1963-07-31 - Get Back
Summary: Keith O'Neil comes across an exhausted Kitty Pryde hitchiking her way back to Westchester, a small companion in tow.
Related: Kitty Returns
Theme Song: Get Back
vorpal kitty 

The road to Westchester from the South has been long, and the journey has left a would-be hero and her companion rather ragged. There hadn't been time to figure out the details, just the need to move along. Which is why the pair had hitchhiked this far. Of course, it had only brought them to the nearest truck stop. Truck stop to truck stop, Kitty Pryde had travelled, hand-in-hand with a small child.

Currently, having made it to the last truck stop and then finding no ride, Kitty clings to the little girl beside her. The child's curly hair, caramel skin, and small stature might melt some hearts while hardening others. But Kitty doesn't dare let her go.

Of course, Kitty doesn't look particularly put together by now. It's been a long journey. Her dark hair is matted. Her skin is so pale it's nearly see through, and she's thankful for the protection afforded by a leather jacket she'd taken on the way. Her eyes have deep circles around them with a nearly glazed expression. She's seen better days, and, consequently, getting picked up has become rather difficult… Lost in her thoughts it takes her several beats to come out of whatever stupor she's currently in.

"Kitty?" the child (of no more than twelve) asks. "You have to put your thumb out — "

This prompts the young woman to lift her thumb to traffic while continuing to walk. "Sorry," she murmurs quietly before forcing a smile. "Don't worry. Everything will be fine once we get there." And then she repeats more for herself than her companion, "Everything will be fine…"


Keith O'Neil doesn't really -live- anywhere, right now. All he has to his name are the clothes on his back (and his backpack), his trusty '61 Harley Panhead (stolen from his father, at that)- and a good amount of cash that he took on his way out. It's not going to last him forever, but it is enough to live on for three more months or so… if he's Spartan about it.

He's been on the road for several days now, moving without any clear purpose but simply moving for the sake of moving. The dust of the road is heavy on his leather jacket and pants, his purple fur is now tinged with a dusting of brown. Seeing a Cheshire cat on the road is disconcerting for some, and there have been a few attempts at running him off the road for the more openly prejudiced and aggressive drivers- but those attempts turned out rather poorly for those involved.

He smirks to himself, thinking back. One should always try to find amusement on the road.

Far up ahead, the feline spots someone. A young woman with a little girl, it looks like. He frowns. Hitchhikers. The motorcycle starts slowing down and he pulls up along the side of the road, trailing a cloud of dust behind him as he turns to shout in the general direction of the woman.

"Where are you going?"

He removes his goggles, leaving a perfectly bright purple area untouched by dust. He doesn't expect to be taken up on the offer, considering his appearance. He's not a mutant, but he is accustomed to being perceived as one. Still, he'd feel guilty if he just buzzed along without making the offer.

The sound of a stopping vehicle draws Kitty and her companion's attention. The young woman stops her paces and turns to face the cat on a motorcycle. Her eyes squint, and she wonders if her brain is working right or the fatigue really is wearing on her.

The question merits thought, and Kitty's lips part only to be interrupted by her young companion, "Kitty!" Instinctively, Miss Pryde looks at her, only to recognize she is not the kitty of choice. With a small tug of her lips, she shrugs nearly apologetically as the kid outright stares at the cheshire cat.

"Westchester. We're trying to go to Westchester." She manages a flash of a smile, albeit weakly, and clears her throat. "Trying to get home." She swallows hard and gives the little girl's hand a squeeze.

The kid, in turn, counters, "It's not my home! And I thought you said you were from Illinoi — " the child stops as the young woman's gaze lingers on her a few beats. "Hi! I'm Macy," the kid changes tracks instead. "I like your fur."


"Westchester, hm." The cat looks thoughtful for a second, as if judging the distance. After a few seconds he shrugs, as if to say 'what the hell?' and climbs off his bike, walking towards the two.

