Cracks Under The Surface


carl2_icon.gif kaylee6_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title Cracks Under the Surface
Synopsis Luther and Carl take Kaylee ice-skating for her birthday and to unwind from a bad few months.
Date February 03, 2021

“Whoooa… This might have been a bad idea,” Kaylee says, breaking into a nervous giggle, holding to the edge of the ice rink with a death grip. Her hands were encased in a stylish pair black leather gloves that Luther had bought her for Christmas. Kaylee loved them, especially since they did a very good job at clinging to the slick surface of the rink wall.

It had been a rough time for Kaylee in the last few months, especially with all the news about the nanobots, more of the group having seizures and the results of the crash investigation… the list goes on. It felt like they were barely getting anywhere on the investigation and yet there was so much they have uncovered. So despite her trying to be strong in front of the others, he’d found her sitting on the kitchen floor crying one day.

So it was decided Kaylee needed a distraction and that’s how they ended up there. Oh… and it was her birthday, too.

“Who’s idea was this anyhow?” Kaylee angles the question at Luther, her voice wavering slightly as she turns herself around, one foot slipping a bit. “This is not like riding a bike,” she states with a laugh, holding her hand out to Luther for help. Of course, finds his arm latched onto by Carl who is also giggly.

“It was my idea, mom!” Carl says through another giggle. “You and dad always said you would and it’s a perfect place to celebrate your birthday.” Oh yeah, her face says.

Stifling his own soft snorted laugh, Luther holds out a gloved hand of his own to clasp on to Kaylee's as she struggles forward. "Steady there. Remember, keep your knees bent and chest just over the toes," he reminds as the three of them join into an awkward circle. Other people are out and skating circles - well, ovals - in a slow but flowing stream round and round the hockey rink.

With the added cover of the arena ceiling keeping out the smoke from nearby fires, several people within the Safe Zone retreated to find fun and filtered air.

"Guess we're the lucky ones," Luther asides to Carl, "if your dad and sisters were here it's likely we wouldn't have gotten your mom on the ice." The previously stifled laugh escapes this time, a faint puff of visible steam rolling away over the edge of a slate grey scarf that matches the beanie on his head. A set courtesy of the woman and child hanging on to his limbs. Standing on ice skates that make him a few inches even taller, Luther is a willing maypole. Except, this is a maypole in the midst of winter, and it's slowly pushing backwards to lure Kaylee and Carl a little bit further away from the rink's edge.

“You’re right,” Carl agrees, giving a soft whoa as his skate slips a little. “Em and Hannah wouldn’t have helped me and probably would have laughed.” As all siblings tend to do. He watches his mom flail a bit and adds with a chuckle, “They definitely would have laughed at mom.”

“Yeah, well, in my defense, It’s been too long since I did this, like ‘before Carl was born’ long,” Kaylee says nervously, trying to shift her weight like he suggests. With flushed cheeks and a bright smile, she clings to the man’s arm. “I’ll get this,” she promises, with a side glance at Luther and her son. “Just… give me a minute.”

Of course, Luther decides to drag them out further, which she’s uncertain about. So Kaylee lets go, arms going out to her sides for balance. “I got this. I got this.” She doesn’t sound confident about that.

“Mom!” Carl calls while he's drug out into the center, both hands clinging to the older man’s arm. “Come on!” Kaylee absolutely loved watching the two of them interact. Carl adored Luther. Being around both of them, gave her a sense of family that she was missing. It always made her heart full watching them.

Kaylee grins at her son’s encouragement and waves the two off, shuffling forward a bit. “You guys, go ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”

Carl looks up at Luther with a flat look and shakes her head a little. “No she won’t.” He knows his mom.

"Mmhm, sure," Luther rumbles skeptically as he agrees with Carl on their shuffling trailer. In more hushed, conspiratorial tone, he suggests to the boy, "C'mon, let's go rescue her from herself."

In the middle of one of those 'I got this' peptalks, when her focus is down on keeping her balanced and upright over looking where she's going, the tips of the Luther's skates slides into view. "Grab and hang on to her," he instructs Carl with a motion for the kid to take hold on her waist and form a two-person conga line. Standing in front, Luther reaches over to take Kaylee's hands. "Don't worry, we'll catch you," he assures her with confidence. "Bend your knees a little more, pretend you're marching slow-like." He looks back to the boy, nodding in passage of silent signals to move together.

There is a stifled giggle from Carl at the soft words and a nod, before being led over.

