Dating While Caping

September 14, 2018:

Rachel rescues totally normal non-superhero Kate Kane from an extradimensional threat. Things get weird. Flirty weird. Guest starring Kitty Pryde as the voice of judgment.

Near Mutant Town

Characters

NPCs: A WARWOLF OH NO, also Catherine Hamilton

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Katherine Rebecca Kane never really liked feeling like a tourist.

There's many reasons for this, many of them perfectly reasonable, a few irrational, but most of them personal which means the likelihood of them ever seeing the light of day is minuscule at best. Suffice to say, Kate has a tendency to try to avoid the usual tourist traps that come whenever she's away from the comforts of home in Gotham, for given values of 'comforts.'

But even Kate Kane has her exceptions, her weak spots. She's only human. And one of those weaknesses happens to be the 7B Horseshoe Bar of East Village. It's not like she's never been to New York City before; she knows her way around. But she always gravitates to this place. She knows it's a bit touristy. But the selection of punk and hard liquors always keeps her coming back.

Sometimes, Kate is a creature of extremely simple needs. Don't judge. This week is already giving her a headache.

And that is exactly why Kate has been here, whiling away the hours of the day drinking and drinking and playing guitar for anyone willing to listen and then drinking some more followed by extensive conversations about the merits of the post-punk movement to — you guessed it — more drinking.

She wants to be out on patrol. But she's not. So right now, she has this to lose herself in instead.

All of this, inevitably, leads to the mildly inebriated stagger of one Katherine Kane out the front doors of the 7B. Dressed in a black sleeveless tuxedo shirt, brown vest and black slacks, the redheaded vigilante braces herself mildly against the brick as she offers a passing wave to those still within. Her vision swims, just a bit. Her cheeks feel warm, just a bit. Her gait is unbalanced, just a bit, as she slings her guitar more comfortably over her shoulder and makes her way past the corner, in the rough direction of where her hotel is (she thinks). She's drunk. Just a bit.

But, she tells herself, it could be worse.


It can always get worse.

Staying out this late has the peculiar effect on the streets. This close to a park means a small boon for navigation — it's hard to miss a park — but makes the normal foot traffic a bit more spotty. There's a few people clustered here and there, and then quiet for blocks. It's an eerie rhythm. People don't bunker down at night like they do in Gotham, but the streets aren't all shiny and well-lit like they are in Metropolis.

The crowd thins out as Kate puts on the blocks. Things are spaced differently here, too. Blocks don't always transfer between cities. It's hard to tell if she's gone the wrong direction or if the walk just seems much, much longer while inebriated. Drunk focus is the worst.

Eventually, Kate comes to a long stretch of mostly-dark buildings. If she wants to turn around, it might be faster to take an alleyway, but nighttime alleyways have a certain symbolic weight to them.

This may be one element found disconcerting when someone steps out of an alleyway that Kate has already walked by. Was someone walking down it already when she passed? Were the footsteps always that loud?

"Evening, miss," a voice calls out, friendly and genial. The man turns out to be a smiling-faced cop in uniform, full belt load out and all. He must be in his forties or fifties, not in the best shape but probably making his PT metrics.

"You lost?"

He keeps walking closer, one hand resting on his nightstick.


New York City, the happy middle ground between Gotham and Metropolis. This place is dangerous, but its danger has a different kind of shine to it. Less a lurking menace, and less an audacious bombast, New York at night straddles the foulness and glamor with a certain, deceptive sense of ease. It makes it easier to forget, in situations like this, that it has dangers wholly unique to its own.

Under the haze of alcohol, it's something Kate Kane only dimly keeps in the corners of that sharp soldier's mind of hers. She's seen the worst many places have to offer. She knows the danger even in a walk home. But between the liquor and the expectations that come from living in Gotham enough years, well…

Evening, miss.

All it really takes is one bad day to remind her how important it is to always stay focused.

She's not sure how many blocks she's racked up by the time she hears that voice. She's been telling herself she's been keeping track as landmarks to use as guideposts on the way back — a useful enough trick, for a sharp enough mind — but she finds herself acutely aware of the fact that she thinks she might have overreached. That she might not know where she is.

That she definitely does not recognize that voice is, at least, something that sharpens the duller edge of her thoughts. Quietly, she curses under her breath. She expects a mugging. She's prepared for that. Dimly, it makes her remember another day, much longer ago than this —

But she keeps that out of her head as she slowly turns herself around on the pivot of a single booted heel. A bit unsteady, as one hand goes from being tucked into her pocket to casually hooking its thumb into the strap of her guitar case. And there she sees… a police officer. Middle-aged, maybe. A bit pudgy. Smiling a bit too wide. Trying a bit too hard to be friendly.

Probably to mask the way his hand is eased onto his weapon.

She decides, in the midst of this somewhat slurred assessment, that she does not like that smile. Maybe it's why her response is to let the dark red of her lips purse in the faintest bit of incredulity. Or maybe it's because she didn't hear him approach before he was this close. Is she that drunk? Or… Her fingers subtly tighten a bit on that strap.

"… If I am, it's nothing a bit of aimless wandering won't cure," she finally says, with her best quirk of a drunkenly lopsided smile. He walks closer. She doesn't move, save to take a single step back, as a brace. "It's something I've gotten rrrreally good at, y'know? So you can rest easy, sir. I wouldn't want to interrupt your patrol," down empty, ominous alleyways, she thinks but doesn't s- "down empty, ominous alleyways. This a normal route for you?"

Whoops. Nevermind. She'll blame the liquor for that one, later, she tells herself.


The cop doesn't stop walking forward, not even after Kate's opinion on him clearly begins to turn. He's not moving quickly, but steady counts for a lot when the other person isn't really moving.

"Somebody has to check all the empty, ominous alleyways," he says. "That's what — cops — do."

The last few feet before the personal bubble is breached. He doesn't stop smiling, and he doesn't stop talking. Splitting attention. It's an aggressive tactic.

"Had a few? As an officer — of the law — I can't let pretty young women wander around lost and —"

He never finishes. Right at the outside of lunging range, right before he should have been a threat, he whips his baton from his belt with speed that doesn't match his frame. The leap he makes to strike Kate definitely isn't in his body's pay grade.

He's strong and fast, and wielding a solid length of police brutality to back it up. His body feels more solid than it should. It will take serious effort to stop him from crashing Kate off of the sidewalk and into the shadows alongside the building.


"Sure," exhales Katherine Kane, her voice as measured as her breathing,

"that's what cops do."

She overshot. If she had just paid attention to where she was going better, this wouldn't have happened. Inwardly, she curses herself, but mostly she just feels angry at how this person is smiling at her. Even unfocused as she is, she can see the writing on the wall in that smile. Leg muscles coil in tightened preparation, a solid half-second slower than they ought to. She hopes she's not too drunk. She hopes he's the only one, to keep this simple.

And most of all, she hopes to God above that her hunch is right —

"I can't let pretty young women wander around lost and —"

— because otherwise, this is going to get a lot more complicated.

