Date 1: Worth It

September 16, 2018:

Rachel takes Kate out on their first real date, since interdimensional threat rescue and getting kicked out of a hotel bar doesn't really count. Rachel tries too hard, Kate considers whether or not all this is worth it, and the conversation gets too real at least once.

Around New York

Characters

NPCs: Mike the chef, who is a chef named Mike

Mentions: Kitty Pryde, Jacob Kane, Catherine Hamilton-Kane, Franklin Richards (AU)

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Considering what they got up to last night — mostly Kate — it's probably a mercy that Rachel proposed that the two of them meet up well into the evening. It's a further kindness that she offered to meet at the park they passed on their walk, though really it was all an excuse for light teasing about how stuffy Kate's choice of hotel is about fashion.

Kate found Rachel waiting at one of the park entrances, leaned up against a light pole and messing with her phone. It was an eerie experience in that Kate didn't notice Rachel until she was right across the street, even though theoretically she should have been able to see the other woman the entire time from her approach. It's not like Rachel was dressed to blend in, either: a red bodycon dress with gold statement zipper straight up the middle, red-and-black striped slingback heels, and a leather racer jacket with yellow embellishments at the shoulders and elbows.

Rachel apologized, and then explained that she was passively projecting a telepathic field that made people ignore her presence because she wasn't in the mood to get chatted up by randos, and only dropped it for Kate when she noticed her presence.

Psychic things.

The dancing, by most accounts, was good dancing. Rachel evidently took to heart Kate's threat about her skill-set in this area, and so the venues were good guesses at places that would appeal.

The ice breaker was some warehouse pop-up that skews toward the younger half of twenty, but that's probably where Kate found out that so does Rachel — 24, really, but that's still a year off from the middle. The music was loud, screamy, and not in the least bit technical, belted out from a motley collection of amps arranged at the front that are soundly abused by a procession of bands that may or not be famous, especially depending on one's opinion of how famous someone can be if their entire discography is available on Soundcloud.

That's okay. Not everyone would call it dancing. It was boisterous and required more energy than coordination. Rachel, dress and heels at all, somehow managed to survive all of it without taking a single spill. Drinks came in plastic cups and the bar was mostly constructed from planks of wood.

The weirdness continued, however. Anytime Kate tried to speak to Rachel, the wall of sound died down to a muffle so that they could actually talk for a moment. Rachel said it was something to do with telekinesis and air density. Then, in the rideshare to their next place, Rachel somehow flipped the color of her dress to black and her shoes from red stripes to white, not to mention suddenly developing a much fiercer eyeliner game. Telekinesis again, apparently.

Venue number two was an actual, literal goth club holdout in a former church building. Like any goth holdout, they let in the industrial crowd to keep their numbers up. The music traded sound and fury for melody and melancholy, especially considering they had some kind of halfhearted darkwave retro theme going that evening, but it is entirely acceptable to morosely sway to the beat in these kinds of places. The bar was much, much nicer, even if all the dark corners had already been claimed by various moody wine-drinkers. (It was always red wine, naturally.)

It was around here that Rachel asked if Kate was hungry and, also, with a tiny measure of awkwardness, if she had any dietary restrictions. Kosher was all Rachel had to hear to suggest a place, this ancient diner on the border of Mutant Town that was one of the few places not to pull up roots and get out when Mutant Town became, well, Mutant Town. The entire place —

NOW

"— has been certified for years," Rachel explains. Her dress and shoes are back to their earlier colors by now. "They should be closing now but they know me. They're there for another two hours doing inventory and fucking around, so as long as we leave a good tip it's fine."

The place certainly looks old/classic/distinguished/kitschy (choose your own descriptor). Rachel, face still pleasantly pinked from the exertions of the evening, a few hairs slightly astray, beams over at Kate as someone who looks to be a cook unlocks the door for them.


Kate Kane should be celebrating the new year. Remembering things gone by, praying that she be given the good grace and mercy to have another.

Instead, she finds herself largely trying to think of anything other than exactly how and where the Hudson River she's currently feeding her metaphorical sins into flows out from West Point.

'Trying' being the operative word.

A pair of purple tinted shades help filter the light out from assaulting over-sensitive eyes as the former army brat leans herself against the railing overlooking the Hudson. Most of her bread is gone now, the perfectly rounded loaf whittled down to a doughy little core of extraneous mistakes and regrets.

And she is about to cast one aside for the sake of the last member of her family when her phone buzzes with life. She looks down at the message from the /other/ thing that has been dominating her thoughts today. Allows herself a freshly nostalgic grin for the ribbing. Then looks back towards the river. She thinks for a few moments.

The rest of that bread is gone by the time Kate is busy dialing herself up a ride.

++

There's certain oddities you notice when you've been trained brutally to notice certain oddities.

Then, there are certain oddities you notice because you would have to be functionally blind not to notice them.

The former can be seen in the fact that Kate can't quite seem to find Rachel at their planned meeting spot until she wants to be found. It's a thing that most people might just gloss over as being unobservant or just blinking once at the wrong time. Kate knows she should have been able to see Rachel from many more feet out than when she does. Especially with that impeccable fashion sense.

An apology and an explanation later has Kate taking it in the good stride of someone who has had a natural talent for compartmentalizing and whittling down a thing to its core concept all their life. In this case:

"Mind tricks, got it."

Sometimes things are easier to digest, when put through the lens of Star Wars.

