2007-06-27: Take Two In Apologies


Lachlan_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Cass_icon.gif

Summary: Niki's attempt to talk to Cass is interrupted by Lachlan, who soon gets very confused. The three of them actually talk (like civilized human beings; Lachlan even uses a big word!) and then… an unexpected guest shows up.

Date It Happened: June 27th, 2007

Take Two In Apologies

Brooklyn, New York

With Cass out of the hospital, Lachlan's main haunt after work has become one of two places: his apartment and hers. Having already gone grocery shopping yesterday, he's now coming back from a client's with a paycheck in his pocket and a cigarette between his lips. There are no dogs with him, surprisingly, as he's usually seen with a gaggle of puppies lately, and so it is with minimal supervision that he bounds up the steps to Cass' apartment building and starts digging about in his pocket for his set of keys. Considering how full his jeans pockets usually are, this is a lengthy and overly tedious process.

The small square of notepaper is marked with '33 Prospect Park West' in blue ink. A border of pastel flowers surrounds the address; the paper was probably torn from a pad in someone's kitchen. Niki looks from the note to the brownstone it's led her to in Brooklyn this evening, a certain amount of wariness crossing her features. Sliding the note into one of the back pockets of her faded jeans, she strides toward the door of the building. A little old lady, who also went grocery shopping today like Lachlan, happens to open the door before her. Niki's friendly smile wins over the elderly woman who lets her in; it wasn't her intent to sneak past the buzzer system, and whether this is a stroke of good luck or bad luck is yet to be seen. Now, she heads up the stairs only to stop in the hallway on seeing Lachlan.

For his part, Lachlan has taken up humming. It's his typical 'I Can't Find My Keys' tune, complete with a baffled mutter now and again around the butt of a lit cigarette. Where the bloody hell did he put them? Of course, he could just knock and have Cass open the door, but she might be napping or some such in there, and he doesn't want to wake her. Plus, it's a little bit, uh, unmanly to admit that one has lost one's keys. This somewhat chipper mood quickly dies off when he happens to glance up and spot Niki. His hand clenches tightly around his lighter inside his jeans pocket, while the other bunches near his chest. "The bloody hell're ye doin' here?" he snarls. He knows she doesn't live here; he's been here enough to at least have become semi-acquainted with Cass' neighbors (even if they'd rather not know he exists).

Niki doesn't want a replay of last night; she stays still until she's noticed. She holds her hands up, half-mast surrender, and slowly walks down the hall toward Lachlan. Each stride is careful and she never gets too close. "I just want to talk to Cass," she says in what might be a soothing voice if Lachlan were ten years old. She's hardly threatening, a slender blonde woman in jeans and a long-sleeved lavender shirt. Ooh, scary. "I just want to say I'm sorry. That's all. Then you never have to see me again."

Though Lachlan is really a ten-year-old on the inside, he's also fiercely protective, and Niki being even this close to Cass raises his hackles. Of course, he doesn't quite make the distinction between Niki and the real culprit because he doesn't know any better. For all he knows, Niki is the one who should stay away from Cass, and his expression grows positively murderous as he steps away from the door and toward the woman. "Yeah? Well mebbe I'm no' real big on ye comin' in an' tryin' ta finish wha' ye started a while back, so get the fuck out 're I'll toss ye out." What? Inside voice? What's that?

Maybe yelling in a subway doesn't bring too many onlookers, but Lachlan starting a yelling match in the hallway definitely is something that will bring the general public curiously out of their doors. And, luckily for Niki, Cass is one of those people. It's hard not to mistake Lachlan's Scottish brogue and his angry tone, so she's immediately bracing herself to either fight or protect. With her boyfriend, it could be either. So, when she throws open the door to see Niki standing there and Lachlan yelling at her, her eyes widen. "Niki!" Pause, wait. Last time she saw the woman, it was /not/ Niki. The yelling of Lachlan makes her a bit cautious. It could be Jessica again. "Is it you?" she's trying to study the other woman to see if she can find clues to tell her who it is who's come calling.

