A Spy's Reunion

March 29, 2018:

Courtier and Rule Britannia have their reunion, and it goes as most spy reunions go.

Hell's Kitchen

An alleyway in Hell's Kitchen.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peggy Carter, Agent 13

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There are certain precautions that Michael Carter takes when he's anywhere. He checks to see if he's being tailed. He checks for sightlines and suspicious people. That's all second-nature. That's all he's really been doing since he came back from Norway and was disavowed. He accepts that MI-6 has eyes on him, and has even made pointed eye contact with a few people he's highly suspected of being tails.

He doesn't take it personally.

Since the death of his sister the elder (not to be confused for his elder sister) he has been even more aware, even more suspicious - but you'd never know that from the way he walks.

He moves down a quiet street in Hell's Kitchen, moving under streetlights and past lit storefronts. He's wearing a navy peacoat and his hands are dug deep in his pockets. He's not staring at his phone, but nor does he seem to be in a hurry to get wherever it is he's going.

This wouldn't be the first false identity that Rami has tailed since getting into New York City. Remarkably, Michael's facial features ping up quite a few possibles, and as his handler the assumption is she will weed them out and notify the Agency the second she has a confirmed sighting. Sighting only, no interaction. It was a strict order, but here she is, bucking that.

This is about Michael. If it's him, she's getting more than a fucking confirmed sighting, alright?

So, she tails the possible down the streets of Hell's Kitchen. A fount of knowledge, she knows how this looks by the book: keep close, but not too close, make realistic pauses, or even get out her phone to present an illusion of being not-quite connected to what's around her. If the target stops, keep moving. She's doing everything precisely by the book. Precisely.

Except she's been staring at his back for the last five minutes despite the fact her phone is out, glowing faintly in her hand. She's trying to pinpoint if that's Michael's gait, and that means staring and mentally comparing it to the memories she has of Rule Britannia.

Michael's facial hair is also just long enough to trick some cameras from a long distance. He knows this. The enemy has facial recognition as well. What everyone else sees as a depression beard is actually calculated. Not that he's gone out of his way to tell anyone the exact reason for it.

The moment he realized he was being tailed (which is the moment Rami started actually following him) he did in fact shift his gait. He naturally walks with confidence and an upright stride. He's walking now with a slight limp on his left side and has hunched his shoulders. He is, however, not counting on his handler being the one to tail him. No one knows his various chameleon strides like she does.

He rounds the corner into a narrow side street between two residential buildings. When she rounds the corner after him, she'll be face-to-face with a 9MM. Trigger discipline is being observed but the safety is off. His eyes give him away even in the semidarkness. They're sharp and pale blue beneath a furrowed brow. "You are…" he drawls, "…absolute shit at fieldwork, Courtier."

"Bloody fucking h—" Rami cell phone clatters to the ground, and she sweeps back her jacket, going instinctively for the pistol at her lower back. She knows enough to take a step back, but she stops immediately as Michael's familiar voice graces her ears, barely heard over the sudden thrumming of her heart. "Brit?"

She had been identifying that gait slowly, pairing it with familiar aliases. She had been about 75% sure when she rounded the corner, but now she stares with a slightly startled expression. Maybe part of her had not been all that confident, or maybe she hoped it hadn't been him.

Slowly, she drops her hands from behind her back and raises them into plain view at shoulder's width. "I wouldn't say absolute shit…"

"Absolute shit at tailing me, then," Michael drawls. He's a master of many accents, but this is full on received pronunciation right now. He snaps the safety back on, but keeps the weapon up. "Why are you here?"

Courtier edges closer despite the gun pointed at her, even if he's reinitiated the safety. She's seen Rule Britannia work; she knows that the safety is just a couple second delay. "I think you know why I'm here, darling." Overheard, the diminutive is said casually and soft. But it has a slight edge to it that he would recognize — those times she's trying to keep their communication cool and steady while everything else around them is going to shit.

She slowly starts to lower her hands, patting them in the air in a placating gesture. "You knew they were going to send me. I mean, who else would they send?"

"Unless you're here to reinstate me, I don't know why you're here at all." Michael backs up slowly. He turns his head slightly as a car rolls by the mouth of the street. He lowers the weapon and it disappears in its concealed position with the swiftness of a magician doing sleight of hand. She knows that he could draw it again in a breath and probably get a shot off before she could reach for hers. But a man standing with a gun on a woman of colour in a dark Hell's Kitchen street is the kind of thing that draws police and vigilantes alike.

