Hell is Hell's Kitchen

December 28, 2016:

Hell's Kitchen is in midtown Manhattan. It should be gentrified by now, shouldn't it? Jane Foster discovers that it's not really, and terrible misunderstandings ensue when two men both try to pull her out of trouble at once.

Hell's Kitchen, New York


NPCs: Some Russian Mafia



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Hell's Kitchen, as an area, is kinda just like it sounds. It always seems like it's about to get on track and gentrify right on up with the rest of Manhattan, but something always happens to boot the neighborhood right back down to "not so good."

A large part of that reason might be that a lot of different mobs and crime families just love doing business here. Maybe it's the proximity to the Hudson, its docks and shipping ports and industry; maybe it's tradition, maybe something else. Maybe they just love the punch that comes from operating in a place called /Hell's/ Kitchen. Whatever the case, Hell's Kitchen remains the festering sore in the gut of Manhattan that it just can't get healed.

None of that really bothers a certain personage making his way quietly through the area by unconventional, circuitous routes this evening. Crime isn't really his concern. He IS crime, if you want to get technical.

Winter makes the nights darker, just by itself; a thick layer of cloud cover and a complete absence of wind— rare, in Manhattan— makes this night in particular darker still. It's not a good night for anyone to be out, but doubtless that's not going to stop certain people who need to be out and about, and who have more determination than sense.


Whatever that certain personage and his unconventional route through the bowels of Hell's Kitchen, it probably has nothing to do with that little slip of a thing, surfacing up from the subway and crunching fresh snow underfoot as she lingers, head craned up to read the street signs. She pulls back the oversized hood of her winter coat to better see. And she frowns.

Sighing a breath that mists on the air, the woman immediately violates rule number one of Hell's Kitchen: she pulls a phone from her coat pocket, illuminating herself in the screen, paying absolutely no attention to the world around her as she strenuously taps her way to a digital map. Its evidence seems to mollify her, like the terminally lost-at-sea finally seeing the first dredge of dry land, and she continues forward to her destination.

Because Jane Foster is on a mission. All the metalwork shops in Queens suggested she try here. One guy, definitely skeevy, looked her up-and-down, and laughed at himself, like he was sharing a private joke, and said definitely here. She wants vanadium. That is — clean vanadium. Really clean vanadium. And she'd rather not SHIELD know, with their questions, and their prying, and their insinuations to stop by and see what she's spending their money on. Because she has the sinking feeling they really won't like what they would find, in the flesh, the design that is now clawing at the neural insides of her mind. Desperate to get out. Desperate to GET MADE.

Jane walks her way off the well-beaten (domestically abused and otherwise) path of Hell's Kitchen towards its shipping ports, thrusting her hands into her pockets against the ice-wet air. It annoys her she can't seem to find any offices, anything that looks to be populated or staffed by normal people, and pokes around the storehouses, looking through the dark and dead of night any sign of life. Finding a wreath of parked cars — parked expensive cars — gives her hope.

And that is how Dr. Jane Foster manages to walk into a Russian mafia trade gone wrong, with about six men and a lot of drugs and a LOT more money and, well, here, five-feet-nothing and quickly losing the cheery hope off her face. "Hey! Sorry, would anyone know where I could find — oh."


"More determination than sense" might as well /define/ a man stalking from rooftop to rooftop, decked in black and capped with a glorified sock. Still, he does so with stealthy aplomb, just one more shadow amid the millions that wreathe New York City tonight as sturdy boots navigate ice-rimed ledges. The "man in the mask," as some of the whispers around town have just started to name him, has become a growing fixture of conversation around the Kitchen's corners and dives. It started with an MTA worker — a famous drunk, but still — beaten within an inch of his life on the tracks, who claimed (through swollen lips, a bruised jaw, and shattered teeth) that he was assaulted by a "mother-fucking ninja." Then a prostitute saved from her knife-happy client by a masked man; the john himself exiting the scene with a broken wrist. More stories have bubbled up: muggers foiled, a few small time heists upset. Enough to stir talk, but hardly enough to draw scrutiny of the powerful men and women who make sure Hell's Kitchen continues to live up to its name.

That may change tonight, for better or worse.

It's not the light the light that catches his attention, but that unmistakable 'TAP TAP TAPPING" of fingertips on touchscreen he can hear from seven stories up. /Jesus/, he thinks, but doesn't say. No Hail Mary's for just /thinking/ the Lord's name in vain, right? Maybe it's some tourist who didn't listen to the goddamn concierge and decided got lost on the way to Hamilton instead of taking an Uber; it's been known to happen. Regardless, they're wandering into a bad scene, the edges of which the fresh-faced vigilante has, for whatever reason, been so far been reluctant to directly confront.

