Like Baby Birds


delia_icon.gif nick2_icon.gif

Scene Title Like Baby Birds
Synopsis Lunch in the park leads to a little understanding.
Date May 3, 2011

Washington Square Park

Lunch time in Washington Square Park is a strange place for Nick Ruskin to ask to meet anyone — it’s full of people, vibrant and alive with the energy of students and tourists and children playing in the iconic fountain at its heart. Nearby, a group of rollerbladers do trick moves to music coming from a “Boom box” that looks like it’s straight out of 1983. College students play frisbee or take naps or study; activists wander around with clipboards seeking petition signatures.

Perhaps that it’s full of people is why Nick chose it — where better to have important personal conversations than in a place that makes it easy to disappear into the crowd?

And yet, he’s making an effort.

On the periphery of the oxymoronically circular “square,” he has staked out a bench, a cooler probably holding the lunch he’d promised he’d bring. Self-conscious seeming wild flowers held together by a bit of string sit next to the cooler, though he’s eyeing them like he might throw them in the nearby trash can at any moment.

Fingers tap out a nervous rhythm on the knee of his stretched out leg.

It's quite possibly another case of he said she said. He said he'd bring lunch in the park, she said great, a picnic! but not out loud— just in case he changed his mind. It's not warm enough for summer clothes and too hot for winter clothes, her spring wardrobe is somewhat nonexistent. The consignment buys that she's been hoarding in her closet have seen little use but this is (what she deems) a date. She left the long cardigan at home in favor of a one armed shrug fit over a simple linen top, faded and distressed jeans, and her painted doc martens.

Strolling through the circle square, Delia looks just a little bit lost. Her red hair is left loose, the long spirals reach just down to her shoulder blades. She pauses near the middle, passing a friendly smile to a rollerblader that's cut in front of her.

Finally her eyes lock on his dark hair and pale skin. Raising a hand, she waves it in a rather grand attention seeking manner before calling, "Nick!" Then jogging toward him. If he didn't want people to notice him, he wouldn't be in a place full of them, right? When she finally reaches the bench, she hops to a stop and digs her hands into her pockets nervously. "H-how are you?"

He doesn’t stand — does he even know it’s proper to stand for a lady? — but offers a weary smile and a single-shouldered shrug that is at least not a lie of “fine” or “okay.”

“Hey,” he says quietly, nodding to the seat beside him. “You look nice,” he adds. Trying.

Not one for small talk, he glances down at her painted shoes. “I talked to Benji. Some stuff’s going to get pretty bad… Ferry’s handling it, and …” whatever he is at the Dispensary. Remnant doesn’t apply to him, not that he thinks she’d know the term.

He swallows, and shakes his head, sneaking a glance up at her. He isn’t sure how much to say, how much to omit, given her outsider status. “You wouldn’t know where to find that Calvin git, would you?”

"You really think so?" Delia breathes as she slides into the spot next to him, shoulders rolled forward in a somewhat self conscious posture. There's a bit of a flush on her cheeks at the compliment though and she turns her head toward him, focusing on his knee rather than his face. "You do too," then again, he usually does to her.

Invoking the name of their son daughter carries the result of her head jerking up, her blue eyes meeting his. Her lips part and she licks them, nervous and completely unsure of what to say. "She's beautiful, isn't she?" For once, Delia's at a loss for words, or something like it. "You gave her your necklace, maybe for luck when she came here." In Delia's imagination they're still together in that future, whatever animosity there is between Nick and Benji obviously forgiven with the exchange of the token.

She looks away again at the mention of the Ferry, hiding the hurt feeling behind a vacant mask of pleasantness. It's pointed out toward the college students and rollerbladers, her smile waning with every passing second until there's nothing left but a small curl down of her lips and a sad stare to the concrete at their feet. "You probably shouldn't tell me about anything… regarding them. I don't think I'd be allowed to help."

The ‘she’ makes Nick’s brows knit — that is something he hasn’t tried to wrap his mind around yet — and when her smile fades, he heaves a sigh, reaching to take her hand, his own curling around hers. He stares at their fingers as he interweaves his, and he looks up with hurt eyes.

Injured by his own actions of the future. On her behalf. On Benji’s.

“I donno how much of my childhood you’ve picked up on,” is perhaps a strange thing to say. “What my parents were like.”

