A Lot of Maybes


chess_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title A Lot of Maybes
Synopsis Not much seems certain for Luther and Chess, except that they're family.
Date July 1, 2018

Phoenix Heights

The summer day is picturesque enough in this little street. A few kids play some form of street hockey with rules unfathomable to anyone over the age of twelve. A pair of mothers run by with racer strollers, complete with babies inside. Postbellum life here in looks almost normal, if one doesn’t zoom out for a broader view of the neighborhood — or the city beyond.

Chess sits on the top step of the stoop to one of the townhouses, arms resting loosely on knees. At a glance, she seems to be watching the hockey game, but she doesn’t react to the fouls or foibles of the children. Her mind is elsewhere. It’s not the safest state of mind to be in, given she’s the target of assassins bent on sororicide, who could show up at any minute.

Approaching on foot from a northern direction, Luther has left his company vehicle parked between buildings, out of the way of the street hockey game going on. The mothers with strollers are sidestepped, given a nod from the tall man whose brownstone stoop appears to be occupied by one distracted Chess. Luther frowns slightly upon recognizing her, picking up his pace and coming to stand before her at the lowest step. A brow lifts in concern. “Chess?” He shifts a long brown paper bag in hand, the container looking like it’s seen more than one use by its wrinkled state, and heads up the stairs to join her. Though he doesn’t ask what’s wrong, there does stand the everpresent, silent question in the man’s expression. Instead, he notes, “You want to talk out here, or we can go inside.” Assassins be damned, it’s fairly decent weather for the moment.

The young woman blinks, clearly shaken from her thoughts by his voice, rather than having picked up on his approach by the sound of footsteps or peripheral vision. It’s unlike her. She stands when she sees him and offers him a half smile.

“Inside’s good.”

She steps aside so he can go to the door, her gaze dropping to the paper-wrapped bottle he carries, but not offering comment. “If you have anything going on, I can come back later. I just didn’t want to go…”

Home is the word she was going to say — but it’s not the right one.

The half smile is mirrored, Luther stepping past to turn keys and unlock the way. “Don’t be ridiculous, you’re always welcome to stay here, you know.” He holds the door for her, a short tilt of his head gesturing - practically shooing - her into the confines of the living quarters. “Better now that you’re here anyway,” he says following after her entry.

A pause to lock the door after them, then he’s squinting slightly at the bit of mess he’d left on the common room table. That’s also not like him, but, he doesn’t comment on it outside of a short “have a seat” and hand wave to an empty spot on the sleeper sofa. The paper bag with bottle is set down on the cleared table. She’s free to help herself to it. “Take it you were hanging out somewhere else. Not the armory, I hope.” Because it’s got history attached to it now.

She follows him in, dropping the everpresent courier bag at the base of the sofa before dropping onto the cushions. Her gaze takes in the state of the apartment, but she’s not one to point out someone else’s housekeeping shortcomings. Especially when she’s all but homeless.

“No, I haven’t been back there,” she says. “I’m usually at Benchmark, but sometimes crash other places. I gave that kid the van, so I only go by to make sure he’s got something to eat and some company now and then.”

She rests her head on the back of the sofa for a moment, staring up at the ceiling. The moment stretches, almost palpably, like a piece of clay growing thinner and more taut, before she speaks again.

“Can you mourn the loss of something you never had?”

A low throaty noise comes out of Luther for the mention of the young man recently rescued from the bunker. The reminder of the effect of his power lingers as a faint memory, but it’s there as a different sort of stranglehold. “I’ll grab you a spare key for this place. Not here all the time now with some stuff going on at the company, and with what Ducky told us.” Which has been a lot, and there’s yet more to unpack about it. He hasn’t yet, it seems.

He’d say more on the business at hand, but silence is also welcome to let things process. Luther returns to the common room after cleaning up in the kitchen, dropping a couple of freshly cleaned glasses onto the table and going through the motions of opening a fresh bottle of whiskey. A middling quality, purchased at high price from the bodega, but everyone’s got to make a living these days. He pours out a couple of ounces into both tumblers, nudging one over as she speaks up again.

A brow lifts at the question, then dips back down. “Sure,” he answers following a pause to really consider. “People do that all the time. Means you still got a mind enough to know it, and heart enough to hurt.” He brings his own glass up to take a short drink, then finds a spot beside her to sit. Shifting a glance over, Luther looks expectant of an explanatory statement without really asking for one. Like letting someone at confession talk themselves through their thoughts.

She’s quiet, nodding once to indicate she heard him mention the key or Ducky or both. When he pours the whiskey, she sits up again only to lean forward to take the glass, lifting it in a little mock toast, before swallowing half the contents.

“Yeah, I mean, in theory… I’ve done that. You know — mourn the loss of a future we’ll never have, that sort of thing.” She doesn’t name names, but he knows she means with Miles specifically, but also what might have been for the entire nation without the conflicts. Without the war.

Chess heaves a sigh and nestles deeper into the corner of the sofa. “I asked someone else to help find the others,” she says quietly. “I didn’t know she was a precognitive. I thought she was just a PI or something, and in case that agent gets caught up in red tape or something, I figured I’d try a second option.” There’s something of contrition in her tone — for not asking his opinion about it — but he’s known her long enough to know she forges ahead first and thinks second more often than not.

