TW: blood, death, spiders.
"Daddy look!" the now seven year old Anne Marie exclaimed, holding up yet another spider for Sniper to look at.
"Ugh… Not now luv, daddy's busy" he answered, turning his attention back to the scattered papers on the table. Despite having a pretty handsome income, owning a house was not as easy as people made it look. And since his name was on all the paperwork, it was him that had to pay the mortgage, the taxes, and all the bills to boot.
Anne Marie pouted, then turned and went to let the spider go, hanging her head in disappointment. It wasn't the first time she'd been turned away by either of her dads, but how could they not want to see the spiders she'd found? Spiders fascinated her. The fact that many of them made webs to catch their pray, then kill them by turning their insides into soup with just one bite, which they'd then suck out was just really interesting to her. Some were as big as a grown up's hand while others were so tiny. Some of them could kill you with just one bite, even the little ones. One could even roll down a hill on its side if it felt threatened, and another was known for eating birds. Apparently, spiders weren't insects. Her daddy had told her that they were in fact arachnids (she still had trouble pronouncing that word). The same went with scorpions. She always asked him about the types of spiders he saw growing up in Australia. And he was always happy to indulge her curiosity. Her Papa on the other hand… didn't share her enthusiasm. It's not that he hated spiders, he just didn't care for them. He thought they were disgusting, and disapproved of Anne Marie letting them set up web in her room.
Anne Marie set the spider down near some bushes and watched it crawl away. She longed for the day when she'd have a pet spider of her own. While other girls her age wanted a puppy, a kitten, or a pony, she wanted a pet tarantula, who she planned to call Charlotte. After that spider from Charlotte's Web which her daddy and papa would occasionally read to her at bedtime.
Sure that it was gone, Anne Marie went back inside, unaware that she was being watched. She began to feel excitement starting to buzz inside her. Today was a really special day. Her papa was coming home after weeks away on a secret mission. He hadn't told her what it was, only that she wasn't allowed to tell anyone about it. Well, that wasn't too difficult. It's not like she wasn't already used to keeping secrets, or had any friends to tell secrets to. She'd learnt to keep secrets ever since she'd started learning how to talk. No one knew her parents killed people for a living. Or that she even had two daddies. Not even her speech therapist Margaret knew. She'd asked at one point why she had to refer to Spy as her uncle if both he and Sniper were ever out and about together with her. To which they'd say that it was to protect her from the bad guys. Curious, she'd asked them who these bad guys were, only to be told that she would understand when she's older. It was typical of her parents. Always telling her to wait until she was older. Why couldn't they tell her NOW?
Anne Marie saw that daddy was still sorting through all the papers on the kitchen table. Let's just say that paperwork isn't Sniper's strongpoint. He always put them off to the last minute because of that. She heard him groan and mumble something to himself. And heard him utter a few curse words.
"Daddy?" Anne Marie piped up.
Sniper jumped and whirled round to see his daughter looking at him. Well, not AT him, since she still had trouble with eye contact. But looking at him none the less. Sniper was absolutely mortified. He knew you weren't supposed to swear around children (for some reason). He could only hope she hadn't heard that much.
"Yeah? What is it?" He asked, feeling his cheeks turn red with embarrassment.
"When is papa coming back?" the little girl inquired.
"Soon luv. Sometime this afternoon or evening. Ya know what your papa's like, he never says when exactly" Sniper reassured her.
"But I want papa to come back now!" Anne Marie complained.
"Yeah I know luv, I know". Sniper then thought for a minute. "Tell ya wot, why don't you go look out for him? Give me a shout when you see 'im".
Anne Marie didn't answer. She just turned and headed to the livingroom to sit on the windowsill and do just that.
She then waited, and waited, breathed on the window and drew pictures of spiders. Waited. Rocked back and fourth and played with her hair. Waited. Watched a squirrel scurry across the street, only to get snatched by an eagle. Waited.
Evening came yet there was still no sigh of Spy. Sniper came into the room, seeing Anne Marie perched on the windowsill staring out towards the road.
"Come on Anne, time for bed" he said.
Anne Marie pretended not to hear. Continuing to gaze out of the window.
"Anne Marie, it's bedtime" Sniper said a little more insistently.
"No" she answered in a monotone voice.
"Yes" Sniper insisted.
"You will" said Sniper, "Or I'll, I'll… Look, you'll go to bed because I said so!"
And so Anne Marie found herself up in her room, in her pajamas, being tucked into bed by her daddy. She gazed up at the spiders on her ceiling, noticing some new webs had appeared.
"When will papa come back?" she asked.
"I dunno luv. He's taking a long time ain't he" her daddy replied, letting out a sigh. In truth, he was starting to get worried. Sniper got up and left, not bothering to kiss her goodnight since he knew she hated that. "G'night kiddo" he said, turning off her light.
