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Finding Home

Chapter Text

“- you stupid, no-good-”


“Fuck off, you fat old bastard! You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!”


“Fuckin’ rich coming from you, you slut-”


There was a loud bang and Kara flinched, keeping her hands pressed over her ears. Her parents had been arguing for almost an hour now and were showing no signs of stopping any time soon.


“That’s it! I’ve had enough, I’m leaving, god knows why I stick around here-”


A laugh reached her and Kara fought a shudder. She hated that laugh, those voices, she hated it here.


“Leave? Where would you go, not like you’ve got any friends around here!”


“Sweetie, just because you can’t get anyone to look at you doesn’t mean I can’t.”


A door slammed as her mother presumably left, and all that Kara could hear was the angry stomping of her father as he entered the lounge. Something shattered and there was a loud,


Fuck!”


Before she heard the TV get switched on.


Finally, it was almost quiet.


Kara slowly lowered her hands from her ears, as if her father would be able to hear the tiny movement from the other room. She pushed the closet door gently, willing it not to creak and alert him that he was not alone, before slowly standing up and exiting the small space. The closet did little to muffle the shouted arguments but at least if one of them came looking for her, they usually gave up quickly if they thought she wasn’t home.


Sitting down on her bed, Kara looked down at her hands. There was a mostly-healed burn mark on the back of her left hand, a result of it being pressed to the stove a few weeks earlier, and the ring finger on her right hand was crooked after it had been broken a few years before. It didn’t bother her as much anymore- as long as her hands worked, she didn’t care what they looked like. It wasn’t like it mattered.


It wasn't like she mattered.


A thud from the lounge jolted her from her thoughts and Kara looked up, clasping her hands in her lap and staying deathly still. Heavy footsteps walked from the lounge, past her room and to the bathroom, where the door slammed shut. She could feel her heart thudding in her chest as she sat motionless, waiting until he had returned to the lounge to move a muscle.


Her parents had been fighting more and more recently. It had really kicked off when one of her mother’s ‘secret’ partners had left a shirt under their bed, one that couldn’t be mistaken for her father’s even if she tried. Although even before that, things hadn’t been good- they couldn’t be considered passable by most people’s standards- but they’d gone so quickly downhill it had almost given Kara whiplash. Now there were daily screaming matches, thrown things, broken plates and shelves and more drugs than Kara had ever seen before, strewn on every surface. She’d tried, she’d really, truly tried to keep fight triggers to a minimum, doing the housework, cooking, cleaning, washing, not touching anything she knew not to touch, but it hadn’t worked.


Nothing worked any more.


Her eyes moved to her backpack sitting by the bed. Luckily she’d managed to avoid both her parents when she’d gotten home from work- a cash-in-hand babysitting job she’d had for a few years, working for a teacher from her highschool while the woman was at work- and had sequestered herself in her room just before the theatrics began.


Pulling the bag towards herself, Kara pulled out a flimsy piece of paper that shedded glitter every time it moved. A small smile found itself on her face as she took in the wobbly words of ‘Hapy birthday cara!’ in an unsteady three-year-old’s scrawl. She’d been babysitting the little boy since she’d left school two years ago, when she was sixteen-


Sixteen.


She was eighteen.


Kara’s eyes widened when she realised what day it was and she leaned forward, staring at the paper. Devon was the only one she’d told about her birthday, no-one else knew- or remembered.


When she was still in school, Kara had looked into how old a person could be to legally live by them-self and had been heartbroken to discover that it was eighteen. It had seemed to far away, so unreachable, but now…


She could do it.


She could leave. And no-one could stop her.


With a sudden rush of confidence she stood up, taking her bag with her. Looking around her small room, she started to gather up things she wanted to take- it wasn’t hard, she had few belongings and only had a small wardrobe of clothes that she wore until they fell apart. The only notable things that made it into her bag were a battered copy of Alice in Wonderland, an old photo album that she’d managed to rescue from one of her parent’s drunken rampages, and a small cat figurine that she’d found on a street corner on her way home from school years back.


Moving to the corner of the room, she crouched down and dug her fingers into a loose floorboard near the wall. After a bit of prying it came free and she reached under it, pulling out a small envelope she’d kept all of her work money in. It had been a habit since she’d started earning as her parents had a tendency to take her money and, with her very low spending, it was at least something to start with.


