Mortal Instruments Finale: And All the King's Men

December 31, 2016:

The Gotham Antiquities Commission's centennial celebration kicks off the New Year, and all the players have gathered on the stage. Some threads are resolved, while others are just getting started.

Gotham City

Gotham City Opera House.


NPCs: Gottfried Muller

Mentions: Baron Winters, John Constantine


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There are those in the crowd that know that several events have been leading up to this moment, but judging by the revelry present in the crowd, it would be easy to forget about them entirely.

The Gotham Antiquities Commission's centennial gala is being held at the magnificent ballroom of the Gotham City Opera House, steps away from the equally prestigious Regal Hotel, which remains the top hotel destination in the dark, sprawling metropolis in spite of the rise of a few of its competitors like the Excelsior. It's an older building with a storied history and a checkered past, its old walls having borne witness to the triumphs and tragedies of Gotham since the 1800's, with high ceilings and elaborate archways; it seems that the Commission's members have decided that in celebration of priceless art and relics that their 100th anniversary should be held in one, hence the venue, lavishly decorated as it was with holiday decor.

There are appetizers, of course, and a plated dinner for those who elected to partake in the option. On a raised dais, a string quartet performed for the collective, ranging from classical favorites to covers of more modern hits. The dance floor is swimming with bodies; men in tuxes or dark suits, women in gowns or cocktail dresses cutting up the wooden surface, biding their time until the auction was to begin at the very front, where tall tables have been set up, and numbered paddles have been assigned for prospective bidders. That isn't to say that priceless art and antiques wouldn't be revealed until later, of course - in various parts of the gathering, several of them have been put up on display in thick, bulletproof glass cases mounted on pedestals, corded off from the group and arranged like a bona fide exhibit, though these items are not for sale, choice pieces plucked out of the Commission's sizeable collection.

The wait staff is on loan from the Regal Hotel, and their uniformed bodies could be glimpsed now and then in their white shirts, crimson waistcoats and black slacks, passing out hors d'oeurves, wine glasses, cocktails and crystal flutes full of bubbly.

There is a significant number of A-list guests present, the most notable of these being STEVEN G. ROGERS (popular word claims that the secretary taking RSVPs had nearly fainted when he called in person to accept his invite) and BRUCE WAYNE, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and Gotham's favorite son, who created the first scandal of the evening when his plus one was revealed to be an attractive young lady nearly half his age, much to the very visible consternation of infamous investigative reporter VICKI VALE, who is also in attendance (though word also has it that her Metropolis counterpart LOIS LANE is not, thus disappointing other members of the media corps who had been looking forward to a vicious catfight). She would not be the only member of the press invited, as mingling with the stars are representatives of various publications across the tri-cities area, including Metropolis' Daily Planet, the city's own Gotham Gazette and New York's Daily Bugle.

The latter of which explains the presence of junior freelance photographer PETER PARKER, who was thrown into the assignment in the last minute after veteran Daily Bugle photographer Terrence "Terry" Cruise discovered he developed a severe lactose intolerance and fell into a state of inconsolable depression afterwards.

With the festivities in full swing, the GAC's chairman, Marcus Brody, an affable older gentleman with white hair and an affable, if not somewhat forgetful personality, gets up on the podium and makes an announcement. The auction is to start shortly and those in the market for some very expensive purchases should take their seats.


As she and her 'date' walk away from Vicki Vale, who dressed to kill in a silver gown and her face set with lips like pillows and eyes like daggers, Zatanna slinks closer to Bruce's side, using him as a veritable meat shield against the disapproving look, her pale hand resting on his arm and casting an apprehensive look over her shoulder. While not at all averse to causing a scene, given her life on stage, she is very cognizant of the fact that the woman has enough power to make or break someone's journey to the limelight before any attempts could even begin.

Given who was escorting her, the young woman has taken care to tone down her usual sense of flamboyant style. The ever indulgent Bruce Wayne had sent his personal wardrobe consultant, Cressley Carson, to Shadowcrest and after several rounds of arguments with Gotham's premier fashion consultant, she ended up with a floor-lengthed black evening dress inlaid with sparse, starry detailing that reflects light, fashioned from overlapping sheer fabric to grant it some modest opacity and a pair of heels that puts her at just couple of inches under eye-level with her companion. Her long, midnight-black hair has been braided in pieces, then loosened and twisted, looped around one another to create a hairstyle that looks more elaborate than it actually is, appropriate for a young woman who spends her spare time faking illusions. That isn't to say she has gotten rid of her penchant for drama entirely; her makeup makes the most out of her largely monochromatic coloring, and a mini-top hat has been fastened to her hair in an angle, with a long black feather poking out of it.

There's a bit of glamour at work, to disguise the telltale wards imprinted on her left arm.

"So, I'm definitely /not/ going to make it to the end of this week alive," she whispers to Bruce. "Did you see the look she gave me? Is she an ex-girlfriend?" Eyeing his profile sidelong, she groans. "Oh god, she is, isn't she? So I'm going to be destroyed socially /and/ biologically. Is this preemptive revenge for all the shenanigans I might cause in the future?"


At cameras pointed at their direction, this absolutely does not stop her from presenting her best side to Parker's camera lens, giving it a winning smile before she recognizes the photographer.

"Peter!" Surprise falls openly on her face. "I didn't know you were covering this…wow, all the way from New York." She gestures between the two men. "Bruce Wayne, family friend, Peter Parker, new friend, freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle."


Jessica Jones is an unobtrusive presence, circulating through the crowd and a heavy silver tray full of mini-quiches. Why appetizers? Because she'd be too tempted to seize the nearest alcoholic /anything/ off a tray. Or to drink the /whole tray/, which would blow her cover. She picked the exact wrong time to try to stay sober, but the decision is already made and screw it, she's going to try. She even gives her simpering Sally the Server smile whenever required. She's even got her thick black hair in a bun and put a full face of make-up, complete with a lipstick that matches the crimson vest. Jessica can pretext with the best of them, and shooting disgusted glowers at various and sundry people in this room would blow her cover. As would peering suspiciously left and right. So she's aware and alert, sure trouble is coming at any moment, but she doesn't /look/ like she is at all. She doesn't even meet the eyes of those in the room she knows, giving everyone she comes into contact with the same impersonal, respectful attention.


It seems excessively unlikely that any of Kinsey's clientele local to Gotham would recognize the city's newest — and most overqualified — mechanic this evening, peeled out of her oil-spattered work clothes and slid into black silk, perilous heels, gold, and garnets. She arrives with her own plus-one, but nobody is likely to notice that, either, because he — /it/ — exists only within the confines of her skull.

(Existing data seems to indicate that it is traditional for a woman to attend an event such as this one with a male companion. Your solitary arrival is likely to draw unfavorable attention and judgement from your social peers.)

She slides her coat from her shoulders, hands it off to the clerk, and receives her ticket, which she slips into the little black clutch in her hand, turning to make her way through the milling masses into the opera house proper. /It's twenty-sixteen, Five. Virtually twenty-seventeen, now. Women go places by themselves all the time./

(Initial analysis of present and visible demographics indicates that most individuals are indeed paired. Your assertion is not supported by available evidence.)

Lips painted a deep red tug down into a full and sudden frown, giving the circulating waiter who offers her a flute of champagne a moment's pause. She smiles apologetically, snares a glass of bubbly, and steers herself away and into the crowd. /If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were deliberately trying to make me feel bad./

Five says nothing.

/Thought so,/ Kinsey thinks at the AI, with a sniff.


The plan was simple as far as STEVE ROGERS would have it. Cap would be on the roof with a tranq gun, his shield, and a zipline launcher. HE WOULD BE READY FOR THAT MOMENT WHEN IT ALL WENT DOWN. HE WOULD BE READY. Then he got an invite in the mail.

It was a really awkward moment when Rogers had to explain to Peggy he was just going in person instead to avoid raising suspicion. Really really awkward. So now, he's here… no zipline launcher, no tranq gun, no shield. Just a tux given to him by SHIELD. Apparently, there is something special about the right cuff, it works as an audio recording device. So far, the SHIELD people on the other side have gotten that Cap is very polite to his company, and he really needed to pee before the event. The left cuff, was supposed to have some sort of small disc that can be thrown to disable things like an metal arm. However, he forgot the instructions halfway through. Thus, he tries hard to avoid doing anything involving said cuff, fighting the impulse to mess with it in a desperate attempt to figure it all out. SHIELD really hates when Steve tries to be undercover, but Steve really has no idea why.

For now, the blond man just makes his way in, looking around with an awkward gaze. Fancy things are not really… his thing. When getting awards, he just stands there or gives a speech. Now he's supposed to make small talk, dance, eat things with little forks? He has no idea. So he'll just walk around, putting his nose up looking like he's supposed to be here. Because he totally is.


For the Winter Soldier, changing his appearance is the complete opposite of what it is for most other humans. It involves 'actually looking like a normal member of society,' since most people who have seen him to date (who he has not subsequently killed) have seen him only in his ragged, masked Winter Soldier configuration.

He likely is not quite aware of just how far the 'James Barnes = Winter Soldier?!' meme might have spread by now.

To that end, he finally performed some appropriate grooming on himself— clean shave and combed-back hair— and procured some equally appropriate dress (via… means). Black suit, white shirt, a dark cobalt blue tie, and, very tellingly, thin black gloves. He put it all on like another of his masks… another of his disguises. In another life, a life where he got to come home from the war, it might not have had to be just a disguise.

But this is the life he has, and now looking nice for a party is just another cover.

His route into the event is 'to have one Dr. Jane Foster on his arm,' piggybacking off her +1. And he's very much keeping her close— he's practically glued to her side. Most unaware individuals might think that cute, but those with a deeper awareness of who he is might just instead find it a little unsettling. Especially as his (gloved) left hand is settled warningly at the small of her back, and seems set to stay there.

"Haven't brought it out yet," he remarks aside to her, scanning the front of the room where the auction proper is meant to be held.


Galas are definitely not one of Clint Barton's top favorite assignments.

Stuffed into a basic three piece, looking dimly uncomfortable with the bowtie draped around his throat, the SHIELD agent mingles seamlessly among the thronging masses. Easily overlooked and ignored, these are the very traits which make Barton one of SHIELD's best agents for espionage. Unseen, he can work in relative peace and quiet. He is here for reason and purpose, not to sample fancy appetizers and wines that he probably can't pronounce.

"All a man wants is a beer. Can't a man get a beer here?" Clint grouses under his breath. On the other end of the discreet and unseen lapel microphone, a few people chuckle in response. «Maybe when you're back here, Barton,» comes the tinny response on the other end, miles away.

"Good. .. .good. Make sure it's cold this time, could you?"

Turning his attention from a cheese platter (which seems to be the safest bet for a guy hailing from Iowa), lazy blue eyes scout with dreadfully sharp attention across the many thousand faces crowding the ballroom.

"There's a few familiar faces," he speaks softly to the rapt audience on the other end of the mic. Nothing they wouldn't have expected. But there's one face in particular that Barton looks out for. «Keep an eye out for the mark, Hawk.» a gruff voice commands. "Roger."

"Excuse me?" a passing waiter wonders.

"Oh." A thumb jerks toward Steve Rogers' direction. "Rogers. That guy. You know." Shrug.

"Wine, sir?"

A deadpan expression crosses Barton's face. "Do I look like a wine guy?"

The waiter just holds his breath and turns away in mild annoyance, grousing in French. Barton frowns deeply.

«I thought this would be the sort of assignment you'd like,» the tinny gruff voice "jokes." Barton just frowns deeper.


Who does't love the red carpet?

There's the pedestrian entrances— the side doors, the lobby access swinging doors, for people who prefer a little more discretion.

Bruce Wayne and Zatanna Zatara had rolled up in a Rolls Royce Phantom, the car low slung and with the predatory lines of a Gotham gangster, circa 1938, but with all modern features.

Zatanna first, all legs and glittering diadems, escorted on the fingertips of a valet complete with cap— then Bruce Wayne, black tie, scarf around his neck to help ward off a bit of the winter chill. The cameras explode in a spray of ground-level fireworks, and the reporters— Vicki Vale among them— surge.

"Bruce! Bruce! Who's the lovely lady on your arm? Are you dating again? Bruce!" Her voice is lost in the din as Bruce smiles, does his celebrity wave, and escorts Zatanna inside, striding the red walkway up the steps and into the gala. The coat check girl meets them and Bruce hands off his scarf and jacket, and offering Zatanna his arm, leads her inside as the swinging affair starts up.

"Vicki /wishes/ she was an ex, which might be a bit more dangerous," Bruce tells Zatanna. Another surprising skill she'd learn— Bruce can speak clearly through a fixed smile, lips barely moving. "But she's a professional. It won't be too bad," he assures her— and then he's being introduced to Peter Parker.

Bruce extends a hand to shake the photographer's. "Hey, nice to meet you," he tells Peter. "Parker— for the Bugle, right? I've seen some of your work covering Spider-Man. When are you going to do a portfolio release?" he inquires of the fellow, his blue eyes quite serious. "Seems like you must have enough archived photographs by now that you could give him a real royal treatment."


Once upon a time, Dr. Jane Foster was set to have a lucrative career.

One professional supernova later to leave said career in one huge, seething, messy, pulsar nebula of collapsed dreams and scattered hopes, the last thing Jane ever expects in her mailbox is a personal invitation to a veritable networking dream.

She refuses to expect it so much that she leaves said invitation to gather dust under three layers of tools and half-assembled circuit boards, left to die of neglect until one day picked up by a hand —

— that now mantles and spans the tiny small of her back.

Those who know Jane Foster would never expect her to look this way. Where there is always jeans and flannel and metal filing stains at the tips of her fingers, now, at the side of the Winter Soldier, there is now a lady. Tiny next to him, petite and slight and ornamental in every way, she wears a thin, simple gown as fragile and slight as her, its blue-white texture feathery, crossing like gossamer over her shoulder blades, and exposing the soft curve of her back. The skirt hems short, and her heels tall. Her dark hair has been pulled up into a simple, formal knot, bound back, exposing the white line of her throat. She wears nothing save for a necklace, a little chain of little renown that doesn't match her dress. The only clutch she ever owns turns nervously in her hands.

The first look at the party overwhelms her, so much stimuli at once, that she pauses, her ankles wavering a little in her shoes — not used to heels, hating them actually, despising them, Lord oh God they hurt and there's too much cold air on her skin and —

The Soldier speaks to her. Jane manages a quick look up on his face, lingering — then immediately looks away again, colour in her cheeks, almost distressed. She nods awkwardly.



"No really, it's for an important mission. I work with Superman."

The freckle faced, mop-haired kid stared on wonder as the five foot five girl in black and grey demanded the clothes off his back, backpeddling until cornered. "C'mon kid, worst case you get paid and still get the night off. Best case, you get to be a fucking hero."


Azalea Kingston, AKA, The Dark Devil, cleaned up nice, and the slacks, vest, and shirt she had borrowed from a certain impressionable member of the waitstaff fit well enough. That was step one. Step two was finding /him/. She couldn't be sure her intelligence would bear fruit, but she trusted her only friend to not steer her in the wrong direction.

There's a camera flash to the side, and she nearly bobbles her tray of fluted drinks, turning sway from it to suddenly, and she very nearly runs into Steve Rogers. There's a long moment where the diminutive waitress stares up at him, something in her eyes turning this moment of polite maneuvering into a near challenge.

Then she dutifully offers a drink.

Of course, while she's doing that she looks away from blondie and out over those gathered, scanning for the man she knows only as 'Bucky.'


"Wow. Uh. This all looks, like… maybe fifty times too expensive for me to be allowed to stare at without consequence."

This is Peter Parker's first, mostly-stunned and deeply wise observation of the evening as he enters the gala with a stare that is, frankly, dumbfounded. He's been to places he considered 'fancy' before. Like. A museum. He's been to a museum before. It was a very nice-looking museum.

This is not a museum.

Suddenly, the young man feels incredibly out of place. Realistically, he wasn't even supposed to be here today; the far more capable Terry Cruise (REALLY) was supposed to go. And then he couldn't, for some reason that is absolutely not a reference. And then Eddie Brock frothed something about lifting weights or something, probably. And then J. Jonah Jameson threw his cigar at Peter and loudly demanded (screamed) why he wasn't covering the gala already.

Which brings us to now, with Peter dressed in a rent-a-tux that the Bugle absolutely did not splurge for, a fact noticeable in how it doesn't look like it fits… quite… right on the poor young man. Maybe the pants are a little too short. Maybe the suits a bit too big. Maybe the fact that he's never done a bow tie up in his life, too obvious. It's still the nicest he's ever dressed in, well, forever. He felt proud.

And then he got here. And saw everyone else. And now he feels like sinking into his clothes and disappearing like a turtle.

"Like… seriously. Is there such a thing as theft-by-staring? Because I feel like I'm in violation of it right now." Observed as he snaps a photo on that vintage, film camera of him, Peter is largely talking to himself — a fact revealed when some woman standing near him makes a face and backs slowly away from the obviously crazy homeless boy who somehow stumbled upon a tux. He has absolutely no intention of getting into the limelight, every intention of staying at the peripheries, just keeping to himself and out of trouble, just doing simple reporter things, just taking pictures of Zatanna Zatara— wait.

"Wait. Zee?? … BRUCE WAYNE?!"

So. This is what Peter Parker looks like when he's absolutely dumbfounded, hazel eyes wide and uncomprehending like someone in shock, complementing his slack jaw nicely as he lamely shakes the hand of a guy who probably could buy Australia to launch it into outer space if he really wanted. Seriously, his fingernails must be worth a million dollars each. Why is he thinking such weird things right now??

"Uh, meeting nice you," is his winning response to Bruce Wayne. A second passes. "… put that in the right order. Wait. I mean. I'm not ordering you to. You can put it in whatever order you want! I— " Wait. Wait. Wait wait wait wait WAIT—

"You know who I am?!" If that sounds like a startled yelp, that's probably because it is. Not his shining moment. "But you're like — a zuhzillionaire! That's not an actual word! I'm sorry!" Nope. Not even a little. "I uh — just — busy — school — work — aunt — wow." Give him a second.