"Hey there, Macy," Keith gives the girl a rather spectacular grin, since that is what Cheshires are supposed to do best, "And I rather like yours, too," he says, pointing to her curly hair. He removes the helmet and shakes his head, shaking out an almost leonine mane of bright red, the color matching that of his stripes on the purple. His hair isn't curly, but it's wild and wavy, terribly unruly in a way that would probably have made his father clutch his pearls. "Hitchhiking's pretty dangerous, y'know, there's lots of weird people on the road." The feline lets that sink for a second before adding, "Hey, Macy, have you and your friend had anything to eat recently?" He bends forward to address the girl directly. Her guardian looked pale and disheveled, but he wasn't certain if asking her directly would wound the young woman's pride. As a prideful creature himself, he has often held himself up on a scaffolding of appearances before finally confessing he needed to park the bike and eat before he crashed into a tree. Children, on the other hand, seldom care about pride.

Macy beams as she's addressed, and she, rather vainly twirls a strand of her ultra curly hair as if to demonstrate its bouncy nature to the cat on a motorcycle. "Thanks!" The notion of hitchhiking being dangerous prompts the kid to open her mouth again, "Not as dangerous as run — "

"Running in the road," Kitty talks over the kid. "Yeah, we talked about that Mace. There are worse things than catching a ride." Kitty manages a tight-lipped smile. Kitty's eyes widen momentarily and she squeezes the kid's hand.

But it's the child who answers most of the questions, "Well. Kitty gave me her granola bar earlier. And her water. And that was like three stops ago. So we could eat. We should eat. Kitty, can we eat?"

Lips gaping at the child's response, Kitty forces a polite smile, "Yeah. We could use some food." Her eyebrows draw together and her lips press into a thin line as she issues the cat a three fingered wave, "In case you didn't gather, I'm Kitty…" Expectantly, she watches the cat.


"What a coincidence," Keith quips, "So am I."

Behind the smile, there's a certain spark of suspicion. A young white woman keeping company with a young child of color on the road would have been frowned upon back home in Akron. Keith would have been lying if he had said that he had grown up in a perfectly tolerant household. Akron wasn't a bastion of tolerance, despite Opie Evans' efforts with the Akronite, and Keith had grown up privileged and, it had to be said, prejudiced.

That changed a good amount, however, with his transformation. Being permeated by the consciousness of a creature that came from a world where people could be of any color, or even, any -species- does a lot to change your perspective on things. He, for example, was no longer human in the technical sense of the word.

He is suspicious, though, based on things the girl says. Things that Kitty clearly is trying to keep her from saying. Confrontation, though, wasn't the best route. He had a plan, of sorts.

"There is a diner not too far from here. Please do let me treat you to something, I wouldn't want you to faint off my bike on the way to 'Chester."

He makes a gesture and walks towards his motorcycle, keeping his suspicions hidden behind the grin. "Hold on tight and watch the tail. I'm afraid I haven't found out a way to detach it, yet."

He climbs on and looks expectantly at the young woman and her charge, as he fastens his helmet back on.

"Thanks," comes Kitty's short reply, almost hesitant at the offer of the diner. Her eyes trail back to the road to Westchester and she almost wills her way home. But she dare not strike more suspicion than she already has.

Normally she could keep everything even, entirely above board, but at this moment, Kitty is cautious — at least as much as Macy allows. Her chin drops to eye the child in tow for several beats before emitting a weary sigh. Walking to Westchester isn't going to get them far, and feeding the kid does seem important, so she gives a small tick of her head, aiming to get Macy on the bike first.

She sits behind the kid, effectively creating a Macy sandwich to ensure

When they're all aboard, the cat starts up again on the road. He's slow, at first, so his passengers have a chance to get accustomed to the transportation.

"There's a greasy spoon up a few miles from here. It's relatively on the way," the cat says, talking over his shoulder, "got the best chili in this part of the country and some pretty da- darned good sandwiches." He adjusts his language to the company. "Though from the looks of you, we probably should get there fast. So, we're going to take a shortcut."

The cat picks up speed an leans forward a little, "I'm still a little new to this, but don't panic- I've got everything under control." What Keith could possibly be referring to becomes pretty apparent as, suddenly, a tunnel appears before them. It isn't your regular tunnel in that it doesn't seem to be attached to anything- the entrance just floats there, and there doesn't seem to be anything behind the entrance, were you to look at it from the sides- just empty air. Looking at it through the front, though is a different story altogether. A long, glowing passage that seems to be built out of the rainbow itself, with multicolored bands flowing and floating throughout its length. The cat plunges through the entrance, and the psychedelic surroundings truly immerse the passengers.

