Amuse Bouche

May 28, 2015:

Peggy, Howard and Tony go out for a nice steak dinner. Before they can even order, an old friend pays them a visit.

Keens Steakhouse

Characters

NPCs: Anatol Erben, various thugs

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Keens Steakhouse is one of the few restaurants that was around, and very popular even in Peggy's heyday. That's likely why Howard picked it for their first outing. Jarvis secured the reservation. It turns out the maitre d is the son of the previous maitre d who knew Edwin from the old days when Howard used to eat here all the time. That could explain the very fine table with a view of the bar and the window, and the surprise amuse bouche that arrived soon after they sat down.
"If the beef is half as good as I remember, we're in for a treat," says Howard as he raises a glass of Merlot. He's dressed in a finely cut white blazer, with a blue collared shirt beneath, and white pants. It's a bold choice to wear white to a steakhouse, but never let it be said he's not something of a rebel.

*

Peggy isn't one to tease Howard about his apparel. Not until she's at least had another glass of wine, that is. She's dressed up, too, wearing a dark blue, form fitting dress that reaches to her calves. Her heels are a bright red, however, with bows on the back. Swirling the wine about in her glass, she smirks across the table at him. "I remember hearing raves about this place." That, of course, was back in the 40s. "I'm certainly looking forward to finally eating here. It's a splendid atmosphere, isn't it?"

*

Tony's bouche is quite amused, it seems. He's not wearing white; that's Howard's purview, and it works for him, but Tony's dressed relatively quietly in black and gray. Dignified, but with an up-to-the-minute cut. Suit jacket, no tie, herringbone. He doesn't seem too surprised when they're sat in what looks like one of the best tables in the house: he's Tony Stark; that happens a lot. Even so.

He raises his own glass in a silent toast to the others, sipping and settling back. He might be admiring Peggy, even if she's Aunt Peggy and the thought of ogling her is actually kind of uncomfortable. "I still hear good things about this place, though I don't recall if I've been. The maitre d' didn't throw me out on sight, so I'm guessing not."

*

Betsy Braddock is /out/. Out of X-red, out of the Triskelion, out from under all the authority that's been bearing down on her. But she doesn't look terribly happy, despite her picture-perfect appearance, something right out of a modelling catalogue. Her hair, a lustrous black, shines with the suggestion of a purple sheen, swept into an updo with two chopsticks that looks casual but probably took some time in front of a mirror to perfect. A silver halter-style dress shimmers down her body, accessorized by sapphires in her earrings and the navy blue of her clutch and shoes, along with a careful application of makeup.

And despite all that preparation, she's slouched at the bar, elbow propping up her chin in an opera-glove clad hand, and staring listlessly at the mirror behind the bartender's station. With her other hand she rolls around a rock floating in a puddle of clear vodka, and once in a while blows away an errant bang that seems determined to get in front of her face no matter how often she pushes it away.

*

Upscale indeed. Aiko Miyazaki asked around for a recommendation on a really good restaurant, and this was the place that was recommended. So here she is, standing at the moment at the greeter's spot, talking with said maitre'd's minion, asking after a table. Does she have a reservation? No. Does she need one? Apparently, that may be true, and she's looking sadly put-out. She made an error in judgement, it seems. But when she catches sight of Howard Stark, she at least gives a wave in his direction; given her height and her rather brilliant color scheme, chances are Howard could manage to see her.

*

The door admits someone else into this fine establishment. Ruby Rowe saunters in, the beaded fringes of her dress swaying merrily down around knee level. She looks cheerful enough, one hand sitting on her hip and a little pillbox hat jauntily on her bobbed hair.

She doesn't spot Peggy. She instead slides up to the bar, taking a seat one barstool away from Betsy. "Gimme a dozen raw oysters and a Tom Collins," she tells the bartender. Ruby laces her fingers together then, resting her chin on them.

"You look wistful," she says to Betsy casually, but that's just an opening serve.

*

"Far less hazy with cigar smoke than I remember it. But I bet the food tastes better for the lack of air pollution," says Howard with a warm grin. He has a look over the menu and cranes his neck as a plate goes by, absolutely laden with meat. "I see the portions haven't gotten any smaller." It's on that plate scanning that he catches sight of Honey Lemon out of the corner of his eye. He instinctively checks his phone, just in case he missed an emergency message and she's been sent to fetch him. There's no urgent messages, just a half dozen texts from the same number of people on various topics. Oh for the days when you could be unreachable. "Excuse me one moment."
He stands and crosses the room towards Honey. "Ms. Miyazaki. Is this just a happy coincidence, or were you looking for me?"
Over at the bar, the blond and Baltic-looking bartender is distracted even from Betsy's beauty by the Starks and their guest. He's got his attention on them as he polishes a glass. That's not really unusual. The Stark boys tend to draw attention where they go individually. Two of them, and in the company of a beautiful woman? Bound to raise eyebrows. He does eventually turn to acknowledge Ruby. The order is put in and he starts to work at mixing the drink. Still, he keeps glancing towards that well-placed table.

*

Betsy stares at the mirror for a few moments after Ruby finishes speaking to her, until she looks at Ruby's reflection. "Is that what it is?" she says, in a glacially composed voice. "I honestly can't tell. I've been sitting here for an hour trying to figure that out," she says, her cultured British accent oddly distanced from the topic of conversation.

