Pieces of Stability


kaylee3_icon.gif luther_icon.gif

Scene Title Pieces of Stability
Synopsis Often times, you don't know what you need until it isn't there.
Date August 8, 2019

Kaylee's Apartment, RayTech NYCSZ Campus, Jackson Heights

It’s a good thing the neighbors understood.

The air was alive with the rhythm of a tune that could easily make someone want to move with the beat. It also drowned out the hum of the minds around her… mostly.

Kaylee’s head bops and hips swing to music as she dices celery with a skill learned in 1980’s New York. Her dress is casual, from hair pulled up into a swinging ponytail to a pair of jeans that have seen better days. She’s not exactly dressed for people today. Snagging a piece of celery to pop in her mouth, the rest are pushed together in a neat pile, and scooped into a very large soup pot that contained a hearty looking beef soup. In fact, the whole apartment smelled like it.

Sometimes, when worried or stressed, Kaylee would cook and/or clean…. And the apartment couldn’t get any cleaner. As her Granny would say, “You could eat off those floors.”

The telepath had no idea what she was going to do with all this soup, maybe part it out to her family in the building… and maybe feed Bob and Lou.

Once mixed in and a lid settled into place, Kaylee picked up her cell phone and looked at it yet again. She didn’t know what she was expecting, but the motion was almost ritual since the misdial last month. The last words texted her by Luther hadn’t changed for awhile. Her text being the last one in the series a few days ago, asking him how it was all going and if he’d be back soon.

The cell service was still spotty in the Safe Zone… Maybe he didn’t get the first one. Kaylee pondered sending it again. Thumbs hover over the letters, but with a heavy sigh, she forces herself to put it down. Face down.

Kaylee had no idea what was happening over there and it left an anxious knot in her middle. Not just for Luther, but Eve and the others with him, too. Looking at the phone, she reached over and turns it back over.

What if she misses an important text from work?! (Keep telling yourself that.)

Loafing on the back of the couch, Willy has decided to grace the room with his presence; eyes squinted like most cats do.

Kaylee’s lips pull into a bit of a frown, “Don’t you go judging me, mister?”

Willy’s response is simply a flick of a tail tip and more of that judgy squint.

Despite accusations of international terrorism being retracted and all, Luther still has been quiet on the textual front. Surely once the news broke there was relief. So why the anxiety?

Last read 3 days ago.

Oh, that's why.

Barely a few more seconds after Willy gives that squint, a louder, more insistent knocking comes from the door. It turns the cat's attention - a twist of an ear - at the irregular pattern. That's not the knock of other visitors.

"Kaylee?" Luther's low-pitched voice isn't one the cat's heard either.

If it wasn’t the twitch of that ear, the louder knock is enough that Kaylee reaches for her phone and with a tap of her finger cuts the music. When the room is plunged into silence, the humming of the minds around her returns.

That’s when she hears it.

Not just the voice, but a familiar mind hovering just beyond the door. There is an squeaks of sound that escapes her throat, as the telepath rushes to the door, her feet thumping against the floor as she hurries. The action startles Willy who hops down to huddle on the couch cushion and then slinking off and under the coffee table. His eyes reflecting the dim light as he watches this human acting weird.

Before Luther can even think of knocking again, the door flies open to the gleeful shriek of his name and he finds himself half tackled by the blonde, her arms thrown around his neck, hugging him fiercely.

Kaylee might have missed him. Just a little bit.

Bumping music silenced causes Luther to not knock again. His hands are full anyway, holding a few stacked boxes with obvious Japanese writing on them and crisp folded, opaque corners. Boxes which he has to switch from two hands to hand-and-hip to hold, the better to wrap his newly freed arm around her waist even when he leans forward into the hug.

Luther's half-chuckle, half-oof rolls through his frame. "Good to see you too," he comments as he recovers from the couple steps taken to keep his balance. There might be a test of recognition still to be passed. She's already felt the scratchiness of a full beard coming in to mask his cheeks and jawline. His clothing, layered though it is, looks tighter on him.

But the real test of homecoming still lurks under the coffee table.

There is such a brightness to the smile on the telepath’s face as she reluctantly lets him go, blue eyes moving over every bit of him, recommitting him to memory. Of course, things stand out. Words spilling forth in enthusiastic chatter. “You didn’t keep up with the jogging,” Kaylee comments like she is having a normal light hearted conversation. “We can work on that… but this!”