"Don't worry, everything you're seeing is perfectly normal." He pauses, and then adds, "Well. Normal in Wonderland, at least." He grins and picks up speed.

The truth of the matter is that the tunnel isn't really there at all. It's all an illusion, since his actual Rabbit Hole powers are much less showy. However, he is a show-off and he can't resist a bit of spectacle… and, he must admit, he figures that the little girl could use an encounter with the Fantastic to brighten up her journey.

The ride is over almost as soon as it started, with the other end of the tunnel approaching- the actual Rabbit Hole- showing an entirely different area. It's the off-ramp that leads to the parking lot belonging to a greasy spoon called "Matilda's." By easy estimates, it looks like they've moved at least fifteen miles.

The Rabbit Hole disappears behind them and Keith finds a spot to park, disembarking.

The Cheshire cat is now actually a young man with flaming red hair and freckles. "Here we go. I figured it would be best to keep a low profile. Don't want anyone to disturb our meal, right?" he grins.


"Hey!" Kitty takes exception to their appearances. "We've been travelling since Louisiana and haven't had a break yet." Although Macy did get to sleep in one of the trucks while nestled against her guardian. "I suspect you'd look worse for wear if you'd hitched all that way," she states flatly before shaking her head. "Sorry. Working on little sleep here."

The tunnel has the girl giggling, and Kitty's eyes widening: What has she gotten them into now?! Kitty leans closer to the child, and, consequently, Keith to keep Macy firmly on the bike. "This is great!" the girl cheers.

Kitty's nose wrinkles at the end of the tunnel, and she gapes as they basically jump ahead. She's seen some extraordinary things in her day, but current company defies most of that, stepping into a reality she's never quite come to grips with. Very slowly, she releases the kid, and allows the curly haired girl the space needed to get off the bike.

It's only then that Kitty's lips press together into a thin line and she nods. "Right. Low profile." Pause. "What — " no, the question is rude, and so she leaves it alone for now. With a deep inhalation of breath, she leads the way into the diner.

Heat blasts them the moment they walk in, radiating the restaurant in its entirety when they walk in. Evidently someone might have left the heater on overnight, and it's turned the greasy place into a frying pan of sorts. Immediately Macy sheds the jacket she's wearing, and leads the way to a table by the window.

Unlike her young companion, Kitty's jacket stays firmly affixed to her. When they're all settled, she asks Keith, "So. Where you heading? Would hate to keep you from wherever you're going — "


Keith catches the gist of Kitty's question, even when it was held back. "Oh, that was just the Rabbit Hole, Alice," the young man says with a smile just as charming as it had been when he was a cat.

He shrugs off his jacket as soon as he feels the inferno inside- and that's because the fair skin and freckles are just an illusion of the man he used to be. His fur and feline appearance may be imperceptible to all, but they're still there and just as hot as ever in conditions like these. Under his jacket he is only wearing a black tank-top, which looks rather stretched considering the gymnast build.

"Oh, I'm not going anywhere in particular. Nowadays I go where the wind takes me, since I got kicked out of home. How about the two of you, though?" He says, looking at the menu. He doesn't really need to look at it, he's been here before. "It sounds like you're on some sort of adventure out here."

He surreptitiously watches Macy out of the corner of his eye. She isn't acting like your typical kidnapped child- but that doesn't mean anything. Kitty could be someone Macy knows and therefore trusts. Or Macy could be one of those free-wheeling children who will go with anyone who seems friendly. Goodness knows that's how he was when he was a child.


Caution had beckoned Kitty to be somewhat aloof, but news of Keith getting kicked out of home earns him easier friendship, even if she doesn't know why it happened. "I'm sorry that you got kicked out. I have a lot of friends that happened to. It's unbelievable when families can't even try to understand each other." Her cheeks puff out with exasperation, and perspiration begins to form along Kitty's forehead. She unzips the jacket, exposing what looks like a hospital scrub shirt underneath.

She smiles wistfully at the thought of adventure. And despite herself, she offers softly, "It definitely started that way. For me, at least." She chews absently on her bottom lip, and leans back in her seat. "Now we're just trying to get home. That's all."

