spin_kick_snap: (Ain't Nobody Got Time For This)
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Kathy sat on the hard police bench, right outside the holding cell, an ice pack against her cheek. The holding tank was surprisingly full for a Wednesday night; not only were a bunch of guys from the warehouse there, but so were several drunks, two dealers, and a pickpocket. Once, she would have helped put the people in there--in fact, she recognized one of the dealers and was doing her best not to let him get a good look at her. Now, while she wasn't in the cell itself, it was only because the police didn't think it would be 'appropriate.' They thought she was still underage and Kathy wasn't about to tell them otherwise because right now, technically, she wasn't under arrest. She hadn't been handcuffed, they weren't processing her, and she wasn't even under guard--though there were several cops that occasionally checking over to make sure she was still there and sitting quietly. Nothing that happened tonight was going onto her permanent record--though she'd already gotten several paternalistic lectures on the way to the station and they weren't letting her leave until an 'adult' got here to collect her.

If she'd been thinking straight, she would have given them Raven's number and had her shift into a grumpy old Korean lady to come and fetch her. Then again, if she'd been thinking straight, she wouldn't be here now. Not that she'd been big on thinking straight since she'd been resurrected. Really, the way she'd been going, this outcome had practically been inevitable.


Eliot

Eliot had gotten several 'she learned it from watching you!' looks from Hardison after he got the call to come out here and pick Kathy up. He knew he deserved every damn one of them, but that didn't put him in a better mood about having to come down to the police station and play fine-upstanding-citizen to get her.

He made polite, but detached small talk with the officers, introducing himself as Kathy's teacher and having to deal with some backseat mentoring as the older officers took it upon themselves to remark on just what they'd do if they had a student wind up in jail. Eliot was supremely proud of himself for not just hauling off and punching anybody.

Finally, one of the officers showed him the way back to where Kathy was being held. He stood in the doorway a moment, just taking her in. She looked small sitting there like that. He couldn't stand seeing her look small.

"Come on." He jerked his head towards the door and waited just long enough to see her start to stand before turning to lead the way out of the station. "Let's go."

This station was giving him hives.


Kathy

Kathy glanced up at him, nodded, and stood up, her head hanging. She looked pretty rough, bruises over most of her and a damn good case of road rash down one arm and she moved like she was all-over sore, shuffling towards him. Her new bruises had laid down over other ones and had time to stiffen up while she'd waited.

"Sure is a damn shame," one of the cops behind Eliot said, shaking his head. "Could be such a pretty thing. Makes you wonder where the parents are, letting her out so late and getting mixed up into stuff like that."


Eliot

Eliot's nostrils flared, and the fingers of his right hand curled into a fist, but the look he gave the cop was almost bored. "Seems to me the cops in this town have gotten themselves into enough trouble, last couple years," he said. He flicked his eyes down to the officer's chest, then back up. "Officer Brady. What's your badge number?"


Kathy

Brady's face turned red as he blustered. "No call for that kind of talk," he said. "We coulda been a lot harsher with her than we were! There's grounds for an assault arrest insteada just bringing her in until an adult could be found to come and get her!" He sniffed, certain that made his point for him.

Not that he could deny himself one last jab. "But there's a reason she's having us call you insteada them, isn't there?"


Eliot

"Ain't none of your business," Eliot said, his quiet voice taking on a subtle, dangerous edge. "Ms. Li is no longer in your custody. And neither of us asked for your damn opinion."

He reached out a hand to guide Kathy past him and the officers, and kept his body between hers and theirs the rest of the way out of the precinct. He made a mental list of every officer's face and name to hand off to Hardison when they got home.

These cops were going to have an extra difficult time for the next several weeks.


Kathy

Kathy gratefully took Eliot's hand, clutching it harder than she intended, and stayed very quiet and hunched over until they left the precinct.

That...was an experience she didn't ever need to have again. She'd add that to the list.

"Sorry," she mumbled, letting go when they finally got outside. Her hand was hot and sweaty and she rubbed it against her pants, realizing by the tightness in her knuckles how hard she must have been holding on. "Not real fond of cops. Bad associations."

Which he probably remembered, considering she'd come in and cried on him about it.


Eliot

"No one really likes cops," Eliot said, nodding to his truck. The Challenger would have drawn too much attention to itself. "Get in."

