|Lian meets the Boss|
|What: Nick Fury drops in on Roy and his 'family'.|
It's a gorgeous afternoon and the Girls have Lian at Central Park. She's all awhirl as usual. Kindergarten is apparently the best ever. Except for the zoo. And her Girls. All four of them are dressed in white blouses and dark blazers and plaid skirts except that Lian is wearing a jumper that suits her age far better. She is, however, wearing tiny Doc Martens like her Girls and her hair is in ponytails like theirs.
"Daddy is going to think I am -so pretty-!" she squeaks as the girls tote her off to meet Roy. The girls think that Roy will just be thrilled to see Lian without a tiara or a cape... or both. "Do you have my homework?" she asks for the twenty-third (Phoebe is counting) time this afternoon.
"Yes, I do." Sophie relieves Lian of the crumpled juicebox she's wielding. "I think I see where Daddy said he'd meet us. You go first."
Oh Boy. Going First. Esme puts Lian down and she skips off ahead of them to meet Roy. The girls follow along behind, ignoring all the looks they keep getting. Really, New York, get over it... please.
There are many ways to get from the Helicarrier to the ground. There are skycars and skybikes, there's the Skycable, there's even Nick Fury's classic Ferrari 330/P4 Berlinetta (capable of flight but now illegal in the State of California due to the vortex beams being linked to childhood cancer). They all share a single, major flaw: none of them accelerate fast enough for Colonel Fury. This is why there's a sound like a giant sheet of canvas being ripped, and suddenly there's a parasail blocking the sun and casting a large shadow on the ground, the angle between sail and sun causing the shadow to take on the form of a parallelogram. HALO, the military calls it, High Altitude Low Opening. The Helicarrier is at 15,000 feet and it takes Fury a grand total of eighty-five seconds to travel between there and Central Park, opening the chute so low that the explosive sound of the parasail's inflation is audible to people on the ground: and then, a scant five seconds after opening the chute, Fury is on the ground, landing, rolling, cutting himself free of the parasail in a single well-practiced motion, and coming up to his feet as if nothing unusual had happened at all.
It'd been a long day for Roy. The previous day's ... interrogation had been hard on him, as he'd been debating with himself whether or not -torture- was the way to have resolved that incident. That the aliens apparently -had- the missing victims inside them all along made it even harder on him, and so for the moment, Roy was all too pleased to just get -out- of work for the day. And even more pleased to discover that his daughter was waiting for him.
Pulling Lian up into a scruffy kiss and then swinging her through the air, Roy quirks an eyebrow. "You're looking pretty today," he says, noticing her dress, before sidling a look at the Stepfords. Yes, it was easy enough to see where Lian was getting it from, although those skirts... Well, yes, New York -should- just get over it and enjoy it, the way Roy grins, his mood picking up. "So what did you do today?" he asks Lian.
"My Girls and I went to the -clothes store- today after school," Lian declares. "And we picked... Daddy, what's that?"
"I don't know, sweetheart," Roy says, as he closes the gap between himself and the Cuckoos, in case -something- was happening and he had to protect them too.
Lian squeals. "It's a parachute!" she exclaims, clapping her hands together as the man lands.
"... ah hell, it's the Colonel," Roy mutters.
"Sorry, I'll put a dollar in the swear jar when we get home."
Moments later the aforementioned highly questionable Ferrari pulls up near him, carrying not its owner, but one Maria Hill, dressed in civilian clothing, a long coat, and a pair of sunglasses. She turns off the ignition. "Beat me again, sir." She says dryly, and steps out of the vehicle, walking toward him. Fury's going to need a way BACK, after all.
The Girls watch Fury's descent with great interest. |"We must learn that."| |"Remy must know where we can practice."| |"It looks *fun*."| Of course it's fun. It's jumping off the Helicarrier. The girls know it's there, of course. They're terrible when it comes to seeing things they shouldn't.
"That's your superior, yes?" Sophie comes up to kiss Lian on the cheek for catching Roy saying bad words.
"You always forget when you get home," Phoebe accuses with a pout. "Pay up now."