"Take a hint-" she starts to say, but he's fast. Faster than anyone his size and build and obvious lack of proper physical care should be. And her? She's slow. Alcohol depresses reflexes, depresses judgment, depresses depth perception, until she's swinging her guitar case around one second slower than she otherwise would. What would be a perfect parry ends up sloppily deflecting by her standards, and for her efforts Kate Kane earns the glance of a solid abuse of authority introducing itself to her jawline with a messy crack that she knows is going to leave a bruise. Great. Another thing to worry about.

But hey, maybe it'll matter less if she doesn't make it out of this alley.

"gnuh" is the eloquent sound of blood and spittle flying from her lips as she strains, briefly, against the officer and his weapon. He is stronger, too, than he should be. More brutish than his physique would suggest. Something here isn't right, but she can't place what yet. Her sluggish mind can only think of one thing. She can't keep this struggle up long.

So why try?

And that is why the would-be patrolman will feel a sudden give beneath him right after acclimating to the expected resistance. Looking for all the world like he's managing to tackle Kate Kane off her feet as they both go tumbling off into the dark of that alley, the redheaded Gothamite uses the man's own bulk against him to let his overcompensating momentum carry him -off- her as she goes careening to the ground in a meaty thump and a hard roll. Blood spools off her lower lip. She thinks her guitar might have broken inside its case. Her fingers claw the ground as she settles. Get up, Kate. Soldier on, Kate.

"guh — Okay, you just made the wrong decision —"


The cop goes sprawling from the hard fall. By the time Kate gets up enough to get eyes on him, he's out flat on the ground and staring up at the night sky. His head is bent the wrong way. It would be bizarre for such a short fall to have done something as horrific as that, but life and death struggles often make for strange outcomes.

A moment of silence passes. Sirens in the distance. Unrelated, probably. There's usually sirens in the distance.

"Did — hurrkk — I — hhrrkk, hukhh —"

The cop's body bulges unnaturally. First in the chest, then the throat. His neck twists another wrong direction. His jaw opens, that nearly-inhuman gagging noise coming again as his jaw continues to open.

A shape, smooth and silver, slithers out of a body that is too small to hold it. As Kate is trying to soldier on, some kind of metallic beak-mouthed wolf-bodied creature squares up feet away from her. It wiggles its hips like a cat ready to pounce, further confusing the exact set of animals in play here.

"Your body will do nicely," it 'says,' somehow, with no lips and a little bit of beak clacking for accent. It's not the only thing about it that doesn't make logical sense. Its red eyes gleam brighter.

"I will put it to use — for the WARWOLVES —"

It leaps, sharp piercing beak opened, claws outstretched!!

And then it overshoots Kate, somehow gaining altitude enough to clear her. Its legs scramble in the air without any purchase to find.

A shape slips out of the night sky, landing on the street between Kate and where the silvery beast landed. It is now repeatedly bouncing into the asphalt, yelping each time. The shape, now that it isn't just flying into frame, is woman with vibrant red hair and a tore-up denim jacket with a Union Jack sewn into the back that's been liberally annotated by various signatures in Sharpie.

"Hey, jackass, are you counting? I'm counting!"

As the monster continues to slam into the ground in what is possibly the worst permutation of Groundhog Day, the woman turns around to regard Kate. New York has a much higher tights and capes density than Gotham, but she's not one of them: black skull-print bandeau top, red leather miniskirt, and a well-loved pair of under-the-knee Doc Martens.

"Hey, you okay?" she says. "Don't mind the freakshow, I've got him."


She wipes her lip. She steels her jaw. She ignores the pain. She turns to face her attacker, gripping cracked guitar case like a club. She looks angry. She really liked that guitar.

And then Kate Kane notices the man's head is doing its best impression of an owl in a way it absolutely should not with the momentum he was going. Green eyes widen, just a bit. She's just drunk enough to wonder if she overcommit, and while it's far from the worst thing she's seen —

"Oh I seriously hope that hunch was right-"

She is still hoping against hope she didn't just accidentally murder a cop in New York City.

Especially when she's hearing sirens.

It's to her credit that she can remain so calm and level-headed, relatively speaking, in those brief moments before her worries are simultaneously assuaged and exacerbated. Assuaged because the guy is clearly still alive and talking despite having his head twisted at a one hundred and eighty degree angle.

Exacerbated because the guy is clearly still alive and talking despite having his head twisted at a one hundred and eighty degree angle.

And also transforming, like this was some sort of body horror movie in progress. For a moment, Kate feels removed from reality, lips pursed, expression slackened with disbelief as some silvery beast tears itself free from the would be corpse like something straight out of Men in Black and declares her body its own.

In the name of the WARWOLVES.

"… Yeah, right, I am not nearly drunk enough for this."

Body bracing, case brandished, Kate wonders for a moment if these are going to be the last moments of her life. Done in by a thing unironically calling itself a WARWOLF. Or worse. Her eyes steel. She spits blood and defiance as the thing lunges.

"Okay, you shiny bag of smashed asses, let's see what you've got-!"

She faces her potential end head on.

And then it just goes soaring overhead harmlessly as can be.

It takes her a moment, for her mind to catch up with what she's seeing as she suddenly pivots to the sight of the horrible WARWOLF being repeatedly pummeled into asphalt like it was desperately trying to turn the city street into a pockmarked field of pot holes. Her eyes squeeze in a blink, brows screwing together as if trying to piece what she's seeing into a coherent whole. And then that silhouette touches down, like a barrier between her and her assailant. A barrier that looks like it just stepped out of some sort of punk rock dimension.

"Hey, you okay?"

And she just stares, for a solid five seconds, guitar case limp in her grasp before her alcohol-addled brain catches up with her.

"… I'll… let me get back to you on that, okay? Maybe once the freakshow's done doing the world's best impression of a super bouncy ball."

New York. There is no more sobering an experience. Her lips purse, just so.

"… Nice jacket, by the way."

Priorities, even in a time of chaos, are important.


The woman answers first with a lopsided grin. She tugs at the lapels of her jacket. "Thanks. You sound okay, at least. Just a little trashed."

A sickly light flashes across the street. The woman's expression turns cold as she begins to turn back to the SERIOUSLY A WARWOLF, but it's too fast: the next bounce sends the silvery creature — by now mangled full of cracks and fissures — disappearing into some kind of glowy portal in the ground. The portal swallows itself up soon after swallowing the wolf.

"Ah, damn —"

The woman flexes her hands, watching the empty street. for a long moment. When nothing happens, she turns back to Kate and sticks her hands into her jacket pockets.

"They can jump dimensions. Hard to hold them. Don't worry, it'll be out for awhile, and they'll avoid this area now. They don't like places where they've been spotted."

The sirens fade in the distance. The woman's gaze briefly drops to Kate's busted guitar before returning to her face.

"I'm Rachel, by the way. Do you, uh, want some company on your walk back, or are you good?"


The first thought in Kate's mind is that she'd really like to hit that WARWOLF.

The second, more tempering thought is that she probably shouldn't draw unwarranted suspicion on herself, even in New York — especially here, considering what she's here for, and besides this woman seems to be kind of pingponging the thing around like it was made of flubber without even touching it so maybe Kate should just let her do her thing. She's clearly in the rhythm.

And that is the story of how Kate unwittingly managed to deliver her best helpless bystander routine in the overwhelming face of the punk queen and the BUT WHY WARWOLF right up to the very moment the silver monstrosity just sort of hops through a rupture in space time.