So he could freak out at you in relative privacy, please.


Kathy

At least he was waiting to get into the car, Hardison.

Kathy didn't say anything as she slid into the passenger side of the truck, buckling her seat belt and pressing her cheek against the cool glass of the window. She was too tired to stress over the coming lecture; all the adrenaline from the fight had left her drained.

"Thanks for coming to get me," she said as Eliot got in. "Sorry to bother you in the middle of the night." She almost promised to call Raven next time, but she was really hoping to skip the 'next time' part. Doubted Eliot would be comforted by the idea of a 'next time', either.


Eliot

Not so much, no.

Eliot pulled the truck away from the curb, glancing over at her out of the corner of his eye.

"You alright?"


Kathy

"Define 'alright'," Kathy said.

Inside the warehouse, there's a crush of people around the mark on the floor that designated the ring. They're screaming and shouting, their fists in the air, sounds all fading to a high-pitched wine as Kathy bends over her opponent, fists moving so fast they blur, aiming for his sensitive spots. The noise from the spectators masks the sound of incoming police--not that it matters. Kathy is still standing over her the man on the ground, knuckles and nose bloody, as the spectators turn to run and the cops spread out. It's only luck that has has her dragged off of him before the cops can see what's happening in the center of the ring, Barney trying to fruitlessly hide what is happening here, as if Mac's bloodied form wasn't going to spell it out for them. Kathy is growling as he drags her off, clacking her teeth at his face...

"Guess it doesn't matter if you do or not," she amended. "Answer's probably no regardless."


Eliot

On the one hand, he was glad she wasn't lying to him.

On the other . . . he wouldn't have minded if she'd at least pretended to be alright first.

He nodded, eyes fixed on the road, expression still mostly blank. "You wanna tell me what happened?"


Kathy

She was out of energy for pretense tonight. If he wanted, he could table the discussion until tomorrow? And then she'd be plenty happy to tell Eliot just how fine she was.

"Just your typical teen-acting-out story," she said with a shrug and a fair bit of dark humor. "You know, running into the city at night, joining an illegal fighting ring operating out of a warehouse, getting busted by the cops in a sting. The usual."

Though not all of her injuries looked like they came from a fight. Unless that fight involved getting dragged down pavement and getting stabbed at.


Eliot

Yeah, that road rash was . . . distinctive.

Eliot's jaw tightened. "An illegal fight club," he said. That was not what he expected. "Are you goddamn kidding me?"

He still hadn't raised his voice, but the anger simmered dangerously under that calm disapproval.


Kathy

"Well, for awhile it was going to be club drugs and anonymous sex, but it turns out that I'm too much a chicken for either," Kathy said, unsure where this flippant humor was coming from. Perhaps just sheer doneness? If she torpedoed everything first, at least she wouldn't be surprised when they all blew up in her face.


Eliot

"They at least other superpowered folks you're fighting?"

He couldn't really fault her for wanting to fight people, but she could at least make it a fair fight.


Kathy

"No," Kathy said with a sigh, flopping back against the seat. "Not a whole lot of supes around lately. So it's just big guys, now that Barney knows I can fight. Usually, I'm good about not using my speed much. When I go, I'm not exactly looking to win."


Eliot

She just wanted to hurt. Eliot got that part, too.

Too goddamn well.

"So you ain't even lettin' go, doing all this." There was that disapproval again. "It's about gettin' obliterated as stupidly as possible, that it? That why you joined an illegal fight club instead of a damn MMA gym or something?"


Kathy

"No, it's about feeling something," Kathy snapped back. "About feeling alive. About that moment of electricity that sparks in your brain when a fist slams into you and you can think to yourself This hurts. I hurt. I hurt like normal people do. Also, how many MMA clubs are open in the wee hours of the night, huh? How many gyms can I go to at two in the morning when I wake up from yet another nightmare, struggling to breathe and afraid to make a noise because that's what draws the exes close?!"


Eliot

"So instead you got and yourself busted up and busted by the cops," Eliot said. "And that ain't even gettin' to whatever that's from." He gestured to the road rash. "You need to get somethin' outta your system in the middle of the night, you goddamn call me."


