What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 27bypsyche_b_mused©
Here we are again, another chapter. A bit longer than some of the others. I hope you enjoy and as always, let me know what you think! :)
27. The Commitments
Creed watched the frail. She was just sitting there, staring at a spot on the floor in front of her. She wasn't gone, not like she was just before they left Chicago, but seeing her that way still made him fucking jumpy.
It wasn't like he'd never delivered bad news before. Usually he didn't give a shit how the person took it. He'd thought about softening it, but he didn't have the words to do that. He figured she would have suspected something worse if he'd tried.
Finally, he couldn't stand the silence any longer. "Say something." It came out sharper than he intended.
A little shrug with one shoulder, her eyes were still on the floor. "I don't know what to say. My mother never was terribly stable. Cody's hurt; she thinks I'm dead..." She took a deep breath. "I suppose it was all too much." Her voice was flat, cold.
"I'm going to take a bath." She was up and gone out of the small room before he had a chance to finish.
He didn't know what the fuck he was going to say anyway. 'The bitch never did shit to protect you when you needed it.' 'I'd say good riddance, but she fucked it up.' 'It ain't worth ruining your day over.' She probably wouldn't think of any of that as comforting, but he wasn't the comforting type.
He heard the water running. That only added to itch of nervousness. She sat in the tub when he was with her, and when she was upset. Not just the ordinary kind of upset either. The kind that made his teeth hurt just to think about it. The kind that he couldn't do a fucking thing about.
Creed stared at the narrow hall and wondered what the fuck he was doing there in the first place. He couldn't fix it, he couldn't comfort her. Hell it was probably his goddamn fault to begin with. He glanced at the phone. It would only take one call. He could tell the old man that he was leaving, but she was staying behind. He'd be out the door before she even got out of the bathroom. Give her chance at something normal. That's what everybody wanted, right? Everybody except her.
Creed shook his head. He'd spent so damn much time with Jimmy in the past few weeks; he was starting to think like him. Another idea was starting to take shape, but if he was going to move forward with it, he needed some information. He grabbed his phone and dialed Conlon.
"Well?" He didn't bother with small talk.
Conlon didn't bother with small talk either. "She's still in the hospital, but she's going to be transferred to a private facility later this afternoon. From what I've been told, she's paranoid and hearing voices."
"Fucking great." He took a deep breath. "What about your other project?"
"All are located. Weird thing though, half of them have had fatal accidents."
Creed's eyebrows twitched in surprise, but he didn't let any of that creep into his voice. "Clumsy fuckers. Suppose they've been replaced already too."
"Frankly I don't think Cavallo could get anybody to sit next to him at the movies at the moment, let alone hire anyone in that particular capacity."
That had Creed's attention. "Why's that?"
"Among other things, he watched you smash his favorite interrogator's head like a ripe melon on live video feed. That was enough to scare him shitless. I don't know if anybody was with him or not, but word got out." There was a little smirk in Conlon's voice. "Nobody with half a brain wants to cross you when you're in a good mood, let alone when you're back from the dead and beyond pissed off."
"Can't fault that logic. He looking for Stan?"
"Most of his goons are in hiding. The ones who aren't couldn't find their own asses with both hands and a map. Besides, Stan's keeping himself in the public eye. All the anti-mutant crap he's stirring and the 'attacks' on his family has the CoH convinced he needs round the clock security. They're halfway decent too, pro could get to him though."
"Least we know where he is. Cavallo's in hiding I suppose?"
"Oh yeah, but as far as I can tell he's only got one hiding place. Shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of as long as he stays put."
Creed gave a self-satisfied smirk. At the end of the day, they were all fucking cowards. Nice to know the world hadn't changed much.
Kelly sat in the narrow tub, her knees drawn up. Her eyes were fixed on the cracked tile just above the faucet, her body rocked slowly. The water had gone tepid around her, but she barely noticed. She knew she should have felt something. Should have been angry or sad or something other than the flat resigned feeling that crowded in and filled the space in her head and her heart.
It should have been more.
This was her mother. The woman who'd done her best to fix all the little hurts of childhood, who'd read her books and kissed her goodnight and comforted her when she had a nightmare or when a storm woke her. All those things that are irreplaceable in the heart, all those experiences that can only sneak in narrow windows or be shut out forever.
