2008-04-24: Damage Repair


Niki_icon.gif Cass_icon.gif

Summary: Niki goes to a person who has little reason to trust her.

Date It Happened: April 24th, 2008

Damage Repair

Brooklyn, New York

It's late when a black car slows down a short ways from one particular Brooklyn apartment. Taking a car— it was easier, not faster.

Moments later, slender spike heels of brown leather boots under the cuffs of jeans make their way with purposeful, rushed strides for the front door of the building; they become even more urgent. "Wait!" their owner calls out as a young man heads out of the building — the woman catches the door, and they pass in the threshold. One out, one in.

It takes considerably longer for a hard pounding to reach Cass Aldric's door by way of fist. Standing in the corridor is a rather out-of-sorts Niki Sanders, who is well aware that Cass thinks she's someone else — her vexed, anxious expression might have something to do with that. She's also pale, her skin waxy and covered in a sheen of sweat, blonde hair slightly messy, eyes reddened. Her fist bangs on the door again; it's half-obscured by the overlong sleeve of a black button-up shirt a few sizes too big. Men's, actually. "Come on, Cass…" It's said to herself, under her breath as she bounces restlessly on her heels and stares up at the door.

As it's late, Cass has been enjoying a little bit of free-time. After her talk with Future Peter, she's decided to version of sit-in. Though it's no civil rights demonstration, it's pretty important in her mind. It's her form of peaceable protest. That's really all she has. Delay by not working longer than the fewest designated hours she has. When she comes to the door, she's dressed in plaid pajama pants and one of Lachlan's old t-shirts with some random band name on it. A pint of ice cream is in one hand and a spoon is already in her mouth. Her version of relaxation.

Having not buzzed anyone in, she assumes that it's going to be someone down the hall giving her mail they just found or something else. She's not even sure. But when she looks through the peep hole, who she sees there is not what she expected. Surprised, her mouth opens just a bit, enough for the spoon to fall out of her mouth and make a loud clinking sound on the wood floors. Swearing, she realizes she can't pretend like she's not in any more. "I don't want to talk to you," she says through the closed door. "I don't know how you got in, but just head back out."

"Cass," Niki blurts out the woman's name, shuffling closer to the door, holding up her right hand, fingers splayed, quick to show that she means no harm. It might not be successful, granted, given that said hand is blood-stained. Never a good sign. "Someone let me in. I know you don't want to talk to me, but don't freak out," she tacks on hurriedly, eyes wide and imploring at the peephole. She's a little breathless as she goes on, the slightest undercurrent of panic running through her earnest voice. A voice wholly unlike Jessica's. "I'm not— here to hurt you. It's me. It's Niki. Okay? I just— please." She quiets. "I didn't know who else to go to."

It certainly doesn't sound like Jessica. However, Cass has been tricked by Jessica playing coy before. It nearly killed her. And by now Jessica would certainly know how easy it is to play on Cass' emotions for her friends. There's a hesitation, and while Cass knows it's not smart, she just can't live with the idea of it actually being Niki and being turned away when she really needed help. The door opens, just enough so that the lab girl can peer through the thin sliver of space while the chain lock is still in place. Just so that she can see for herself which Niki this may be. Then, she sighs, closes the door, unengages the chain lock and opens it just enough to let the blonde woman in.

Niki knows all too well how Jessica played Cass— what emotions to manipulate. There are no tricks here, though; there's nothing but sincerity and urgency and a dash of desperation. "Thank you," she tells Cass, looking at her with thanks and painful earnestness as she slips quickly inside the apartment. The scent of alcohol follows her in; strong whiskey, lots of it. "I tricked you before," she says. Struck by a wave of unsteadiness, she takes a moment to close her eyes and breathe before going on. "At Pinehearst. In the hall," she prompts, "I'm sorry."