"Not much," the mumbled admission is honest even though it's lacking. "I only know what people show me, you haven't shown me anything about your parents. I wouldn't guess it's very good, if it was— " If. The word carries endless possibilities.

Delia's hand is loose but when she feels his fingers tighten around hers, she glances over at him with a countenance that matches his own. "You'd be more like me and Lu instead of— instead of— scared. You're both scared." Whatever the redhead and her sister are, they're nothing like the Ruskin siblings. Her gaze falls to their hands and she tucks her free one between her knees, her fingers curling around underneath to anchor it there.

Scared. The word echoes Benji’s in Nick’s head, but he nods. “My mother,” he begins, tone cold, no affectionate child’s name for Sophia like Mom or Mum, “she was a drunk, a bit mad. My da left.”

Mister York.

“I won’t bore you with the details,” he says, jaw twitching. “But it’s why I wouldn’t ever be a good parent. It’s why I … I wasn’t. I donno the details but I know I left. Like father, like son I guess.”

His eyes move up but not quite to her eyes. “I donno how I let it happen, and I’m … sorry.”

"It— it's probably my fault," the words are choked out as Delia tries to blink away the hot tears forming in her eyes. Her grip tightens, unwilling to let his hand go, even going so far as to pull it toward her stomach and hold it there. "She said I was so sad, even after she was born. I was crying in the dream and asking you to do impossible things. It was probably my fault."

Of course she'd never blame him.

"It's not going to happen though, I'm not going to ask you to— " she stops and shakes her head, choosing instead to tilt her head and lean against him. It's almost as though she's suddenly as weary as he is. "I'm sorry, for what I did to drive you away. In my dream you were perfect and I was so… horrible." Or simply inconsolable.

When she blames herself, he closes his eyes, free hand coming up to rake through his own hair with frustration before moving more gently to brush hers back from her face. “Stop,” he says, voice low but firm. “Just stop it, will you? Quit blaming yourself for me being a bloody failure. If I left — I promise you it’s my own fucked up head and problems that made me leave. You were probably sad because of me.”

Nick huffs a humorless laugh. “If I left you because you were ‘sad’, I’m a hypocritical ass on top of whatever else you wanna call me.” He’s got many bad traits — hypocrisy isn’t usually one of them. Or so he hopes.

The lunch and flowers forgotten, he reaches up to cup her face, bending his head to lean his forehead against hers. “I love you,” he whispers. “And it kills me to know I … keep hurting you.”

“No,” Delia whispers back, ignoring the traffic around them to snag her hands around his shoulders. Her voice gains a little confidence as she tries to refute his claims. “Everything’s changed now, we don’t know how it was where Benji’s from. Just that— just that we’re together. I don't think I got lost there, that's why she tried to help me in the beginning, to bring me back. If I was never lost, I never stayed with you… so everything between us is different."

She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath inward, letting it loose slowly. When they open again, she pastes a small smile on her lips to just emulate happiness. "I love you too," she says quietly, for the first time in a language they both understand. "And you're not hurting me, not here. Whatever happened— happens— there, it's not the same."

Words are too hard, and he just shakes his head — he can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of people who have said that word to him, about him. His head dips to brush his lips across that feigned smile, as if to brush away the falseness, but then he presses longer, still soft and questioning.

“I donno how to do this,” Nick whispers. “I’ve never tried to be anything to anyone I cared about before. Nothin’ besides shags and meaningless flings.”

It’s about as close to admitting fear as Nick has ever come.

The initial response to the very public display of affection is the heat that Nick can feel coming off Delia's red cheeks. Her eyelids slide most of the way closed, the little slivers of blue that remain are perhaps just to make sure that it's all real and not just a dream, the regular kind. The redhead's entire body relaxes when she parts her lips to respond to the embrace that is over in the small moment when Nick breathes his confession.

She smiles then, genuinely.

"Nobody knows how, Nick," she answers in the same tone. "That's just part of what makes it exciting and wonderful when you find it. We kind of just flop around blind, like little baby birds." One of her hands slides off his shoulder to trace the stubbly line of his jaw with one fingertip. "I bet my dad even gets nervous when it comes to Lynette." Not that she wants to talk about her father right now… he's just an example of someone old.

