Suitable Response

July 07, 2018:

Kinsey has that meeting with Tony in the aftermath of the HK bombings. (Backscened, takes place the day after Blowin' Up The Kitchen, pt. 2.)

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: Dummy

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower is…bustling. Its busy. Its chaotic. With what just happened in Hell's Kitchen…well. It isn't any supprise. Every emergency drone Stark can drum into service is being used. Multiple satalites retasked into assisting emergency services. His own security and emergency systems out helping the city. Even the man himself working far into the night to help.

…so the Tower is both busy and strangely empty.

It is late in the day, or early in the morning. It is hard to tell after so much chaos. That Kinsey gets a call. A call from her boss.

It is a /polite/ call at least.

Not quite formal.

Just a simple thing really.

'Secondary Robotics Lab. Meet me there when you can. Don't die in the meantime.'

—-

Call it mid-day, at the end of a long night, and — for Kinsey — a personally upsetting morning. She gets the call, but doesn't answer: she's already on a train en route to Stark Tower after walking tens of blocks out of the decimation of Hell's Kitchen. Exhausted, gripped in the throes of a splitting migraine, she's also painfully aware of her present attire, for more reasons than merely the fact that she is — at least until she gets back to her office — stuck with legs and an arm that don't in any way resemble the real thing. Her working prostheses. Six's. To be wearing this set of limbs while out of costume is jarring for her for psychological reasons, in addition to being a risk, being out in public where someone might see them — she has her arm wrapped and placed in an improvised sling to conceal it. And then there's the fact that she's wearing her ex-boyfriend's clothes, on top of everything that happened last night, and-

She looks rough, understandably, when she finally arrives at Stark Tower and makes her way up to her office to do some very necessary changing and swallowing of pills.

In jeans and a t-shirt with a zip-up hoodie in army green, printed over the left side of the chest with her well-worn last name, her hair still damp from her shower at Fogwell's, she takes just one moment to close her eyes and breathe, and then wearily starts for the elevator, and the Secondary Robotics Lab.

It would be great if she could wait for the pills to start working first, but: he probably knows she's here. It'll just be worse, she assumes, if she makes him come to get her.

—-

Stark is there of course. Standing by a table with a tarp thrown over it. He looks tired in a away that he usually doesn't. His hair slightly more of a mess. Rings under his eyes slightly deeper. His rumpled clothes more rumpled.

He was out all night too.

He glances up as she enters, a slight smirk on his face.

"Welcome to the big leagues, kid."

His drawl is still him being a jackass of course. However that isn't gonna change anytime soon.

"So the rest of your secret club alive?" Not alright. Who could be alright after their home is burned down. Just alive will do for now.

"Sit." A longer pause. "Chocolate in the third drawer down." He adds as he waves towards one of the benches.

"So," A pause. "You know I'm gonna get all kinds of involved in some of this now right?"

—-

Welcome to the big leagues.

She stops just inside of the door, barely a stride or two in the same room when he says that, and it halts her forward movement entirely. At the end of a night like that one she'd have thought nothing else could surprise her, but she'd have been wrong: that does. And when the surprise clears, there's a flat-faced incredulity in place, too tired for the fury that would usually be there. Leave it to Tony Stark to find a way to needle her into feeling something when she was sure she'd run straight through all of the things she had left to feel for the week. ('Pissed.' The something is called 'pissed.')

"The big leagues," she repeats, quiet. Her voice is slightly hoarse, but then: she spent most of her time in the Kitchen trying to pull people out of burning buildings. "Fuck you, Tony. I don't think you're even ten years older than I am. I'm not a kid. And if that's how this conversation is gonna go, with Lord Tony Stark condescending to speak to his inferior pawns and vassals, you might as well just…just fire me right now, and I'll take my chances. I don't need a lecture today. Okay? You have no-" Her throat catches on something, and it takes her a moment to swallow the knot. She does, but when she starts to speak again, her voice is quieter. Has to be, to compress all of that emotion down to something flat. "You have no idea. No idea what we've gone through, given up, just to…to wind up here anyway."

