“So who do you think you aaaaaareeee? Running ’round leaving scaaaaars! Collecting your jar of heaaaaaaarts, and tearing love apaaaaaaaart. You’re gonna catch a coooooooooold from the ice inside your soooooooul. So don’t come back for me. Who do you think you are?”
It’s karaoke night for InfoSec, which is to say, this is the night that Liam drags Kami out to have some drinks, some bar food and to listen to him sing ‘Jar of Hearts’. Which he is doing at the moment and getting playful catcalls from the audience, which is made all the more laughing and raucous by the fact that he’s play-serenading Kami at her barstool.
If only he knew. But he doesn’t. And he’s playfully singing to her right now.
Kami doesn’t mind getting dragged out. She’s not really a hermit though Liam might be forgiven for thinking she is lately. Or something. The dark skinned woman has looked increasingly tired over the last few weeks.
There’s a reason for that and it all ends with RIAN.
However, Liams play-serenading has the woman flushing slightly. Liam might think its because of the teasing they’re attracting. It’s not.
And no. She’s not trying to serenade him back.
Liam goes through the song. It’s an oldie, written by an artist long dead. It’s still a good one though and Liam gets whoops and cheers when he finishes. He bows, plays to the crowd. He has to. It’s Liam. That’s just who he is.
A few minutes after the song is done he comes back down to the bar where Kami is, signals another beer and some chicken wings and then grins at his working partner.
“What? No comment on my wonderful, heart felt cry from the soul?”
Oh yeah, he’s still teasing.
“You’ve been scarce a bit. Everything okay?”
It’s a good song. Kami can admit to that and Liam does it with gusto. Liam does most things with gusto, to be honest.
“Enjoy yourself?” The dark skinned womans smiles as more food and drink arrives. “Was that a heart felt cry for singing lessons?” She teases back.
There’s a flicker over her face at the question and she nods sharply. “Uh yeah. Things are good. Just … busy, you know? What about you?” She knows he’s been quite enamoured with the little redhead admin they’ve inherited.
Gusto is kind of how Liam lives his life. Things aren’t worth doing if you can’t or don’t want to put your all into them.
Liam’s had… some things to be enamored with. The little redhead admin. The blonde who comes and keeps him company sometimes. It probably says something that he’s noticed that ‘Kami’ has been missing. It means he cared about her enough to notice. And that she’s been gone enough for him to notice.
“I’m okay. Thinking a lot about the case. Actually thinking a lot in general…” Liam’s beer and food arrives and he takes a drink.
“Do you ever wonder about ‘might have beens’?”
Ah yes, the blonde. Not that anyone at SF really knows about her. Kami does because … she’s Kami.
What does it do to Kami to have Liam notice she’s been missed? She’s not sure. RIAN’s interference has turned her inside out.
“What have you been thinking about the case?” Her words fade at the next question and she snags a beer herself. “Not … really. That way lays madness, really. Clearly you have though…”
Liam puts his hand on top of Kami’s and cants his head, listening. “I do a lot. What if I hadn’t been injured. What if my career as an E-Sports star had gone on? Where would I be to day? Would I like who I am? Would I even recognize that person? Am I willing to trade what that would be for the life I have now?”
Even with a history of crippling injury, would he want to give it up?
“What would happen if you… hadn’t ever met Timaos?”
Kami’s eyes snap to Liams when he puts his hand on hers. She can’t help but turn her hand up, to hold his. RIAN has a lot to answer for. It’s becoming a struggle to keep the persona’s seperate and not have one just ‘pop up’ at the most inopportune times.
“What did you come up with? And why are you thinking that?”
She thinks on his question. “I … don’t know if I would have survived, Liam. I owe him … a lot.”
“He made you what you are today…” Liam nods. “And from what you tell me he’s responsible for you being here.” Not here in the bar but at Stark Fujikawa with all that entails. Liam squeezes her hand.
“Do you ever wish you hadn’t? That things had gone differently? That you’d had a chance to, I don’t know. Go legitimate? Just be someone… well not normal but not be this person that everyone questions and suspects?”
It’s an interesting line of thought.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where I’d be. Rich and famous probably but… a lot more normal. Just another person looking for the point of life before we’re all gone. Here at least I have a… purpose. Beyond the next big game. The next big score.”
“He fed me and protected me from others while my powers were developing.” Kami shakes her head, glancing down at their hands when he squeezes. “But yeah, he sent me into SF to collect something. Used his influence against me.”