Into this room of glitz, glamor and fame, the presence of a fresh-faced twenty-something shouldn't draw the eye — save, perhaps, for the way said twenty-something's own eyes are obscured by round red lenses, or the way he navigates through the crowd with the help of a walking stick. It turns out that once he puts away the law school zip-up hoodie and the rumpled oxford shirts, Matthew Murdock, newly esq., cleans up nicely. He's dressed in a slim-fitting tuxedo, with a shirt crisp and black bow-tie positioned just-so. He's even shaved and combed his hair into something halfway respectable.

A blind man at a gala seems like a disaster in the making, but so far there are no upended appetizer trays, no designer dresses ruined by a splash of pinot noir. Matt is making his careful way towards the bar with an assured manner that's at odds with both his own working-class upbringing and his natural inclination. But he's a good faker, our Matty, or so says the smile he cuts the bartender when asked for his choice of drink. "I'll have a MacAllan, with five drops of water, thanks."

He's arrived stag, without even his perpetual, shaggy-haired wing-man and law partner, and so at the moment Matt is mostly contenting himself with his own singular brand of people watching — or smelling, or hearing, or the like. He skims the crowd, teasing out pieces of conversation, the clinking glasses, the rythmn of footsteps on the dance-floor. One sound — the buzzing whir of mechanical parts — recently encountered and instantly remembered, catches his attention… and draws his focus towards the direction of the Winter Soldier and Dr. Jane Foster. Accepting the glass of whiskey from the bartender, he sucks in a breath, summons a smile and makes his way in that direction. This evening just got a lot more interesting.


This is a good idea, Tim Drake thinks to himself.

He does think it sarcastically, though.

Since it would've cramped Bruce's style to arrive with sone of his wards as well as his scandalously younger date for the evening, and also since Tim decided to show up on his own initiative instead of actually discussing it with anyone, the dark-haired college student slipped in through another door, with all the poise and ease one would expect from someone brought up in the wealthy side of Gotham City. His father, having been an archaeologist in addition to his business interests, was no doubt a long-time member of the Gotham Antiquities Commission, though it didn't really fall in line with his own interests - he'd never been particularly fascinated by antiquities that didn't lurk in an abandoned dungeon full of kobolds and gelatinous cubes. Still, there was a certain bittersweet nostalgia to the event, reminder of the late Jack Drake as it was, though that was submerged under the real reason he was present:

Spying on Zatanna.

He knows he won't go unnoticed for long, because Bruce is, well, Bruce, but after the strange things that have happened around his classmate and her insistence on being able to get into this event, there was no way he wasn't going to show up.

Honestly, it's pure luck he didn't come in disguise with a terrible alias, or lurking on the roof in costume.


Politicians, celebrities, those who aspire to be either of the two. Hedge fund managers, attorneys, real-estate magnates. People on the cutting edge of things. The room swarms with power, money, prestige, small continents of like interests or conflicting agendas forming and dispersing again to reform in new and dangerous combinations. And amidst all of this, passing by individuals whose actions send ripples through the present, enough of them to influence the future and, sometimes, even the past, Six — /Kinsey/ — glides in that faintly unnatural way without any plan whatsoever, save to see what there is to be seen. Hear what there is to be heard.

Oh — there's the food, also. And the wet bar, which — actually, there isn't any lipstick on the delicate little flute of champagne she's carrying, so she's either forgotten she's carrying it, or it's there as an accessory, something for her to tip-tap the neat crescent of one glossy red nail against. All the while, moving and looking, Five is looking out through the windows of her gold-leaf eyes and reporting in a constant, whispering stream of information:

(Identified: Rogers, Steve. America, Captain. Dossier number unavailable. Identified: Dr. Foster, Jane. SHIELD affiliate. Dossier number unavailable. Identified: Zatara, Zatanna. Known extranormal, homo magi. Dossier number unavailable.)

It is an endless stream of information that once haunted the databanks of the DEO's Knightwatch. It has not been updated since her retirement — she no longer has access — but the AI remains equipped with what information existed at the time of its creation, and …unfortunate?…fusing with Kinsey's neurobiology.

It's quite distracting, actually. Five sees these individuals before she can realize she's looking at them herself, and even with motes of her consciousness portioned off to monitor different tasks, there is a /lot/ of sensory information in the room.


At Marcus Brody's announcement, the creme de la creme of Gotham's high society crowd closer to the podium, taking up the numbered paddles for the bidding wars to begin - to the rest of the crowd, it's a spectator sport. This is how the rich battle, the competitive rush filling the air of people gearing up to spend exorbitant amounts of money to obtain something unique and priceless. There are quite a few items at auction, including, among other things, a mysterious urn of indeterminable origin, a lost Picasso, a statue with a strange legend attached to it and a golden helmet.

Within the middle of that crowd is a tall, fair-haired European, all the more distinct by the fact that he wears a white tuxedo in a sea of black suits and tuxes. Gottfried Muller's cold, aristocratic profile is directed towards the front, and if he is wary of his present environs, he doesn't show it. He sits at the front, his legs crossed at the knee, his paddle dangling from his fingers in wait.

And wait he does, a single crystal marble absently rolling over his other hand as he does.

The SHIELD elements in the crowd will find that they have very limited opportunity to tag the items that they want to and they would have to move quickly - said items are slowly being extricated from their glass cases to be brought to the front.



"There are too many cameras here for me to feel comfortable," Barton remarks quietly, but not before casting a cursory glance around his perimeter. God forbid Francois overhear him again. He moves shortly after, oddly fluid for a guy pushing mid-forties, breaking from the mile-long table of food. Reaching a hand into the inner pocket of his suit jacket he pulls out a pair of glasses, smoothly pushing them into place on his face. He certainly doesn't need them, but the ears at base appreciate it.

Fortunately the bigwigs of Gotham draw most of the attention in the gala. Bruce Wayne, Rogers, Zatanna Zatara. Some dork named Peter Parker.

«Hawk, your ten.» a small voice advises on the other end.

Glancing over his shoulder, Clint's gaze settles on a particularly unassuming pair that recently crept through the ballroom door. A tiny smirk sneaks its way across weather-worn features. "On it."

"Sir?" a lady with a cheese tray wonders.


"Sorry, I probably butchered it. Do you have Olivet au foin? I'm really in the mood for a glass of Beaujolais, but I'd love to try it with some olivet au foin."

Her face screws in confusion before she shakes her head. "I've got cheese with toothpicks? Look, sir, I'll be honest with you. I'm just working a second job. I don't know what this— "

Barton just shrugs and walks past her toward the Soldier and his charge of the evening. He pauses, however, as word comes down the line of the items moving. A deep frown once again settles itself on Barton's face.



"Party? Sounds fun, Zee. I mean me and the guys arn't doing much so we'll come! Could be fun, or at least better than just sitting round playing ring-toss with the bird head. You think anything will happen there?" A pause. "Check that question. Something always happens."


"…wait, what do you mean you have to dress up? I am dressed up!" A pause again. Narrowed eyes. "A /tux/?! Where am I supposed to get a tux?!"


Peter Quill has been to dozens of events like this. The glitz and the glam are nothing new. There is just one little thing that makes this one different from all the rest of them. That one simple fact is this.

He actually comes in though the front door.

/Usually/ he was here casing the place for the Ravangers. Or coming in a window to try to lead a heist for some rare artifact. Or on bodyguard detail. One time as the guy who had to pop out of a cake.

Don't ask. Lost a bet.

But this time. This one time. Its nothing like that. The man(who actually shaved. Slightly.) in the tux(Who he borrowed from someone. He hopes its not goddamn enchanted or anything.) slips though the front door into the mass of people with a crooked smirk crossing his face. "This ain't so bad." He says mostly to himself, even as he slips his thumbs into his pockets to see if he can spy any familiar faces.

…which he unsuprisingly does.

'Wine sir?'

His head snaps around in suprise to the waiter offering him a drink and he has to blink a moment before he realises. Yes. Yes. He's actually supposed to be here. He should act like it.

"Sure! Why no." He replies as he snatches one of the fluted stems. A pause as the waiter strolls off though the crowd. "…how the hell do they even hold these things without breaking them."


Spotting Muller makes Jessica quickly move to somewhere else to be, somewhere out of his line of sight. It might not matter, but…she still doesn't want him spotting her.

The fast step takes her to Six, and she murmurs, "Appetizer, ma'am?" It's the quickest person the P.I. can get to well out of the line of sight of the psychotic wizard.

Plus it keeps her from glowering at the man like she'd like to cave his skull in. Or just blowing this whole thing by trying to surprise cave his skull in. The tray would be perfect for that. But. Either would be bad. It takes some real discipline not to stare at him the entire time.


The Winter Soldier doesn't notice if Jane is distressed. Not beyond a peripheral noting of her general physical state. He's alert and focused, full in the grip of his conditioned mission, as pointed as an Irish setter. He watches people come and go around them, particularly the staff, observing the ebb and flow of the room in case any unexpected and fortuitous openings arise.

He definitely recognizes a few familiar faces in the crowd. His left hand moves on Jane's back, guiding her without words as he shifts their position away from them and closer towards the front of the room as staff start to bring out the items for auction.

His fingers itch as he sees Muller— a tiny motion Jane would feel faintly through the thin material of her dress— but he takes no action. To kill him here would profit nothing. He already tried it once, and it didn't take.

Somewhere in the middle of their slow progress, however, the Soldier notices two individuals changing trajectory to intercept them. He glances between Barton from one angle, Murdock from the other, seems to decide there's nothing for it, and asides down to Jane, "Hope you're ready to bullshit."


The Wait Devil continues her rounds, listening to various pieces of conversation as she meanders about, somehow not causing a catastrophic spill. Eventually she finds a bumbling photographer who's apparently hitting on some rich guy while the rich guy's arm candy looks o-

Oh God.

When she sees Zatanna, she stops in her tracks, teeth gritting briefly. Their recent conversation is almost the entire reason she is here, and almost the entire reason she second guessed her desire to come. But duty held her to the mission. Besides, she could handle seeing her in that dress, right?


Finally she makes her awkward pause into something useful, offering the trio drinks. And then she looks to the 'rich guy' staring at Bruce Wayne with a gaze that narrows with obtuse scrutiny. Her nostrils flare. Her head tilts up a little.

"Holy shit."

She looks taken aback, and stumble-fumbles her tray which may or may not send a fluted glass tumbling towards Peter Parker.

"You look just like Bruce Wayne."


As Peggy had already managed to pull a few strings to get an invitation under a pseudonym, she is not there 'officially' as Steve Rogers' date, but she is certainly by his side as they survey the gala. The woman's brown hair is tied up in an elaborate knot at the back of her head. Her dress is long and dark blue. It has a plunging neckline and a slit up the sides. It's got quite a lot of ability for movement.

On Steve's arm, she glances about the room and frowns as she sees the objects are moving. "Quick," she tells Steve, gesturing with her chin toward the movement. "We've only got a quick window to put trackers on some of those items. Here, take two of these trackers and see if you can stick one of these on urn or the liber. I'll try and grab the helmet and the statue."

Her attention is quickly on her target, giving a squeeze of her hand on his arm before she slips into the crowd. As she moves toward the people, she attempts to intercept the helmet. On the way, she purposefully bumps into a waiter with an overfilled tray of glasses in an attempt to pull attention toward the loud clatter. From there, she quickly backs up, as if startled herself, aiming straight for the docent holding the helmet.

"Oh! My! I'm so sorry!" Putting her hands up, she attempts to slip a tracker inside the helmet very quickly.


"Bruce pays attention to almost everything," Zatanna says with a good-natured grouse, though she does smile over at the taller man as she says it. "I keep telling him that there must be something in the water that turns everyone into geniuses but I don't think he believes me." There's a wink, Zatanna rising slightly on her tiptoes so she could take a look around - there are a /lot/ of people in the event, but despite it she manages to find someone else in the group, against all odds.

It's magic - literally. The evanescent strands of power that her ward has placed on Tim calls her attention immediately, mirroring the one emanating from the boutonniere on Bruce's clothes. "….Tim?!" Her lips part, and for the second time tonight surprise settles on her face. After the Wayne ward's grousing and bellyaching about being absolutely uninterested in this stuff, he made it after all. She lifts her hand in an insistent wave, and once he's close enough…

She takes a step forward and throws her arms around his neck. "You sneaky sonuvab— " Wait, classy event. "…guy, you," she finishes awkwardly. "Bruce, look who's here, after all the clamoring about how boring this is going to be!" She gestures to Parker also. "Tim Drake, Peter Parker."

She would say more, until Azalea shows up and causes an accident.

"…Az?" Her jaw grows slack, and then she remembers. Right. "Um….new part time job?"


Kinsey doesn't /stumble/ when she's blindsided by Jessica, but she does startle. Her attention is split in fifteen different directions, but armed with a glass to keep circulating serving staff at bay, that is the one kind of person she was /not/ expecting to address her. She jumps a little, then splays one hand over her bare collarbone, exhaling a puff of relieved air and pre-emptively smiling as she turns to face the serv—

(Identified: Jones, Jessica. Dossier number unavailable.)

— er.

That is not a server.

Kinsey isn't terribly tutored in the fine art of living two distinctly different lives, one of them secret, so although she strives not to miss a beat, there is a moment of hesitation before her smile finds its fullness, and she reaches for one of the bits of cheese on a stick. "Thanks!"

Somewhere over Jess' shoulder, a piece of her notices a falling flute of champagne, and traces it back to another of the waitstaff, who is…

…also not a member of the waitstaff, unless the young woman who practically kicked her ribs in a few weeks ago has a strangely incongruous dayjob. Which…okay. Sure. Maybe?

Suddenly Six has good reason to want to use /Jessica/ as cover, although there's no way Azalea could possibly recognize her. "What, um…what kind of cheese is it?"

(Really?) whispers Five.

/Shut up./


"Sure, no problem," Bruce tells Peter. "Take a deep breath, son. You've got some schmultz on your bowtie. May I?" he inquires, without asking permission. He steps forward and flicks at Peter's bowtie. "Er, hang on. Sorry, it's all undone now," he says, quickly tugging the bow loose. He frowns and deftly re-ties the young photographer's neckwear into a perfectly balanced bow, making his attire look a /little/ less haphazard, then claps Peter on the shoulder and steps back. "Perfect, got it," he says. "Sorry about that, figured you wouldn't want some foie gras on your outfit."

His eyes flicker to his young ward when Zatanna hails him, and the only expression of surprise is a mild widening of his blue gaze, though his smile stays fixed. "Tim! I was hoping you'd change your mind," Bruce says, extemporizing on the fly. He steps forward and offers his son a handshake and a half-hug, in order, before moving to Zee's side and resting his hand on the small of her back again. "I thought you'd be busy with that project. Got it done at full speed, eh?" he inquires. "I guess we can rest secure in the knowledge that you got the semester clear in time."

The codewords are only for Tim. Busy — speed — secure — clear. Bruce's errand is both time sensitive and there's an unknown security threat nearby.

Bruce tugs Zee back when the champagne flute starts to topple towards Peter, eyes widening, and focuses on Azalea, betraying nothing on his features aside from a disapproving frown at the girl. "That's because I /am/ Bruce Wayne," he tells the Waiting Devil. "Careful with that champagne, eh?"


Captain America finds himself being offered a drink. There is a pause as he sees a rare intensity within her eyes, one not really expected for someone who is offering refreshment. Azalea will find that the drink is taken by Steve before he pulls out his wallet. "I guess. Er, we know how much these are?" Unsure and not seeing anyone else paying, he just puts a twenty down so he isn't stealing. BECAUSE STEALING IS WRONG.

Now that he's paid for his drink, Steve nods toward Carter as she gives him his instructions. "But Barton's here, he can tell me how the cuff works." Steve tries to whisper toward him.

"Barton, the cuff, I need to know about the cuuufffffff!"

But the man is too far away and heading to someone to hear the desperate whisper. Fate would have it be that Rogers doesn't notice Bucky is the target. That's good due to the super soldier's usual direct way of doing things and he'd likely just forget the mission entirely.

And so Cap moves toward the items, seemingly the urn.

As he moves toward it, Cap remembers the steps: 1. Discretely turn the tracking device so it's facing rough side against the skin. 2. Give a firm push with one finger.

That's it. Two steps. Easy. That in mind, Cap moves to have the small tracking device with the rough side against the surface of his pointer finger. "Look at that, I've seen that urn before. My grandmother had one like it!" A pat is given toward the docent, meant to get him off balance, but Cap will be there to steady the guy and get a hand on the underside of the urn to put on the tracking bug. Simple! If it works.


One thing about Jessica Jones is she does study for the roles she intends to play. A little thing like a question about cheese does not slow her down. She had arrived for work early and had asked about everything there was to ask about, just in case something like this happened.

Without missing a beat she says, "It's a Fol Epi, a cow's milk cheese produced in the Loire Valley of France, ma'am. You'll find it has a slightly nutty taste, rather than a sharp one, and it will pair nicely with the champagne." Oh sweet holy that champagne smells fantastic. She swallows hard, then allows her eyes to cut slightly in Muller's direction for just a moment.

She's also trying to keep an eye on Zee, but never obviously. There might be those who could associate them with ease if she slips up. But she sees there's rather quite a lot going on over there…she seems in good shape, such as it is with a psycho wizard who had her picture in the very same room with her. "The Etorki — this one here with the little olive — is also very good." She could have sat here and b.s.'d cheeses all day long even if she hadn't studied, but since she did…


Jane Foster absolutely feels the twitch of that hand on her back.

Her lips mirror that movement in an exacting tic of their their own, until Jane must bite down on the lower just for some sense of grounding, nipping the flesh between her teeth and letting it slowly slip free. Every last inch of her looks like someone out of her element, a fish pulled from the ocean and slapped until it's forced to evolve away the gills and breathe clean air. She knows cluttered labs and cloistered trailers and even the endless horizon of New Mexico studded with a bedouin's veil of endless, pearly stars, but fancy parties catering to the rich and important?

Most definitely neither of those, and feeling small, and really, all the smaller shrouded in the significant shadow of the Winter Soldier, Jane tries to keep her footing. Said footing is not the greatest either, and she even slips one step in her heels, catching herself thankfully, with a light cough and embarrassed slant of her eyes, glancing over at her strange date as if he would center her.