She should have felt something for that. She would have, if that had been the whole story.
The withdrawal hadn't happened overnight. Logically, Kelly knew that if part of her mother hadn't been broken to begin with, that it wouldn't have happened at all. Logic didn't enter into affairs of the heart or the needs of a child. Each time her mother couldn't cope, each time she left Kelly to be the adult for Cody before she knew how to be an adult for herself, something changed. The bruises on her heart deepened, the trust that had been there began to erode.
It was nothing less than a series of abandonments, each following the other in a parade that Kelly had done her best to ignore. Had to ignore, for her own sanity and for Cody. That didn't mean it hadn't hurt, she'd just gotten good at ignoring the pain.
Now it was all there again, all at the surface, all clamoring for attention, refusing to be pushed aside or buried any longer.
Kelly's rocking slowed and a tear trickled down her cheek. She took a deep, wrenching breath and stopped holding it back.
Creed heard the deep sob. Even from that distance, through the fucking walls, he could hear the agony that laced that sound. He dialed again. "Jimmy, I need your bike."
"I won't fucking ask the next time."
Jimmy sighed. "Why do you want it?"
Creed rolled his eyes. "C'mon Jimmy-"
"You expect me to say yes when you won't even answer the goddamn question?"
A low growl. "What? You think I'm gonna take her on a job and be back before dinner?"
"Never know with you."
Creed heard another painful sob. He took a deep breath. "The frail's bitch of a mother tried to off herself last night."
"Shit is right."
"And you wanna get away from her." There was a sneer in his voice.
"You fucking idiot. That's what you would do. I want to get her out of here for a little while, shake her up a little. Pull her mind out of the shithole those fucking bastards keep shoving it into." He took a deep breath. "Well?" He glanced toward the hallway and focused on the small sounds leaking out. He could still hear sobbing, but the sobs were weaker, more normal sounding.
Jimmy gave a deep sigh. "When?"
"Dunno, 'round noon probably. Give her time to get herself together."
Jimmy sighed. "I'll bring the keys by in an hour or so. If you make me regret this-"
"Yeah, yeah. You'll kill me." Creed rolled his eyes. "Honest to fucking God Jimmy, take ten minutes and think up a new threat." He ended the call and listened to the sounds filtering through from the bathroom.
Even to his hypersensitive ears there was nothing but silence. He moved closer. Still there was silence. He stood in front of the door. From what he could hear, she wasn't even moving in the tub. She wouldn't...no, that was ridiculous. The frail had been through a lot, but she wasn't that close to falling apart. At least, he didn't think she was.
He opened the door slowly, wanting to see and not wanting to see at the same time, even if he would never admit that to anyone. She was curled up, her head resting against the wall. Just the sight of her made his chest hurt. He grabbed a towel and held it out for her.
"C'mon frail." His voice was soft.
She looked up at him. For a moment he thought she was going to protest, but she started to slowly unwrap her arms from her legs. He could see her starting to shiver. He grasped her hand, giving her something to lean on as she stood.
"Jesus Christ, you're freezing." He wrapped the towel around her. She moved closer to him and waited. He pulled her close against his chest. "What'd you do? Sit in cold water?"
"Not at first."
He felt her knees tremble. That tiny sign of weakness reached the feral protector in him, a growl rose in his chest, his claws lengthened. She looked up at him.
He retracted his claws again. "Bed."
She shook her head. "I just got up-"
"So? You expecting the Queen for high tea?" He gripped her upper arm and pulled her toward the bedroom.
Kelly curled up with her back against his chest. He'd taken the towel away from her as soon as she'd dried off. She wasn't at all surprised when he undressed too. The warmth of his skin was probably the best thing in the world for her anyway. His hand wandered over her stomach, down over her leg and then back up to her breasts. Her mind hadn't really stopped, but at least the sharpest pain of shock had subsided to a dull throbbing.
"She's going to be in the hospital for awhile?"
"Yeah. They're moving her to a private facility later today."
"That fast? It only happened a few hours ago."
His hand paused, then continued again. "No, it didn't."
She looked over her shoulder, a nervous kind of upset rising. "What do you mean?"
He pulled her closer. "Conlon called last night."