"You're lucky we don't make you pay for all the bad words you don't say," Esme notes, rifling Roy's pockets for his wallet with a completely lack of consideration for his personal space. Daddy gets no personal space.
Other commanders would order Roy or Maria to stow his parachute. Fury is not one of those types, obviously: he came up as a barely-literate private and he remembers full well how much he hated colonels like that. He looks over towards Maria, giving her a polite nod of acknowledgment, then turns and begins to walk over towards where his parasail has collapsed. Gathering up one of these things is really not a one-man job, but he doesn't commandeer anyone else into service. After all, some things are simply Not Done. There's a big difference between someone volunteering and Fury voluntelling someone, after all.
Maria doesn't expect an order or a request, but she follows after Fury anyway. Maybe it's just to save time, maybe it's just a rare courtesy, but she silently does her part in stowing the collapsed parasail, though pausing to give Roy a lingering look over the rim of her glasses before getting back to work. Maria is not typically associated with being helpful. Maybe it's a chain of command thing.
Lian giggles as she's kissed by Sophie, before she pokes Daddy on the head. "Put me down," she says in no uncertain terms.
"Hey, hey! Hands out of my pockets, Esme!" Roy exclaims, managing to hand off Lian to Sophie quickly so that he can get his hands down to...
Too late, and Roy just sighs at Esme while she claims possession of his wallet. "Fine, fine, you can take the money -now-," he mutters, casting a -look- at Phoebe. "Anyway... yes, that's my superior. Colonel Nick Fury. You want to meet him?" He does return the look at Maria, the smile fading just slightly. What did -that- mean?
"Yes, Daddy!" she exclaims, already trying to get down so that she can run out. And if she does, well, she's making a beesline for the Colonel, like a heat-seeking missile.
"Walking feet, Lian," Sophie admonishes as she puts Lian down. She might as well not have spoken because Lian takes off like a shot. "Lian, don't..." Sophie goes chasing after her.
The gestalt scans Nick's mind in a heartbeat. |"Do catch her,"| it warns. Running pellmell at a man with Nick's life experience is not wise, no matter how tiny and cute you are.
"Lian!" Sophie breaks into a full run, hair flying, careless of decorum and her short skirt at this point, and scoops Lian up some ten feet from Nick. "I'm very sorry, sir," she says breathlessly, giving Nick a charming smile.
Behind her, her sisters are giving Roy their usual, 'did you raise her in a barn, Roy?' look. Esme takes ten dollars from his wallet and hands it back. "That's for all the swearing I'm not doing right now," she says sharply. "Really, Roy," Phoebe adds with an eyeroll.
Seeing the oncoming swarm of identical women, Maria lowers her head a bit more towards her work, and discreetly mutters. "Stepford Triplets at six o'clock, sir. Permission to be creeped out?"
When the brunette hyperkinetic moppet of energy comes running over towards Nick, well -- it's basic humanity that causes a smile to cross his face; it's the fact he's seen children brainwashed into suicide bombers that keeps his right hand free. After a moment, though, Lian is intercepted by a well-meaning trio of ... ... the hell? "... Denied," he tells Maria cheerfully enough, returning to the task of folding up and stowing the parasail. "Odds are good they think you're pretty creepy too, Hill. Remember, Central Park are our neighbors. Got to stay on good terms with them." He's not particularly concerned about being overheard: after all, it's a quiet conversation with Hill, they're still a good bit away, and even if he /is/ overheard it's not as if he's said anything scandalous. Once the parasail is folded, stacked and put away he rises to his feet, then looks over towards the Cuckoos. One of them is standing a little closer to them than the others: this one, he knows, is the one who has (either by common decision or by fiat) been nominated as the spokeswoman. Fury doesn't have much time for spokespeople. He'd rather talk to others instead. So he picks one of the other two Cuckoos, extends a hand to her. "Ma'am."
Maria stands quietely and says, formally, "I like to think they are merely jealous, sir." She does not quite smile when they get within hearing range, and doesn't offer a hand, merely keeping her hands in her pockets and her eyes on the assorted gathering of people. As always, ready to do something terrible if the unexpected happens, but not, uh, expecting to have to.
