It’s after quitting time and Michael is up in the apartment he’s presently sharing with Neke. In her dining room. Eating dinner.
She’s on the top floor and the view up here is killer. Also her dining room is sleek, clean and modern. It looks nice but… not really lived in. A lot of the rest of the apartment has those kinds of touches but the kitchen and the dining room look like they’re generally used by one. Which, Michael would guess, has historically been true. He doubts she keeps very much company up here. Or at least that she used to before he moved up here.
Which he is still very much getting used to.
Nekes apartment sees little use in general. Or it had. Normally she’d work in the office till late, come up here and flop into bed. Since Michael moved in, or agreed to stay for a bit, though she’s been here a little more often.
Tonight she’s in not long after quitting time, bringing her laptop and some folders in with her. Clearly she’s meaning to work still, but from here.
“That smells good…” she says as she enters the dining room – her paraphernalia placed on the table by the couch. “It’s good to see you making yourself at home…”
“Come and have some? Enjoy the view. Leave that laptop there though.” Michael wrinkles his nose. He’s as much a workaholic as she is but he doesn’t tend to work after he gets home. He just stays really really late.
“What’s so important that you have to bring it up here anyway?” He pushes a beer in her direction, figuring that she might well need it. Or at least want it.
“I wasn’t going to bring it in …” Neke murmurs, placing it down and stripping her jacket off. She’s a lot more casual up her than she is in the office – and that’s saying something. It brings her down to a tank top and she runs a hand through her hair, grinning at the beer that’s pushed towards to her. “What did you make?”
There’s a glance to the laptop “Just some staff reviews so I can process the pay increases, our monthly expense report to SHIELD and … I don’t know what else. Reports, mostly.” She’s tired and needs a few moments to … just relax.
“Oh? Did you review me?” Michael smiles as he gets up and heads to the kitchen. When he returns its with a full plate of steak salad with a dressing of drippings. And garlic and… well. Michael can apparently cook.
“Family special. Minus the beer. Someone else made that.” He offers the plate out and then sits down next to Neke.
“You’ve been awful quiet since the last job we did on the Njadaka case.”
“Of course. And I used your reviews on the others.” Neke answers, taking a pull for the beer and going to stand at the window, looking out over the city. Her backs to Michael when he returns. “I’ve … got something for you…”
She’d taken an envelope out of her pocket before she put her jacket down. As the plate is put on the table and she takes her seat, she hands the envelope over. “Open it.”
The food does smell good and her mouth waters. It’s steak. “Oh? Well … I guess I have. I’m sorry.” They’d enjoy that night, it had been a bit of a buzz for the both of them but despite her teasing, it hadn’t gone much further than that.
In the envelope is a ‘deed’. Signing some of the shares in Fifth Column over to Michael. Making him the second largest shareholder in the company.
Michael cants his head slightly as he opens the envelope. As he reads his eyes get wider and wider. It’s a minority stake, but it’s a significant one. “I… Neke thank you but… why?”
She pays him and she pays him well. This would make him… well this would make him quite well off. Wealthy? Not by the standards of the hyper rich. But still very well off.
Neke watches as Michael reads it, having taken a bite of her steak. There’s something behind her eyes as she waits for his response, like she’s expecting him to argue.
“You deserve it, Michael. You’ve built this place with me from almost the beginning. You didn’t draw a wage when the going was tough and look at all the work you do, so that I don’t have to.” Albeit, Neke works hard as well and she //couldn’t// do it all on her own. But Michael has picked up much more than he needed to. And, as far as she can tell, done so happily.
“Fifth Column is doing well, Michael. Better than it would be if I didn’t have you. Let me share the largess with you. Let me share my good fortune.” He might also be … her best friend.
“Will you do that?”
Is he her best friend? It’s possible that she’s his. Michael looks down at the space on the paper that needs his signature. He’d be a fool to reject it.
And he’d be an ingrate to reject it.