She turned over and pulled the towel over herself. "You didn't tell me?"
"She's my mother! She's a pretty poor example of one, but she's the only one I've got."
He gripped her upper arms and pinned her to the bed, his face inches from hers. She could see the anger in his eyes. "So if I woke you up in the middle of the fucking night, what could you have done?" His voice came out in a dangerous growl.
"You? You what? You're gonna go see her? Wave a magic wand and make it all better?"
"No, but...but I just slept through it." Tears were stinging her eyes again.
"What were you dreaming about last night?" Some of the anger had faded, but he still held her in place, his face inches from hers.
Kelly's mind raced to catch a tendril of ether. She squirmed in his tight grip. "I-I don't know."
"Wasn't a nightmare, was it?" His intense eyes held nothing but certainty.
She stopped struggling as the realization hit her. "No."
"You've had nightmares just about every night since you woke up and if you haven't been screaming or crying or shaking you've been unconscious because you were healing. Last night you were relaxed. Just relaxed, sound asleep. I would've been fucking nuts to wake you up outta that to tell you something you couldn't do a goddamn thing about."
Her body went limp. He let her go. Kelly put her back to him again and he settled around her. "It's just a mess. Everything is a mess and I don't know where to start to clean it up."
He went back to stroking her stomach. "You can't. Fucking sucks, but it's the truth."
She laced her fingers with his. "I'm in the middle of it."
He gripped her hand. "Don't mean you caused it."
Kelly relaxed into him, her racing mind starting to finally slow down. She started to notice the tension in his body though. She waited. She knew that whatever it was would come out when he was ready.
"You think your mother took Panacea?"
Kelly had never considered the question before. "I doubt it, not on her own."
"If Stan gave it to her?"
She thought about that. "If he gave her something and told her it was a vitamin or even a tranquilizer she probably wouldn't have asked any questions. She always took handfuls of vitamins every morning and she had a whole collection of sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills and God knows what else. Sometimes when I was locked up she'd offer me something to make me sleep or calm me down or whatever she thought I needed."
He lifted his head to look down at her. "You ever take it?"
"Once." She closed her eyes. "It was the second time I was locked up. It was so awful and when she asked me if I wanted something to help me sleep I said yes. I slept but when I woke up I didn't know where I was or why I was there. I couldn't think, I couldn't focus." She shivered at the memory. He pulled her closer. She let him shelter her while the fearful memory pulled at her and then faded. She took a deep breath. "Do you think Stan overdosed her?"
"What I know about Panacea is sketchy at best. Conlon said she was paranoid and hearing voices, from what I know, that sounds like she was on it and then didn't have it."
She sighed. "Or she snapped."
He kissed the top of her head, his hands drifting over her body in silence again. Kelly was starting to nod off, escaping into that quiet comfortable moment. Victor was right; there was nothing she could do. Even if she went to the hospital now it would probably do more harm than good. Her mother believed her to be dead. The last thing an unsettled mind needed was a forcible rearrangement of the most basic beliefs.
She told herself that her mother would be cared for. It would be a PR nightmare for Stan if it got out that his beloved, fragile wife, who had recently lost both of her children, was being warehoused at some substandard state-run asylum. Of course, that left-
"Cody!" She sat up. "Even if someone's watching him, Stan's still the one who makes medical decisions-"
"I called Joe last night, told him to get a lawyer." Victor pulled her back down again. "Conlon'll keep Joe up to date, Joe will decide if he wants to take it to the courts."
Panic ebbed again. She turned to face him and snuggled close.
Creed lay still, listening to the frail's breathing. She'd started dozing a few minutes after he told her about the kid. She wasn't quite asleep, not really. Her breathing was different and every so often her eyes would flutter open for a split second. Probably a good thing. If she was fully asleep, she would dream and if he knew her, she'd twist all this shit around until she found a way to blame herself.
Somewhere in that half-waking state, she found his hand again. He gripped her fingers lightly and drew her closer. She mumbled something and then went silent again. A year ago he would have called her weak, been disgusted, would have pushed her away. That was before he understood that steel could be wrapped in soft skin and disguised by delicate touches. A soft purr rumbled through his chest.