Kate, wordlessly, just slumps her tattooed shoulder into the dirt of the alley wall and stares, with an effortlessly blank face, at Rachel's explanation. Because come on.

"'They can jump dimensions.' Okay. Starting to think I'm more than a little trashed." Kate applies her hand to her face, rubbing her jaw with her free hand with the slightest wince. "… okay. Alright. I think I'll live, probably. Though the night's not casualty-free." She waggles her guitar pointedly, as the thusly-named Rachel's gaze dips. She manages a wry little smile, and the quirk of a brow.

"Ah — yeah. Kate. Kate Kane." Rachel. She looks familiar somehow. Kate's slightly-sluggish brain works to try to connect the dots as to why. "So, not completely following, but what I'm getting here is you just saved me from something seriously fucked up. Right? If this is the kind of thing I can expect while visiting New York, maybe I should have someone who can beat things up with her mind," she assumes, why does that seem right? it'll come to her don't worry, "to keep me company." She offers up her hand, head canting to the right.

"Besides, I feel like I owe you a drink or something anyway. You're my regular knight in shining armor. Saving me from a fearsome… uh, whatever that was."

She is not saying WARWOLF.

She's just not.


"You don't want to say warwolf, do you," Rachel deadpans. The corners of her lips turn up. "It's fine. No one does."

Rachel steps up onto the sidewalk, taking a route around Kate to look at what was once the cop. It's now just an empty shell, clothes and skin, almost like a Halloween costume. It even looks rubbery. Hard to imagine someone putting that on and seeming like a real person, but WARWOLVES are also hard to imagine for several reasons.

"You got yourself one knight for the evening then, Kate," she says. The cop-suit floats up and toward Rachel, completing a little spin so that she can look at it.

"Huh," she murmurs. "It's synthetic. Normally they have to kill people to make these, but I guess someone just made this one?"

Rachel glances over at Kate, offering an apologetic smile. "Not to freak you out or anything." The cop-suit rolls itself up into a tiny little ball, the size of a marble, that Rachel plucks from the air and stows in her jacket pocket.

The less-pale redhead steps back out onto the sidewalk to rejoin Kate, giving the broken guitar a plaintive look. "Which way are you going?"


"I can't imagine why," observes Kate, full of wisdom.

As Rachel works her way around, Kate rests her back up against the wall. She lets herself take a moment to enjoy how cool the brick feels against her shoulder blades, exhaling a slow breath from her bloodied lips as the adrenaline starts to bleed off of her. Arms crossing at her midsection, her green eyes crack open into little slivers…

… just in time to see Rachel giving that sundered personsuit a little fashion twirl. It's synthetic. Normally they have to kill people. It's information that seems important; information that Kate files away to be scribbled down into her little black book of 'cases and events that make no earthly sense to her that she needs to get to the bottom of for her own sanity.' But for now?

For now, she just shudders, ever-so-slightly, in a way that is only mostly an act.

"Not to freak you out or anything," says Rachel, as she rolls up what was once sort of a person into a fun-size package to pocket.

"Don't worry about that, I'm already there," she says within her next breath, leveling a sardonic kind of smile Rachel's way. "You know I'm going to have nightmares about this already, right?" Not necessarily true. She's seen horrifying things. She can take this. But, well. It's still bizarre.

"I guess if nothing else, this was a foolproof way to get me to sober up." The question comes. Kate scratches her cheek, looking around her.

"Ah? — Oh, right. I've got a room at the Baccarat. Over-" and here she lifts, turns halfway towards the alley exit and gestures. Vaguely. In many various directions. "… thereabouts. Don't mind taking a detour if you don't, though — I think I need a bit of time to process my grief." Poor guitar. We knew ye well. Green gaze turns back to Rachel in that silence, for a quiet, scrutinizing moment. Her head tilts, curious as an owl's, lost in thought for a few precious seconds.

"-Wait," she abruptly cuts in on that brief moment of mourning. "I feel like an idiot. Rachel — Rachel Summers, right? From the FuturePharm scandal?"


All Rachel's got for the nightmares is more apologetic smile and a hapless little shrug. They're kind of a thing. Maybe she gets them, too.

As Kate looks around for the Baccarat, Rachel looks every which way with her, glancing to the other woman to take her lead in which way they're going to be staring at next. By the time Kate settles on thereabouts, Rachel's smile has turned sly.

"Detour, huh. Started a knight, ended up a tour guide —"

Wait. Rachel looks over, eyes questioning. When Kate makes her name, Rachel lets out a little 'ha,' with her next exhale and looks upward at the moon.

"I usually prefer 'Rachel Summers from Excalibur,' but FuturePharm's more recent."

Rachel glances back to Kate, then nods in a direction. She starts off at a leisurely pace.

"Your dad didn't work for FuturePharm or anything, right? That'd be really awkward."


Commiseration. That look, brief though it might be within the span of that lift of Rachel's shoulders, softens Kate's expression somewhat. She leaves it at that, like some thing that does not need to be spoken aloud to be communicated.

Nightmares. They are a thing.

"Hey now, be gentle. I'm in mourning," she elects to say instead in the midst of banter on knights and tour guides, before realization dawns, and that back and forth is tabled. Straightening out, she cants her head in the direction Rachel indicates, and follows crisply after; there's only a mild hitch to her step, a sign of either the lingering alcohol or bruises sustained — either way, she compensates for it well enough in the midst of her lifting brows.

"Excalibur, right, I was trying to think of the name. With Sir Scowlsalot," there's a certain irony there in that commentary but it goes blissfully unremarked upon. "Is he as high drag as he looks?" She turns here, hands finding her pockets as she walks backwards just in front of Rachel; for someone who's been drinking, she keeps her balance well. Doesn't even stumble. Mostly.

"If I told you my father was the CEO and now I thirst for vengeance, would that affect your desire to play tour guide in shining armor for me?" she wonders, the lilt of her voice just slightly teasing. "You're fine, though — my family name's infamous for other reasons. I just like to keep up with the news, and you seem to like to stay in it. It's a perfect match." Her head tilts in Rachel's direction. She slows her backwards-walk, just a bit, as a grin touches her bruising lips.

"So what's it like, being notorious for all the right reasons?"

A second passes.

"Aside from tussling with weird dimension hopping warwolves, I mean."

She doesn't think that's a right reason. And she even forced herself to say the name. Some sacrifices are just that important.


Rachel waits until Kate gets into the rhythm of walking to glance over, though at the other woman's lower half. She must notice the irregularity in her step, because she adjusts her pace further to match something more manageable. It's a brief enough moment that a normal person might miss it in favor of Rachel making an amused noise at Sir Scowlsalot.

Then Kate goes and does that walking backward trick and Rachel has to make a show of being visibly impressed with a charmed expression. Only a few close calls. It's impressive.

"High drag," she repeats. "Military?"

Kate slows, and Rachel slows, too. Her attention briefly shifts to the other woman's lips. Must be the bruising. While Kate grins, Rachel in this moment prefers a more subtle smile. It's like she's got a secret.