Jane seems to look like the ground's being dropped out from under her feet every time she sees him. That face of his. Not what she's used to. And what is she used to? Her insides twist. Her nerves do not help. She fidgets that clutch around in her hands, turns glances like some wild animal desperate to look for a way out of the urban sprawl, but at the same time… does not try to linger away. She stays close. It might be that hand on her back.

She's pulled from her thoughts again by the Soldier's voice. Jane listens. Her eyes blink.

Dr. Jane Foster was born ready for bullshit.

"What do you mean special relativity can be theorized without imaginary time? What the hell book have /you/ been reading? Have you forgotten Wick rotations just like that? I swear, I don't talk to you for like, two years, and your head gets full of nonsense. Where is it coming from? Is it coming from Stanford? You know they're ridiculous in /Stanford./ You're pissing me off enough that I'm going to actually legitimately stand here and give you Quantum Mechanics 101. You know I remember it all — " is the utter chatter that drops like a sledgehammer out of Jane's mouth, aimed up at that man at her side, while her own eyes take inoffensive glances. As the two men approach visibly — Murdock she sees first, Barton second, not recognizing either — Jane gives them oblivious, but friendly-enough looks, though seems unwilling to break her nerdfest.


Somewhere along the way she had gotten a 20 dollar tip that just sits there, taunting at her. The Wait Devil considers all the things she could do with it, but when Zatanna mentions her new part time job, and Bruce Wayne confirms he is in fact THE Actual Factual Rich As Fuck Bruce Wayne she blinks, looking between Zatanna and Bruce and the way the billionaire places his hand on her back.

She just gives an almost embarrassed nod to Zatanna - espionage is not her forte either, but she does manage a smirk at Bruce, deathraying him in a way not at all consistent with the way Vicky Vale was earlier. "Yes sir. Want a glass? They're only six hundred and fifty thousand dollars e-"

Oh no.

Across the room, Azalea sees /him/. She's one of the few people who has seen him without the mask, could know him just by the way he moves.

Those who know her might recognize it - the shallow breath, and the way she shoves her drink tray towards the nearest person, prepared or not.

Maybe she's off script, maybe she's off mission. Doesn't matter.

Bucky is here, and that's where she's heading.


Fol Epi, Jessica Jones says, as Kinsey thinks back to the roster of extranormals she'd been required to memorize by the Knightwatch. The feats of which this dark-haired, fair-skinned slip of a woman is capable. Footage she'd watched. She tries to reconcile those images with this perfectly-pitched avatar of the service industry, and is dismayed to find that it remains difficult. A personal flaw she will have to rectify, if she plans to survive on this dark, dangerous new world she's elected to inhabit.

Fol Epi, Etorki. Olives. She leans in just enough to lower her voice, silver sliding down into velvet registers, soft and warm. "I am going to admit that I have absolutely no idea what those are, but they sound delicious. Thanks." So she plucks up a second cube of cheese — Etorki! — and she's about to start speaking again, asking more inane questions, when she hears


Her head snaps up, turns. She searches with pale hazel eyes. Finds. Discovers /Doctor Jane Foster./

As in, the woman who wrote a groundbreaking paper that Kinsey has framed and hung up on one of the walls of her garage, right here in Gotham.

Her lips part. Her pulse ticks up. Some inner part of her squeaks, fangirls. "WellIshouldn'tkeepyouthanksfortheinformationaboutthecheese," she says to Jessica in one short little breath, breaking off and starting to pick her way carefully toward the diminutive scientist. And she'd have gotten there, too, if not for…

She sees Azalea moving that way, too, and her well-kept brows dive inward together. /How does this person manage to ruin EVERYTHING?/


The Winter Soldier's eyes threaten to glaze a little under this scientific torrent. Thankfully decades of espionage have given him some good acting skills when he wants to engage them, so he manages to flip the expression around into one that's about one-fifth amused and four-fifths affronted. He knows this is the juncture at which he's supposed to say something back, but what do you even say to that? Why did Jane not pick a topic that can be more easily bullshitted between two agents that don't BOTH have quantum physics backgrounds?

"Why do that when you can theorize it fine with nonimaginary time?"

He has no idea what the hell he is saying. Jane may die inside.


Jane Foster dies inside.


A voice gravels in Azalea's ear, from the device that Batman had given her. "Not yet." It goes silent.

Bruce clears his throat and coughs into his fist next to Zatanna. "Er, 'scuse me," he mumbles.


As the self proclaimed Star-lord wonders though the party, pausing to pick up some of the food he wonders just why he's here. Thats a deep thought for Peter Quill, so it lasts all of two seconds before he finds something else shiny to get his attention. Mostly the things on acution, and somewhat the groups of people.

Some of the ones he knows.

Zee gets a grin, but she looks busy surrounded by men. Steve? Well their last meeting didn't end that great so he just avoids that. He's manuvering over for a better look at the auctions when he hears a familiar pair of voices.

Shifting around without spilling even a drop of the wine the be-tuxed space traveler flashes a grin. "Hey! Jessica! I didn't know you'd be here. Did Zee get you tickets too?"

…no. Hadn't noticed the uniform yet.

His eyes slide past her. "Hey and Kinsey too? I didn't think I'd know so many people here!" He adds as he strolls up to the pair without much of a by-your-leave and…

…and then notes the waiters uniform.

"Oh." Awkward pause. "Uh. Right." Then Kinsey is walking off because she saw.

"Oh man, Princess Science! The'll let anyone in here won't they. And…wait…is /that/ how Vader looks?" A pause. "I'm a bit dissipointed. I expected scars or something." THATS RIGHT QUILL! CHANGE THE SUBJECT! No one will ever know.

Star-lord is the smoothest.

Also, he's assuming that Vader because that man is standing close to Jane and NOT BEING SHOT AT.


One device is planted. Time for the second device. Cap slides the device in his fingers again, but he gets it wrong, having the smooth side against his finger. His thoughts are on being causal, which means he has this large grin on his face like he walked out of a wax museum on something. And he sorta listens to people as they try and talk to him, offering odd responses back on topics like history, education, and current events.

"The war was horrible, but at least we have grapes."

"Well, we used to hit bad students with rulers, but I guess we don't anymore."

"I loved to dance the twitterbug, but what does that have to do with my phone?"

Around that time, he accidently firmly pushes and the device clamps onto… his fingertip.

"Fiddlesticks!" the super-soldier-turned-spy exclaims as he attempts to use some of that super strength to peel it off, using nearby table to do so. As he does, it is given a super flick, bouncing off the wall, high into the air and…. somewhere in the party, losing track of it in the crowd.

"One out of two isn't bad," he points out to himself, content he did his part. PEGGY GAVE HIM THE DEVICES, so he figured that means he's only half responsible for that little mistake.


Maybe the disguise would've been a good idea.

Tim knew he'd be spotted, though not quite this quickly; if he'd put the effort in, he might've even been able to get past Bruce's scrutiny without being recognised (maybe) and he certainly wouldn't have been easy for Zatanna to pick out (as far as he knows), but this little expedition was more off-the-cuff, more a sudden decision than an act of careful and deliberate planning. He prefers plans, under most circumstances. Improvisation can get… Messy.

It's to Tim's great surprise then that it's /Zee/ who notices him first, spotting him and unmistakably saying his name, with Drake's dark blue eyes looking right at her as she spots him. There's no chance of avoidance now, with her beckoning him closer, and so he moves in to get hugged almost violently, patting Zatanna's upper back before she slips away to bring Bruce into this little social situation, and also some other guy.

"Of course," Tim answers Bruce without missing a step, nodding shortly to convey that he got the signal. "You know me, I'm always prepared."

This is at least 70% true.

"Peter Parker, huh?" Tim says, when that introduction happens. "Did you meet Zee at an alliterative names support group?"


And then it suddenly seems that his intended target, as it were, and her unassuming but sharply-dressed companion are drawing far too much attention.

There comes a brief moment when the Soldier's glance catches his, but the response is little more than what could easily be passed off as an awkward moment when two dudes' eyes meet. There are, sadly, no sparks.

There's far too many people at this point, Clint Barton thinks to himself. The eyes on the other side note this as well, buzzing distantly in his ear. The man shrugs, then snatches a small champagne flute from a passing tray to take a sip. His face wrinkles the moment the drink touches his lips.

"Damn, who drinks this stuff?" he wonders aloud, gaze shifting discreetly back toward the Winter Soldier and his newfound group of buddies and pals.

«You sure do complain a lot for a man hanging out among some of the finest elite of Gotham /and/ an impressive spread of food. Did you SEE those appetizers??»

"I'm an old man, this is what I do. Let me /have/ this."


As Quill says her name, Jessica's face transforms into the fiercest of scowls. She likes Quill, and she owes Quill, but right now that will not save Quill from feeling her wrath. He's about to feel exactly what it feels like to have a woman with perfect control of her super strength bring her foot down hard on his. Not hard enough to break it. Not even hard enough to cause a limp. But hard enough to bruise, and hard enough to /hurt/.

And then she adopts the pouty look of a simple serving woman running into an ex-boyfriend. "I can't believe you're even talking to me, you jerk," she hisses. "You dump me for that rich bitch and then waltz up to me here, when I'm trying to work? What are you doing, trying to rub it in my face? /I bought wedding magazines/. Wedding. Magazines. Go away. No cheese for you. I'm going to make sure not one server gives you any. Cheese."

Drinks? A gazillion dollars. Ertaki? The cost of a cheese lesson. Salvaging her cover and punishing Quill for being a clueless idiot at the same time? Priceless.


The trajectory of The Wait Devil alters as that voice rings in her ear, but not without some dedicated self control. She'd lost so much of it, but some things had taken with the help of a good friend, and so she crosses the path of The Soldier and The Scientist, all the while reaching up to remove her bowtie, straighten it into one long string, and prepare for a delaying tactic.


The bound up length of material snaps like a whip as she passes behind the newcomer that is Peter Quill and the other server he seems to be talking to, stutter-stepping behind them JUST after she lands her blow.

Her target? The perfect derriere of one Dr. Jane Foster.

She would tell poor Peter she's sorry if she had the time, but she's already in route to get her things, tucked away behind some far off table, her unbound bowtie now resting at Peter's feet as if some kind of calling card.


Dumbfounded Peter may be, but he's not a fool (most of the time (stop laughing!)); when Bruce starts talking about something on his bowtie, Peter starts to protest, but by the time he even entertains such modest notions, Bruce Wayne is fixing his bowtie and even -helping him save face about how god awful his bowtie looked-.

The Richest Man in the Universe is fixing his bowtie.

He feels simultaneously humbled, honored, and humiliated all at once. It's -really weird-.

"Uh," he manages, with an awkward grin, "thanks. That foie gras, you never know where it's gonna end up." He's never had foie gras in his life. He probably doesn't even know what it looks like. "Excuse my foie gras faux pas, sir. … Wow that was a lame joke. Ignore all of that. Nevermind. Oh hey, it's someone else!"

And this is Peter, happily changing gears to pit his attention onto the discovered Tim Drake instead of making an ass out of himself in front of Bruce Wayne, whose business Peter could probably nerd about for ages. All he manages is mouthing a 'You know Bruce Wayne?!?!?!' to Zatanna in a way he THINKS is subtle enough not to be noticed (it isn't, but at least Bruce Wayne probably can't read lips (right???)) before turning his attention Tim-wards.

"Uh, hey — right, hi. I'm Peter." A grin touches at his lips at the joke. "Yeah. It's a support group. We all tell stories about how difficult it was growing up with initials that were the same. Actually, I— "

This is PROBABLY where he'd say something winningly witty. Except his spider-sense tingles. And then he sees: the waiter tumbling. The champagne tilting. He dies a little inside.

He could stop it before it even falls. He could. Before it even starts to tilt. Or sidestep it. or anything else. But here's what actually happens: the glass starts to tilt. Peter subtly moves his camera a fraction of an inch so it's out of the inevitable trajectory of the glass. He laments that he's probably not going to get his deposit back on his tuxedo now. The liquid spills. He takes note of the blind guy that somehow looks more sharply dressed than himself and feels even worse about himself now. He tries to think of the last time he did something cool, fighting off a demon monster and helping collapse a building. Then he remembers he made an ass out of himself in front of Fairchild. And Captain America called him Spider-Boy.

And thus is Peter Parker's split second of serenity ruined before he lets that champagne spill all over him so he looks like a loser and status quo is properly maintained.

"Crap! I mean — um — some more polite version of crap!" Peter Parker laments quite believably as that champagne spills all over his nice tuxedo. He grimaces, offering an apologetic smile to the rest of them even as he shifts his spotless and un-touched camera aside. "Sorry, I uh — hold on a sec. I'm gonna find — club soda— ?"

And off he'll go, disappearing into the crowds, knowing full well there's probably no club soda here. Probably. Maybe it's a rich person thing…? He hopes to god napkins are a rich person thing, at least.


She is thankfully pulled away before the champagne gets on her dress, though poor Peter doesn't manage to escape the onslaught of bubbly too quickly. Zatanna bites her bottom lip, her expression mirroring the photographer's thoughts; she knows he can avoid it, but he has to /not/ to, unaware of the fact that the other two gentlemen with her come from the same masked crimefighting community.

Secret identities, especially keeping them to yourself because you promised, are hard, okay?

To Az, there's a slightly sheepish smile, wandering over to where the 'waitress' is looking and manages to catch sight of James Buchanan Barnes arm and arm with a pretty, diminutive brunette. Remembrance sinks in, on the bench in Central Park, told of another woman that Bucky managed to find to help him.

What is important, however, is that she appears to be a willing companion; she doesn't look tense, doesn't look like she's a hostage, and by /how/ the Winter Soldier spoke of her, there may be something more going on under the surface. She almost looks endeared.

They're /so cute/ together!

Bruce's cough has Zatanna furrowing her brows at him, reaching up to pat him lightly between the shoulder blades. "You aren't coming down with a cold, are you?" she murmurs quietly.

Tim's dig on alliterative names has her poking him lightly at the ribs. "Listen, Crossfit," she tells him blandly. "It's not my fault Daddy's an entertainer and Italian, any flair for the dramatic is automatically dialed up to eleven."


Trackers are placed, some subtly, some in ways that could only come from the Steven G. Rogers School of Effective But Clumsy Espionage - don't fix it if it ain't broke, as they say. Peggy and Steve will be able to do their covert work without much problems - they're SHIELD after all, plying their trade on a bunch of people who make a living authenticating, pricing and selling absurdly expensive rare items. It's like trying to break into a 7-Eleven for the likes of them.

If Muller notices that he is being watched, he either doesn't notice or doesn't care, there are a few people in the crowd that know very well that grievous bodily injury is the very least of his problems. Pale green eyes fix on the items as they're (tagged by SHIELD agents) and brought to the podium in the midst of the bidding wars; the urn goes for several million, and so does the statue. TheTarnhelm? It racks up close to fifty million, purchased by one Baron Winters from Georgetown, Washington D.C. over the phone, having sent a representative to bid for him, a svelte blonde woman in a red dress. Nobody knows whether he's actually a baron, or if it's just his first name. Which is kind of weird, if that's true.

The Liber Consecratus is next.

As Lot #617 is announced to the crowd, Muller leans back on his seat and drops the marble on the ground.

It shatters.

And all hell breaks loose.

It may even be literal as the sudden backlash of power ripples over the crowd, so forceful and tangible even non-mystical people can sense it, brushing over their skin and tugging at their hair, the faint smell of ozone and the crackling of static clinging to fine clothing. The lights go out, plunging the entire gala in abyssal darkness.

The urn flares to life, its lid suddenly flying open and spouting its ashes into the air, the statue glows, eldritch shadows squirming from its base, cutting across the floor seeking /something/, and theTarnhelm rattles from its glass case, shattering and emitting an eerie golden light that's almost blinding in the sudden darkness.

The scattered ashes filter over the other artifacts in the room, over the paintings and a few Egyptian sarcophagi on display. Figments of colorful imagination, shadows that take tangible form, the hypnotic thrumming from theTarnhelm that slowly starts possessing the nearest individuals and driving them to a frenzy, everything happens at once and coming from all directions.

Chaos erupts. The screaming starts.

In the darkness, Muller rises from his chair to make his way towards the book.


"Me? No, I'm fine," Bruce says, shaking his head as he watches the poor kid dash off into the cover of the men's to attend the spill on his rental. "Damn. I was hoping I could offer him some work," Bruce confides in Zatanna, his tone one of supremely relaxed ease. "Mind telling him to come by Wayne Enterprises sometime?" he asks Zatanna. "We're looking for some contract work for our end-of-year spread. He looks like he could use the work— and the exposure."

Bruce focuses on Tim, cocking one brow for a split second in a 'we're gonna talk about this later' expression. It's gone before anyone but Tim can read it. "Quite a spread here," he comments to his young ward. "I think I see— Steve Rogers? He looks…" He watches Steve have a small fit as he flicks something into the distance. "Good heavens, did he just flick a bogie into the crowd?" Bruce mutters, in dismay. "That's… well. He's from a different time," he concedes, shaking his head slowly. "I guess they did things different back in the war. Think that's a tissue shortage, or something?" he says, considering it.

There's a bit too much chaos going on all at once— and anyone who thinks Batman hasn't spotted the extra actors, the players, the people who move like assassins and who are a bit 'too' attentive— even Peggy Carter, an Agent of SHIELD and the fellow who's body language suggests the Winter Soldier, even as Azalea charged him— no. Too many moving parts. Too many players.

And Muller, sitting in his chair with the pompous regality of a European blue blood.

And worst of all, Bruce Wayne— not Batman— sees Muller moving, and all he can do is drive his knee into the back of Zatanna's thigh so she's already falling, when he shouts, "GET DOWN!" and tackles Zatanna to the floor. Darkness falls.

Darkness is his friend.

This is the element of the Bat-Family. This is where he and his flock rule. Instantly, Bruce produces a pair of low-IR glasses and puts them on, looking to Tim to make sure he's doing the same. Sign language flickers between them, even while Bruce shouts and keeps pushing Zatanna along, 'accidentally' pushing her into cover from the debris and the rampage of the mob.

Fingers flicker. <Doors. Marking flares.> The first priority is to get the mob out. <I'm on Muller.> He tugs a thin cowl from under his tuxedo collar and pulls it on over his head— and his jacket, when reversed, proves to contain a cape. In five seconds, Bruce Wayne dons his Batman garb, and launches a pair of Batarangs at the back of Muller's head.