“Got a pen?” Is his response. He smiles a bit. “Thank you. You know I would have stayed on as things were to the end, right?” His end, likely. Not the company’s.
A pen. Neke flushes and rummages in the pocket of her jacket that shes hung on the chair. “I .. yeah. Here.” She might look a little embarrassed. That changes though when Michael mentions the inevitable, she pales and looks down at her food.
“I know you would have, Michael but … you deserve this. And … look, just enjoy it, while you can, ok?” She doesn’t much like thinking on what’s happening to him and yet Neke has made all sorts of provisions.
“Steaks good… ” is she trying to change the subject? She might be, given the way she takes a drink from the beer. Will he let her though?
Neke does seem to have had a lot of thought on what will eventually happen to Michael, almost as much as Michael himself has. And yes, he’s noticed. He’s not said much about it though. She has been, and is being, good to him. He signs the paper and slides it back to her with the pen.
“Thank you, Neke.”
He lets that hang there for a moment and then smiles slightly. “Glad you like it. I know how you like your meat rare. Almost raw.” He makes a face as if he thinks meat should be cooked more but hey, it’s her dinner. He made it to her tastes.
For a moment, Neke doesn’t look at Michael. Just moves the paper and pen to the side. “Thank you, Michael. For being my friend…” she says quietly.
She snorts at his comment. Her steak is rather bloody, just the way she likes it. Something to do with her mutation or the spirits she can channel because of it.
She looks up, returning the smile “It’s perfect, I don’t know how you can eat yours so … dead.” Maybe it’s impulse that makes her do it, but the spirit channeler puts down her cutlery, leans over and plants a kiss on his lips.
Michael blinks when he’s kissed. It’s not at all unpleasant but it is definitely rather unexpected. When it ends he meets Neke’s eyes, his a bit wide and shocked.
“What was that for?” It’s a bit breathless that question. Clearly he doesn’t object. But he is a bit taken off guard.
Neke sees the shock, the unexpected reaction to her action and her hands drop away from Michaels face. “I … uh … ” she shakes her head. It’s not like her to be so unsure. He’s seen in action in the bars they go to – she’s normally really ‘in your face’ to those that flirt with her.
It normally gets them to back off, right quick. And the ones that don’t … well, that’s when Michael has to clean up the mess.
“I … wanted to.”
“You did, did you?” Michael says. He at least hasn’t moved. He’s still right there. As is she. He brings his hand up to her cheek and gives her a kiss on the lips. A not a long one but… well. He takes a deep breath.
“I wanted to do that too.”
“How long had you wanted to do that?”
It’s Neke’s turn for her eyes to widen as Michael leans in to kiss her back. She responds though … not quite as shocked as he had been.
She takes a deep breath and meets his eyes. “You did, did you?” echoing his words back to him.
“From nearly the day you entered my office for your interview….” she smiles though. “… but in earnest? Sometime now. Did you think I was joking those times I invited you … ” well, she’s flirted with him enough.
“I figured that you were just flirting.” Because he’s seen her flirt. And it’s not as though she does so insincerely but Michael has never observed Neke to be interested in more than short term enjoyment. And when you’re out in bars that’s often enough – though Neke doesn’t tend to pick people up in bars. He’d known it was affection of course, but Michael thought it was just her way of saying ‘I like you, we’re friends.’
Not //I like you.//
“I don’t think I was in that good a shape when I did my interview.”
“I was flirting … ” Neke says softly “… but I was also genuine in my offers.” She still holds his eyes. “I just didn’t think you were interested and … I’m your boss. It’s a shitty thing to do, isn’t it?”
The spirit channeller lets out a long slow breath, still leaning into Michael a little. “You weren’t, but it didn’t matter. You appealed to me. You appeal to me now on even deeper level, now that I’ve gotten to know you. You’re my friend though, Michael and I don’t want to lose that.”
“How long have you wanted to kiss me?”