"I dunno. I've had bad luck with the from-two-worlds thing. People who swear vengeance on you are a lot harder to flirt with than movies taught me. Now I'm definitely going to google your name after I drop you off, though."

Rachel rolls her eyes away — albeit with a grin — as she comes to the topic of being famous. She looks out toward the upcoming park.

"It's not so bad. Usually I just pose for a lot of pictures. I only get free drinks at UK expat pubs. People in the States are really not interested in foreign super teams."

Rachel glances back to Kate. The sly look is back. She stagewhispers the next bit.

"By the way, you just said warwolves."


It's a subtle, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. And by all accounts, Kate Kane seems to have blinked, for all her expression never seems to shift as Rachel's gait slows just enough for her. To let her take it easy, without calling attention to it, without having to potentially wound her pride.

So she lets herself blink-and-miss, and keeps that quiet appreciation to herself.

Not that it stops her, of course, from flaunting her impressive motor skills under the influence. "Years of experience," she explains, in an oh-so-casually glib way of hers that complements her wink well. But when the other woman catches on to her choice of words, Kate pauses for just a moment.

"Now it's my turn to be impressed," she remarks, her smile a more tempered one. Her left hand falls to its opposite number, toying with the ring finger like a subtle, subconscious gesture. Military?

"… Kinda," manages the other redhead, after a moment. "USMA. It didn't work out. Irreconcilable differences."

It's a subject she is happy to divert from with a distraction, and a distraction she finds in Rachel's words, the tilt of her gaze, the secrecy of her smile. She picks up upon that back-and-forth like a duck to water.

"I guess it would have to end kinda badly, huh? Small flirtations, secret meetings, a doomed love affair… I'd say I already have enough problems with women, but for someone who wears that jacket as well as you do, I think I'm more willing to make more decisions I'm only going to end up regretting. Might be worth the tragedy."

She mentions looking her up. She could hesitate about that; she doesn't. Her past is… well. She doesn't really have the luxuries of privacy. So instead? She just doesn't think about her childhood when she laughs and shakes her head. She just focuses on the present:

"I guess Wikipedia could spin my story a bit better than I ever could. Let me know what you think when you do. Just don't judge me too harshly, okay?"

She waggles her guitar case here, demonstrably. Mourning, etc. She'll never let it go.

And it is only here, slowly, that Kate adjusts her trajectory, turning herself around so as to make herself comfortable walking forward towards the fringes of the park more comfortably at the other woman's side. Her green gaze turns.

"Name the place," she begins, "I'll be happy to buy a drink in honor of Britain's greatest superhero-"

"By the way, you just said warwolves."

Her expression sours, effortlessly, at this sly, whispered revelation.

"Nevermind," she declares, dry as the Sahara. "You're on your own now."


Rachel has a theatrical bent to her, which shines through when it's not her turn to talk. Her silent rejoinders are little flourishes, from the everyday — an amused smirk when Kate winks, a certain faux coyness when Kate plays along correctly with the imagining of a hypothetically doomed love affair — to the more dramatic. She clutches at her heart when the stricken guitar is waggled and slumps briefly to the side as if stricken when she's metaphorically abandoned to the warwolves.

She's also an attentive woman, but that's not necessarily something people notice. Her gaze flits to little details here and there. Like when Kate touches her ring finger. She's not so practiced at hiding that she notices; she's just quick about it.

"Shot down by myself," she laments, grudgingly recovering from her pretend staggering. "Story of my life."

Rachel reaches up to tousle her hair back into place, then glances over at the woman who's now elected to walk beside her like a semi-normal person. The smile in her eyes makes it clear that she's probably not that out of the game yet.

"I was going to play it real smooth. Take you back to your hotel, suggest we get a drink another time so I'd have an excuse to give you my number."

She carefully composes a neutral look with only a hint of I'm-not-judging-you-but-I'm-judging-you in the set of her eyebrows.

"Of course if I'm supposed to let you know what I think about your dark past, I'd need a way to contact you anyway, so maaaybe I'm not so on my own."

Rachel sets her eyes back on the sidewalk ahead, dropping the act a letting a measure of the humor return. She shoves her hands into her jacket pockets but, probably realizing that there's still a telekinetically balled-up skin suit in one of the pockets, quickly removes them.

"Don't worry about that, seriously," she says, her tone more casual. "My backstory is ridiculously bad. I've got about zero percent room to judge, which is why I'm going to abruptly change the topic. What brings you to town? Visiting from someplace?"


She always enjoys this part. Like a dance, it helps when the partner knows the steps. When they're confident enough to improvise, to provide some artistic embellishments like a spot of playful grief, a moment of lamentation for their ill fortune, or the tiny moments in between the big gestures?

The keen spark in her eyes, the hooked laugh on her lips says it all. Kate's already forgotten how damn sore her jaw feels, how much madness she just left behind, because she's already letting herself get comfortably lost in the moment.

"It happens to the best of us," she sympathizes, a pale hand resting briefly on a denim-draped shoulder. The sympathy in her eyes is fresh, but the impishness in her smile betrays it mercilessly.

"Not me, obviously, but…"

Green eyes are drawn towards that brief flourish of red hair, towards the gleam in the other woman's eyes that parallels her own. Her brows lift like a challenge. And when Rachel relays her sly strategy, the way that Kate presses a single hand to her forehead is almost artful in its subtly subdued lamentation.

"See, that's too bad. You could have totally gotten me hook, line and sinker with a move like that. I'm a real sucker for someone who can play it casual." She exhales a sigh into the cooling air, casting her gaze aside and letting her thick lashes overcast that stare just so to sell the solemnity of the moment.

"And now it's ruined. The magic of the moment's gone. Damn."

Her hand drops away then, and both tuck comfortably into her slacks as if she has found some grim acceptance with this sad state of affairs. It's a more subdued sort of theatrics to Rachel's own considerable flair for it, and one that fades almost entirely to something softer and more indistinct when the other woman offers absolution and commiseration for her past in those scarcer moments before the topic shifts. The smile she offers is a smaller one.

But it's a much more sweeter, sincere thing. A grateful thing.

"Gotham," comes her answer moments later, a hand escaping the confines of her pocket to comb its way through the short muss of her red hair. "Where our brand of madness comes in more colorful packages than," she lets her words hang here, as if she might say the dreaded 'w' word again, "… the crazy here seems to trend towards. Better with wordplay, too."

As for why she's here, that answer comes with a helpless roll of her eyes. "Family matters — we've got some old connections here throwing a fancy event. One of us needs to be in attendance, to represent the family name. Three guesses who." It's not the only reason why she's here, but, well… it's the one she can actually talk about. Covers are usually like that.

"But it hasn't been all bad."

With that, she slows just a moment, as if something was dawning on her. That green gaze turns back on Rachel, the whimsy of her expression a much more casual, reserved thing. "You know, I think there's another way to get you back in the game," she confides, her voice pitched just low enough that it could maybe be considered a conspiratorial whisper. "Here's how I see it: you escort me to the Baccarat. I insist on buying you at least one round of drinks at the hotel as thanks; we have a little back and forth, I bring up the obvious appeal of having a drink in what I've been told is a bar excruciatingly modeled after the most elegant royal stables in Versailles. You say yes, obviously. You inevitably offend the hotel patrons a bit with your fashion choices, but that just makes me like you more. And that gives you the second chance to slowly but steadily charm me until I'm so captivated I've slipped you my number without even realizing it."