She brings the vodka up to her lips, stained a dark red to complement her hair and smokey eyes, and slams back the contents of the glass. She looks at the bartender with a moment of focus and makes the smallest of gestures. He drops what he's doing and promptly walks over to her position with a bottle of vodka, pouring her at least twice the standard order of a drink without being prompted. She waves him off, releasing him to a blinking moment of confusion, and rolls the ice cube around the glass with a gloved fingertip.

*

"Is it your habit to be thrown out of steakhouses, Tony?" Peggy gives Tony a grin as she takes a sip of her glass of wine. She's glancing about at the general splendor - the pipes hanging from the ceiling, the wood paneling on the walls. She follows Howard as he goes to speak to Honey Lemon, studying the other woman curiously in an attempt to figure out what their business might be before it's explained. "Hm. Do you know her?" she asks Tony, a chin tilted in the blonde woman's direction. The glance about the place affords her a quick glance of Ruby, though she doesn't call out or otherwise acknowledge recognizing the fortune teller.

*

"Define 'habit'," Tony replies, lightning-fast. "It's happened before, if that's what you mean. …Twice, I think. Not any time recently," he adds, not quite defensively. "But there was this one time — "
His attention is actually attracted by Betsy: he's been doing a survey of the room, glancing around to see if he recognizes anyone, but the stunner at the bar actually makes his mouth go dry for a moment. Ruby joins her, and he blinks: evidently he's gone to some kind of Lady Heaven. So when Peggy asks her question, he mutters his answer: "Never in my life."
It's only an instant later that he looks around to Peggy: "Hmm?" Following her gaze to the young blonde woman, he blinks: "She looks kind of familiar. I've seen her before, but I can't think where."

*

The brightly-attired exceptionally tall and very thin blonde smiles a tad shyly and shakes her head. "Good evening, Mister Stark. I'm sorry to interrupt your meal. It's just a coincidence, really. I heard about how great this place was, and wanted to experience it. But I don't have a reservation, and apparently I need one. So, I wanted to wave and say hello, seeing you here, before I headed out to find somewhere else to eat tonight." That's just like Honey, though; she doesn't want to make waves or upset anyone, and she's not trying to lobby for Howard or anyone else to pull strings to get her in. She just wanted the chance to say hello before she left.

It's the Honey part of Honey Lemon, you see.

*

Ruby's lips purse as she's overlooked however momentarily. How unflattering! But understandable. She cranes her head to see just what's going on out there with all that attention. When she spots Tony Stark, /the Iron Man/, her expression sobers. "Huh."

She then observes Betsy's quest to get destroyed. "Well," she says, "I don't mean to interrupt if you're occupied. Figuring yourself out is hard to do and you look like you've got some thinking to do. But I think a sheik over there is examining you," and also me she doesn't say, "so at least you're not gone in the eyes of the world, huh?"

She does get her drink at this point too. However, the allure of possibly getting a dozen oysters is too strong. Pivoting in her stool a little, Ruby takes care to look towards Tony, aiming to meet his eyes as she raises the glass up, her lips capturing the thin black stirring straw inside of it. (Ruby has still not clearly identified Peggy. Honey may be in the way.)

*

"Nonsense. Come and have a seat," says Howard. He motions back towards the table. "I'm just having dinner with my son and Ms. Carter. Have you met them?" Unless she resists, he starts back to the table with the expectation that she follow. "Unless you're meeting someone?" a brow raises. "In which case, I'm sure I can get your a table. I used to be a very good customer here."
Many of the staff are giving the Starks rather obvious looks. That's a bit strange for such an upscale establishment. Ogling the clientele is a strict no-no.
A woman appears at Peggy and Tony's side to remove the amuse bouche dishes. She avoids eye contact to an extreme degree, then slips away. Something about her body language is…stressed, but that could just be attributed to the busy atmosphere and no doubt exacting standards.

*

While Peggy is rather immune to the pull that the Starks can draw by simply being in a place, she is also not blind. Nor is she a highly trained spy for nothing. She takes another sip of wine, smiling at Tony as he makes his quip. "I'd say a habit is more than three times. So, luckily you've avoided that." Her smile is a bit tighter than it is amused.

The waitress' avoiding eye contact and almost wincing is easily observed. Looking about, as if Tony's own surveying of the place has shown her someone she should see, she glances about at the staff. A hand drops from the stem of her wine glass to rest gently on the cutlery laid out on the table in front of her - very close to the steak knife. While it may seem as if she is relaxed, her body is tensed. She pushes her seat out just slightly so that if she should stand quickly, only her chair will fall over, not the entire table. It may be nothing, but then, it never hurts to be prepared.

*

Tony does meet Ruby's eyes, though only briefly: he looks back around to Peggy with a warm smile, but it fades a little when he sees that tension. He's known Peggy long enough, even if it wasn't this Peggy. It's just maybe less easy to read a face with so many fewer wrinkles on it.
"Bad aftertaste?" he murmurs softly. He actually reaches across the table to put a hand on hers as if to very briefly comfort her. "Hey. I've been on my best behavior for a while now. I'm not going to embarrass you. Not in front of you, anyway." He withdraws the hand, but he's still watching her a little warily. And glancing back toward Howard, raising a hand to give him and the young lady a little wave.

*

"I didn't say I /wanted/ to be sulking at the sodding bar," Betsy points out, without any particular rancor in her voice. "I didn't want to sit in a hotel bedroom all evening. I didn't want to walk around in my old street clothes. I didn't want to see a bunch of people I used to know, who don't recognize me as /not/ being the person I'm saying I am." Wait, what? That part doesn't jive, but Betsy doesn't stop to explain herself, her normally excellent posture turning into a lame slump over her vodka.