"Lachlan," Niki implores quietly, but firmly, purposefully using his name. She, for one, is using her indoor voice - and glancing around the hallway, wary of Cass's neighbours overhearing. She sways ever-so-slightly on her feet with indecision as Lachlan moves away from the door and… toward her. She takes a step back, blue eyes never leaving the barricade that is her ex-boss's protective boyfriend. Her gaze becomes particularly strong-willed. "I'm not finishing anything except an apology. I don't blame you for wanting to throw me out, okay, I don't. Just… calm down." Saved by Cass! Maybe. She's a bit thrown by the woman's wording, suddenly unsure of how much she knows. "It's me, it's Niki. I'm not here to hurt anybody."

It's good that Niki doesn't blame him for wanting to throw her out! That makes it easier to explain why he plans to do so. Or at least he does until Cass appears. Then Lachlan gets worse. Before, there was at least himself and a wall and door between Cass and Niki. Now there's just himself. He scoffs disbelievingly at Niki's last statement. "Yeah, sure yer bloody no'. Get goin'." It's okay, Cass, he's manly and can handle this.

There's confusion in spades and just to make sure that Lachlan doesn't attempt to beat the snot out of an innocent woman, Cass gestures for him to come closer. Further away from Niki. Because she's pretty sure that's who this is. Not just because she says she is, but through some of her body language. "Okay." She'll trust her. The whole situation with Niki is confusing, but she's doing her best to understand it. "Lachlan, stop it, it wasn't Niki's fault for what happened." There's a pause as she looks from Lachlan to Niki and then inside her apartment but, then she offers, "Do you want to come in?"

Standing her ground, the woman in the hall raises a hand - another non-offensive gesture. She doesn't want any trouble. "I'm telling the truth." After Cass looks from Niki to Lachlan on the offer to go inside, Niki looks from Cass to Lachlan. "…I'm not sure that's such a good idea." In fact, it sounds like a monumentally bad idea. She chances taking her eyes off of Lachlan to regard Cass with sincere apology. Guilt. "I just wanted to come by to apologize for what happened at the store. It was my fault." Probably not the best thing to say under the circumstances, but there it is. "I couldn't stop her," her voice, though still firm, almost shakes. "I'll go now."

When he's beckoned, Lachlan obediently moves back over to Cass, away from Niki, but he doesn't take his eyes off the other woman for a single instant. Once he's been called off, he crosses his arms over his chest and scowls. Cass has always been too trusting. He knows that. But that's why he's here: to pound the snot out of people trying to take advantage of that. All the talk about Niki not being at fault (and then actually being at fault) and not being able to stop 'her' is rather confusing, though. His scowl becomes more of a frown as he tries to mull that one over.

Whatever Jessica might have done to Cass, the one thing that she's starting to understand (through the help of Peter) is that Niki isn't Jessica. The problem is figuring out who is who and what the hell is going on with that. "I…I don't know what you're going through. I can't." She doesn't have abilities and she has no idea about what the other woman was doing. However, she can hear the voice near shaking of Niki's voice. "But, I know you're not her. And there's a difference between you two. I don't understand what's going on, but I want to help you. You're still my friend." Even if Lachlan is being protective, she tries to mainly stay focused on Niki. Instead, she just reaches out a comforting hand to try and keep Lachlan's center of calm where it should be.

A confused Lachlan is better than a Lachlan who is threatening her loudly in the hallway. Nevertheless, Niki is in the process of backing away, ready to leave the building, when what Cass says strikes her suddenly. She looks at the other woman with barely masked surprise. She's touched by that unexpected standpoint from Cass. The outcome: Niki regards Cass wholly uncertainly and shakes her head slowly. "I don't think you can help me. I should've just quit when I realized I could be putting everyone in danger just by pretending to be normal."

Wait, wait, wait, what? What?! It wasn't Niki? But Cass said it was Niki, didn't she? Now Lachlan is even more confused. He glances between the two women with an increasingly furrowed brow. Niki was nice to him during that rough patch, but she tried to kill Cass — only now he comes to find out it wasn't her, and now it's just … what. "Someone mind explainin' wha' the hell's goin' on?" He's calm — or as calm as he'll ever get in such a situation — and most of the hostility is gone.

While she may not understand everything, Cass does know friendship. "I don't know if I can, either," the bookstore owner replies truthfully. As much as she'd like to be the answer for everything, she knows that she's not. "I'm not sure," she tells Lachlan quietly. "Sometimes it's Niki…sometimes it's someone else. They're the same person, but…not." At least that's what she gathered from her conversation with Peter. And how everyone who seemed to know the score acted around both Jessica and Niki. "But…just answer me one thing. Was it Jessica that bugged the store? Is that something you could know?"