Trying to convince a five years old to alter course was just about impossible when she had an headstart. Four more expletives in a singular burst taking the Deity's motherly love in vain escpae Roy's lips, and he shoves the wallet back at Esme before she can even admonish him again. "Liaaaaan!" his voice practically rings out in a doppler effect through the air, as he moves to chase down his daughter.
Lian, though, was having none of that. These girls were -her- posse, and so she looks up at Fury with a pout. "You're Daddy's boss?" she asks, trying to get between the hand and whoever Fury was addressing. "You don't look as old as he says you are."
Yes, Lian is in charge of Her Girls. Sophie kisses her cheek, then murmurs, "Manners, darling. Director Fury looks exactly right."
Phoebe is the one Nick picked and she doesn't explain that they really aren't that separable. "Hello, Director," she says sweetly. The explanation presents itself when the others pick up after her. "It's lovely to meet you." "This is Lian." It's not speaking in unison, the words simply don't have a single source. And it's eerie.
Esme tucks Roy's wallet back into its pocket, Phoebe turns to look at him, and Sophie tidies Lian's hair. |"She's -yours-."| |"No DNA test needed."| |"Heaven help her,"| the gestalt says to Roy.
Fury looks over towards Roy, as if gauging for a moment what he thinks about Roy's true intentions in hiring a triplet of blonde barely-legal volleyball players to be Lian's babysitters. The decision is made, then he looks back towards Phoebe. "Phoebe," he repeats, as if he was trying to fix in his mind some way that Phoebe was different so that he could distinguish her from the others. Then he looks over towards the others, and takes note of just how hard it is to distinguish them, and considers what it likely means that they've deliberately patterned themselves in such a way. He turns back towards Phoebe, his smile all professional courtesy. "Phoebe, you'll have to forgive me if I sometimes screw up and call you by one of your sisters' names. Now, if I was Roy, I'd try and do something faux-gallant, like offer to put a flower in your hair to keep you separate from the others. But I get the idea you and your sisters would just swap flowers out behind my back. You and your sisters dress this way for a reason. I'd love to hear tell what that reason is, Miss Phoebe. I'm all ears. But before I begin -- let me introduce my 2IC, that's 'Second-in-Command', Maria Hill here. Agent Hill, Miss Phoebe, and so on."
"Charmed." Maria says, her hands clenching briefly when they all seem to speak at once from nowhere in particular. Just what in the hell is she looking at here? She gives Roy another glance, though this is a more easily read 'What the HELL, Harper?'
"Uh, actually, sir, Lian did that a while back, with barrettes, but you know, you can tell who's who after a while," Roy rubs his head.
Lian, on the other hand, looks vaguely perturbe at being passed over in all this talk, and looks up towards her father. "Hey, mister, stop looking at my girls!" she says quite loudly and accusatory, a moment before Roy covers his daughter's mouth. |"... yeah, she's mine, all right,"| Roy sighs mentally, before grinning sheepishly towards Maria and mouthing a 'looooong story' towards her. Turning back to Fury, Roy attempts to answer. "Uh... Lian really wanted to meet you, sir. She was impressed by your freefall." But apparently not as impressed as Fury was by her babysitters.
The girls are baffled by the comments about their clothing. |"What do we dress like?"| the gestalt asks Roy. Phoebe slides her arm through Roy's--they have a tendency to cling when they're nervous. Fury and Hill would make anyone nervous, especially three girls wary of military and authority figures.
"We dress like this because it's illegal to go without clothing," Sophie says for all of them. Roy might be able to tell the tone in her voice that says it's not just her speaking for herself, but other than that she sounds perfectly normal. More normal than when they all speak.
When Lian interjects, the girls all give her identical frowns and say, "Manners, Lian," at once.
Fury turns away from Phoebe at that point, but only after giving her a pleasant smile -- one that doesn't seem to point out the weirdness of Phoebe's answer. He turns towards Lian, looking down at her and smiling: then, first giving Roy an 'is it okay?' look, reaches to pick Lian up. "Your daddy's right," he tells her matter-of-factly. "I was born in 1916. My daddy, Jack, he fought in the First World War. He even knew the Red Baron. That's how old I am, Lian. But a long time ago something happened to me, and I don't get older any more. That's really all there is to it. Now, have you met my friend Maria?"
