|A Momma's Fury|
|What: Fury pays the Cages a visit.|
Momma lives in a small apartment in a not-particularly-good part of town. Still, it's not a particularly dangerous place: the fact she's Luke Cage's momma does more to deter hooligans than do the iron bars on her windows. She keeps the place immaculate, like a cross between an operating theater and an episode of Martha Stewart Living: she comes from that particular brand of matronly that considers hospitality to be the highest virtue, and ear-twisting of errant children to be a close second. All her neighbors love visiting because she cultivates such fine hospitality: her children, on the other hand, know that if they visit they're going to be held accountable for every fingerprint they leave behind on the freshly-polished surfaces.
Luke was out getting groceries for his Momma -- she may not demand hoity-toity organic everything, but Momma demands /fresh/, and that means sending Luke off to scour the farmers' markets for the best vegetables. Now, with armloads of groceries, Luke's entered his mother's apartment to discover...
Momma is entertaining a gentleman in the kitchen. The two of them are seated at the cheap formica table, enjoying a cup of tea and a quiet laugh over something-or-other. The man is dressed in a suit and tie, with salt-and-pepper hair and an eyepatch. He looks like a badass that's approaching retirement age, really, someone who used to be hell on wheels but might not be anymore. Momma's age, really, give or take a bit.
Momma looks over towards Luke as he enters, then rises from her seat to greet him. By instinct, the man with her also rises: one does not remain seated when a woman is standing. "Luke Cage," Momma greets him. "Did you get those fresh radishes like I asked? Can't have a proper salad without good sliced radishes." She moves over to take a bag of groceries, smiling. "You have a friend who came here looking for you. An Army man, Colonel Fury. He brought me *coffee*," she says with a beaming smile. "Jamaican Blue Mountain. Fine, wonderful things, beans that smell like they'll keep me out of Heaven. Do you have a coffee grinder I could borrow?"
"Sure thing, Momma. I got the radishes. I even found those strawberries from that Mr. Whatshisface you like so much..." Luke sets the bags down and helps his Momma put everything away, watching Fury out of the corner of his eye most of the time. Luke is nigh invincible. Everyone who watches TV pretty much knows that. And he doesn't bother with a secret identity much because the little boys and girls in Harlem need someone to look up to. He can hang with that. But someone showing up at his Momma's house? Uninvited? This is the sort of thing Luke's nightmares are made of. But if the man meant trouble, it seems like he would have gotten to it by now.
Luke adds absently, "Yeah Momma, I'll get you a grinder. They're cheap. Don't worry." With the amount of money Luke funnels back to the Rec Center, the Boys and Girls Club and every other service in the old neighborhood, he can at least by his Momma a $20 coffee grinder.
Once everything is put away, Luke is folding up the paper bags to be stacked under the sink and asks over his shoulder, "So, what can I do for you, Colonel?"
Momma reaches out to give Luke's ear a twist. On a scale of one to ten, this ranks somewhere around a two: it's just enough to underline the point, not enough to show serious distaste. "His name's Miroslaw Wierzbowski, not Mr. Whatshisface, even if he does let you get away with calling him that." She gives a vaguely disappointed shake of her head, the "how dare you let me down in front of company" thing with a side order of "I raised you better than that." Yes, all this over Mr. Whatshisface. You really don't want to know what the penalties were like for a bad report card.
Momma finally takes notice of Fury standing there by the table, and she waves him off. "Oh, Colonel, you just sit yourself down, you're my guest, no need to stand on these old-fashioned rules." Of course, the smile that's audible in her voice makes it clear she loves the fact there are still people who obey these old-fashioned rules, and there's a soupcon of /Luke pay attention this is how a gentleman acts/ in there, to boot.
"Yes, ma'am," Fury answers with a nod of his head, then returns to his seat. "Mr. Cage," he greets Luke. "I apologize for stopping by here -- I know it's not quite according to Hoyle --"
"-- Colonel, you don't need to be sorry for stopping by here, my home is /always/ open."