The right corner of Kate's sore, ruby red lips twitch upwards, just a fraction of an inch.

"What do you think?"


Kate's hand is dangerously in contact with Rachel's shoulder. Dangerously because now Kate — or at least her hand — is within the treacherous realm of Rachel's personal space. Anything can happen there.

The two share a look. Kate is being clever with an arrangement that manages both sympathy and impishness despite the clearly-forming bruise along her jaw. Of course Rachel notices. It'd take a much darker night for her to miss something like that on skin that pale. Yet, Rachel has the indulgent little smile of someone being entertained rather than any kind of worry. Odd circumstances produce odd people. Sometimes you have to take your warwolf near-misses and make the best of your evening.

Kate sighs and pours on the tragedian melodrama. Rachel tries to look sympathetic, but she doesn't try that hard. Her hand has crept up to hang off the lapel closest to the shoulder where Kate's hand rests. A few inches apart. It's a cheeky bit of nonsense that Rachel doesn't telegraph at all with her eyes, leaving it as a kind of easter egg for the perceptive. Treacherous, remember?

And, well.

Rachel quietly drops her hand a moment after Kate does, returning her attention to the path. Her contentment shows through in lilt in her step and crispness in her breath. On cue, she knows to look over when Kate's expression fades to a sweet little sincerity. Theatrics notwithstanding, Rachel's hasn't dropped below a small smile for awhile now. Kate keeps the streak alive.

"Gotham, wow," says Rachel, looking away and sounding like she's about to laugh. "Those are bold words. Have you seen the Fantastic Four's everything? And Spider-Man's got a whole zoo."

Rachel furrows her brow in good-natured bemusement when Kate launches into the family matters talk. She tilts her head to the side, not even looking at the other woman. "I'm not sure if you're making that sound more or less ominous than it actually is."

Kate slows. Rachel slows with her, in near-perfect sync. The shorter redhead comes to a stop just ahead, looking up at Kate. A few inches make all the difference. The lowered voice — slightly lowered, but if a few inches make a difference then so does this — prompts Rachel to step in a little closer and adopt a conspiratorial look of her own. She listens along, nodding at the proper moments, occasionally making a soft "mm," of agreement.

The plan is laid out. A moment of silence blossoms between the two. It's a short moment, as they go, and Rachel's thoughtful look never gives the impression that she's going to say no, especially not with all the play-acting she's done up until this point. But, it's a moment, and all quiet moments before someone gives an answer are full of untapped potential.

Rachel does what she is accustomed to doing. She thinks. She thinks about Kate Kane's name, an easy two syllables that just pop off her tongue with a little curl. She thinks about Kate's bruise, and the horror she felt when she thought a man had died and realized he hadn't. She thinks about the stagger in Kate's step and the slur in her words, the slight ones that she can't fully hide. She thinks about all the boys who loved her back in London, and the ones who still love her here, some having told her but most having just thought it a little too loud too often. She thinks about being leered at back at the mansion. She thinks about being called a young chick. She thinks about Kate's ruby red lips and the muscled curves of her arms and the conversation that made blocks fly by.

In a moment, Rachel thinks this. Then, she opens her mouth, and

SOME TIME LATER

"THIS IS NOT A BRA, IT'S A BANDEAU TOP, IT'S FASHION, BANDEAU IS FRENCH," Rachel calls back into the hotel bar even as she's walking backwards out of it. She's carrying her jacket in her left hand, which leaves her with just slightly more skin readily available for viewing than this establishment was comfortable with.

Rachel's first argument was that she couldn't help it because doing shots made her feel warm and so she had to take her jacket off. It didn't work.

Grudgingly — because now they're in a hotel lobby and Kate has to stay here — Rachel slips her jacket back on, tugging at the collar partly to get it situated in place and partly as a gesture of punchy defiance. Rachel gives the bar's entryway one final look, clucks her tongue, and then turns away.

"Hey," she says, stopping only a few steps into her walk into the lobby. "This is where I have to call it a night."

A timing beat passes. Rachel briefly glances away before looking up to Kate again. The coyness is just weird and abrupt enough that perhaps it isn't an act. The blush across her cheeks is probably because her first drink was a flight of tequila shots because of catch-up rules.

"Seeing as how you were drunk and maybe a little bit in shock for all of it, I'm going to give you my number… and you can text me when you sober up. If you want. If you don't, that's fine. Deal?"


"I'm not sure if you're making that sound more or less ominous than it actually is."

"It involves gentry-old old money, Rachel," are Kate Kane's last words for Rachel Summers before they embark upon their carefully-laid plan.

"I'm definitely making it sound less ominous than it actually is."

And then she waits, within the quiet comfort of that moment. She's gotten very used to these, in any number of different ways. She's heard every different possibility before, and yet there's still that small tingle of anticipation that always prefaces it. That moment where anything could happen. She puts up a confident front, even when — especially when — drunk, but inside, she prepares for any answer. Inside, there is a tiny knot of tension that always, always rears its head.

Rachel's lips part.

And the way Kate's smile blooms, just a bit, is a small thing.

A kind of easter egg for the perceptive.

~AN ANSWER AND A SMILE AND AN INDETERMINATE AMOUNT OF SHOTS LATER

"I'm TELLING you — fuck Spider-Man!"

This is Katherine Rebecca Kane's bold declaration as she careens her way out of the Baccarat's bar with laughter on her lips and a flush on her cheeks. Hands gesticulating in the most dramatic of manners, she seems all the world to be oblivious to the looks and commentary of the bar's other patrons and/or employees as she goes. Of course she isn't, really, if that wicked entertainment in her eyes is any indication.

"Maybe not — not literally. But look — until you've experienced the mystery of Kite Man, you don't know how deep the well of hokey insanity in Gotham goes. So fuck Spider-Man. And his zoo! I'll die on this hill. I'll die on it, Rachel."

Gotham proud, born and bred.

They make their way out. Rachel walks backward. Kate forwards. Rachel shouts her rebuttal of critiques on her fashion choices back into the bar. Kate, unable to help herself, snorts out a laugh, covering her mouth with her hand. Her expression might be giving its best 'oh my god' impression, but that little glimmer in her eyes says otherwise. It just makes her like Rachel more. Just as predicted.

"It's okay," she assures, between the tiny fits of her laughter, "I think your bra looks chic. Très chic, even." See?

It's French.

A few steps in, Rachel comes to a stop. A few steps after that, so too does Kate. Roughly a foot or two ahead of the other woman, she turns to look back. She listens. She watches. Her expression one of probably drunken inscrutability, she hears the slight reservation in Rachel's voice. She sees the blush painting her cheeks and the way she so fleetingly casts that glance aside. And another moment passes, in which so many possibilities stream past like branching veins on a river.

And then she offers a smile muted in its confidence as she turns fully towards Rachel. She takes a step forward, one brow slanted upwards.

"Wow," she says. "You are smooth."

Pale hands reach up, to take the lapels of Rachel's denim jacket. Helping adjust them is just an excuse to get closer, really, if just for a moment. She's taller, by a few inches.