No time like the present.


Six Russians, about two hundred pounds of drugs, a lot of money, and one Jane Foster.

One of these things does not belong, and it's definitely not any of the first three.

The six men look between themselves. The guy who's apparently in charge eventually turns his head and spits to one side. "No witnesses," he says in Russian, his grim stare and the pistol he's unholstering making pretty clear what he's talking about even through the language barrier. "Can't take the risk."

"At least the river's right here," another remarks. This one speaks in English, perhaps because he's a sadist and wants to see the effect of his obvious implication.

The rest don't say much at all, but they draw in closer and circle around Jane, in the silent way a wolf pack closes on prey.

A few blocks distant, a certain someone has an abrupt feeling on his very specialized mental radar. It is a radar he has had all his life. It is a radar that tracks when 'a tiny person is doing something extremely stupid.' He turns and starts heading in.

Unfortunately, he's a little far distant to do anything about it right away…


"I'm looking for Hudson Fabricators," Jane rambles weakly, perhaps hoping even against her own failing logic that this probably isn't a business, she probably isn't going to find some amiable employee who is going to laugh off this awkwardness and ask her what she needs, and that over there definitely isn't about an entire table-weighed stack of cocaine. Still, she tries. It's a noble human instinct. To keep trying even in the face of overwhelming failure. "I — I know you're not supposed to be open, on — on holiday hours, but I —"

Six men stare at her. She knows enough to slowly take her hands out of her pockets, empty palms upraised, just to prove just how harmless she is. As if that fact where not tomed so transparently on her, head to tow, from her brown boots to the panic breaking out over her cold-chilled face. Her dark eyes twitch back-and-forth as they speak, but in no language she can parse, looking on in guileless miscomprehension. "I haven't seen anything," Jane tries, though she's clever, she knows she has, she's seen all their faces, she knows their plate numbers, she knows the address — she remembers everything. "I promise. I'm from out of town, I'm lost, I won't — you won't see —"

Someone comments about the river in a language Jane can understand.

Her heart lurches in her chest. They begin to advance. She begins to backstep, though she can't keep her eyes on all of them, and trying to just has one of them nearly come too close for comfort. Realizing she's being herded, and yet still unable to turn off the instinct that forces her to keep drawing back, Jane searches her panicked find for something to say. Bargain? Negotiate? Bribe? With what? Blackmail? Call with her phone? Won't have time to. Beg them? Probably beg. Definitely beg, please, please —

One man, already tired of this night, too cold and now this, grabs for her, the stupid myshka who he could probably drag with one hand. Count him surprised when she snaps, reels back an angry slap, and on the cusp of her worst week, loses her temper: "Get the HELL off me!"


Well, that escalated quickly.

But the man in the mask is descending down the building that looms over this burgeoning clusterfuck only a few (precious) seconds behind necessity. He slides down fire escapes, hoists himself down chains, all with no more noise than an oversized rat might make in one of the fetid garbage bins across the dimly-lit street.

He hears everything as he comes; the authority and menace behind the leader's terse mandates would have translated from the original Russian even if the crystal-clear sound of a pistol drawn from its holster hadn't underscored it. The sadist's English, the woman's slamming heartbeat; and then her flailing attempt to will the situation into something other than what it is. Each sound quickens his pace, has him judging angles, distance before he's even two stories above them.

There's no time for a stealthy landing, or the careful lining up of opportunity and takedown. This moment, which has turned into a melee before he even got on the scene, requires a blitz. And so he takes advantage of the chaos created by Jane's spirited slap to /leap/ from the fire escape, hurling himself onto the leader and rolling the two of them from the slowly tightening circle. Pistol is wrested, slammed upwards with bone-crunching force into the mobster's jaw before this shadow of a man throws himself upward from prone on his back to a fighter's stance, then lunges for the nearest Russian with preternatural speed.


The Russians do not look impressed at all with Jane and her desire to find Hudson Fabricators.

Instead they just move in. One moves in to grab her, only to get a ringing slap to the face. Angered, he seizes her by the arm, just beneath the shoulder, and gives her a hard shake. Another moves up on the other side of Jane to secure her other arm, the two men holding her immobile between them as two others contemplate shooting her and dumping her in the river.

