Long Story Short

September 13, 2018:

Kinsey and Luke finally talk about her alter ego, and he gets to meet Five.

Casa Rand

The Kitchen is where the heart of the family is. And Emery's has exploded all over the counter in the form of an ever-replenished Defender buffet.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, Danny Rand, Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock, Owen Mercer

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In the aftermath of the Defenders' confrontation with Kingpin and his forces in that warded, underground lair, the possibility of life returning to some semblance of normal finally seems real. With the man himself in custody, the more fragmented elements of his empire must no doubt be scattering and going to ground, and it would be safe enough, in theory, for the Defenders to return to their own homes. To begin picking up the pieces of the lives they left behind, temporarily, as things began to come to a head.

Certainly there are reasons for Kinsey to have remained in spite of that sea change: word has it Tony Stark is in a coma, and for some reason saw fit to appoint her head of the cybernetics division of Stark Industries while he's 'indisposed.' By the time she's come back to Danny's estate over the course of the last two days, she's been so exhausted that she's fallen straight into bed — with or without Matt.

Today is her day off, though, and she's sitting in the kitchen, perched on a stool, looking out through one of the windows with a cup of coffee in both hands. She doesn't need to be here. She could go home. She probably should.

Still: there she is.

*

There is a reason Luke and Jessica were staying at Rand's and it wasn't so much that they feared moving into the new place Luke fitted out just for them above the bar but something more important: being around family during this crisis. So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he finds Kinsey in the kitchen, it would have struck him as odd if the house was suddenly quiet after so many weeks of the extended Defender family taking refuge here.

With Jessica having come out of the coma, it seems the man can finally relax a little though the storm hasn't fully passed. She's still going to have a bit of a road to recovery ahead of her. Some of that Luke has the decency not to be present for, respecting her privacy. This leaves him with a little time to kill and a chance to run back to Danny's and shower and shave, grabbing a fresh change of clothes. His last stop on the way back is the kitchen, to graze at the constant buffet that Emery has left out for the wayward Defenders. "Hey." He greets, a bit neutrally, as he steps up to the counter and starts eyeing what he's going to cram into his stomach.

*

Kinsey's leaned forward into the brace of her knees, her feet on the stool's high rung; she doesn't move when she hears footsteps, but the weight and interval of silence between them probably tells her all she needs to know about who they belong to, anyway — even before Luke offers her that monosyllabic greeting. She answers it with just a moment of silence, and then:

"I wanted to tell you." Lacking prelude, the words are quietly spoken, but not in a hush. With an air of…what, exactly? Distraction? Pensiveness? As though half of her thoughts are elsewhere. Certainly her eyes remain pinned to the window, or something through said window, though they seem distant, too. "Ever since the yellow thumb drive, I've felt awkward about the imbalance of what you knew about me, as compared with what I knew about you. At first I struggled because it wasn't going to be a kindness to do that. When I talked to Jess about secret identities ages ago, she told me she had a rule. She said, 'The line is this. If the secret threatens to hurt them? Directly or indirectly? Physical or emotionally? It's time.'" She repeats the words verbatim; has no difficulty doing that, even after all of this time. "That's not always easy for me to judge. Back then, it wasn't just about the DEO not knowing about me — I used to work for them, did you know that? — but Kingpin was trying to find me, too."

Another pause, and then she drags a long breath in and turns her head, hazel eyes finding the big man directly. "It's still not really safe, Luke. Knowing. About me. So I'm sorry you weren't really given a choice about that."

*

It's a difficult task, making a sandwich with one hand, so it's a slow process of putting bread on a plate and selecting meats and cheeses to pile on top. His left arm is in a cast and sling, the former 3D printed at Stark's when an internal fixture just wasn't an option. It's not ideal, but considering the limitations, at least the break will heal correctly for the most part and be functional in the end. He looks at Kinsey sidelong for a moment as she talks, before handing her a jar of mustard to open in a silent request. It's on odd thing to have to rely on others for something you take for granted.

As he's piling on a slice of tomato, he asks almost off-handedly. "So are sorry about how I found out. Sorry it took so long, or sorry I know at all?"

*

One benefit of having a highly advanced prosthetic arm: it doesn't matter how noodly Kinsey's arms get. She never has trouble opening up a jar.