Maria gives an uncomfortable little grimace when Fury talks about his... historical oddities in front of civilians, but when she's brought to Lian's attention, she looks at her for a moment before taking off her glasses, stepping a bit closer and extending a hand with a slightly more natural smile. "Pleased to meet you." Her voice is not quite... friendly, but it's not her.... 'professional' voice, or any variance of it, sounding a bit more natural for once. Hard to say if she's just humoring the boss, but...
|"... like, uh... sexy young women,"| Roy has to answer, looking for all the world like a worm has crawled into his mouth. Or maybe a can of worms that he wasn't sure about opening. Still, there's at least a game attempt to clarify. "It's just ... their thing, sir," Roy attempts to amend, before being all too grateful to nod as Fury picks up Lian.
There was a slight moment of hang-dog sheepishness, but Lian won't bother to apologize. She does, however squinches up her face, her momentary protectiveness of her girls put aside in favor of trying to figure out when 1916 was. It's -way- above her counting abilities, and in any case, she's distracted by Maria. "Gee, you're pretty," she says, before her expression grows suspiciously annoyed. "Daddy doesn't bother you at work, does he?"
Maria seems a little taken aback, saying, "... Thank you." before she actually grins a little bit - stop the presses - at Lian's question. "Sometimes. I make him sit the corner. It sorts itself out."
The girls relinquish Lian without argument and Sophie slides her arms around Esme so they can lean on each other. It always makes them feel better. And so does Lian being cute.
Roy's reply gets some surprise from the girls. |"We know that."| |"But what does that have to do--"| |"--with how -we- dress?"| Oh, this is all bafflement today. Then Maria speaks to Lian and... |"You stay in the corner?"| they ask Roy. |"We were going to put you in the corner."| |"But Phoebe said it was mean."| |"And you wouldn't stay anyway."| Because someone never listens.
Fury sets Lian down after a moment, then reaches into his pocket to pull out a small, tightly-rolled piece of felt. "This, Lian, is something called a fedora. A crushed-felt fedora. It's a kind of hat you can roll up and stuff in your pocket." He crouches down to one knee, showing the rolled-up hat to Lian and letting her see as he expands it out to full size, as he punches out the crown to restore it to its previous shape. He places the fedora on his head, hitting the perfect jaunty angle on the first try. Eight decades of experience goes a long way where that's concerned, apparently. "You don't see many fedoras nowadays, Lian, but it used to be that every gentleman wore one. But only outdoors. It was considered poor form to wear it inside, or when you were among women -- you removed your hat then, to show respect. And if you were on an elevator and you didn't take off your hat when a woman stepped aboard, well, you were ... you were the rudest person that could ever be. And that's why I'm not putting on my hat. Because I'm around women. You. Phoebe and her sisters. Maria. It's a sign of respect. Never let any man get away with disrespecting you, Lian. Ever. /Ever/." He gives Lian a grin, then presses the hat into her hand. "Nowadays, hardly any men wear fedoras anymore. But they've come back a little bit as women's fashion. I'll bet you cash money that if Phoebe or one of her sisters puts this on, or Maria for that matter, you'll see why so many women today love men's fedoras. So how about if you take this over to Phoebe for me?"
Maria closes her eyes with a little sigh when Fury goes on his spiel, shaking her head a little before putting her sunglasses back on and covering her mouth for a moment. "A little old fashioned, Sir." She inclines her head towards Lian, "But the right idea."
|"Well, yeah, but -dressing- like that is just going to... uh, encourage people to ... do things they do with sexy women. Like, uh... showers and beds and..."| Wait. Oh god, -suddenly- the explanation of -why- his bed smelled like Stepfords was sinking into his mind, and now Roy is now rubbing his head because -this- can of worms was starting to explode open, and spreading about dirt in the process. |"It's like... it's like waving a red flag in front of bulls."| Nevermind that bulls were colorblind, dammit. |"And I haven't been -bad- at work! She's just teasing."| Wait...