“Do I wish I hadn’t been caught? Of course. But I wouldn’t have met you …”
She blinks at the question and lets her facade drop a little. The tinge of the blue of her skin showing through in a patch “Not be the one who everyone questions and suspects? When I can do what I do?” beat “Do you think it would have happened? I was dumped in the sprawl when I mutated. Abandoned. You’re asking what if I wasn’t born a mutant, really.”
“And what purpose is that?”
“Protecting people. I mean sure. Protecting the company bottom line is part of it but I do protect people. Real people. Who can’t protect themselves.” Liam smiles a bit and then smirks. “And look great doing it, of course.
“Not really what would happen if you were born without powers. More… what would have happened if you’d had a chance to develop them somewhere else. The Institute. Some place where they… get people like you more?”
“Do you think I’ll try to grab you again? Timmaos, that is?”
“Well you do look good doing it.” Kami smiles but nods. She understands what Liam means. “Like I said, I wouldn’t have met you and what I’m doing now isn’t so bad, Liam. Even if people don’t trust me.”
“I … don’t know what would have happened. It’s not something I’ve ever considered. I … wouldn’t be as well of as I am now.”
“Yes, Timiaos will try for me again. Not directly. It’s not the way he works. I owe him in his head, and no one ever gets out of a debt to the mutant finder.”
“Of course I do. I always look good doing it.” Liam winks. He is irrepressible and eternally optimistic. What is it about him that has RIAN so determined to twist Kami into knots so she can keep him under wraps?
“He’ll try to influence things. Put you in a no win situation yeah? Maybe lean on something or someone you care about.” Would he attack Kami’s personal wealth? He could but a lot of what she has is provided by SF so that seems unlikely. Still she does like her luxuries.
“Do you have anyone still on the outside? Still in the life? People he might endanger to get to you?”
Liam does look good. Kami knows that. Even if RIAN hadn’t twisted her in knots, she’d be attracted on a level.
“Influence things or people, yes. You’ve got the right of it. If he could find my wealth, he’d target it. Fortunately I don’t have it easily found. He can find some but not all of it.”
She looks at Liam, canting her head, hand still holding his loosely. “A few people, yes. I tried to avoid making deep connections but there’s the other like me that he found. What are you thinking, Liam?”
“So you might have to drink slightly less good wine for a bit?” Liam teases. Kami hid her wealth well. She was smart about how to use what she stole. That’s part of what made her so good. Until she’d taken on too big a fish. The big corps, they always have ways to get their own back. Even successful thieves can never stop looking over their shoulders.
“I’m thinking he might abduct one. Or purposefully put them in hot water and offer to ‘arrange’ for them to get out of it if you do something for him. He wanted something from the SF vaults didn’t he? All the stuff there is top secret. He probably won’t be satisfied with anything less I’m guessing.”
“Imagine the indignity of it.” Kami murmurs to Liam, casting him a cheeky smile. Timaios, she’s fairly certain had set her up for the fall at SF. She’s just not sure why.
“We’d asked GINIE to see if there was something in the vaults that we might be able to … buy Timiaos off with.” She nods to his reasoning.
The problem is they don’t know what he wanted. Or what he might accept to release her. If ever.
Perhaps SF had purchased her. That’s a scary thought. Not quite that simple but if they’d indicated they wanted a mutant with a particular set of powers and Timmaos could provide… would he have sold her out like that? Liam doesn’t know. But he definitely thinks it possible.
On the other hand it might have been a simple job. SF had something that he wanted. That’s also possible and possibly more likely.
“What would you do if you WERE free of him?” The question is quiet. Thoughtful. He wonders if she’s ever asked herself that.
Kami hadn’t even thought of that. Why would she? Timiaos wouldn’t sell of his assets. Then again, Kami had escaped Timiaos for some time when he’d pulled her back in.
“What would I do, Liam? What I’m doing now. My sentence with SF is not done.” That’s not what he means. She knows that and she shakes her head “I would open an art appraisal business. Offer contracts to corps to validate what they’re buying.”
“I was wondering, Kami.” Liam says with that same quiet smile. It’s kind of unlike him, that smile. Normally he’s brash. He’s loud. He’s showy. He’s sincere but he’s like a brass band. You always know where he is and what he’s doing. That smile is not like any of that.