The leader lifts his pistol to get started on the first part. And that's when part of the night detaches from the nearest building and resolves into a lithe, agile form which CANNONS into him and bowls him over.

He doesn't even have the time to react before his own pistol knocks him the hell out.

The others freeze for only a second; then they drop Jane and start fumbling for their own guns, their fingers scratching audibly on holsters and cocking the hammers of pistols. The one that's being straight-up attacked, however, decides he really doesn't have time for that, and figures he'll try his luck swinging fists at the shadow that's already full in his face. He's not bad, but every movement is telegraphed by the sound of his fist cleaving through air.


It's almost comical, thinks one small, detached, and very pragmatic part of Jane Foster, as she steps backward, circled by rough-faced, thick-handed men whose cold eyes carry no patience or charity to a stupid woman whose reckless timing has brought her to the last place she should be. She's survived an attack by alien Nordic gods, hired terrorists, apparent demons summoned up from the mouth of Hell, and not to mention a home-invasion by a metal-armed assassin who ended up becoming anything but a threat to her life… only to go this way?

Shot by, what she supposes, a bunch of drug dealers? Or criminals? Shot and thrown in the Hudson River? Will they weigh her down? Or let the ice keep her where the current is weaker, and keep her until the thaw, when the months will make her body near-unrecognizable? Will they take her apart first? Why is she thinking about this?

Finally touched, something snaps. Jane hits her limit, officially beyond her patience this week alone — too many demons, too many SHIELD meetings, too many sleepless nights, too much worrying, too much, so much, and now ENOUGH — and furiously backhands one man across the face. If he was thinking about being gentle before, he sure isn't now, and neither is his friend, grabbing her arms to twist them painfully behind her back, with enough force that she feels her shoulders seizing against her joints — and cries out in sharp, breathless pain.

Her eyes clear enough to see what, Jane assumes, will be the last look of anything in her short life. She catches glimpse of that gun, and her momentary bravery forgotten, she shakes her head in last-minute pleading, because she doesn't want to d—

A shadow brakes from the swath of darkness and crashes straight down on the man, gun snagged and stolen, and Jane looks on with widening eyes to simply witness — try to witness — someone move with speed that shouldn't be possible.

Speed she's seen before, and her first thought is — it's him! — but no, even in the dark, when it's so hard to see, something is still different, still wrong —

Let go violently, Jane hasn't time to think, thrown savagely aside as they claim the space and mind to draw their guns and focus on something far more important than her. She shrinks, hunkered beside a silent fabricator, cringing down with a shocked cry when the loud reverberations of gunshots echo painfully within the confined space. They're aiming at the dark, desperate to hit SOMETHING.


Those bullets are, as it happens, desperate to hit /him/, this masked man in makeshift garb who is literally faking it until he makes it as a vigilante. But he's a pretty good fake; his instincts are right and his movements quicksilver. Two punches, cat-quick to the side of the Russian's head, one swing ducked. All of that, even though it's right in his face, takes place in the /background/. At the forefront of his attention are the sounds of guns drawn and cocked, the shifting of feet and positions as the remaining four Russians recover their wits and take aim.

The grim calculus takes all of a millisecond. The masked man suddenly grapples with his opponent, swinging him around so that the gangster's back is between him and the incoming shots. The move costs him time and robs him of the opportunity to avoid the two punches from his dance-partner that land right in his ribs. He's no superhuman; each impact draws a grunt of pain — but it was a risk and price worth paying for the way that his assailant catches those first shots from the Russians instead of him.

Later, perhaps, in the quiet of his apartment, Matt will ruminate over how, just five minutes into his first tangle with the mob, he was willing he was to blur the clearly delineated lines of his code and use an opponent as a human shield. But right now all he's concerned with is survival; his and the lady's. He shoves already slumping, bullet-ridden body of his opponent towards a pair of Russians with a roar before rounding on the third, aiming to kick the weapon out of his hand.


The Russian has no chance against the preternatural senses and reflexes of his masked assailant. His swings, all of them too-large, sweeping motions, are dodged easily, countered by swift efficient strikes that send him reeling. The other four have gotten their guns out by now, however, and the sounds of them assuming firing stances and lifting their weapons is loud and menacing at the masked man's back.

No time. No choice. He whirls around with a human shield at the ready, and bullets hit the criminal instead of him. Another thing for him to think about later.

For now, there's only the innocent life to save; the men who would have taken it, to subdue. He burdens two of them with the body of their erstwhile compatriot and leaps for a third. The gun slaps straight out of the man's hand from the force of the kick, leaving him open and unarmed. He stumbles backwards, his expression of hostility transformed in an instant to the very clear beginnings of fear. Fear of the unnatural attacker that has dropped so suddenly upon them, who moves too quickly to be hit.