There's a few joking comments about how Rachel has a gift for making Kate feel underdressed, combined with an assurance that she doesn't mind — it just means she'll have to up her game, after all. A few wry remarks about how Rachel's gifts must be great for avoiding paparazzi. By the time they arrive at that first venue, it's a testament to Kate's adaptability that she never once seems to feel out of place amongst a sea of people possibly a decade or more younger than she is. She even takes the revelation of Rachel's age in stride; no real remarks, no pithy comments. She just dances, and the movements of her body to the pounding lack of rhythm preaches of a person who has lived this kind of party for a not-inconsiderable chunk of her life.

It's not as white as advertised. But it's still a little white.

The second oddity, of course, comes in the way that Rachel does a magic wardrobe shift on the way to their next destination. This inspires a surprised lift of Kate's eyebrows as the other redhead literally just… changes, from top to bottom, all the way down to her makeup. Something about telekinesis. She never knew that kind of thing could do that.

"Wow. I really should have invested more seriously in learning the Force as a kid."

Again. Lenses are important.

By the time they reach the second venue, Kate's blazer is unbuttoned, and the heat of the previous warehouse experience still clinging to her in the form of pinkened skin and damper hair. The 'RESIST PSYCHIC DEATH' might be a little incongruous with the more somber notes that run through this place, but Kate doesn't seem to mind much. She just moves with the music again. Something slower, something closer. Something that lets her close her eyes and get lost in something far away within the strains of melancholy.

Along the way, she has to insist to at least four different people that she is not a vampire, nor does she think she's a vampire, but yes she did enjoy Bram Stoker's Dracula, yes even despite the accent work, and yes she does think Keanu Reeves is a treasure.

But no, again, she is not a vampire.

Otherwise, though, it was great. And when the time comes for that second part of their second date, that more intimate part, Kate does a good job holding down her mild knot of anxiety with an easy going smile as she listens to her companion's explanation and comes to the conclusion—

NOW

"I have to say, you really know how to give a girl the VIP treatment."

The words come in that subdued yet flighty way of Kate's; and yet the undercurrent of gratitude in it is nothing less than sincere as she pulls off tinted shades to stare up at that classically kitschy yet old and distinguished restaurant just in front of her. Her blazer now off and slung over one shoulder by the hook of her index finger, the heat of her skin still radiating comfortably from the exertion of a night well spent, she tucks her free hand into her jeans pocket and turns her green-eyed gaze Rachel's way. She can't help but smile at that aglow expression the other woman wears — it feels infectious, somehow. Maybe that's a psychic gift, too.

A moment passes by, again, that quiet little dread of what they might end up talking about. But Kate forgets it in favor of reaching out to find her free hand in Rachel's hair, to smooth out a few of those straying strands wordlessly.

"This looks great, Rachel," she says, the words coming still a few seconds on the heels of that gesture. "Come on. My treat, okay?"

And with that, she'll make that way to that unlocked door, pushing it open with the welcoming gush of air conditioning to grace her heated cheeks.

Time for the more intimate date stuff.

The conversation over fine dining.


"My former roommate slash current best friend is Jewish so one time I got curious and started looking things up," says Rachel, but only after tamping down her earlier enthusiasm so that the cook isn't intimidated by letting too much energy into his restaurant after midnight.

Kate reaches over. Rachel freezes. Kate's hand finds Rachel's hair, methodically smoothing it into place. Rachel doesn't speak, but watches with silence approaching rapt, lips slightly parted.

The door unlocks with an audible clack. Rachel sharply glances toward the glass. The cook looks back at her with an unimpressed expression that has been carefully honed over decades. Rachel smiles brightly and sheepishly.

"Okay," she says, a bit too fast, and then hurries in after.

It's not really fine dining, but there's a space all the way at the end of the long counter that's far enough from the kitchen window that it'll seem a little private. Rachel heads all the way to the back — she figures both herself and Kate for back-of-the-classroom types — and drops herself onto one of the stools. Her jacket comes off next with a practiced shrug. New bizarrity of the evening: it floats over to fold itself up on an empty stool.

Kate, on her way back, has an opportunity to grab a menu from the stack near the front. In true classic diner style, it's several pages long with specials that have probably been specials for longer than Rachel's been alive.

"I'm not freaking you out with all the mind powers stuff, am I?" she asks, perhaps — gasp — reading Kate's mind.

Or her looks throughout the evening.

Either or.


My former roommate current best friend is Jewish so I picked up a few things, explains Rachel Summers.

"Good taste," replies Kate Kane, with the ghost of a smile. It turns a touch teasing seconds after. Just a touch.

"I wouldn't mind meeting her sometime. Hopefully I'm good enough in her eyes to give me her blessing."

After all, she's lived most of her life on her own and even she knows the roommate judgment is sacrosanct.

Even for former roommates.

Inside, Kate closes her eyes for a moment to let the cool air wash over her. It's easy to forget how much body heat can affect a person until you are jammed into two buildings packed full of people all radiating in excess of 98.6 degree heat together in perfect, sweaty harmony.

Maybe she's just getting old.

These thoughts, however, are quickly brushed aside as Kate makes her way towards the back of the counter as if it were just natural course; they've both got that in common, it seems. Her blazer is slung over the nearby empty stool; moments later, Rachel's joins it. Of its own accord.

It's a little like watching the mops from Fantasia getting to work, she thinks distantly as she watches that display with something approaching muted interest. It doesn't quite rank up with the magical clothes shift like Rachel was straight out of some trendier Sailor Moon but — it's still pretty bizarre, all told.

I'm not freaking you out, am I?

Kate blinks, as she settles into her stool. The tattoos on her arms now once more clearly on display, she turns her gaze back on Rachel.