“So you’d be happy to leave ‘the life’ behind? A lot of people can’t. They like the thrill too much. I kind of get it.” Because Liam is kind of like that. He lived for the cheer of the crowds and the rush of knowing that he was just better than the next guy. But if what he said is anything to go by… he realized that wasn’t going anywhere. You can chase that high but where does that lead to except just… chasing it more?
“I had been trying to when …” Kami sighs. “I don’t know if I could. If I had something like this to turn to … minus the implant …” She hesitates on that. The implant that is not likely to be removable. “… without the need to track me, it might be enough.”
The high. The two of them are junkies – just slightly differently.
“The thrill really is pretty good, Liam. Just some of us get it from different things.”
“What gives it to you. Beating security. Making off with the goods. What else? Finding a forgery? Finding a really good, really rare painting?” What gives her that rush she craves? For Liam it’s the rush of knowing he’s cheated death with nothing but his skill and two guns. And… an AI and a power node, sure. But skill and two guns.
“Maybe you’ll be able to open that business one day. If you don’t break too many hearts.”
“All of it? Identifying a forgery, finding out who did it. Investigating the sort of things we’ve been doing.” It’s not skill and two guns, not for Kami.
Her eyes turn up, her hand still in his. “And doing it besides one of the most dashing and cheekiest men in the business…” She blinks though “Break too many hearts? I don’t break hearts.”
“Oh but you do. I sang about it. Didn’t you hear me singing about it?” Liam laughs and gives her hand another squeeze. “If you want I’ll try to help you. Is there a clause that says you can’t make money on the side while you’re working for SF?” There might be but he doesn’t know how the lawyers drew her agreement up. If they wanted her badly enough they’d have tried to make it enticing and he’s willing to bet they did. They had her over a barrel, but push her too hard and she’d go to prison just to spite them.
“I don’t break hearts, Liam. There’s no connections in what I do …” Well, maybe. RIAN has thrown a spanner in that works.
“No, they didn’t. Though limiting me in terms of distance and places I can frequent by the implant has put the scuppers on some things I might do.” beat “Like my career as an exotic dancer.”
“I don’t know if you should help me, Liam. Timiaos is not a nice man and if he suspects that we’re anything more than partners … he might try to use you too.” beat “But I’m not going to say no. When my sentence with SF is finished, I want to be able to walk free.”
“Your what?” Liam blinks. That’s a joke right? He’s fairly sure that’s a joke. It’s got to be a joke. She wasn’t doing that before Stark got her, right?
“Well we just have to make sure that your expertise is so valuable that the business will come to you. Make sure your name is the last word in authority on the matter. After all, artsy types are eccentric, right?”
Oh boy. Liam’s treading on thin ice there likely.
“He might. But he might do that anyway. Why should we mortgage the future for the present? He’s going to do what he’s going to do. We can only react. We shouldn’t hamstring ourselves trying to guess.”
Kami smirks at Liams surprise. “You don’t think I could? It’s a gig I used occasionally when scoping out a mark. Paid well.” She’s not joking and he’s seen her body. She could do it.
“My expertise is, Liam. I just don’t advertise. Where do you think I get some of my money, now?” She squeezes his hand, tightly, at the eccentric comment.
She’s strong. It will hurt a bit.
“I’m not going to say I don’t want you help, Liam. I want you to know what you’re getting into.”
“Uh, well, sure you could but…” Why would she want to. Kami seems to enjoy the finer things of life and that does not seem to be a way to them. It’s a way to some advantages and it’s not something anyone really should look down on. But people do.
And yes she could do it. She can look like anything.
“Oh I’m getting into trouble. But I knew you were trouble. I read it in your dossier.” He winks. As though that’s the only way he might know that.
“Are you embarassed for me?” Kami laughs. “Don’t like the idea of strange men and women putting crisp $10’s in g-string?” Oh, she’s pushing now. He’s right that Kami prefers the finer points of life. Still she can tease.
“Lots of trouble.” Kami gives Liam a slanted look, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to his lips. “Now, what are we doing for the rest of the night?”
“Just kind of seems beneath you.” Liam mutters and takes another drink. And another bite of the chicken wings. Boneless. And oh so good with the sauce. Yes she’s pushing and she gets the side eye.
And then she kisses him. And he smiles.
“Well I could serenade you again. Otherwise the night is young. I’m sure we can find lots of things to do…”
“You’re sweet but there are things I do because I have to. One of us has to.” His smile gets one in return, a genuine one.
“Why don’t you serenade me again and then we’ll go bowling or something.” She’s good for the night.
Until RIAN decides she has other plans for Kami.