|Happy Valentine's Day|
|Location||Mount Pleasant, New York|
|Summary||Kade checks in on his girl.|
The town of Mount Pleasant is about an hour's drive from New York City, give or take traffic, in a part of Westchester County that has many towns and villages but few traces of the sprawling urban center that's so close to it. It's a little after 10 a.m. when Kade Caruthers settles himself at a table inside Ye Olde Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwich Cafe. A banana split sits in front of him, begging to be eaten, but he's paying more attention to his tablet just now. Thumbing through a Tourist's Guide to Westchester County page thoughtfully. "Sleepy Hollow's not too far from here. We could drive by before I drop you back at the X-joint. I'm not working until later tonight."
Nina Caruthers is digging straight into her own sundae, eating carefully around the cherry, so she can save it for last. The look she gives her father at his mention of Sleepy Hollow is long and unenthusiastic and accompanied by raised eyebrows. "Isn't that, like, a village? There's nothing there. This is Westchester, Dad. There's, like, nothing anywhere."
"That's not true!" Kade objects, hastily skimming his tourism page for anything remotely cool. "There's a bunch of historic stuff. And Washington Irving's grave." Even he can't sound enthusiastic about that. "I thought you liked that place. We went trick-or-treating a couple Halloweens up there. It was fun."
"Yeah, when I was like six," Nina retorts. "That was forever ago." When she was a child. She licks some stray hot fudge off the corner of her lip, lest it ruin her picture of maturity. "Besides, I want to get back before it gets too late."
"What, you got plans tonight?" Kade asks. Kind of teasingly, but the question isn't entirely light. He is painfully aware she isn't six anymore.
Nina rolls her eyes. Her eye-rolling stats are high. "I don't know. Maybe. We don't have classes tomorrow, so my friends might be doing something."
"Your friends?" Kade asks, raising his own eyebrows back at his daughter. "Are any of these friends boys?"
"Oh my God!" Nina exclaims, as if this were the most embarrassing question in the universe. That was not an answer.
Kade tries to play it cool. Without a ton of success. "It's OK if you do, you know. I'm not, like, going to freak out or anything." This is debateable.
So much eye-rolling. "GOD. You're so lame. He's not my boyfriend, anyway. He's just a guy." Who apparently does exist. "You met him, at my quinceanera last year."
"Is it that Bryan kid?" Kade sounds unsure how he feels about this.
"UGH." It takes Nina a moment to manage any other response. "God. No. Bryan and I haven't been going out for, like, ever." Keep up, old man. "His name's Derek. You totally met him. You like him." She offers no details beyond this assurance that Kade thought this random boy was awesome at some point.
Kade looks dubious. "I met like a dozen kids that night. Tell Derek he better respect you. And that you can set him on fire if he doesn't. Which you can. I know we talked about not lighting people up, but there are circumstances where it's entirely justified."
"UGH." Nina does a literal 'throwing up her hands' gesture, then rolls her eyes again. "Derek totally respects me. God. He's not even really my boyfriend, anyway. He's just...a guy. Who's around. And sometimes we're around the same places and we hang out." She thinks a moment and then, like she's found a bullet she can put in this line of conversation, "Why? Do you, like, have a girlfriend again now?"
Kade sighs. He probably should have expected that, but he didn't. Evenly he replies, "There is a woman back in the city who I'm very special friends with."
" 'Special friend'?" Nina makes a face. It is all of 'Eww.'
"You know her," Kade assures his daughter. "Her name's Ciel Kane. She used to work in X-Force with me, back in the day."
Nina looks blank. "Yeah. Sure I do." She has zero memory of this person. As good a job as this has done in ending all questions about her friends who are boys, she looks regretful and vaguely grossed out over having brought it up.
Kade also looks super-awkward. "Anyway, you can meet her sometime. Maybe not too soon, if you don't want to, but sometime."
"Yeah, sure," Nina says, without any particular enthusiasm.
"OK," Kade says, edging away from this topic. "How's school going?" That question does an even worse job of sounding light than his inquiry about boys.
Nina shrugs and immediately goes to her stock answer. "Fine."
"Mmmhmm," is Kade's response to that. It gets more skeptical every time. "Have you heard anything from that girl who ran off? Cami?"