More nodding without words. Luther takes another short drink, perhaps in acknowledgment of those lost - people and futures. “‘Course, there’s enough here to worry about without trying to think about what would happen… or what would’ve happened, if there was just one thing changed.” In his turn to philosophize, Luther keeps the idea short. Alternate timelines are not his thing. He reaches over to grab the bottle, pouring a couple more shots down into their respective glasses. But he doesn’t down the refill right away, glancing back to Chess over his shoulder.

“Yeah? A precog… she knew what she was getting into, then,” he assumes with a wry and humored twist of a smirk. It fades a bit, though, after he considers, “Did she find any of them?” The man’s brow knits again with that thought. “They’re not…” Or they might all be dead, the others. He doesn’t give voice to the possibility, instead pinching the bridge of his nose as he tries to recall what Alix had said before.

The joke is just met with a flash of dark eyes and a soft sigh through the nose, unappreciative of the joke. Chess takes another swallow that empties the glass, grimacing just a little at its burn before sliding the empty glass back onto the table.

“Just one,” she says flatly.

She lets that answer sit there a moment — one of eight potential others. The implications are obvious.

But it’s not quite the whole answer. “I guess. I don’t know. She wasn’t very clear. She said there was one reflection in Alabama and another echo that was too distant or too little to touch, so maybe two.”

Chess huffs a small, unamused breath of a laugh. “I don’t miss the Langs, you know? I haven’t cried over leaving them, not seeing them. But I somehow feel like I miss these… “ she takes a shaky breath, “sisters that I don’t remember.”

Both palms come up to press into her eyes. “Fuck.”

Luther brings up his drink as he sees the joke fall flat, having sort of anticipated that much. When she answers how many, fingers drop away from his nose bridge and his gaze turns a little harder around the edges. A little brighter from the glint of a small feeling of anger tickling behind the expression, not directed at her but at the situation forced upon Chess.

Mention of Alabama, though, gets an uptick of his brow. And as he’s still thinking about the possibilities, he sees the woman’s steadiness waver, her hands come up to her eyes. Luther sets down his drink. “Hey… it’s okay,” he says quietly, presence looming in a way more like a stony boulder than a shoulder to lean on. But he’s there, and at the very least not as rock-like in physical texture, should she need.

A longer pause later, he glances back over. “Did you want to go get her? Get anything else besides Alabama? It’s a pretty big state.”

The offer sits for a moment and then Chess sighs, tipping to the side until she leans against Luther and her head rests on his shoulder. She drops her hands and reaches for a throw pillow to hug against herself.


To be fair, she didn’t ask that follow-up question, given the way the precognitive seemed to work. “She’s sort of like Eve but not. So I don’t think she got more than… you know. What Eve calls whispers and echoes.”

She stares at the whiskey bottle for a long moment — it’s a place to rest her gaze and will herself not to cry. “I’m not sure. Maybe she’s safer where she is. Maybe if we go, we bring trouble, you know? Maybe it’s what they think I’ll do.” Her shoulders lift in a shrug — felt more than seen by Luther. “Maybe Robyn will have more details. If she can find anything. Not everyone has fingerprints in the system. And a lot of records were lost.” The more she talks, the less certain she sounds.

“That’s a lot of maybes,” Luther points out, “But. If you want to go, you won’t go alone.” While she rests on one side, the other lifts his drink for a short sip. “Are you going to ask your… your sister, what she thinks of this?” He’s still hesitant on the relation, even though the man has assumably taken on Alix as part of the group to be mantled over. “I’m not sure how this’ll all shake out, but, we got to prepare for whatever - whoever - is gunning for you.”

He sighs, a low dissatisfied grumble in his chest. “How’d you even know about this other precog?” The question angles onto another line of thought. “Ducky put you on her?” Head turning, he glances down to the top of her head, a half smile sliding up a corner of his mouth. “Guess I’ve been too long out of the outside contacts game. Maybe my job’s making me soft.”

She smiles when he says she won’t have to go alone, then shakes her head when he asks if she’s talked to Alix. “Not yet. I don’t think she’d approve of it. But if they haven’t figured out where this other girl is, maybe she’s safe.”

Sitting up, she doesn’t pull away back to her corner, a rare tacit welcome for the proximity of another person. “No, I’d just heard in the grapevine she was good at finding shit out. I thought she was a private investigator or something, and figured if Robyn’s search didn’t pan out, hers might.”

She reaches for the bottle, pouring a little more into her glass then tipping the neck toward his glass to pour him some more. “It’s a little early,” is said in a matter-of-fact manner that doesn’t mean she won’t help him with that bottle. “You doing okay?”

Luther responds by keeping that smile up, but maybe something about her pouring out a refill tempers the man’s expression to something more neutral. He doesn’t answer right away, studies his drink for a long moment, and when he answers it’s noncommittal. “Sure, I’m okay.” Which is only a half-truth covered by a drink of the whiskey. “As okay as I can be, given all the stuff that’s been put on the plate.” With extra portions waiting to be served.