Fury looks back over towards Momma, then gives her a respectful nod. "Yes, ma'am. But I think Mr. Cage here--"
"You can call him Luke, everyone does."
"-- I think Luke here's a little bit protective of his momma, and understandably so. So he probably doesn't quite think it's fair of me to stop by on business. Just apologizing to him for not respecting his sensibilities."
"Well, Colonel, his sensibilities might need adjusting if he thinks his friends shouldn't feel free to stop by my home to wait for him. /Especially/ if they bring good coffee and comport themselves well." Momma looks back and forth between Fury and Cage for a moment, then leans up to give Luke a kiss on the cheek. "I got some chocolate milk in the fridge for you, Luke. I'll just be in the next room while you and Colonel Fury talk, all right?"
Luke kisses his Momma back on her cheek and just nods. It's pointless to argue with her, and he knows it. He doesn't even remind her that he hasn't liked chocolate milk since he was 12. But then, every mother sees her child as her baby, especially for an only child like Luke. He learned a long time ago to just grin and bear it. She meant well, and had the biggest heart in the world. Could he really complain about that?
He watches his Momma head out to the living room, and checks the kettle. Just enough hot water left, so he plops a tea bag in a mug and pours himself a cup. He sets it on the table and lets it steam, then slowly pulls out a chair opposite the table from Fury and sits down.
"We haven't met," Fury begins in a tone that's peaceable. "Nicholas Fury. Director of SHIELD, a United Nations enforcement agency answerable to the Security Council. We assist member nations with internal enforcement issues. There's a lot of bureaucracy involved. Sometimes there are things we can't touch, and we kick those things back to local law-enforcement, or sometimes local costumes."
He takes a sip of his tea and lets all that sink in. "You ever heard of a skell goes by the name Karl, had a run-in with Hawkeye in Central Park the other night? Moves drugs and high-grade forged papers?"
Luke nods at the introduction, half-smiling. "Yeah, Mr. Fury, I know who you are. Everybody here knows your name, man." He gestures, apparently including all of Harlem, and probably beyond, some. "And actually, yeah, I think I /have/ heard of that guy. So what happened? Your boy let him get away?" Luke's probably still working out some of his frustration at finding Fury here, but thats burning out pretty quickly in the face of possibly getting a live lead on a serious dirtbag.
Luke sighs and clears his throat.
"My boy shouldn't have been chasing him in the first place. Now, this puts me in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, yeah, this skell's up to no good. On the other hand, until and unless the U.S. asks SHIELD to get involved in this, we really shouldn't be. Oh, it's not like they're going to court-martial me or anything, but it's one more letter of reprimand I really don't need. So I figure it's best if the local costumes take point on this one. And if my boy gets involved, well... then I get to say, 'hey, SHIELD was supporting a local cape.' And that plays at the UN a little better than, 'sorry, Mr. Ambassador, SHIELD didn't mean to completely $#&(! your national sovereignty.' You follow?"
Luke nods along with the explanation. Then he actually laughs at Nick's irreverence when it comes to the UN's take on things. Luke sure doesn't think much of the bureaucrats either. He takes a sip of his tea, and thinks it over for a moment, finally cracking a genuine smile. "Yeah, brother, I think we're on the same page. Shoot, this is why we set up Heroes for Hire. Stuff has to get done off the books sometimes. Makes a hell of a lot of sense to me, anyway." Luke looks down at his mug, turning it briefly on the formica table, leaving a little ring trail, before looking back up.
"I'm already knee-deep in Karl's backtrail on something else. I can easily double back and 'check in' on him, if that's what you're looking for." It's pretty well-known that Luke isn't any kind of hit-man. He generally avoids killing at all, if he doesn't have to. But he does make a decent bounty hunter.
