Need a Lift?


chess3_icon.gif luther_icon.gif miles2_icon.gif

Scene Title Need A Lift?
Synopsis Though she didn't call for a lift, Chess gets one anyway in the form of Luther and Miles.
Date March 5, 2020

Kansas City, Missouri

Outside, the day is crisp and sunny, with bright blue skies dotted here and there with a cloud. The cheerful red brick building belonging to SESA is as charming as the others in the downtown area of the nation’s capital, belying the seriousness of the discussions — interrogations — that have taken place inside, over the past few days regarding whatever it was that happened in Detroit.

The door opens — as it has several times this afternoon. This time, it’s finally Chess. Not sporting her leather jacket nor her courier bag, she’s dressed in unfamiliar clothes — not quite the right fit, not quite her style.

She looks up at the sky, squinting in the bright sunshine; physically, she seems well enough, if a little pale. Tired. Chess takes a shaky breath and turns toward the street, then freezes when she sees Luther and Miles.

She hadn’t called for a lift.

Miles certainly had reservations about coming here today with Luther. Sure, the last time he’d seen Chess, it had gone okay. No tears. He didn’t say anything too horrible. They’d even hugged at the end! But that could also be an argument for leaving it on a positive note, before anything else could go wrong.

However, against…well, maybe not better judgement. Who knows whether it would be better or not, we’re not precognitive. In present company. Anyway. The point is that he //is here, and looking only slightly apprehensive. He even smiles when Chess turns toward them! Sure, it’s a small smile, but it’s there. “Door to door service,” he quips with a lifted hand, as though there’s nothing odd about this situation at all.

Several times throughout the day thus far, Luther has been restless with hope. Miles has watched the man straighten anticipatorily, hunch over disappointedly, and look toward the door then away in thinly veiled frustration after the reveal hasn't been the face he's sought. Any temptation, any suggestion to leave, quashed inwardly and forcibly sent away in favor of patience, of trust. The system is supposed to work this time. The system they fought for in this timeline. Bled for. Died for.

Luther glances up again when the door opens. He straightens and pushes up to a stand. The laser focus of his stare on the sight of Chess emerging. She'll notice he's cleaned up since she last saw him. He's got a suit jacket on, a shirt with buttons, like he had been expecting to go in to important business-attire places and argue. The staring is all he manages before Miles' quip provides the kick and the rest of him lurches into gear. One step, then another, and another, and he pauses.

"We gotta appreciate the frequent flier Miles we're racking up," Luther tacks on to the teleporter's note. There, a wry smile crawls up the side of his mouth.

Dark eyes dart from one man to the other, before Chess looks over her shoulder and then down the street, as if she might just run.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time either Luther or Miles have had to deal with that.

Chess shakes her head, lips parting, maybe to argue. But then they tremble, her face crumpling when a sob overtakes her. She does run —

straight into Luther’s chest, where she buries her face against his coat jacket. Her fingers catch on the fabric of his sleeves. Her voice, ragged, is muffled by the fabric.

“I’m so sorry.”

The pun elicits a snort, but though it’s a little dry there’s definitely some amusement there. It can’t be the first time he’s heard it, or something similar, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still funny. He stops, though, when Chess gets that look as though she’s about to bolt for God knows where. Not just stops, but stills, like she’s a deer that he’s afraid to startle, or something of that nature. He may not know her that well yet, but he’s become familiar with that particular habit.

When she does not, in fact, bolt — or, rather, she does, but toward them rather than away — it’s a whole different kind of weirdness, apparently. Miles glances down, then away, with some pretense at giving them privacy when in reality he’s standing right next to them. He shifts again, this time from one foot to the other as his hand comes up to run back through his hair.

Also a little more grey on the roots all over, Luther notably hasn't groomed to that point. Not that Chess would detect with her face pushed against his jacket. A faint, low grunt escapes to betray his own emotional instability crumbling along the edges of a steadier foundation. He clutches her closely to him, hushing, soothing. "Hey, shh. You don't got anything to be sorry about. You're okay." Gently he runs his fingers overtop the blonde bits of her hair and lets out a relieved sigh.

After a blink he glances back to Miles, exchanging a look full of gratitude to the teleporter. "We're here now, we're okay," Luther says after a beat. The inclusive we perhaps unwittingly puts Miles in a further awkward position, but there's no denying it, Miles is in at the very least for a penny.

Reluctant though he is to let go, Luther unwinds his crushing hug enough to give Chess an opportunity to breathe. "Can't imagine the week you've had," he adds, "Did the fed give you much trouble? Did they give you anything to eat? Coffee?" By the last, he glances back to Miles and the brow arches in question to the other man to gauge him too.