The smell of alcohol doesn't pass unnoticed by Cass. As soon as Niki's inside, the brunette shuts the door softly. She's not really dressed to have guests, but that's really the point. She doesn't respond to the thank you yet; she's trying to figure out where this all is leading. Picking up the dropped spoon, she moves toward the kitchen to drop it in the sink and stick the pint of ice cream back into the freezer. Lachlan doesn't really go for double chocolate, chocolate chip, so it's safe that he won't have to eat a bowl of ice cream she'd been eating out of with a spoon. "Tricked me in what way? What you said, or how you said it?" There's not exactly an iciness there, just distance. It's like she doesn't even know Niki any more.

"You don't— you dont understand, I had to play the part," Niki says with a pained voice. "But now everything is— everything is just coming undone, it's all going to explode and— " She moves toward the kitchen as if to follow Cass, but there's a sway to her steps, a stumble, and she grabs onto the back of one of the dining room chairs. "I don't k-know how much you know— "

As much as Cass feels like she can't trust Niki, she moves forward to make sure she doesn't fall. Frowning, she pulls out the chair for her, and gestures for her to sit in it. As Niki stumbles through her confession, she goes into the kitchen and fetches a glass of water - a large one - and sets it down in front of her former employee. "I've heard rumors." From Peter, from Arthur, from Gene. From just about everyone. "Plus, I'm the head of the lab. There's a few things that I'm going to put together no matter how classified." She sighs and goes to get a glass of water for herself and then sits down at the chair opposite of the blonde. "What's wrong?"

"I was surprised… when I s-saw your name," Niki forces out as if words are becoming difficult; she reaches out for the water, her eyes glass over cloud. She sits and takes a long drink of water. "But out've… everyone, I know you've gotta be there for the right reasons." The pale blonde looks up almost hopefully, as well as warily, hoping her judge of character won't be contradicted. As for what's wrong, Niki doesn't say, but her body speaks for her. A trickle of blood sneaks out from under the sleeve of her left arm, moistening the black fabric and creeping along her pinky finger and onto the table.

"I thought I was." Cass is more than a little upset about her trust being abused like this. If there's one thing that could be said of her, it's that she has strong moral views and doesn't like to find out that her desires to do good have been used ill. But now…Cass frowns. And, watching Niki carefully, she can't help but notice the blood dribbling down her arm and onto the table. Quickly, she's out of her chair and attempting to get a hold of the injured arm - gently, of course. "What happened to you?"

Niki looks suddenly down to the table and the blood. She sets the glass down and carefully moves the collar of the unbuttoned, borrowed shirt aside to pry it off her shoulder and pull it down her left arm. Underneath is a blue zip-up sweater, stained darkly at the shoulder and down the arm with a towel wrapped around it that's been soaked through. "Logan," she says simply, watching Cass for signs of recognition.

Instead of recognition, there's a cold glare of anger at the blood. Without saying anything else, Cass goes back to the kitchen to get her first aid kit. "Did he hurt you anywhere else?" While her voice is cold again, it's from anger at what happened as opposed to directed at Niki. Oh, she knows that name and the more she hears it, the more it upsets her. Since she doesn't ask who Logan it might just be implied that she knows him. Of course, she also doesn't come right out and say it.

"No," Niki is quick to answer. "I don't know how bad it is," she admits, snaking her arm out of the shirtsleeve all the way and unwrapping the rush-job she did with the towel. "I've never been stabbed before." She unzips out of her sweater down to a white tank top. The wound is to her upper arm, close to her shoulder, a deep, narrow, serrated gouge close to her shoulder and clavicle. She presses the towel to it again and reels a bit, not at the sight of it, by any means, but simply because she's been losing blood for close to an hour. "Going … to the hospital would just draw too many questions I can't answer, and I can't go home and let the kids see all this blood… I know you're… you're good, with this stuff, right?"

It feels like Cass should open a back alley clinic for this sort of thing. Maybe that's what Bat Country should have been used for instead of research. Of course, it was in the basement of a hospital, so that could have defied it's own point. When she returns, she frowns at the wound. With a wet towel she gently dabs up the dried and still seeping blood. Already, she can tell it's deep. "It's a deep wound, Niki. I can help stop the bleeding and give you some painkillers, but it will probably still need stitches. It's serrated." Meaning, not a clean cut. "Why did he stab you?"