Niki moves a bit closer to the pair, her shoulder brushing the wall that leads to Cass's door. "I don't know anything about any bugs," she admits, frowning, shaking her head. "If she knew, she kept it from me. I don't always… remember." Something is bothering her, though; she shifts her weight from foot to foot for a moment. "How did you know— did Peter…?"

But … if … what? Lachlan's frown grows, which is quite a feat, considering how deep it already is. "Then how d'ye know she's no' gonna suddenly flip an' be … No'-Niki?" he asks of Cass, though he doesn't keep his voice nearly as quiet as hers. He glances at Niki in a rather baffled and somewhat wary manner. So this is Nice-Niki, and the one who tried to strangle Cass is Not-Nice-Niki. Okay. "Wha', s'like split personalities?"

"Okay." If Niki's coming to apologize, Cass doubts that the woman is going to lie about that. Her trusting nature and all. The question makes her shrug. "Well, I had to go find him after…everything…" that should cover anything they don't want to talk about out loud. "So, he fit in some pieces for me. It was either split personalities or an evil twin. And evil twin is just way to cliche and out there even for me." And what she's been seeing lately. "I don't know," she responds to Lachlan's question, not bothering to keep her voice quiet. If she's already heard his question, she shouldn't mind the response.

"Yeah… split personalities," Niki confirms with a hint of a bitter smile. "Multiple personality disorder, a fracture, disassociative… whatever, I've heard it all." But she's not crazy, honest. She takes in a long breath, glancing away and down from the couple before she says, "I can try to explain-" She looks to the door. "I don't want to interrupt."

Well, for all his hostility before, Lachlan has started to calm down even more, and this new bit of information makes him feel, well, almost sorry for Niki. Almost. He's still a little wary of her, because he doesn't know when she'll not be herself and try to kill Cass again (or himself). He doesn't say anything to push her away, but he doesn't invite her in either. Cass will do that, he's sure.

And Lachlan would be right! Stepping backwards, and attempting to drag Lachlan along with her as she does so, she leaves the door open for the other woman to follow. "You're not really interrupting anything. Come in." Never one to turn away a friend in need, she gestures for Niki to sit somewhere. "Would you like anything to drink?"

Hopefully this friend in need - in need of what, Niki isn't sure — won't turn on on her hosts now that she steps inside the comfort of Cass's home. … but no, she just smiles appreciatively on her way in. "No, thank you." She takes a seat in the arm chair; she's still tense, there's no doubt about that. This doesn't exactly have the air of a casual visit. "When Jessica came by Enlightenment… she was looking for something. Something I hid." Taking blame for that, she looks down at her lap, where her palms press together above her knees. "It wasn't there. You were just… in the way."

Okay, so Not-Nice-Niki is named Jessica. Got it. The bit about Cass being in the way really does not sit well with Lachlan, but he doesn't say anything on the subject. He opts to stand and stay standing near the couch, arms still crossed over his chest. "An' Peter was just in the way too, huh?" he grunts with no small amount of bitterness. Cleaning up bits of Peter wasn't a horrible task (not like he hasn't done it before), but it's not exactly high up on his Fun Things To Do With My Girlfriend list.

Taking a seat opposite Niki on the couch, Cass smiles and pushes over a rather large-ish box that's got a purple bow on it to the side so she doesn't crush it. Whatever could that be? For the moment, the store owner barely acknowledges it before nodding. "Well. I'm…I'm glad that it wasn't there." Who knows what Jessica might have done if she found something she was looking for was hidden in her store. "I think." Then again, maybe she wouldn't have torn the place apart if she found it easily. Lachlan's question makes her wince slightly, but it's a valid one and she doesn't reproach him on the subject. "That, uh, tends to happen to me a lot, unfortunately." Being in the way, that is.

Niki is literally on the edge of her seat. She's making no moves to get more comfortable any time soon. She moistens her lips, already looking rueful over what she's about to say she hesitates, mouth opening and closing twice before she explains - and confirms, for Lachlan. "She doesn't usually leave witnesses." Now that she's admitted there's a usually, let's move on! "About that. Are you okay?" she asks Cass. "I heard that you were in the hospital."

