in an instant, she pulls gryffin into her mind -- and the fragments of karen’s mind that had been left after that eventful week. it isn’t the red hallway that she and madelyne usually occupied. this was the sterile hallway of the hospital, with the number 616 outside the door.

“don’t be scared,” she looks down at gryffin, offering her hand, “just trust me here. i can show you everything.”

gryffin looks back up at her, his dark messy hair stark against his pale face. he seems more like a shade, insubstantial and indecisive. he sways slightly, bringing his hands close to his chest as his eyes dart around the hallway and then back at her. something must reassure him, though, because he eventually reaches out and takes her hand in his own.

she rubs her thumb against the back of his hand, trying to make him more substantial as she does. “they can’t hear us. they can’t see us. we can only watch.” she looks over her head as karen approaches them; her features are sharper than anyone else’s, her heels clacking loudly on the floor.

molly gently tugs gryffin after her as karen turns the knob and opens the door. somewhere, she knows madelyne is watching too, unwilling to interrupt.

it’s odd to see herself so young, so pale, and clearly still sick in the bed. hair still shorn short from the last minute haircut, stark against her pale frame. her lips are cracked, and when molly -- young, tired, clearly not at all herself -- looks at karen, she’s clearly not really seeing her.

karen sits beside her, expression unreadable. her emotions, though, molly can feel them: determination the strongest of all, followed closely by victory, and not a hint of guilt. molly remembers none of this: karen's fingers pressed against her forehead, her thumb across her eyebrow as molly wheezes out, “mommy?”

the faded, ghostly hand in molly’s spasms, then squeezes tightly, feeling a little more solid now. “are you sick?” he whispers it, like he’s afraid that the people in the memory will overhear them. “you look- you look really bad.

“i am,” molly says, feeling his hand in hers, eyes intently focused on the scene before her as karen bobs her head. “she knows i am.”

karen continues, her voice low, “mommy’s here.” there is no real warmth in her tone, no real affection. the molly in the bed swallows with great difficulty, teeth chattering when she manages it. “mommy needs you to do something for me, molly. it’s important.”

and this… this is when it truly hurts. this is the worst betrayal as karen pulls away, as she fishes in her purse for a folder and a pen. knowing full well that her daughter cannot really consent, that she would never really want this.

“i need your hand,” karen smiles, reaching for molly’s hand, cold and clammy.

gryffin’s eyes dart between karen and the sickly molly, before they suddenly snap open wide. “no.” he leans back, pulling as hard as he can on molly’s arm. “make it stop! make her stop it!” it’s clear--gryffin already knows what’s about to happen, already too clever for a child his age. the dots are all too easy to string together into the horrifying truth.

and molly--she can only reach out to grip him, her voice cracking. “i can’t-- it’s already happened.”

the molly in the bed, she mumbles out, “mommy--i--i can’t--”

karen’s hand envelops hers. steadies it as she slips the paper on the bed, aligns molly’s hand. “it’s okay, baby. i’m right here.”

if she had her body at that moment, bile would have risen in her throat. instead it’s just her burning anger as she watches karen move her hand on the paper, as she signs away her son.

“teddy,” the molly on the bed rasps, her fingers shaking when karen finally let’s go, “where’s-- teddy?”

“he’s fine,” karen says, putting the papers in her purse, wiping the hand she’d used on her pant leg. “don’t worry, margaret.”

there’s a long moment of silence as gryffin leans against molly, his eyes fixed on karen’s form. “i hate her,” he hisses, his voice thick as he wraps his free arm around molly as tight as he can. “i hate her, and i want her to die.

molly agrees with him, as she pulls him closer. there’s more to this memory--so much more for her to come back to in later months from the glazed look on her face to the triumph in karen’s face.

she doesn’t dignify it, as she pulls him closer. “we’ve seen enough.” she pulls them back away from karen’s mind, from the memories she was keeping, back into the living room where they’d left. she finds, as they re-materialize, that her cheeks are hot with tears, and her fingers have sunk into gryffin’s hair.

she doesn’t move to wipe them away, swallowing thickly before speaking, “that’s why. she tricked me into giving you up. i would never, ever let you out of my sight willingly.”

at first, gryffin only stands there, hands curled in fists at his sides. then he lunges forward and buries his face against her chest, clinging to her as he tries to muffle his sobs. “i hate her. i fucking hate her! it’s not fair!”