There is a brief lull, as the six people still standing move in a deadly dance. Then, in the next moment, there is a sudden sense that there are seven.

Something lunges down the same way the Daredevil came in earlier: via fire escape. Some/one/, dressed in black, identity shrouded in a half-mask, left arm catching the light in an unnatural, reflective way. He mows through the two men still tangled with their bullet-ridden companion, barreling them into unconsciousness, on a beeline for the third man even now trying to backpedal away from Matt.

This newcomer's right fist swings out, slamming into the man and sending him bowling back into the last of the standing Russians. Both go down in a heap.

His head turns immediately afterwards, appraising the Daredevil. Guy's wearing a sock. He must have been part of this!! Without sound, without word, without inquiry, the newcomer twists smoothly in place and throws his left metal fist straight at Matt, clearly intent on tangling with the guy to save Jane from him! It's a devastating blow, but there's one issue the Winter Soldier is going to run into against the likes of the Daredevil.

His metal arm, with its whirring metal and gears, is real damn loud.


It all happens so fast. Jane Foster's only fortune is a fast mind, which is now ever-so-desperate to keep up.

She hangs back and keeps low, fear and panicked instinct hunkering her away, already coming to grips with the idea that someone new is here — someone who is definitely on her side. Or so she thinks, maybe isn't certain, as from her hiding space can do little but watch. It's dark, and he moves seamlessly among shadow, so seamless that her first hopeful thought is that it's her soldier, despite no reason for him to even be here, to be anywhere in her life save for his errant, late-night visits at her apartment —

But even if the speed is similar, the movement isn't — not what she's been able to glimpse and witness — a different sort of agility, not to mention a different frame, no weight and sounds of that left arm, and a mask that covers the opposite half of his face. No eyes, no nose, perhaps just flickeringly, the shape of someone's jaw moving in-and-out of the little light.

She isn't sure what to do. He probably isn't here for her. He could be some, she doesn't know, a rival? Criminals turning on criminals? And once he subdues them, she's next? But he has no gun. That is the strangest part, she wonders, as she watches — and she thinks again, as she watches the Russians pull theirs.

He should really have a gun.

"Watch—!" Jane hears herself yell, acting on faith, even if it's quickly drowned out under the concussive record of gunfire, the echoes so violently loud that she jumps with each shot, a hand cupped over her mouth, certain she's going to see that masked man die — and instead witnessing him turn one of her would-be killers on the bullets, embedding flesh and ventilating him silent. Numb, she shrinks back down, the shock receding enough that her trembling has begun, adrenaline shot to her legs as she contemplates just taking a run for it. She should, she wants to — but she can't leave someone, even if she doesn't know, and —

Not that Jane is even thinking about that anymore, the moment a second blur of shadow leaps down not unlike the first, taking out men as he goes. THAT, she recognizes. She slowly rises, heart pounding, recognizing light glinting off metal and — oh God. She's not seeing things. Oh thank GOD. Her soldier's here, James is, somehow and she has no idea, but she's not thinking about this right now, and especially not —

— as he rounds on the second masked man with his deadly left arm. Jane cringes. Oh, that's probably not good.


/The mind controls our body, the body controls our enemies, our enemies control jack shit by the time we're done with them./

It's Stick's voice Matt Murdock hears in the rush of adrenaline that crests as he closes in on his third target of the evening. All his training since being mentored by the blind martial artist has been self-conducted, surreptitious, and had only theoretically prepared him to take on multiple opponents. Later he'll obsess about the death toll, but to be here, in the thick of it, and with momentum on his side is nothing short of thrilling. Matt has let the devil out, and the man already spinning on his heels doesn't stand a cha —

He hears the leaping arrival of the /second/ masked man on the scene unforgivably late, given his prodigious senses — another failure he's likely to castigate himself for hours from now, should he survive. As the Winter Soldier slams into the stumbling Russians like a bowling ball through a set of pins and then barrels into /Matt's/ intended target, Murdock steps backward and gathers his breath and his wits.

There's little time for doing either when the newcomer throws his — his /what/, exactly? — at Matt. Sledgehammer? Crowbar? Cudgel? Saw? None of these — it's…

…coming right for his face, fast. But between it's bulk and Matt's superhumanly attuned senses, the metal arm misses its mark. Still, even as he's ducking and weaving, Murdock is clearly on the defensive — baffled at this new opponent that has savaged his adversaries and now seems ready to do the same to him. There's nothing to do but fight, though, and so after moments of backpedaling he searches for opportunities to land some blows of his own while keeping his distance from a weapon he's pretty sure could cave in his face.