Usually. Lachlan frowns more. "Then how d'ye keep 'er from poppin' out alla time?" he grunts. Just how did she keep Jessica down so that it was Niki giving advice about sugarwater and roses instead of Jessica smashing his face with the glass? That's what he'd like to know. And then how did it become Jessica ripping Peter into little itty bitty pieces instead of Niki doing her job at the store?

It's hard not to notice Niki's hesitance and uncomfortable nature while here. Cass does her best to seem non-assuming, but there's not much she can do about that other than sit where she is and make no sudden movements. "Then…why did she?" Not that she's saying she's /not/ glad to be alive. Just that she's confused now. "Oh, I'm okay. Getting there. Healing up really nicely, all the doctors said. Already starting to do half days at the store again. Sometimes I get really tired and have to sit down or nap, but for the most part I'm doing better. Thanks for asking." Lachlan's questions are /again/ very valid. Ones that she's curious about but hadn't worked up the initiative to ask about.

There are a lot of questions to answer, but Niki does her best not to be overwhelmed. "She comes out when someone threatens me," Niki can't help but give a pointed, curious look at Lachlan. He threatened her, but here she is, not Jessica. Another question waiting to be posed? "Or when someone tries to hurt me, or… when she's getting a job done. I don't know why she didn't kill you; I think maybe she wanted to show me what would happen if I tried to get in the way," she answers with no lack of cynicism. She offers Cass a small smile. "I'm glad. You don't deserve all of the bad things that've happened to you."

Sadly, that only makes Lachlan more incorrigible. He would totally threaten Niki again just out of spite, except there's that thing about feeling sorry for her and her situation, and so he doesn't. He just glares when he's looked at rather pointedly. Having nothing more to ask, he goes silent.

Happily, Cass wouldn't allow Lachlan to threaten Niki again out of spite or out of testing. "Ah. Then, no threatening." Not that Cass is anyone who threatens, anyway. "Well, message received. To me, anyway." Stay away from Jessica. Sort of. Because Cass still went in search of Niki even under the threat of Jessica. "Thanks," she replies with a smile to Niki. "Things happen for a reason. I'm sure there's a bright side to this. Or it's a test. Either way, it's getting easier." Then, the box that was sitting next to Cass on the couch shifts and there's something suspiciously like a mew coming from inside it. "Uh. Hey, Lach, would you mind opening that for me?" It's casual, but she's grinning.

The interesting little noise from the interesting little box garners a strange look and crooked smile from Niki that borders on silly, but until its contents is revealed she doesn't say anything. She hadn't paid much attention to the box before now. "Ever since— " She falls silent on her own words all of a sudden and her smile disappears completely. "… something… happened… a month ago. She's been gone ever since. But I know now that it's no guarantee."

Did that box just— ? That box just— ! And it's not a puppy. Lachlan stares at it, then at Cass, then at the box again as though it might be something poisonous. What did Cass do?! But it's mean to leave live things trapped in purple boxes — even if it's his favorite color — so he pulls the box over toward himself and proceeds to open it, only half-listening to the conversation now. When he finds what's inside, he stares at it. And just stares. It— it—

That's right! It's a kitten! A cute fluffy orange tabby kitten. It looks up from it's box (where there are holes, just small ones so they're harder to spot), focuses in on Lachlan and mews again. Plaintively. Pick me up! It seems to say. While Lachlan is unwrapping his present, Cass is busy talking with Niki. "I…well, I can't say I'm glad to hear she hasn't been back." Especially after knowing and experiencing what she can do. She only takes a moment to grin at Lachlan. "Be nice. His name is George."

"Sometimes… it's more than just Jessica," Niki admits quietly, however much 'just Jessica' is an oxymoron. And then? All of her focus is on the box, at least for a moment, her brows lifting in wonder. What the? When the contents are revealed, she can't help but break into a smile. "You got a kitten," she says through a light laugh. "He's cute."

Wh— ?! Lachlan continues to stare at the little orange ball of fluff. With its big eyes and … and … fluff. He picks it up with no small amount of hesitation, almost as though it might bite him or something, and holds it at arms-length, firmly supported with both hands. "S'a damn cat," he finally concludes, as though Niki's identification wasn't enough. What's he supposed to do with a damn cat?