A flicker of pain sends a wince along Niki's features when Cass dabs the wound even gently, little lines of stress that never quite vacate. "He was trying to get away." Another wince, but she closes her eyes and takes it admirably enough. "You're not gonna see him at work for awhile. Or… ever again, if we can help it."

"We?" Cass is trying to be gentle with her dabbing, but no matter what she does, it's going to hurt. At least she's not dowsing her with rubbing alcohol yet. "Who is we? And why not?" While she's focused on the other woman's shoulder, she's certainly paying attention to what she's saying. "What happened?"

We. Niki used the word without realizing it and she frowns and glances sidelong away from Cass. "Someone had to stop him." She looks back, gauging the other woman's involvement in all of this. "Before he made everything even worse than it already is. He's— somewhere safe." Ish.

While Cass isn't about to withhold medical attention from Niki for being so vague, she will frown disapprovingly at her wound. "That's not really an answer, Niki." And while she doesn't say, I trusted you enough to let you in and am giving you medical attention despite making me think you were Jessica before, there's a bit of a tone there that suggests being kept in the dark like this is a poor payment.

"I know," Niki mumbles tiredly, bringing her free hand to her face and leaning into it with her elbow on the table despite the smears of blood on it (whoops), twisting slightly away from Cass as she works at the knife wound. "It's selfish, that I'm here," she says dismissively, and shifts in her seat with a creak of the chair as if she's going to flee the medical attention. "Did you know— that Peter and Nathan's father can read minds? If I tell you…"

"I've heard that rumor." Cass has been avoiding meeting up with him again mostly because of that reason. And her form of passive resistance works best because he can't read her mind from New Jersey, yet she's still mucking up the works as best she can. Once the cleaning of the wound is done, she starts to wrap it up and close it as much as she can. "You're not able to protect against people reading your mind, either. If you know, you're already in danger."

"I've been in hot water for months. Avoiding him like the plague." Niki quietly watches Cass wrap the wound. "I've been lying to Pinehearst for months. I don't want to get you in more trouble than you need to be in. Just know… that… there are people helping Nathan. He was… your friend, right?" She narrows her eyes in a bit of confusion, still somewhat unclear on how the quirky bookstore owner and the politician apparently became pals at some point and she had no idea for the longest time.

Sometimes Cass forgets that Niki had amnesia and might not remember things. But, then, she's not even sure if the Niki of the past knew about her friendship with Nathan, either. "That's good, then." That people are trying to help Nathan. "I've been in hot water, too, I think. Hence my not staying late any more. I don't want to do pull more work there than I have to. And, yes. Nathan is my friend." Nathan, not Logan. At least Cass can distinguish between the two. "We have a mutual interest in keeping Peter safe."

Niki gives a soft laugh at Cass's answer, but moves her head into her hand again after a moment, tired and understandably sick, although there's a hint of a pained twinge that goes beyond the physical feeling of having a knife stabbed into one's arm which, by the way, is kind of a lot. "You could get out. Take whatever you need and run. Not that they couldn't find you…"

"That wasn't really very assuring," Cass tells Niki with a ghost of a smile. Once her bandage is all wrapped up, she takes a step back to study what she's done. "The man's a mind reader. He'd know where I'd go, I'm pretty sure. And if they didn't get me, they'd get Lachlan. And if not him, then you and Gene. Or Peter. Everyone I care about is here; I can't just leave."

"Yeah, I know," Niki concedes quietly, understanding with ease. She looks down at the bandaging again, now that it's done, and continues to stare at it although her thoughts are elsewhere, despite the constant, painful reminder. A topic skirts on her lips reluctantly, mouth opening and closing tightly before she edges a look up to Cass. "Are you really helping them make the formula work…?"

The wording of her statement makes Cass frown. "I was." She decides to try the truth. She gets to tell less and less nowadays that it's hard to distinguish. But it feels better to tell it. "Now I'm trying to help it not work." As best she can. Passive resistance. It doesn't seem like enough. "As best I can."

