1963-09-05 - Cracking Up
Summary: David and Kitty discuss next steps.
Related: Escape From Coney Island I and II
Theme Song: None
maverick kitty 


Westchester County is not really the type of town that, left to his own devices, David would have ever chosen to visit. But it might be the best possible place to have wound up following his captivity. Just civilized enough. Just noisy enough.

There is a small cafe next to the hotel David has temporarily moved into here in Westchester. He's seated at one of the small tables outside with his hands wrapped around a mug of tea, sitting quietly and just feeling the breeze and sunlight on his face.

He doesn't entirely look like himself yet — his face is still a bit too thin and hidden beneath a now-properly-groomed beard, but he has at least one of his suits back. That helps a lot. In more ways than one.

*

"David," warmth echoes in Kitty's tone as she slides into a seat opposite David at the cafe. She looks far more put together than last he'd seen her — with her jeans, sweater, and curl hair tied up in a bun atop her head.

Her hands clasp lightly on the table and she assesses David silently before observing, "I'm glad to see you again." Because the pair didn't really get to talk the day before. "Mister Cage — er — Luke found me and we searched for you. You have friends out here." She frowns, "I am sorry though. Truly sorry. I got too many people wrapped up in all of this."

*

Before he even opens his eyes to look, David develops an odd smile. It's so nice to hear his name said like it's a name again. "Katherine. Good afternoon," he says warmly, opening his eyes and offering her a smile.

The apology is met with a dismissive noise and he leans across the table, reaching for a hand, if she'll allow it. "You didn't get me wrapped up in this. I did that all on my own. You have nothing to apologize to me for," David insists, raising his eyebrows for emphasis. "Alright?"

*

"Except… I kind of did," Kitty counters lowly. David earns a flicker of a smile in turn, "And it's Kitty, remember?" She smirks and leans back in her seat, letting herself get a little more comfortable. "So…" she offers quietly, "I heard you might be going on a roadtrip."

*

"I was looking into it before I met you," David counters right back, the arch of his eyebrows becoming slightly more pointed. "I ran into Twen—" He stops, closes his eyes, draws in a breath. Then, upon consideration, rethinks the correction. No. Inappropriate. "…Twenty-three before I met you," he finishes. "And I would have delivered myself to them without you. It is not your fault," David says, trying to meet her eyes. "Say it back to me."

David did not miss the mention of the roadtrip. But it will, in his mind, wait for a moment.

*

Kitty stares at a spot on the table as David corrects her, arms drawing over her chest defiantly as her jaw tightens further if at all possible. But the tightness dissipates with each of his words, and her arms eventually fall to her sides. "You delivered yourself to them," she repeats. But not the part about it not being her fault. Because she's still not convinced.

*

"Kitty. Say it back to me," David repeats in an even voice, still trying to catch Kitty's eyes. "Then I will tell you anything you want to know. I won't leave anything out," he promises.

*

Kitty swallows hard, and her shoulders stiffen considerably. It's challenging to catch her gaze, but not impossible as she slowly coaxes herself to stop staring at the table in front of her. Apology still reflects in her eyes, but, rather robotically, she says, "You getting caught is not my fault." She won't believe that.

*

"None of it is your fault," David clarifies, lightly tapping the table in front of her. "You are not responsible for any of this. None of it. That's all on Stryker's shoulders."

Still, even having her repeat that much back to him brings some relief to David's face. He offers a small smile whether she repeats it again or not, and settles back into his chair, returning his hands to their place around his cup of tea. "…well. Questions."

*

"I'm responsible for dragging people into it — people who weren't prepared or remotely ready to deal with the things they encountered," Kitty returns softly. "I threw my boyfriend out of a second floor window." Her lips draw downward. "I saw it happening and could do nothing to stop it. I didn't know. I should've known."

She sighs and presses her hand to her forehead. "So. Road trip. Why?"

*

David doesn't even ask for clarification. "That wasn't you," he replies simply, watching her with a small, worried frown. "Your body, perhaps, but not you. I'm sorry. Is he alright?" he asks carefully, brow furrowing.