Chess’ shoulders hitch and she shakes her head vehemently at Luther’s assertion that she has nothing to apologize for. He can feel her trembling, and when he lets go, she folds her arms across her chest, holding on to the opposite elbows as if that might keep her from falling apart.

She shakes her head at the first question, a nod to the second, eyes cast down for a moment. When she looks up, it’s strangely Miles she finds easier to focus on, and he receives the smallest of smiles. Apologetic, because she’s crying again.

Eventually, she looks back up at Luther, and her brows knit together again as she tries to find the words she’s dreaded all week. Words that will make the nightmare of what she’s been through more real, more final, than the week in gray cells and gray clothes talking to Feds and drinking bad coffee.

“Eve,” Chess whispers, looking from Luther to Miles — though Miles didn’t know her the same way the other Miles did, Eve was his friend, too.

She can’t say what comes next, to admit her part in the death of their friend. “I didn’t want to,” she chokes out, instead. “I tried to reach her, but-”

Her voice cracks and she covers her face with both hands, shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

The “we” has Miles looking back that way again, and a hint of the previous smile returns as he nods. “Yeah,” he says, “We’re here.” And he starts to say something else, too, but Chess is crying, and that stops whatever it was. The smile doesn’t face, though it does take on a more sympathetic cast in light of the vague apologetic nature of hers, and it’s accompanied by a tiny shrug.

Regarding Eve, though…if he had been thinking about saying something again, that would have stopped it very well, too. There’s a bit of confusion momentarily, since she doesn’t clarify — but after a moment, understanding dawns. Or at least, some understanding. The basics. Enough. He glances away again and down, reaching up to run a hand back through his hair.

"It's okay, Chess, it's okay. Eve's gone, I know," Luther soothes softly, rubbing a comforting hand on one of her shaking shoulders. He, like Miles, doesn't yet know the worse details beyond what's been reported through news media. Beats pass with only more silence on his part as Luther contemplates those events, and what to do, to say. He doesn't deny the horror of trauma either way.

Once more he hugs Chess tightly to him. A hand brushes down straying wisps of blonde and he leans over to gently kiss the top of her head. A fatherly gesture, revealing the relief in the man simply being able to hold his daughter again.

He takes a steadying breath after, turning back to look at Miles again and planning next steps silently in the look. "There's a place pretty close to here," he says, nodding in its direction, "serves decent coffee. C'mon, we can walk." He encourages the movement of their little group by a step that-a-way. It's not how they got from NYC to KCMO, for sure, and the lack of a vehicle becomes more obvious by it. Luther twists a faintly sheepish smile at them both. "Give Miles a break, poor guy's just startin' to learn the shit state of things in this world he's popped into and how he's managed to get stuck with us." Sorry about that, Miles. But not sorry, too.

Chess shakes her head again. It isn’t okay. Nothing is. She doesn’t argue, but reaches up to wipe her eyes, looking away from both of the men in the direction of the coffee shop Luther alludes to.

The thought of being in public makes her stomach hurt. The world thinks she’s a terrorist, even if she’s gotten her ‘get out of jail free’ card after a week of interrogations.

But Miles does deserve a break, so she nods.

“Thanks for coming,” she manages to say, glancing up at Miles to include him in the sentiment, though it comes off a little perfunctory. “I, uh, hadn’t really planned on what I was going to do to get home.” She has a temporary ID but nothing else on her person — no cell phone, no cash.

Miles shrugs, Luther’s words drawing his gaze over there as he lets out a snort. “Shit states are relative,” he quips lightly as they start to walk toward, well…wherever Luther is taking them.

His hands slide into his pockets, though when Chess speaks he looks that way, and he grins. It’s still a little bit less than normal, but it’s an attempt. “Here I come, to save the daaaaaay!” he sings, one hand coming out to wave slowly back and forth as he does a la Andy Kaufman. Maybe it’s meant to break the tension a little. Whether it works or not is anybody’s guess.

"The world will try 'n screw us no matter what we do," Luther agrees wryly with Miles' quip. "The war just gave us a chance to get up and punch back." He tries to sound optimistic underneath, even though the Miles of this time didn't get back up, and moves so that Chess has the chance to reach for support on either side of her. "Whatever happened out there," he continues quietly to her, "you're still standing." That's important enough to note. Luther mock-grimaces at Miles' singing, adding a stage-whispered aside, "That, and you gotta save me from Mighty Mouse over here." However, the man approves of Miles' tension breaking notes, telling the teleporter, "You're volunteering to get the check huh, mighty kind of you."

Chess huffs a small laugh at Miles’ Andy Kaufman impersonation. She doesn’t know it’s an Andy Kaufman impersonation, nor who Mighty Mouse is, so both his joke and Luther’s pun are a bit lost on her.

She appreciates the effort anyway.