Kathy

"You'll want to talk about it!" Kathy said, her hands balling into fists that pulled on the scabs over her knuckles. "And when I need this, talking is the last thing I want to deal with! Hell, when I'm here, it's to get all the noise in my brain to shut up."


Eliot

"I ain't spent the last two years teachin' you how to talk!" Eliot cut a sharp right, heading suddenly away from the harbor and the causeway and towards the interstate, where he could open the truck's engine up. He had his own fear and aggression to work out, here, and if he could do it in speed, he was less likely to do it by yelling at Kathy. "I can't help you with this if you don't let me!"


Kathy

"You haven't spent the last two years hitting me as hard as I need to be hit, either!" Kathy flared. "Who says you can help me? Who says anybody can help me?! Did you ever think about that, Eliot? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, this isn't something anyone can help with? Maybe this is just who I am now! What I am now!"


Eliot

The truck cleared the ramp and merged onto the highway, empty save for a few big-rigs. Eliot pressed the pedal to the floor.

"That what you want?" he asked. "You got a second chance, but you want to waste it getting your ass kicked and getting thrown into lockup? You're too smart for that shit, Kathy."


Kathy

"Better than slowly going crazy in my room," Kathy said, glaring out the window. "Used to think I was too smart to die, but look how wrong I was about that, too."


Eliot

"So was I," Eliot grumbled, and though he immediately regretted it, he didn't take it back. "We'll find some other outlet for you. You ain't goin' back to any underground fight ring."


Kathy

Kathy winced at that comment, but it only made her angrier. "Who are you to tell me what I am or not going to do?!" she demanded. She couldn't go back anyway. She'd seen it in Barney's eyes, even before the cops had arrested everywhere and shut the whole thing down. Seen it in the way his mouth had twisted as he looked from her to the groaning body on the floor, the way he traced the blood trickling from her nose to her bared teeth.

But still, what right did Eliot have saying so one way or the other? "You don't have a say! You're not my father, Eliot!"


Eliot

"Well that's a problem then," Eliot snapped. "Because you sure as hell feel like my daughter."

This was . . . not how he'd wanted this conversation to go.


Kathy

Kathy wasn't expecting this turn, either.

"...What?" she asked him. Blinking.


Eliot

Eliot concentrated on pulling into the right lane and slowing the truck down to a more reasonable pace. "I know you're still grievin' for your parents," he said, choosing his words carefully now. "And I ain't ever lookin' to replace them. But -- losin' you was like losing my own kid." He shook his head. "Not that I know anything about havin' -- Nate lost his son. Years ago. Talkin' with him . . . he confirmed it. That's who you are to me. If -- if you wanna be."


Kathy

Kathy's stomach lurched. Nerves, emotions, exhaustion all crashed together in her gut, making it impossible to respond.

"Pull over," she choked out. She banged a fist on the dash. "Pull over!"

And when he did, she hopped out of the truck, over to the strip of grass on the side of the highway, and bent over, losing what little was in her system. This was not actually how she'd wanted to answer that almost-question there, body. Thanks.


Eliot

Eliot stared out the front windshield, hands clenched around the steering wheel.

"Fuck."

He climbed out of the truck, pulling a couple flares from the back to make sure they didn't get flattened by a drowsy trucker while she recovered.

From him offering to be her dad.

This was not how he was hoping this conversation would go.


Kathy

Several minutes passed before she returned, scrubbing at her mouth with the back of her hand. She was crying, had been crying, wasn't sure she'd ever stop crying.

And barreling into Eliot for a hug, not saying anything at all.


Eliot

Okay. Hugging her Eliot could still do. Could always do, even when he was mad at her or disappointed in her or --

Anyway. Hugging.

"Hate to pressure you or anything, darlin'," he said, voice shaking slightly. "But I ain't sure which of these reactions to take as an answer."


Kathy

"You don't want me for a daughter," Kathy told him. "You want her. This me is just what you get."


Eliot

Eliot hung on tighter. "I want the you before you left and the you who hated everything after her Fandom decayed out from under her. The you who came back because of that damn stone and the you we brought back from LA. I want you, darlin'. Any and every version of you I can get."


Kathy

And that made her cry harder. Because she knew that her parents--her real parents--would never have given her that same answer. "I should feel guilty over wanting this so much," she told him. Or, well, sobbed into his coat. "My parents are barely cold in the ground. I should be angry and guilty and--and--offended at the idea. But all I can think of is how scared I am you'll take it back."