"Freaking out? Well… I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little surreal seeing it in action when adrenaline and liquor aren't overloading my brain — mostly — but…" She leans herself into the countertop until her arm presses against it; one red brow lifts just a bit. "Freaking out isn't really how I'd describe it. It's amazing. It makes my head hurt just thinking of how it all works, but… it's amazing. And watching you do it, it's like… watching someone breathing. At basic, eventually you get the training drilled into your head it just becomes second nature, you know? It's a part of you, like a bodily function. It reminds me a bit of that." The left corner of her darkly-painted lips etches upward.

"Besides, how could I be freaked out by what saved my life from the wolves-that-shall-not-be-named? If anything, I should be pressing a hand to my forehead, mid-swoon. Let me know if you want me to. I think I could manage."

That hint of a smile becomes a full blown grin, then, as the Kane heiress shifts to the side to pluck up her menu. This? This is easy. Talking about Rachel. So that's what she focuses on.

"I am curious though — sorry if you've heard this before, but… what does it feel like? Is it like touching things outside your body…?"


Rachel makes a slight grimace. "I may have already told her about you and she may ambush me at any moment to force further details out of me. I'm willing to take down notes on your good points if you want to help me write the sales pitch."

She settles in, first deciding to lean onto her forearms on the countertop and look sideways at Kate. She quickly decides to shift, instead turning to face the other woman, with her legs crossed at the ankles and her leaning back just enough to balance with her hands on the back of her stool. It's an aggressive pose, but Rachel presents as someone with high body confidence and — this is a big hint Kate may pick up on with her detective skills — Kate is someone she wants to show off to. The need to impress is a little transparent, but, well, everyone needs decisions they'll second-guess while lying awake at two in the morning.

Rachel grins as Kate gets into her answer. The air conditioning has almost robbed her cheeks of their pinkness with the sinful pleasures of indoor cooling, but the compliments keep the fires burning at a detectable ember level.

"Kind of," she says, answering quickly enough to hint that this is something she's needed to explain before. She's still launching into the explanation with enthusiasm. "It wasn't always like this. I only got my powers when I was fourteen or so, I can't remember exactly. It was more like… just thinking, to start off with. Like if you tried to imagine your menu floating up into the air, and then it really happened. Since it's all just thinking, though, over the years your mind adapts to it with shortcuts that change the perception a little. I can 'feel' things, sort of, by using telekinesis to make lots of tiny, weak pushes in the air and seeing where they run into something, but that took a lot of practice."

Rachel purses her lips, looking off into space for a moment. "But it's like you said. When you drill it in, your subconscious can handle the little details better than your consciousness. I guess it's literally a bodily function if you want to get technical."

Rachel falls silent, studying Kate's reaction. The quiet extends on for a beat longer. There's a certain glow about her. Not an actual glow. It's only happiness at being present. She's not that weird.

(She actually is that weird but not right now.)

Abruptly, her expression shifts as a thought seizes her. She leans forward, sacrificing her movie-poster posture for sincerity.

"I want you to know right now that I'm not going to read your thoughts. I don't do that without asking. Unless it's a matter of saving lives, which comes up pretty often but only at work."

Another grimace, half because she realizes a caveat and half because she realizes she's babbling.

"Sometimes when I'm distracted I automatically pick up surface thoughts if they're really loud. I've gotten a lot better at not doing that over the years."


"I'm already a topic of gossip, huh?"

Masterful as her poker face is, that question could easily be construed as genuine curiosity or subtle judgment or anything in between, from the careful set of her jaw to the inscrutable squint of her eyes to the impassive purse of her lips, she is a wealth of potentially damning possibilities…

… at least, until those brows hike up just so.

"Exciting. Now I wish I could read thoughts."

Not that she necessarily needs to, in certain things. Certain things just spell themselves out, like the way Rachel carries herself. The tinge of pink that still decorates her cheeks even as they cool off and the excess heat becomes less and less of an excuse. Katherine Kane hardly needs to be as skilled as the World's Greatest Detective to be able to see what this is. She knows it, because she's been there in that stool, too. She is right now, in her own way.

Everyone needs to know the thrill of having something they'll regret in the morning.

So the way that the taller redhead reacts to it is a subtle one. "Well, if we want to put together a compelling list, it's going to have to feel real — a roommate can tell," she declares as she casually leans forward in her seat as if to parallel the backwards lean of Rachel's position. Her stare is alight, attentive. A gesture of interest. Interest in her.

"So I'm thinking, we're going to have to spend a lot of time together, so the next time your ex-roommate-slash-incumbent-best-friend ambushes you, you'll have plenty of glowing praise about all my good qualities."

She lets a deliberate second of silence passes by, for the sake of theatrics.

"And maybe a couple damning shortcomings. Like I'm a little too charming, or how much I like to hog the bed."

You know. The damning ones.

But she listens, then, menu settled against the tops of her thighs as Rachel explains the little intricacies of her gift. Thinking… perception. It gives a quiet cast to Kate's expression as she continues, chewing the inside of her cheek. Fourteen. Ten years of experience. But to be able to go from lifting menus to, well — Kate gets the feeling she's barely scratched the surface of what Rachel can really do…

"You must've had a lot of practice with it, huh?" she wonders aloud, those green eyes finding Rachel's once more with the thoughtful cant of her head. She considers for a moment —

— but whatever else she might say is put on hold as the time-displaced former British superhero leans forward to confide in her that singular promise. And it's several caveats. Kate blinks. And then… she laughs, just a bit, shaking her head.