"Now all my dresses are too short and too tight, and I just wish I was eighteen again and could live on french fries and empty carbohydrates," she says, with a hint of despondence ringing her words.

Ruby's speech penetrates the slow haze of alcohol and she looks in the mirror, then over her shoulder, before looking at Ruby herself. Her lips purse in a momentary quirk of surprise as she focuses nearsightedly on Ruby's fine features, then she moves her dark eyes over to the Stark table, looking back at Tony openly. "Is that Tony Stark?" she says, twisting at the waist and narrowing her eyes. "And why is he staring at me?" she adds, turning to look at the woman next to her with a sharply upticked, fine eyebrow. She furrows her brow at Honey and Howard, recognizing neither of them, and then tries to focus on Peggy, who is also an unknown at that table. It dawns on her that for once, Betsy's at a party where she doesn't actually know anyone.

*

"Oh! No, I wasn't meeting anyone. Not tonight." It's odd, really. Rarely does one seem to encounter Honey Lemon without GoGo Tamago, but that seems to b the way of things tonight. "Are you sure you don't mind?" Aiko inquires, as she follows along with Howard, letting herself be drawn into the restaurant and over to the rather poshly placed table. "No. I haven't met your son, or Ms. Carter." But she's eager and happy to meet new people; if they're brilliant enough to tolerate Howard's company - and he theirs - then she wants to know them.

Once they reach the table, the brightly-adorned exceptionally tall and very thin - almost stork-like - mixed-race blonde introduces herself. There are only two people, so she can't go wrong. "Good evening, Mister Stark, Ms. Carter. I am Doctor Aiko Miyazaki." She can't possibly be old enough to be a PhD or an MD, but then again she's someone Howard knows … "It's a pleasure to meet you both. I hope you won't mind. Howard offered to let me join you this evening." Honey doesn't seem to have noticed any strange behavior amongst the staff, or amongst Tony and Peggy. She's an innocent, at least so far.

*

Ruby sees Tony look away but this makes her smirk for a moment. It feels to her like a success. She glances at Betsy then, abruptly and fast, as she speaks.

Her lips purse. After the despondence comes into Betsy's voice, though, she's on firmer ground. This isn't the strangest thing she's ever heard of, and it's helped by the arrival of her oysters. She tips one back as Betsy swivels around to look at him, but Ruby says, "Probably because you're the second most gorgeous dame at this bar. C'mon," she then says, rising and picking up her plate and her glass while tilting her head, "Let's go bother Mr. Warbucks."

With or without Betsy, Ruby sashays towards the Table d'Stark. She still hasn't recognized (the back of) Peggy('s head).

*

"Aiko is one of the rising stars at THINK. She always records it when she makes things explode." Howard smiles wide and chuckles. He leans forward to pull a chair out for Honey.
What happens next, happens fast. The woman who cleared their dishes returns with a tray covered with a napkin. In one smooth motion, she slips a hand under it and produces a 9MM. The gun is tossed smoothly to a roving busboy who flips the safety and presses the weapon against the back of Howard's neck.
From around the restaurant, there's a series of clicks. Various members of staff (though not all of them) have produced weapons. The blonde woman draws a second gun off the tray and aims it towards Peggy and Tony. "Nobody move," she spits. Then she raises her voice and announces, "We are here only for Starks. Nobody be heroes. Stay where you are." Her accent is Eastern European, and rather thick.
The bartender likewise produces a pistol and aims it towards the backs of Betsy and Ruby.

*

"Oh, my dear, it's not you I'm worried about," Peggy tells Tony softly a hand gripping at the steak knife. There's, obviously, a gun in her purse, but going for that would be practically suicide, and possibly murder as a gun is pressed to Howard's forehead. Instead, she glances to Tony, completely serious and then immediately breaks down. "No. You can't. You can't." A hand sweeps the plate and other silverware to the side, making a mess while also deftly sweeping up the steak knife and pressing it underneath her arm. Knocking over her own chair, she reaches for Tony with her other arm. "I love him. You can't take him! Not on our anniversary! We were going to the place we first met after this - the aquarium." A nonsensical sentence, perhaps, but it's said with conviction.

A histrionic woman is almost always ignored or dealt with annoyance, she can hope. That's the way it was in the 40s, at least. If nothing else, she can draw some attention. With her chair knocked over, her purse is right by her feet, the contents almost spilled out on the floor.

*

'Nobody be heroes' is in fact a great way to convince Tony to be a big stupid hero, usually. He's just starting to get to his feet when he's dragged forward (and indeed off balance) by Peggy, who is apparently desperate to pull every bit of attention her way. But he's for it. Sure! Sort of. At least get the gun off Howard, because while Tony's fairly confident he could rebuild his dad, the thought of having to watch the man's actual head get blown apart —
Would he even be able to fix that? But for sure they're not after Howard. He raises his hands, taking a half-step in front of Peggy. He's protecting her, but he's protecting her left side. He knows the lady knows her way around snatching guns out of people's hands. "Leave her out of it!" he bellows, glancing sidelong at Peggy. This is gonna feel weird. "Honey," he grits. "It's going to be okay. I'm going to go with these very nice, uh, people. It's me you want," he adds, turning back to the gunwomen. "I'm sure we can come to some kind of arrangement; just put the guns down, please."

*

Without any particular enthusiasm, but no objections worth voicing, Betsy gets to her feet, uncoiling smoothly from the barstool. She reaches for her clutch and with a practiced flick of her left hand, smooths out her clingy dress so it drapes properly, slit up to her hip on the left side and catching the low lights of the bar. In her four-inch heels, she's of a height with Honey, but she must be carrying thirty or forty more pounds of muscle than the slender doctor. She starts after Ruby with a graceful gait that only close examination would identify as slightly intoxicated… when all hell breaks loose.