Those few inches make all the difference when she dips down past each of them to press her lips to Rachel's cheek until she feels the way her jaw aches with the effort.

"Deal," she breathes out before stepping back, her smile lingering on those lips like she just can't shake it off. Suitably charmed.

"'Til the cold, sobering light of day, Rachel Summers."

~THE COLD, SOBERING LIGHT OF DAY (SORT OF)

Kate Kane wakes up to the sound of an app-spawned Shofar relentlessly blasting into her throbbing skull, and finds herself instantly regretting everything.

«"Good morning, Kate. Today is September 11th, 2018. It is 3:33 in the afternoon. Today is the last day of Rosh Hashanah. Shana tova!"»

"fuck the entirety of my life"

Katherine Kane is a confident woman in many matters. And in those she is not, she has a way of affecting the perfect impression of one. But when she has the luxury of it, in the quiet comforts of her private time when she is alone with her damning thoughts and nothing to lose herself in, Katherine Kane is nothing but questions and self-doubts.

It's why, as jacquard linens pool comfortably around pale skin, Kate spends a good seven minutes simply sitting in her bed and staring at her phone with bloodshot eyes and a blank, uncertain expression. Somewhere in between there, that phone ends up in her hands; through the pounding headache, she's honestly not sure when it happened, but it finds her staring at that number on the screen, looking at the flashing cursor compelling her to fill its emptiness with words.

Thinking of all the ways doing that could go wrong.

She takes the phone with her when she drags herself out of bed, thinking she went too far the night before. She keeps her eyes on the phone as she lets the heat of the shower do its best to try to soothe the ache behind her eyes, thinking of all the ways it's a bad idea to get herself too tangled up with a superhero until the glass panels fog away the sight of her phone.

When she brushes her teeth, she thinks about how they don't even live in the same state, so maybe she should just leave it at that.

While she touches the ugly smear of a bruise on her jaw, she considers the fact that Rachel might be more complicated than she needs right now.

She's slipping on a loose USMA shirt on the way to make herself much-needed coffee by the time the most haunting possibility reaches her thoughts:

What if she has no actual excuse, and she ruins this by being her, because that's just what she does?

"…" Groggy green eyes shut as Kate exhales a slow sigh into her steaming mug of bitter black coffee. "Ugh. It's just a stupid text. You are completely FUBAR, Kate—"

Her phone rings. Green eyes crack open. There's curiosity in her stare.

«"Incoming call from: Catherine Hamilton."»

It instantly sours into exasperation.

"Nnh. Answer call."

«"Hiiiii, Katie! Your dad and I wanted to call to wish you a good new year! He'd be here, but, um, I guess he's just tied up at the base-"»

"Thank you, Catherine," Kate intones as dryly and close-endedly as possible as she stares down her mug of coffee like it was the bottom of a barrel.

«"You really should try to call him."»

"I'll think about it. Thank you, Catherine."

«"Oh, and… I hate to bring this up, Katie, I honestly do, because you know how much we want to support you-"»

"What is it?"

Silence reigns for a few, precious seconds that sees Kate's headache abate like she was standing in the eye of the storm.

«"Oh, um. … It's just that, maybe, could you be a bit more discerning about who you bring around to the hotel while you're in New York?"»

Kate presses a hand to her forehead and rubs her thumb against her brow, grimly welcoming the resurgence of that shrill throb.

«"I know, it's not my business, but I heard from some friends last night that you were hanging around with some girl who was just wearing a bra and-"»

"It wasn't a bra," Kate clarifies, her voice just subtly acerbic in that way you learn to adopt with step-parents when you barely tolerate their existence. "It was a bandeau top. It's fashion. It's French."

«"-Well, either way, just keep that in mind, okay? I'm happy you're finding friends there, but appearances are important! We care about you! Oh! And I want you to tell me all about the party when you're back! I'm sorry we can't make it, Katie!"»

"Duly noted," says Kate without any actual commitment and the subtle underscore of tension as she eyes that phone. She hesitates, for just a moment. "And can you tell the colonel I…"

Seconds pass. Kate feels like a child again, biting her sore lower lip and grimacing.

"… nevermind. Thank you, Catherine. Shana tova."

«"Shana tova, Ka—"»

*click*

Smartphone in hand, coffee cooling and forgotten, Kate does keep what Catherine said in mind. It makes her think about last night again. A smile touches her lips.

And she starts to fill that empty space.

<katekane> Not shocked. Debatably more sober
<katekane> Still want to text you
<katekane> Gotta do a thing at Battery Park but I want to meet again. Ideally with less ridiculous monsters
<katekane> Ball's in your court


Rachel is apparently a veteran of playful arguments, because she's gleefully taken to the back-and-forth about supervillains lump for lump. Kate has proven the more passionate defender of her city of the two, which was really decided when Kate first explained Kite Man and Rachel was unable to successfully counter with either Stilt Man or Paste Pot Pete.

TWO DAYS FROM NOW

Rachel remembers that Joshua Waldemeyer, the man who is also a wall, exists.

BACK TO TONIGHT

But after Rachel gets Kate back by making a scene, and after Kate draws out a little smile that seems sincerely embarrassed with très chic, and after Rachel has given out her number with the responsible disclaimer to ensure enthusiastic consent, all that's left to do is stand there in the face of that easy confidence and try to at least match it.

She's smooth.

And then she reaches for Rachel's lapels, and the pretense is already so thin that Kate can feel the heat of Rachel's blushing cheek on her lips. She moves her head toward the other woman on impulse, turning into the kiss, not breaking contact but leaning into it. Her next exhale comes shallow, truncated by surprise, a touch of breath on the other woman's neck.

When Kate steps back, she has one more chance to be charmed by a softening look having robbed Rachel of at least some of her expressiveness.

"Yeah," she says. "'Til… then."

For a long moment, Rachel watches Kate leave toward the elevators. But then she has to look back at the harpies manning the front desk and turn to leave herself, shoving her hands into her jacket pockets — damn the skin ball — and stalking out through the front doors, away from the valets hanging around the front drive, and down the block.

It's only then, out of sight at a corner street light that it all catches up to her. Rachel leans against the pole, her gaze unfocusing as memories become more important than sight. A fluttering warmth creeps up between Rachel's lungs, sneaking in between breaths until she's only noticed it when it suffuses her with that unmistakably particular brand of effervescence.

Rachel hits the brakes by rubbing her face in incredulity.

"Oh my god did that really just happen."

THE NEXT DAY

Rachel flew home to Westchester after that. After dropping the warwolf skin suit off in the X-labs, she retired to the loaner room she's in and drew upon the unimaginable stores of her willpower to resist the urge to immediately look up Kate Kane. Instead, she fell into a kick-off-clothes-that-annoy-you-and-tumble-into-bed kind of sleep, proving that bandeau tops are also pajamas.

Alcohol always helps her remember her dreams. Dreams aren't the right word. When Rachel wakes up, it's with a start: jolting up from bed and digging her fingers into the covers. The only thing that's there to attack her is sunlight, which is defeated easily enough by squeezing her eyes shut. As a contemptible youth in good working order, the worst she has to show for her drinking escapade is a dry mouth.