"Good night daddy" Anne Marie answered, then added, "Good night spiders".
It wasn't until later that Anne Marie finally heard a car pull up outside and the front door open. Her heart flipped with excitement. Papa was home! She heard daddy greet him and ask what took him so long, only to fall silent.
"What's wrong?" she heard him say.
"Get Anne Marie and get in the car. We have to leave, now!" Spy said urgently.
"What's goin' on Spook?" Sniper was beginning to sound worried.
"They've found us!" Spy said.
"One of my enemies, I'm not exactly sure how, or who" answered Spy, "But they know about you, and they know about Anne Marie. We have to get her out of here before they-"
Suddenly a window shattered. Anne Marie pulled the covers tighter, hearing a commotion happen downstairs. There were loads of shouting, then gunshots being fired. She heard someone come running up the stairs. Anne Marie clutched the covers tighter, unable to move she was so scared. The door flew open. A man stood in the doorway holding a huge knife in his hand. It was daddy, much to Anne Marie's relief. He ran up to her and pulled her into a sitting position. She so desperately wanted to ask what was going on but didn't know how to make the words come out.
"Come on luv, we 'ave to get out of here" he urged, lifting her up. Anne Marie started whimpering.
"'Ey 'ey, shh, it's alright, it's okay" Sniper reassured her, "But we have to be very quiet. Can ya do that for me?"
She nodded, clinging tightly to him. Sniper carried her downstairs. A man lay dead in the hallway. His blood was spattered up the wall. Anne Marie stared at the corpse. A part of her knew that she should be sad that the man had died. After all, there would be people who would miss him terribly. But why had this man broken into her house and tried to kill her papa? Was he one of the bad guys he'd told her about? Now that she thought about it, where was papa? Just then, Spy came out of the kitchen, ambassador in hand.
"Papa!" Anne Marie exclaimed.
Spy's face softened upon hearing his daughter's voice. Despite the dire situation they were all in, he gave her a warm smile.
"It is good to see you ma fille" he cooed, "Have you been good while I was away?"
"Oui" she replied.
"I am glad to hear that" said Spy. He then hesitated before saying "We are going to go on a small trip. How does that sound?"
Anne Marie's face fell, nervousness building up inside her. She couldn't go on a trip. What about school? What about speech therapy? What about her shooting lessons with daddy? Her routine would be completely disrupted. Again.
"NO!" she yelled, shaking her head violently to emphasize her point. She couldn't go. She had to stay where she was, where everything was familiar to her. To stray from that meant having to face the unknown. Having to face unpredictability.
"I'm afraid we have no choice" Spy insisted.
"NOOO!" Anne Marie screamed, lashing out at Sniper.
"AH, Stop it! Anne!" Yelped Sniper, holding his head as far back as possible to avoid her blows.
"Assez! Enough!" Spy barked, grabbing her wrists to stop her. He despaired with that child sometimes.
Anne Marie burst into tears. It was all she could think to do. She knew when she was defeated. Spy looked on, feeling guilty. He could see that this was very distressing for her. He hated doing this. But they had no choice.
Putting on a poker face, he turned his attention to Sniper, "Pack as many things as you can".
Sniper nodded, handing a wailing Anne Marie over to him.
Sniper hauled the last of the bags into his van. Anne Marie had stopped crying by then. Her face was still red and tearstained, but she was now calm, thank god. She was sitting on Spy's lap in the passenger seat. He was brushing strands of hair over her ear while holding her close, whispering something to her in French. Though Sniper didn't know what.
"That's everythin'" he said, getting into the driver's side. He turned to Anne Marie. "I 'ave something for you" he said, then produced a stuffed spider from his pocket. Her face lit up. Sniper handed the toy to her and she squeezed it tight to her chest. Sniper then started up the engine, pulling away from the house, never to return.
Finally feeling exhausted, Anne Marie fell asleep in Spy's arms. He held her securely, stroking her head. Spy couldn't feel more guilty at this point if he tried. He'd brought this on his entire family. And now they were on the run. Where they would go, the Frenchman had no idea. Probably out of the country. But life on the run was no life for a child. Especially one that had autism. But putting her up for adoption wouldn't do her any good either. His enemies could still potentially find her and use her to get at him.
Sniper kept driving. "What are we gonna do?" he asked suddenly.
"… Go into hiding. Create new identities for ourselves. Find a new school and speech therapist for Anne Marie. Try to rebuild our lives somehow" Spy answered.
"And if they find us again?" the Aussie inquired.
"Then we shall defend our daughter until our dying breath" Spy said in a matter-of-fact way.
"Makes sense" said Sniper, "Y'know? Times like these, I realize it was madness datin' ya".
Spy chuckled, "I agree. It was madness. But a good sort of madness non?"
"… I s'pose" joked Sniper, joining in with Spy's laughter.
They would work it out somehow. They had to. If not for their sake, for her's.