Michael takes a breath slowly and smiles. He doesn’t lean in to kiss her again but he doesn’t move his hand either. She hasn’t moved away or made him move it. Or indicated that she wants it gone.
“A couple of years now…” He smiles almost shyly now. “I um… well you’re my boss and yes. I didn’t know if it was appropriate and well… you flirt a lot. I thought again…”
Maybe it was just her way of showing affection.
Michael wraps an arm around Neke and leans back against her.
That’s a really nice shooting star, out the window there.
Maybe it’s a form of armour for Neke. The flirting that is. Michael knows she’s not had anything serious in a very long time. He can be certain that casual has been few and far between as well. “I never … knew.”
She hadn’t. Michaels played that close to his chest.
When Michael wraps his arm about her, she leans in as well. “A shooting star. Don’t see that often. Do you think it’s a portent?”
Michael turns to look, sort of shifting Neke with him. “You don’t see those often. Did you make a wish on it?” He jokes.
And then it gets closer. And closer. And closer yet.
And then Michael is sure it’s not a star.
“Neke! Duck!” He pulls her down as something crashes through the window with a feral yell that can be heard above the roaring of repulsor engines. It’s a woman. A woman who looks a lot like Bash’t but clearly isn’t her. She brings a pair of weapons up, one in each fist, and fires at Neke and Michael.
“I think I got it, already.” Neke answers, watching as it draws closer. “Odd….”
She’s moving at about the same time Michael pulls her down. The bright glow of a rhino, surrounding her. She’s tough, if slow. “Michael … ” She moves, putting herself in front of the panther shifter.
He’ll disappear and turn metal, she knows that whilst she draws the attention.
Still those blasts //hurt//.
Michael does disappear, which leaves the woman shooting at Neke alone. She’s made a mess of one of the chairs and the table. She’s not as young as Bash’t. And there’s a wildness in her eyes as she pours on the sonic energy while shouting something in a language that Neke won’t understand. Sounds like Wakandan.
Where’d Michael go. He has to be in here somewhere. It can’t take that much time to get behind her, can it?
That just makes Neke angry. This is her //home//, her sanctuary. How the hell did the woman find them? It’s not something she’s made public – the location of where she lives. Then again, it is just above the offices – so there’s that.
Using what’s left of the furniture as makeshift shields, Neke circles keeping the attention of the woman on her. She’s taking a bit of weapons fire … it stings and it burns, but the hide of the rhino she’s channelling is tough. It will hold. For a little bit.
“Mmmaybe we can talk about this… ” What did Bash’t say her mothers name was? Oh right. “… Shuri.”
The name gets a pause and a snarl. The look in the woman’s eyes is… off. It’s like looking at an animal rather than a person. An ANGRY animal.
“You took everything from me…” That can’t be. Either she’s derranged or she’s been rather badly misled. “Where is my FAMILY!”
She starts shooting again.
And then Michael appears behind her and puts her in a choke hold. He’s taller than she and she looses all leverage when he just lifts her feet off the ground.
“That bastard…” Neke growls as she realises what’s been done to the woman. “Shuri, we didn’t take your fa—-” Oh good. There goes Nekes serving platters that she keeps in the cabinet. Killmonger is going to pay, this just got personal.
When Michael makes his move, Neke dashes forward – not cat quick, but quick enough – still taking shots from the weapons before she knocks them from the womans hand.
“Choke her out …” she grates out. They need her alive but in containment. “… and call this in…”
The woman struggles and tries to get Michael to loosen his grip, but he does not. Eventually she stops struggling and he lets her go. He reaches behind him for his cuffs and… oh.
“Uh, my restraints are in the office.” He says, embarrassed slightly.
“Are you okay, Neke?” He knows she got shot. A lot. “What the hell was she talking about?”
Neke grimaces and limps to the kitchen, fishing a pair of cuffs from one of the drawers in there. “Don’t ask …” she says as she joins Michael again holding them out. “I’m a little sad you didn’t think you might need them …”
This, this is why he thinks she wasn’t serious.