Kaylee manages to look up from the marred ice rink floor when Luther skates closer, her eyes a little surprised and probably very thankful. This also lets her see her son, skate by and feel his hands curl into her coat.

The weight of Carl clinging to her causes a shift in her center of balance, but luckily there are hands taking hers and a disaster is prevented.

The moment she feels his hands in hers, Kaylee clings to them like a lifeline and Luther can feel her lean some of her weight into the grip looking for better balance. Her cheeks flush with embarrassment for her klutziness and lack of coordination.

Kaylee mouths a thank you to Luther with an affectionate smile, before shifting her attention to the floor again as she works on remembering how to skate. “Hold on tight, kiddo. Don’t let me fall,” she says to the boy clinging behind her.

“I won’t, mom, we got you,” Carl says with confidence as he, like his mother starts following Luther’s directions. “Remember the Knight is brave and doesn’t give up. He can overcome anything.”

Gradually the trio progresses into the outside flow while Luther continues his reminder whenever she's gotten stiff or unbalanced. He slowly walk-skates backwards to mirror the two, and eventually they're shuffle-gliding along. "Good, see? You're doin' it," he points out to the both of them, proving his point with a slight shift of weight so that he's not quite providing the straight line. That's because the rink's turn is coming up. Did he mention how to turn? Or for that matter, how to stop?

Carl shows an almost natural talent at ice skating. The fearlessness of youth helps him to take a chance and let go. “Look mom! Mr. Luther!” While still a little wobbly, the kid seems to be getting it quicker than his mom, who still clings to Luther’s hands.

“I see,” Kaylee says with a chuckle.

However, with each push of her foot, Luther can see a growing confidence within his friend. Kaylee looks up at him with a bright smile that is rather rare these days, as her moments start to smooth out. He can feel her relying less on his weight, though she doesn’t let go. In fact, her expression shifts into something softer, unable to look away. She looks like she wants to say something, but when she opens her mouth they reach the turn.

With her focus on the man before her, Kaylee doesn’t even realize until the last moment when Luther shifts to follow the curve. Her eyes go wide and she tries to compensate, but it’s a bit too late. The blade of her skate digs into the ice just enough to arrest her forward movement on that side and throws her completely off balance.

With a yelp of surprise, Kaylee goes down in a rather ungracefully and just barely missing her son.

Not that he wasn't expecting them all to take a spill or two on the ice, but Luther still reacts to the slip as anybody might with a small accident. The difference is in when Kaylee is about to impact on the ice, the feeling of the fall slowing. Is it because his grip on her jacket sleeve and arm tightens? Or a natural reaction of her body to compensate for the sudden slip? The ice and curving board of the rink don't feel as hard as it could have been even if her hip and shoulder disagree.

"You okay?" Luther's concerned query is followed with him bending to a knee beside her. While other skaters are still moving on, a few pause to look over where a slight glow around their section like a nearly invisible, cushioning wall of light is already fading. It might even look like a trick of the arena lights bouncing off the frozen surface of the rink.

Luther also glances back behind him and the toppled woman to Carl, checking on the boy for a second. "First falls are like first car accidents. Get 'em out of the way and it gets easier," he reassures her, a softer smile returning to his lips.

That was going to bruise, is Kaylee’s first thought from her spot on the icey floor. Luther can hear a barely contained laugh, hidden behind her hands. When he asks how she is, blue eyes peek up at him from between the leather clad digits. “Easy for you to say, you’re not flat on your back in the middle of the rink!” When her hands pull away from her face her cheeks are flushed red from embarrassment, even if she has a big grin on her face.

Carl gives a small shout before running into a kneeling Luther, mittens hands clinging to the other’s shoulders. “You guys were glowing!” he observes with a giggle. Luckily, his forward movement wasn’t too fast, so the impact on Luther is minimal. Looking down at his mom with a grin, Carl shouts, “Come on, mom!” as encouragement.

“I’m working on it,” she calls back, even though Kaylee continues to lay there looking up at Luther. Though after, she holds a hand up to Luther, giving fingers a wiggle in a silent plea for some assistance.

Extending his hand out, Luther answers the silent plea with a easy smile and singlehanded pull upward to stand himself up and Kaylee back on her skates. The ease and smoothness of the motion seems to surprise even him, a little. Had he always been that strong? "There we go," he says with a quick brush of errant snow bits from her back and shoulders.

He also checks his cap and scarf, eyeballing hands for that glow that Carl mentioned. It's faded away since, replaced instead by a healthy flush in his cheeks. "Kids always pick it up fast, don't they?" he comments, casting his gaze back to Carl beside them. "Ready to give it a go again?" He offers a hand out again encouragingly.