It is not much to be ashamed of— not hearing the Winter Soldier earlier. The Soldier has been moving silently, scouting and operating in stealth, since 1941. By now, when he wants to, he can utterly vanish from perception.

He clearly has stopped wanting to, however.

Complete silence explodes into raucous noise as the Soldier plows straight into the fray and— planting himself squarely between Jane and her perceived 'attacker'— starts assailing Matt viciously. His swung first strike misses by a mile, to his surprise; his blue eyes watch Matt move, narrowing, assessing the other man's sheer speed and agility.

That metal… thing the Soldier flung at him retracts swiftly. It hums as it goes, emitting a telling set of noises that start to form a picture of what it might be. There's plates, many articulating moving plates, almost like the scales of a serpent fitted together… there's the pulley whir and hum of things that shift and catch and move like artificial tendons. And then, most tellingly, there's the sound of clicking as joints articulate, almost as if the sound of fingers uncoiling from a fist were cast into steel instead of flesh and bone…

That much can be perceived before Matt's attacker presses his offensive, closing distance, striking out again with that metal arm. This time much more swiftly. He seems to be trying to herd Matt away from Jane, though whether for her safety or because he wants her for his own nefarious purposes is terribly unclear.


Definitely not good. Absolutely not good.

The only problem is Jane cannot seem to move. Cannot seem to find her feet, much less feel them, rooted to place under the shock of what just happened. Her head pounds with the phantom echoes of gunfire, and more than a little shell-shocked, she simply stands there, coming quietly and methodically to terms with just — nearly dying.

And yet she did not.

And the only reason she did not is currently trading fists, one of them METAL, with a sudden James Barnes out of NOWHERE and here, putting his back to her in a familiar, seen-before posture of protecting her. Did he /follow/ her? Has he been following her? Is this some coincidence? He wouldn't have anything to do — no. Obviously, he seems to think whoever the other masked man is, one Jane has never seen before in her life, is out to kill her like those men musing about throwing her body into the Hudson.

She doesn't want more blood on James's hands. And she doesn't want anyone dead on her account, not someone whose only sin might have been to help her. And she —

— watches the two move in ways that shouldn't be /human/, dodging and parrying punches, and she can't understand how that other guy just sidestepped James's left fist while wearing a mask that looks impossible to see through, but — she has to stop this.

"Wait, wait, stop!" Jane yells feebly through the traded hits, stumbling forward, lingering panicky at the Soldier's turned back, hands outstretched, trying to get noticed. It's not easy to get noticed, not when two deadly men seem set on breaking each other.

She mumbles a curse and thinks of the only thing she can do. One man will see the movement on his periphery. The other will hear it. It's Jane Foster, trying to do the most irrational thing possible, but her head's still spinning, and she's not thinking right, and all she wants is the fighting to — "STOP!"


/It's his ARM/, Matt realizes as the sensory data slides forms a coherent — if utterly improbable — picture. He's only able to make the leap with help from recent experience. The arc of the weapon's movements, the clinking articulation of metallic knuckles wouldn't be enough for him to make the cognitive leap to such an outlandish conclusion had he not… just encountered another robot arm the very week before. That one was worlds apart — an elegant simulacrum compared to this crude cudgel, but it has planted the concept freshly enough in his mind to allow him to make the inference.

/Two robot arms in two weeks. What the actual fuck? Is this the Rise of the Machine Limbs or something?/

But he can worry about the Robot-Arm Apocalypse later, right now what he needs to do is stop /this/ robot arm from crunching his skull to a bloody pulp. To wit: the way one of his dodges is just a little late, just a little slow, allowing the Winter Soldier to finally land a blow between the crook of Matt's shoulder and his chest. It sends the black-clad man staggering backwards, on his heels as he searches his brain and his senses for anything that might change an unsustainable dynamic.

Roll five feet to your left and pick up the gun — no.

Twenty feet away is a chain attached to a barbed wire fence — but he'll never make it.

There's a baseball bat belonging to one of the Russians, but it's too close to the woman the Winter Soldier /seems/ to be placing himself in front of, protectively or otherwise.