Hazel eyes wrench away from him, glittering and bright with tears she is stubbornly refusing to shed, though tendons in her throat are standing up visibly with all of the tension required to hold them, barely, at bay. Darker, quieter: "And I don't know. Most cell networks are down. I got messages through to some with a little bit of unconventional routing, but…"

She never finishes the sentence. She also doesn't sit, or seem to be interested in chocolate.

—-

The engineer watches her out of the corner of his eye as she explodes. Cursing him in that intense quiet way that she has. Telling him in no uncertain terms just how this is going to go. There in a slight nod as she looks away and he pushes away from the table he was leaning against.

"Good, you're getting past enough of the shock to be pissed." He says lightly as he smirks towards her. "Fine then, no lectures." A pause. "Maybe a little one." He admits as he starts around the covered table. "See, I tried the whole keep my head down. Stay out of it. Not my problem style of thing. What it got me was…" And he taps the ARC reactor in his chest. "…along with six months of torture and the hate of about half the worlds population." A smirk at that. "Working on the other half. I have faith I'll get there in time."

"So I know that one way or another, once you put a toe into the pool you eventually have to dive in." He adds with a flash of a very tired grin. "Which is why I built this…"

He pulls the tarp off the table to reveal the steel bones of a /suit/.

One that isn't fit for him. Or for Pepper. Or even in the standard Iron Man style. In fact it looks in style very much like her Six suit.

"SIRIN? Fill it out would you?" He adds with a wave of his hand.

"Of course, sir!" Calls the every peppy AI as a holoscreen appears next to the skeleton of the suit and holographic panels begin to form to show the lines and planed systems and armors. Filling in the body of the suit even though Kinsey can pick the holographic 'pieces' up to manipulate if she would like.

"I mean, I totally could fire you right now. But then I'd have to find someone else to fit this and resize it and that is a pain in the ass. So I don't think I will. I mean. Unless you want me to."

There is a beatpause.

"And your friends /are/ alive. I have drone systems piggybacking the cell systems now to restore coms. I'm pretty sure most of them are /really/ pissed but alive."

—-

If eyerolls could be weaponized, Stark Tower and everything in it would be a smoldering heap of ashes in the wake of that look Kinsey gets, when he paints her anger as some sort of cleverly provoked, ideal result. She's opening her mouth to say something about that — weary, now, rather than furious, because she figures that's as close as Tony ever gets to backing down about anything — when he continues, tapping the device seated in his chest and saying Tony things, and eventually the weariness is joined in her expression by: where the hell is this even going?

Where it's going is underneath a tarp, where that collection of machined parts sit.

It doesn't require filling in for her to understand what he's showing her. What he's offering her.

On any other day, that gesture would probably flatten her. Leave her reeling. Blushing, maybe, because as far as Kinsey is concerned, the last thing Tony Stark ever is, is thoughtful about other people. At least: not unless there's something he wants. That he thought of her long enough to organize anything of the kind would be so…touching.

It still is, probably. No: it is. It definitely is. But it's also a day when she's seen the vast, unfathomable reach and maliciousness of what it is they are, they have been, fighting, and-

She reaches out with trembling fingers toward one of the physical elements, and then brings both of her hands to her face, cupped over her mouth, eyes closed tight. The tears come, but it's a long moment before she can say, in a half-whispering voice torn with grief and guilt and something that comes very close to despair: "It wouldn't have helped us save them. They'd all still be dead."

Poor Tony. Smartassery did not work. Chocolate: nope. Six suit? Made her cry. What's a brilliant, billionaire engineer got to do to catch a break?

—-

"Oh yeah," Stark mutters to himself as Kinsey breaks down right then and there. "You're on point tonight, Tony."