Nina does some more shrugging. "We weren't close or anything. I already told you everything I knew. I said I'd call Mister Wallace if I heard anything else." She stirs her ice cream, making swirling patterns with the fudge against the vanilla. "She left campus, like, all the time and nobody cared. I don't know why this time it's such a big deal."
Kade does his best not to look entirely alarmed by this. His success is mixed. "It's a big deal because she disappeared without telling anyone where she's going, and she might be in trouble. This isn't fun, Nina, this is dangerous. If she, or anyone else you know, does this again, you need to tell somebody."
"I'm not a narc, Dad!" Nina snaps, stabbing at her sundae with her spoon. "She's probably fine." Pause. "Did Mister Wallace find her?"
"Maybe. Some of the crew is looking around this area tonight. I'd go along myself, but work's kicked my ass this week." Kade downs a little more banana split, albeit with less appetite. "Call us if you hear anything else, OK?"
"I said I would." Nina rolls her eyes, but it's almost a token eye-roll. She adds, more sincerely. "I'll keep an eye out. Promise."
"Thanks, kiddo." Kade eats a little more, letting a moment of quiet settle in before moving on to another subject. "You still coming to Brooklyn next weekend?"
"Probably," Nina replies vaguely. "Is Mikhail still staying with you?" Like this might influence her decision.
Kade shakes his head. "Nah, he's got his own place." Pause. "You can go see it if you want, when you swing by Mutant Town. Your mom's going to want some face time with you, anyhow."
Nina looks a little disappointed that Mikhail is no longer haunting her father's apartment. "I don't really know what my friends are doing next weekend," she replies. "But I think I can come into the city."
"Good. You can get out in the neighborhood a little bit, see how you like the feel of it. The schools around where I'm at are supposed to be pretty good." Kade braces himself for the standard reaction to this line of conversation.
Nina rolls her eyes. So much. "They're mundy schools! There are, like, no other mutants there. Or nobody who admits they're a mutant." That last one carries a lot of disdain. "All my friends are at Xavier's, and some of the old teachers are still there. The ones who didn't bail." So bitter. "It's fine."
"The state's sending non-mutant kids to Xavier's now, too, the way I hear it," Kade replies. "Just give Brooklyn a chance. See how you feel about it. If you like it, we can talk about your options closer to summer. OK?"
Nina stares at her ice cream. But she doesn't fight this as hard as she has in the past. She gets a little less inclined to defend Xavier's every time they talk about it. "OK."
"OK." Kade lets it be at that. Not that it really eases whatever worries he has about her school situation, but it'll keep for a little while longer. For a minute or so they both eat in silence. Once Kade's split is mostly gone, he puts his fork down and holds up one finger. Concentrating until it sparks a little flame. Then, he reaches over to flick his daughter's nose.
Nina was doing a pretty good job of pouting stoically over the remains of her ice cream, but the flick of fire across her nose gets a, "Hey!" and a laugh. She concentrates, managing to heat the air around her palm into a little pocket of hotness that she can propel. "Think fast old man!" She probably should not be doing that in a building with so much wood paneling.
And Kade should probably tell her not to, but he doesn't this time, throwing up a hand to catch her mini-fireball. He palms it with ease, and the ice cream parlor is not harmed by either of them. He grins broad at her. "Not bad, kiddo. Come on. Let's get on the road."
Nina scarfs the cherry that's all that remains of her sundae and flits outside, to her father's car, which will carry her back to the school where she's spent so much time during the last four years.
The drive back isn't exactly quiet, since Kade lets his daughter work the radio and inflict whatever heavily Chinese-influenced pop on him she wants, but they don't talk much. Kade takes a long look at Xavier's as he pulls up outside the gates. Even from the outside, it looks worlds away from the place he remembers so fondly as a boy. "Nina," he begins, after a deep breath. "If you ever feel like you don't want to be here, I'll just come and get you. Or your mom will. You know that, right? You don't have to wait until this summer, we can work it out whenever."
"It's fine, Dad," Nina insists it, but does add, "I know. I wouldn't just go off. I'm not...I'm not that dumb." She gives him a little smile.
Kade nods. "OK." Pause. "I'll see you later. Happy Valentine's Day. I love you."Nina gives her father another eyeroll, for good measure, but she does say, "I love you, too." Before stepping out of his car and heading back on up the path to Xavier's.