The intermediate solution comes from behind — the hood of one of the Russian's black SUVs just feet away. Matt will allow himself to be driven backwards one step, two, three, until he's backed into a corner the way his father "Battlin' Jack" might be towards the end of a losing fight. Just enough to put himself and the car itself in arm's reach of the Winter Soldier. When the blow is set to land next, he places his hands on the hood of the vehicle and vaults himself upwards with a gymnast's grace to a full stand on top of the car, which jostles with the impact. In the best case scenario, Winter Soldier finds a fist-full of solid SUV when he lands his next blow. In the worst case, Matt still has the higher ground and a chance to choose terrain and advantages more to his liking.

But then the woman's coming out of hiding, shouting, shouting for them all to just "STOP!" It narrows the range of equally improbable possibilities down to a handful, and provides an ounce of clarity to the motivations of this second masked man to enter the fray. "TELL HIM THAT!" Matt shouts back, voice ragged. Not that he's ready to line up a truce. He's already lining up a leap and roll towards that steel bat if a cease-fire isn't called in seconds.


It is indeed his arm. And that arm is rapidly ramping up in speed, clearly adjusting to Matt's own speed and agility as the Winter Soldier discovers that this sock-wearing goon is clearly a cut— several cuts— a lot of cuts— above the rest.

Irritation starts to appear in the Winter Soldier's blue eyes as he swings repeatedly and misses repeatedly, the Daredevil's agility getting him out of trouble each time. He doubles the response time of his arm again, then again— rapidly pushing it up to its maximum. Somewhere along the way he finally scores a hit, a swift boxer's jab that connects right where shoulder meets chest.

It's clearly a light strike where the Winter Soldier is concerned— a love tap. And judging from the force behind it, Matt doesn't want to graduate up to the really heavy stuff.

But /why/ all this? That question is still outstanding. For what reason is this interloper fighting so fiercely? The woman he's obviously placed at his back, whether to protect her or simply, in some primitive predatory way, signal that this prey is now his? The picture isn't getting any clearer, because the Soldier just won't SPEAK, and won't stop either. He just keeps advancing, keeps attacking, as if defensive fighting were not in his repertoire at all.

He lets himself, in the end, be led right up to the SUV.

The Soldier's metal arm reels back. This blow doesn't look like a love tap at all. But Matt has it handled; he plants his hands and flips up, simultaneously launching straight out of the way of the blow and repositioning himself to the higher ground of its roof.

He might have to adjust his landing slightly, however, because when the Soldier's whiffed strike hits the front of the car, it doesn't just dent the thing— it shoves the entire vehicle a few inches backwards with a horrific clang of metal on metal.

Right about that time, Jane finally gets her head together enough to jump in before things get dire. The Winter Soldier immediately pauses at her voice, to his credit, though he doesn't drop out of his hostile stance, nor does he dare take his eye off Matt for longer than it takes to shoot a questioning glance over his shoulder as Jane flails and tries to cut RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

Tell him that!! Matt yells. That gets the Soldier's attention too. He glares at the Daredevil a moment, before he finally looks at Jane more closely. "What is this?" he finally says. Oh, so he CAN speak.


Eyes wide, hands flexing, knowing she's waiting in the wings of some superhuman match-up of physicality far, far beyond what she's capable of, beyond what she's ever really witnessed in life, Jane lingers anxiously. Her boots scrape with the restless flexing of a dancer waiting for her cue, for the right moment when she can cut right in —

It's an impulsive move. A wilful move. A reckless, stupid, stupid move, but Jane doesn't want anyone else dead, as she skids into the brief window between the vigilante and soldier, arms outstretched to try to look bigger, try to make her tiny self SEEN. What's worse is this strange woman, traipsing all through Hell's Kitchen at god knows what time of night, phone out in the open, walking blinding into Russian mafia drug deals… doesn't sound or act too surprised when the man with the metal arm physically SLAMS an SUV back with a punch alone.

She just gazes pleading askance up at him, her open hands outstretched, begging, head only turned when the other, unknown masked man yells somewhere at Jane's back to TELL HIM THAT.

Her lips purse with brief agitation, but Jane lets it go, whuffing a breath that mists visibly into the air. What does it look like she's doing?! Never mind she has no idea a certain vigilante couldn't exactly look —

The Soldier's question, coupled with his temporary stay against further violence, gives Jane hope. What she really wants to ask is HOW, how did he get here, how did he find her, but she's not exactly angry about that — she's relieved, so relieved. "He's OK! I think! —You're OK?" she asides back over her shoulder, body still facing the Soldier's, her bet hedged on him being the one who will cause the most damage. Especially with the arsenal she knows he carries, and hasn't yet pulled, thank God, thank God.