The ease in which he pulls her up is definitely noticed and Kaylee gives him a surprised look, in fact, she might even stare for a long moment. “Thank you,” she finally remembers to says, as he brushes her off, her cheeks warming from the blush that colors her cheeks again for some reason.

“Yeah,” Kaylee says, not completely certain, but also too stubborn to give up. Her hand finds Luther’s again, while a wobbly Carl skates around the pair and bursts into nervous giggles with each trip and stumble.

“Watch me, mom! Am I doing it right Mr. Luther?”

The sound of her son’s joy, coupled with being there with her best friend… she didn’t realize how much she needed a moment like that. No worries, no stress over what might happen to her.

It was an almost perfect moment.

Blinking back the threat of tears with an awkward smile on her lips, Kaylee starts moving forward again, this time with a bit more confidence now that she’s already fallen once.

Even Luther has a touch of lingering worry, the bit of nerves from playing the role of teacher to two beginning skaters. He laughs it off, the throaty chuckle short and also slightly awkward as he takes Kaylee's hand. "That's right. Look at you go," he says to Carl as the boy skates alongside, though he keeps pace with Kaylee in keeping their little group sliding along.

One, two, one, two. Just like marching. "You're gettin' the hang of it," he says as they're moving down the ice on the straight side. "Tell me this ain't any harder than a morning run or being at the range. Right?" Upon realizing that might make her self-conscious and possibly overthink the motion, though, he hushes and focuses on enjoying the glide. But carefully, occasionally, checks a glance over to Carl too, just in case.

“You’re being kind,” Kaylee says with a laugh as she works to follow his instructions. There is a noticeable smoothing out of her skating, even if she’s still a bit wobbly. “It’s harder than a morning run, but not the same torture as range practice has been.” Even though she was on leave from the PD, Kaylee made it a point to go to the range daily.

Meanwhile, Carl continues on bravely keeping just ahead of the pair.

Watching her son, Kaylee moves to tuck her arm through Luther’s letting him guide her around the rink. There is an obvious mental shift and has her smile turning a bit sad. “Thank you,” she says quietly to him, glancing up at him out of the corner of her eye. “Somedays, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a friend like you to pick me up when things…” she sighs, her smile fading completely, “when they seem so bleak, especially since I’ve been questioning so much about myself lately. Like if I’m even really me or an organic construct with my memories.”

Kaylee rests her head against his shoulder briefly and tightens her arms around his arm. “Today has been a nice distraction.” She chuckles and even adds cheekily, “I’m forever grateful that I asked you to go on that mission with me a few years back.”

"'Kind' maybe would have been not hijacking your afternoon with Carl to load you up full of bumps and bruises for tomorrow," Luther surmises, yet his accompanying chuckle is utterly unapologetic. But, as she takes his arm and they skate slowly along in her son's wake, he grows concerned by her sighing, her worries drawing his gaze down to her in concern.

Her cheeky addition bringing up their past garners a short snort of amusement from the man. "I'm glad you did. Turned out to be a real good time." A turning point, really, in what was a fateful roadtrip that turned into friendship. "Don't want to think what could've happened. Maybe there's some other universe where you didn't." He falls quiet again, the thought spinning off into an invisible heaviness clouding around them. It's the first he's brought up the multiverse topic in a while. "Would hate to think about what could've happened otherwise. Life's fuckin' weird enough as it is, let alone thinking about how my former boss is from another dimension, I got clones for family, and seers and cyborgs for best friends."

Luther looks away from her to the people skating around them, considering inwardly how they're all really just living their lives, how they're perhaps all innocently clueless to the true complexity of the universe, how small they are in the great pattern going around and around. The skating rink is a metaphor.

"And the look on your face for callin' you ma'am… I won't forget it." When Luther finally does turn back to her, a flicker of good humor has returned in memory of the good times.

Even now that word elicits a scrunch of Kaylee’s nose, leaning away from him a little like he stung her. A little wobble in her forward motion is quick to remind her to be mindful.

Once steady again, Kaylee doesn’t even touch that comment with a ten foot pole, even though she can’t help but smile. Instead, she focuses her attention to watching her son, with a giant smile on his face, shuffling along. Not just that, but also his words. They hadn’t talked much about all that in the years since. “You made a difference in our lives - probably saved them countless times - and I’ll fight anyone that says otherwise.” Turning a significant look at her friend, she adds bluntly, “Even you.”