Nick chuckles and shakes his head, kissing once more before breaking away to open the cooler, pulling out the food he’s assembled now that she hasn’t stalked off in anger from his confessions of future failures. The issue of her father is not one he wants to think about — he’s never had to deal with a girl’s parents before.

“Chicken pesto on baguette or turkey salad on squaw?” he asks.

Sometimes, things don’t have to be complicated.

Nick doesn’t feel like bringing up the complications of time travel — she hadn’t answered about Calvin, and he’s more interested at the moment with the way the sun’s glow makes her hair a fiery aura around her face.

In his mind, Delia — not St. Jude — is the patron saint of his lost causes.

Delia's nose wrinkles a little at the selection as she peers between the two sandwiches. "I— uhm— " Leaning a little closer she lowers her head to make a small confession, revealing confusion instead of revulsion at his choice of lunch. "What's squaw?" The question is posed as she reaches for the sandwich that isn't baguette shaped. Whatever her motives, she seems more interested in trying something new instead of taking the safe road of things she's heard of before.

She doesn't unwrap it right away, rather she cranes her neck to catch a glimpse of the cooler. Deciding it's within her reach, she stretches her arm out and winds around him to grab the flowers. "You got these for me?!" The bright expression on her face as she brings the flowers up to her nose and takes a long smell is nothing short of delighted.

"I love them," she utters low, "they're my new favorites."

Nick chuckles. “I donno. Brown, kinda sweet bread? I bought ‘em — the sandwiches, I mean. The flower are just stuff growing ‘round where we stay on Staten. I don’t know what you call them.” There’s a mix of wildflowers, white, purple, yellow.

Benji’s words replay in his head — it doesn’t take much. To make her happy.

He reaches into the cooler for the drinks — nothing fancy or impressive here in the familiar red cans with cursive white script.

“He — She? — showed me the necklace,” Nick manages, to bring back the conversation to the shared connection between them, the reason Nick is here. “Kinda hurts my head to think something can be in two places at the same time. I’m sorry I doubted your judgment. That I assumed the worst — of both of you.”

He smiles a little sheepishly. “You trust so easily. I don’t trust at all.”

"She," Delia corrects quickly, her face brightening at the topic. "How did it come up? The necklace, I mean. I sort of just assumed that you gave it to her when she came here. She didn't want to talk about you at all, I just assumed… Maybe you two had a fight or something." It's a very Delia thing to do. Avoid talking to a person and refusing to accept explanation when wronged. At least for a time, until she forgives and quite literally forgets.

She lays the flowers down at her side, keeping them close as she unwraps the sandwich just enough to take a small bite. "Mmm, you know what?" She pauses to swallow before continuing. "This would be really good with grapes in it. Have you ever had chicken salad with grapes? I bet turkey would be even better. What did Calvin do? Besides save my life— Why are you looking for him?"

The topic changes so abruptly that it's almost dizzying.

“He’s dangerous,” Nick says quietly, voice serious as he looks at her. “Don’t let him know you know that, though. Just contact me as soon as possible if you see him or hear from him. And don’t trust him. I know… I know we disagree on who’s trustworthy,” Logan, “but this isn’t coming from me, all right? And I’m trying to help Benji on it… so please trust me and don’t try to save him from the world or anything, just contact either me or Benji if you have a way to, to let us know where he is.”

He takes a bite of his own sandwich, more to buy time for chewing and planning his words than because he has an appetite.

“And don’t go looking for him, either,” he thinks to add. “I donno why he told you what he did in the past, why he targetted you, but don’t think you mean somethin’ to him and can make him better.” There’s a slight sheepish smile at that. “I’m not sure I should even be telling you this much but…”

He reaches to push a strand of hair away from her face, fingers lingering on her jaw for a moment. “I don’t wanna lie, either, Del. I thought maybe you’d seen him. Keep the rest quiet, yeah?”

"I haven't seen or heard from him since my birthday," Delia says quietly as she raises her sandwich to take another bite. She doesn't. "If.. if it helps, he was looking for Mister Logan for something. I don't know if he ever found him but he was looking." The sandwich is lowered to her lap as she stares at it and picks at the wax wrapping paper.

"You don't think he was trying to save my life then?" The sheepish question accompanies the worried angle of eyebrows and another downcast turn to her lips. "Why wouldn't he have just let the car hit me? Why go through all of that trouble… I don't understand."

