Quit Cloning Around

April 05, 2016:

Caitlin tells Carol her horrible dark secret!

Lakehouse, Hall of Justice

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Alex Peabody, Deathstroke

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's be inaccurate to say that Caitlin's been avoiding Carol Danvers. They work out regularly, they go on missions, they eat meals. With Caitlin living in the Justice League's auxiliary structure, the Lakehouse, it's not even as if she -could- really hide, if she wanted to.

But for about a week, the normally effusive redhead had been quiet around Carol. Conspicuously so. Not evading or shying away, but somehow … withdrawn. As if distracted by something weighing heavily on her mind. Though not the sort to mope and whine to get attention, Caitlin's also lacks any real ability to dissemble. Particularly around Carol.

Which makes for the fourth sort-of awkward meal in the Lakehouse where Carol's brought food (because Caitlin is easily influenced while eating) and where Caitlin offers little in the way of conversation.

Sitting at the other end of the small table in the Lakehouse common room, Caitlin's slouching inasmuch as she's able to. Elbow propped up on the table, cheekbone resting in the palm of her hand, she pokes at her meal laconically and for once, without much enthusiasm. Even a plate of famous Golden Palace teriyaki noodles seems unable to really stir her spirits, and it seems reflected by her dark grey t-shirt, which features a twenty-sided die with the '1' clearly visible on the topmost facet.

Carol has been busy enough the last few weeks that she has not taken the time to push matters where Caitlin is concerned. Work has been quite busy at the Planet, as budget season has come up again. She hates this kind of busywork and financial hooplah, but it's part of her job, and she insists on doing her job well, or not doing it at all. The League has not been inactive, and she's had plenty to do there. She hasn't spent much time with the Avengers, but what time she has spent has eaten even more into the rest of her time and attention.

Carol's whole plan with this meal was that she didn't have to go anywhere afterwards, so she could bring by Chinese, as a pleasant surprise, and then hang around. They could eat. Relax. And finally get to talk.

Now Caitlin isn't eating, and she's pensively silent.

Carol finishes another chopstick load of her Kung Pao Delight, and eyes the redhead. "Hey. If you have a stomach flu or something, just say so. We'll bag this stuff in the fridge, and you can hydrate and get to bed. I'm not here to torture you, Caitlin."

"Huh?"

Caitlin blinks a few times, and focuses on Carol. "I'm not sick," she says in automatic protest. "I'm just not…" She trails off when she realizes Carol knows full well that the amazonian redhead isn't sick, and her eyes flicker uncomfortably down at her plate, then away out the window.

She pushes her plate away. THAT'S a bad sign. The big ginger rubs her elbows a bit awkwardly, shoulders rolling forward as she shrinks into herself.

"I'm sorry, Carol, I don't… I'm sorry I'm a downer," she says, mumbling a bit. "I really do appreciate the meal. It's really good," she assures the blonde, with plenty of sincerity but not much enthusiasm. "I… um." She checks herself on the verge of asking Carol something, then unconsciously shakes her head and looks away again.

Carol watches Caitlin mentally and emotionally flail about, and doesn't interrupt. She leans back, giving Caitlin all of the room she needs to try to work this out and find a way to express herself. When the redhead can't manage it, Carol waits for her, quietly. She doesn't keep eating. She just waits. And watches.

Finally, after a very long time, Carol speaks up. "I'm not going to torture or tickle it out of you, Caitlin. I'm here. I'm listening. If you want to talk. If you want to scream and yell. If you want a hug. And if you just want me to go the Hell away, I can do that too. I'm not going to judge you, or push you. It has to be your call. Whenever you're ready. If ever."

Caitlin's voluminous eyes start getting threateningly shiny, and she looks everywhere but at Carol. One heel jitters on the ground (with enough force to make a cup dance across the table). She squeezes her fingers, twisting them into knuckle-cracking knots, and shakes her head mutely.

Then she abruptly starts bawling. It's not pretty, either. Caitlin just doesn't have the coloration or the restraint for demure weeping. Frankly, she blubbers, and after a solid thirty seconds, she comes up with her face blotchy and bright red. At least she wasn't wearing mascara.

"I- I- I- I-" she hiccoughs, unable to get the words out. "I don't … I…" she flips her hands into the air and against her lean thighs, frustration inhibiting her ability to elocute.

It takes her a sniffling moment. "Alex m-made me meet him at his h-house? And there was thi-this guy and he was… one-eyed and huge, and he was -scary- and he… he said… he said I'm some kind of … I don't know, some kind of test tube baby," she whispers, looking miserable and afraid. "I don't have a mom. I never had one. I'm just a c-cl-clone."

She chokes a bit and emits a *snrrk*, rubbing at her face viciously with the palm of her hand.

Oh. My. God.

Carol is not exactly strongly maternal. It's not her thing. Overwrought emotions leave her feeling terribly out of place. But she doesn't run away from anything; that's just not who she is. Caitlin starts bawling, and Carol looks trapped, almost like an animal with a leg caught in a bear trap. Like she'd be willing to saw off a limb to get out of this.