But, he did promise. David has a quick sip of his tea before he nods once. "I'd like to find the rest of their facilities and tear them apart with my bare hands," he explains in a quiet, casual tone. "And the sisters… I promised. I promised I'd help them find Stryker. Deal with him." The corner of his mouth gives a slightly odd, anxious twitch, but he manages to keep his eyes on her even as a ghost of fear manifests on his face. "I can't disappoint them. Not again."

*

Thinking about Piotr's tumble out the window causes her shoulders to sink further. "He's… fine." She frowns. "I'm not." But that is neither here nor there. "I'm going to be." Eventually.

"I'd like to know they can't do anything to hurt anyone else. But I"m not sure…" she frowns. "I don't know. What they put in y mind, what I was prepared to do — I was a prisoner in my own mind. Screaming to get out."

Her lips purse at the last and her head tilts, "Disappoint them again?"
"

*

"I'm glad he's alright. You will be, too," David agrees in a quiet, confident voice, nodding his head. "Let me know if I can do anything to help. Even if it's just listening."

Now David's eyes drop to his tea and he gives another nod, this one much smaller. "I had the opportunity to kill him," he says quietly, some of the color draining from his face. "But I didn't. I was so worried that if I aimed where I should have — " Base of the skull, spinal column. " — that I might miss entirely. So I took the safe shot."

His mouth gives another little twitch and he quickly brings his cup up for a long drink. Surely, the tea will help calm David's nerves. "They couldn't be caught disobeying orders."

*

"I'm thinking of seeing a shrink," Kitty admits quietly. "But to be honest, their entire occupation is kind of bunk." She shrugs. "Don't tell anyone I said that. I like that people want to work on themselves, but — " Her lips purse lightly.

"Does he deserve to die?" Kitty asks quietly. "One man doesn't make that whole operation work. One man doesn't make them all like that. There's a bigger problem; one that we need to change through actual legitimate channels. People need to be tried in real courts by real people to hear what happened. So people know. Because when horrific things happen to a group people, we need people to know."

*

Does Commander Stryker deserve to die. Gosh, that's a difficult ques"Yes." Okay, maybe not so difficult. David works his jaw and lifts his eyes back to Kitty overtop his tea cup. "That is not to say that I disagree with you, in theory. I would love very little more than to see him and everyone working for him tried and imprisoned for what they're doing to people," David says slowly, and again, his eyes drop to the table.

He's silent for a long moment, considering his company. "I was born in Berlin," David says very quietly. "I learned of my gifts the year the Nuremberg Laws were passed. I… do not have a great deal of faith in government."

*

"I'm Jewish," Kitty replies flatly. She takes a deep breath and focuses up, "My aunt died in one of those camps in Poland," she frowns. "But it doesn't mean I don't think Hitler should've been made to hear every single damned thing he did to all those people recited in a public court for the world to know what kind of hell he enacted on those people — on my people — on people I'm connect with, people that I will always care about — no, Hitler deserves far worse, but we need to know, we need to understand what happened so it damned well won't happen again — "

Her chin drops. "No. You killing him takes that away from everyone else. You and the wonder quintuplets aren't the only ones he's hurt."

*

David holds up a placating hand without lifting his eyes from the table. "You do not have to explain it to me or convince me," he says gently. "As I said, I do not disagree with you." In theory.

He sets his empty cup aside and rests his elbows on the table, lacing his fingers together and resting them just beneath his nose so that he can watch her over them. Quietly. Waiting.

*

As David agrees with her in theory, Kitty becomes unsure as to what any of that means, and so she just stares at the table again, taking silence instead of uttering further thoughts on the subject.

*

After allowing the silence to hang for a few minutes, David finally speaks. "You're a good person, Katherine. I'm not. I haven't been in a very long time," he says quietly. In a slightly stilted tone, he adds, "I destroy everything I touch. Even that which I create. It's what I was born to do."

*

The tone and words draw Kitty out of her silence as her expression turns pained, "That's not true. All people are born to create. To dance. To sing. To live. You can have peace. But you have to choose to have it. Like Captain Ahab and his whale. Determination and vengeance can shatter you, or you can choose life. To create."