But Lian is already turning her pout on her father, and Roy has to shake his head. "Honestly, I've been good." Well, mostly. Sometimes, a guy's -got- to admit, at least, that Maria Hill -does- look better going than coming.
Any further admonishment from Lian is delayed by the presentation of a fedora. "Wow..." she says in an awed voice, as she takes the fedora. Trotting over to Phoebe as quickly as she could, she offers the hat. And then something sinks in, and she turns to Nick. "Why doesn't Daddy have one?"
Phoebe lets go of Roy and crouches down to let Lian put the hat on her head, then tilts it to the appropriate angle before picking Lian up and letting Roy have a look at her. "What do you think, Daddy?"
"Well, Lian, your daddy doesn't have a fedora because he chooses not to wear one," Fury calls out to Lian helpfully as she takes the hat over towards Phoebe. "If he wants to look good in a fedora, he'd need a regulation haircut -- like mine -- and he'd need to either grow a beard or else shave every day. Then he'd look /great/ in a fedora, Lian. I think he should get a fedora. I think he'd look great in one. Don't you?" Oh, God. This is Fury's secret plan to finally make Roy conform to the SHIELD Regulation Grooming Standards, isn't it? All those times Fury's told Roy to conform to the standards, Roy's blown him off. And now Fury is playing /dirty/. He's getting a /child/ involved. Particularly a child Fury knows that Roy can't say no to.
Maria looks vaguely embarrassed, giving a little groan, but says nothing, shaking her head, and pushing her sunglasses further up her nose.
"Uh..." Somewhere along the line, Roy's given up on trying to get the girls to -not- call him Daddy. So instead, he just grins at Phoebe. "Looks good."
There's a minute of pause as Roy stares at Nick Fury, before shaking his head rapidly. "Oh, no. No. I don't think _I_ should wear a fedora..." he begins, before Lian's squeal of delight cuts him off.
"Oh yes, YES! Daddy should wear a hat! And get a haircut! But no beard. Kissing with hair on the face is -yucky-," Lian exclaims, putting hands to her hips as she looks at her scruffy father.
Mutely Roy looks towards the Cuckoos for help, but it's already a hopeless cause. So now it's looking towards Maria. "Uh... tell them I can't rock a fedora, will you?"
"We tell him," the girls say to Nick with a flawlessly synchronized shake of their heads that flips their ponytails about. "The stubble is unattractive and abrasive." "The hair makes him look like an angry pubescent hooligan." They shrug helplessly at Nick and cross their arms in unison. "He doesn't listen." "And it's unethical to cut his hair in his sleep." "Though we have considered it."
Phoebe removes the hat and offers it to Nick with a little bob like a curtsey. Esme notes dryly, "He would get more kisses if he shaved but his mathematic skills seem to be rusty." Kisses from Lian, of course.
Fury looks over at Maria abruptly. "Maria! Why haven't I given you a fedora yet?" As if she might actually have an answer to that question -- and why not? He leans on her for everything else. "Never mind that. Take a memo: when we get back to the Helicarrier we're going to find a block of time to hit Hats in the Belfry and get you kitted out right. I'm thinking a nice black narrow-brim number, slouch, maybe with a red silk ribbon around the base?" he continues, drawing an imaginary line around his head. "But your call, really. Yeah, you'd look ..." He pauses, and then -- "I dunno. Once in Los Angeles I had dinner with Veronica Lake and she stole my fedora. You don't look much like Veronica Lake, but --" He stops, then shakes himself abruptly. "-- Never mind, probably already running afoul of the SHIELD guidelines." He turns away, looks back over towards Lian who's bouncing in front of Daddy and demanding that he get a proper haircut and a shave, and smiles, smiles, smiles. Then, towards Phoebe: "Ladies, I don't think you're going to have troubles with Roy's grooming in the future." He reaches up to accept the fedora, then rolls it up and stuffs it back in his pocket. "All you have to do is wear a fedora around Lian and she'll ask why Daddy isn't wearing one, and the rest will happen automatically."
Maria recoils slightly, then turns her head to the side. "I'll... get right on that. Sir." She says, giving him a bit of a look over her glasses. Frankly she feels like prioritising the fact that Agent Harper is hanging around three strange identical women, but that can wait until her boss's evil plan is finished.