Betsy looks behind her with a glassy-eyed bit of surprise, then at the man with a gun pressed against Howard's neck. In the midset of Peggy's outburst, she cranes her neck to take in the rest of the room. She takes a half step to the side- almost having a catastrophic heel accident- and lifts her chin sharply in the fellow's direction.

Without so much as a grunt of surprise, the crook takes the gun from Howard's neck unblinkingly and turns it on himself. The result is, predictably, somewhat gory.

In the shocked silence that follows, a small belch is heard.

"Pardon me," Betsy murmurs, putting a silken glove over her dark lips.

*

Aiko freezes, tottering just a tiny bit as she realizes this has all gone quite sideways. How terrible! She hasn't the reflexes or speed to act, or so she thinks … until suddenly everyone is acting. Peggy creating an opening, Tony acting on it. Somehow, the gun is gone from the back of Howard's head and the man holding it is dead. And in that moment, Honey Lemon takes action, her fingers flying over her purse as her other hand pushes one of the spheres on her purse strap into the back. When the ball emerges from the front just moments later, she twists and throws the sphere just past Tony, towards the next-closest - and most dangerous - gunman. Should it hit, it should erupt rapidly into a neon-blue goop surrounding and rapidly hardening around that individual. If not? Well, wherever it lands, the same will erupt.

*

When she hears guns start clicking, Ruby has an ancient reflex. The ancient reflex, predating everyone present (though Peggy and Howard may have been children at the time), is to down her Tom Collins. Bottoms up; it's a raid.

This gives her moments to think. Tony Stark's some kind of superguy, she knows that, but the details elude her. She has an inkling the woman behind her is some kind of something-or-other but it's subtle and it could have been morbidity talking. Then she hears the voice of Peggy Carter ring out, and NOW she recognizes it.

Everything freezes into place. She's confident Margaret (for so she was introduced) can work with this. Ruby lowers the glass, her red lips wet with gin and ice, and drops it to free a hand to go to her hip. Her voice raises.

"/Anniversary/? Anthony, what is this? Are you TWO TIMING me? What about US, what about the -"

Bang! A gunshot has a way of shutting up people, even Ruby. Her mouth hangs slightly open as she processes this new evolution of events, especially when Aiko throws in balls full of menacing blue goop. She's feeling that Tom Collins now!

*

"Shut up!" barks the blonde woman towards Peggy. She calmly pulls back the hammer on the gun and points it at her forehead.
She is, along with probably everyone else, quite neatly distracted by the man who was holding a gun to Howard's head blowing his own brains out. Howard was just about to execute a neat little duck-maneuver, prompted by Peggy's codeword. All that manages to do is stop him from being sprayed in too much gore.
"Holy shit!" says Howard. Well. He always did have a way with words. He stares back at Betsy, then looks over towards Tony. "I just wanted a steak." He looks down at the man who just blew his own brains out. "…and I've kinda lost my taste for red meat." He glances over at Ruby, then back at Tony. "I hate dinner theatre."
Honey's orb of expanding gooeyness hits its mark and balloons up around an advancing waiter with a small arm.
"Everyone stay where you are," comes a booming voice from the direction of the kitchen. A man walks out. He's unusually tall and lean. He has to be at least six four. He's wearing a chef's jacket, which he flips open to reveal a series of glowing blue lights. The scientists among them will recognize a series of Stark repulsors chained together. That's not the disturbing part - the disturbing part is that they're all whirring in a sick-sounding way and glowing hot. They're set to overload. Some of the customers yell out in horror. "Yes, yes, the crazy Slav has a bomb strapped to his body. This is the plot. You have followed it. Bravo, bravo." He claps twice. For a man with a bomb strapped to him, he looks remarkably calm. He steps forward and rests his hands casually in his pockets. "And I will vapourize this city block if anyone decides to be stupid." He lifts a brow at Betsy and looks down at the corpse. "Stupider. Now. Please, children, this is the listening part. Listen." He presses his palms together. "I am here to talk to Howard Stark. We have business. Tony, you are just a bonus. I hate to burst your ego, but you? Coincidence." He motions with a hand. "I pencil you in for a kidnapping a week from Thursday, okay? We make it good. Lots of drama. Girls in tight skirts. Just your thing."

*

From her kneeling position, the tears dissolve almost immediately. When Tony moves to 'protect' his love from the violence, she is quick on her feet. Ruby's distraction is exactly what she needed to spring into action. The gun in her purse is for later. For now, she has a weapon in the steak knife. It's an immediate push upward from the floor as she moves around Tony and quickly disarms the blonde woman. With a quick slap downward of the wrist, she then twists the woman's arm and plucks the gun from her numb wrist. Now standing perfectly upright, she gives Tony bit of a smirk.

The gore of the waiter holding Howard hostage means little to her, instead she moves to ensure her friend is alright before the man in the chef's outfit exits the room. Seeing the repulsors strapped to his chest, she easily lifts the purloined gun up, not willing to risk innocent lives. Eyes move from Tony to Howard, already attempting to form some sort of plan in her head. A bit of a smirk is given to Ruby and she gives a bit of a shrug. Then, her focus turns to the man with the bombs. Insulting his ego seems the way to go to draw his attention from her friends. "And who do you think you are? Obviously, you aren't very imaginative."