“Well, one of you will have to pay. I left my everything in my other pants.” Her own joke is feeble, and though she tries to smirk, her lower lip wobbles and she bites it, looking down again.

She walks in silence for a few steps, before she looks up at Miles and then Luther, her hands coming up to catch each of their arms.

“Is Kimberly okay?” she asks suddenly, her eyes widening. “Alix… I think she has to serve time.” Chess doesn’t speak the other names of her other sisters. Vi. Ivy. Val. Lanhua. She can’t.

“You liked it,” Miles retorts with a bit of a smug grin on his face as he looks over at Luther. It’s definitely better than having to stand awkwardly, so surely he’s appreciative of that. “I got it,” he confirms at the mention of cash, or lack thereof, and he even humors Chess with a little huff of amusement, though it doesn’t last too long.

That she comes over to take his arm as well as Luther’s is obviously a surprise, but after a brief moment’s ‘freeze’ response, he relaxes, and he doesn’t jerk his arm away or anything. However, he doesn’t reply, letting Luther field those particular questions.

In all likelihood, Luther and Miles are going to pony up the cash for the meal after some thrown sidelong glances. That's for later, though. For now, concerns about Kimberly and Alix have slowed their stroll. Luther balks more out of hesitation to state things while out in the open, but at least it's not panic. The man works his bearded jaw.

"Shit, wonder how long," he says on Alix, casting a glance back over his shoulder to the gray building. "Kim's… she's taking it easy," adds Luther after the pause and looks back to Chess and Miles. "Giving her some time to sort out what the fuck happened out on the boat. And we'll work on clearing her with the fed too. She should be in the clear." Because Chess is, too, and Lanhua isn't popping up soon. As far as they all know.

Luther lays his hand on Chess' lightly, his fingers offering a reassuring squeeze on her knuckles. "And, I mean, if it's really going to come down to some more bullshit with SESA, we'll figure out what to do. So long as it doesn't wind up like Japan." He hopes. He nods towards Miles as well, angling his head to encourage them on.

Chess looks at Luther, jaw set and eyes narrowing a little, as if she could see through the vague wording to the truth. Neither of them knows what the other has endured. There’s so much to ask. So much to tell.

This sidewalk in Kansas City is not the place for it.

“I think we’re all that’s left,” she says softly, watching her feet on the pavement and biting her lip to keep it from trembling, to keep the sob that wells in her chest contained.

She clearly isn’t ready to explain what happened to the others. “Everything’s so fucked up. I didn’t call you because it didn’t feel like I should have something good yet. It feels like…” she doesn’t look at either man as she searches for the right word. “Betrayal.”

Chess exhales out a breathy laugh though there’s no amusement in it, merely frustration at the limitations of words. “If that makes sense.”

More survivor’s guilt — she’s had it for years but never put that name to it — in addition to the new burden of what happened to Eve.

Miles turns away again as the discussion turns to Alix and Kimberly. His hands slide back into his pockets, shoulders hunching a little bit as he squints up at the sky. His mouth twists a little bit at the mention of Japan, but other than that he stays quiet.

It does make sense, but to Luther it is anything but. A hand lifts and pushes stray strands of hair away from her face looking up at him. "Hey, no. It's all we can do with what we're given. You did what you thought was best," he starts to say but frowns mildly when he realizes that could come off dismissive. Still, the man grabs at the core of the intention and presses on, "You, Alix, and Kim… I can live with that." Most importantly, is the living part.

The man sighs softly, leaving the rest of the sentiment and worries of the moment unspoken. They'd deal with the situations that could arise later.

The next beat finds Luther glancing back over to the quiet teleporter, and he can't help the small sigh that escapes again. Sorry, Miles, is what that faint grunted sound is for. "What about this guy?" he directs the topic away from past and into present. A second glance drops down to Chess and he arches up a brow.

Chess huffs a small breathy laugh at Luther’s acceptance of the dwindling sisterhood — it was just her, Alix, and Kimberly when she left for California, after all, so there’s no real loss there. For her, it’s complicated and confusing, a tangled mess of deceit and betrayal she hasn’t yet figured out how to unwind.

The question directs her eyes over to Miles, and she squeezes his arm lightly where she’s still holding it, before sliding her hands into her pockets as well. “Part of the tribe,” she says with a small smile. “I mean, if he’ll have us. We pretty much put the dys in dysfunction.”

She glances from one man to the other. “So tell me something good. Each of you. Make it up if you have to. We can talk about this shit later but I really want some waffles and I really don’t want to cry while eating them, so cheer me up.”

Opening the door to the diner Luther had pointed out, the worries and fears of the last few days are tabled for future discussions. For at least a few minutes, the only talk will be of what to order from a vast selection of breakfast foods.

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