Keeping her head down, she picks at the sandwich itself, tearing a small chunk of bread off to toss to a few pigeons that have collected around them, looking for scraps. This only encourages more of the birds to come looking, even trying to pluck the large crumb from the beak of the one she took pity on. "I don't really have anyone to tell if I did… Tania maybe. Should I ask Mister Logan if he's seen or heard from Calvin?"

Car. Nick scowls at that, and he kicks near (not at!) a pigeon that comes close to his boot. “Can you do me a favor,” he says, as neutrally as he can,

“and not call him mister Logan at least to me?

It may be juvenile and petty but he’s trying as hard as he can.

“And no, don’t ask him about Calvin but keep your ears open for any mentions, yeah?” Nick scowls down at his sandwich, as if the lines in the baguette might tell him the connections between the two men that he needs to know.

"Alright, I— I try not to mention him at all, actually." At least to Nick, knowing that he doesn't appreciate the favors that the man has bestowed on her. Ones that she's still waiting to repay and the bill is only growing every day that he doesn't point her somewhere or at someone.

"I'll listen for anything about Calvin but he doesn't bring much of his business home." Perhaps thankfully, considering what she's heard.

Reaching out, she lays one hand on one of Nick's and curls her fingers around to completely cover the top of his hand. "Benji asked me to leave as soon as I could, I promised her that I would and I will. I just have to do this, please understand."

Nick’s eyes drop and he studies their hands, but he nods. If she can forgive him for the things he’s done in his past and his future…

“With your ability,” he says, shifting topics yet again, “can you go in people’s heads without them knowing, or do they always know you’re there?” He glances up, hurriedly correcting himself. “I’m not asking you to go in anyone’s dreams. I just… Benji’s power is like yours? Can h- she?” His cheeks color slightly at the thought — usually he seems older than he is; when it comes to Delia and Benji, he is a frightened boy.

"I've been practicing, trying to do it how Mister Gataullin has been teaching me," Delia explains, squeezing Nick's hand gently before slipping away again. "Until now I've been doing it like Hokuto showed me, bending it all to whatever I want. He's teaching me how to make it more natural, so I can blend in." It might be the best reasons why she's been allowing the once enemy near her again. "I'm hoping that by the time M— Logan needs me to do something for him, I'll be able to do it invisibly."

A shake of her head is the answer to Nick's question. "Benji's a lot better than I am and it's a little different. She manifested when she was seventeen, so she's had longer to practice." It's a little bit of self depreciation where Delia is concerned but nothing malicious. So much mor the opposite, as though the dreamwalker is in awe of their progeny. "She said she can replay memories? Weave them into dreams but I think that she does more… because so many of the things she's showing were things that haven't happened yet. Unless she collected them before she left?"

He scowls again, eyes flashing up. “I thought you were just helping him with insomnia or sommat like that. You said he hadn’t asked you to spy for him,” he says quietly, eyes narrowing a little with worry. “I don’t want you endangering yourself for him… what you owe him, it’s not worth that — he didn’t do that much for you that I’m aware of.”

Unless it’s what he’s done for her she hasn’t talked about, and that idea is pushed away, his skin flushing with anger that he bites back and wills back inward. “Never mind. Forget I asked.”

“He hasn’t asked for anything yet, Nick. Nothing at all. Not help sleeping, not looking for anyone, not creeping anywhere I’m not supposed to be.” Her sandwich is wrapped up again and held on her lap before she gives him a sidelong glance. “Over two hundred dollars a night, that’s how much it costs to stay at the Corinthian… I was there for a long time, that’s a lot of money to pay back. He helped me get registered without getting arrested or huge fines, I’m not wearing an ankle bracelet and I haven’t disappeared so they can find out where anyone is…”

It’s a lot in her estimation.

“Because of what he did, I think I have a chance at a real life. Because I’m not running anymore, I have a passport, I can go places, just like you.” If he decides to run. “One of the dreams that Benji showed me, I was in a ghetto trying to get people out with Kaylee, and Tasha, Eileen was there too and some old guy. I’ve seen him around… anyway… He said that they were taking telepaths and precogs to be killed. The government was telling them they had special places for them out west but he said that out west only had a bullet for them. Do you think that Benji might be included in that? Because she can read minds to get memories?”