Energy is energy is energy. Cannot be created nor destroyed, etcetera, so-forth, so-on. And Energy and Kinsey Sheridan have a very touch-and-go relationship at the present moment, things being what they are; electrical energy in particular, but also cross-dimensional energy, as Five's presence inside of her head is a kind of ouroboros of quantum states. It's — it's complicated.

Suffice it to say that the blast that shatters out from the tiny glass sphere dropped by an immortal Nazi (seriously) hits her like a ton of bricks. No, worse — like phased bricks from multiple continuities, extant and impossible all at the same time. The energy itself is trawled from the atmosphere by the delicate net of monofilament wires containing her brain, synaptic activity explosive, every neuron firing in what feels like a simultaneous blossoming. It happens so fast that she can't process what's happening. Her entire world expands to include everything. /Everything/. Everything in the room all at once and that is too much for her neurobiology, for mortal tissue that has yet to adapt with sufficient plasticity to what has happened to her in the last year.

As she gains that — all of that, all of the Everything — she loses control of the prosthetics linked so seamlessly with her nervous system, and subsequently drops to the floor in a tiny, anticlimactic billow of black silk. Her head hits the floor and bounces once. Bobby pins are shaken out by the impact. A thin red ribbon of blood leaks from one side of her nose, cuts a stark trail down over pale features. Not that she notices: she is down for the count.


«Barton? Barton! What's going on, do you hear me??»

It comes with frightening swiftness, the darkness that descends upon the packed ballroom. His eyes on the other side with SHIELD are left wondering, more so as communications are momentarily rendered useless by the rippling wave of power that bursts across the room. The voice is distant, disjointed and electronic babble in his ear. Clint nearly rips the earpiece out in both frustration and aural pain. He chooses instead to flinch in discomfort.

Darkness is soon replaced by eldritch energy and eerie shadows. Barton's attention is instantly drawn to the golden light before he raises a hand to shield his eyes from its brilliance. "The hell?" he wonders, ignoring for the time the chaotic chatter that brokenly transmits in his earpiece.

The glasses. A hand reaches up, pinching the right stem of his wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The darkness flickers into hues of green, bodies lit up like fireflies by their telltale heat signatures. Whether home can hear it or not, he mutters, "Standing by."

From the sleeve of his suit a long, black baton sneaks out, falling into hand. His right hand flicks, and a wrist-bound miniature crossbow primes. While not his preferred method of self-defense or offense, it's something. Try explaining how a hunting bow got into your pants when you're squeezed into a suit. It makes for some very awkward conversation or explaining.


Nonimaginary numbers.

Jane Foster stares up into the face of the lost James Buchanan Barnes, assassin, ghost, murderer of men, killer of special relativity. She looks like he just crushed her heart.

You're /killing me,/ Smalls, burn her eyes. You're killing me! Nonimaginary numbers? She opened up her home. She opened up her fridge. She opened up her life. Nonimaginary numbers?!

"Stanford broke you," she says, through her ever-strange cover, though testament to Jane, who cannot lie to save her life, whose hidden card hand she would show mirrored off her expressive face, looks sincere. Every inch of her toils in nervousness, so the scientist does what she really does best. Does really all what she knows, because she doesn't know this, doesn't know false covers and marks and world-ending books and, and and —

Just give her overly-complicated, convulated science. Pinned in place still by the hand on her back, the woman does offer twitched-up smiles towards those milling nearby. Barton's comment on the drinks earns her eyes. "I wouldn't know, I couldn't afford — wait, are they free? Are they giving them away? Oh! I'm Jane. And this is a friend of mine —"

It all happens so fast.

Something tags her in the ass. The woman jerks straight, twisting slightly against the Soldier's hand, looking down, then glancing across the room in confused suspicion — QUILL? — and —

Everything happens.

The power moves over her like an electric field. The urn opens. The light flaers out. Shadows. Helmet. Chaos. Screaming.

Jane really only has time to do so little, and the only thing that comes instinctive to her. She grabs onto the Winter Soldier.


Killing Peter Quill for the outrage he purported just visited upon Jane… will have to wait.

The Winter Soldier's focus diverts as the auction begins. He watches intently as several items are brought up and bid upon. Urn, statue, helm.

They announce the Liber Consecratus. The Soldier's head turns to Muller just in time to watch the marble fall.

The lights go out. So many of the old artifacts animate. And the Soldier grabs Jane's arm and shoves her back, towards the fringes of the room, herding her towards the wall. "Stay down," he whispers.

He turns back to Muller to see some familiar projectiles already flying towards the man's head. The Soldier's eyes narrow as he takes a decidedly different tack. Under cover of darkness, he pulls a heretofore concealed Kahr P380. Anticipating some kind of evasive movement of the head, he draws a bead center mass instead, aiming for the heart as he strafes around to try to get to the book before the immortal sorcerer.


Can a blind man bee-line? No, not really. It requires an extra bit of weaving, of murmured apologies, and near-disasters like the one that poor Parker kid managed delicately sidestepped. But Matt makes his methodical way through the crowd, picking up bits of conversation as he goes — and, eventually, picks up both Bucky's call for bullshit and Jane's bravo shoveling of it. /She's a piece of work/, he thinks, not for the first time, and not without admiration.

And just as he's about to slosh his drink and ask an obnoxious question about what-the-hell /imaginary/ time even means, the world goes to Hell. Matt feels it more than most of the muggles, unaffected by the sudden blackness and singularly sensitive to the odor and static that have charged the air. A more sensible person might withdraw at this point — head towards the exits. Matt? Matt crouches low to the ground and wades closer towards the thick of it all. Hey, maybe he doesn't even know which way is which.


As Peggy slips one of the trackers into the helmet and then makes her way toward the statue. The original distraction simply will not work again and variety is truly the spice of life, so instead of attempting to make a noise distraction, she quickly moves up toward the white gloved person holding the statue.

Grabbing the nearest person, she grabs him by the hand and stumbles, almost drunkenly. It's too early for that, but this kind of event attracts all kind. Peggy could be a gold-digger. She twirls herself right into the person holding the statue and quickly slurs, "Sorry! Sorry!" A tracer is placed underneath the statue as she 'drunkenly' attempts to right her wrong.

That done, she makes her way back to Steve through the crowd, slowly rejoining the man. "Alright, I've placed my trackers. How did you do?" There's only a moment of catching up before there is suddenly chaos. Dammit. Kicking off her heels, she pulls a pair of flats out of her bag and slips them on. She also pulls out an ICER pistol out of her bag. There's a second in there, should Steve not have brought one with him. "We need to get the civilians out," she tells him, looking for a fire alarm to try and dowse the ashes and move everyone towards the exits.


Hearing that from Peggy, Jessica Jones thinks that's a fantastic idea. She kicks the nearest door open hard, yelling, "Go, go, go, out," to any civilians who will listen. "Now! Move it!"

That little square of light from the outside world briefly illuminates the fallen body of the woman who was so interested in the cheese. Jessica doesn't know /why/ the woman has fallen down, but she's suddenly concerned about trampling. Shoving fleeing civilians aside, Jessica gets to her.

The P.I. scoops the downed woman up like she's nothing and looks for a good place to stash her. Not out the door…she'll get trampled there too. Nope, gotta be someplace else.

After a moment, she decides right behind the bar will work. She gathers powerful legs beneath herself and leaps across the room, choosing a trajectory high enough that she hopes it should keep her from hitting anyone else, landing behind the bar and tucking the woman back there for her protection.



Barton gives Jane a mildly surprised look. She heard him?

"Of course they're free," he says with a slight smirk. "Rich people love throwing nice things away. Nice to meet you Jane, my name is Bon— "



The waitstaff vest and shirt come off, slacks get tucked into the boots she was wearing beneath them, and just as her gloves go on the world turns to darkness. In her mind's eye, it's the scent of that ash that draws her back to a time when the world spilled forth it's turmoil, crying foul of the Obsidian Butterfly as she cut into Xiuhnel's chest.

A hand shoots to her chest for a moment, and her eyes shift from blue to gold as the world becomes something dismal. Something dark.

Something /familiar/.

It had been so very long since The Dark Devil had been here, and as the wave of energy washes over her she does not budge, moving among the mad, the stricken, and even past the downed body of Six with the stride of a predator in the only place it could ever truly be king.

Xiuhnel, the Sky Serpent, had returned home.

The whisper in her ear was dark and dismal, seductive as it had ever been, Itzpapalotl's voice carving to the core of her very being. 'Bring me the book'

Flares. Doors. Muller.


Her gaze falters, eyes flutter, and Batarangs fly in the dark. She shakes her head like a lioness with one to many hyenas hanging off of it, and as baggage from another eon falls away she leaps -

- going low where the Baterangs go high, her sliding tackle leg sweep meant to clip legs and fell this man who was Batman's target, even if it means her own target might escape.


Whelp. That /was/ his foot.

Quill bites his lip, sucks in his breath, and does his breath to keep from doubling over as that foot comes down on his. He even opens his mouth to apologize.

And thats when Jessica lays into him.

Now this isn't his first radio when it comes to this sort of lambasting, but he didn't even get to do the fun stuff that usually proceeds it. So there is a sort of deer in the headlights look for a long moment as Jessica finishes her tirade. Slowly he recovers.

"Well…I didn't want any of your stupid cheese anyway!" The very mature responce of one Peter Quill.

He starts to turn away from the 'waitress' and towards some other people to bother when all hell really does break loose.

Energy of a kind that is decidedly uncomfortable arcs up his hand. Its a different power than one he has experianced before. A decidedly unwelcome, unwholesome, unpleasent power. He staggers, eyes seeing stars and he tumbles back into the crowd around him.

"I was right," Comes the groan from Quill. "Magic /sucks balls/."

He shoves himself up just in time to dodge a serving tray wielded by a mind-controled waiter. The man will get a punch that sends him down to the ground as he tries to find his way in the dark. A touch of a finger and his armor activates, the sensors hidden behind the ruby lenses of his mask cutting though the darkness in order to give him a very nice view of…well…all hell breaking loose.

Crazy people. Vader pulled a gun. Someone in a holloween costume is throwing wierd throwing things. Six is down. And Gilder is to blame for it.

…and by Gilder he means the calmly walking Nazi that is the target of everyones attention.

So Peter Quill does the entirely sensible thing. He gets into the thick of it. Dodging madmen and magical constructs he dives towards the bar. "Hello again Jess! Do I get cheese now?" He calls as he franticly starts going though boxes, stashed behind the catering bar. "Come on, come on…here we go!"

And he slides out a box, marked with a very cheap brand of rum. Not something they would normally carry here. The box opens to revel…well…Quill's beloved pistols.

"What. You didn't think I'd go in here without em did you?" Thankfull setting to stun is a way to go. Which he does.


Pulled through the chaos, and wishing she didn't wear heels, why did she wear heels, she never wears heels, Jane can do little but follow the Winter Soldier's firm hand on her arm, shepherded to where he pulls her flat to one of the perimeter walls. The lights go out, and there she shrinks, heart beating in her throat, insides twisted up like a noose as she grits her teeth against the sounds of /screams/. Screams in the dark.

Stay down, he whispers.

"James," Jane calls back, pleading, her scratchy voice soft but unable to hide her terror, "What's — it's the book?! Is it the — where —"

It's hard to see, but she can feel his presence leave. Her hands choke out her clutch. Jane's heart twists. "Don't lea — " he may last hear from her, whispered, lost to the chaos.


At the suggestion that Captain America has hurled a booger into the crowd, the last of Tim Drake's heroes is shattered forever.

He watches as Peter excuses himself abruptly - and manages to not draw any connections to all the times /he/ has excused himself abruptly from social situations to suit up, because that would be ridiculous, the photographer is clearly just some normal guy - and looks wounded as Zatanna nudges him in the ribs and calls him 'Crossfit'. It's a bit harder to keep up his guise of a mostly normal, nerdy college student when Zatanna has ruthlessly ogled his abs, but he doesn't really have the opportunity to say anything on the subject before the whole place goes to hell, and Bruce tackles Zatanna to the floor.

Wordlessly, Tim settles into a low crouch as well, minimising his profile as the hall goes dark, producing a similar pair of glasses to Bruce's from his inside pocket. The visibility provided is hardly perfect, but it's enough to work by - years of training have seen to /that/.

<Understood,> his fingers flicker in response, before the Batman goes to work.

People are panicking, as well they might, but at least at the outskirts of the room there's nothing eldritch causing extra madness, at least not yet. Tim is able to move through the crowd with while not exactly the greatest of ease, still more speed than a normal person could manage, pulling an object from one of the many secret pockets sewn into his tuxedo jacket, cracking it and giving it a shake before he throws it down at the front entrance, a reddish glow providing some illumination in the dark.

"Follow the light to the doors!" he calls out. "You'll be safe outside!"


That done, he starts moving to mark the other side exits similarly, the better to get the civilians out of harm's way before things go /completely/ pear-shaped.


It is a /very/ good thing that Jessica Jones came to lift Kinsey up off of the floor and carry her off to safety behind the bar, because seconds after that the stampede closes in over where she has been, a panic of shoes murdering that spot of empty floor…

…and her clutch. RIP clutch.

What is somewhat more distressing about the death of that clutch is that said fancy bag contains a tiny, flat, hexagonal object, somewhat like a misshapen lithium battery. But it isn't that. It is most definitely /not/ that.

It came from…somewhere. Somewhere /else/. It might be dangerous. It probably is dangerous. Kinsey spent the last week in her lab examining it with every kind of equipment she can, and she's still not sure if she wants to activate it. Take the offer she was given by…who knows what. Some kind of extradimensional …something.

So unbeknownst to her, lying in a shadowy puddle in the relative safety behind the bar, this tiny thing, this passport to…something, somewhere…disappears into the thick of things, along with her clutch.

It also had her ID in it.

Tough call which of the two things is worse.


While the Winter Soldier makes his way for the immortal sorcerer, Barton keeps his ground. There are others whose objectives here are more overt than his own. He is the eyes and ears here. He will watch and listen, and act if necessary. For now, he will remain in the cover of shadows, aided by the technologies perched on the bridge of his nose.

Practically abandoned to the wall, Jane Foster is alone. He'll take this as an opportunity if ever there was one.

"Said your name was Jane, right?" Barton's voice is close, but not uncomfortably so. A hand carefully rests on the woman's shoulder briefly, tactile gesture to alert her of his presence before he crouches nearby. "Name's Bond. James Bond." A beat.

"Nah, not really. Call me Barry. I kind of suck at small talk, if you haven't noticed, ma'am."

He gives things a moment to settle before he asides to Jane, his eyes focused on the majority of the crowd to keep his vigil. "Rich people throw some crazy parties. This isn't my speed, really."

A shout calls out, guiding people for the doors.

"You wanna get out of here, miss Jane? I can help you to the doors." But that's as far as he'd go.


Everything happens at once and it's hard to keep track of everything going on, especially in the dark.

Six goes down for the count, the energy backlash scrambling the systems that render her upright, but before she can get snatched by a pool of shadows crawling over the floor, Jessica Jones is on it. The leap takes her clear above the crowd and into the bar, where she manages to tuck Six in…

Only for a Tarnhelm-possessed bartender to suddenly grab her around the throat with his arms, frothing in the mouth, his eyes glazed over in blind fury.

It probably isn't all that surprising that in a room full of heroes and vigilantes that everyone would have somehow managed to smuggle in weapons, especially those of the Bat-and-SHIELD variety, that and nobody ever expects an attack at a fancy party full of boring old objects. Still, Peggy manages to be as efficient as she is reputed to be, hitting the fire alarm, bolstered by Tim Drake's efforts to mark the exits. Windows are smashed open and soon bodies are scrambling over one another to get out of the line of fire.

As civilians empty out, more than just a few remain, driven mad by the vibrations emitted by theTarnhelm, posing a certain dilemma for those inside the room - they're innocent, but should that matter when they're attempting to tear apart those they could get their hands on? Two suits and a dress tackle Peter Quill almost immediately before he manages to grab his guns, clawing at his clothes and digging violently into his skin. Close to one of the exits, a solidified eldtrich shadow-terror lances out its malleable appendages, violently skewering a tux and a dame, blood pooling into the safe corner in which Bucky has tucked Jane. These corpses are flung away in a collision course towards Peggy and Steve.

But target number one, Gottfried Muller, finds himself suddenly assaulted from three sides.

The batarangs come first, which manage to clip his head; as it knocks him sideways, the unerring shot that Bucky fires manages to be true even in the darkness and countless moving parts. Blood /sprays/ from from what would be a mortal wound in the liver, black and ugly on the floor…he goes down completely when his legs are clipped under him by Azalea.

The latter gets his attention, if not just because she's the closest target. Pale, green eyes fix on her…and what he senses from her has his eyes narrowing dangerously.

"Interesting," is all he says.

His left hand goes wide, invisible force pulling him away from Az and towards the book. He touches it at the very same moment that Bucky does.

Light explodes from the book, the wild torrent of cosmic energies in such a limited space triggering a violent reaction. In Bucky's mind, he's falling again, tumbling from a fast-moving train, cutting through picturesque snowfall somewhere in the Alps, endless seas of white, blue and gray stretching out below him as Death reaches out its icy embrace…


Unaware that his honor is being besmirched as botched spywork is confused for rudeness, Rogers merely rubs the back of his head as Peggy moves up to ask him about the tracers. His response is telling, however.

"You look really pretty in that dress."

But before Steve can get in trouble, REAL TROUBLE occurs. Carter goes for better shoes and her ICER, but Cap refuses the weapon. "You can have it," he offers, not wishing to use the gun unless necessary. Why? Reasons that are best not discussed right here and now. Instead, he moves to leap onto a table, which has the downside of making him a target, but on the upside, allows him a better vantage point of a situation that seems to be spiraling into chaos.

"Everyone needs to remember to leave in an orderly fashion during an emergency! Do not push or shove during times of alarm!" As Steve says this, an American flag begins to wave gently behind him due to the unholy energies moving about. "Don't let fear take hold; the situation is being handled now!" he announces as he casts a hand dramatically across the audience.

While the American hero is a horrible man of subtlety, he is most definitely a man that can speak with a commanding presence that some actors would kill to have.


James, a voice pleads at his back. It brings the Winter Soldier to miss a step, his head turning briefly to look back at Jane.