As Michael restrains the woman, Neke drops the channel and slowly peels off her shirt. She’s shot up – not as badly as Michael might have expected. There’s lasers burns from the weapons though. “I … hurt.” is all she says. “You? Did she get you before turned metal?”
“I … don’t know. She blames us for taking her family.” beat “She must mean, Bash’t, right?”
“I um…” That gets a blush but Michael applies the restraints. At least she won’t do that again when she wakes up. Then he presses the button that calls the night shift up here. They’ll put her down in the containment cells. THEN they need to do something about this damage.
“Family? She can’t, I don’t think. Bash’t said her mother died a long time ago. Perhaps she means the family she had… before Bash’t?” Michael sighs. “Uh, do you want to… go out to eat?”
“You’re cute when you blush, you know that?” Nekes face is drawn with the pain she’s experiencing. Gingerly she finds the first aid kit she keeps up here and starts to dress the wounds she can see. Michael might see others that she can’t.
“If that’s the case, then they’ve tried to program her with a memory engram and they’ve blended her DNA with animals. When I get my hands on Killmonger, I might tear him apart, myself.” She’s beginning to understand Bash’ts rage.
Looking around the ruin of the dining room, Neke sighs, the drawn look turning to sorrow. “I suppose we have to. I’m sorry about the steak you cooked, what I had was lovely.”
Really what she wants is a hot shower and to drop into bed. That’s going to happen while late shift is here, clearing up, though.
“You may have to dice off for that.” Michael blushes more when told he’s cute when he blushes. The door opens and the late shift arrives. Michael allows them to do their thing and steps out of the way, gesturing toward the elevator.
It’s some time later when Michael has them parked in an aircar in hover mode way up high with the city spread out beneath them and takeout chinese between them.
Neke did get a shower – her people had insisted that she clean herself up before she left. The late shift was still in her apartment, cleaning it up and getting what evidence they could.
Now, in the aircar – with Michael driving of course – she looks down at the city. “This is different.” she says quietly, opening a container and tucking in – before offering some to Michael. “Didn’t trust the usual places?” beat “Or did you just want to relive some teenage years?”
“It IS rather late. And I didn’t want another flying woman to interrupt dinner. If that happens again here at least I can fly us away.” Michael says, sticking his tongue out and tucking into some fried rice.
“But if this reminds you of your teenage years in a good way, then yes I absolutely did this on purpose.”
Totally. It IS a rather nice view though.
“I like it, particularly if this is your idea of dinner and show…” Neke winks, enjoying the light hearted banter for a moment. It’s taking her mind off her apartment and what just happened.
“It doesn’t remind you? Don’t tell me you weren’t a wild child, Michael. There must have been girls you wanted to park with.” She eats some more, glancing out the window again.
Did he want to talk about what happened. The attack or before that? Or does he want to take her mind off it all. She doesn’t know.
“Not especially.” Michael grins. “And if there were they certainly didn’t tell me about it. Maybe they pinned for me while they were dating the football captain. I’ll pretend that was the case.”
Michael takes a few more bites. He seems to just want to distract her. Misdirect. Take her mind from it.
“You must have been all kinds of wild though.”
“I would have gone for you…” Neke glances over. She’s still sore, she took a lot of shots in that attack. “And I would have pined …” now she’s teasing.
She shakes her head at the statement. “Maybe a little. More so when my mutation manifested. You know what it’s like for me now when I channel too much. Imagine … a horny teen with the instinct of a cat on her.”
Come to think of it. Maybe her teenage years weren’t so hot.
“Uh, sounds wild yes.” Wild. Maybe not pleasant. He doesn’t know how she experienced that. Maybe she enjoyed what happened as a result of her channeling. Maybe she didn’t…
“Pined? I didn’t think pining was your style, Neke.” Michael says as he lays aside his food and reaches out, perhaps a bit tentatively, to take Neke’s hand.