Cool fingers find his beard, feeling the scruffiness as they pull through that new facial hair. “What’s this?” Kaylee asks when fingers reach his chin and give it a gentle touch. “Go away for 2 months and turn into Grizzly Adams.”

Kaylee excitement is palpable, a short laugh escapes her as she says, “You know what? I don’t care right now.” The telepath reaches up to snag the back of his head and pull him close enough to her forehead to bump against his. Eyes closing while she listens to the hum of his mind against her mental barriers. He might feel that brush of her mind, but she doesn’t invade his privacy.

“I’m just so freaking glad you’re back,” Kaylee says; Voice quieting and hitches ever so slightly with emotions she’s trying to hold back, fingers tightening behind his head briefly, before letting go so he can pull away. “And in one piece.”

Luther starts to straighten with the release, weathering the friendly eyes and fingers exploring his appearance. A quirk upwards of his angled brow starts his mild defense about the jogging given that more than just his beard is fluffier. But it doesn't get farther as he's pulled back into a bump of foreheads. The mental brush meets with an initial surprise as he hadn't expected it, but she senses soon as he settles. An audible sigh escapes him, a sense of exhaustion given away.

He straightens more fully once he's let go a second time, and the wry smile returns. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you missed me," he says with another short laugh. But he's not going to lie - hard to do that with a telepath anyway - he had missed her as well.

Given they're still standing at the threshold of the open doorway, he gets a quick scan of the interior to her practically spotless abode. And it's not the only thing he notices, as he comments with an exploratory sniff and the beginnings of a forward lean, "Smells good in there. What's cookin'?"

A flush creeps into her cheeks, like she’s realizing what she had just done. “Maybe a little,” Kaylee comments, a touch embarrassed at being caught, before snagging his sleeve to pull him into the apartment and shut the door against nosy neighbors.

When he asks about the food, Kaylee is all too happy to supply an answer, pushing way the awkwardness that followed an intimate moment between friends. “Beef stew. I hope you have an appetite,” the telepath comments lightly letting go and leaving him to his own devices. Her path takes her to the kitchen and the big pot. “I— uh — seemed to have cooked for an army.” There is no explanation into the why, but that she did.

The lid is pulled off and the contents stirred. “Not ready yet, but soon.” The smile doesn’t leave the telepath as she stirs up the contents of the beef stew. “You’re welcome to stay for dinner, unless you have someplace else to be?” A brow tips up, questioning, as she turns to look at him; spoon pausing mid turn.

Little does Luther knows that he is being watched from the shadows of the coffee table, though the furry feline inches towards the edge. Who is this that has entered Willy’s kingdom?

Luther perks visibly at those two words, beef stew. The telepath’s comment about hoping he has an appetite earns a faint mock-offended scoff, because, obviously. Even though she lets him go, he follows her to the kitchen to observe, to… linger around the soup pot. He takes another longer sniff. “No,” he notes on having elsewhere to be, “and I brought you these from Japan actually.” Setting down the boxes, he nudges one colored in wrappings of a summery green affair forward. “The folks at the airport said these are good for summer flavor. They’re… uh.” He lifts the box to check the label underneath. “Wagashi. I think. Sweet stuff. Liked the mochi.” Luther provides the best reviews. (He does not. But he’s honest.)

He leans over the other box he’d brought, smaller than the green box though not by much and colored a boxy-patterned blue, and furrows his brow with hesitation. “This one’s not food. It’s just some… I thought you’d find ‘em interesting.”

It’s upon that word ‘interesting’ that he catches the movement in peripheral vision. Luther doesn’t turn his head, but his grey eyes shift to side-eye in the direction of the floor. A beat skips. “You have a cat.”

There is amusement etched into her features as Kaylee accepts the gifts in turn, picking up the blue one with curiosity. The mention of the cat draws her gaze from the box to the flashing pair of eyes under the table. “That’s… that’s Willy.” Ears come forward at the sound of his name, though he doesn’t move.

“I didn’t name him,” Kaylee feels compelled to inform the man.

Looks down at the box in her hand again, Kaylee tone loses a little of it’s brightness. “A lot has happened since you left.” Things she could have used him there for, but she holds that close to her chest. One thing of note, the boxes that sat by the door are gone, the apartment looking more lived in. “After you called… after I had a big fight with Joseph.” The woman takes a deep breath and says, “I went to Kentucky. That’s where I found Willy living in the wreckage of my home. He was Granny’s cat. I grew up with him.”