"I'll be back," he urges. "Stay down."

He melts into the darkness, moving quickly. He glances back once, sees someone helping Jane, and a relieved breath escapes him. He squeezes off a shot as he moves, hitting lower than he intended, but there's no time to correct and he's only got a six-round magazine. He focuses on reaching the book, leaping up to secure it. It's unguarded— close—

In the moment before he makes contact, John Constantine's voice suddenly resonates in his head. Don't touch it with your bare hands. He hesitates half a second, but he has gloves, it should be sufficient—

Recollection sears through his head as suppressed memories flare all at once, like lines of magnesium set blindingly aflame in his skull. Forcibly-repressed parts of his mind turn back on in an overload of information. A strangled sound escapes him, and the Winter Soldier folds instantly and hits the ground beside the book on hands and knees.


He'll be back, is all Jane can think, and then he's gone, and it's too dark to see.

World-ending books, she can believe it. World-ending books, she thinks over and over, trembling in place, attention jerked back-and-forth between so many doppler screams. And sounds people shouldn't make. Stay down, he told her, and she doesn't know what to do, she feels helpless to wait, and she doesn't want to be alone, not left behind and alone in the dark —

Someone calls her name, and Jane's head jerks to it, squinting through the dark to see a man crouched down to where she's curled, back flat against the wall, her knees against her chest. Her heart pounds. In the dark it's hard to see, but he's familiar — the man from minutes ago. Giving her an array of strange names.

She stares helplessly through them. Her shoulder shivers under his hand, minutely, uncontrollably. Does she want to get out? Yes, yes, yes, yesyesyes, screams every impulse in her head.

"I can't — " Jane stutters instead, "I can't, he — my friend! He said he'd be b— " Where is he? Where did he —

Appendages lash and whip, pulled from one reality into this, skewering a man and woman nearby so close that Jane can hear the /sounds/ of bodies ventilating. She jumps, crying out in panic. Warm blood leeches black in the dark, spreading along the floor.


Batman never stops moving, cutting into the sidelines. Working the angles of the fight. He trusts Tim to take the other flank, to handle the threat in his own way. They don't even need to talk, to coordinate. He knows Tim will take his time to make his move when it's most appropriate, to take advantage of the critical moment.

So Batman resolves to give Tim his best moment.

He primes one of his special batarangs, putting an tazer payload into the middle of the flier, then whipping it at Muller with perfect accuracy. It has two useful features— one, it's about a $5,000 per round device that sinks barbs into human flesh and guarantees perfect contact and consistent, staggering microcharge.

And the other handy facet is that it glows bright, angry blue, making Muller a stark and highlighted target in the middle of the morass of curling lights and crackling eldritch power.


"So, I couldn't find club sod—"

Peter Parker reemerges from the bathroom just in time for the lights to go crazy and Outer Realm monstrosities to start pouring out from like, the Maw of Madness or some shit.

"— a noooope nope nope— "

Peter Parker wisely backtracks into the sanctity of the bathroom.


"Wow. I knew rich people parties got weird, but this is a little too much, even for me!"


These are the combined sounds of a) a certain spandexed crazy person making a winning, witty quip sans-champagne accidents, and b) him shattering the glass of a nearby window as he goes barreling through into the gala proper.

"I'LL PAY FOR THAT LATER I SWEAR" is the warcry of the one, the only— Spider-Man! In Gotham! How peculiar! A line of webbing spilling forth from his wrist, he uses it to attach to the ceiling and swing his way up, clinging onto the fancy surface so he can get a better, bird's eye view of everything going on.

"People being driven into frothing madness, check. Stuff like out of old Stephen King books spilling everywhere like they were going out of style, double check. Weird helmet acting within appropriate levels of weirdness — SUPER check. I hate to say it— "

From his perch, the Surprise! Spider-Man starts to web up whatever possessed civilians he can — aiming for their hands, their feet, legs, to trap them against the wall, floor, anything — just to make sure they keep from harming anyone else, even themselves. -Especially- themselves.

"— but Gotham socialites -might- have gone a little too far this time. Maybe? No? Alright, then."

It's only then that he notices the creatures lunging for civilians. Blood is shed. Corpses flung; his eyes widen, echoed in the way those white lenses seem to stretch in surprise. No!, he wants to scream. But he doesn't. That won't help them.

He just goes swinging from the ceiling instead, looking to ram himself into the face of the nearest, shadowy monstrosity he can, feet-first.


Jessica gets a look of contempt and fury on her face as she's grabbed. It's not contempt for the bartender, no matter what it looks like. It's contempt for those who use mind control as their weapon of choice. She snatches the bartender up by the scruff of his neck, almost, ripping him away from her body.

"Sorry about this, kiddo." She holds him hard by the shoulder, then smacks him hard in the temple with the flat of her hand, exercising the same precise control that she'd displayed while stepping on Peter's foot, just hard enough to knock him out, not hard enough to cause any permanent damage. He doesn't deserve permanent damage. He's just a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. She even carefully lowers him to the floor, tucking him next to the fallen Six.

Quill's quips receive no comment, but…you know, he's pretty much occupied.

With various people activating some lights she's able to at least draw some sort of bead on where her client is. She leaps over the bar again, this time to plant herself firmly next to Zee so she can make sure nobody takes off with her, or make sure she doesn't get choked by mind-controlled crazy people…you know that sort of thing.


Everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

For all of her magic, Zatanna is no super spy, super soldier or any sort of amazing detective. She goes down hard on her knees, bones jarring against impact when she's pulled underneath a body bigger and broader than her own. There is nothing gentle about it, and small motes of light explode in the back of her eyelids when she does. She lets out a grunt, though before she can do anything else, she finds herself ushered bodily under the table.

"Wait— !" she protests as she's pushed through tablecloth. "I can— !"

Can what? Bruce doesn't know, and neither does Tim.

She knows some heavy hitters are in the crowd, and she can't help the cold rills of fear tumble down her spine. The Waynes are the first family of Gotham, she knows how loyal Bruce and Tim are to the city. They aren't really /serious/ in…

She pulls back the tablecloth and while it's /dark/ and crazy outside of her small safe haven, neither of them are in sight.

"Oh, for fuck's sake!"

She kicks off her heels and ties off her split skirt. She pushes through, crawling on hands and knees in between tables to try and get to the stage. The book is her priority, there's a fight breaking out there, if she gets close enough maybe she could hot potato it /straight/ into her hands.


Yeees. His precious babies…come to papa. Quill's hands reach greedily from the burnished composite handles of his favored weapons a wide grin on his face. A grin spoiled only when a matronly woman flings herself over the top of the bar with a feral screach of rage. Nails claw at the tux, shreading cloth and skin. The other two come flining over the top of them, one kicking heavily for his side. The other swinging for his chest.

Quill leans forwards and takes that punch with his /face/ instead. Mostly because he has armor there thats more than enough to take that smash and nearly break the poor attackers hand.

"Lady! I know I'm irrisistable but stick with your own dates!" He adds as the woman comes back in to slash at him. She recieves an elbow to the chest for her trouble as he fights his way back to his feet. "Ever since I got to this damn planet, its been magic this and magic that!" This aimed towards Jessica as he almost casually grabs one of the two men and lifts them off his feet before twisting with an expert throw to launch his well dressed missle at the woman that got his attention.

His damaged foot stomps down on the box holding his blasters and sends them sailing into the air. He snatches one out of the sky in one smooth grab that ends with the weapon extended directly at the third attacker.

Blue energy flashes from the under-barrel as he activates the stun setting ment to drop his target to the floor. The second weapon is caught a split second later.

"Any idea what we should be shooting to /stop/ this damn mess?!"


As it seems like he has done his part to ensure that people are leaving in an orderly fashion, Rogers sees that people are starting to fight. Clearly, he needs to join in. It just seems like The Right Thing to Do. But he's without his shield. As he debates what to do, he sees a victim of evil thrown right for him.

With reflexes that may impress, Rogers actually catches the person, sliding a few feet on the table. A frown forms on his face as he sees the look of horror on the older woman's face, frozen in place with a final fear. "I'm sorry," he states, taking personal responsibility for this. As he rises, he gives the attacking creature a glare. While other heroes such as Batman and Spider-Man are noticed out of the corner of his eye, the tunnel vision begins to horn in on the senseless killer.


Running across the table, Steve takes a dinner tray up to use a horrible makeshift shield, leaping into the air with it as he makes an impossibly long leap to try and drive a flying fist into the creature.

What does a good gala and a good fight have in common?

They both start with a good punch.


If she could see Clint's face, it'd be poised in an expression that's not unlike the look of a disappointed father. He frowns as she stammers her response. She can't leave her friend, she says. His attention turns toward where he thinks he saw the Soldier skulk off. Said soldier is currently curled up on the floor. That disapproving frown deepens.

"He'll be fine, sure thing. We'll wait then," he concedes, eyes shifting back toward the terrified Foster woman. Despite the bodies being skewered and tossed like debris about, Barton remains calm and relatively poised under pressure. It's part of his work, after all.

"Tell you what, take this." The hand wielding the collapsible baton snaps, releasing the weapon to full length. Reaching out, he places it in Jane's hand, gingerly folding both of hers around it. "I want you to have this. It's not a gun, but it should stop anything that gets about a foot near you."

A pair of partygoers get skewered uncomfortably close, a spray of red splattering across the dark black suit jacket. He can feel the warmth oozing through the layers, and it makes Barton cringe lightly. "So let's not hang out here, okay?" is Barton's following remark as he begins to usher an understandably panicked Jane away from the creeping ichor that spreads toward them. "Wouldn't want to get that dress all dirty for your friend."

His other hand stretches out in a brief whiplike motion, arm aiming several small but lethal bolts toward the nearest monster's mass of a body to at least HELP in the meantime.


'Interesting' says the man.

There are so many things going on in this room right now that could qualify as interesting, but The Dark Devil hardly considers herself one of them. Somewhere a Star Spangled man speaks and the words fight against the Murdered God that eats at her soul, her eyes cutting through the haze in a golden ire that finds Muller a moment before the Batman turns him into a walking target.

The world is awash in destruction, and she wants me back. The image splits her mind as a wave of /something/ washes over her, sucking in a breath against pinched teeth as her mind's eye turns to a temple in the sky. Serpent. Butterfly.

Just let this happen. It can all be yours, my dear.

Then Bucky cries out. She's heard it before, in the back of his mind, and in the nightmares that followed in the days after she touched his mind.

The Dark Devil snaps back to reality in a breakneck run and a charging leap, but not at the Nazi turned arcane key. He'll certainly get a good look at her as she shirks away from a promised memory that brings tears to her eyes, legs drawing up into a tuck and then kicking out with every inch of force she can muster as she goes plowing, feet-first, at the book.

Maybe it's to late, but someone very close to her told her that there's something to be said about not giving up, and if her audacious action heralds her destruction she'll die happy with that thought as her last.


Kinsey's unconsciousness is not dark, but blinding white, a distilled ray of the sun focused through a prism and shot directly into her cerebral cortex, ears filled with a toneless ringing sound. Oblivion of the senses, all bandwidth reserved, no further requests considered. Dropped packets. Biological latency.

When that begins to slow and events begin to trickle back in, it's in the form of shadows within that brightness. Shouts that echo as though they're coming to her from way up above, and she were laying in the bottom of a cauldron of furious brilliance, a cave of light.

And then, all of a sudden, there she is. Disoriented. Not sure /where/, exactly, that is, but somewhere. Inside of herself. Memories flicker behind eyes that are still locked in abnormal microsaccade: an explosion in the lab, the trials…

And she can't move her limbs.

The left arm responds, flesh and blood sluggish, slim, silk-gloved fingers splaying over the solidity of the floor, but the others..

Absolute terror, then. Her legs and arm, the explosion. They're gone, they're gone again and she's bleeding out, she's going to die. A breath-strangled sob is crushed out of her chest, and panic is what finally kickstarts her reconnection to those sophisticated, oh-so-real prosthetics. She is all-of-a-sudden movement, sitting up, eyes wild, aware of violence not far from her where Jessica Jones is fighting, and she propels herself across the filthy bar floor in her nice, new dress until the wings of her shoulderblades press back against a small refrigerator, folding her arms over her chest and grasping her opposite shoulder in each hand. She shakes like a leaf, listening to the hellish chaos beyond the bar, still too shell-shocked to stand and see what it is. She tries to make herself small. She does not cry, but tears come, and they make a terrible mess of her eye makeup. The blood that ran from one side of her nose cut a line down her cheek toward her ear as she lay there, and it smears unprettily as she wipes at it, trying to reassemble her wits. Sparks still strike the neural net in her head—

In her head. /FIVE! Five..?/


She presses the back of her hand to her lips, staving off the tears of relief. No, it was a dream, a flashback, that's all. Not real.


The baton finds its way into her hands. Hand, really, because Jane is still holding her clutch. She stares down at it. Through it. She's not all here. She's never seen so many bodies. Never seen so much blood.

Barton's words move through her, and whether Jane hears or not, she nods. Nods them all away, her eyes turned, her tiny body trembling. She knuckles the baton close.

It's getting messy, so he begins to usher them both to places safer, Jane guided like the piece of glass she is, looking and sounding like she's one small tap away from shattering. Her eyes dance all over, wide and sightless. Her heart knocks her ribcage. And she is so docile, so passive, so yielding to every bit of Clint's presence —

— that it may be a surprise when the little thing she is, hundred pounds soaking wet, suddenly SHOVES away with a ferocity of someone twice her size. Because her dancing eyes catch something in the dark. See it. See it in just a telling fast glimpse. James, her Soldier, on the ground, broken, and a man standing over him, and, and, and —

"James!" Jane cries, and she has no thoughts in her head, no noise for once in her life, as she moves ferociously, heels cracking the floor, and she sees, burnt in her eyes — the burns on his arm, the grit of his hands clutching his temples, the pain, the loss, he sees nothing, he sees nothing —

Get off him, she thinks. GET OFF HIM! With a snarl, she tries to swing back that baton straight at Muller's head.


If there's any principle that has been thoroughly impressed upon Tim Drake since he was a boy of fourteen who proved to be perhaps too smart for his own good, impressed more thoroughly than any other, it's to always be over-prepared.

Not just prepared, that's for Boy Scouts. /Over/-prepared.

It would be difficult, if not outright impossible, to hide his full costume under a tailored tuxedo without looking completely ridiculous, and so he has to make due with a more stripped down version of his usual outfit, but the black cowl and its featureless white eyes cover his face, and a long black cape shrouds him except for flashes of red and yellow, as Red Robin moves to join the fray, the exits marked and most of the civilians having fled, at least those who aren't currently going berserk.

They need to deal with that, though at the moment Red Robin doesn't have any ideas. What he /does/ have an idea about is that this central figure is clearly the source of these problems.

Wordlessly, silently the lean figure moves in the darkness of the ballroom (dress shoes, it turns out, are quieter than heavy boots) while following the mark planted by the Dark Knight, easily visible to him at least: A trio of yellow discs hurl through the air towards the marked man, each with a compressed payload of foam that hardens almost instantly once it's released and exposed to air.

They're out to subdue the man, obviously, though maybe Jane will do the job for them if she gets a solid hit on the guy's head with her borrowed baton. She looks scrappy.


There's a sudden sound of "hwarf" that escapes Clint Barton's lungs when he's shoved by the tiny woman. It comes swiftly and far too quickly for him to have anticipated; as result, Barton stumbles a few short steps back, shoulder clipping a nearby wall as the Foster woman goes running into the fray like…

Well, an idiot.

"Should have seen that coming, Clint. Really should've." An exasperated sigh escapes his lips.

Slipping through the chaos and masses, Barton stalks in distant pursuit. From the outer reaches of the chaos the man finds a nearby overturned table and hunkers down. He shuffles through his coat, looking for something. It's easy enough to find the HK P30 strapped at his side. Drawing the customized semi-auto, he uses the table for cover and searches where he can.

Doesn't hurt when this Muller chap is being marked and foamed and whatever else'd by the gathered heroes. "Gotta get me some awesome toys like that," he mulls aloud, firing off two shots toward Muller's head— mindful of the raging pixie known as Jane Foster. He figures she could use the help. She's a science nerd.


There's a bit of a smirk at Steve's response to her question. "I see." She would be more upset at his inability to place tracers on objects. However, he is complimenting her dress. "It's nice enough, if not the red one," she tells him with a half smile.

Then, though, as a corpse is tossed at them, she ducks slightly behind Steve. He has far more strength than she does. She can't catch them and all she can do is duck out of the way. There's a worried frown as she moves toward the fire alarm and pulls it. From there, she is surveying the crowd and the noise The Winter Soldier makes draws her attention. He looks far different from when she saw him before, but she recognizes the man. "Steve!" she yells as she runs forward toward The Winter Soldier - the man with the book. Her gun comes up.


Chaos continues.

There are overall three concerns amidst the mess, as the most analytical sorts would find - there are possessed civilians who have yet to clear the building, there are eldritch horrors literally crawling all over the walls, and there's Muller on the stage. Said eldritch horrors seem to actually be pooling in one concentrated mass of squirming, inky hell in the middle of the room, its multiple appendages snaking out and taking advantage of the fact that the room is pitch black save for the glowing blue batarangs that Batman throws to the front, and the glow of theTarnhelm at one corner of the room.

It is the biggest beast in the room that Peter Parker decides to attack first.

As he flies through the air, a single red eye suddenly appears from the mass of squirming hell-things, a dark, stygian maw opening up to swallow him. It moves to engulf him in the darkness of its bowels, ichor clinging to his spandex suit and eating away at the webs holding him aloft, marking this as the /second/ time some magical horror has tried to eat him this week. To add insult to injury, his idol, Captain America, who got his name wrong in their first and only encounter, manages to punch the shadow mass with enough power to beat it back, sending tendrils whipping wildly towards Jessica Jones in mid-leap towards where she has last seen her young magical charge, sending her /flying/ into…

Peter Quill, who has managed to get up, punching out two men and elbowing a woman. Another possessed civilian attempts to get at him but is shot point blank in the face by a stunner round.

Clint Barton never misses, he manages to rip into another shadow mass that attempts to join the growing collective that is expanding from the middle of the room, and his sharp eyes would find others attempting to join it. Considering the constructs set up, he'll also be able to find a point of advantage - right in the middle, where he can bottleneck the growing assault.