*

"I tried that once. Didn't work out," David says stiffly, turning his gaze away with a guilty twist of his lips. Maybe his hands and beard will hide it. They won't do much for the hard blink. "No, it's — it's what I'm good at, it's my nature."

*

"It's no one's nature," Kitty shakes her head. "Not even Laura's. People are trained, honed one way or another, but that is not the start of who they are. I've seen you David, you're not some thug. You may be very good at breaking things, but that's only because they shaped you into that. You are more than who they made." Her lips twist to the side, "You care. You'll deny it, but Laura, the blondes.. me… we got to you. IN different ways."

*

Slowly, David leans back in his chair and lets his hands drop from his face to rest on the table. "The Project did not shape me into this," he says in a resigned voice. "I am a self-made man. All they did was make me better at what I had already demonstrated a talent for." He glances at her and cracks a ghost of a smile. "That doesn't mean I don't care about you girls. I do, a great deal. I want to help keep you all safe."

*

Kitty will not be deterred. People's natures are good. She has to see them as good. "I still don't buy it. They pushed you. They pushed Laura. They pushed the quintuplets." Her voice turns to a croak, "They pushed me." Her eyes clamp shut. "They push people to break things. They push people to hurt people and they put them in a pressure cooker."

*

"Laura and the sisters were… 'raised' does not seem like the correct word," David murmurs thoughtfully, loosely folding his arms across his chest. "But they have never known anything else. And you were not pushed — you were forced," he says gently. "You never agreed with what they had you do. You were not a willing participant."

*

"A willing participant who left," Kitty assumes, anyways, based on the fact he didn't know what was going on when they'd last talked. "A willing participant who was tortured for what — no reason(???) — in the facility." She squints at him skeptically. "No, you don't break things. They break you."

*

David watches her for a long moment, chewing on his lip as he considers whether or not this is a conversation he actually wants to have. Especially here, on such a nice afternoon. He doesn't actually need her to understand. Does he?

"…fine. You win," David sighs, holding up his hands. Maybe another time.

*

Kitty squints at David but she leaves it at that. Fine. She wins. But what does that even mean? She clears her throat. "So. Your trip. When are you leaving?"

*

David tries not to look too relieved by the shift in topics. It's… actually not difficult, considering where hid mind goes. "I don't know. It's up to the sisters," he says, his lips giving another anxious twitch. "I haven't… I haven't started looking yet." They won't be happy to hear that.

*

"I think you should rest first," Kitty says rather pointedly. "Not that I expect you to take my advice. Clear heads seem important here. Clear heads seem — " she sighs quietly " — important when looking for people like these. Not that I know." She shoots him a small hilarious smile, "I know nothing about any of this. Nothing. Besides where I woke up and … how life has gotten weird ever since." Pause. "And that's saying something. I can walk through walls."

*

"No, no, you're right. I just don't know how long they'll let me rest," David explains, offering what he hopes is a reassuring smile. "They're… they did not enjoy their separation. Which was also not your fault," he's quick to add, holding up a finger. "Don't let them convince you otherwise."

*

The mention of the sister's separation prompts Kitty to roll her eyes. "Oh, there is NO shortage of blame for me there. And, to be honest, that was kind of my fault. I didn't keep up to the van. I should've got them all." Absently, her fingers trail her neck. "I made a misstep. The facility people took off with the girls that were still there with you."

*

David's brow furrows slightly in confusion. "…you know, I'm still not entirely sure where we were?" There's a near-laugh in his voice as he makes the admission. "I wasn't in a position to see where we were going when they took me there, and then we left through… well. All I know is it was underwater."

*

"Coney Island," Kitty issues helpfully. "My boyfriend and I investigated it some weeks ago after reviewing the files from the Louisiana. That's when we accidentally split the sisters. I'm not fast enough, I'm afraid." She frowns. "Just need to run more, I guess. Train more."

Her throat clears, "It was under the ferris wheel. You could enter the steps down through the maintenance room. That's how Laura and I got there."