Rolling out of bed and onto her feet, Rachel slouches across the room — it's hard to think of it as her room at this point — to the desk situated underneath her sole window. It's where she keeps her shiny new StarkTech laptop, a favor born of Stark gagging while looking at her old college laptop, but more importantly it's also where she left her phone.

Rachel hits the power button on her laptop to wake it while she's scrolling through her contacts on her phone. She needs someone who might be up reasonably close to now, and also someone who can give hard advice. Meggan, lovely as she may be, is excited about everything and will relate it to a BBC drama. Illyana is one of her best friends but is also literally separated from her soul.

Rachel may be from the future, but there's one rule that's common between her time and now: when you've got hookup doubts, ask your ex-roommate.

<phoenix_EX> kitty i need advice
<phoenix_EX> yes it's romantic advice
<phoenix_EX> yes it's also a weird story
<phoenix_EX> again
<phoenix_EX> there, judging out of the way

There. Now to wait for Kitty to wake up and also hope that she's not in space. In the meanwhile, Rachel reaches for her laptop, pops open her browser (she has an affection for Firefox) and engages in the honorable tradition of creeping through her new crush's online presence. The conflicting feelings Rachel has had about such practices have been worn down over the years by normalization and her own aggressive relationship to being a public figure. Besides, Kate was laughing about it, right? If she's from some old Gotham family maybe there's just embarrassing pictures of her as a kid, or some scandalous underage drinking or something totally normal like that.

Her phone buzzes just as the results page comes up. There's news articles to automatically aggregate at the top. Not only news articles — she recognizes the gossip sites. Rachel tears her attention away before she gets in too deep, glancing down at her phone.

<shadowkit_EX> With you it is always a weird story
<shadowkit_EX> No judgment
<shadowkit_EX> What's up?

To be fair, Rachel thinks, Excalibur was a weird story. She lets the abbreviated tale of last night tumble out of her thumbs.

<phoenix_EX> so i was hunting down that warwolf near mutant town last night
<phoenix_EX> and i caught it right as it was attacking this drunk woman
<phoenix_EX> then when i was walking her back to her hotel we started flirting
<phoenix_EX> and she invited me for drinks
<phoenix_EX> so i drank, because, you know
<phoenix_EX> and then i gave her my number
<phoenix_EX> and i told her that since she was drunk and maybe in shock she shouldn't feel guilty if she wakes up and decides not to text me but i've been staring at my phone all morning and i may have google stalked her just a little
<phoenix_EX> is almost eaten by warwolves a bad relationship foundation
<shadowkit_EX> wait wait wait wait
<shadowkit_EX> wait
<shadowkit_EX> You met a girl while out doing superhero things and she flirted with you while it happened?
<shadowkit_EX> Were you in superhero garb? Or were you incognito? This is important. I think. I think this may be important.
<shadowkit_EX> Dating while caping is difficult.

Rachel taps her fingers on the screen away from the keyboard. It's a good point, and one that both Rachel and Kitty can attest to from their London days. Dropping two teenagers into a world-famous city and letting them grow up in the spotlight learns them some things.

But Kate seemed different. Not a bit starstruck, not even when she recognized her.

Rachel turns back to her laptop, setting her phone aside. She scans the headlines. Drinking. Parties. Okay… rich family… wow. Really rich family. A flush of self-consciousness runs through her. It's not like she set out to hook up with the east coast's fabulously wealthy. Stark was a coworker and Kate — they met near an alleyway in Mutant Town! She was wearing a tuxedo-print shirt!

The news aggregation feed pops up a new tile. 'Gotham socialite Kate Kane spotted snogging with —'

"Oh my god."

Rachel spins her chair away, grabbing her phone as she turns her back on the cruel world of celebrity gossip. Kitty's unanswered message awaits to distract her.

<phoenix_EX> i was dressed casually but i also flew out of the air and destroyed a talking metal bird wolf with my mind
<phoenix_EX> does that count

Rachel tilts her head up, studying the ceiling with pursed lips. Rich enough that Kate got first billing. She glances surreptitiously back to the laptop, squinting at the URL. Okay, Gotham is in the site name. If they rep their girl as hard as she repped them, well. Her phone vibrates enough to keep her mind on track.

<shadowkit_EX> YES THAT COUNTS
<shadowkit_EX> Okay. So. You Flew in front of her and she still flirted with you. That's a good sign.
<shadowkit_EX> If she was totally unfazed by warwolves and invited you for drinks, that may mean she's used to that,
<shadowkit_EX> And that means she knows what's up. That's great!
<shadowkit_EX> But, if ya'll were drinking a lot, she may have forgotten or lost your number.
<shadowkit_EX> Do you want to see her again?
<phoenix_EX> yes that's the problem!
<phoenix_EX> and she's probably used to it
<phoenix_EX> she said she's from gotham
<shadowkit_EX> GOTHAM
<shadowkit_EX> fuck
<shadowkit_EX> that place suuuuuuuuuucks

"It has Kite Man and everything," Rachel murmurs.

<shadowkit_EX> Was SHE in costume? That's also important
<shadowkit_EX> Or is she a civilian?

Rachel hesitates. Another laptop peek. She twists her arm around to get a finger on the touchpad, moving the mouse over to the image results. Parties, parties, candid, family photo, military uniform…

<phoenix_EX> civilian
<phoenix_EX> mostly
<phoenix_EX> do rich people count as civilians
<phoenix_EX> i guess she's from old money
<phoenix_EX> old gotham money
<phoenix_EX> but i have a decent track record against art deco curses
<shadowkit_EX> Okay, but she's from Gotham!
<shadowkit_EX> She knows what's up.
<shadowkit_EX> That place is practically run by a guy in a Bat costume and everyone just accepts it.

Rachel chews her bottom lip, still re-litigating the debate. "I should have brought up Bat-governor versus Spider-proletariat more."

With the mighty sigh of a warring heart, Rachel lifts herself from her chair and stumbles back over to her bed. She twists midair as she collapses, landing on her back so that she look up at her phone. More wisdom awaits her.

<shadowkit_EX> If you like her, Rach, go get her!!!
<shadowkit_EX> She saw you fly and invited you to drinks. That's something!
<shadowkit_EX> You clearly like this girl. See what's there. Maybe she's just another rich asshole that happens to be from Gotham.
<shadowkit_EX> Or maybe she's awesome. You can't know until you find out.
<shadowkit_EX> If you need a chaperone I will gladly sit at the bar drinking Old Fashioneds and giving stink eyes.

Fondness slips into her smile. She drops her arms to her sides, letting her phone float above her on a telekinetic whim. Go get her. Maybe it's that easy. Or maybe it isn't. Stark, lovable and electric, playboy to how many women, Emma Frost leering over his shoulder. Maybe Kate will be the same. Maybe all rich people just… dabble. Plus any woman who dates women tends to have a few over-invested exes waiting in the wings. A peril of tiny communities.

But, maybe…

Rachel engages in the tremendous self-indulgent activity of using micro-telekinesis to mimic the touch of human fingers on her phone's keyboard. Regular telekinesis doesn't work, but Rachel isn't a regular telekinetic. (For the record, this was one of the earliest uses of ultra-fine telekinetic manipulation that she mastered.)