Kaylee glances at Luther and then the cat again, before putting down the gift and turning to the fridge. Willy inches out a bit more, looking like an old man with his ratty appearance. Whatever she was doing, it caught the cat’s interest. When the Kaylee turns back to her friend, she offers a slice of bologna. “For Willy.” Who knows it’s for him, finally coming out from under the coffee table and hopping up on the couch again with a gravelly mewling sound.

His focus had been on her reaction to the gift boxes up until that point, expecting her to open the boxes. But then there's Willy. Slowly, Luther turns his attention to the old tomcat to view the feline more fully. The pair appear to size each other up, so it's not even clear if he had heard her exposition of the cat's origin. The turn of both man and cat to the sound of the fridge door opening is downright comical, and happens in the same instant.

So when she pulls out the slice of sandwich meat and claims it's for the cat, Luther settles into observing. He stands partially in the way between Willy and bologna, seems to recognize that, and leans back against the counter. "C'mon," Luther rumbles to the old mouser, hints of amusement creeping into his tone, "It's just a bunch of bologna." But he holds out a hand to indicate he'd like to take that slice. To offer to the cat, of course.

Upon turning back to the telepath, Luther furrows his brow, looking to her expression. "Noticed that, the boxes," he says, slowly nodding. "So you left to find a piece of stability. And came back with this guy."

“Yeah.” There is a sigh. “Not sure I would call him… stable either,” Kaylee comments with a grumble in her voice, as the folded slice it set in his hand. “But… like you, he’s motivated by food.” There is a glint in her eye as she teases her friend affectionately.

“Well… like us really,” the woman concedes after a moment.

The telepath’s attention turns back to the boxes he brought her, the smile coming back almost as bright as when she opened the door. There was something about the idea he thought to do that… it warmed her heart. Fingers run along the ribbon feeling the texture, before moving to pull it off the box and open it.

“Don’t give the whole thing, break it up.” Kaylee says quickly, as an afterthought, pausing briefly in what she is doing. “He doesn’t have all his teeth and he might choke. He’s like… 20 something.” She forgets the exact date, but clearly he’s an old man.

Willy clearly wants the bologna, but stays where he is looking at the man expectantly, tail tip twitching.

Seems Luther is gonna have to come to him.

Thus armed with bologna, Luther takes the advice to heart and tears off a small piece of the slice a couple of bites large. His approach is slow, making sure Willy could see his every move. “Here you go bud,” he brings the bologna to Willy’s eye and nose level. There’s a certain air of trust to the act, Luther’s movements are gentle when he feeds the cat the treat.

He even looks away when Kaylee opens the first box to reveal more packaging - plastic wrap and a dessicant for freshness - around a tray of mochi and other enticing sweets. “Could probably find some of those in Yamagato,” he considers aloud. But probably at exorbitant prices given the Safe Zone’s inflation. The second, blue box holds small gashapon toys (one of them being a pigeon with the body of a banana), a sparkly glitter donut charm keyring, and a warm looking blue scarf. The scarf, folded with care, has a tiny embroidered Mickey Mouse logo in a corner.

Luther leans in slightly, gazing with interest at her reaction to it all. Maybe the Banangeon the most.

When the large human approaches Willy starts to crouch, like he’s going to bolt. Luckily, for Luther the smell of the bologna makes him pause. At least his nose still works. The cat sits up a bit taller and stretches out to sniff the tidbit offered, but doesn’t take it until Luther looks away.

With food acquired, Wily hops down onto the seat of the couch to eat the food.

Kaylee is very interested in the treats Luther has brought her. Even if it is wrapped, she can’t help but give the box a sniff. There is even a temptation to try a piece, but it's set aside for the other box.

This box gets a small laugh when she pulls out of the keyring, giving Luther an amused look. “I still wear the sunglasses.” Which means she’ll show that off too.

The scarf makes her a bit more solemn, a thumb brushes against the little logo. “Never been to any of the Disney places.” Kaylee’s tone says she doubt she ever will, but he brought a piece of that world. “It’s so pretty, Luther.” This gets draped around her shoulders, with a bonus smile when she rubs the soft knit against her cheek. “And soft. My second favorite color, too, thank you.”

Leaning over a bit more, Kaylee notices the little plastic toys. Luther gets an amused look tossed his way. “Is… this a banana bird? Who thinks of these things?” There is a bubble of laughter under her tone, while she talks and examines each one. “Their so silly, but cute at the same time. I can see their appeal,” she says holding up the bird banana as she says that last word.

(Yeah… that happened.)