Winter Soldier, the most lethal opponent closest to his position, goes down as pain wracks his brain; Muller manages to wrench the book free from his grasp and in the process of doing so manages to avoid Azalea as she flies in to try and kick it out of his hands. He clutches it protectively against his chest, his expression split in a snarl, fingers sweeping in an arc towards the incoming iridescent batarangs, though his control wavers there. It's strange, even as the slow acting nanite-toxin that the World's Greatest Detective planted in advance on the cover gradually seeps into his veins. One of them manages not just to clip him, but to cling to his tux by stabbing into it, blood frothing stark against the white of his tuxedo jacket.

So distracted was he by everything else going on and trying to get him that he doesn't sense Jane's approach until it's too late. The baton cracks him across the face.

The fiery Doctor Foster makes him bleed. Pale green eyes narrow dangerously as his hand suddenly lashes out, grabbing her by the throat.

He barks out a word - an old one, a powerful one, the book clutched in his grip pumping much needed power no matter how erratic his control. A shockwave /explodes/ outward, centered on his body, throwing those nearest to him /away/ from him with savage, violent force - Azalea, Winter Soldier, Batman, if he's close enough. It triggers Tim's orange discs as they fly, foam spraying over his head and forming the shape of the massive ward of protection that he has applied on himself.

Reality warps and splits behind him, a portal pouring more light inside the makeshift chamber of horrors - out into a world outside of this one, a cold world, a frozen world.

A world where a flimsily-dressed Physicist could die of exposure. And if not the temperature, then certainly the massive blue-skinned, red-eyed giants that call it home.

Looking down at Jane's beautiful, big dark eyes, Muller smiles. It's almost placid.

He did so love beautiful things.

"May ice preserve your beauty forever," he tells her quietly.

Before he twists around and throws Jane bodily into Jotunheim, the portal sealing shut once she's through.


The blast from Muller knocks out /so many tables/ along the way, clearing it on top of Zatanna Zatara, on her hands and knees on the floor. Already close to the podium, ice-blue eyes widen when they catch Muller grab Bucky Barnes' date by the throat and hurls her towards…

Another world, a cold world. While she is no genius, she has traveled the world and the first thing she worries about is that the woman might be trapped on the other side with minutes to live until something's done.

Nobody is paying attention to her, and she latches onto the element of surprise.

She leaps on the stage quickly, her fingers stretching forward. There's no hiding this now, oh god. She's going to have to do this in the most illuminated part of the room.

"Em ot Koob!"

The words she utters even sounds /ridiculous/, hopefully nobody tweets about this.

The Liber Consecratus wrenches from the man's grasp, pulled towards her by her own intangible strains of power. Grabbing the book and clutching it to her chest, she attempts to leap back off the stage again, to try and take advantage of the chaos. She needs it, she has to open the portal back out and the book contains earlier traces of Muller's magic. If she can key into it, even without knowing who Jane is, or what her name is, maybe it could…

Her joints lock. /She/ finds herself flying backwards and into Muller's grasp, seized by the hair. A savage hand clamps over her forehead.

Muller had been told by Mammon that he wanted this one's soul, and that if he touched her, he would understand. The taste of the girl's endless well of potential pulses underneath his fingertips.

His nails dig painfully into her scalp, turning her head forcibly to meet her eyes.

"He was right," he murmurs. "Who needs the book, when I have— "

Zatanna's knuckles curl in, she /jams/ her hand into his groin, nails scrabbling for shaft and balls and wrenching painfully through his dress slacks. Her lips curl, baring a hint of her teeth.

"Here's your /Plan B/, asshole!" she breathes, ripping herself away and attempting to scramble outside of his vicinity, the book wedged into her side.

"/Keep him off me!/" she cries for whoever's listening.

Oh god, she has to open that portal.


The searing pain in the head of the Winter Soldier settles, little by little, as conditioning reasserts itself over the aftershocks of that magical blowback. He looks up, struggling to reassert his grip on his pistol, trying to make his left arm work again, but it's no good— it's not fast enough—

— and, dumbfounded, he stares up as the tiny, fiery form of Jane Foster leaps into the fray, wielding a baton, and cracks the immortal sorcerer one right across the face. To defend… him? Why… is she defending him?

The question dissolves as Muller catches Jane by the throat. Something far deeper than the programming of the Winter Soldier activates, rousing in forgotten corners of his mind. He lunges from the floor, left arm spinning up to full readiness with a metallic shriek, but Muller is ready. The shockwave catches him and flings him back, the Soldier's back cracking against the wall behind the podium where the artifacts were displayed. From there, he can only watch as Jane is flung, for her pains, through a portal.

It shouldn't matter. It really should not matter. She was a promising asset, but there are other geniuses in the world. His mission is that book in the German's hand. His mission is that German's blood spilled for the final time. The Winter Soldier stares at it, straining to reach it—

— but James Barnes, not so buried anymore, only sees red.

In complete silence he lunges off the wall, rushing Muller, his left arm carried like a weapon, fully intent to seize the man up in a steel grasp and bash him into the floor, the walls, any hard surface he can reach, over and over, again and again until that portal either opens again, or Muller ends another of his lives at the Winter Soldier's hands.


Those rules do not apply to eldritch horrors. He keys on the communicator— no need to stay quiet.

"There's a topical poison on the book, and it's not working," Batman growls, taking a moment to think. Which is harder than one might expect, in a melee with such outstanding chaos. He flickers an explosive batarang at a seething mass of eldritch monsters— the no-kill rule doesn't apply to unthinkable horrors from another realm, after all.

"We need to—" the voice in Azalea's and Red Robin's ear is cutoff as Batman is flung backwards by that word of power, though he tucks and rolls on impact to absorb the worst of the hit. He watches in shock as Zee makes her play, grabbing that book, and shock turns to horror as he grabs Zee. To throw her into another realm? To do something unspeakable?

Then there's a moment of pride as Zatanna hits Muller where it hurts, and Batman launches to his feet, dashing at Muller like a flickering shadow, faster than any normal man should be able to. Because he is no mere man.

He is the Batman, and he flings fire and smoke ahead of him to distract Muller as Winter tries to make his move. Batman doesn't like partners, but Winter becomes now a factor in the field. So when Winter lunches at Muller to make his move, in the middle of the fistful of ninja distraction firecrackers flung at the wizard, Batman makes a more subtle attack by lunging at Muller with his left fist priming an autosyringe full of modified Scarecrow pheremones, and aims the autoinjector at Muller's left shoulder as Winter tries to grapple him, and then leaps well clear as Winter unleashes a savage frenzied melee on the man.

Batman backflips away and lands in front of Zatanna, throwing his cloak wide to conceal her from view.

"Work fast," he growls at her. "I don't know how long he'll stay down."


"Tentacles. Always with the effing /tentacles/," Jessica snarls in fury, even as she flails, hoping not to hurt anybody with her fall. The problem is she tries to /break things/ (or people), when she lands in them. There's controlling her strength, and then there's being thrown like a damned battering ram. When she feels herself crunch into someone. She looks down to see the glowing eyes of one Peter Quill and rolls off fast. "Jesus. Sorry, Quill…damn it…"

Yep, it's time for the naughty language to come out. Sorry, Rodgers…because there are darker and angrier curses to follow, stuff that is rather ear-blistering as she offers a hand to try to get him to his feet.

Then she sees the drama on the stage. Zee is giving her orders and…and…well…shit. "I have a plan," she tells Quill. "You're going to love this plan."

Then she hauls him up, picks him up, and hurls him so that he might get a shot in, maybe at the top of Muller's head, given the Winter Soldier's freak-out. She's seen what he can do. "Get to it, /Star-Lord!/"


This isn't the best of days for Quill. It started all right. Now though? Now. Now its starting to get worse. It starts when there is a blast of power from the Bad Guy that sends him staggering back behind the bar. At least Six is ok behind there and he almost waves towards her…

…but is intrupted by a body.

A body flung with great force, and posessing even greater force.

Which means Quill ends up burried in a wall. Crushed bits of sheetrock, plaster, and wood dust him as he stands there. Quite thankful for that armor of his that prevents any life-long injuries. He groans slightly, starting to sit up when he is suddenly siezed by the human cannon ball that just grabbed him.

"Wait what?"

Then he's airborne. Without his boots.


Then he's sailing overhead, somehow manaing to flip with the throw to be going feet first. His guns snap into position and he flips them to kill…

…And fires.

Red energy strikes down towards the exposed parts of the Nazi wizard that he can see. Aiming for head. Foot. Bouncing a burst off the stage itself to hit him in the back of the knee.

At least he's a competent marksmen, or Buckyzerker could be in trouble. Not that he seems to care much.

Unfortuanlly all flights must come to an end, and Peter's is no exception. He angles it as well as he can, crashing against a angled table to take some of the fall before rolling with the force of the throw and coming up…

…in tentacle reach of the thing in the middle of the floor.

Oh maaaaaaaaan.


The Dark Devil had only just come to a stop when the explosion of energy ripples out from the Nazi Sorcerer, powering her into the air and sending her end over end to crash first into the immovable object that is Steve FUCKING Rogers and come to a rolling stop against a nearby wall.


There's a stagger as the pain leeches at her bones, and she knows the familiar, searing fuel of broken ribs as every breath becomes a cacophony of rasping agony. The growl she makes as she wades back in towards the German is inhuman, and she never reaches her mark, falling short as The Winter Soldier brings the man his murder.

Zee makes her escape, and the pile on happens so quickly she doesn't see a trio of mind controlled assailants coming her way, barreling her into a table and rolling over her like a human wave. When the mass come to a stop it's with a sharp knee to the side of a waiter's head, and somehow she scrambles back to her feet as they lead in with a flurry of blows that she meets head on, block, block, dodg-OOF!

One of them hits her in her broken rib and The Devil Inside surges to the surface. When her arm comes up again she doesn't just block the man's blow, her counter tucks into his armpit and nearly dislocates his shoulder, and with a painful twist she dictates the pace of what comes next: A dismantling of the waitstaff that begins with a short smash to the ribs and ends with a somersaulting chop to the neck that powers the last of them to the ground.

A stagger sidelong, and blood drools from the corner of her mouth, painting a trail as she feeds on adrenaline and stops to stare up at some terrible, eldritch thing that rises from the ground to completely dwarf her small victory.

"Well fuck."


In the wake of taking out the monster, there is only one thing that Captain America can say. "Good work, Spider-/Man/," he states in response do defeated foe. The weight is lifted and Rogers feels as if the guilt of making a young hero feel bad about himself is removed. While Rogers couldn't offer banter on to Peggy's dress, he does look toward her as she makes him aware of other issues about the room.

It took Steve Rogers roughly half an hour to learn that he had to double click the button with the square on it in order to get his apps on the iPhone to 'squiggle' and then press it once to get them to stop. It took another five minutes for him to learn why making them squiggle was important. Why would one think such a fact is important at a time like this?

When Carter appears to alert the First Avenger to his friend being in trouble in the distance and some sort of massive monster rising up, Steve knows what he must do. He just presses the cuff twice and toss and then the next impact will give off the powerful shock. It's a great plan, save one problem: It's only ONE touch to the cuff.

To everyone else, Cap appears ready to roll up his sleeves and then he is suddenly hit by THUNDER MAGIC and falls over onto his side. At least that's what he /hopes/ they just attribute it as.


It must be said that Peggy Carter does not trust Jane Foster. The woman certainly had information she withheld from both her and Steve. They might have been able to take Bucky in peacefully and not in this public place. However, she does see Muller toss her through a portal, and that is not okay by the brunette time-traveled agent. There's a pause as she looks at Muller. She knows that face. She knows him, but not as Muller.

While she is about to drop an ICER into the Winter Soldier, she pauses as Zatanna's cry to protect her. If Zatanna can bring back Jane…she'll give them a few minutes of the benefit of the doubt. The woman's brown eyes narrow and she goes running forward - almost immediately after The Winter Soldier. She's not letting him out of her sight now that she's found him. But, they now have a shared enemy. "Hanussen!" she yells to try and draw his attention. As she moves forward deliberately, she shoots a few ICER rounds at the Nazi.


One thing is certain: for however new he is at this, Spider-Man is very strong. Almost frighteningly so. Even if he's not some planet-moving terror from beyond like certain, Super-type people who may be men but will otherwise remain nameless, his strength is titanic.

A fact that makes it all the more demoralizing that he's only really showing it off in how he's sort of scrunched between the gaping maws of a undulating shadow blob holding its jaws open so it doesn't -EAT HIM-

"What — is with — aesthetically-challenged monsters — thinking I'm some kinda — eldritch Scooby Snack!?" Spider-Man complains to the heavens as he keeps that huge mouth open as it tries to chomp around him, the force of pressure he exerts causing crunching sounds from the creature with every attempted bite.

"Have none of you — ever — watched some — Natty G?! Cosmic horrors — can't digest — spiders! — that sounded convincing, right?"

He -has- a plan. It's an awesome plan, too. His spider-sense tells him the perfect moment to flip off of that monster. He does so, lands on its maw like it was a diving board, with every intention of flipping off, webbing its ugly face, and throwing it against a wall a few times until something breaks. It'd be great. It'd be -cool-.

— It'd be not happening because Captain America punches the thing right before he can flip off, sending him flailing off like a buffoon with a very heroic, "WAH!?" as he goes.

He lands on his feet, of course. That's not the point. The point is — "Oh god I'm looking like an idiot in front of him again! Now he's going to call me like, Spider-Lad or something! Spider-Baby! Spider-Fetus! Ew! Imagery!"

It looks like the critter situation is well in hand, though, so Spider-Man turns his attention towards the thing that's been weighing on his mind ever since he saw all this kooky magical stuff. Zee's there. Yep. Running off with a… book? Probably important. Go after the creepy dude, she says. Great. And he looks like he might do just that—

— but like super scary Batman is there (whoa!!) and some guy who looks like Big Boss and then he notices some poor woman -bleeding on the floor-. He can't help it. He takes a detour.

It's just a hop, skip and a jump before Spider-Man is landing in front of Six. Taking a look at her. "Hey — hold on, ma'am," that'd probably be insulting but really who has time for that right now. "Hold on, I'm— " he tries to look, to check if anything's broken. "I'm gonna get you out of here. Promise. But there's kinda a lot of scary man-eating monsters around here. Or spider-eating. I'm not really sure. That's not the point though, I mean, all I'm saying is they're probably gonna eat you if you stay laid out like this sooooo—"

And here is where he will scoop up poor Six, attach a web to the ceiling, and yank them both up — spinning a bundle of adhesives across that richly-sculpted surface so that he can deposit and/or stick her h
armlessly onto the freshly-built nest of webs. On the ceiling. While all hell breaks loose down below.

"Sorry I'm coming back for you I promise if it makes you feel any better I'm actually really good at this—"

And off he dives into the fray anew.


A brief moment of annoyance flickers over what's visible of Red Robin's features, his mouth quirking into a transitory frown as the impeding discs are themselves impeded by an invisible wall of force. Things do not seem to be going very well, overall, though they managed to get most of the civilians out of the way at least. Strange forces, dark horrors from the corners of the universe that humans were never meant to gaze upon, instead getting to deal with a variety of vigilantes and agents and whatever the heck Peter Quill is supposed to be.

But it could still be going better.

Particularly when he sees Zatanna seized magically by the obvious villain here, his arcane might putting her quite literally in his clutches. Twice now, he's seen Zatanna in terrible danger because of forces he couldn't really grasp, and only one of those times was he able to do anything about it.

He is not, however, able to make it a best of three, since this time his classmate saves herself, in a way that actually makes him wince a little bit.



But now Zatanna is relatively free with the book, since Muller is the focus of what would be a lethal beatdown if he weren't apparently incapable of being killed, and she needs time, and Batman is there covering her… Red Robin's collapsible staff whirls as he moves, battering at whatever horrible stuff gets too close, his own more destructive toys getting deployed as well at need - this does seem to be a grey area in the 'No Killing' rule, magical horrors being less susceptible to concussions than goons or ninjas - as he tries to keep anything else from distracting Zatanna as she works.


The inside of Kinsey's head is crackling. The sensitive hardware in her skull is overcharged. If anyone could monitor what was happening, her brain activity would probably be cause for alarm. There's still /too much/ of everything, too much information, too much sensation. She feels every texture of the floor beneath her, every drift of the gown piled in drifts around her legs, every vibration in the fridge behind her, and she has no filter for any of it. The doors have been blown wide open.

Little wonder then, that she claps a hand over her mouth to keep from shrieking as something red and blue and fast drops out of nowhere into the space between she and the bar, startling back enough to knock her head against the fridge. Stars. She sees stars. It does mean that she doesn't have the time or focus to be offended by much of anything. And meanwhile, there is Five, helpfully:

(Identified: Man, Spider. Dossier number unavailable.)

She hears 'get you out.' She hears 'monsters.' She feels gravity dip away as she's lifted, and painted nails dig over lean shoulders into a costume that is — whatever this is it is slippery, really inconvenient to hold onto, especially once they have all of this sudden vertical /momentum/ and oh god, her head hurts, it hurts /so much/, her nose is bleeding again, fantastic, who made this costume for him, do they realize if he's going to be swooping it needs some traction? His R&D department must be underfunded, nobody has any pride in their work anymore, it's really all about the small details—

Delirious, then. Got it. All of that barrels through her head like a freight train, and before she realizes what's happening, she is stuck. To the ceiling. And the person who stuck her there, if they are a person, is gone.

"Wh…what? Wait! Where— "

She hangs there in silence for a long moment, looking down on a seething darkness she can't make much of. What even…is this stuff? Visions of the crystallized goop from the movie Aliens follow.

"You had better not forget me up here!" she shouts, or thinks she shouts, into the /unbelievable din/.


It's not just this man, this man she's never met, this man she doesn't know, but all men — all the men who've hurt him — namesless and faceless monsters who took every bit of life from his body and soul from his eyes, and stripped him down from a man into —

— that prone body, bowed along the ground.

Jane wants blood. And Jane GETS blood, smashing that baton forward with all her tiny strength imbued with weeks of helplessness, unable to do anything but watch, and she's so TIRED of it, so tired of watching, so tired of waiting, and finally able to do something with her own hands and TAKE the blood out of him.