There is an awkward moment where he doesn't quite know exactly what to do. Crying women are usually other peoples problems! He usually leaves about at this point. But he can't leave right now. I mean this is his house and everything!

It is about then that Kinsey would hear the whirs of servos and a metallic pat pat pat her shoulder. Maybe give her a bracing little one armed hug.

"Thanks, Dummy."

Tony's oldest friend. Coming to the rescue.

He sighs slightly though, walking a little closer to the trembling cyborg with the AI in her own head. He pauses though at the words. "They might be," He says softly. "They might not. But you can't blame yourself for someone else's murders." That is the greatest of hypocrisy coming from him. "They might, but you have this?" He taps gently on the suit as it creates a soft tone of struck metal. "You can at least make sure it doesn't happen again. You do what all those people that got hurt from the attack can't. You survive and you find the bastard that did it."

—-

Most people would probably find that strange — being hugged by a mechanical arm. Most people would find it awkward, probably. Find it difficult to take comfort from something so obviously synthetic, and lacking anything like a face, a voice, a pulse. They might find it awkward not just physically, but emotionally too; like a second-rate offering, when there's another human being in the room, foisting the emotional labor off onto a robotic arm, of all things.

Kinsey just isn't most people. Her life is a strangeness of artificial parts and synthetic life already. Dummy pats her on the back, and she chokes back a quiet little sound of grief, and when she gets a little one-armed hug, she…

…hugs it back.

There are tears streaming down her tired face and she's wiping at her cheeks with one hand, but she wraps the other one around Dummy without even stopping to think about it, really, and for just a moment leans her cheek into that unyielding metal shape, eyes closing. Trying, hard, to wrangle her savaged feelings back into the battered container of her heart. She probably gets a little bit of salt water in Dummy's seams.

She's listening, too. The weight of it all sits heavily on her shoulders, all of that earlier anger gone, replaced with the less easily processed things underneath. Anger and shame and hurt and regret and fear and self-doubt and-

They're all there, when she lifts red-rimmed, hazel eyes to look at Tony. All of those things. "I'm going to give you everything," she says. Quiet, tired words.

—-

And somehow Tony understands.

He's been there. Where she is right now and he understands. There is a touch of a smile on his face and a slight nod of approval towards the little bot. For once in his life he doesn't actually ruin the moment.

He's sure to make up for that later.

Dummy just gently pats her head, he doesn't judge. He's been here before too. With Jane Foster and with Tony Stark both.

The things Stark made when he needed comfort the most. People told him to make friends. So he did. Just not in the way they meant. Sometimes it is easier to just actually /make/ them. Doesn't mean they are worse, just means they are different.

He steps up towards her, reaching out to pat her on the shoulder at her words. There is a smirk there. "And for once, I will actually listen." A pause. "And then you're going to help me finish this suit. Because it takes a long ass time to do it by myself."

—-

"It's complicated, Tony. Everything." Sniffing, spending just another moment wiping her face with the cuff of her zip-up hoodie, Kinsey manages not to look awkward about Tony's shoulder-pat, which is fairly good indication as to how exhausted she really is. "We know who he is. We have known. But it's not — we can't just…go in there and get him. If I thought that would fix it…" She pauses, and in that pause seems to play out, in subtle cues in her expression, some struggle or memory that she doesn't share, related to the thought she's articulating. Still, she can't quite meet his eyes as she finishes it, tilting them away, extricating herself from Dummy's grasp to ostensibly peruse the largely holographic suit on the table - though, really, it's just to keep her occupied enough that she doesn't have to look at him. "…If I thought that would fix it, I would've killed him already myself."

Leaning one tired hip into the table's edge, she plays the fingertips of her organic hand over the hollow metal pieces, touch absent. "And he was already captured once. He got out again. His organization is…huge. Obviously, right? You saw what he did in Hell's Kitchen. You saw the extent of the damage. It's not enough to get rid of him. We need to purge the whole infected system, down to the roots. And that's…it's not easy.