Eliot

"Ain't gonna happen, darlin'," Eliot said. "Dunno if you've noticed, but I'm the loyal type."

He'd promised himself to Hardison and Parker before he'd even figured out that they wanted him like that, after all. He'd been perfectly willing to exist in a state of perpetual unrequited love to keep them safe. Kathy wasn't going to be able to lose him if she tried.


Kathy

"But you can't even trust me with your dog!" Kathy wailed. "You can't want a daughter you can't trust not to eat your dog!"


Eliot

". . . What?"


Kathy

Kathy looking up at him, sniffling still. "You know. Why you didn't leave Val with me. The real reason. Because you were afraid I'd bite her."

Keep up, Eliot!


Eliot

"I left her with Kanan 'cause Val and Stance are friends." Eliot reached up to smooth her hair back from her face. "That's the 'real reason'."


Kathy

And she looked up at him with wet eyes and a red nose. Not a pretty crier, our Kathy. "Not because you were thinking of what nearly happened that morning at your house?"

Well, sort of nearly happened. Kathy's memories were all bound up with what happened and what she'd thought about happening.


Eliot

Eliot frowned, having to think a few moments before he worked out what she was talking about. "You mean the morning you freaked out while petting her?"


Kathy

Kathy nodded, hiding her face again. "When she showed me her belly for rubs and I nearly--I thought about--I wouldn't ever hurt her, Eliot!"

Probably. She hoped? Maybe.


Eliot

Kathy, you were determined to break Eliot's heart, weren't you.

"Of course not," he said, pulling her back in tight and rubbing her back. "I never thought you would." But she'd clearly been worried about it for awhile, hadn't she. "You know what I remember from that morning? That you made sure you didn't. You recognized the instinct, and you fought it off. It was hard, and it freaked you out, but you did it. That's what's important."


Kathy

"Is it?" she asked. "It feels weird being praised for ignoring impulses I'm not even supposed to have."

Or maybe it just felt weird being praised by...

"I don't know if I'll be able to call you, like, Dad or anything," she blurted. "I know I can't. Not now, anyway."

Maybe not ever.


Eliot

"You have them, though. 'Supposed to' doesn't enter into it." He shrugged, pulling back a little, but not letting go until she was clearly ready for it. "That's fair. You already had one of those." And frankly, Eliot wasn't sure he wanted to be linked with Mr. Li even as much as just in a title. "Whatever you're comfortable with is fine. I just -- I want you to know we ain't just teacher and student anymore. You're not gonna graduate out of this."


Kathy

"If you try to ground me for getting arrested, I'm going to remind you that I live in my own apartment," Kathy said, choking out a small laugh still thick with tears.


Eliot

"Yeah, grounding never worked well on me, either." Eliot shook his head, glancing away when it felt like tears of his own were threatening. "Look, I had a crap dad, too. I ain't gonna try to pretend I'll know what I'm doing. I think the important thing is that it'd be somethin' we figure out together. That includes working out an outlet that doesn't get you arrested in the first place."


Kathy

Kathy sniffled and nodded, discreetly wiping her nose on her sleeve. "Gotta say though," she said, trying for a bit of levity, "it did feel good to beat up a bunch of guys who thought I'd be no competition."

Glancing up, she asked, "How is your dad? Did you guys work things out?"


Eliot

"Ain't denying that," Eliot pointed out. It was the 'getting arrested' part he had issue with.

And there he went, looking away again, this time letting her go with one hand to rub the back of his neck.

"Nah. He, uh. He passed."

After a shouting match with Eliot and calling Hardison "boy". That was just the sort of classy guy Emerson Spencer had been.


Kathy

"Oh fuck, Eliot, I'm sorry!" Kathy said, twisting away and taking several steps back. "And I've got you out here and worried about me when you should be taking care of yourself and grieving and and..."


Eliot

Eliot sighed. He was going to break her of this particular habit if it killed him.

"I should be taking care of my family, right?" he said. And raised his eyebrows pointedly at her.


Kathy

"I...yeah," Kathy said, hanging her head. She kept flexing her fingers, curling them into a fist and then straightening them again. It was her new anxiety tell. "I guess...yeah. But I maybe probably could have timed that better."