"It's okay," she says, as that laughter fades. "I never really got the impression from you that you were the type to poke around invading someone's privacy unless you thought you had to. Usually I'm a pretty good judge of character. Usually." She slides that menu forward across the table. When she can, she hails the cook, to ask for a beer for now. Food for later. Her attention is elsewhere, after all.

"It's good that you don't, though," she confides, voice dipping into a whisper. "I prefer to reveal all my scintillatingly deep dark secrets when the moment is as inappropriate as possible."

It's truer than she'd care to admit, really.

"Speaking of which," she continues, her tone so conversationally off-handed she might as well be speaking about the weather, "my stepmother heard about you through the socialite grapevine, and you'll be happy to know she was deeply scandalized by your French fashion bra."

At least she says it like it's something Rachel should be happy about.


Rachel is more than a few drinks in. While she may have the advantage of being in her twenties, she is definitely not the hardened veteran that is Kate Kane. This is to say that she has become much, much easier to trick with judicious application of poker face as the evening has progressed. She hesitates with bated breath when Kate is about to render her verdict on the gossip, and visibly relaxes when it comes out to be only a tease.

Kate leaning in is a subtle gesture, but exactly the right one to send Rachel's heart soaring off. It feels like ice skating, flying over the unforgiving hardness below on razor-thin blades, every gliding step a falling forward that you know you'll catch yourself from, the heat of your muscles roaring against the frost in the air.

They took her skating at Salem Center every winter. That feeling comes sometimes, unbidden. Here, too, she feels giddy.

She seconds the order for a beer when Kate does. The cook, when he comes back out, brings water also. He is an angel.

Rachel doesn't notice. What Rachel notices is that currently, and without any real planning from her, she has ended up leaning in face to face with the tall definitely-not-a-vampire woman she's been daydreaming about for the past 24 hours. Her eyes widen slightly. Not at the scintillatingly deep dark secrets. Maybe a little at the scintillatingly deep dark secrets. Mostly just being… here.

But then stepmothers intervene.

Rachel leans back on her stool, though hardly with magazine-quality poise. She holds onto the bar for balance. "Ugh! It's a top. It's like a tube top, just shorter! And tube tops are like tank tops without the straps! It's simple math!"

Rachel discovers water waiting for her. She pulls the glass closer, her expression dimming to a satisfied little smile.

"So, does that mean I get to find out that you hog the bed?"

Rachel closes her eyes, putting her hand over them. "I shouldn't have said that. I should have been thoughtful and asked if you had problems with gossip that I'm not helping. You mentioned paparazzi when we met up earlier."


It's strange, in a way, to see someone like Rachel hanging off of her every word. The way she reacts, the way her body language plays its own story of nervous anticipation. Kate came into this with her own trepidations. So many she still feels knotting up in her stomach, or every time her jaw aches. Thinking of every little permutation of how this could all go wrong, most of the reasons tracing back to her. And perhaps ironically, seeing those little glimmers of how nervous Rachel is gives her the ability to keep putting on that confident front.

That, and an uncanny tolerance for alcohol.

But in that moment, when they are so close, face to face? All Kate feels is electric. Like she wants to close the rest of that distance. Do something that maybe she'll regret, too.

And so she brings up her stepmother.

She doesn't even have to wait until the morning to feel regret about that.

If nothing else, her smile is a sympathetic one as Rachel makes her way back to extol on the virtues of the bandeau top. Her voice is as nonchalantly wry as ever, after a small, steadying breath. "I told her that, but she didn't seem very understanding," she explains as she leans back — just a bit — to take hold of her beer and drain some of its contents. The look she gives Rachel is a particularly conspiratorial one.

"I wouldn't worry about it," she assures. "Getting on my stepmother's bad side is a surefire way to my heart, so you're already on the right track."

But then…

So, does that mean I get to find out that you hog the bed?

Kate pauses, right in the middle of sipping her beer. She looks at Rachel, sitting there, covering her face with her hand as if she were trying to hide from the world. She turns to face her fully, as if to present her 'RESIST PSYCHIC DEATH' shirt like some rallying cry that Rachel cannot currently see.

And then the tall probably-not-a-vampire woman that has been worrying about all the ways she might screw this up leans forward until she is almost entirely out of the comfortable cushioning of her seat. Rachel might not see it —

—but she might feel it when the warmth of another hand wraps around her own, to look to gently - but insistently - pull it away from her face.

"Rachel," she begins, slowly, as if she were feeling out each syllable of that name. "I like you. Even when you're trying your hardest to make me feel like I'm the mature one — and believe me, that's hard, you should feel proud of yourself about that." There's a glimmer in her eyes. A smile on her lips. She stays there, to let her fingers squeeze around the other redhead's.

"The kind of life I've lived, I'm pretty used to paparazzi by now. I'm pretty used to my stepmother not approving of most things I do by now. I'm more interested in you. I'd much rather eat some greasy food and drink beer and enjoy my time with you and worry about giving gossip columnists as much fodder as they like some other time." She tilts her head.

"So, does that answer your question?"

And she remains wonderfully vague about which question that might be.


Tug. Rachel doesn't move her hand at first. Another. With gentle insistence, Kate removes Rachel's shame shield from her face. The younger woman gives Kate a look that's laced with hints of morose doom that would have been more at home at the goth club.

The look fades into abashed acceptance as Kate works her way through the reassurance. Rachel even manages a little fragment of a laugh when maturity comes up.

A squeeze of her hand. Rachel looks down, still listening but wanting to look. It's such a sweet gesture. Patient, too. Barely over a day of knowing this woman and they're already having an important heart-to-heart. She heard this stuff moves fast sometimes.

Does that answer her question?