*

"Coney..?" David blinks once… then laughs. He was imprisoned and tortured for weeks under a goddamned amusement park. Right under god only knows how many peoples' noses. He brings both hands up to rub at his face, shoulders still quaking from the fit of giggles he's falling victim to.

*

David's laughter is met with pure silence as Kitty stares at him. Her face resembles a codfish as his shoulders begin to bob with his amusement. And after a few beats of laughter from the man, she snorts. A peel of giggles spills through the brunette's lips as she lifts splayed fingers over her lips to seal them in. Her eyes clamp shut around the laughter. "Coney Park, where screams are mistaken for delight — "

*

Oh, no — having Kitty burst into giggles of her own does nothing to help David stop laughing. He leans forward to thump his forehead against the table, hands still covering his face as the laughing fit borders on genuine hysterics. Try to breathe, David. Breeeeeathe.

It takes a while before his laughter begins to calm. When David lifts his head — only slightly — he draws his hands away, tears stinging at his eyes as he gulps down a few lungsful worth of air between giggles. "…I'm going to kill him," he sputters, voice a bit high. "It's — I'm — he's practically operating in the open."

*

If David was concerned about Kitty's own laughter, that should wash away when her hands press to her face and crocodile tears stream down her face. It's hard to see exactly when the shift happens, but it does. Weeks of strength and decisiveness disappear under the release. Her shoulders shiver as she tries to bottle it again, but it won't be pushed down. It's unclear whether she even hears David's last comment amid the loud uninhibited sobs echo through the cafe.

She bends forward in her chair, collapsing to her knees as she does.

*

Laura may have had a completely valid point when she told David that she felt hunting Stryker down was not productive, but David no longer cares. There is a certain unhinged edge to his expression when he lifts his head enough to look across the table towards Kitty — and then his smile, still massive from the bouts of laughter, gives a little twitch as it fades.

Seeing her breaking down appears to have effectively re-grounded him.

Swallowing hard, David knocks his own chair over backwards in his haste to stand and move around the table, immediately dropping down onto his knees next to her. "Come here," he says hoarsely, reaching over to try laying a very light hand against her shoulder. "Let it out."

*

There's no question that the sobbing young woman in the middle of the cafe elicits a barrage of stares and whispers. Yet Kitty has no strength in her to stop. Her hands sweep across her face, pushing the moisture off her face. She gasps for breath as her sinuses tense beneath the release. She hiccups in a desperate bid for air. And when she can't breathe, she can feel her body flicker. Her body feels itself come undone. But the hand that reaches out grounds her, and David can actually feel her become corporeal underneath it.

*

David's not really concerned by the stares they're getting. He straightens up long enough to grab a few napkins off of his table before he offers them to Kitty, letting his other hand rest a touch more firmly against her back. He gives a very, very light pull towards himself, but doesn't force the issue at all. Either way, he stays quiet.

*

Kitty is incredibly pliable. She leans into David, and continues her long fit of sobs and emotions. "It's…" hiccup "..not.." hiccup "…okay…" She gasps for breath again. "…nothing…." hiccup "…is…" hiccup "..okay.." Her shoulders heave with each punctuated word. She tries to press down the emotions again. She fails.

*

As soon as she leans into him, David just wraps both of his arms around Kitty and rests one hand gently against the back of her head, gently drawing her into his shoulder. "No, it's not," he agrees quietly, seemingly prepared to simply hold her for as long as it takes. "It's not okay."

*

The stability David provides is enough for each of Kitty's sobs to spill out amid nearly nonsensical, slow rambling for anyone who is in earshot. "..I.." hiccup "…hate.." hiccup "…that.." hiccup "…damned.." hiccup "..song…" She wheezes effortfully to breathe. She can feel her body hyperventilating and so just lets herself cry as she leans harder into David, virtually collapsing against him.

*

Careful to avoid jostling her, David just shifts to sit down on the floor and just cradles Kitty against his shoulder. He really doesn't care about the audience they have. "Just breathe," he says quietly, tilting his head to rest his cheek against her hair. Trying to be a grounding presence. "Slow breaths, Katherine. I have you."