*

And Tony grimaces when he watches Peggy disarm the woman, but it's a grimace of appreciation. He snorts, tipping his chin upward at the now-disarmed assassin: "Can I pick 'em or what?" Ruby's outcry, too — bless her — elicits a spreading of the hands and a shout of "What can I say? I gotta be me." Make it chaotic. Distract everyone. Let his friends do their work. Why hasn't he finished that summoning-version of his armor yet?
His head snaps toward Howard to make sure the man's safe. He's just in time to catch the sight of the other assassin's head turning into a yawning red crevice, and that's enough to put him off food and onto the bottle for a while. He's on his way to check on Howard (though no one quipping that fast is likely to be hurt. Well, except a Stark) when…

"I know who he is." He stares at the man with the repulsors strapped all over his chest, stepping slowly forward. Very slowly. "Erben," he says, and there's just a touch of shock in his voice. "Shit, Anatol. What are you doing? This isn't you. This is what the people we used to fight would do. Come on, man. We can talk about this."

*

Betsy does something that no one really notices, because it's the kind of thing that only ninja-trained psychic assassins can do. She vanishes. There's no smoke, no light. Just from everyone's perspective, she turns a little in place, as if a shadow werer passing overhead. And she's… gone. Unremembered.

Between the suicidal shooter and Erben's sudden booming presence, all eyes are elsewhere, and in that moment between blinks, even six-feet-plus tall and clad in glistening silver, the dark-tressed woman ghosts. More than even invisible, she's unremarkable, forgotten, an afterthought cast aside. Swathed in shadow and illusion, even a mutant as talented as Xavier would be hard-pressed to sense her after she's gone.

*

Being stupid? The geniuses in this room make it rather unlikely anyone is going to be stupid. Reckless, on the other hand, seems to be their natural state of being. Sorry about that.

Most of the gunmen are summarily dealt with, and yet the threat isn't over. Now, there's a man with city-smashing device strapped to his chest, threatening harm. Aiko sighs, making a face. Obviously, something has to be done. She'd wish GoGo were here, but wishing won't make it so. Instead, she's doing her best to be surreptitious as she extracts another sphere from her purse strap, tucks it into the back of the purse, and starts keying in sequences on the periodic table control pad on the face of the purse, prepping the sphere for use. She can see the passive scanner attached to the array of repulsors on the man's chest, and knows appraaching him will only set it off. So she's prepping a mist bomb, to confound the sensor and make it harder for it to pick up someone making that approach. Since she's being sneaky, however, it's taking a while to finish keying in the sequence. She only just has the sphere to hand, then, as Psylocke disappears.

*

Ruby returns Peggy's glance. Her efficient disabling maneuver and reassuring smirk take some of the angst out of Ruby's heart, which had been frankly worrying that Mr. Mad Bomber there was an unstoppable force, and she was about to end up surviving another building collapse.

What she WANTS to do is have a cigarette; she settles for an oyster, even as she watches Tony and Peggy talk to the man. Ruby doesn't quite notice Betsy vanish - or at least, only has the slightest feeling of 'she did a fade.'

"What do you even say in a situation like this, am I right?" she murmurs to Aiko.

*

"Your father is back to his old tricks, Tony. He undoes all of your good work." Anatol reaches forward and slides a steak knife off the table. "Two weeks before he tells the world he is alive, the factory in my village starts up again. The one you decommissioned. The one we drove those murderers from." He motions with the steak knife. "This…this makes me very unhappy. But I know this is not you. You big hero! Sign autograph, please!" He scoops up a white linen napkin and thrusts it towards Tony. For a moment, he actually looks like he's serious. Which is disconcerting. But then the smile that appeared flits away and he tosses the napkin to the ground.
Anatol turns to Howard and then slides the serrated blade across his palms. He flexes and lets the blood flow until they're coated. "The world has forgotten the crimes of the father. But I remember." He presses a bloody finger to his forehead. It leaves a red smear.
If Honey's watching closely, she'll notice the light on the proximity sensor turns green when Anatol steps towards Howard. Either he has some sort of control, or the proximity sensor is meant to allow him to get close to the elder Stark.
"Look, I don't know what the hell you're on about, but I haven't restarted any factories. I was in a SHIELD lockdown before I revealed myself." Howard straightens and does his best to look together. But this man has almost a full foot on him.
Anatol just stares down at Howard, then reaches out. He places one bloody palm on each of his shoulders, then runs the fingers down the front of his white jacket. Anatol nods upwards and rocks back a step. The proximity sensor turns red again. "It's a good look for you. Very fitting."

*

Peggy looks to Tony very briefly. No on has asked her to put the gun she's purloined off the waitress away, so she grips it. The barrels is pointed toward the floor, but that means little in the hands of a trained woman such as herself.

"So, what do you want, Anatole? What's you're endgame? If you wanted to kill Howard, you'd have done it by now. There are, however, many more people here than Howard and Tony Stark. If you're here for the Starks, you should take them. They have their own ways of justice. They'll be fine. Leave everyone else here alone." Her voice is steady, though she takes slow and gradual steps in order to try and get herself within arm's reach of Howard. She certainly doesn't trust a man that straps scientific bombs to himself.

He obviously has a reason for being here, a point to make. Hopefully, she can get him to speak it. "So, what's the plan here? Because if you detonate those in here with all of these innocent people, your message will be that you're a crazy terrorist that killed many innocent people. Whatever other message you wish for is lost."