Rachel looks up, greeted by the glimmer in Kate's eyes and the smile on her lips. She looks away and smiles, one of those twisted little half-smiles some people do when they're trying not to smile at all.

"Yeah. I'm being anxious."

With a squeeze in return, Rachel disentangles her hand from Kate's and turns toward the bar to finally take a long drink of her water. She sets it down and watches a bead of condensation go cascading down its side.

"This is my first time… you know, with a woman — I mean the whole meeting on the street and going out for a date and everything. I've fooled around before with women I was never going to see again, but nothing this normal."

Relatively normal.

"Usually I only attract guys," she says. Rachel raises her eyebrows, considering the past. "A lot of guys."

Silence. Rachel adopts a look of grim resignation.

"More guys than anyone needs."


Relatively normal.

There's a very very brief period in between the spaces of Rachel's words where Kate Kane wonders whether or not things would be easier or harder for either or both of them if Rachel knew her secret. It's a thought almost dismissed, for a great many number of reasons. Inability to trust, maybe. Self-absorption, maybe. Deep personal wounds, maybe. But those all require a good deal of self-reflection.

So she quashes pondering any deeper underlying personal issues by reminding herself she's only known Rachel for the better part of a day now and neatly moves on.

Fingers squeeze around her paler digits before they're freed to find their home around the neck of her bottle. Her thumb toys against the glass lip as she listens to the confession that spills from the younger redhead's lips. Her eyes hood just slightly, her expression the perfect picture of calm experience she's always been so good at presenting to the outside world as she turns herself to lean her back against the counter, and lifts that bottle to tip it Rachel's way like a gesture.

"Sounds like a real problem," she commiserates, voice carrying that teasingly wry undercurrent. "Maybe you ought to save someone from threats they barely understand while they're drunk-off-their-ass. Like some sort of Street Shark incursion. Might be a good way to meet women." The wink she supplies is so nonchalant one could easily overlook it, if it weren't meant for them.

"Speaking from personal experience, it's a pretty strong play."

But despite her jokes, Kate quiets for a moment after that. Her green eyes turn towards the window opening up the world just outside of them as she rests her elbows back against the countertop; eventually, a breath heavier than she was expecting slips away past her lips and that vivid gaze squeezes shut.

"… It was fifteen, maybe sixteen, for me. I knew for a while before that, but…" But it was hard when you move from city to city, state to state, country to country, constantly. But she felt like it was weird and wrong that she was different from everyone else. But any sort of personal whimsies like indulging in crushes ground to a screaming halt when they were in Brussels and…

"… anyway. I still remember her. Kelly Bennett. She still wore these really long pigtails at sixteen and somehow she made it work. I really don't know how. It felt like she just stepped right out of one of those magical girl shows, you know?" Nostalgia touches on her lips, in her eyes as they crack open. "We were stationed out in Cape Cod at the time. The two of us snuck out to this wildlife preserve, Beech Forest. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole time, like we were having some secret love affair. You know, dumb kid stuff. We cuddled, we kissed, and I felt like I was on fire. All my nerves were just electric." She tilts her head and rubs at her forehead with her ring finger and thumb, as her smile turns ruefully abashed like someone spontaneously reliving a nightmare of embarrassment.

"That's probably why it took me so long to realize I had ended up on top of an anthill."

She can't help it; she laughs. She looks at Rachel, brow creased with a very different kind of nostalgia. "We were both screaming. I distinctly remember her hitting me with her jacket a couple times trying to knock them off of me. It was probably the most magical and most mortifying day of my life. Trying to explain what happened to the colonel without really explaining was an experience, that's for sure."

For a moment, that green gaze goes just a little distant. The self-effacing mirth bleeds from her a bit with the snag of her tooth against the corner of her lip.

Ultimately, she finds her consolation in her bottle.

"I guess my point is, you don't have to worry. Compared to me, you're doing great. Besides, this is my first time dating a superhero, so let's just say we're on equal footing." It's technically true. And that's the best kind.

"So I think I'm going to help your anxiety a bit at the risk of shattering all this mystique I've been carefully cultivating by ordering a giant-ass hamburger I'll instantly feel guilty about eating. I'll be in a very bad place so I might need you to stick around and console me afterward." A red brow quirks up. "What do you say?"


As Kate offers her foolproof plan to meet women, Rachel takes another drink of water. Her eyes are smiling before she's through, though when she sets down the glass she's composed enough to retort with a sardonic little "ha ha."

It doesn't take psychic powers to figure that Kate's sudden attack of wistfulness (complete with a heavy sigh!) means that she has something to say. Rachel gets comfortable — actually comfortable, not posed like before — and waits for Kate to make it there on her own time.

The story draws a thoughtfulness out of the younger woman. Her gaze drifts off at some point as she imagines a place and time and experience that she was never a part of. For Rachel, in her unusual and displaced position in life, dreaming of such things has become second nature. The rueful silence draws her eye again, and she studies the lines of Kate's smile right before the punchline drops.

Kate laughs. Rachel stares at her in a look that is equal measures horror and humor, with a little dash of bemusement for taste.

"Noooo," she says, finally pulling her beer closer also. "Wow, that's… noooo."

She drinks. Kate offers a deal. Rachel casts a conspiratorial side-eye in the other woman's direction. "How about," she begins, formulating the phrasing carefully as if it were a contract: "We both do that and bond over the shame."

Rachel straightens up, raising her voice as she looks toward the kitchen window. "Hey, Mike?" she calls. "Two burgers, everything on 'em that you haven't put away yet."