Sighing, Roy mutters. "Fine, I'll take the money from the swear jar and buy an electric razor." There was a -look- at Esme that roughly promises that -before- he shaved, -she- was going to get the bum's rush. Kneeling down next to Lian, Roy asks, "C'mon, don't you like kisses from Daddy?"
"SHAVE!" is Lian's heartless reply.
"Fine, I get it," Roy growls. "Just not the -hat-."
The girls are -not- sympathetic to Roy's complaints. |"Sissybritches,"| the gestalt says. |"You're never going to meet the right woman."| |"If you look like someone's floppy puppy."| This is actually a concern of theirs. Maria gets a quick scan but is deemed not nearly maternal enough.
They do catch Maria's intentions toward them. Her mind is not malicious, so they let it go. They knew they would raise suspicion some time.
"Lian, darling," Sophie says, reaching for her as Lian's pout deepens. "Would you like a cookie?" |"She needs her snack, Roy,"| the gestalt reminds him with a mental prod.
With the situation involving Harper's grooming firmly under control, Fury picks up his (crudely, quickly-)packed parasail and slings the pack over his shoulder. He looks over towards the Cuckoos, giving each of them a nod in turn. "Ladies. My work here is done. A pleasure to meet you." Then he's moving over towards his Ferrari, and sets the parasail in a storage compartment that looks as if it's barely large enough for a briefcase. "Maria? If you're coming with me we're leaving in five." He says nothing about the Cuckoos, and truth be told, at this point he's doing a good job of avoiding *thinking* anything about the Cuckoos -- if you want to hide your thoughts from your face, the best way to do it is to control what you think. But yes, assuredly, there will be time to look into these three later. And who knows? Once Roy's got a proper haircut and a shave, maybe Roy can shed some light on Lian's babysitters.
Maria is not so guarded, clearly, at least not in a way that would protect her from these three, her relative focus putting her thoughts in sharp relief. "Yes, Sir." She says, nodding respectfully as he walks past, then regards the assembled group in front of her for a long moment. "Harper, we'll be in contact. Ladies." She looks down and her expression softens slightly. "Ms. Lian." Then she turns and follows after Fury,
|"... why are -you- so concerned?"| Roy rubs his face, before giving Fury a 'so NOT your business' look, as the director walks off into the car. Maria, on the other hand, gets a bit more appreciative look, before he's distracted by Lian's squealing at the promise of a cookie. "Oh... yeah. Uh, we were going to stop by that cookie place, right? Auntie Mae-Eye's?"
And hopefully, Lian'll have forgotten about demanding a shave permanently.
The gestalt nudges Roy as he's watching Maria go. |"We're concerned because Lian needs a mother."| |"Or another father, one at home."| |"And you need a proper partner."| Phoebe and Esme take Roy's arms and turn him toward the cookie place--Lian is already effusive about which cookies (all of them) she plans to eat today. |"We care about your work because it determines Lian's quality of life."| |"The more successful you are, the more opportunities she has."| |"A real partner would let you focus more on work and get promoted."| They have REALLY thought this through.
And without further ado, Fury climbs into the Ferrari two-seater. The engine purrs into a life that's felt more than it's heard, a vibrato sub-bass that shakes viscera more than it impacts the ears: and then, like some jungle predator that knows how to stalk sensually, the Ferrari wheels away from the curb to take Maria and the Director off somewhere else. Hats in the Belfry, no doubt.
In the passanger seat, Maria leans her head back for a moment, then inclines it towards Fury. "I'll get a team looking into Harper's associates." She says, assuming the 'asking permission' part of this conversation isn't necessary, considering. "There was very little right down there."
|"Well, first... Lian needs positive role models,"| Roy rejoins. |"Secondly, -guys- need not apply. There's only one daddy, and that's me."|
Roy begins to follow. |"Besides, I've got a SHIELD partner. I haven't run into her yet, but Director Fury assigned her to me. Work will be just fine. Outside it... eh, -you- do well enough as Lian's mothers, and that leaves me to worry about other things, right?"|