*

"That's… not possible," Tony says with a slow shake of his head. "Two weeks before he told the world he was alive, it's just as he says: SHIELD had him. Believe me, Anatol; do you think I would have let him out of my sight?" He's coming closer, but slowly; he's not getting too close, and his hands are still up in a pose of appeasement.
"I'm not going to call it a coincidence. I'm not going to insult your intelligence. But I think someone's trying to play you. We'll find out, you and me. Just like old times. I understand. I'd probably be in your place right now if something like this happened on the Lower East Side. I'd tear the world apart. But I need you to trust me. You've trusted me before. Trust me now. I wouldn't abandon you. Or your home."
His voice is calm, low. He's trying to be the peacemaker, trying to fix something he's still halfway convinced he did, even though a part of him is asking himself: could Howard have done this? If anyone could have breached SHIELD security, it would have been him. Hell, the security was probably still based on his old protocol standards. But why would he? It was easy to forget that Howard isn't really Howard anymore: just a collection of old memories and silicon synapses. What if something's going wrong?
But he speaks up again: "Peggy's right. There is no version of this where this ends well for your people. There's people all over the world who blow themselves up because they think they don't have any other options, but you do."

*

Betsy finishes circling the target, standing within what is, for her, an easy bound to strike, the back of his head bobbing like an inviting canteloupe. Catlike, invisible, she settles her weight, watching the flickering lights, the exchange of dialogue, analyzing the explosives as best as she is able.

A single flickering message appears in Howard's mind. Psylocke, poised, prepared to strike from the shadows- the moment those lights turn green once again.

*

This situation is over Ruby's head - give her a ghost or an unquiet demon and she'd be way more at home. She is full with a transient warm concern for Tony Stark, possibly a reflex from their near occasion of death. (She also wonders to herself: Howard? A brother? Or…)

Ruby goes through two oysters with quick nervous flicks of fingers and tongue. At least someone's enjoying themselves.

*

Just as much over her head, Honey is at point blank range, with her mist sphere in hand. It could disrupt the sensors, enabling an approach. But now he's at point blank range anyway; there's no point. The only other choice would be to goop him with something hard enough to contain the blast, elastic enough to stretch rather than shatter and make shrapnel. But that's going to take a lot of programming. It's unlikely he and the remaining goons would miss that much effort. So Aiko is pretty well stuck right now.

*

"Either the world knows that Howard Stark has not changed, or," Anatol waggles his head back and forth. "…world doesn't know Starks anymore. Either is good. Besides, I am not the only one who knows these things. But Tony, he and I go back very far. I thought I owed it to him to do this in person." He motions with a bloody finger between himself and Tony.
"Oh, you care so much about my village. You made sure that the factories stopped, that the gunrunners were gone. For that, I do thank you. But you let this man out, to walk around and be like normal. Like you did not risk your life to clean up his crimes? That you do not have a chest full of metal because of the world he created?"

"You do…realize I'm standing right here, right?" says Howard. "Thank you for Warholing my suit. It's very fetching. Look, I didn't start up any factory. You seem like a…smart, if slightly…unconventional man." He clears his throat. "What possible motive would I have for starting up one gun factory in one small town in a former Bloc country? Seriously. I've had other things on my mind." He clears his throat. "Like an existensial crisis." He straightens his ruined suit jacket. "And besides, the whole warlord thing wasn't even my idea. I had a snake in my house."
An an LMD, Howard's brain is pretty darn tricksy for telepaths to get a handle on. Still, a psychic message pushes through. He's not quite sure whether or not he imagined it, but sometimes these things take a leap of faith. He lunges forward and tackles Anatol. The proximity sensor turns green. If Psylocke is going to save them all from being dust patterns on the wall, she has to act fast.

*

Talking doesn't seem to be getting anyone anywhere. Taking a calculated risk that the man doesn't want to blow up the Starks before he gets his jollies in, Peggy makes a decision. The gun, previously aimed toward the ground, quickly comes up and then shoots at the other members of the Keen's staff with weapons. Her aim is not to kill, more to maim, but she aims more on the side of hitting them than missing and hitting an innocent bystander. She trusts Howard well enough that tossing herself into that fray would do more harm than good.

*

Tony… does trust Howard, but he steps back in astonishment when his father actually tackles Anatol. That's insane, but surely Howard has some kind of plan, right? A plan that doesn't involve getting everyone killed? Either way, in for a penny, in for a pound. One of the assassins — the one that's next-closest to Howard, or at least slightly less close than the one Howard's tackling — gets a chair hurled into her chest, thrust against it hard enough to knock her over. Lord knows she's probably distracted right now.

*

Psylocke explodes out of nowhere, literally shedding shadow and bursting into view in a glimmer of silver-threaded dress and shining blue sapphires. Fury crosses her fine features, muscles cording under dusky skin like ropes pulled taut beneath a canvas. In that moment, Psylocke achieves something close to transcendence- a perfection of motion and speed, of form. Skill, technique, training, luck, instinct, all comes together, in a blurring leap that hurtles her nearly three horizontal meters (in heels!) across the restaurant. Her right hand snaps down on Anatol's collar with seam-bursting strength. Her left fist coruscates with a rich amethyst spike burning white-hot at the core. With a single, efficient stroke, she slams that etheral psionic blade past skin and skull and into the center of Anatol's brain, light crackling and illuminiating her stark features.

Furious bolts of psionic energy lance from her forehead, hurled like projectiles at the most distant thugs, each with the power to discombobulate even a formidably equipped and shielded mind. The psionic mutant cuts loose with a fury too long held down, lashing out with exacting precision.