Nick takes a long breath through his nose, exhaling through his lips and he reaches to his pocket for a moment — a telltale sign he wants his cigarettes — but then drops his hand again.


“What they charge you at a hotel and what it costs are two diff’ren things, and I doubt you were taking away a room from anyone else in this economical climate,” Nick points out. “Quit trying to canonize him for letting you sleep somewhere.”

Especially with him.

The rest of her words regarding Logan seem like they might go unheard, his eyes focused on something in the distance until she asks his opinion at the end.

“If you were with the Ferry breaking people out of ghettos, you really think you’re living a real life in the future?” he says quietly. “Benji and Hannah — they talked about how there’s a split… and that people in the network were ‘outside’ of the rules, outside of the ‘walls,’ and Benji included himself in that, so yeah, I think it probably applies. From what I’ve heard, anyone with an ability is either neutered pretty drastically to stay in ‘society,’ or they’re off-grid.”

His eyes return to her face. “I donno what’s changed enough, if anything has, to change that,” he says softly. “If you… if being under his protection and having a chance at staying in society is more important to you, it’s all right. You can do. I’ll understand.”

The tension of his face threatens to crack under the pressure, but he squeezes her hand. “I just want you to be happy.”

"It's not more important," Delia says quietly, staring down at her painted boots as her shoulders sink and her posture goes slack. The sandwich is laid to rest on the other side of the flowers, either to be fed to the pigeons later or eaten herself. "Y-you don't know what it's like. I had everything. I was going to be a doctor. I didn't have to worry about anything because I could do it all. I had a job, I had three jobs… I was going to school."

Pressing her lips together, she furrows her eyebrows together into a hardened frown and looks away. "Then one day I had nothing and back then I was too proud to ask for help. I'm still like that… I can't… I need to be able to pay for what I owe. For what I owe. I got lost, this is my debt, no matter if my dad made the deal or not."

Her blue eyes flick in his direction, she's still scowling but it softens when she makes eye contact. "I owe you too, more than you can imagine. It's not about being able to fit into society or inside a wall, it's about being useful and I don't know enough right now to be much help."

His eyes flit away. “You’re right. I don’t know what that’s like,” he says, somewhere between sullen and sympathetic. When he returns his gaze to hers, he shakes his head. “You don’t owe me anything. If you did, consider it repaid and then some.” One hand comes up to brush the corner of her mouth with his thumb.

“We’re never going to agree on this,” he says quietly, resigned. Nick glances at her sandwich, his own abandoned to the side of him. “Whattya wanna do?”

"How much time do I have before you turn into a pumpkin?" Delia smiles in answer, leans closer to bump his shoulder with her own. Even if she disagrees, on the matter of her debt to him being repaid, she doesn't voice it. "Because there are a few things that I've asked you to do with me." Brushing the tip of her nose against his, she pulls away just as quickly as she advanced. "Don't worry, it's still too cold for the beach."

She stands, grabbing his hand with one of hers and the bouquet of flowers with the other. The sandwich is given a glance of uncertainty as she pivots her head between the three things she seems to want to hold onto. "Hey, Nick? Now that… we're not… staying really far away from each other and everything… Will you go to the beach with me sometime?" Her eyebrows are turned up at the inner edges as she watches him carefully. "I understand if you don't want to see my pasty white skin in a bathing suit… but I figure we're the same in that aspect."

His brows rise in amusement as she seems torn by the sandwich, so he lets go of her hand to take both and put them in the cooler, along with the unopened sodas. The cooler is picked up with one hand, her hand taken by the other. “I’m not the one with a ‘curfew,’” Nick says with a grin, realizing how juvenile that sounds and amused by it.

“The beach sounds nice,” he adds, then tips his head at her. “Maybe we can head somewhere the water’s a bit cleaner, down to Virginia or something, some weekend.”

It’s such a normal and nice little fantasy.

“My truck’s over there,” he adds with a jut of his chin toward one side of the park.

“Virginia sounds nice, do you think my dad will let me go?” she teases, nudging him with her shoulder. It’s nice to dream though, maybe one day.

“Cool,” now it’s Delia says in regard to the truck. It’s her turn to sound a bit juvenile, glancing up at him with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “We can drive somewhere and make out until dark.” She pauses long enough to allow him to look down and see the crooked smile on her lips, what he can’t see is the way her ribs are tightening under her shirt as she tries to control her laughter.


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