"We both know that's about as likely as the Queen shitting in public. Agency is a hundred percent behind its decision." The dismissal of his suggestion comes easily, though she can't help the small smile that tugs at the corners of her lips. She steps forward one more stride, and tucks her hands into the pocket of her light coat.

"The Agency sent me here to make sure you don't go fucking around with things as a free agent. I'm supposed to get eyes on you, report back." The emphasis on supposed suggests she knows she's doing exactly what she's not supposed to do.

"Paparazzi doesn't trust SHIELD, naturally. And they've agreed to feed intel back. So you're not here for me so much as you're here to check their work." Michael says all this with confidence, but he's trying to get a read on her while he does that. "You know my sister is dead, yes? Because of a man who left her black roses and somehow evaded SHIELD security multiple times." Because of, not killed by. A hair that is split for a good reason.

"I know." Rami's voice is softer now when he mentions Peggy. She shifts slightly. "I mean, I know… a Peggy Carter is dead. I've met the other one. I told her I needed to find you."

She assumes Michael won't understand, that he's not going to get her motivations, or the fact she's risking being disavowed herself just by standing here in front of him. She waits for the disquiet to fall over her, that knot in her stomach to twist up. When she instead feels that calm, she just nods a bit.

"I told her I needed to find you because I still have a job to do. I still have a fucking job to do, Michael." His name catches her tongue uncomfortably. She uses it so rarely. "Something isn't sitting right, and you bloody well know it."

"The younger version of my sister, I trust, was quite unhelpful and guarded." Michael sounds fond when he says that, though he's still coiled and tense. He's still got his senses trained on his surroundings, making mental notes of points of retreat should it be needed.

He watches her for a moment. Sharply. Quietly. Then, "No, something isn't right. Norway should not have gone down as it did."

"Of course she was. She's a fucking Carter." Rami does not sound at all perturbed. "But, I think I said something right, because she gave me a contact… with yet another fucking Carter." She points at him with her forefinger and middle finger accusingly. "Because, I can't seem to escape you." You, being, of course Carters in general, not Michael specifically… but, then again…

Only after he affirms her baseline suspicions does her shoulders drop a hair, relaxing a bit of her own caution. Not that Brit can't still headshot her if he decides to. "No. It shouldn't have. I still don't know what happened, and you know how that shite fucking irritates me. My job is knowing when and why something doesn't go bog standard."

"And I took the mission because it should have been bog standard. I was in country before I realized we were doing the whole thing under the nose of the Norwegians. I shouldn't have done, but I assumed that if we were operating in a friendly nation, that we'd get their bloody cooperation," Michael's irritation is Peak English on those words. But he would never question his superiors once an op was in progress. Which is very likely why he wasn't fully briefed before he left. And then he adds, as an afterthought, "That's Sharon. She's something like my niece. The family tree is rather complicated."

"Pull the other one," Rami replies dryly with a smirk up at the spy in response to his complicated family tree. But she had caught that flash of Peak English irritation, and it makes her smile reflexively. She turns slightly aside, glancing behind her and then back up to Michael. Her shoulders fall heavily, and she starts to rub at her jaw below her left ear — a signature gesture of built-up stress. "I know… I know that. Paparazzi would not let me anywhere near it once you were disavowed." She at least wants him to know she tried.

"It was you, wasn't it? The message to Jones and my sister." The message that got Michael extracted from Norway with SHIELD's somewhat forced cooperation. There's still a live warrant with INTERPOL for a man who looks a lot like him. "There's no one left at Tower who'd be that kind of sentimental." It's hard to tell if that's a compliment or an insult coming from Mr. Queen-and-Country.

That's when those red lips pulled into a warm — but, still tired — smile, particularly at the assumed accusation at her sentimentality. "Fuck, of course it was. You're still my responsibility, Michael. You were in a critical situation." And she was, is, his handler — though those words go unspoken all the same.

"I'm not a stray dog, Courtier. I know I've never been entirely on my own, but I assure you, I can handle it." After a few weeks of moping and painting models, anyway. Michael's moved on from that - and a crisis in the intelligence community, in a dark way - is just what he needs.

"I know that." It isn't the first half-truth she's told Michael before. She's not horrible at it, either. Maybe he could handle himself, maybe she could let this whole thing go, "But… do you really want to handle it on your own?" She looks at him seriously now, that wryness dropping away and her mouth settling into a line.

"So. You're here to help, not check up on me?" Michael arches a brow. "And you are, what, going to do this against the orders of Tower?" There's a half beat and then he drawls, "You do recall what it means for me to be disavowed, yes?"