*

Everything erupts, and poor Honey Lemon has no choice but to try to do /something/. Her hands fly over the controls of her purse, as she pushes ina and pulls out more spheres, until she has three or four in hand. Then? Then she hurls them down onto the fallen Anatole and Howard, an orange-red goop erupting from them and forming a globe, a pulsing globe ready to contain the explosion … or try like Hell. So messy.

*

By comparison, Ruby's abrupt if vicious plate-chuck at a guy's abdomen is probably less emphatic. "Holy shit!" she says aloud as Betsy - no - Psylocke reappears in glittering splendor, apparently stabbing the man directly into his head.

You never get bored around here, she thinks.

*

Dropping as many terrorist staff members as she can, she follows with Howard and Tony in an attempt to get the dining room under control. Her gun has expended all its bullets without reloading, but she still has a steak knife and she is certainly willing to use it. However, Honey, Psylocke, Tony and Howard seem to have everything under control. Howard's own attack on Anatol ensures he doesn't detonate his bombs.

The sirens of the police whir to life all the louder - the people in blue soon to be on the scene. With a quick side step, she moves forward to help her less combat focused friend in subduing Anatole, but the globe of Honey's chemistry keeps her from doing so. Surprised, she looks over to Honey with an impressed look before turning to everyone else. "Is everyone okay?"

*

Under control. That's a cheerful way of putting it. Everyone seems down except Anatol, who is… definitely out, most definitely out, but also still blinking with activity. The repulsors are going to blow, and unless that jello mold is VERY good… and even if it is, Howard's still in there.

Tony turns quickly to Honey Lemon: "I need to get in there! I need to disarm those things; I can do it, I just need a second. It's going to disintegrate him; please."

*

Psylocke is forced to release Anatol as Honey's extraordinary chemical bombardment assails the assassin and Howard, the blade slipping out of the killer's skull without so much as a scratch to show for it. She moves backwards with a quickstep, holding onto the psionic blade, and looks quickly around the room for someone else to assault.

Seeing no one, the elegantly attired woman dismisses her psionic weaponry and straightens from her martial crouch, shaking out her dress once more. Likely as part of the same set of superpowers that lets her leap three meters in heels, she looks magazine-ready with a few vague gestures and adjustments to her outfit. Slowly she composes her angry expression to something cooler, more glacial, and stalks to the abandoned bartender's spot, rooting around for a bottle of something clear and pungeant.

*

"Sorry for the mess. I'm hoping that will be enough to contain the explosion, if something goes wrong. I can dissolve it, if Howard is able to properly disarm the device." Aiko explains to Peggy and Tony. "Dr. Aiko Miyazaki. Also known as Honey Lemon." Just in case the heroic nomme de guerre will be more recognizable to either of them. She is rather astounded by it all, including Psylocke's sudden eruption of action, so her usually wide eyes are way, way wide open right now. Perpetually startled.

*

Ruby exhales.

"I'm fine," she tells Peggy. "Exasperated. Slightly astonished. Full of adrenaline but that'll pass. Margaret, I'm sorry we had to meet again like this!" As Psylocke goes to raid the bar, Ruby asides to Peggy, "Something's up with her. I think she might be a spy."

She doesn't interfere with Honey and Tony at the moment. In fact she sidles a bit closer to Peggy. "You want a cigarette?" she murmurs to the redhaired woman.

*

Peggy looks between Tony and Honey Lemon. "Hello Dr. Miyazaki. It's a pleasure to meet you, but can you get him in there?" she asks Honey Lemon, gesturing to Tony. She wasn't worried about Howard being able to take down the assassin, but being trapped in a bunch of goo and exploding is certainly her concern.

"Okay," she gestures at whoever may be left. "Everyone out. The police will handle this. If you're still here within the next 30 seconds, you'll be held in contempt of International rule 285." Pulling out her newly regulated SHIELD badge - one that actually looks like it comes from this decade, she starts ushering people out of the dining room. She's not about to let her friend explode, but she's also not about about to risk innocent people because of it.

Once she's cleared the area, she grins at Psylocke and Ruby. "I don't smoke. But, she looks like she might be able to use a cigarette."

*

This is the problem with Howard being around and having THINK up and running. Everyone thinks HE'S the clever one. Tony takes a deep breath. "Hi, Dr. Miyazaki. Howard's said a lot about you. Young genius working for THINK? Honey Lemon. Great name. I'm Tony Stark. I invented the things that man is wearing. I can deactivate them if you can let me in there. Okay?"

As he heads over to the globe holding Howard and his would-be assassin, he adds: "See if she can make me an Old Fashioned. By the time she's done mixing it up, I should have this sorted out." Or we'll all be dead. Ehh.

*

Betsy Braddock went out not sure what she was wanting that evening, but maybe a good fight was the answer. She stands behind the bar in another little shell of isolation, holding a fifth of Grey Goose in one hand and a frozen lowball glass in the other, and with a detached sort of efficiency, pours a drink, downs it, then pours a refill, and downs it again.

"I'm not a bartender, you bloody great arse," she says, cursing in a perfectly refined British accent, pouring a third double of the vodka.

Still, after a moment, she apparently relents, reaching for a bottle of rye whiskey and casting around until she finds some bitters. With the same uninterested expression she'd had when the attack first hit- even with the imminent threat of a bomb going off- she whip up a steel tumbler full of cocktail, the ice cubes rattling violently about in the container.

*

Aiko considers Tony's request carefully, and then nods. "Alright. This won't be entirely pleasant." She pops in another sphere, spends almost a full minute programming it, and then pops it back out. "I'll douse you with this. You should be able to push through and get inside. Just don't /stop/ until you're inside. It will only last about forty seconds. Once you can tell us its' all clear, I'll go ahead and dispel the sphere." Three. Two. One. GOOP!