*

The encouragement to breath and the cradling of her body have Kitty calming somewhat. She breathes in to the count of five. She breathes out to the count of five. Her eyes lid and she just keeps breathing. When her hands finally fall from her face, her face is puffy, red, and splotchy. She clears her throat and tries to shake her head to calm herself. Her eyes are still red, her body still against David, and her breath rakes in her throat — raw and detached. "Everything is on fire. I.. I let that happen." She rubs her face again, flaking off salt crystals from her face.

*

"What fire?" David asks gently without lifting his head, his brow furrowing. Without looking, he wordlessly shifts his arm enough to offer her the handful of napkins. Not that he's upset about his suit getting cried all over, but he imagines she might want to clean her face.

*

The napkins are gratefully taken and used to scrub at her still puffy, uncomfortable face. "I… the world. This mess. I.. should've gone to the paper. I should've… Jean is a mess. Jean is a mess." Kitty's cheeks puff out with exasperation.

*

That gets David to lift his head. He blinks once and looks down at Kitty, mouth twisting into a worried frown. "Jean. The redhead?" he asks, not entirely sure why he's surprised. Of course the two know each other. Kitty knows Akihiro, too, so why wouldn't she know Jean? Beneath his beard, David's jaw tenses. "What did he do to her?"

*

Kitty's head shakes. "I don't know." Her lips purse and she can feel the emotions bubbling all over again, but she pushes them down. "She's not okay. I don't know… I don't know… I could've done something. I should've done something…"

*

"No, no, sweetheart, you didn't know where we were," David says quickly, his expression pained. He has to fix this. He has to. "You found us as soon as you could. I know you did. You got her out," he says firmly. "She has a chance now because you got her out. Okay?"

*

Kitty shakes her head. "I should've done more. Figured it out faster. Worked more with the sisters. Trusted them… I should've…" she frowns. "Poor Akihiro. Poor Jean. Poor you. And all those people hooked to IVs. I should've told someone. And… I did this. I could've… I could've…" Her eyes clamp shut.

*

"You told me," David reminds her in a firm voice, his hand abandoning her hair to rest against her cheek instead. "You worked with Luke. You did more than it was reasonable to expect from anyone. And you helped us all get out." He tries to get her to look at him, raising his eyebrows. "Katherine. Kitty. Say it back to me."

*

"We were right there! We were right there! They were trying to get me to drown — " her eyes narrow. "Or to return…" she puts something together. "We were there. David, I was right there." She rubs her temples. The instructions have her frowning. "I.. tried. I got people sucked in… I tried…"

*

"You didn't know," David repeats firmly, using the hand at her cheek to try and get Kitty to meet his eyes. "God only knows how long that place was underneath the ferris wheel. Nobody knew. It is not. Your. Fault."

*

There's a vague nod at the words. But Kitty remains unconvinced. Completely unconvinced. She sighs softly. "His death won't bring us peace. Neither of us. It's not enough."

*

"Maybe not peace, but it would be a damned satisfying start," David mutters darkly. His thumb gives her cheek a very brief, light stroke before he withdraws his hand and sits back, drawing in a deep, steadying breath of his own.

*

Kitty stares at the ground in front of her. Her own breath burns her lungs. "They hurt my friends," she whispers softly. "They hurt my family." Her jaw clenches, and her hand presses against her chest, "I won't kill them, but they can't be allowed to ever do it again." She straightens finally, realizing the very childlike position she's assumed. "I… won't let them."

*

"Good. Just don't expect to be perfect," David cautions her, releasing her to sit up straight once she starts collecting herself. "Do the best that you can. That's all anyone can expect. Even you." He pauses a moment. "…and do consider calling that therapist. Even if it's bunk, it can help to hear yourself talk. Good for organizing your thoughts."

*

"It is bunk," Kitty insists nasally. She sniffles. She slowly tugs at the bottom of her shirt and unfolds herself from her odd position. "We'll see. He was friendly enough. I called him the Scarecrow." She almost smiles. "He didn't even think it was an insult. He gets a bonus for that." Implying someone doesn't have a brain doesn't always win friends.