Looking between the toys, Kaylee comments, “One of these is definitely going on my desk, the rest Carl will get a kick out of seeing.” She look at Luther for guidance, “Which one should I take?”

Luther turns back when Willy grabs for the bologna bit, releasing the treat to its rightful recipient. Amusement glimmers as he watches the cat consume, then he turns back to observe Kaylee going through the gift boxes. Brows lift as she mentions the sunglasses and pulls out the donut charm, followed by the pang of guilt that weakens the smile a touch. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it to your ceremony," he apologizes again. "And who knows, maybe you can use some vacation time and we can use Richard's plane to go back." Without accusations of international terrorism this time. Ahem.

Fingers busy themselves with tearing off another bit of bologna.

The wiggling deli meat entices the cat to hop up on the couch again, stare expectantly at Luther, and mrowl in gravelly, attention getting tone. Feed me. Luther glances back at Willy and holds out the tidbit, not as far this time in an effort to lure the tomcat closer. Willy remains skeptical, but stretches for the bologna up to a point. The two old males go back to a standoff. Until Willy finally closes the distance and makes a grab. Again, Luther lets go, a faint chuckle escapes as well. "This guy's smart," he comments to Kaylee, nodding back at Willy.

The notorious Banangeon also gets a nod. Yes, it's banana bird. What more could be said? Oh. "Lots of a-peel," Luther echoes, shaking his head lightly. The note about Carl fades his humor by a couple degrees. He exhales long, blinking a few times as he looks over the collection, avoiding the telepath's eyes. "Actually, I don't have it with me but I'll bring it by later. Got somethin' for him thought he'd like."

That she likes all the gifts is a good sign. But Luther seems worried for that last one meant for the boy. When they’d last met, things hadn’t gone so well. “Anyway, uh, soup’s on?” he says with a distracting glance to the giant pot stewing away. He’s only reined back in by the low growl from Willy who returns, much closer this time, in anticipation of the rest of the bologna. After a pause, Luther relinquishes possession of the remnants to the cat.

Kaylee’s smile fades as Luther’s demeanor seems to change. “That would be great, I’m sure he’ll secretly love it.” Carl was on a hate all guys mommy likes bender, which Luther had been swept up into.

“Joseph allowing me to have him weekend after next…” The words felt odd to her. It was her son, but the courts had sided with her ex. Even if they were still waiting for the paperwork to finalize, she had to honored what was decided. “The girls have other plans with friends, so it will just be me and him. Good time to talk to him about the way he’s been acting towards you and Tr— others. So that could be a boon in your favor.” Her friend wasn’t going anywhere soon and the sooner Carl understood that the better. Wouldn’t be an overnight fix though.

Pulling the scarf off her neck, Kaylee watches Luther quietly as he feeds the last bit of bologna to the cat. “Something’s wrong.”

It isn’t a question, but a statement of fact. Her voice gentle as Kaylee asks, “What happened after we talked? I get the feeling that whatever it is, wasn’t good.” While she waits to see if he’ll give her an answer, Kaylee places the items back in the box neatly, except for the banana bird which gets to sit on the counter between them.

"I don't want to get him in any trouble," Luther's quick to cover for Carl despite the kid's sudden coolness towards him the last they'd encountered each other. "But I'll bring it by later." She could see his reluctance, one might even argue fear, about the rejection he imagines. Fingers rub on the beard, his having forgotten til too late that they were full of bologna moments before. Oops. Oh well.

When she presses on to the shift in his demeanor, he goes quiet. A long stretch of silence passes. Luther's gaze falls to the banana bird set between them on the countertop, and he blinks away an initial swell of discomfort.

"We saw him. Adam. He was there."

Luther inhales deeply, trying to present calm when inside him his thoughts are a tumult. "The guy we found, studying this one cave, he… ratted us out. Was working with Monroe. For him. I'm- I'm not so clear about it." Again, the fingers scrub along the beard roughly. He pushes off the counter, disturbing Willy with the movement so the cat jumps down and scurries off.

Brows tick up as Luther starts to explain his mood, but Kaylee doesn’t say anything. There is a shift in her own mood at the mention the immortal man. A flicker of worry at the betrayal. Clearly, they got away physically unscathed, which she takes some comfort in that. Still the worry settles into her stomach.

Willy’s flight isn’t missed, the telepath watching until he disappears under the coffee table again. It would take time for him to be comfortable around people again. That was a problem for another day. At the moment, she was more concerned about Luther, her attention falling to the boxes and the gifts within them. It had been a touching gesture that plucked at those emotions that she kept buried deep.