As Kara reached for the door handle, she forced herself to stop and think. She could still hear the game playing on the TV in the lounge, hear her father’s angry muttered curses as he lit something up. She couldn’t leave yet, especially if he was getting high. It was too dangerous. She’d have to wait.


Several hours passed with Kara sitting on the bed, trying to formulate a plan. Her father normally fell asleep after his drug high had passed and was usually out cold for most of the night. Her mother had probably gone to spend time with her current partner so likely wouldn’t be back for at least a day. It was feasible.


But as the time passed, doubts started to set in. Kara had never lived alone before, let alone paid for bills or even had an actual job. She’d been looking after her parent’s house since she was young but never got paid or even thanked for it, and not doing it ended in punishment.


Would she survive?


A quiet thud broke her from her thoughts and Kara blinked, looking up at the door. The TV was quiet, she couldn’t hear any other noise from the lounge. A glance outside told her that it was night time, and she swallowed nervously. She had to try. Anything was better than here.


Standing up, Kara slowly padded her way to her bedroom door and edged it open. The house was dark, the only light coming from the curtained window at the end of the hall. She slipped out of the room, quietly closing the door behind her, and made her way to the lounge. All she had to do was cross the lounge, reach the front door, and she’d be free.


Her father was passed out on the couch, one arm and one leg hanging off the side as he snored. One hand held the TV remote and the other a glass pipe, with an open baggy of red ice laying on the table nearby with a lighter. She’d been right- it had always been his favourite.


Kara crept past the sofa, taking care to avoid the old beer bottles and take-out boxes strewn across the floor. She took her coat off of the hook by the door and bent to pick up her shoes- but they weren’t there.


Panicked, Kara looked up and around, spotting them laying across the room on the floor a few feet from each other. Her mother had probably thrown them earlier before she stormed out, Kara realised with a wince. It was fine. She would get them, then get out. She could do this.


Of course, that moment was her undoing.


The second she stepped forward, the floorboard under her foot creaked loud enough to wake the dead. Her father jerked upright with a snort and a cough, looking around through reddened eyes in the dark room.


His eyes settled on Kara.


“The fuck-” He groaned, pushing himself to his feet. He wobbled precariously. “Oh. Thought you were your bitch mother.” He snorted, wiping his nose on the back of his hand. “Dinner. Where.”


Kara swallowed, eyes darting to her shoes.


“You fuckin’ deaf?” Her father snapped, clicking his fingers in front of himself.


Her hands clutched her backpack strap tighter and Kara stepped forward.


“The fuck you doing?”


She ignored him, walking forward and picking up one of her shoes.


“Oi! I’m talking to you!”


A few more steps, another shoe.


“Hey!”


Kara straightened up and turned, and her father was right in front of her face. He shoved her shoulder roughly.


“The fuck is wrong with you? You’re just like her, pathetic bitches.”


Kara was vaguely aware of her nails digging into her palms, of the sharp sting that usually meant blood was being drawn.


“Your dinner is in the kitchen.” She whispered, wanting him to go away, please just go away-


“Good. Fuckin’ good for nothing.” Mercifully he stepped back, storming off towards the kitchen with only a slight unsteadiness in his gait.


Kara took the opportunity to head straight for the door, shakily slipping her shoes on.


“The hell- girl, where’s my goddamn food-” He rounded the corner, staring at her as her hand made contact with the doorknob. “The fuck you doing?”


Staring down at her hand on the door, Kara replied in a shaky whisper.


“I’m leaving.”


He laughed.


“Leaving? Where you gonna go, back to school?”


“Anywhere.” Kara replied, voice getting slightly louder. Her heart was beating out of her chest, adrenaline coursing through her veins. “Anywhere but here.”


“Yeah? You’re not going nowhere, sweetheart. Now get me my fuckin’ dinner.” He growled back.


Kara didn’t move.


“You hear me?! Get in that fuckin’ kitchen you little bitch-”


No!” Kara shouted, turning to face him. “I won’t! Eighteen years, dad, eighteen years I’ve stayed here, I’ve tried to help, tried to make you happy, but it doesn’t work! You hate me, you hate mom, and I hate you. I’m leaving, and I’m never coming bac-”


A blur of motion saw his thick, heavy hand grab her by the throat and slam her back against the door, smacking her skull against the wood surface and making her see stars.