"I'm here to check up on you… and I'm here to help you." The words are said seriously, but softly. The drawl is met with a low noise in the back of her throat — he's heard that before, when she's trying very hard to not say the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, she replies with a tight, "Yes."

She'll have to forgive Michael for looking suspicious. He trusted the SHIELD agents and the hospital staff where his sister was, too. That's the last time anyone gets his trust for awhile. Everyone else gets a dose of healthy skepticism. "And what will you do with what you learn? What if I make a move they wouldn't authorize? What if evidence points to corruption within our own ranks?"

The suspicion stings a bit, but she knows how this works. World of Spies, and all that. She drops her hands then from where they were hooked, one at her shoulder, the other at her elbow. "I don't know." It is honest, and lacks the vulgar sharpness it might have had. She probably could have twisted that all around, made promises and guarantees. But, as Michael has noted, she's a shit field agent. "What I do know is that I'm ready to follow you to find out."

"Are you ready to pass me information you shouldn't?" Michael asks this while looking her in the eye. He's watchful - and probably scanning her vitals with his repaired HUD - courtesy of Tony Stark. Irony of ironies that she went to the same person to find a way to take him down if it comes to that. "Would you trust me over them?"

Rami's doesn't shy from his blue-eyed stare, her own browns steady. This isn't the first time she's answered those questions, but they had been asked in a mirror, after a restless night that threatened her sacred routine. She gives Michael the same answer she gave her reflection, "Yes. On both counts."

"Oh Courtier," says Michael with a rough, soft laugh. "How very nearly treasonous of you." He means that as good-natured as one can be when making a statement like that. He bites the edge of his lip, scratchese the bridge of his nose. "Give me a number. I'll think it over. And if I decide to trust you, I'll get in touch."

His response relaxes a knot of tension in her back she was unaware she was holding. She knew when she came across Michael, it would all be a test: she testing him, he testing her. Whether or not either got full marks wouldn't be revealed right away. She steps closer, and holds out a hand toward him as if asking for his own. Her other hand withdraws a sharpie marker from her pocket.

"I've got a burner phone, and I'm writing the number on your palm." Beat pause. "I didn't write down the number otherwise… just in case." She's not dumb enough to assume she's the only agent trying to track down Brit.

"You are not writing your number on my palm," says Michael dryly, but with a note of humour. "You can write it on your own palm and hold it up…" he touches the cheek below his eye with the cybernetic implant. "But you are not staining my hand with marker." Despite the fact that he doesn't cut the stylish figure he usually does when he's given a choice in the matter, there is that edge of fussiness he can't quite shake.

"Wanker." Courtier does not put up any further fuss, and she jots the number down on her own palm. "You know, American girls are not going to find your finickiness appealing." She holds up her palm to him now, the numbers written small, but precise. She waits for him to indicate he has the number.

There's nothing obvious about it, but there is a small nod from Michael after a moment. "Dear Courtier, I'm over a hundred years old. I think I'm past dating age." He looks at her again for a moment, then sighs. "Watch your back, all right? If my sister wasn't safe, then no one quite is." Despite his suspicion, the concern seems genuine.

"But not past the shagging age, I hope." But at the barest hint that she might get a response about Michael's sex life, she holds up both hands in surrender. She does not require or desire an answer. At his concern, her hands drop, and she offers the smallest twitch of an uncertain smile. "Yes, all right. I'll take every precaution." Which has already included intensely scrubbing every piece of gear she's gotten from SHIELD and Stark.

Michael Carter looks at her for a moment, brows raised. Then he inhales slowly and shakes his head. "Goodbye, Courtier. Watch your back." He doesn't switch between codename and real name. In fact, he might not even know her actual name. A product of the job. "Don't trust anyone at SHIELD. Not until we can sort out what's going on." There's a 'we' statement despite his lack of commitment.

He's not one for long goodbyes. With that, he drops back into a long-legged stride, continuing down the street. As he's no longer disguising his gait, it's very upright and confident - even though he might not be feeling much of the latter right now.

Courtier turns slightly as he resumes on his course, but then she looks back with a worried furrow pulling tight at her dark brows. It softens only after a heartbeat, and she sighs her words aloud, "Good to see you, too, Brit." Then she looks around, trying to get her bearings before she scoops back up her cell phone. Almost immediately it rings, and Rami jumps a bit. The familiar number makes her groan, close her eyes, and start to walk the opposite direction.

She answers the offending phone. "Hello, Mama. No… I had to reschedule it. Yes, yes… I'm sure he's very handsome." She hesitates. "Work came up…"

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