—-

"That never fixes it," Stark says with a wry smile as he looks away from her. Towards the suit. "You think at first it might. Hell it might seem like it might, but nine times out of ten it just makes it worst. Else I would have plastered Trask all over the eastern seaboard by now."

He doesn't judge. What room does he have to judge. He's wielded the power he has like a stick before. Threatened to kill people who have wronged him. Hell he's tried on more than one occasion to do it. He's been there, at least she knew enough to hold back.

"If it was easy, you would have stuck to being a mechanic." He says after a moment before he shakes his head. "Or you wouldn't have tried to change in a closet. Or run out there like you did. Or run into a burning building. I mean I'm not telling you anything you don't know here. You don't do things like this cause its easy. You di it cause you're crazy."

He taps the frame again. "Alright though. Big organization. So you /don't/ go after him. You go after his feet. Huge organizations have a lot of moving parts, so you find them and break them. Because I have a distinct feeling he's not going to stop coming after all you."

—-

It began as a way for her to keep her focus on anything other than Tony Stark, but now that she has her hand on the largely conceptual suit on the table, Kinsey can't help herself: she's listening to him, but her attention is split. That's nothing new for him, by now. Whatever happened to her, it lets her parcel fragments of her attention off, like partitioning a hard drive; she multitasks. She's listening to him, but she's also examining the systems he's designed.

"Doing nothing about it would be crazy too, don't you think?"

The question seems to be rhetorical, because she moves on to addressing the next thing he says, instead. "I-" Pause. "We…don't think Hell's Kitchen was about us. Maybe we were a perk, sure, but…it has to be more than that. We have no idea what the 'more' is, just that it doesn't make sense to draw that kind of attention from…" Sniffing, she leans over and pries back a holographic panel to inspect the contents of something in the chest. "Shit, Tony. Everybody. He's spent so much time staying off of everybody's radar that it's weird for him to suddenly…you know? Do this. It's going to draw attention and he's always been about avoiding that. So, yeah, you're probably right that he's not done with us, but…that's something else, I think. Something additional."

—-

"Well he definitely got peoples attention that's for sure. The fuzz is all over this, so is SHIELD, and I'm not exactly happy about it. So really this could have been a mistake for him." Stark pauses. "Bet he doesn't think so though, he he thinks the risk is worth it. So what is the risk for…why Hell's Kitchen…"

Stark pauses at that. "I have no idea. Not off the top of my head at least."

The suit itself is made of lightweight materials. The machining done on almost a nanotech scale. The servos and framework should hold the weight of body armor without really slowing her down. The thickness would still allow her both freedom of movement and touch that Tony's bulkier suits lack.

And more importantly, he's actually used her theories instead of most of his when designing the system. Ones she's suggested in sarcastic passing or been working on for him in his labs.

—-

Why Hell's Kitchen? "The eleventy-million dollar question," murmurs the dark-haired young woman in front of him, picking her way through the meticulous internal organization of a hypothetical piece of equipment worth — well, who knows? Kinsey can't even begin to run the numbers in her head, and the brief thought she has in that direction is one she quickly pushes aside. It's going to involve more zeroes than she wants to know about, because if she knew about them she'd never be able to break any part of it without collapsing into guilt-ridden anxiety, and it seems certain it's going to get broken eventually.

Grim thought. Probably true, though.

"Five is sending you the unredacted edition of the information I gave you a while back. It has everything on it. All I ask is that you talk to me before you decide to do something with it. Not because I need to approve it, just because…" She straightens, brows furrowed at what she's finding. Things she designed. Elements she was sure he'd written off after any conversation in which she'd mentioned one, passingly or otherwise.

Somehow, that's even more touching than the fact that he's offering to build her a suit in the first place.

Also? Weird.

Weird and a little disconcerting.