“Don’t you ever, ever talk to me like that, you bitch-” Her father snarled, inches away from her face. “This is my goddamn house, y’hear?! You’re just like your slut mother, always taking from me, you are mine!”


Kara wheezed as his hand around her throat tightened and she shoved at his arm, with little result. She’d made a mistake, hadn’t left it long enough for the red ice to leave his system, he was going to kill her oh god he was going to kill her-


Out of the corner of her eye she spotted the coat rack and flailed her arm out towards it, catching one of the arms and tugging it towards her. It toppled and then fell, catching her father’s eye a second too late as it crashed down on his head. One arm of it splintered off and she saw a streak of blood as the thick piece of wood made contact with his balding scalp. Kara fell with them, ending up on her knees on the floor, gasping for air.


“Argh- you bitch-” He roared, trying to shove the heavy coat rack off of himself.


Kara wasted no time, scrambling to her feet and grabbing her bag as the ripped the front door open and threw herself through it. Just a few hundred feet down the road a bus was waiting at the bus stop, it was so close.


Come back here!” Her father’s voice roared from inside the house and she ran, ran faster than she could ever remember running before, barely noticing one of her shoes falling off as she sprinted through the rain. Blood thundered in her ears as she neared the stop and she dared not look behind her in case he appeared.


Suddenly she was at the stop and fell through the bus doors just as they closed, grabbing the ledge of the driver’s booth as they clicked shut.


“Please- please go-” She panted, looking up at the driver- a middle-aged woman, staring at her in shock.


Kara!”


She could still hear him.


“Please!” Kara pleaded, ducking down in hopes that if he hadn’t already spotted her, he wouldn’t now.


The woman looked in the rear view mirror and seemed to realise something, hurriedly pulling away from the bus stop and driving down the street perhaps slightly faster than normal.


Kara took a moment to catch her breath, trying to not give into the urge to sink to the floor in relief.


“Thank-you.” She whispered once she got her voice back, straightening up shakily and digging a hand into her jacket pocket for change. She placed a few dollars onto the change tray, hoping it was enough for a ticket, before stumbling down the bus and collapsing into a seat.


She was out.


She was free.


And she was never going back.

Chapter Text

“Hey. Hey kid, you gotta wake up. Kid?”

 

A touch to her shoulder sent Kara jolting upright and she winced, blinking against the harsh overhead lights of the bus.

 

The bus.

 

She must have fallen asleep. Everything came back to her- her birthday, gathering her belongings, her father nearly catching her- and outrunning him.

 

“C’mon kid, I gotta finish up.”

 

Kara looked up, realising the driver was standing next to her seat.

 

“Oh- I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean-”

 

“Don’t worry, just hurry it up.” The woman shrugged, walking back down the bus to check the seats.

 

Kara stood slowly, a hand going to her neck as she swallowed thickly. It hurt, and she knew that it would bruise soon. She suddenly realised only one of her shoes had stayed on and she looked down at her socked foot, hope already diminishing slightly.

 

“Um- excuse me?” She called out quietly, holding her backpack close to her as the driver turned to face her. “Where am I?”

 

The driver stared at her for a few seconds before replying as she picked something up off the floor.

 

“West side of Detroit. Other end of the line to where I picked you up.” The woman turned and looked her over. “You got somewhere to go?”

 

Kara thought for a few seconds before trying to muster a smile.

 

“I’ll find somewhere. Thank-you.”

 

She started walking towards the doors.

 

“Wait.” The driver approached her, reaching under the drivers seat and pulling out a notepad. She scribbled something down before tearing the page out and passing it to Kara. “This hotel is two streets away. Ask for Coyote, tell him he still owes Sasha that favour. He knows the one. Should put you up for a few days, no charge.”

 

Kara took the note, looking down at the address and a message scrawled under it. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t think of what to say.

 

“Thank-you.” She whispered, looking up at the woman who made a ‘tsk’ sound and looked away.

 

“Get yourself some shoes, hon. Plenty of dirt around these parts.” She nodded at Kara. “Take care.”

 

Kara stepped off of the bus, avoiding a large puddle on the ground. She barely noticed the cold water soaking her as she followed the driver’s instructions to a slightly grimy-looking hotel with a neon ‘Vacancies’ sign hanging in the barred window, set between a pawn shop and a dodgy-looking bar.