Macy tilts her head and then stares at the table, allowing it to be her focus for awhile. "We walked a lot. And rode a lot. That's like an adventure," she offers thoughtfully.


"I hear ya. And that happened before I even looked like Snagglepuss!" Keith smirks and orders himself an orange juice when the waitress comes over. He stays silent for a few seconds after that, green eyes flitting from Macy to Kitty and back.

"So… are you two coming from the same place?" he notices the scrubs and arches an eyebrow, "You're a nurse?"

When the waitress takes orders, the younger of the two ladies both opts for orange juice, while the grown, a coffee. "Welllllll," starts Macy, only to get a cautionary stare from her would-be guardian, prompting the kid to shut up, and retreat into a colouring page brought by said-waitress.

"We are," comes Kitty's response. "Louisana. We met there, and I'm helping Mace get back to her parents." It's a simplified version of the ordeal. "They were," her speech slows as she tries to articulate her thoughts, "separated from her." Her lips hitch up on one side, "And I know some people who might be able to help her find them." She stares at the kid a few moments before offering, "You should probably go wash your hands."

"Oh! Yeah, good idea!" the girl slides off the booth and retreats to the washroom.

"No. Not a nurse. Just, " Kitty's eyebrows draw together, "borrowed this from a friend."


"Right," Keith nods and waits until Macy goes off to the washroom. Then he takes his orange juice and sips it.

"You know," Keith says, now that the girl is out of hearing distance. "I've noticed you aren't really letting Macy speak."

He toys with his orange juice, sliding it from one hand to the other across the table. "Now, I can think of two reasons why. Now, I'd like to think I'm helping little Macy by helping you…" he looks at Kitty, his eyes looking suddenly very feline as they stay on her, almost unblinking. "But I'd really like to know I'm doing the right thing. There's a lot of ugly people out there, I'd hate to think you were one of them."

He raises a hand, "Not threatening or anything. But you've got to concede I've got a point here. Kids go missing. I'd hate for it to be Macy."

Feline eyes meet strong resolve. And in staring, some measure of truth seems to crack. Usually hazel eyes take on a green hue as moisture catches in the bottom of Kitty's eyelids. She fights the unbidden tears that threaten to fall, blinking hard and then pressing her palms over her face.

And for several beats, the woman remains in that state, hands pressed to eyelids. She sucks in a long cool breath, an attempt to steel herself all over again; an effort she's made for what seems to be days on end.

When she finally speaks, her voice is a whisper: "She already went missing." Pause. "She doesn't know." Because Kitty hasn't told her. Her hands drop back to the table having successfully fought the demons threatening to escape. "I need to get her home. I can't — " she sniffs hard. "They took her. And I think," she sucks on the inside of her cheek, "her parents."


Keith leans forward, whispering urgently "Who took her? Who are 'they'?"

The cat has a sense of foreboding. Something that tells him he's gotten mixed into something bad. But he can't turn back.

Well, he could, nobody is tying him down. And for a moment there's the temptation there- leave this behind and go back on the road, don't get mixed up in other people's crap. It's not worth it.

He looks in the direction of the washroom, keeping watch for Macy as he gives Kitty a chance to answer. He tells himself he doesn't feel his legs wanting to push him into a standing position so he could walk away. He digs his claws into the booth.

The question causes Kitty's shoulders to slump. It's something she's been thinking about a lot. The blisters on her feet are just a testament to how little she really understands about what happened, and she's replayed days of thoughts and scenarios over and over in her mind. "I don't know," she admits. "Honestly." Her lips press together, and she notes, "But I'm going to find out."

And then with equal resolve she adds, "And I'm going to get her parents back. And everyone else there." She pinches the bridge of her nose. "I shouldn't have left them. I should've found a way back in. I tried. I tried so hard. I'm just — " she sighs and shakes her head, allowing it to hang as the thoughts roll over her mind once more.


"You're just one person," Keith says, "And sometimes one person ain't enough."

He takes a deep breath, slowly, to keep the anxiety down and conquer the desire to bolt. Slowly, it begins to subside. "Sometimes two heads are better'n one. Screw going by bike, this sounds serious enough that we should just probably Rabbit Hole over to Westchester after this. So… where exactly are we going? These people who can help you?"