"Because," she continues, once she has her mental fingers back on that train of thought, "We're all going to have to stay in the loop if we want to avoid accidentally screwing up something somebody else is planning. But they're going to be glad to have you involved." She pulls in a long breath, sighs the words. "All anybody is going to want after yesterday is justice for Hell's Kitchen, no matter who makes that happen."

—-

Practical though. If someone else gets hold of it. He can always deny he made it.

This is what happens when you run with SHIELD for too long.

You just absorb things like this.

But he was /also/ trying to be nice. Maybe. Its hard to tell with him.

"Oh no, I understand. Confusion is bad. Don't want us crossing streams or stepping all over each other when we're all looking for the same goal. I'll keep you all in this little growing loop." A flash of a grin. "And I'm pretty sure that glad is kinda an overstatement. But I'll take it. This way Danny can at least stop trying to pretend like he doesn't sneak out at night and punch people."

—-

Danny, Stark says, and Kinsey's expression flattens. "Of course it was Rand," she says, exasperated but not entirely without fondness. There's something of the puppy dog in his earnestness, and it would be hard to dislike that.

Also, there's that whole thing where he can punch through buildings? That is pretty great, too.

It does remind her, though…

She glances up. "Not all of those guys know who Six actually is. Some of them think Kinsey and Six are two different people. I'm — I probably need to deal with that soon, but until then I'd be grateful if you could just…keep the two separate, if you're talking to them about anything." Guilt creases the stretch of skin between her brows. "It's just delicate. I need to figure out how to do it. With everything going on, it might be a minute before I can work out how, so…"

She punctuates that with a shrug.

It seems almost out of left field when it comes: "His name is Wilson Fisk." Pause. "I learned that the night someone blew up your gala. He was there."

—-

"Caught Owen in here making Danny a super suit," Stark replies with a shake of his head. "So I just let em. I mean really, if you're gonna do vigilante things gotta make sure you're at least bullet resistant."

Unless you're Luke Cage.

He nods once. "Well you know I don't like secret IDs personally, cause I'm a lazy narcissist that loves the attention, but fine. If you want to tell them you tell them." He adds after a moment and a shrug. "Not gonna bother me much…"

The name drop though causes him to pause.

"Wilson Fisk? Huge guy? Looks angry all the time?" A pause. "Great. Yeah, I think I met him." A longer pause. "Well I see what you mean about him being difficult to touch."

—-

"I wouldn't know how he looks all the time. I only saw him in person the once." Brief pause. "I guess he did look a little peeved." She spends all of half of a heartbeat trying to remember, and then gives up, straightening away from the table, pivoting to look away from the distraction of the suit, arms folded over her middle. Her eyes are still pink, and something in the way she holds herself is raw, threadbare showing through the exhaustion that all of them are feeling. "My memory of it is a little compromised by the fact that I had to blow myself up on your behalf later that night, sooo, you know."

She tucks her chin, head bowed slightly, eyes directed down to the floor between her feet. "He acquired an entire train car full of server data belonging to the DEO, including my work, when he decided he wanted to figure out who Six was. A dirty agent on the take just gave it to him. He's dead now. This guy has a lot of reach. Government reach. Not enough that they wouldn't hang him out to dry for blowing up an entire city, obviously, but enough that it's hard to say which direction he might retaliate from. It's going to be a difficult fight."

—-

"I'll see if I can get some eyes on him, or at least ears." Stark says with a nod. "Now that I have a name, that is at least part of it. The man says as he glances towards the suit. A big part really. And don't worry, I won't be giving my hand up anytime soon. I /can/ be subtle when I want to. I just usually don't see the use of it."

Iron Man is /not/ subtle by nature.

"But yeah, you'll have to be careful. It's fighting a mini version of Hydra. Hard to know who to trust." The inventor pauses for a moment. "Start with what you know, if you want advice. Run down his criminal connections in the city. Disrupt his empire and you'll eventually shake something loose."

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