She has no fighter's posture, knows not how to square her stance or dance out of range, and her heels scrape when she's grabbed by the throat. Jane's voice thins with a breathless murmur.

Her hands drop both clutch and baton to fumble at those fingers at her throat. She cannot move them. She also cannot hide the fear rising like a slow dawn across her face. Her eyes spare quick, desperate glances, and she's looking at James Barnes like for some kind of grounding, a way not to feel so afraid, get up, James, get up, don't be hurt, please don't be hurt. She tries to call to him —

— and then she sees it. Ripping open. The light mirrors in her eyes. Icy wind pulls a lock free of her bound hair. Jane looks on in helpless witness the opening of an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.

Muller smiles down at her. Jane's lips twitch like she wants to speak — and then she's thrown, pulled through the seam in reality and lost forever.

She hits ice.

Shuddering, Jane pulls herself up, her arms wrapped around herself. The first and foremost thing she feels is the cold. Cold she's never felt before. Cold that cuts her. Cold that burns. Cold that burrows through every bone in her body to ice the marrow inside. She turns a circle, looking back, hoping for the bridge, but it's gone, and everywhere is that icy nothingness, an endless field of black skies and alien ice.

Alien ice. It is alien. She's crossed worlds, crossed between realms for the very first time. Not of her making, but here she is — here she /is/. The first. The pioneer.

And all alone.

Her heels stick and break. She lurches forward, catching herself, her breath fogging visibly in the quiet rasp of noise. The wind howls and she holds herself tighter. Jane sucks in a deep breath, trying to breathe against the chill, knowing well enough she needs to move and preserve the pain, because numbness is her enemy, and when she can no longer feel — comes so cold she can no longer care — she needs to find a way out of the cold and —

The ground vibrates under her feet.

Jane looks back, and up. And up. And… up.


Rage. It's an emotion far removed from Muller now, but as the Winter Soldier descends for him, he remembers what it's like.

The metal arm goes first - the intensity of the attack has Muller staggering back, a wildly flailing hand grasping at the sleeve of his suit. He attempts to tear himself away, the jacket breaking apart at the seams until he's forced to flail again when raw strength punches him right into the wall over and over, and then swung violently towards Batman's incoming strike, both combatants circumstantially working in tandem as the neurotoxin plunges into the man's collar and into naked flesh, adding onto the slow-moving topical one that the Bat had placed on the target book. Thankfully for Muller, he decides not to stick around when his priorities shift.

He also moves away just in time; somewhere in the far back of the room, Jessica has /thrown/ Peter Quill across it, sending Star-Lord airborne. If the Winter Soldier isn't careful, he might get caught with friendly fire, but thankfully the human alien is a good shot. Hot bolts cut through the air, slamming into the sorceror's lower back and leaving a cauterized hole there.

"Get…/off/ me…!" Bloody spittle flies from Gottfried Muller's lips - though his name isn't Gottfried after all.


Peggy Carter seems to know who he is, just as Winter Soldier is thrown backwards by another jolt of magical power. But the action clears him from the crackshot agent's shots, ICER bolts slamming into Muller's protective wards. It is his name, though, that catches his attention and a drop of white-hot apprehension drills down his bones.

His name.

If she knows /that/, then they can use it to find his true name.

Eldritch lightning flashes. It slams into Peggy Carter, winding tight around her and lifting her up in an effort to electrocute /and/ strangle her at the same time, letting her feet dangle off the ground as the drugs make a mess out of Muller's system, his growing paranoia fueling his desperation, driven there by Peggy's identification.

"HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?" he roars. The lightning mass gets bigger, wider, its branches stretching outwards.


Tendrils of power explode outward. The nearest form to her, Azalea, gets snatched up in its grasp, as well as Jessica, and the airborne Peter. It /dangerously/ comes close to where Six is hanging, threatening to scramble her circuits again. From the stage, Muller's eyes are wide, unfocused.

Clint Barton remains in the middle of the fray, preventing the shadow mass in center to grow even larger. There are still possessed civilians running around and some of them grab at Jessica. TheTarnhelm pulses like a warning beacon on top of its pedestal as innocent bodies who fail to escape the room continue to fall in its thrall.

The shadow monster recovers from Captain America's punch; a tendril slams into the back of his knees, and not just that, but it flips him up and tries to send it hurtling towards the Webslinger as he enters the fray. The shadows rise up in an attempt to ensnare the both of them.

On the ground, they spread, multiple shadows rising up to engage Batman and Red Robin as they attempt to prevent anything from getting the magician hidden from view by the Caped Crusader's…well, cape. They are /numerous/ and from all sides, they threaten to overwhelm the duo until they manage to find the source - it's either the helmet, gleaming off to the side, or the urn, but to find it in the dark will be tricky. Father and son are then faced with a tricky decision, as one will have to abandon the other to the horde in order to make their efforts matter.


The cold sears Jane Foster's skin. It numbs on contact, spreads over her exposed nerves. Winds whip wildly against her clothes and she can almost, almost, feel her blood freeze slowly in her veins. It's a gradual thing, a painful thing, a sensation that slowly suffocates her as she tries to find shelter.

But all she finds is a shadow.

As she looks up, she locks stares with a pair of gleaming eyes set on an icy-blue face…from several dozens of feet in the air. Rock solid, muscular, inhuman, one of the Frost Giants has managed to find a curiosity in his walk.

And he decides that she would make a fine gift for Laffy.

Fingers extend, just the fingers, she looks so delicate, driving down into the snow, splaying a five-point array over Jane Foster and swallowing her into its shadow, forming a cage of sinew and bone around the pretty Physicist.


Darkness? There is no darkness for the Batman. Even in the darkest of knights, Batman and Red Robin are in their element. Even without his IR lenses, even /blind/, Batman is a formidable foe. This is why they train. This is why they have honed themselves into the unthinkable perfection of the human form that the two vigilantes are.

Because they have to be.

Batman's brain leaps into high gear. A moment of perceptiveness that few human beings can emulate— the world pauses around him as he starts replaying the night in his mind, even as he lashes out with fist and fury, using a batarang in each hand as a modified set of knuckles. The movement of the SHIELD agents. The artifacts being interacted with. Peggy Carter, NOT a drunk, touching the urn. Steve Rogers, NOT a booger picker, flicking something small and glittering into the crowd. Stop. Rewind. Zoom. A /tracker/.

It starts moving faster and faster. Muller's motions, his plans, the way that people circled, the crackling of shadows.

"Robin!" Batman barks, shoulder to shoulder. "Zeta formation! The urn— destroy it!"

Time breaks into full speed for Batman and he flings a flare to his feet along with more of those crackling ninja smokebombs. Enough perhaps to stun or slow those eldritch horrors? He whispers an apology that no one can hear to Zatanna— because abruptly her human shield breaks away.

Jane Foster is, after all, one life weighed against dozens. Batman flings one batarang skywards at the fire suppression units, an effortless target to break. See how Muller's lightning-hands like a little lesson in ionic conductivity.

And then he leaps around one, primes his last batarang with an explosive charge, and hurls it at the urn, hoping he and Robin hit it at the same time.


That /helmet/.

Jessica had nearly forgotten about it, and again her fury about the whole mind control thing explodes behind her eyes. Of course, she's being snatched up by tendrils of power. She has danced this rodeo before, and now there are civilians grabbing at her. She tries to rip the tendrils away from her, all while gently (for her) trying to shove civvies off herself with her feet. She then twists around to push at the wall, instead, trying to launch herself at the priceless, mutli-million dollar helmet.

If she gets there, she's going to rip it apart, ruin it, perhaps break the spell that it's casting by the simpe expedient of destroying the thing the spell is attached to, even as Team Bats goes for the urn. Of course, there's always the chance she won't be able to fight her way through to do that…

But it's the plan, in any case.

Work fast, the Batman says.

"/You/!" Zatanna cries, clutching the book against her chest and staring disbelievingly at the Dark Knight and Red Robin. The last time she met the former was not a favorable meeting, and while she is very familiar with the urgency of the situation, she is reminded of certain things she has to discuss with him.


She slams the book on the ground and opens it up, her pale blue eyes scanning the script. While written in old English, it's different when one is sensitive, when one can peek through the veil ensconcing the book to reveal the secrets underneath. It chafes at her pride, to have to ask for help, but if Batman is providing it, she will not reject it. Things are too serious and if she doesn't pull this off, someone can die.

And if she really is the one Bucky is talking about, then…

"When this is over," she says tightly. "You and I are going to have to talk about just why you followed me to New York. I thought Gotham City was your turf?! You ask me to leave town and then you /follow/ me when I do? And you planted a bug on me! And /threatened to break my ex-boyfriend's back/, what is /wrong/ with you?! John can be an ass but he was /helping/ me, you didn't have to— Is that supposed to make you endearing?! I don't know which one is yours but I'm /pretty sure/ one of them is yours! A girl needs her privacy you— "

And then she hears the whispered apology.

She turns her head, her eyes wide when Batman is just simply /gone/. In mid-rant. He just /leaves/ while she's ranting. She was being serious!

That was it. She makes a mental note to accost him later, if she can find him.

"Unbelievable," she whispers.

Furious, she spreads her fingers in front of her, chanting backwards. Adrenaline surges in her veins, her heart pulsing hard in her chest as it all comes down the wire. Muller's magical output makes her hair stand on end.

She closes her eyes as she whispers. Her skin crawls. She feels the darkness closing in.

The wall suddenly warps and splits open near Bucky…just in time for him to see the Frost Giant cage Jane between its fingers.

"BUCKY, GO!!" she cries. "I'll hold it open!"



That would be a tendril of magical force snatching Peter out of the air.

It brings him to the ground in a much less controlled landing than he was going for. Snatching him back and slamming him against the floor hard enough that he can feel the breath leave his lungs and something likely bruise or give way inside. He wheeses out is annoyance at the outside world even as the 'all hell breaks loose' bit seems to get worse.

The tendril lets go and he rolls to the side before it can smash him again. Forcing himself back to his feet to get the hell away from the thing as he brings his guns up to shoot…what? Nothing seems to be working.

Though hitting the Nazi made him feel better.

"Lady," This angled towards Peggy. "I think you defintally got his attention."

But then someone with an amazingly gravely voice is shouting to destroy the urn, and the other thing that looks mystical and glowing is…the helment? And Jessica is going for that.

But there are people in the way.

So might as well bring it to her.

"Jess! Catch!" He shouts as his blasters snap up, ignoring the fact that the tendril is going for another wind up that is going to hurt /really/ bad. The blasters open fire towards the helment, hopefully launching it into the air, the richocet of the blasts propelling towards Jessica's waiting…and very destructive…arms.

At least he hopes it works, cause he's gonna get sideswiped by that tendril and launched across the room.

Point of fact. He does not like this flying thing when he doesn't have his boots.


This is not the usual operation mode of the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier is a ghost, a passing knife, a whisper of poison on the rim of a glass. A single shot in the dark that ushers his targets into death so quickly, they don't even realize what happened until they find themselves paying the ferryman.

Which implies that, for these temporary moments, the identity piloting the furious engine of murder that this body has become… is not the Winter Soldier.

But he isn't entirely James Barnes, either. Not quite. Not anymore. Bucky Barnes— patient, faithful, deeply protective, more down to earth than his brother but of similar moral fiber— would not lose control like this. Would not have let himself descend into this sort of base violence.

But this scattered, jigsaw amalgamation that he is now, scrambled and broken by the book and by everything that has happened to him within the past few weeks, combines the protective drives of Bucky Barnes with the innate viciousness of the Winter Soldier. It mixes the strongest traits of both personalities, and in the worst way: a volatile, confused, explosive way.

So he's not quite content just to catch and subdue Muller. No. He doesn't care other people are attacking Muller, either, though he isn't far gone enough to turn on anyone else. Batman, Quill, the rest… they get in and out fine, not really truly in danger— not the focus of the automaton that the Soldier has become.

He's only content to seize on with crocodilian savagery, clamping steel and titanium down to snap and roll Muller like he means to twist off all the man's limbs. But the jacket he's wearing is too restrictive, too limiting of movement, it's not letting him KILL THIS MAN HARD ENOUGH— midway through, the Soldier fists his right hand in the fabric at the shoulder and /tears/, ripping his own left sleeve off entire so he can fully articulate his freshly-bared metal arm through all the wide range of movement he will need to properly kill—

The sorcerer finally gets together enough to fling a blast of concussive energy at his attacker. The Soldier loses his grip and blasts back against the far wall, spine knocking painfully against the unyielding surface. A snarl escapes him as he shakes his head, clearing it, watching as Muller turns on Peggy Carter.

That's important too. If he could just remember why. Someone… someone would be upset if she was gone. Someone important. It's that pure reflex that makes him lift his weapon, firing off two precious shots at Muller's back to try to drive him off Peggy.

Then a portal fissions open right beside him. He jerks in place, spinning towards it, until a familiar voice rings out. It says a name, a name he doesn't remember, but the rest of her sentence is crystal clear.

His head turns. He sees Zatanna with the book. That's close enough to where he was going to deliver it, anyway. He looks back at the portal. Jane lost in the grasp of a frost giant.

He lunges through it without hesitation, landing on the ice, skidding slightly before he adjusts for the lack of traction and launches into a dead sprint. He heads straight for the dark face of a cliffside beside the frost giant, leaping, catching the rock with his metal arm, hoisting himself up the side of it in something between a climb and a straight run…

…and once he's high enough to be at a level with the frost giant's face, he pushes off the cliffside and swivels tightly in the air. The shriek of his steel arm announces the delivery of a concussive left hook straight towards the thing's presumed temple, demanding its attention.


Red Robin doesn't, of course, particularly want to leave Zatanna potentially defenseless… But there's a time for argument, and there's a time for just getting things done, and this is clearly the latter. Lives are at stake - perhaps a great many lives - and he'll just have to hope that his classmate is able to protect herself until they're able to get back to her.

So he moves, without any visible hesitation, rushing towards where the urn sits. There's no time or point to trickery now, his black cape streaming behind him while the Dark Knight looks to try and short circuit the rampaging Muller. He has to move quickly, dodging as unspeakable /things/ try to grab at him, try to stop him from getting to the urn, or worse. His staff lashes out, but he mostly tries to avoid, to slip between, to vault over, until finally he's airborne, coming down at the urn, swinging his staff down with all the power he can put behind it.

That, and a nice dollop of explosive putty he put on that end, primed to go off when it hits.

It's okay, he's rich, he has lots of staves.


There are things in the darkness.

It takes time for Kinsey to realize that, because everything is still fuzzy and soft and melting around the edges. It takes time for her perceptions to narrow into a band she can aim at something specific, rather than being an all-encompassing aura. And when she does finally manage, tightening her attention in scope, the first thing she sees is something lashing through the dark air so close to her that she can practically sense the currents running through it. It causes all of the invisible hairs on her body to stand up, squawks in the interface in her skull, and that's enough to fuel her into urgent movement. She isn't sure she can take round two of 'whatever the hell that was' to the brain. And without her helmet, there's no way she can see it coming. No infrared, no ultraviolent, no low-light, no electromagnetic field sensors, no anything.

This stuff, though…this whatever it is, holding her to the ceiling? It's strong. And sticky. Kinsey — Six, even — is built more for agility and speed than for strength, and these particular prosthetics, designed to be convincing — the right texture, the right yield, the right temperature, appropriate articulation — are not as helpful in extricating herself as she needs them to be. All of the light switches, all of the outlets, they're all far below her, at heights more appropriate for human interface. But near her there is a chandelier…

Her only option…

…is to go deeper.

She twists herself, limber, acrobatic efforts that tangle her further UP into the horrible, awful mess of this — what IS it — so that she can extend her hand, reach out, strain, fingertips trembling, until they finally make contact with the light fixture…

And her consciousness bullets through her arm and into it. It hits the network of wires woven throughout the opera house and expands like a droplet of ink in a clear glass of water, bolts of power unfurling like fire across cables, down through conduits, circuit breakers blown, but it doesn't matter. For as long as she touches the light, it doesn't matter:

The lights are back on.


First contact.

Jane steps backwards, catches ice with her broken heel, and collapses to the alien earth, a frozen tray that already welcomes her as its cold cadaver.

The frost sticks down the thin fabric of her gown. Freezes her to the ice. Breathing roughly, shallowly, she can only look up at that alien monster, meeting its red eyes, a foggy breath lost out of her parted lips. The cold sets in. It's so hard to think. So hard to move. It's hurting less, she's finding, as the seconds crawl by. No longer burns. No longer sears. No longer so cold.

Her chattering jaw gentles, and she only looks up.

Fingers drive down into the snow around her. The shock knocks Jane back. Her mind reels with thoughts she tries to reach for, but cannot touch, drifting, gossamer things that ghost through her fingers. Her head lowers, her unbinding hair winged across the ice. She can see the stars through those fingers, she thinks, as her mind slows and dreams. All the stars in the sky.

That gigantic hand tenses around her, curled fingers clawing inward. Her eyes hood, frozen lashes lowering —

— and sees glinting, silvery metal, plates locking in their countless seams, to deliver a furious, murderous punch straight into the face of the looming giant.

Jane wakes back up. Her blueing lips move with a word she cannot say, cannot find the breath to, but as the inhuman force KNOCKS the giant, her living flesh cage opens. She rolls onto her stomach, knees scraping ice, and fighting the stiffness of her own limbs, and the way she can no longer feel her hands, she desperately pulls herself free.


"Don't -worry- I'm coming back for you! Like I said I'm good at this stuUAAWK"

This is the sound of Spider-Man getting yanked down by ichorous Otherworld tendrils into the bleak dark.

Probably not encouraging. But hey — maybe Six is Ghost in the Machinesing at that point. One can only hope.

"WHAT IS WITH ALL THE TENTACLLLLLLEEEEEEESSSSSSS—" This is the formal complaint that the limber arachnid hero lodges with the universe as he is tugged back down towards the ground. He spirals through the air, looking to rip those tendrils of inky black off him with a burst of strength. "Now — I see — what it's like — to be on the receiving end of this!" he complains to no one in particular. "And now — loooking back on things — I realize — my webbing might be kinda groooOOOHHH GOD IT'S THE MONSTER AGAIN"

Yep. There's that monster, that shadowy behemoth that Captain America briefly put out of commission. He lands on its head feet first with a sickening crunch of impacted, tendrils clinging around his body as he grips onto the thing's maw for dear life.