 

A bell above the door jingled as she cautiously stepped in, spotting a dark-skinned man wearing a beanie behind a glass window. He glanced up as she stepped in before looking back down at his magazine.

 

Kara approached the counter, freezing fingers clutching the note.

 

“Um. Excuse me.” She said quietly, fighting the urge to flinch as his eyes turned to her. He grunted. “Are you Coyote?”

 

“Depends. Who’re you?”

 

“Um. I’m Kara. Sasha- Sasha said to give you this. She said… you owe her that favour?”

 

The man’s eyes moved from her face to the note as she slid it under the glass panel and he picked it up, glancing at it. He huffed.

 

“You must have one good sob story.” He muttered, grabbing a key off the rack from behind him and sliding it over. “Second floor, third door along. There’s no hot water, you get your own food. Any complaints, keep ‘em to yourself.”

 

Kara nodded, picking the key up and almost dropping it. The man seemed to soften slightly as he watched her and he sighed, rolling his eyes.

 

“If you bang on the heater in the shower you might get lucky. Don’t count on it though.” He muttered, picking his magazine up again.

 

“Thank-you.” Kara whispered, making her way to the staircase. The inside of the building was slightly better than the outside, but not by much. She shakily let herself into the room, overjoyed to see that there were three sets of locks on the inside of the door. She locked all of them before collapsing onto the edge of the bed.

 

It was cold. She was freezing. She had one shoe, her worldly belongings in a bag and no idea what tomorrow would hold.

 

But she was free.

 

And that feeling alone compelled her to keep going.

 

After a few minutes of laying down she heaved herself upright, rubbing her eyes in an attempt to wake up slightly and standing on unsteady feet. She nudged off her remaining shoe and peeled off her socks, laying them on the radiator in hopes that they might dry.

 

The bathroom was tiny, with a shower cubicle wedged in the corner and a smeary mirror above the sink. Kara approached it, wincing as she took in her reflection. Her waist-length hair was tangled and matted from the rain, a dark smudge of a bruise under her eye almost highlighted how exhausted she looked.

 

With a sigh, Kara attempted to run her fingers through her hair but hissed as she snagged a knot, tugging on her scalp which started to throb dully. She’d forgotten about hitting her head on the door earlier but the smarting of it returned persistently.

 

Kara closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again, making eye contact with her reflection. Then she had an idea.

 

It was unlikely that her parents would come looking for her, or god forbid inform the police that she’d run away. That would raise too many questions. But if they happened to spot her in the street, if they ever came to this side of the city, what was stopping them from recognising her and dragging her back ‘home’?

 

With a sudden burst of motivation she opened the mirrored cabinet and looked inside, only finding an empty pill bottle and some spare toilet roll. A set of drawers under the sink wielded better results as she found a pair of blunt metal scissors that scraped badly when she closed them.

 

They’d do.

 

Looking at her reflection again, Kara raised one slightly shaky hand and gathered some of her hair near one of her ears. She held the scissors up to it, staring at them in her reflection for a moment, before forcing her hand to close. Slightly dropping her hand holding the scissors, she looked at the long hair in her hand, then back at the mirror before continuing.

 

Her hand grew steadier as she continued, roughly cutting her hair to around her ears and dropping what she’d taken off into the sink.

 

The scissors joined it once she was done and she ran a slightly unsteady hand through the short- short- hair that now reached her ears. It was messy and looked… well, like she’d just hacked it off with a pair of rusty scissors in a hotel bathroom, but it would do.

 

She looked so different. Kara couldn’t remember ever having short hair. Although once she had come home having cut a chunk of it off after a boy in eighth grade stuck gum in it.

 

You look like a fuckin’ boy.” Her dad had snarled, shoving her as he’d passed her in the kitchen. “No man’s gonna want you lookin’ like that.”

 

That was okay though. Kara didn’t mind. She’d seen what relationships could do to people when they broke down and she was perfectly content without that.

 

Blinking out of the memory, Kara shook her head and turned around to look at the shower cubicle. The plastic walls were almost opaque, which she liked, although she was fairly sure she could see a palm print smudged on one of them.

 

She elected to not touch anything she didn’t have to.