“i know. i know,” molly pulls him close, trying not to full out sob into his hair--and failing to do so. she rocks him gently as she does it, keeping him as close as she can. “it’s why i’m here--i’m here now so you can be with me the way i wanted. the way we should be.”

the boy in her arms shivers, though he doesn’t sob, and keeps holding on as tightly to her. “do you mean it? you’re really going to be my mom? i don’t have to live here anymore?” his voice is choked and small, making him sound even more vulnerable than before.

she hates how vulnerable, how scared he sounds. she nods against him, rubbing his back and sides. “i’ve always been your mother. your real mother. we’re leaving tonight--all you need is your things and we can go. i promise.”

gryffin leans back, just enough to be able to look up at her. though his cheeks are dry, his eyes are puffy and wet. “but- what about my adopted parents? they’ll call the cops. they always do when i run away.”

molly shakes her head, running her thumb on his cheek. “i can take care of them. i’ll make it so that you’ve always been mine--i promise.” there was deep resolve in her tone because she knew she could do it. one blink of an eye, one surge of power, and these monsters would never remember that gryffin existed.

for a few seconds, gryffin hesitates, his mouth pinched in uncertainty. then he glances at the room around them and his expression smoothes out. “yes. i want to go home.

a smile spreads on molly’s face, happy and relieved. overjoyed, even. she pulls him into a quick hug, rubbing his back. “okay. go get your things, alright?”

gryffin gave her one last squeeze before he turns and thunders upstairs to his room. faint thuds and bangs echo down to molly. gryffin must have rushed it, because soon enough, he’s dragging a large suitcase down the stairs, his backpack and shoes and jacket already on. “can we grab my bike? it’s in the garage, it’ll be really quick, promise!”

before molly can answer, the front door opens and gryffin goes white as a sheet as his adopted parents walk into the front hallway. janet takes one look at gryffin, then molly, and her eyes grow hard and she reaches into her pocket for her phone.

“i don’t know who you are, but you have five seconds to get out of my house before i call the police,” she snaps.

molly’s eyes narrow as she takes them in. takes in the immaculate, put together way that they look, takes in the fact that janet hasn’t even reached for gryffin, and what she knew about them.

there are very few times that molly and madelyne have agreed on more extreme methods. this, unfortunately for janet, was one of those times. it wasn’t even hard to do it, to feel the power of the goblyn force rise up in her chest, making her fingertips buzz with it.

“i didn’t think we’d get to meet,” molly says, her tone sweet despite the look of anger on her face, “i can’t say that it’s pleasant to see you, though. i hear you’re not exactly parents of the year.”

“you are trespassing in my home, forgive me if i don’t care what you might think of my parenting abilities,” janet snaps.

richard, meanwhile, is trying to slip past molly and towards gryffin. “go upstairs, we’ll take care of this.”

gryffin only shakes his head violently fast and shies away from his adoptive father, closer towards molly. “no! she’s my mom. my real mom.”

that’s all molly needs, all she wants, really. gryffin knows that she’s his mother, his real mother. it’s so much better than anything she’s ever dreamed of. in response, power bursts from her fingertips, forcing richard and janet back, slamming their bodies against the living room hard enough to make sure that they felt it, to make sure they were terrified of who she was.

god, the feeling of terror was so much. it made the inclination to kill them so strong she could practically taste the blood in her throat. it wasn’t just madelyne who wanted it--it was molly, too.

it takes effort to suppress the urge. with some effort, she’s able to keep her voice even enough to say,, “you know--i don’t have to read your minds to know what you think about my son. i don’t need to know that you’re neglectful, that you’re cruel, that you’ve never given a damn about him. killing you would make me so very, very happy.”

she lifts her hand, and enjoys the looks on their faces as she starts to squeeze their throats with her power. “however, i’m not in the business of wasting my time on killing those beneath me. instead, i think i’ll give you a more fitting punishment.”

her power reaches out, hot and precise. her eyes glow a molten gold, diving inside of their minds, and eradicating every single memory richard and janet hall possessed of gryffin until there is nothing left. nothing except false memories of a sterile, unhappy marriage. of the continued unease they’d feel for the rest of their lives, knowing something was wrong--and they’d never realize what it was.

when she finishes, her hand drops. and so did they, in a heap of limbs and glassy eyes.

gryffin looks up at her, his own eyes wide, face still pale but now with shock. “what… what did you do to them? you wouldn’t really have killed them, would you?”

“i took their memories,” molly says, reaching out for his hand, “and no. i wouldn’t have.” it’s her first--and hopefully only lie to gryffin. “they won’t come after us, ever.”

immediately, gryffin relaxes, and reaches back for her. “okay.” there’s open belief and acceptance on his face as he looks up at her, excitement starting to grow. “so- my bike?”

molly smiles and squeezes his hand, “of course you can take your bike.” she crooks her finger, opening the door to the garage, beckoning the bike towards them. it bobs in the air, and she smiles wider. “where we’re going, you’re going to love it.”

“where are we going? how are we going to get there?”

molly snaps her fingers, and a green light ignites in the living room. it grows and grows into a portal, showing the beach, waves crashing against the shore, the sun hanging low in the sky.

“california,” she beams.