“I saw him, too.” Kaylee admits quietly, “shortly after you left.”

Luther deserved to know that. Looking up from the box, she nods to the room. “Right here.” On Raytech grounds no less. “Rejected me. Called me tainted and tossed me away like so much trash.” Kaylee sighed out heavily through her nose, resigned to the fact that she would never be good enough for that man. “Doubt I’ll be seeing him again.”

When Adam winked out, it felt final to the telepath.

Her confession draws a look she knows all too well, a mental alarm sounding silently in the man and his body responding physically with a tensed posture. She's seen it plenty of times in the former RayTech Chief of Security, in the focused stare, in the immediate assessment of threat level. But, as with her worry, his concern flickers and lowers as the telepath goes on and obviously is also unscathed save for a stinging pride. "He's even more of an asshole in person," observes Luther flatly of the other man. "But I sincerely doubt that's the last you've seen of him."

"Eve wanted to find out more about 'the Dragon'," Luther continues, tone soured but distracted with attempted concentration on recollecting. "We went up to a mountain, Kiso. There were rumors in the legend," he pauses with a frown, then amends, "in the story of Kensei and the Dragon that that's where they met. But it wasn't there." He gradually eases onto a seat on the couch backing, hands planting for stability. Something else bothers him, evidenced by the frown and downcast gaze. "It's the first I've seen of him, Kaylee, but it's also the first I'd heard of him being… afraid."

At that, he looks back up to her. "He said we weren't thinking, that everything we uncovered, everything we did, was just serving something that was maybe manipulating us to do what we were doing. That it wasn't because of our own free will." The last words intoned come with a significant look to the telepath. Knowing there was a past presence within her, Luther can't help but draw attention to the possible correlation.

Lips are pressed tight by time Luther is done filling her in. “If it is one thing I’ve learned… This world is filled with nothing but people manipulating us,” Kaylee states firmly, turning towards the stew pot. “You and I know this. We’ve seen others worlds, where different choices and manipulation of others put us on different roads.” As much as she hated bringing up that period of time, it helped drive her point.

“So… here is a question for you,” There is a soft clank of metal as she pulls the lid off the stew pot. “How do you know he is telling the truth? For all we know he is being manipulated just the same as we have our entire lives.” Kaylee glances at him out of the corner of her eyes as she digs the spoon in and starts stirring the pot.

Swallowing against a knot of anxiety in her throat, she softly admits, “He told me that the company made the same mistakes he did and that he didn’t want them repeated. How do we know he didn’t say one thing to you and a different thing to me. How do we know that forgetting wasn’t that mistake?”

Tapping the spoon on the edge of the pot, Kaylee comments blandly, “They say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Her head shakes, giving him a look that dares him to stop her. “I feel like we have been set up for failure.”

Setting down the spoon, Kaylee turns towards the taller man searching his eyes, she lets him see the emotions she’s feeling. “I am not content with letting that happen or letting him handle this, Luther. I don’t trust that man with protecting our families. I doubt you do either.”

"I don't know." It's a statement Luther's struggled with ever since New Mexico, ever since the aurora, and even before then. When he was RayTech's Chief of Security, however, he had at least been plunging ahead with both brazen action and cautious confidence. "He seemed to know what needed to be done. Whether it's what actually works? I don't know. But I have a hunch we're going to find out soon enough."

Grey eyes lift, meeting the searching blue. "And if it's not, we'll figure it out together… All of us." His gaze turns to glance sidelong at the old mouser sitting neatly at center of the open hallway. The reappearance of Willy lifts the invisible dark cloud threatening overhead, and Luther turns back to Kaylee. He nods towards the soup pot as he purposefully shifts in subject. "But other than all that, was a nice trip. Japan… it's really somethin' else. But, tell me 'bout what happened back here."

Worry flickers over the telepath’s features as her friend’s thoughts darken. Hearing that shift in his mental hum makes her regret her words almost immediately. There were some things that should stay buried… and their shared visions were one of those things.

In fact, there is an apology on Kaylee’s lips, when Willy reappears and distracts them both. The scruffy feline giving one of his gravelly meows in hopes of more treats.

The inquiry about home-side events gets him a sad smile. “I wish it was all good news, but… I guess I can.” Kaylee motions to the cabinet with a tilt of her head. “Get the bowls? We’ll enjoy some comfort food while I fill you in.”

Picking up the spoon in preparation of serving up some homemade goodness, Kaylee adds with enthusiasm, “Then pie for dessert.”

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