<phoenix_EX> okay, ms. pryde, you've convinced me
<phoenix_EX> sometimes i wonder if our lives are too messed up to inflict on other people in good conscience
<phoenix_EX> but then i'm reminded that batman is technically a form of government
<phoenix_EX> thanks, kit
<shadowkit_EX> dude our lives are totally too messed up to inflict on other people
<shadowkit_EX> but i date a dude from space
<shadowkit_EX> and gotham is practically like space compared to manhattan
<shadowkit_EX> If you like this girl? Let her decide if it's too weird. Gotham is practically too weird for me and the person I'd probably consider my best friend is a purple dragon. SO. IDEK.

Rachel counts: "One, two, three…"

<shadowkit_EX> AND ALSO YOU
<shadowkit_EX> SO

And then a smile. With a wave of her hand, Rachel banishes the phone over to the top of her dresser even as her invisible will types out her final thanks.

<phoenix_EX> dude from space is a little bit of a jerk just saying BYE BEST FRIEND PUTTING PHONE DOWN BYEEEEE
<shadowkit_EX> WHAT
<shadowkit_EX> WAIT

Remember: always ask your ex-roommate, partially because they're going to tell you anyway.

The day spreads out before Rachel. First, a shower, or maybe a bath. Then get some breakfast, call in to see how Tony's doing, drop down to the lab to see if they have any questions about the warwolf skin, check the news, feel guilty about trying to be a respectable face for mutant rights while also constantly ending up on gossip sites with half of her ass hanging out —

Nope. Thoughts go back into the maelstrom with all the rest of the jumbled mess of her mind. Rachel can't be her mom. She can't be Jean. She's got to be herself.

And, right now, Rachel Summers wants to read a little more about Kate Kane.

That's how she found herself back in her desk chair, scrolling through the search results. The Kanes. People referred to the Summers sometimes, but usually with a just-slightly-derisive intent to address the Institute's most visible family. Not like this. The Kanes even have a saying.

"The Kanes own everything in Gotham that the Waynes don't, huh," she says.

Rachel clicks back over to the image results. Something about that family picture calls to her. Following the source takes her to an old news article. Rachel isn't even through reading the headline when she realizes that this was a very bad idea.

Wife and daughter of Kane heir killed in kidnapping —

A flash. A girl's face, staring. Someone dragging her away. Rachel slams her laptop shut and clasps her hands over her face. Was that — which memory was that? Whose?

Bzz bzz. Her phone on the dresser. Rachel doesn't move. Bzz bzz. Turning, she cracks her fingers apart to look across the room.

Bzz bzz.

Rachel lifts herself out of her chair and moves.

<katekane> Not shocked. Debatably more sober
<katekane> Still want to text you
<katekane> Gotta do a thing at Battery Park but I want to meet again. Ideally with less ridiculous monsters
<katekane> Ball's in your court

Rachel stares down at the screen, expression blank. Her thumbs hover over the keys. Morbid things force their way into her head like usual. Oh, hey, we both lost our moms. I only saw my godfather and family friends get gunned down in front of me, though. It's not as personal but it made up for it in numbers. So we have that in common!

Still want to text you

She reads it again. And again.

Dating while caping is difficult. Our lives are too messed up to inflict on other people. Gotham is space.

If you like her, Rach, go get her!!!

Rachel breathes.

<phoenix_EX> i'm glad you did
<phoenix_EX> and obviously i'm glad you're not in shock
<phoenix_EX> do you like talking or dancing?
<phoenix_EX> talking means i show you a restaurant, dancing means i show you a club
<phoenix_EX> unless you're on your way back to gotham sooner than that, which means i may have to risk visiting your territory


> send

The seconds following that decision are interminable. They stretch like taffy as Kate fixates her stare on the screen of her phone as if she could somehow elicit a response from it, or maybe simply linger in anxiety-inspired yearning for an ability to hit 'undo' on text messages.

She has never been one very good at doing nothing, though. Occupying her time, occupying her thoughts — that's what keeps the bad ones out. It's why, when the first of Rachel's messages come, Kate has abandoned breathless anticipation in favor of rummaging through her fridge.

By the time she reads it, she is leaning against the freshly-closed door and chewing on a honeyed slice of apple, feeling the cool metal of its surface against her upper back as she thumbs her way through the small scroll of messages.

<phoenix_EX> i'm glad you did
<phoenix_EX> and obviously i'm glad you're not in shock
<phoenix_EX> do you like talking or dancing?
<phoenix_EX> talking means i show you a restaurant, dancing means i show you a club
<phoenix_EX> unless you're on your way back to gotham sooner than that, which means i may have to risk visiting your territory

i'm glad you did

Honey-glazed fruit hooked and hanging limp against her lip, Kate finds herself pouring over that string of words, every read through tugging a smile a bit more further into existence around her sweet snack. Her nostrils flare to give way to the sound of a snort at that very last line.

<katekane> Visiting gotham is more like third date material
<katekane> Or like meeting really disapproving parents who also might be hopped up on joker venom. Not sure we're ready for that kind of commitment yet

And just like that, the Kane heiress finds herself once more in the swing of things.

What plays out next is a little series of moments between words, like silent vignettes. In between the careful application of make up, Kate drums out one-handed messages perched upon the counter of her hotel bathroom,

<katekane> I think I've got a way to get us there though
<katekane> Lucky for us I'm here at least through the week and I love to dance
<katekane> Also pretty fond of talking

… trying not to think of the potential things that might get dredged up in that conversation as she steadfastly applies a kohl pencil to the bottom rim of her eye. The past is past. She doesn't want Rachel to feel burdened to try to bring up some acceptable niceties that she's heard so many times before. … She doesn't want to have to think of all the memories those niceties might bring up.

It might be why, as she eyes her way through her selection of clothes, she fills the world between their phones with her next suggestion:

<katekane> So how about this
<katekane> Think of your favorite club. When I'm done with my thing, I'll text you and we can break the ice with some dancing
<katekane> And then if you want more, we can get into the real intimate second date stuff whenever you like
<katekane> Like talking over a fancy dinner
<katekane> I'll even clear my incredibly busy schedule of loitering around with nothing to do just for you

It's easy charm through text. Casual joking. But really, there's a kernel of truth in there. Tonight will be good for dancing. The next time…

Maybe dinner and real words won't be so bad then.

Ultimately, Kate decides on a gray tank top emblazoned with an adorable kitten, butterfly, flowers, and Bikini Kill's 'RESIST PSYCHIC DEATH.' It'll go well with the jeans she picked out.

She throws on a dark blue, double-breasted blazer too, because Bikini Kill's 'RESIST PSYCHIC DEATH' is not really appropriate for where she's going first.

Kate Kane is leaning in to her kitchen cabinets to pick up her wrapped, rounded loaf of challah when she pauses. She considers the past twenty four hours that capped off the end of her year as she holds that sacred bread up against her. She thinks about what might come next, good and bad. And she pulls out that phone one last time.

<katekane> Looking forward to it

And she decides, as she goes to cast her sins of the last year into the Hudson a day late…

<katekane> Full disclosure: I might dance as white as I look

… maybe this year won't be so bad after all.

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