Oxymoron, indeed. Jessica is more than just a just. "Are the others…like her?" she asks. More personalities just as violent and with the same amount of strength is just scary. Because while she likes and trusts Niki, those other people who take her over are very different from Niki. The seriousness, however, melts a bit as she deals with Lachlan and his attempt to bond with the kitten. "No, it's a damn kitten. And he's for you." He can guess what she would like him to be able to do with it at some point. At least to practice on reading it's thoughts at some point. She'll help, of course. "Be good to him. If you're good with George, maybe I'll by you a doberman puppy."

It's a kitten. The power of the adorable kitten has shone into the room, it seems - Niki's still smiling. However, she looks away from the baby cat to reply seriously to Cass. "Not… like Jessica. There's only been one other one, and I don't think she's dangerous to anyone but me." She looks away, idly staring at George for a moment. He provides something to stare at, conveniently. "I tried to get help. I dunno what to do anymore, you know?"

B-but. But! But. Lachlan wants a Doberman puppy, not a kitten. But he's not totally against the idea, either. He does want to practice his powers and expand them to something more than just dogs. He looks at George again rather critically, as though able to discern everything about what cats eat and drink and do just by looking at this one. Then, he peers into the box one last time, just to make sure he didn't miss the Doberman puppy hiding in there somewhere before he resignedly takes a seat on the couch next to Cass and places George in his lap. Then he just stares at the little bundle of fluffy joy more. Then pokes at its side with a finger.

The power of adorable holds many eyes and ears in the room. Kittens do that. "Well, that doesn't sound good, either," Cass sighs to Niki. "If you'd like…I could try to help you. I'm not sure if it'd do any good. But. That's what I'm trying to do. Help people with problems." Just don't eviscerate her, please. The kitten, pleased to be in a lap and have someone close by curls up into a little ball of fluff and starts to purr. Lachlan is now it's new mommy. Purr purr. When poked in the side, he doesn't seem to mind. Instead, he just lovingly latches onto the offending finger with his teeth. It's a love bite, one that doesn't break skin.

"I'm… not sure, either. I won't turn you away, I just— it seems like I've tried all the options. It worked for awhile, but there were… complications," Niki trails off, leaving it there, frowning even despite the warming presence of the kitten. "So - Enlightenment was bugged?" she asks suddenly - or not-so-suddenly, to her mind; she's following a train of thought. "Why?"

AUGHEVILDEMONSPAWN. No, not really. Lachlan's been playfully mouthed by puppies before to know when a little thing is not attempting to savagely rip off his hand. He does frown at George, though, and withdraws his finger out of bitey range to instead just … rest it on the kitten's curled back. Yes. You … you just sleep. Kitten. Thing. His attention goes back to the conversation at hand. "Why d'ye think?" he grunts at Niki, though there's not really any lingering annoyance or hostility there. It's just a questions.

"I'm not going to force you into it," Cass replies with a small smile. "It's just an option if you want it." Remember, opposite of the Company. Always with the choices and the free will. No matter who needs help. "Yeah. People seemed to think we were the fast track to information. Can't imagine why." Her own reply is a bit wry as she's still a little bitter about the violation of her store. Happily in Lachlan's lap, George continues to purr and sleep. It was exhausting, being in that box for who knows how long, waiting for Lachlan.

"Why would anyone want to bug a bookstore?" Niki honestly doesn't know. Cass just said she tries to help, but that's just… that's Cass for you. "Even if…" Something Cass says seems to jar her onto the right track. "It was because of the people who go there," she realizes. "So many people looking for that book…" The Company.

Yeah, that'd be the one. Lachlan doesn't pet the kitten, but his hand remains over the little thing's body. Dogs don't purr. It's foreign. His gaze remains fixed on the two women in the room, though, as though the kitten just does not exist. "So it wasna y— h— Je— " Frown. "It was someone else tha' bugged the place? Ye dunna know who?"

The only answer that Niki gets as a nod. That's all that the woman should need, anyway. Cass is confirming her guess. Looking between the two, that's a question she was curious about, too. So she stays quiet to listen to the answer.