 

The cubicle door creaked as she opened it and Kara reflectively winced before remembering where she was and forcing herself to relax. Turning the dial up to hot, Kara remembered the words of the man at the desk and hesitantly banged on the heater a few times. The shower head spluttered a few times before spraying out a jet of almost scalding water, and she stepped back for a second until it cooled down slightly before hurriedly undressing and getting in.

 

She was more than used to hurried showers at this point, usually taking them when her parents were out or unconscious which, luckily, was often. She made this one quick out of both habit and knowledge that the warmth likely wouldn’t last long, before choosing the least grey towel and getting dressed in the pyjamas she’d shoved in her bag before leaving home. They were only an oversized t-shirt and some old fleece pants that she’d found in a thrift shop, but they were comfy enough.

 

As she readied for bed, Kara ran through what she had to do the next day. Coyote hadn’t said how many days she could stay but she definitely didn’t want to overstay her welcome, and the sooner she could find somewhere permanent the better.

 

She also needed a job. The money she’d saved since leaving school was alright, but it wouldn’t last.

 

So, an apartment and a job. It was a good start.

 

Kara was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

 

~*~*~

 

The rain had not let up overnight, Kara realised as she woke up. The faint pattering against the window was still just as present as it had been before.

 

She could tell something was different then, even before the memories of the night before came back. The bed under her was surprisingly soft, with no broken springs digging into her back and no faint smell of red ice vapour which seeped into everything no matter how often she tried to air the rooms out.

 

Everything came back to her and Kara opened her eyes, met with the grey-white walls of the hotel room. She sat up, running a hand through her short- short- hair, quietly marvelling at how few tangles she caught as she stood to get ready for the day.

 

It didn’t take long- Kara had never been one for rituals, and she brushed through her hair with her fingers a few times before deeming it presentable. After grabbing her belongings she locked the door, making her way to the reception. A different man was behind it now, and she nodded at him as she left.

 

The rain had gotten a little lighter in the past hour, she noticed with relief. Her jacket was warm but not waterproof and although it had mostly dried overnight, the added rain didn’t help. Luck was seemingly on her side that morning though, and she spotted a small thrift shop over the road from the hotel.

 

A bell above the door dinged as she opened it and entered, looking around the shop. There was a bored-looking teenager behind the desk and a few customers milling around, none of them even glancing at her as she entered.

 

Good. That was how she liked it.

 

Heading straight over to the sparse shoe rack, Kara grimaced at a pair of leopard print stiletto heels before finding a pair of slightly worn office shoes- luckily in her size. She took off her remaining shoe and tried them on, deeming them good enough for whatever job she may be applying for.

 

Taking them off, she approached the cash register and waited for the teenager to look up from her comic before placing the shoes on the counter.

 

The girl looked at her, glancing at the single shoe in her other hand.

 

“You lose the other one or somethin’?” She asked, not sounding particularly interested as she tapped something into the register.

 

Kara shrugged, placing some cash on the counter.

 

“Things happen.” She replied, waiting for her receipt before putting the shoes on.

 

“Kay.” Was all she got in reply and she murmured a ‘thanks’ as she left, hesitating a moment before dumping her old shoe in a bin outside. She’d feel bad but she was never going back for the other one, and she’d worn the pair so much she could feel the ground through the soles.

 

Now, a job.

 

Kara wandered the streets for a while, glancing into every shop window she could see and stepping into two that had ‘Help Wanted’ signs in. Both turned her away, one saying they’d found someone and hurriedly taking the sign down and the other just looking her up and down before laughing her out of the shop.

 

Clothing stores had no business being that pretentious, she thought a little bitterly. Although, glancing down at her slightly too-big jacket and recently hacked-off hair, perhaps they had had a reason.

 

Still. It was rude.

 

The rain still had not let up and Kara pulled her hood further over her eyes, shivering slightly. She should have bought a coat from the thrift store, and made a mental note to do so in the morning- when she saw it.

 

Around twenty feet ahead was a one story building with with large windows and a sign on the front proclaiming ‘Rose ‘n Ron’s Diner’. The edges of the windows were slightly frosted, giving the diner a cozy look- and in one of them was a sign that read ‘Help wanted, enquire inside.’

 

Well. It wasn’t as if she had anything to lose.