Reconnect

April 26, 2018:

Michael pulls a classic spy trick, and him and Rami reconnect a bit more over shared paranoia.

Rami's Apartment

See first pose.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peggy Carter, Sharon Carter, Phil Coulson

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Parambir Ghai has never lived a very extravagant life. The idea of stuff has never sat well with her, primarily because she sees it as a waste of spending rather than a source of clutter. Her two-bedroom New York City flat exudes this ideal: her furniture is modest and comfortable, only atheistically pleasing because each piece lacks individual character. She has no excess decor save for some family photos and several devil's ivy plants — NASA approved as top air filters for healthy lungs. Her kitchen cabinets contain only the needed gear — and being a singleton type, she has just enough dishes for two days of eating, committed to wash up after herself frequently.

The bedroom is equally bland in its arrangement of furniture and decor. The second bedroom is the only place where it gets exceedingly interesting. The door has been upgraded, a keypad lock installed, and a heavy-duty jam separating the carpet from the hardwood inside. There's a plain sign hanging on the door that says "None Of Your Fucking Business" written in Rami's neat scrawl. There's a joke there… to someone. Maybe her landlord.

At this hour, Rami is considerably late getting home. She had endured yet another failed matchmaking attempt from her mother after a rather long day at SHIELD's HQ. She balances her to-go bag while unlocking her front door, forgetting all the things she's supposed to remember when entering a room — even her own apartment. She lets the door swing open, not immediately turning on the lights as she walks on in, blindly depositing keys and togo box on a tall table. She starts to kick the door closed, reaching for the light simultaneously.

*

Michael Carter doesn't usually make a habit of breaking in to peoples' apartments. But on occasion, it can be illuminating. Most spies are trained to be controlled, even in their home lives, but everyone has tells. A living situation is a picture of someone's psyche writ large. His own flats have been similarly devoid of overt personal touches and fastidiously neat. His former MI-6 one-bedroom in Chelsea was not overly large but full of high-end fixtures. The only thing overtly personal was his closet full of bespoke suits.

He still doesn't know what his former employer did with his damned wardrobe. It irks him almost more than the disavowal.

He got here and jimmied his way inside. He made the rounds, poking through what he could. That second bedroom - well, that's when he'd normally be calling in someone back at Tower Actual for coaching or a remote hack job. So instead all he can do is absorb that the locked door exists.

When the light flicks on, Michael is sitting in a chair facing the door. "You know, I've always wanted to do this dramatic 'sit in the dark until someone comes home' thing. It always struck me as very cinematic."

*

"Bloody fucking hell!" Rami's door slams shut a bit harder than she intended, startled by the sudden appearance of Michael Carter. Carters! She ensures the door is shut, locked, and then she's rounding on Michael with a scowl. "Michael!" She shucks off her springtime trench coat, being a bit forceful in hanging it up on the hooks by the door. She takes a moment to settle herself, heart still pounding in her ears.

"And? Worth it, was it?" Her words still hold that annoyance — an annoyance he has probably heard before. She grabs the box of leftovers and heads for the kitchen, unconcerned about the disavowed man sitting in her apartment.

*

Michael can't help it. He cracks a grin. Oh those spies and the space-invading practical jokes! "Well, considering you just about shat yourself, and you also didn't pull a gun on me. Should have sharper reflexes than that, by the way. I'm disappointed."

*

Rami stuffed the box into the fridge, joining other Tupperware and take-out cartons. She glances over to him, dark eyes narrowing. "Be nice. I just spent two hours trying to pretend to be interested in retirement finances, and evade the awkward attempted-kiss-goodnight. Maybe I was hoping you had a gun." She turns to lean into a counter, crossing her arms to give him a serious stare. "You could have called. That was the whole point of the phone number thing, you know, Brit."

*

"Yes, but then you would have known I was coming," says Michael. He stands up, hands settling into pockets of his dress pants. "Your parents still setting you up on dates, then?" There's a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. "I'm still trying to work out whether or not I can trust you." He nods towards the locked room.

*

"Considering I still haven't given them grandchildren…" Rami continues to watch him with careful assessment, her red lips pressing together a moment. The nod to the locked door earns a glance in that direction, and she shakes her head slightly. "You can trust me, Michael." She gestures him forward with a wave of her fingers, stepping out of the kitchen and across the living room. "I needed a new Tower Actual…" As if in some valiant show of trust, she doesn't try to hide the numbers she keys in. "Probably shouldn't call it that officially though."