"I — I got here and these guys. It's obviously not… they were going to." Jane doesn't even want to say it aloud, even in her detached shock, it's hard to voice 'they were probably going to dump my body in the icy Hudson River.' "He helped me. It's OK."


As the Winter Soldier's metallic fist connects with the car, Matt steadies himself atop the lurching vehicle — barely — with only his superhumanly gifted sense of balance keeping him from tumbling off and slamming right into what's surely the oddest couple he's ever run into in his 26 years on this planet.

As Jane is explaining and pleading her case to the assassin, Matt is busily, warily preparing contingencies in case this all goes south again. "Russian mob," is all he interjects on the matter of 'these guys', willing his naturally soft-spoken voice into harsh gravel. He cocks his head, listening for heartbeats. Save for the bullet-riddled body of his former shield, all are alive will be out cold for a few minutes, at least. Then he's refocusing his attention on the lady and her protector. "I'm assuming you didn't mean to walk in on a drug deal," he says to Jane, even if the brunt of his attention remains fixed on the Winter Soldier. "Unfortunately, lady, it's hard to walk very far in this neighborhood, this time of night, without stumbling into a bad scene."


The Winter Soldier does not relax, but he does stop. All his forward momentum, his strength, his ferocity— braked by a tiny woman that probably weighs in at a hundred pounds soaking wet. He tilts his head, still wary, as Jane insists the odd vigilante is OK— she thinks, she verifies that over her shoulder— but he seems to have enough trust in this odd lacking-in-common-sense woman that he stands down.

She just got here, she explains, and these guys, they were going to— but the vigilante helped her. The Winter Soldier's blue eyes flick up to appraise Matt over that half-mask, weighing the information.

Russian mob, Matt explains tersely. Drug deal. He helpfully informs Jane that this is not exactly a great place to be walking at night. Internally, the Winter Soldier sighs just thinking about what on earth could have possessed Jane to come squirreling out here at night. It's a question to ask later.

Instead he just nods once, accepting this. "Well, glad I didn't kill you then," he says, displaying a plain lack of social skills, before he glances at the men out cold. And draws a compact pistol, clearly considering NOT extending the same favor to all of them.


The vigilante with a black mask over his face assumes she didn't mean to walk in on ALMOST DYING.

Pretty certain she's being lectured, lectured at the worst place at the worst time, while she's wading around six bodies and not certain which and which not may even be dead, using both outstretched arms to try to soothe and gentle down a metal-armed assassin from doing what she knows he's been programmed to, Jane still finds some time to crane an incredulous look over her shoulder. "Are you serious?!" she sputters, adrenaline launching a flurry of words free. "I pay about three thousand a month to live in a SHOEBOX, and Asian pears are four dollars each, so I should be allowed to walk wherever in this stupid city I want! How am I supposed to know the nineties yuppies missed a spot?! I mean, this is still Manhattan! I was just following my Google map!"

Russian mob?! she thinks. She walked in on the Russian mob. She sideeyes bodies, that distant stack of money, that distant, unmistakable buttload of some sort of drug, she guesses, the worst she did was two really inadvisably deep tokes of pot back in college and threw up a bit, and now —

Jane forgets whatever she was thinking about, because she's busy wincing the moment she sees the Soldier unholster a gun. "No, nonono —" is all she has time to plead, terrified enough to dare a hand to touch his right arm.


/Jesus Christ/, Matt thinks as his sideways corrective prompts a flood of indignation from the distraught near murder-victim. "Lady, I don't disagree with anything you just said…" he begins, summoning the better angels of his nature.

But Matt will, violently, disagree with what happens next. His forceful "NO!" somehow comes before Winter Soldier's hand even reaches the pistol's grip. He leaps down from the SUV and places himself squarely in front of the assassin, whose talent for death and destruction he's already had a taste of. The shoulder — set to purple tomorrow for sure — throbs with the sudden impact. His jaw is tight, his posture full of tensile readiness. He's not in fighting stance, but he /could/.

"That's /not/ how this goes down," he's saying to the Winter Soldier in his ragged voice. "You should get her out of here, and I'll make sure the police get /them./"


The Winter Soldier remains silent through Jane's tirade about New York City living— though his brow does twitch a little at the words three thousand a month, as if something buried deeply in his psyche was trying to remember how to be appalled.

It passes. He stares blandly through her generalized verbal assault on how ridiculous the city is. If Matt weren't wearing a sock on his head (how does he SEE?), he'd probably exchange a look with the man. As it is, he sighs slightly, apparently well-used to these random tirades.