She takes it from him, fingers arrayed around the lid for one contemplative moment of returning his sidelong study of her before she twists the lid smoothly off. "A little bit of all of the above," she admits, with a rueful smile that takes a turn for something almost melancholic. "It's not about you, though. Or Danny, either. I'm sure it won't surprise you if I say, 'it's complicated.' Matt only found out by accident. Jess, too." She glances down into her mug of coffee, and one corner of her mouth curls upward again. "Actually, Jess knew long before Matt did. But neither of them knew because I told them, it was all, just…" She gropes for something to finish that sentence, but eventually concedes defeat, lifting her mug for a sip, instead.

*

Luke takes the jar from her, tipping it back in her direction with a wordless thank you. He sets it down on the counter in order to work a knife into the mustard and spread it awkwardly on the bread. "Look Kinsey…" The big man starts, but he's not even really sure where to go with the sentence, falling silent again as he constructs his sandwich as an excuse to get his thoughts in order before he tries again. Plate in hand, he heads around the counter to grab one of the stools next to her, easing his big frame down on it with a little wince as he jostles his arm. "It doesn't matter. Any of it. I'll protect your identity with my life, but as far as you and me go? We're good. And it's no longer awkward that Daredevil spends WAY too much time around Robochick and I no longer have to keep lying to his girl about it." He swivels in his seat to face her fully, "But I only have one question."

*

When Luke finds himself searching for words, too, Kinsey lets the silence spool out, rather than trying to fill it with words. It's not the usual choice for her — she's a chatterbox, actually; almost to the inverse proportion that Six is not — but she holds it without any apparent awkwardness, at least. Maybe she's too tired to collapse into usual the seething fit of awkward rambling. Maybe they all are.

She glances up from the window again as he seats himself next to her, and strangely — maybe even ironically, considering the situation — guileless green-gold eyes meet his, holding them in silence until the last bit.

The corners of her mouth flick upward the barest degree. "No," she says, taking a preemptive stab at his question. "I'm not actually a robot." Murmured dryly into her mug: "No matter what Spider-Man thinks."

*

"I'd hope not, otherwise I'd really have to question Murdock's sexual preferences." Some of the old Luke is starting to seep back in, now that his eyes are no longer clouded with a red murderous rage that's kept him fueled the past few weeks. "Actually I was wondering…" He eases his weight to the side so he can fish into his pocket for something, ending up with a sharpie between two fingers. "Do you want to sign my cast?" His mouth forms into a gentle smile.

*

I'd hope not, otherwise-

Kinsey's mouth presses lightly into a thinner shape — quelling a smile, maybe, because her grave remark after that, low and monotone, is: "You don't spend a lot of time on the internet, do you, Luke."

It's a deadpan that shatters when he holds up the sharpie, her grave look broken by a laugh. It's bright and clear, and easier than a laugh has come in a long, long time — but as she takes the sharpie and taps it against her chin, considering the cast, that laugh subsides into something serious again. Serious, but maybe less heavy than it was before.

"I wasn't kidding, Luke. There are things about my life that it's dangerous to get mixed up in. And I know that's true for most people we know, but it's government stuff with me, which makes it a different kind of bad news. I'll do what I can to explain, sometime. If you're going to be mixed up in it, even on the fringe, I guess you ought to know what the stakes are. Speaking of which…" She looks briefly pained, and then ruefully amused. "Five wants to know if he can sign it, too."

*

Luke gingerly pulls his arm out of the sling, exposing the strips of plaster that already have some people's tags on it. "When you're ready. I'm not here to rip your truths out of you, Kay. You trust me enough with your life, I'm not a greedy man." His stomach makes an odd roiling noise, reminding him there is food RIGHT THERE that he isn't stuffing into his maw. He fixes that with a clamp of fingers on the sandwich and taking a mighty bite out of it that leaves a half moon void in the bread. Chewing, he has to shove the mouthful to the side in a pouched out cheek to answer, "Wait. Who's Five?"

*

This would be a good point at which to say, 'it's a long story — maybe one of those things we can get around to with time.' Surely, Kinsey must entertain the thought of doing just that; it's not the kind of thing you explain to people over a meal (or at the very least, over any meal that doesn't also involve alcohol).

Instead, after a contemplate moment of weighing the man next to her, she dons another of those faint, small smiles, watching him set his cast-set arm out where she can get to it. "Five is the prototype military AI that I designed for the DEO that now resides inside of my head in some quantum state we don't yet understand." She punctuates that by uncapping the sharpie, and leaning over the cast to begin adding her scribbles to the rest.