*

"Rather. That would be confusing," drawls Michael. He watches her curiously. A show of trust, yes, but she could also reprogram the keypad after he leaves. He steps towards her. "And how do you find American men compared to the ones back home? Are your dates better or worse?"

*

"I find them to be just as fucking bad, or worse, as English men. But that's perhaps because I didn't get to choose them…" The spy handler sighs a bit, finishing her code. "Not that I have time to choose, so maybe I should stop fucking complaining." The door unlocks with a heavy clunk and swings open at her encouragement. She crosses the heavy threshold and then steps back to give him access to the room — a room that has seen a rather serious overhaul and probably has violated a number of provisions on her rental contract. The walls have been painted black, and a large black carpet has been rolled out across the wood floors. The room is devoid of all furniture save for a pretty elaborate set-up that closely resembles Courtier's control station back at MI-6. She crosses her arms and glances toward Michael. "I already gave Agent 13 her earbud and ocular camera."

*

"You're running a high level SHIELD agent?" Michael sounds both impressed and bewildered. He steps in to the room. Familiar spy gear. Strange how that kind of thing can be comforting. "Well, I never thought I'd see the day when SHIELD and MI-6 would play that well together."

*

Once Michael is inside, she closes the door and the lock reinitializes. From this side, all it would take would be turning the handle to unlock it though — fast exit. She steps toward her station, the monitors black for now. Her lighting is comfortable and focused on the station, helping blur out the edges of the room. It gives her focus. She glances toward Michael now, and her mouth works itself into a frown. "No, Michael… I'm running a Carter. This has nothing to do with SHIELD. Or maybe it has everything to do with it… SHIELD and MI-6… and every other intelligence agency in the world." She rubs at the back of her neck, fiddling with the long strands of dark hair. She sits gently at the edge of the station, and sinks into an unsettled silence. When she speaks, her voice has that simple, straightforward timbre — a delivery of facts and information not meant to prompt emotion response. A handler's best secret. "Phil Coulson is dead. Murdered."

*

Michael stands casually near the exit. It's not obvious that he's positioned himself for a quick getaway should the situation warrant, but she knows him well enough. And more importantly, she knows how he's been trained. It isn't a personal slight or a sign of mistrust - it's simple caution.

He listens when she speaks, watching her features for any tells. When she drops the news, his expression betrays very little. "This is more than a personal vendetta against my sister, then. As I feared."

*

"I had put two and two together," Rami agrees quietly. She crosses her arms at her chest again, staying in her lean as she regards him across the distance. She keeps a careful eye on his expression, a careful ear to his tone. She's worked with him enough to feel like she could tell if something is about to go off the rails. "I think this is about you, too, Michael… I think you getting disavowed, Margaret's death…" A mental way for her to disconnect the older Peggy Carter from the younger in her own mind… "Coulson's death. My skin keeps itching."

*

"A simple attack on the global spy community would not be worrying in and of itself. It has happened before," says Michael. His tone is careful, controlled. He's usually a very controlled person, but she knows him well enough to tell when he's pulling back on the reins. "But to get to Coulson, to get to my sister - these people have to have moles and operatives within spy agencies." He folds his arms deliberately across his chest. "What were the circumstances of Coulson's death?"

*

"I don't know all the details yet. I'm still navigating being a newbie — " The word sounds awkward, something Rami would never actually say — and probably loathes being called entirely. "Without raising too much suspicion, but it's on my to-do list." She tightens her lips a bit, almost frowning. "They're achieving what they need to, though… suspicions are high. I've already cleaned the flat three times for bugs — first time around, I found two SHIELD and three MI-6." She finally straightens up from her station, sighing a bit. "Tea? Mum sent along some biscuits in my last package, too."

*

"Phil Coulson saved my life once," says Michael. He's not a man for sentimentality in his work, but professional respect is another story. He has that even for many of his enemies. "It's unlikely you ever saw the details of that incident as it was before your time and rather unfortunate. But you are familiar with the issues stabilizing my emotional state." He looks off and around the room, then back to her with a sigh. "I went off the reservation, and he pulled me back in. When it would have been far simpler for him to simply eliminate me. He even had cause."

As for the question of tea, he simply inclines his head in the affirmative.