Carol cares about Caitlin, though. And she can tell the younger woman is in need. Eventually, in spite of herself, Carol slides around the table and pulls the redhead into her arms, apparently deciding that blubbering and even blotchy crying can be dealt with. Somehow.

"There's no such thing as 'just a clone'." Carol responds. She touches Caitlin over her heart. "You are just as much a person as anyone else. Period. That you never got to know the love of your biological mother isn't fair. Sadly, kiddo, life isn't fair. Life often sucks. I'm sorry for that."

Caitlin flops bonelessly against Carol's upper chest and just cries her heart out for about five solid minutes, letting the stalwart woman hold her up. Thank goodness for superstrength, because Caitlin's deceptively massive.

She starts calming down once Carol touches her, sniffling and rubbing at her face again, and after a few more sniffling moments, she speaks in a froggy voice. "It's not just… just that," Caitlin says, haltingly, trying to get hold of her emotions. She grips Carol's fingers and squeezes them, staring dully at the floor of the dining area. "Alex and this… guy… Slade, I think, they told me that…" She screws her eyes shut, two fat droplets falling on her high cheeks, and furrows her brow in thought. "They said I don't even have real memories," she gets out. "It was all some… kinda hypnosis or something. Like they implanted them. Alex's dad was some of them and they made up my daddy for the rest and … I have no idea what really happened, or what I am just imagining, or what was made up. Alex… I think… I think I stole a lot of Alex's dad from him," she admits in a shamed tone.

Carol touches Caitlin's heart again. "/You/ didn't steal anything, Caitlin. They chose to grow you to near adulthood. That wasn't your choice, it was theirs. They chose to implant memories inside you. You didn't make that choice. You're just doing the best you can. So stop beating yourself up."

Caitlin nods, clearly not quite agreeing with Carol, but unwilling to contend the point. So she leans against the other superheroine for a while, until she calms down to the point where she's not so prone to abrupt leaks around her eyes.

She remains slumped against Carol, needing the emotional support much more than the physical aid. "I don't know what to do," she admits, finally, buring her face against Carol's shoulder and brushing some stray moisture away with her thumb. "I … I always dreamed I had a mom out there somewhere, but I thought daddy was all I needed. Now it's like… he's not even real. He's just someone else's dream of him planted in my head. I don't even know if that's really his face," she admits. "Or just a bunch of like, dream-photoshopping or whatever. Or…" A look of horror crosses her face. "Or if … 'cause Alex said there… were … others," she whispers, voice dropping in low terror. "Other… clones."

"You have sisters." Carol answers, as she holds Caitlin and lets her go at her own pace, bit by bit, crisis by crisis, thought by thought, through the emotional Hell of landmines that her existence has become. "Or. Well. You had sisters." It's mostly the context of how she said it that clues Carol in that the other clones didn't make it. "I can't fix it, Caitlin. But you need to know that no matter what … you are real. You are your own woman. No matter how you came to be." And Carol doesn't think any less of her for any of this.

Caitlin nods at Carol, then cries again for a while. Mercifully, it doesn't last quite as long, and the tone is much less soul-rending. Just stress and relief at finally being able to share a moment of such painful reckoning.

"Thanks, Carol," she finally gets out, managing to sit upright more or less on her own power. Caitlin rubs her face again with her palms. "I … I don't know how to feel about it," she admits, voice a bit hoarse but calmer now. "I don't even know where to begin. Alex gave me some, um, some notes?" she hazards, blinking in the direction of her room. "I guess… I don't know," she exhales. "He warned me I wouldn't want to know the truth. Now that I do I kinda see where he was coming from," she says, fretting her lower lip. She tugs her fingers through her thick red hair, which by total coincidence almost precisely resembles Carol's in cut and volume at present time. "Now I'm like, halfway down the rabbit hole and I don't know if I should stop or, like… see where it all ends up." She looks to Carol uncertainly.

Carol pats the younger woman on the upper bicep, gently, looking to meet an emerald gaze with sapphires. "I can't tell you what to do, Caitlin. I never have. All I can tell you is that no matter what you decide, I'll back you up. I'll support you. The decision has to be yours. I understand the fear. But I also understand the craving, the need to know the truth. You have to decide how you resolve that. And how I can help you."

Caitlin meets Carol's earnest gaze, and visibly draws strength from the dashing blonde's towering self-assurance. She sets her shoulders and takes a huge breath (which is a lot of movement!) and then exhales in a totally non-stalwart *hurrrrrrrrrrrrrffffthbbbttttbt*.

"Thanks, Carol. I think…" She screws up the bridge of her nose, pensively, tongue emerging from the side of her mouth. "Okay, -first- I need to find out where all this went down. No, wait, -first- first, I need to find the people who helped Alex. Scratch that," she amends, holding a finger up. "Number A: First first, I need to look how they mighta done it. There's all kinds of crazy tech and powers out there, but Slade said somethin' about him not being psychic. So maybe it's some kind of special posthypnotic training they did."

"No, wait."

"FIRSTly first, is there any more food?"

Carol just shakes her head slightly, grinning as Caitlin gets herself twisted around. But when she finishes, Carol just gestures to the table. "Plenty of food. We can heat it up, no problem." Carol winks. "Then we can work out the rest of it."

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