Rachel settles again and tilts her beer toward Kate, raising her eyebrows. Good compromise, huh? Something catches her imagination shortly thereafter, though, because it's her turn to look off into the distance.

"My only real relationship was with this boy named Franklin. We grew up together. When you're around each other that much, I guess sometimes you just grow into each other." A silence. A good detective might guess that this is where she's skipping over a part of the story that she doesn't want to tell. Rachel glances downward, away from that indeterminable distance, and then taps the side of her bottle as if she were knocking on wood.

"It feels like a different lifetime now. I was a completely different person. I haven't had a serious thing with anyone since."

Rachel glances at Kate, and then turns to face her more openly, making a concerted effort to put a perk back in her voice. "First lady crush, though, was actually that nosy BFF I mentioned." She makes a slicing gesture with her free hand that must mean 'no.' "She doesn't know this, so don't tell her. I had just gotten out of a really traumatic time in my life, and we were roommates, and she was just a little boy crazy at the time, so I never said anything."

Rachel scrunches up her nose. "I may have over-corrected too much in trying not to show interest and came off as cold, because I think for awhile she thought I was a bitch."


Wow, that's… noooo.

"I think that's exactly what Kelly Bennett said, too," reflects Kate Kane on those bygone days, with the hint of mirth that comes when enough years have passed by to look at a thing in good humor. Some things, not nearly enough time can pass.

"I'm pretty sure I looked like I belonged on the set of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes for a solid week. Not my proudest time."

Fortunately, this is not one of them.

But Rachel offers her conspiratorial compromise. She tilts that beer towards Kate. "Mutual humiliation, huh?" And the taller redhead considers…

… before she leans in once more so that she may *clink* her bottle in sacred pact with Rachel's.

"To our future bonding."

A second passes by, before Kate looks towards the kitchen. She raises one hand to her mouth before calling out, "No cheese on mine, Mike!" before casting an apologetic glance Rachel's way. Not quite so equal in greasy fatty shame, maybe, but —

'I'll make it up to you,' she mouths, like it were a secret she could not even risk whispers to share.

Those moments of facile warmth, however, taper off as Rachel starts to speak again. Now it's her time to listen, and in this much, Kate is attentive. But it's not just that. She sees, after all, the way that silence settles over Rachel. Sees how her gaze grows more distant. Kate knows that look well.

And, by not bringing it up, she also knows well that some things are better left in the privacy of their respective pasts.

"It happens," she sympathizes, after a moment, glossing over the untold story to focus on the one she knows. "Someone knows you so well, has been with you so long, it's… hard, to imagine a life without them. Sometimes even after you're living that life."

Dance around the subject. Sidestep it neatly. Avoid the mess. Kate drains that beer before casting a perfectly lopsided smile Rachel's way, with the subtle heft of her brows.

"Your secret's safe with me, Rach, for as long as I live and breathe," she promises. "But you're gonna owe me one, if I'm going to be taking something this juicy to my grave."

Eventually, though, she lapses back into silence. She turns in her stool again so that she may face Rachel, her hands hanging between her knees. "It's hard to know where things stand sometimes, though. Don't beat yourself up too much. I have plenty more embarrassing stories from the vault Kelly Bennett came from. Not that many serious relationship stories, though. I guess we're in the same boat, there. My last one…"

Kate's brows furrow. Memories return unbidden; ultimately, she simply shakes her head as if to loose them, or dismiss the thought entirely.

"… I guess we just brought out the worst in each other."

The silence could linger. Questions could form. Kate doesn't allow it. Instead, she leans forward a bit, brows inching upwards as if in tandem with her forward motion. "Embarrassing stories, talking about exes, eating messy foods in front of each other — I think we're leaping way past second date material already. We're not that great at this, huh?"


"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?" says Rachel, confused. At what that is. Because of her age. You brought this upon yourself, Kate Kane.

She does answer Kate's silently mouthed promise with a wry smile, so that's something.

The mess is neatly avoided. Rachel keeps up her added perk enough that it becomes a natural part of the proceedings. She feigns a scandalized look when Kate teases about who owes who — for the record, Kate has to make something up to Rachel, but Rachel owes her one, with no indications of how these currencies exchange — and looks appropriately apologetic when the line of conversation brings Kate to another silent little trove of memories.

Rachel doesn't press. It makes it easy for Kate to play defense, at least.

"You're right," says Rachel, twisting her lips with chagrin. "If this were a normal first date, bringing up exes would be a red flag. Not messy foods, though. I'm too punk rock."

Anyone who flatly pronounces punk rock like that is either the exact opposite of punk rock or precisely punk rock.

Rachel is still working on her beer, only halfway versus Kate's finished. She doesn't seem pressured to catch up now. Her fingers creep along the length of the bottle, wiping away bits of condensation, as she approaches the problem with thoughtfulness.

"How about," she says, "we try some generic lines. Like… what do you do for fun, what do you do for a living, and what's your favorite movie? Maybe that'll bump our ratings up."


And now she feels old. She really does have no one but herself to blame.

"Alright, we're going to fix that, if only for the sake of my wounded pride."

Not that Kate is not proactive in fixing her problems, at least.

The complex matters of terrible B-movies and whose date debts trumps whose aside, the Kane heiress lets her empty bottle slide a handful of inches across the countertop. Apology is met with a simple if otherwise inscrutable look of gratitude on the part of Kate Kane — but it's Rachel's declaration that inspires in the other woman a look of quiet critique.

"Oh really," she says with no follow up despite their begging to be some, as if she were quietly pocketing this pronouncement for later consideration. It's probably not for anything bad.

Kate knows how punk Rachel is, after all. She saw how effortlessly she rocked that jacket.