The admittance from Cass — that she was working on the formula — causes a flicker of a frown, but beyond that, nothing remotely like judgment. The look in the blonde's weary blue eyes is nothing if not empathetic. "You know, we've… kind of been working toward the same thing all this time and didn't know it. I mean, I figured you were, but…" She pauses, trailing, only for a moment. It's hard to think straight, in her current state — she's no less pale than before — but as something potentially important occurs to her, she tries to push through the haze. "…How much of the equipment that deals with the formula is electronic? Is any of it hooked up to a network?"

"Tell me about it," Niki says, mostly under breath and with an (un)healthy dose of bitterness. She hasn't trusted many people herself, not for a long time. Those she felt she maybe could, she couldn't, due to the five hundred and one problems that seem to have cropped up. Cass working for Pinehearst having been one of them. "Good," she says, thinking on Cass's answer and nodding as she thinks it through, having limited understanding of how it all works herself. "I think I might know a way to axe progress."

"I know." Her own credibility has taken a hit. And while she doesn't really feel the need to prove herself to Niki - who has her own devils for working there and pretending to be Jessica - that doesn't mean she's okay with the blood on her hands, either. "Really? How can I help?"

"I'm… not sure yet." Yet. At least she thinks Cass can help somehow. "There's— one of us who can control… machines. Someone else who's been helping." She doesn't go so far as to say it's her own son. On that note, she flattens a hand against the tabletop and pushes herself up, riding the wave of dizziness that follows. "Thanks, for…" Niki nods down to her bandaged arm; a wave of blonde falls, and she tucks it behind her ear with the opposite hand — which then clamps down on the table's edge. "It's… late. I have to drive back to Queens."

"You shouldn't be driving anywhere." Cass is quite firm on that note. In fact, she'll block the doorway and tie Niki down if she has to. "I can get you a taxi." It's a gentle reminder - or not so gentle - that she's been drinking and needs to not be behind a wheel of a car. Especially if she's also lightheaded from bleeding. "You should really see another doctor about stitches, too. If it's still bleeding in two hours, go to the hospital. Seriously, Niki." As for the rest of it, she nods her head. "Just…tell me what I can do, when I can do it." Because while staying home in her pajamas is nice, she'd also like to be doing more than just passive protest.

"And tell them what, I tripped and fell on a knife?" There's another reminder of what actually happened — a light bruise along her jaw that's only starting to darken now. "I'm fine, I only need one arm to drive," she reassures Cass — unconvincingly, but she tries with a smile.

"Don't tell them anything. They only have to report gunshot wounds." Cass is serious about this. "It doesn't matter if they know you're lying, just that you get taken care of." Shaking her head, she holds out the phone. "I'll take your keys if I have to, Niki. You stumbled trying to walk to my kitchen. I'm calling a taxi. There's a car service right down the street."

Niki nods to the hospital advice, although she appears on the verge of protesting the taxi again. Her shoulders droop after a moment and her smile fades away, leaving her just as tired as before. "…Okay, sure," she gives in. "Cass— " she says with some hurry in the event that Cass might get on the phone first. "…You were saying you didn't know who to trust. I know it probably doesn't seem like it but… you can trust me."

Cass can be very stern on some things. Drunk driving is one of them. Or even tipsy driving. After calling the taxi, the woman just looks at Niki. She knows she could trust her before. And now. She's not sure. She wants to. And it seems like she can. But she's been pretty burned about who she can trust lately. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing, she does what she thinks is the only other option. "Okay." It's an acknowledgment that she wants to, if nothing else. "We've both done things we're not proud of. I know I have."

It doesn't occur to Niki that Cass thinks she's been drinking — she just assumes the insistence stems from some kind of medical concern.

We've both done things we're not proud of. Understatement of the century. "Thanks again. Even if I should go to the hospital, I'm… glad I came here." As an afterthought, Niki swipes the clothes she left behind off the chair, bundling them up in her hands before starting to head for the door.

Well, she smells like alcohol and has been wobbling. So Cass just assumed she'd been drinking "Me too. But I really am no substitute for the hospital." Just for minor scrapes and stabbings. Not serious ones. Watching Niki head out the door, the lab head just frowns and goes back for her ice cream. This is definitely a time when double chocolate is necessary.

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