled laugh burst through, finding morbid humor at that fact. A terrible marriage, loveless sex, a child born to appease both families… it was bound to fall apart. It only took two-hundred or more years for it to happen.
“I didn’t believe him at first. Screamed where was my son,” Nails dug deeper. If it hurt the ghoul he didn’t make a noise, “I… those eyes. I knew those were mine. The shape.. the color…. everything. I gave birth to a monster Hancock.” Anari hung her head low, unable to look him in the eyes, “I wanted to kill him…. I wanted to shoot his brains out. For everything… for what he had done. I wanted him to pay. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pull the trigger… I jus-” Sobs came in bursts guilt infecting her very being. She could have ended it, pulled the trigger and been done with it. One word stopped her. Turned her blood cold in her veins.
A feral sounding growl vibrated in the chest she rested against, the noise familiar to her ears. Knowing what it meant Anari flinched- waiting to be hit like he had done to so many others who pissed him off. Part of her knew he wouldn’t harm her, but the fear and guilt clouded her mind. Nothing was certain.
“Another reason to add to my list of why the institute is fucked up. And for me to put a bullet through the bastard’s skull for doing this…” Grey eyes caught the sight of white flashing between his scarred lips, grinding his teeth together painfully. “Look, I know I can’t say anything to make this shit better. Hell, I can’t even relate to how fucked up this is,” hands came back to her face, cupping the cheeks softly and gently between ridged palms. “But you ain’t responsible for this mess.” Fire burned inside Hancock’s eyes, his words comforting given the turmoil rioting in the back of her head.
It wasn’t enough however. “I’m not? Then explain to me who is, John!?” Anari threw her fists into his chest- to dislodge him from her, to push them apart. “He is my son! He took people! Killed people! I AM HIS MOTHER!” Her voice rose until she was shouting at him, banging her fists against him hard. Hancock grunted but stayed still for the beating, grabbing her wrists in one hand only once her actions slowed- exhaustion building within her muscular frame.
Hancock held her wrists together firmly, holding them over her head as he stared at her- his brow bone wrinkling when a frown overtook his scarred grooved face. “I know,” The tricorn hat on his head shifted to the side- moving with his head, “Who the hell he has become ain’t your fault. That is the institute’s fault. You,” Rough ruined lips crashed against her’s, greedily pushing away the whirlwind of emotions fighting for dominance inside by biting and running a tongue across cracked lips.
For a moment the distraction worked, just as the Mayor intended. Needing air he pulled back. Eyes fixated themselves on her, not bothering to look at anything else but her. “You don’t need to apologize to anyone. They got to answer for the bullshit they’ve done, to the commonwealth and to you more importantly. Don’t fucking let them win, Anari.”
Don’t fucking let them win.
The determination behind the words, the growl in his throat… the pain ebbed, staunched thanks to the words of encouragement, the push she so desperately need given to her from someone who believed in her. Who loved her even after knowing the truth.
The tears came back, her head sinking until it rested against his chest, the pounding of his heart lulling her into a state of security she didn’t have hours ago. Hancock let her wrists go burying his face in the messy bun atop her head, hands rubbing sore muscles in her back- words of comfort whispered softly. Affectionately.
Anari melted in the feeling. Savoring it for all its worth.
She shifted in his lap, realizing they were in one of the barely put together houses of sanctuary, “Thank.. you John.” Anari nuzzled his chest. Hancock grunted in response, “Anytime, love. Those bastards will get what’s coming to them soon.” The sharpness in his tone was all the confirmation the young woman needed. Of course they would. They’d pay for what they did. For every ounce of suffering they spread with their schemes, their ploys…
They wouldn’t succeed…. they couldn’t.