The voice that pipes over the little kitchen radio is inoffensively masculine, in a semi-androgynous sort of way, and clearly synthetic. <It's nice to formally make your acquaintance, mister Cage.>

Nose close to whatever it is she's drawing, Kinsey murmurs offhandedly, "You get used to it." Pause. "…probably."

*

Luke's chewing slows to a halt as Kinsey explains things and then there is a voice speaking from the ether through the closest set of speakers. "So." He finally chokes down that bite, his tongue sweeping over teeth. "You have your own personal JARVIS in your brain pan." A pause. "Cool." He sort of shrugs off that big reveal, not because it doesn't matter but the oddities of the world are becoming less and less odd. There's a glance down at his arm, though he trusts that only Owen will be penning penises on his cast - or trying to. "Why is it AI's are always so polite? But I guess that explains why the government is after you." With another bite, a whole half of his sandwich is obliterated.

*

"AI are always intended to be resources for humanity. Useful. Task-oriented, so you want them to be cooperative, approachable. I'm sure you could write a rude AI, but it would be counterproductive." It's difficult to discern what Kinsey's creating on that cast. She seems to be using the material of the cast — the interlocking squares of the texture of it — to render something in…dots? Maybe?

"Five is usually on his best behavior, but he's been out in the world with me for going on two years now, so…"

<All of my bad habits, I've learned from you.>

Kinsey huffs a breath through her nose, something that isn't quite a laugh. "Yeah, I just bet," she intones, half-amused, half something else less easy to label. "And it's sometimes cool, sure. It's a little bit like any forced rooming situation: sometimes you just want the place to yourself for a while. We make do, though." Pause. "It was a little rough for Matt, I think…"

But rather than head down that path, into all of the thorny reasons it was awkward for Matt Murdock to find out the woman he's been intimate with for a year has a head-passenger that she identifies as both sentient and male, but also not human, she sits up, puts the cap on the sharpie again, and bumps the top of it with her palm, the cap clicking back into place.

"You know Boomerang is going to draw dicks on this, right. I don't even know him, and I can already tell."

The image rendered on the cast is not unlike pixel art, swiftly rendered with mechanical precision. It says, in a funky, block-letter font with a dropshadow, 'SWEET CHRISTMAS,' and there's a little pixelated Christmas tree with candycanes on it. Because seriously: who says that?

Underneath are the numbers 1, 0, and 1.

*

"You think?" Luke asks sarcastically about how it must be on Matt to have Five around. "Yo, Five, my man. I hope you're taking a little cyber nap during their intimate times. Otherwise, not cool, friend." Cage smirks back at Kinsey when he sets his sandwich aside, "Boomerang," It can be so odd calling a friend by their Supe name, but he can't say for sure if Kinsey know's Owen's alter, "Can try." He rotates his arm just slightly so that he can see her artwork and there is a chuff of laughter. "What does that mean? One hundred and one?" Because Luke doesn't speak binary.

*

"Isn't he a speedster? It seems like his try might be dangerously difficult to avoid," muses the now self-confessed former spook and government crony. Kinsey sets the permanent marker down beside Luke's rapidly emptying plate, and takes in the amusement her rendering generates with an air of satisfaction. Really, it's just good to see him — to see any of them — wearing something like a smile again.

It's good to be wearing one, too.

"It's binary for the number five, which is him being wry, I think. Five's got less in common with ones or zeroes than the sort of infinite space between them." This is, to gauge from Kinsey's tone, maybe a joke. Maybe it's just entertaining to her for other reasons — hard to say. She seems to become aware a few moments later that this isn't the audience for that kind of joke, though, and after a beat slides from her seat, downing the remainder of her coffee. As she half-turns toward the door, she puts a hand on the cast. To get his attention, but also out of some impulse to reach out, make some sort of connection: a thing that she's done rarely enough, since her accident — really, only with Jess and Matt.

"I really am sorry it took so long to tell you. Thanks for being so understanding about it." For just a moment there's the thread of a lump in her throat, and it seems that's enough to chase her toward the door, voice raised in cavalier humor as a cover for whatever that emotion was. "I might need your help to figure out how to have this conversation with Danny! Maybe I can save it until we're testing the fire pole at the bar."

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