And draws a gun.

Or tries to, anyway— the vigilante startles him with the vehemence of his reaction. The only thing keeping him from dropping back into a hostile stance, in fact, is Jane's hand on his right arm. He tenses, shooting her a look, but his hand pauses on the grip of the pistol without fully drawing.

The assassin appraises Matt's ultimatum coldly. His gaze flicks right to Jane, back to Matt, then down to the five unconscious men. "I don't like loose ends," he grumbles, but eventually his hand reseats his pistol and leaves the holster. "I suppose it's not a significant compromise." Most likely none of the men got a clear look at him, anyway.

He makes no secret of his contempt about giving the men to the police, but he seems ready to let Matt do as he pleases. "Fine. You leave mentioning us out of anything you might say, and I won't have to come back and correct the oversight."

Then he turns to Jane. "Where the hell were you trying to go? …Never mind. Just go straight back to the A and get on it and go home." He eyes her grimly. "I'm gonna be watching. I'll know if you don't."

And with that, he moves to scale right back to the rooftops from whence he came.


It is a tense moment, too tense, one that feels like it lasts a small infinity — Lorentz's time dilation made real as Jane's anxious eyes flick between the Soldier, his gun, and the startling, too-fast way the masked vigilante slips closer, inserting himself between them and the bodies of — men who would kill her. Protecting their lives, she supposes, in that same way.

It's not how this goes down, he says, and she finds herself silently agreeing. She's too far in shock to even feel properly, even righteously, angry about possibly dying, but her first instinct — her sincere instinct — is she doesn't want anyone dying on her account. And she's trying to help this masked Soldier before her reclaim his humanity, and that can't be helped with a few point blank executions. She keeps her hand on his arm, her touch careful, but at the same time insistent, as if she were trying to gently lever him back from old, powerful conditioning.

Her heart hammers so hard it doesn't take superhuman senses to hear.

Eventually, and to her hope, Jane bows with relief when that gun returns to his side. Her hand drops gratefully. She listens on, however, brow furrowed with clear askance when the Soldier speaks — well, threatens — of correcting oversights, her mouth parting —

— to purse back shut when he turns on her with the question of the week. Jane frowns silently through it. And then receives some very firm instructions about the train she'll be taking out of here and how she won't be doing anything else. Were not a gun pointed at her minutes ago, the woman looks liable to get indignant. For now, she's spooked and shocked enough to quietly, complicitly nod.

He leaves with his usual quickness. And Jane lingers, attention straying, not yet forgetting that masked man still here, who may well be the reason she doesn't have a bullet in her right now. Backstepping, awkardly trying not to touch any of the stray, strewn bodies lying about, she chances a searching look at his concealed face, seeing nothing but formless black. "I… thank you," she calls. "Do you… have a name?"


It's bizarre behavior on the part of the man-in-black, truly, this brinkmanship to save the lives of men he just helped beat into unconsciousness. But obviously it comes from a place of either deep conviction — fortunately, he needn't spell them out, thanks to Jane's intervention and some surprising agreeability from the masked assassin. Tension eases out Matt's frame, fists unclench, and his hammering pulse begins to quiet.

The Winter Soldier's conditions could be another sticking point. Matt might, under other circumstances, make a bid for Jane to testify. The lawyer in him knows it's the best way to ensure the DA has a rock-solid case against the Russians, potentially flipping them against their bosses up the food chain. But each of them are carrying contraband guns and standing on top of a mountain of heroin; the risk that they'll walk seems slim enough not to force the issue. Especially when forcing the issue is likely to lead to another brawl. He lifts his chin — pale in the moonlight — in rough assent to the Winter Soldier's condition. And then he watches the alternate fighting partner and opponent steal back into the folds of the night.

Sirens twenty blocks away; this time of evening they'll be here in minutes. He should really go — but then the woman is addressing him directly. He turns, takes her in. The first question is ignored; this budding vigilante has given little thought to the symbolic trappings of heroism cultivated by veterans like the Batman. But her gratitude? That he'll gladly accept, even if his only reply to it is a simple, "I'm glad you're alright. You should have a clear path to the A from here. Take care of yourself, lady." And with that, he begins stepping backwards, sure-footed, towards one of the shadowed walls that encircle them.

After all, he has a shoulder to ice, some meditation (and self-flagellation) to undertake, and tomorrow — very likely — a street war with the Russian mob on his hands.

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