With all the control over being arrested--sorta--that she had.

"Are you okay?"


Eliot

"I'll be fine." Which wasn't really what she'd asked, but was the answer he figured she needed. "Like I said, he was a crap dad."

Which mostly meant Eliot was deeply conflicted about how he'd left things before the man died, but he was more than used to feeling conflicted and guilty about things.

"Did I tell you I actually got arrested while I was down there?" He smiled, looking to lighten the mood. And hopefully get them back in the truck and on the road again. "Actually arrested, not just intimidated into holding. Speaking of which -- you're over 18, darlin'. If they weren't arresting you, you coulda just walked out on your own."


Kathy

"Still hurts to lose him, even if he's a crap dad," Kathy said, knowing the truth of this quite acutely. "And now he never has the chance to be better."

Her dad would have been right there with Emerson, only probably straight-up assuming Hardison was there to rob him. Sigh.

"They didn't believe me," Kathy said, blushing. "My fake ID said I was twenty-one, but when they asked me how old I was, I said eighteen first, then nineteen. I'm not really good at remembering how old I am." She'd missed most of eighteen, after all. And her nineteenth birthday. "After all that, they assumed I was underage. I figured it was easier to let them think that than maybe decide to make it a real charge. Why'd you get arrested?" She looked him over and asked, "...Fighting?"

Apple didn't fall far from the tree?


Eliot

Eliot would argue that he'd lost his dad more than 20 years ago. But he was trying to lighten the subject.

"Gee, darlin', it's almost like you know me," he said in a slow drawl. He nudged her to get back in the truck, then went to put out the flares and get in himself. "Went to blow off some steam after talkin' to Pop. Bar fights are a little more complicated when the guy who set all the records on your track team in high school's joined the fuzz."


Kathy

"I could have gotten away," Kathy said with a wan smile, before climbing into the truck. She sat in the passenger seat, toting up all her bruises and various injuries while waiting for Eliot to get back in. She was in the high twenties by the time he did and still had more to go.

Jesus Christ, she was a wreck.

"I'm not ready to go home yet," she said abruptly as he shut the door. "Still too many things to work through. We go home now and I'll probably just damage my liver trying to calm down. Or just head back out and do something stupid."

At least she was honest?


Eliot

"Alright," Eliot said. "You wanna come back to mine, or is this more of a 'let's go find an all-night greasy spoon and pretend the world doesn't exist for a couple hours' situation?"


Kathy

"Both?" Kathy asked, toting up all the things that were on her mind. "I've got a ton of energy I have to get rid of first--" hence, the fight club "--and then I'm probably going to need to have a really good, really ugly cry and maybe talk about stuff, and then I'll need to eat and pass out for hopefully a few hours."

You sure you wanted in on this dad stuff, Eliot? It wasn't all roses and gold stars with Kathy anymore.


Eliot

He went into a zombie apocalypse for her. It hadn't been roses and gold stars for ages.

"Alright." Eliot pulled the car off the shoulder and thought as he accelerated. "How do you feel about baseball?"


Kathy

"Used to be good at it," Kathy said. "Wait, are you suggesting we play catch?" Taking the suburban dad thing a bit far there, Eliot. "You think that's going to be intense enough to get my brain to shut up for awhile?"


Eliot

"Actually I was thinkin' of finding a batting cage and letting you smash the hell out of a bunch of balls. The pitching machine ain't gonna hold back if you end up in the way of a ball or two."


Kathy

"Ohhhh..." Kathy said, eyes big. "Yeah, that could work." And if it didn't, she'd see if she could convince him into sparring with her. Worth a shot. "Then pancakes with unhealthy amounts of whipped cream while I cry on you?"

There would be boy troubles, Eliot. And also the upcoming anniversary of her death, unresolved familial grief, and lingering trauma from an afternoon of demon fighting. But, you know, boy troubles would at least get a mention.


Eliot

"Then all the carbs and crying you need," Eliot said. "But I'm gonna try to get you to promise not to join anymore underground fighting rings. Fair warning."


Kathy

"Have Hardison make me something better and it's a deal," Kathy said.

Still couldn't call him Dad. But she found herself feeling not quite so lost for the first time in ages.


[Preplayed with the utterly splendid [livejournal.com profile] vdistinctive. NFB, I have all the feels]
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