Whatever might come of those two words, though, for now, that quiet questioning just gives way to a small, silent smile as Rachel's pace seems to relax, just a bit, as the conversation goes on. It's a smile that blossoms into a full blown grin at the other redhead's suggestion, perfectly restrained delight sparking in those green eyes to give just a hint of the unvoiced laughter within. Her head tilts. Lips part.

"I think you're onto something here," she answers, white teeth flashing behind the part of dark, grinning lips. "Alright. Let's see. 'Play guitar and pretend that makes me a musician, insert any insane thing you've heard rich people like to do for fun here'; ''philanthropy,' which is a fancy way of saying 'nothing'; and ''The Deer Hunter' but I've also got a soft spot for 'Desert Hearts'.'"

One elbow on the counter, cheek propped against her palm, Kate Kane gives a brief nod of her head Rachel Summers' way. Her next questions are uttered so painfully rote through the mischief of her expression they practically sound like they're being read off a cue card:

"Your turn. What, Rachel Summers, would your perfect vacation look like? What are you always game for? What do you do to unwind?"

She could make an excellent game show host.


"Uggghhh," Rachel exhales in throaty misery, falling forward onto the counter to bury her face in her arms. Her voice is muffled but she fights through it for the moment. "You're too good at that. It's freaking me out a little."

Mike comes by, fills up water, and takes Kate's empty bottle.

"Thanks, Mike," Rachel muffles.

The younger redhead eventually finds the strength to sit up again, taking in a cleansing breath and then looking over to Kate again with eyes narrowed in mischief yet to be wrought.

"First off, fixing what?" says Rachel, showing a shadow of a grin that tips she's playing up for tease value at this point. She is more genuine when she purses her lips while considering Kate's list. "I expected all of that except for the movies. I've never seen those. I guess I'm three for three, huh?"

She passes by the question quickly, instead shrugging, uncertain but unconcerned. "At least that means movie night."

And at least she has sussed out that the killer tomatoes belong in a movie.

Rachel reaches up to muss her hair back into place, which is a good excuse to take some time and consider her answers. "I think," she says, once again careful but this time for good reason, "I'm going to answer those in reverse. To unwind I like listening to music, especially live, so you've got that going for you. Also trawling resale shops for fashion ideas. I've been thinking of taking up… acting, or something. Like community theater. I don't know. I work out but that's more like routine."

Rachel pushes off from the bar, spinning her stool back to face Kate. "I'm always game for visiting someplace new. I might have a problem where I get restless if I'm in one place too long."

The last one gets a longer silence. Long enough that Rachel raises a finger to show that she's still thinking. Her coming to an answer is presaged by her bashfully glancing away.

"This will sound incredibly bougie but my perfect vacation would be someplace comfortable, but there's no random people, preferably out in nature, and I'm with someone or someones I like."

Rachel looks up to seek Kate's response. She spreads her hands, empty palms up, to show she's done and ready for grading.


"Sorry," says Kate Kane, clearly not sorry, as Rachel bemoans her skill with pablum, "but this is just part of the rigors of a normal first date."

Those next moments are a wonder of watching the ways the former West Point cadet's expression shifts throughout her date's tiered answers. The way her expression just flattens in that perfect way that sells Rachel's tease sublimely when she asks that all-too-innocently oblivious question. The way it shifts, regaining expression with a softening smile of promise when the other redhead brings up the prospect of a movie night. The way it shows a knowing patience when Rachel tidies up her hair, skillfully stalling for time.

And when the answers to those questions come — she is once more unreadable in that quiet, calm way of hers. That steady confidence that feels so difficult to track and all the harder to parse as she leans her side into the counter top, her pale fingers working their way briefly through her short mane of vibrant red hair. A quiet snort issues about the music; the flash of a grin complements it like a gift. The lift of her eyebrows follow after, interest in her gaze and the faint part of her lips as Rachel brings up acting, as if compelled to ask a question or make some commentary but restraining herself or the sake of playing the role of a rapt audience.

The way her gaze grows so distant as Rachel talks about visiting new locales that someone could practically envision the places she's imagining just by looking at her. The way her smile couples with that look at Rachel's inability to stay in one place too long is the look of a kindred spirit.

And that brief flicker of fondness in her pale features, as Rachel looks so sheepishly aside, means…

By the time Rachel looks at her, Kate is silent, impassive, as if rendering judgment. And her edict:

"You're going to have to wait until I can find a guitar that can live up to the legacy of its predecessor," she warns, first and foremost.

"But I think I'd like to see you act, too."

And as for the rest?

"That's a pretty damn bougie answer, Rach," she grimly confirms… and then that smile returns, touching at the corners of her lips all the way to her eyes.

"… But I can't think of anything better than being alone with someone I care about, either, so I guess we'll have to be insufferable together." Her head cants. Brow quirks.

"We'll just have to be careful about the ant hills."

She could leave it at that. But instead, she leans forward slowly. Slowly, until she is at the edge of her seat, crossing the moderate gulf that lies between them, one hand perched on the counter, stare full of a quiet intensity. Leaning in…

"… Alright. This is the last question. The one that'll make or break this relationship. My heart is on the line here, Rach."

So that she may whisper, with all due gravity:

"Who… is your favorite punk band?"

See? Tabled, for later.


Rachel can't look away from Kate too long. Kate must notice — it's hard not to see someone constantly checking your reaction or just staring at your face when you're looking right at them. It's especially bad when Kate grows quiet and calm. Something about that seems to speak to Rachel, to seize her attention in a way that is equally quiet but perhaps more longing than anything else. She guards it well, and yet…

Kate lifts an eyebrow at Rachel's mention of acting. Rachel's face pinks ever so slightly.