*

"That would have been a loss," Courtier says honestly to him as she stops at the door. She looks up at him, brows arched slightly to open her expression. "You're always going to be a fucking train wreck, Michael… in the emotional stability department. Your file states that plainly." But in probably more professional words and without the subtle vulgarity. "But, I theorize Coulson saw beyond that to the facets of you that are a bit more obscure, and decided it was a waste of a bullet." She shrugs a shoulder. "Why the bloody hell you think I'm here?" She smirks then. "Now, if we're both done being positively wet hens…" She steps past him, opens the locked door with a heavy thud, and then exits her little spy haven to see to tea. "We should talk about what we're going to do about this."

*

"You really were such a light touch, Courtier," drawls Michael as she explains things in that profane but endearing way of hers. "And I am not surprised that my file doesn't mince words. MI-6 high level files don't exactly sugarcoat the psychological damage of their agents."

He pauses a moment, then follows her back into the apartment proper. "You do realize this means you have to be exceedingly careful who you trust both in SHIELD and in MI-6?"

*

"Were? I'm always a light touch with you, darling." Her words are soft, and smiling toward Brit in that same casual air she's adopted around the spy. "Besides, your cracks make you an endearing partner. I've never found you boring." Now she's definitely teasing him. It's a comfortable thing though, needling him with a good-natured demeanor.

In the kitchen, she prepares the electric kettle — thankful that Americans have finally figured out they are good appliances to have around — and preps to mugs. She doesn't look at him as she works, but there is a small pause as she closes the cabinet after fetching the tin of tea. "I know," she says softly after a heartbeat. "That's why I'm sticking to the three of you… my Clutch of Carters." She looks at him, expression serious. "Because I can still trust you, can't I?"

*

"Yes. Well, no one has ever accused me of being dull. Except in situations where I was purposefully playing dull." Which is a role that Michael has inhabited over the years in certain situations. He takes a deep breath, then chuckles roughly, "God I hope so. The younger version of my sister, certainly. My grand-niece is more of a question. Like yourself, she may feel her loyalties divided when the chips are down."

*

"That's why she needs a good handler," Rami replies, letting the kettle do its thing and seeing to the biscuits. Not one to waste a plate, she just opens the box and foil wrapping within and shakes out a couple on a napkin before handing them to Brit. "She accepted my help easily enough… though I think your sister helped there. And being the Courtier to your Rule Britannia certainly was a bonus card. Plus, I tempted her with Vindaloo and properly fried samosas." Something her mother would do — use food as a way to relax someone.

*

Michael takes the biscuits-on-napkin with a grateful nod. "What did you think of my relations? Were they as you expected from knowing me, and knowing my sister's reputation?" Spies don't talk family much - especially not him. But things have changed in the last few months.

*

"Peggy was as expected." Rami pauses, frowning. "I think I amused her." She arches a brow to no one or nothing in particular, just considering her first impression with the infamous original Agent 13. "I talked too much." She then shrugs and glances back to Michael as she speaks of Sharon. "Your grand-niece was a bit more… lost in her own emotions. Losing her favored Aunt and then her respected mentor would do that… her trust circle is small and fragile." She tilts her head. "And she wears that perhaps more honestly than she should." Then she smirks. "But you're all fucking Carters."

*

"You say that almost like you think it's a bad thing," says Michael with a ghost of a smile. "I do wish you could have known my sister's older self. She got simultaneously sassier and more mellow somehow." There's a crack of emotion there, but he reins it back in fairly quickly. "So. Do you have a recommended approach, other than acting massively paranoid about everyone around us?"

*

Rami actually laughs — a genuine, warm laugh. "Sounds like my Daadee. Strong women often age like that, Michael… and from all I know of Margaret Carter, she was one of the strongest." The compliments are soft, genuine, and graced over easily. The kettle clicks, and she pours the water over the tea leaves. She notices the small crack, but just notes it rather than calls it out. Each crack is just something to be watchful of, but this one she doesn't worry too much about. His question makes her frown. "I think we need to do what we are meant to do, Michael… act massively paranoid about everyone around us and gather up as much intelligence as we can about every possible target before deciding on a plan of action. Margaret is dead, Coulson is dead… and I suspect there is something moving around the Tower. For fucking once, I think we need to be proactive instead of reactive. There is no point in my mind to wait for the next bloody strike. We need to strike first."

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