*

Ruby saunters towards the bar. It hides the reflexive tension in her body.

She really likes this dress, what can she say. "Well, I guess I'm the waitress now, since you heard him," Ruby says, glancing around the wreckage. Out of her pocket comes the cigarette case, which is silently proffered to Betsy as she agitates.

*

It's a minute where Tony is fidgeting like he's got ants in his pants, his eyes boring into the Jello-mold of Dad and Anatol. When he does get doused with Honey Lemon's ball, he wastes no time in diving into the squish. He's amazed the whole thing has lasted this long. But hey, he won't have the chance to complain about it if it kills them all.

He pushes through slowly — this feels highly weird, like a butter knife through jelly, but it works. His hands move as quickly as they can while they're in there. Repulsors have to have a power source. A hell of a powerful one, given that they're in overdrive. But they're already in a thick ablative coating, thank you Dr. Miyazaki, so all it takes…

Thirty seconds later, he's turning to Aiko and making a thumbs-up.

*

"Smoking's not healthy," Psylocke says, automatically. "It's bad enough that I'm so far over my carbohydrate limit today." As if realizing she's dropped something, she casts around, and spots her little blue clutch on the ground. With a hand extended she brings it winging to her grasp on telekinetic strings, and pulls out her cell phone to start punching in some numbers on a nutrition tracking app.

Finally, she realizes that Ruby's /talking/ to her, and with an almost startled blink, focuses on the woman's features. "But… …thank you," she says, as if struggling to remember the proper etiquette in that situation. She looks at Ruby with a flat, penetrating expression for several seconds, as if committing her face to memory- or completely unsure of what to say- then turns and reaches for lowball glasses and starts pouring out several honest-to-god Old Fashioneds. Sure, Tony's disarming a bomb, but, like Ruby… priorities.

*

Once Tony gives the all clear, Honey Lemon produces a couple of more balls, dropping them on the goop. They release their own goop, which dissolves the goop she already used to contain the situation. So, within about two minutes, there's just a really big mess on the floor, but everyone is free and clear. "Is there anything else I can do to help?" she inquires. The yummy dinner is going to have to wait, it seems.

*

Ruby takes, lights, and drags on a cigarette while Psylocke counts her carbs and thanks her. "Probably wise," she says, her lips firmly placed. "You'll live longer."

She claims an Old Fashioned. "… So can I ask - what was up with the… pink… you know -" She sort of mimes like she's kicking someone in the head, but she uses her hand.

*

Tony will help Howard stand, muttering a few words to him. Evidently they'll be meeting up again outside of here. He straightens his soggy lapels, glances once briefly down at the comatose man, and clears his throat. Striding up to the bar, he gestures for Aiko to follow him.

"Tell you ladies what," he says. "Looks like Keens is a bust for the night. But I know someplace just as good." He snags one of the Old Fashioneds, raises it to Betsy in salute, and adds: "Just what the doctor ordered. You're the biggest hero in this room. To heroism," he adds, and — because he's being good — drinks only half of the entire Old Fashioned in one swallow.

"Tell you what," he repeats. "Dinner's on me somewhere that isn't a smoking ruin. How do you ladies feel about Japanese food? And extremely good alcohol? I know a place in Greenwich Village that will knock your socks off. I don't think I can actually join you, but given this — " A nod toward the comatose man. "That might make for a much quieter evening. Consider it my thanks and apology."

*

"I happen to love Japanese food." Aiko Miyazaki answers, with a grin. Sure, she'll accept a dinner paid for by someone else. What a night. "Do we need to stick around here and talk to the police? I'm sure they'll want to know about this."

*

Betsy gives Tony the same look she'd given Ruby- flat and unreadable, as if she's either processing that Tony's saying something or whether or not his words merit a response.

But when he mentions Japanese food, her eyes widen automatically and she nods before she's even aware of it. "Yes!" she says, too quickly. "Japanese would be delicious. I mean-" she catches her enthusiasm rising too quickly and clears her throat, trying not to look too publically abashed. "If… yes, as Dr. Miyazaki says, if the bobb- er, authorities don't need us. Are you coming?" she asks Ruby. "Er, will you. Come along. Yes, do come," she says, face stiff with forced composure.

*

Ruby drains the glass, giving Tony a side-eyed look of amusement.

She twists a hand out of her pocket. "Only," she says, "if you'll take my card, Mr. Stark." And lo and behold, it's a business card - on one half of the face it's a tarot card, and on the other half, business contact info. (The card in question: the 3 of Disks (works).)

She finishes her drink and flicks ash into the empty ice. "With an invitation like that," she tells Betsy, "how could I say no?"

*

Tony blinks, takes the card, and peers at it for a moment. He glances between it and Ruby and nods his approval. He's just about to tuck it into his pocket when he realizes it's soggy. Everything's soggy. He pulls out a very small Bluetooth instead and taps it: "JARVIS," he says. "Table for four at Ushiwakamaru. Bring a car around back of Keens; not the convertible, I need a sedan. I know you can make this happen, because that's why I made you. See if you can do better than the other Jarvis."

To the ladies, he adds: "I would offer you my arms, but unless Dr. Miyazaki has a blow-drying ball in there, I'm not going to mess up your lovely clothes. Dinner's clearly on me." And without another word — just with his Old Fashioned, or what's left of it — he leads the small parade (at least those who follow him) out the back door.

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