She turned to face him, her lips finding his in a hesitant kiss. His mouth was every bit as careful, his hands as tender when they stroked her skin. This was more than need, more than arousal or lust. He didn't have a word for what it was, didn't have an experience to connect it to. He just knew that it took his breath away.
For a long, sensuous moment he let her mouth guide his while he took in the taste of her, the way her scent mingled with his. The heady combination of the two drew him closer to intoxication than any alcohol ever had. His fingertips floated over her skin, his tongue caressing hers. Despite his soft touch, he could feel her yield to him in a thousand little ways. She shifted her arm so that his hand could move freely. She turned her head, parted her lips, all at his tender insistence. It was too much and not enough all at the same time.
The sound of someone walking on the cold path that led to the guest house pulled him reluctantly out of the moment.
He stroked her cheek. "Someone's coming, probably Jimmy." His voice was a soft rumble.
"I'll get dressed." She started to get up, but he kept her in place with a hand on her waist.
"Nah, sleep a little more if you want. I'll see what he wants." He got up and pulled on a pair of sweats. She pulled the blankets up around her shoulders.
"Should call Granna and Grandpa." The barest hint of her arousal teased the air around him. Suddenly he wished he hadn't called Jimmy.
He stroked her hair, picked up a sweatshirt and left. He pulled on a pair of boots and walked out into the chilly morning. The bright sunlight brought the sparkle of diamonds to the crust of the snow.
Jimmy came toward him. He could see the other man sniff the air.
He tried to hide a smirk. "I interrupt something?"
Creed gave a toothy grin. "That any of your fucking business, Runt?"
"I can smell it all around ya."
Creed shrugged. "So? I was alone with my mate. Most natural thing in the world."
"She's upset and you're fucking her?"
Creed shook his head. "You can be such a fucking idiot sometimes. Just give me the keys and don't tell the old man."
Jimmy handed over a set of keys. "Had to tell him."
Creed growled. "Jimmy-"
The smaller feral ignored the growl. "You try and keep something from him. Besides, it's gonna be pretty fucking obvious when you leave and want back in. You goin' anywhere in particular?"
"Just full of questions today, aren't you?"
Jimmy shrugged. "There's a place about thirty miles east called the Cavinder Inn. It's run by a man and his wife, both mutants. It's quiet and they put on a hell of meal. It's off season, so the place should be fairly quiet."
Creed studied his brother. "You been there recently?"
A little smirk. "Took Marie there for dinner last night."
Creed grinned. "About damn time."
Jimmy gave a short laugh. "That's what she said." He held out a leather jacket. "It's Marie's. She thought Kelly might need it."
Creed gave a nod and took the jacket.
"How's she doing? Kelly I mean."
"She's stronger than she looks." Creed knew it wasn't the answer that Jimmy was looking for, but it was all he was willing to give.
Jimmy nodded. He probably recognized the deflection, but he didn't push for more.
"C'mon frail." There was annoyance and something she could only call nervousness in his gruff voice.
She came out of the bedroom, pulling a sweater on over her turtleneck. Why he was so intent on taking a walk with her at that moment was beyond her. He had been cooped up more than usual though and she knew that Victor seemed to function better in the outdoors. That was probably it.
"Ready." She smiled at him.
"Put this on." He handed her a leather jacket.
She took it and pulled it on. The light scent of perfume struck her. "Whose is this?"
"But I already have a coat."
"Just trust me frail." The nervous annoyance was back.
She zipped the jacket and followed him out the door.
They started down the path slowly. Most of the shock of the morning had worn off, only to be replaced by something that could only be described as a chilly emptiness. She figured in time, that would pass too.
"You know how a boss like Cavallo gets to be a boss?" Victor's eyes were straight ahead.
Just hearing the name tied her stomach in knots. Kelly knew it wasn't a casual question, but she had no idea where he was going with it. "I guess I never thought about it before." She crossed her arms over her stomach.
He stroked the back of her neck. "Two ways. The dangerous ones get ahead by being eager to get their hands bloody and they tend to enjoy it. The other ones get to the top by getting other people to do the messy part for 'em. They pay for it, they blackmail for it, whatever as long as they don't get their own hands dirty, because deep down they ain't got the balls to do it themselves. Take away that support system and they fall apart. Cavallo's that kind of boss."