"As far as I know, it wasn't Jessica." That may not be saying much, again. "I had no idea." Niki shifts back in the chair a bit, vaguely more comfortable-looking than she was before. "I don't have anything to do with anyone who would do something like that." Anymore.

As far as she knows. Does that mean it /could/ have been? Lachlan doesn't know. It's hard for him to imagine, despite Niki's earlier statement, that one can't have more than one personality living in one's head and not be aware of what the others are up to. Then again, he's not an expert in such things. Far from it. So he simply frowns and grunts softly, glancing toward Cass. "Wasna yer dad, was it?" Oh, by the way, Lachlan and Doctor Aldric are totally BFFs forever and should have tea someday to discuss things like Scotland and dogs again, because they do it so well, you see.

Cass doesn't know, either, but it's something that's been weighing on her mind. Who would betray her like that? And if it wasn't someone who /had/ betrayed her, who would know enough to bug the store? Who would /do/ something like that? It's worrying. That's for sure. "I didn't think you did. Just. You know. Jessica seemed like the type." Murderous and it wouldn't be a stretch if she started working for the Company. But, Lachlan gets a glare. "My father would never do something like that to me." He may work for the Company, but he's still her father.

"I'm not so sure." It's half a murmur, practically to herself. "I think I met your father," Niki says. "You said he works in Hartsdale, right? He was very nice." The blonde starts to stand up. "It's… getting late. I should get home. Monica goes to bed early for work and… I have to be there for Micah. Thank you," she looks down at Cass, and even Lachlan, with gratitude. "For understanding. It's…" One of the woman's shoulders lifts. "It's too much."

Sure he wouldn't. But then it wouldn't necessarily be her that Doctor Aldric would be doing these things to, now would it? It would be everyone else in her store. And Lachlan is totally not biased in this line of thinking, don't be silly. He grunts in a disbelieving manner at this assurance, then rubs the back of his neck with his free hand, sighing. When Niki stands and makes mention of needing to leave, he nods. "Yeah, sure." Hey, that sounds almost apologetic. "An', uh … 'm sorry. Fer all tha'. B'fore." Wow, that was apologetic! The mention of Micah raises an eyebrow, and he glances a her left hand. "Yer husband werkin' 'r somethin'?" He's seen that ring on her hand a few times before.

As is polite, Cass stands up when Niki does. That's the what you do. You open doors for guests and things. "Yeah. He does. He's…he's a good man." She just doesn't agree with what it is that he does. "Alright. Thank you for coming by, Niki." She sounds genuine in her thanks. "Feel free to stop by if you need any help. Really." As for the husband, she winces. "Oh, yeah. Apologize for me. I think I was a little short with him when I went looking for you at your house."

On her way to the door, Niki has a smile for Lachlan; no hard feelings, because she really, honestly doesn't blame him for his reactions. It's a smile that fades soon on the heels of his question. She, too, looks down at her left hand, the finger with the delicate ring wrapped around it; from D.L. Her fingers curl into a fist slowly. When Cass chimes in, she simply stands there for a moment, steeling herself; her jaw tenses before she makes a concerted effort to relax. Her fist unfurls. "No, and… I would, but I can't." She flashes a smile to the pair. It's devoid of mirth. "He's— " Just say it. "He's dead."

… oh. Uh. Wow. Lachlan just hit a whole new world of awkward. He blinks, swallows once, opens his mouth to say something, closes it, opens it, closes it, then just settles back awkwardly into his seat on the couch and looks down. Oh look! A kitten! Isn't that nice and not-awkward? Yes.

Wow. Yeah. Awkward. That says it all pretty perfectly. "I'm sorry…" That's all Cass can really think of to say. It's a standard reply, but it's heartfelt and she really means it. But, she's not sure what else to say. Hesitantly, as if she might be rebuffed, she attempts to put a hand on the woman's shoulder. It's a light touch, meant to be comforting. It's not like she can say anything that will make it better. But, sometimes contact helps.

Niki is used to the awkward. It's happened a lot in recent weeks. When Cass touches her shoulder, she reaches up to clasp her wrist in turn. "… Thank you. It's … been a hard month. I guess I'll see you around." The smile that follows is forced, but nonetheless heartfelt. She opens the door to the apartment. "Goodnight."

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