Fury drains the last of his teacup and gives a firm nod. "Look, let me be really frank here, okay? I don't like most capes. No accountability, no training, too much ego. How often do you guys wind up brawling with each other in city streets? It's like a damn soap opera sometimes. But that doesn't mean I think capes are useless or anything like that. Just ... capes have advantages and disadvantages. You guys can do on your own what we have to file a foot of paperwork and brief three oversight committees to do. Now, Karl... Karl's a skell. Skells do what skells do. They screw up. They mess up. They're their own worst enemies. Now, I can't tell you what to do. I do that and you're suddenly acting 'on behalf of SHIELD.' Plus, you don't look like you like people telling you what to do, anyway. So let's just say I'm saying... Karl. Keep an eye on him. He's a skell doing skell, and soon he's going to get neck-deep in something, and I think you might like being around when he does. If you're there, I'll tell our guy who has a wild hair up his ass -- Agent Harper -- to let you have the lead on it. Keeps us safe bureaucratically, gives you some backup. And if you don't want in on this... then whatever."
"Oh hell no," Luke says, adding a respectful, "Sir. I /want/ in. If this scumbag is bad enough to get on your radar, I want him off my streets. And look, I /get/ what your saying about 'capes', but I call 'em 'masks', cuz they ain't got the guts to take responsibility for what we do out there. I don't brawl with them unless they're causing problems. That's just 'cuz they don't come out to Harlem much." Luke has pretty much forgotten about his tea, and seems pretty warmed up to this idea.
"I can get on Karl easy though. You want him brought in, right? Because I can tell you right now, hiding in the shadows peepin' on people ain't exactly my thing, you know?"
"Eh. What I want doesn't really matter much. Do what you do, Mr. Cage: that's all I can say. As soon as I tell you what I want, I'm going to get a U.N. special rapporteur crawling around inside my undies with a flashlight and a proctologist trying to find evidence of wrongdoing. If you want in? Then I'd suggest finding Karl and doing what you do. Figure out what he's doing with all this forged paper. That's all."
Luke nods slowly, offers a wink and picks up his tea agin. "I get you, sir. Loud and clear. As a matter of fact, what was your name again? Well shoot, I can't even remember if I stopped by my Momma's house that day..." Cage just grins across the table, leaning back in his chair, and finishes off his tea.
"More or less," Fury says as he rises to his feet. He offers a smile, then picks up the teacups and saucers and moves over towards the sink. A proper gentleman, after all, cleans his dishes. From the next room there's a call from Momma of, "I hope that's you washing things, Luke!", and Fury answers with, "He's being a proper gentleman, ma'am."
"Of course Momma!" Luke hops up and moves to the sink as well, and calls out again, "And Momma, you /know/ nobody else stopped by today. It's just me in here." Luke Cage's Momma didn't raise no fool, because she isn't one herself. High-end government mucky-muck comes to visit a super in person, no call, no appointment. That has to mean something different.
It's only a brief pause before she calls out, "Well of /course/ I know that, Luke. You just brought me my groceries and we played cards, like every Saturday." Sly old bat. She's out there in her favorite chair ready to give Fury a wink and wave on his way out too. Been while since her previous gentleman caller.
Quietly, Luke adds, "You came to the right man, and you'll hear from me soon, Mr. Fury. Was nice of you to stop by."
Once the dishes are done, wiped dry and set out to finish drying on the rack, Fury offers Luke a smile and a handshake. "Pleasure talking with you. Look forward to seeing how all this goes down. And I'm sure Karl's not going to be able to say the same. Take care now."
He offers a final polite nod, then moves out of the kitchen and into the living room, where he lingers for the better part of a minute going through the rituals of farewell with Luke's momma. For those who believe hospitality is the true sign of civilization, these things cannot be rushed -- and Fury's smart enough to know that if he plays along and doesn't hurry it, Luke's momma will likely wind up on his side.
And that, of course, is good for him... because if Luke's momma likes Nick Fury, that will make it really hard for Luke to give him guff in the future.