A second sidelong glance, and he rolls his shoulders back in a stretch, trying to appear more relaxed. He only succeeds a little. “Turns out the world we’re in is more fucked up than we thought it was after the war.” But, that admission comes with resignation for the situation overall. “It was a whole lot simpler back in those days in the trenches.”

Or so he would care to remember it.

Chess’ brows draw together as she studies Luther, maybe realizing that the “rock” isn’t as sturdy and tough as he has always been. “You’re about as okay as I am,” she says after a moment, taking a swallow from the glass before sliding it back onto the table.

Which is to say neither of them are okay.

“War is simple. Not the reasons for it and for fuck sure, not the complications that come from it. But in the moment — it’s kill or be killed. Your side versus their side,” she says with a shrug. “Life is a lot more complex than that. Everyone does what they think is right but we all have different values and beliefs as to what that is — and it’s harder to live with people we don’t agree with than to fight them.”

She leans her back into the arm rest, pulling her feet up onto the couch to sit cross legged and perpendicular to Luther. “What’s happening? I don’t… “ she glances down, making a face. “I don’t ask enough. So selfish.”

Luther nods slowly, gaze shifting more fully on to Chess for her wisdom. “What, you’re saying we’re not perfectly normal veterans just trying to make it in a post-war dystopia?” His laugh is more a snort. He knows, understands her concern. But when she turns to face him, he looks away and down to his drink. The thoughts weigh heavily, dragging on the man’s expression as he searches for how to respond.

He comes up with, “I don’t know, Chess.”

Knowing that it’s insufficient, he takes another drink enough to empty the glass and sets it down on the table, freed hand scrubbing at his jaw. “Guess, ever since we found out about you and your sisters, and then shit happening at Raytech, and finding Cora and Jibram, and now this Adam Monroe guy getting mixed up with you and your business somehow… and there’s a whole other side to all of this, too. There’s…” The hand that was on his jaw doesn’t leave it, but moves up as his head bows, grasping at the back of his head like he’s got a headache. But only a metaphysical one. The man inhales deeply, and blows it all out again before looking back to Chess, a grimace and tight line to his mouth pressed.

“All I really understand is this: I don’t want to see you hurting. Or anybody else around me, for that matter. And anybody who tries to come at you or them, is going to get the business end of a bat from me.” Or worse, is the implied overall threat to the world. “And the rest of me, will be alright. Okay? You worry about keeping out of trouble, but if you got need for some backup, you know I’ve got you.” He reaches a hand over to pat one of her knees, a reassuring touch.

Chess watches him, the worry never leaving her eyes under the scowling brows. “I’m sorry,” she says softly. “I wish I hadn’t gotten you wrapped up in this, but at the same time, I’m glad you’re here.” There’s a rueful smile for him at that. “You’re my family, you know? As much as — more than — the Langs or Alix or this ‘reflection’ in Alabama. Family I’ve chosen.”

She fiddles with the pillow she holds, fingers worrying the corner’s hem. “But if you can’t anymore, say the word. I don’t want anyone to get hurt on my account, you know? Whether it’s just… worrying over me to the point we’re drinking hard liquor at noon,” she smiles a bit wryly, “or, you know worse. Because I can’t deal with worse.” She swallows, and looks away. “Again.”

“Hey, hey no,” Luther says with a short shake of his head. “You’re my family too, and that you got stuff going on is not something you need to apologize for. Hell… that’s why we look out for each other. I’m glad you made it all the way here.” Especially given the circumstances of years ago, their situation was different. His eyes steady their focus on her for a moment, then flick back to the whiskey already almost half gone between them.

Luther reaches for it, fingers curling around the neck of the bottle and turning it to study the label without really reading it. “Yeah, I guess there’s something to be said about it…” he muses quietly, then sets the bottle back down without a refill of his glass. “But you know,” he says as he turns back to Chess, “even with all the shit that’s going on, none of it’s your fault. That might sound like a crazy notion. But, it’s not. And that gives us something we can work against. Gives us a target.”

One more rub of his hand against his jaw, and Luther breathes deeply, rolling his shoulders again. “We’ll get through it. Eve, Monica, Lynette, they all went through it too. You got one sister with Alix, too, so maybe we’ll find the others and get them on the same page. Get this Adam guy out of the way. Then… just bother ourselves with nothing else but living.” So the man’s ideas of an outline goes. Details to be hashed out as they come.

“I know,” Chess says quietly. “But family isn’t anything I was ever particularly good at.” She left hers in the rearview mirror and never looked back.

She reaches over to squeeze his hand in gratitude, then huffs that short breathy laugh of hers at his plan. “Yeah, easier said than done, I think. Eve calls him the freakin’ immortal, right? I’ll settle for not being hunted down because of my genetic code. ‘Cause I swear we already fought that war and won, right? Call me crazy.”

Heaving a sigh, she gets up from her slouch to head toward the kitchen. “You better have something in here to make lunch with,” she calls over her shoulder. Whiskey isn’t enough to fix some problems in the world.

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