But then a smile ruins that defiant look.

Catching his look at the other skaters, maybe Kaylee doesn’t have her ability anymore, but she knows that look. “There are times that I feel bad for kicking you down the rabbit hole and pulling back the shiny coat of what was supposed to be this better world. The world y’all fought for. And it is a lot better then it was, but.. There is still so much out there under the surface. ” Again her head tips sideways to touch her temple to his shoulder, this time she doesn’t linger there… just a quick moment of sought comfort.

When her head lifts again, another sigh escapes her and Kaylee looks a touch guilty. “But then I remember how much you’ve been there when I needed someone. Not always but definitely when it has the most impact.” Shoulders shrug just a little under her coat. “Everyone has their lives put together and their… “ …loved ones to give them meaning. Kaylee stops just short of saying that. “I think… if you hadn’t shown up in my life, I would have been more adrift than I am. A rudderless boat. I’ve always felt like I don’t really fit in anywhere. The odd man… odd woman out, even in my own family… my marriage. Just… always outside.”

Looking up at Luther, Kaylee gives him a sheepish smile, “Sorry… just with everything that happened in the last year, it’s put so much into perspective. I had a lot of time to think about… everything

She knows Luther that well to preempt the "Even me?" before the phrase ever finishes formulating and clambering out of his throat. Her smile that evolves out of the defiant look doesn't tarnish his rueful amusement to the matter. He doesn't call her ma'am again.

As Kaylee continues the confessional, Luther falls quiet to consider her soft lament. Behind his pursed lipped, furrowed browed expression, his grey eyes looking down at her hold a tumultuous story that wants to come out in a mirror of her prior defiance. "You're not the odd one out, you're the tugboat that's sailing ahead pulling the heavyweight," he says quietly. "I won't ever regret climbing down the rabbit hole, fox hole, whatever you want to call it. Call me Saul, scales off and all. It's helped me."

Luther, speaking of scales and eyes, feels the mild, wet sting in his and he blinks a few times with an averted glance back to front. He feels the truth of what she says, all that's happened in the last year. "You've helped me." His voice hitches slightly, a catch in the rumble of his low tone. She can feel his arm tighten around hers as he draws her closer.

Any further words, though, get lost in the sudden arrival of a gaggle of young skaters scattering onto the ice from one of opened doors to the ice rink. Small shrieks and laughter tumbles around them as some of the children take their first tumbles and an accompanying chaperone reaches to scoop up the fallen to set them upright. It's successful in its distraction of all those around who have to adjust their paths before they run any other toddlers and teenagers over, including Luther, Kaylee and Carl. Luther relaxes his tighter hold on her, giving them space to manuever and lean away. "You alright there, Carl?" he checks in on the boy ahead.

Kaylee might not see the dampness in his eyes, but she hears the hitch in his voice. With all that he’s saying, she can’t take her eyes off him and her breath catches like… if she does, it will ruin this little moment where she is getting a small glimpse beyond his walls through the cracks in her own.

When he hugs her arm against his side, Kaylee’s features soften even further, in fact, she looks like she might speak. However, the rather loud arrival of other skaters is startling and shakes her out of the moment.

Just that quickly that small vulnerability between the two of them is gone.

Luther’s mention of Carl reminds of her son’s presence. Kaylee turns a worried look outward to find her son, cheeks flushing slightly at her lapse.

Carl skates right at the pair, arms out so he can stop himself by clinging to the adults or like he’s trying to hug them both. It forces them to come to a stop, while he answers the big guy. “Yup!” He pops that ‘p’ like a champ as he looks up at them both with that bright toothy smile, hands gripping their jackets. “I want some cocoa. Can we get some Mr. Luther?”

Gloved fingers brush though tossled mousy brown hair, before looking over at her friend. “Yeah, Mr. Luther. Can we?” Kaylee echoes after her son with a touch of mischief laced through her words.

Shifting his feet so that he indirectly forms the human rock that dams against the new stream of skaters, Luther doesn't answer Carl immediately. The hesitation, shortlived as it is, allows the man a moment to recompose, to restructure that wall which crumbled in a few places. He clears his throat roughly with an exhale, straightens, and finally looks to the boy with his mom. A faint echo of Carl's smile mirrors in Luther's own. "Yeah, sure," he answers at last. "In fact? I'll race ya. Ready?"

He sends a reassuring look back to Kaylee. Don't worry, they aren't going to leave her behind.

And then, they're off.

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