*

Once she's unfolded, David shifts to rise back to his feet and smooths out his suit. Are people still staring? Guess how much he cares. He offers both of his hands to Kitty so that she can regain her own feet, asiding an almost absent "Two glasses of water, please," to a passing waitress before refocusing on the conversation. "Well, then it can hardly hurt to go once, can it?"

*

Help to her feet gives Kitty stability and another almost smile as she slides back into her chair. The eyes staring at her are given no regard. Later she'll imagine narratives the people watches had ascribed to this conversation; one about either of them dying, one about the world ending, another that involved a dramatic chat about who would get to order the last croissant. But for now? She pays them no regard as she pushes the feelings back down. "I guess," she offers lowly with an exasperated sigh. "You know…" her lips purse. "…I still have all the files from the first facility we raided. Including maps. I mean, I suspect the sisters can give you that, but maybe — " she shrugs. "But…" her eyebrows draw together, "you have to promise me you won't get caught again. You have friends, David. Whether or not you think you do."

*

David rights his chair and sets it down next to Kitty's now, rather than across from her, before he settles back down to sit. There. All better. "I won't make promises I can't keep," he tells her with a small smile, clasping his hands and resting them on the table in front of himself. "But I can promise that I won't be having myself taken deliberately a second time. I wouldn't have the first time if I'd any idea who they were." The only thing that betrays his opinion on that score is a very slight twitch of his right eyelid. "I will speak with the sisters, of course, but if you are willing to have me look over the files, I'll give you everything I can."

*

"I am okay sharing," Kitty offers quietly. "I want them dismantled, torn apart, but — " the vendetta David seems to have isn't hers. That's clear. She sucks in a long breath. "The sisters were very unimpressed. I got attitude even while we were escaping from the facility. Seriously."

*

David can't help but laugh, but this time, it's not in danger of raging out of control. It's a more tired laugh, anyway. "That does sound like them. Twen—" He squeezes his eyes shut and this time, he does correct himself: "Laura. Laura is very fond of them."

*

"She is," Kitty agrees. "I think she may end up going with you if they ask her." She rubs her temples again, "Laura took me to the facility to talk to the sisters to see if they'd come with me to reunite with the others. Her fondness of them is pretty obvious."

*

"They respect her a great deal," David murmurs, leaning back in his seat slightly to make room when the glasses of water are delivered. He immediately wraps both hands around his glass with a very odd, small smile. Water whenever he wants it. "If she tried to talk them out of it… I don't know. They might listen. I want them to listen." He swallows a nervous lump in his throat. "But if they don't… I can't tell them no. I can't."

*

"If she does talk them out of it," Kitty states, "I still want to take down the rest of the facilities. It needs to happen. Albeit, smartly." She clasps the glass of water that the waitress leaves on the table. "I still think the vendetta isn't the smartest move. There's more effective ways to do the work."

*

"He needs to be handled — arrested, at the very least," David says tiredly, dropping his eyes to his own drink. "If he's out there, any facilities we dismantle will just be replaced. Sanctioned or otherwise, he clearly has no shortage of financial backing for what he's doing."

*

"Right, but it's not one person. It's an attitude about us. What who and what we are. And as long as people don't think we're people — as long as they don't think we're human — these things will keep happening." Kitty emits a sigh. She scrubs her face.

*

Whatever David is thinking, he just smiles at her and reaches over to lightly squeeze her shoulder. "Things are not okay right now… but they will get easier. You'll see. I'll come see you tomorrow and we can look over those files. Maybe we'll find a good place to start." Or places. Hitting Stryker on more than a single front might not be a bad idea.

*

The hand on her shoulder continues to keep Kitty grounded. And David's suggestion earns a nod in turn. "Of course. I'm keen to keep moving on them." She finally takes a long drink from her water glass. "David," there's a long pause, and Kitty's voice cracks as she asks: "will things ever be fine again? Easier isn't fine."

*

David leaves his hand there and purses his lips at the question, fighting the impulse to avert his eyes. "…it will come and go," he says tightly. "You'll have very good days. And you'll have some very bad days." He lifts his other hand to waggle it side to side. "The good-to-bad ratio is what changes as time goes on. The more distance you have, the more it tips in favor of the good days."

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