He keeps his ears out for Macy's return. And he briefly wonders how long she might take?

Suspicion again. He casts a quick glance around the diner, scanning for any suspicious or unfamiliar faces. Keith's been a regular here through his travels, the establishment feels familiar and the staff are starting to know him.

Wait. Don't be silly, he thinks to himself. They couldn't have followed them, he Rabbit Holed here. Unless they could also do something like that, it was very unlikely…

Kitty swallows hard. "It just didn't work. I don't know why. But it didn't work." A glance is given towards the washroom, and Kitty slides the jacket from her shoulders momentarily, displaying bruising all down her arms that she is quick to cover up once again. "I don't know what they did to me," her eyes blink hard. "But it borked something. I couldn't get through. I always get through."

It's then that the girl is seen returning, as innocent as when she left, causing her would-be guardian to switch gears again. "Hey kiddo," she manages with some measure of warmth. "We might skip lunch and head to Westchester. I'm sure home will have something for you — " she casts Keith a grateful look " — the fridge was always stocked when I went there." Her tongue rolls over her lips, "It's a school. I graduated from it, and it's kind of my real home." She exhales slowly. "It's safe for people like Macy."


"Really, now?" The cat's ears perk at this extra bit of information. "It sounds like I might take a look at it as well, who knows?" He gives Macy a grin and says, "Stay here. I'll get them to make you a PB&J sandwich for the go. We'll be there in…" he estimates, "just a few minutes. The place where I visited might be a little further away from where you need to go, but that's not an issue. We've got a bike, after all."

The cat gives Kitty a determined look and smiles a little, "I hope you don't mind if I decide to stick through the end of this adventure?" He is intrigued by the mention of this school. The veiled language makes him suspect something, so he ventures "Is it also safe for me?" That should clarify things. In the meantime, he orders a B&J wrapped in a napkin, and a juice box for Macy. Kids tend to have less resistance than grown-ups, it would be good for her to have something to nibble on until they got to the place Kitty was looking for.

"Wahooooo! PB&J!" evidently Macy isn't any worse for wear at getting a sandwich to go, and unquestionably, Vorpal earns one fan for life. It doesn't take much to satisfy young appetites.

But as far as the woman is concerned, there's measured discomfort at the thought of bringing someone to the school. It's sacred to Kitty in a way she can't quite explain or bring herself to define, and so she notes, "I was advanced as a child. School never challenged me, and I managed to get into a different one that enabled me to be my best." In every way. The question about the school earns a measured look, "I don't make it a habit of bringing people home. But I will keep you in the loop. And I'll talk to the headmaster," even a little respite seems to have perked her ability to think on her feet, "about you. He's got an eye for people that most lack."

There's honesty when she notes, even with Macy present, "I need help." She couldn't do it on her own once, it's unlikely she'll be able to again. "So regardless of whatever he says, if you'll come back," a glance is given towards Macy, "to find her parents," because Macy continues in ignorance, "then I'll take it."

"That sounds fair, I can understand the caution." Keith grins amicably. "I can take us to Tarrytown and then you can give me directions to drive from there." He stands up throwing a bundle of bills on the table. They're tightly packed, so it's hard to see what they are, but they are the fee for the meager food, and a very generous tip.

"I'll stay a week at the Tarrytown House. You check with your friends and see if it's ok for me to come over and leave me a message at the front desk. Leave it under…" he scratches his chin as he leads them to the exit, "Malcolm O'Neil. Yes."

It's unlikely Kitty would recognize the name, but if she did, she'd know it as a businessman of some import, owner of the O'Neil's department stores- a chain that had just started to expand. Keith had a plan… he would come in and impersonate his father and set aside a room for himself for the week in that posh hotel. Then he would feign an emergency exit when Kitty leaves a message for him and ask for the bill to be sent to his Akron estate…

Yes, the teen thought, that would teach his old man to kick him out. And it would be hard to argue with a full staff who would swear to have seen Malcolm O'Neil in the flesh.

This makes his grin go even wider. "Alright, all aboard the Wonderland Express!" he calls out, approaching the motorcycle.

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