…there's a few tells.

"I'm terrible at acting," she says in what is almost certainly a lie, considering the rest of the evening's events. She folds her hands in her lap, seeming pleased. "But I think I'd like being insufferable together."

Kate turns on the drama. Rachel, sensing the moment, composes her expression and leans forward to match. The both of them perched on the edges of their respective seats, the both of them leaned in, Rachel succeeding at looking serious and intense if not for the slight parting of her lips.

…!!

Rachel opens her mouth, closes it, and nods her head once in acceptance.

"X-Ray Spex," she says. "Honorable mention to the Cramps."


A few tells. It's easy to miss for most people, likely, even with the constant looks, the searching glances. But she sees it there, in the faint flush of Rachel's cheeks. In the little undercurrents of her tone, here and there. It paints a picture that Kate can't help but notice, within those stretches of silence between their sublime back and forth.

I'm terrible at acting, Rachel insists.

"That's probably the only bit of bad acting I've seen from you all night," Kate rebuts, without so much as missing a beat.

But I think I'd like being insufferable together.

And maybe that's why, midway through Rachel's all important, future-defining answer, she might feel the warmth of Kate's palms sliding over her folded hands until her fingers can find their way around them. Maybe that's why her expression is so utterly controlled as she watches those lips part and listens to the band names that tumble from them.

Maybe that's why she casts her judgment by leaning forward the rest of the way, and pressing a quiet, lingering kiss to the corner of those lips.

"I can live with that."

She remains there, for a moment. Wordless, as if just indulging within those scant few seconds of silence that come after. And when she pulls back, she only pulls back enough for them to be face to face. Just enough.

"Hey," she begins, voice hushed. "How about we take the burgers to go and find a nice spot to be a tiny bit insufferable?"


Rachel lets Kate's rebuttal slide by with only a slight narrowing of her eyes to communicate you win this round, you smooth jerk.

In a highly theoretical and certainly not at all real alternate universe where this is all being watched by third parties for entertainment value, it might be easy to write off Rachel as an ingenue being too easily taken with a few meaningful looks and a bit of attention. In some remote sense, maybe that is a little true. Maybe.

Midway through Rachel's all-important, future-defining answer, she feels the warmth of Kate's palms sliding over her folded hands, fingers gently wrapping around, holding them both together. Rachel's voice catches on the first syllable of 'honorable.' Only a moment. She pushes through, finishing her thought with the rest of her shallow breath.

In a much more immediate sense, Kate Kane is a creature of confidence and charisma the likes of which Rachel has rarely known.

It has been the silences that have truly defined these flirtations. The loud parts lent character, to be sure, with all their clever repartee and bombastic play-acting. There's meaning to be found there, hidden behind the layers woven by people who have grown accustomed to speaking through masks both metaphorical and literal.

The silences, though — the looks, the smiles, the touches. Is it any wonder that a human being could be born a psychic? People are halfway there already.

For a moment, Rachel is still, letting herself be kissed. Only a moment, and then she leans forward into it, gladly spoiling the delicate sweetness of the framing with a showing of hunger. When Kate pulls back, Rachel stays put, opening her eyes to rejoin the world.

Mike the cook walks out of the kitchen with two hamburgers on two plates. He immediately turns around and walks back into the kitchen.

Rachel looks lost in the best way. After a few beats of silence, it seems like Kate might have to ask the question again. But, because the detective has already figured out that Rachel was lying about being a terrible actress, it may be little surprise that the younger woman delivers her line with dreamy expression intact but deadpan tone in full effect.

Messy burgers and making out?

"That sounds really kinky, Kate."

Rachel slides off her stool, a skip in her step as she walks by the other woman and picks up her jacket.

That must be a yes.


Actions speak louder, they say. It's not wholly true, of course — words have a real power to them that so many people ignore, indulging in the wishful thinking that brains hardwired around perceiving and relating through language couldn't also be affected by it.

But there are some things more powerful than a whole mountain of wordplay could ever sufficiently compare to.

Maybe these are those moments. Maybe they're not. But for Kate, they're more than enough to let herself get lost in. She forgets the world, forgets the problems on the horizon, forgets all the potential complications even this relationship might have in store for her — for them — and just focuses the entirety of herself on that kiss. Rachel leans in.

And the way Kate reciprocates that hungrier turn speaks volumes in and of itself.

Kate's gaze is two half-lidded slivers of green. She can feel her bruised jaw protesting, but she ignores it. She can feel those little butterflies of trepidation in her stomach, but she ignores those too. Her next exhale is a heavier one as Mike, pro that he is, immediately about-faces back into the comforts of the kitchen.

"Thanks, Mike," Kate says, without so much as a single glance.

You have to appreciate a professional.

But her attention is on Rachel. In the dreamlike quality of her in that moment. In the perfected deadpan of her voice. A hypothetical audience might easily assume Rachel Summers was naive and gullible being taken in by a smooth operator.

That sounds really kinky, Kate.

But really, Kate knows better.

"It's all part of sharing the shame, Rach."

Rachel all but hops past. Kate doesn't join immediately; she just watches the mutant superstar superhero go, with all the ways this will inevitably become messy on her mind before she slides comfortably out of her chair. She stretches. Swipes and slings her jacket. And pays for their meal, to go. With a very generous tip and a few kind words for Mike, pro amongst pros. And all those potential problems slip away again as Kate walks out that door.

Worth it, she decides.

It'll all be worth it.

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