"I thought you already punched this thing I thought you just -won when you punched things- were all those comics of you and Hitler all lies??" This is Peter's very pointed criticism for the nearby Captain America, lighthearted as it may be — or not — frankly he's just a bit grossed out by all the overflow of Lovecraft in this place right now. So, he does the sensible thing: webs spinning, he forges two ropes of the stuff on the creature's skull, or what passes for it, backflips off — and then uses the momentum of his flip to -fling- the beast Steve's way.





Peggy watches as her ICERs bounce off of Muller's wards. The Agent of SHIELD refuses to be intimidated as she continues to move forward. Her attention is split between Muller, Zatanna and Bucky as she does so. Unfortunately for Peggy, her main attention isn't on the Nazi in front of her. It's on Bucky Barnes as he does his attack.

Therefore, the bolt of energy that radiates toward him is met with a gasp of surprise and she moves to follow, but she only gets a step forward before she is lifted off her feet and cutting off her air. No shriek is given from Peggy as she is lifted. There is only a horrible gasp and silence. There is nothing for her to fight against to release her, as there is only lightning and energy cutting off her air and seizing her body with energy. If he wanted an answer, she is completely and utterly unable to give him one due to his own doing. Her feet kick uselessly at the air and she brings up her ICER again in an attempt to shoot at him. If she can land at least one or two shots, it should be able to knock him unconscious.



The sorcerer is almost certainly not asking The Dark Devil who she is, and her human name does not come to mind as tendrils of power lance out - a connection that runs back to the man and the darkest pit of what he might call a soul. Who knows what lingers there anymore. A pact? A minefield of energy twisted and turned to bitter ash? But she can /taste/ it, the dark to Zatanna's light, and if she had never encountered the young magician who had helped her find some peace and focus she would not understand what the feeling meant.

As her body wracks in pain The Devil Inside, Xiuhnel, revels in the experience, ever eager to reach out for soulstuff tossed in it's direction. And so it does, ephemeral hands coiling in the spirit world against the tendrils that lash around The Dark Devil.

"Let me show you."

She barely whispers the words as The Devil Inside touches the third rail that is Hanussen and tries to pull him inside out, cackling with a mad glee that sends Azalea's mind into a tailspin. The Devil won't get what it wants of course. Instead it just creates a feedback loop - a crossed circuit that could show Jane Foster that the magical and mechanical worlds aren't so different after all.

Azalea jerks and twitches in mid air as one part of her soul plays mad games, turning both halves of her essence white hot to those who can see such things. To those who cannot, she will seem just another broken doll with it's strings cut, her vacant gaze cast upwards, staring right into the eyes of poor webified Six.


After dealing with SHIELD tech, his most deadly foe, slowly the Man with the Star Spangled Plan rises. He shakes off the groggy nature of the WAY MORE STRONGER THAN HE PLANNED ON device, looking toward….


The word is said with confusion, like he was trying to ask her a question on the weather or if it was okay to wear black and browns together while wearing casual attire. But the brain of the super soldier suddenly hone in on the necessary details with a rapid realization that everything is not going to work out like an oldie cartoon he watched as a kid.

Now Captain America doesn't have special AMERICA AWARENESS that lets him know danger is coming, just the normal senses that are to the peak. Yet often, they are enough in times like these. Despite the urgency of a woman perhaps about to die, Spider-Man's urgent request is heard. But not listened to.

As Parker powers the terrible thing his way, he doesn't look directly at it and give a simple haymaker. Instead, Rogers spins around to give one hell of a roundhouse kick. One that perhaps even Chuck Norris would be proud of.

Not that Steve would get the reference.

After the attack, there is a loud cry from the back of the room. One that is angry though not apparently not that won't lose itself to rage. "Hey you!" He orders toward the man that he doesn't even recognize, but Carter knows by name. "Let the woman. Down. NOOOOOWWWWW!"

Okay, maybe not lose itself to rage…. yet. Later, Cap will learn or process that even brainwashed, Bucky still watches out for him and his friends, but right now… USA is not Okay.


The toxin does its work. While it drives Muller crazy, it continues to soak, to make a mess of things internally. He'll recover, eventually, but it's potent enough that he loses focus. He claws at his face, his other set of fingers waving in the air as dangerous hallucinations overtake his mind. He keeps screaming, his hoarse voice ripping through the dark, and cut off when the Winter Soldier puts two on his back, severing his spine before he dives in the portal.

He attempts to crawl, he does, so close to what he wants, what he /needs/, but the feedback loop from Azalea and the god inside her scrambles his brain even further. There's another scream, pain rolling over his spine, and it forces him to drop his attack on Peggy Carter just as ICER bullets gun for him from where he lies. Bloodied fingers shift, drawing a sigil on the floor just before they slam into him, rendering him finally, blessedly, silent.

So he does let go, per Captain America's yelling.

Peter Quill goes flying, bravely sacrificing the integrity of his body so he could give Jessica Jones a chance at the helmet. He crashes into the bar, hundreds and hundreds of dollars of liquor pouring all over him. The helm is launched in the air and into her waiting arms once she leaps and grabs it, her strength bending and twisting it, though it refuses to be destroyed. But her interference is enough - the possessed civilians in the room drop simultaneously, marionettes with their strings cut.

Another coordinated attack is underway - Batman shields his young charge with smoke as he and Red Robin go for the urn. They find it by tapping into the electric signals planted there by SHIELD, know its importance by process of elimination. It ends up getting knocked upwards with charges thrown on it, a small explosion reducing it to dust, cutting off the source from which the shadows around them draw life.

But they are still there. They move as if alive, and Spider-Man once more throws himself against the biggest one…


A metallic fist plows into a Frost Giant's face.

Raw rage and augmented strength manages to push the alien being back two paces, a roar escaping one cavernous mouth, a free hand coming to rub at the injury. Bucky Barnes is able to help Jane Foster escape its clutches, but he'll have to pick her up.

It recovers quickly, and it moves. The earth shakes, rocks and icicles from surrounding ice-crusted ruins fall all around them as it gives chase. Quakes split the ground at every footfall, breaking apart under the Winter Soldier's feet. Before him is the portal, shaking, struggling…

It won't stay open for long.


"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon," Zatanna whispers breathlessly, her fingers shaking from the strain as she keeps the portal open. She doesn't know for how long she can hold it, having only studied the writing on the pages for a few quick moments and splicing it with improvised, mystical formulas that she has learned from her exile in Constantine's bunker, while mired in the very serious business of saving her own life. The smokescreen around her functions as a veil, enough to confuse the shadows threatening to eat her alive.

But smoke doesn't last.

She's still struggling to keep the reality rift open when thousands of eyes turn to her from the darkness and she feels ice-cold apprehension drip down her back. Her eyes fix on the portal, her hackles rising as she feels them close in, tendrils sharpening into knives.

The choice looms before her; to abandon Bucky and his friend to the frozen wastes of another world to save herself, or to keep the portal open and let them rip her apart and her mind backtracks - to the afternoon on the bench, to the cold bite of metal gripping her throat, to the precious seconds in which Bucky Barnes reminded her that above all else, she wants to live.

'You remind me of someone,' he whispers from the back of her head; the memory removes all doubt and her eyes narrow in determination.

He brought her dying soul back to life, impressed the belief that she truly does not want to die. But if she has to, if she has to…

'Be careful, will you?'

The words cut through her head. Louder than the rest.

Gritting her teeth, a knot works into her throat, splitting her focus as one trembling hand shifts away from its position to the front, to the side of her.

The shadows slam into the ward she calls up, just in time before she gets skewered, forming a spitting, shaking, shuddering barrier that barely keeps the demons at bay. She taps into her reserves, stretches, dives deeper and deeper into the endless well inside as her head throws back, her lips parted in a silent gasp, the blues of her eyes receding to white as her very soul /burns/ with the effort, threatening to consume her from within.

She feels her control start to slip, raw, pure power starts unraveling from her fingers. Parts of her start to /dissolve/, motes of her coloring lifting in the air…

'I already saw your soul drain away /once/ this week…'

And then the lights turn back on.

The shadows scream, shattering as Six's gambit consumes all the other eldritch terrors squirming in the room, exploding in jagged, obsidian fragments that turn into smoke. The monster that Spider-Man has thrown towards Captain America dissipates in mid-air and by the time it reaches Rogers, the flying single, red eye gleams at him before it, too, disappears.

Once she sees Bucky go /through/ the portal with his bundle, she lets go.

She slumps limply on the floor, her body smoking, ozone and magic leaving her in wisps as she pants breathlessly over the Liber Consecratus. She coughs, pressing her palms flat on the floor, sweat dripping from her forehead, blood trickling from the corner of her mouth.


The Mad God gives and takes, until everything inside The Dark Devil's spirit fuses in a way it had not before that moment, and as the Nazi Sorcerer screams his agony through the room the loop snaps, and gravity takes hold. There is a moment where she hangs in space and clarity washes over her, ecstatic knowledge that's far to much to consume all at once, and honed instincts that dissolve her give and take relationship with the creature inside.

Everyone has a dark side. Azalea's will always have one that's more literal than most, but now it is every bit a part of her, searing through her synapses and filling her with a renewed strength.

At least until she slams into the floor not far from the slumped over Zatanna, the heavy impact drawing a groan, and then a bubbling, pained laugh.

"Zee. Did we wi…holy shit."

She sounds alarmed, as if some new threat is rising, but she simply does not have the strength to rise herself to meet it.

"There's a woman glued to the ceiling!"


The Winter Soldier practically ricochets off the side of the frost giant's head… but his impetus and the strength behind his arm are great enough that he transfers enough momentum to stagger the creature. It reels back two paces— but more importantly, it lets go of Jane.

The Soldier, bounced straight back towards the cliff, twists, gets his feet under him, and hits the rock squarely, springing back off it in a new trajectory straight down towards the ice. He lands beside Jane as she pulls herself free, roughly lifting her from the snow, gathering her into his arms with no regard for the way she might stick to the ice or to his already-freezing metal arm. There's way more important things at hand.

Like getting back to the portal before it closes. Like getting away from the giant already in pursuit. Like getting Jane out of here before she freezes in her slip of a dress. He looks down at her, already going blue, her skin scraped and gashed from the ice, and something loosens in his knotted, twisted mind.

James starts to run. Peak human potential drives him from a standstill up to a blurring, breakneck pace within seconds, navigating the treacherous snow and ice with the fluency one might expect of a man titled as he is. "Don't sleep," he murmurs to Jane as he runs, closing on the portal. "Don't go to sleep."

The portal looms before them. He leaps and hurls them through with little regard for sticking the landing.


It's all over in a flash of light.

The eldritch horrors banished to the … light? The portal snapping shut, the hoary, frigid breath of Jotuunheim closed off as abruptly as if a door had slammed shut. Winter and Foster, careening back to reality like superballs, smashing and rolling to a stop.

Batman rests a hand against the back of a chair, taking a precious tenth of a second to /balance/ himself. He'd almost look ridiculous, a man in a mask and a cape over tuxedo slacks— but then again, scorched, battered, wounded many numerous ways he hadn't bothered to let slow him, he's still moving. Still ready to fight.

Batman looks at Red Robin. Checks him over briefly— then nods at his ward. One small motion, but the ultimate expression of approval from The Batman.

Job well done.

"Help her," Batman tells Robin, his voice more guttural than normal. Exhausted, burned by smoke and effort. This was a hell of a fight even for him. Pushing the limits of his endurance and ability. But mortal man has won out against eldritch horror. He moves to Zatanna, suppressing a limp, and hovers over her. One hand rests on her shoulder. Just a moment. Just a squeeze to let her know that the shadow next to her is a rock, for the moment. Reassuring.

And then he's gone again. He keys his handset. "EMTs are on their way," he rasps. He looks to his ally and moves to Dark Devil, concealing her with a flare of his cloak. A cursory once over— checking for skull injuries. Peering into her eye. He tugs a piece of cloth from his pocket and wraps it over her eyes— a domino mask. Then he lifts her up into a fireman's carry. There might be a few who have the recall to memorize her features from before the fracas, but few have the true photographic recall that those like Batman and Red Robin possess. He turns around, cradling Dark Devil in his arms, and surveys the room.

Wounded. Out of options, carrying an injured ally— he bares his teeth in something like a lopsided growl. "And once you've been cleared by the medics, I don't want to see any of you metahumans operating in Gotham again. Or you'll answer to /me/."

And as injured, burned, and crippled as he is, there's no doubt in his tone that Batman could clear the entire room if they opt to disagree with him.


Like things that go bump in a childhood night, the crawling scraps of malevolent darkness seem to simply evaporate when the lights come back on, leaving Kinsey to wonder, her thoughts and perceptions still disorganized, whether she'd ever really seen them at all, or if they'd been hallucinations brought on by…

…by whatever that was. Whatever happened.

But like a child in that ominous blackness, she clings to the desire to keep the lights on, a bulwark against the threatening unknown.

She is…a mess, to put it mildly, back and white and webbed all over, and the one part of her free enough to accomplish anything is the hand with its fingers outstretched to the chandelier, a barely-there, trembling contact, and that arm is getting tired. So is the rest of her.

Fact: the human brain consumes up to twenty percent of a body's total available energy supply. Cognition: it's biologically expensive!

Secondary fact: Kinsey had a light lunch so that she wouldn't feel fat in her gown, which is new, and nice, and unlike anything else in her closet. And ruined.

Anyway, the point is: she's not only using her brain for the things that normal people use it for, she's using it to power an entire flipping opera house, and while the leftovers from the power spike that hit her earlier helped at first, they are swiftly dissolved. Her blood sugar crashes fast and hard, and the trembling turns into a tremor quickly, and the tremor into torpor, and the torpor into…sleep? Something like it, anyway. It's enough that the muscles in her arm relax, her fingertips slip off of the chandelier, and everyone gets plunged back into darkness.


Peter Quill has helped her break a spell of mind control for the second time in as many days, and this finds one Jessica Jones staring at him as booze drenches him down, the twisted hunk of helm still held between her fingers. Her gaze sweeps over the people, freed from one of the worst curses she can imagine, and by her own hand.

A strange moment.

Then she realizes she's holding a multi-million dollar thing she just sort of destroyed, and her mind thinks back to the paltry sum in her bank account. She carefully tucks it into a potted plant before anyone can yell, "You broke it, Jones, you bought it!"

Then Batman made his pronouncement, and she mutters, "Who died and made him God?"

But then she remembers something Constantine told her, and she slogs over to Zatanna, both offering a hand up and…"You want me to hold on to that? Since…I don't have any magic or anything. And then let's gather up Quill and get hom—back to Shadowcrest."

And then the lights go out. Well. Crapcakes.


Zatanna keeps the Liber Consecratus in her hands, hugging it to her chest, cradling it while she remains on her knees. She shakes, trembles from the rush; magic courses like fire in her blood and every sense feels dialed up to eleven. Colors are more vibrant, scents sharper, her sense of taste…there's a fruity note to it, she thinks deliriously, around the copper-tang of blood coating her tongue. This was hard won and for a moment, everything recedes to background noise as she stares at the tome in her hands.

One step closer, she thinks. One step closer in getting her father back.

A heavy, solid hand rests on her shoulder, and she looks up. She half-expects Captain America, but as she stares up at pupiless white lenses, astonishment folds over her exhausted features. The gesture is familiar, the feel of it, the sense of it, and for a very brief second, a tugging sensation pulls at her stomach - that this someone she /knows/.

She hesitates, and then shakes her head.

Nah. No way.

"….you and I…" she tells Batman quietly. "/Really/ need to talk."

She smiles reassuringly at Azalea, a wordless confirmation that they /have/ one, but then the reminder crashes into her head and she scrambles to stand up, turning to the stage.


But he's gone, leaving nothing but an arcane symbol behind. Her lips press tightly together.

When Jessica offers what she does, the young woman shakes her head, clutching the book. "No it's alright," she murmurs. "I know exactly who to take this to."

And he can deliver it to my father.


"Technicly I'm not a metahuman so do I count?" Comes the question from behind the bar, aimed in the direction of Batman's caped form. Slowly, painfully, very carefully, Peter Quill extracts himself from the ruins of the bar. Shattered glass, claws and eldrich power has shreadded his tux. So shirtless, and covered in booze he's sure he makes a fine sight.

But he's in once piece, and his armor is retracted as he takes stock of himself. Makes sure nothings broken. Gazes with a ddep sadness as the ruins of thousands of dollors of booze.

Thats what hurts the worst. Really.

Leaning forward, bracing his hands against his knees he tries to regain the strength that the sudden brawl knocked out of him. He sees Zee lying there, and gives the woman a tired wave. She throws the best parties.

He would go over there, but walking is kinda hard right now. Give him a moment.

Its then that Peter realises something.

…he's covered in liquer.

"…no one light a match near me. I've been though enough tonight."

A pause again as he looks up at the ceiling. "…and how the hell did she get up there?"


The staff is ruined, of course: About half its length simply gone, the rest ending in a twisted, jagged rent of metal, but Red Robin collapses the remaining sections, and stows it in a hidden pocket anyway. No point in leaving unneccessary things laying around.

The bright lights courtesy of Six's intervention aren't particularly the friend of the cowls and capes types, especially given the fairly makeshift nature of their current costumes; Red Robin lets his cape curl around himself to hide any sign of what he's wearing underneath, suppressing the urge to try and get Zatanna out of there. It was increasingly clear that she had other friends present, and they wouldn't just sit back and let her get carried off… And besides which, it would leave entirely too many things to explain. She'll be fine, no doubt. She was fine after she was kidnapped by that serial killer, and she was fine after getting attacked by whatever-it-was on campus.

Others might not be so lucky.

Once they have Dark Devil in hand, Batman of course has to remind the other individuals who had helped out not to operate in his city - Red Robin says nothing to this, and indeed has been pretty silent overall, but he knew that warning was coming, one hand shifting under his cape to fish out a smoke bomb, so they can—

And the lights go out again.

Whatever works, Red Robin thinks ruefully to himself, giving an unseen shrug in the darkness.

And then, they're simply gone.


Pulled free from the ground, her frozen dress ripping, her skin burned raw from that cruel ice, the reclaimed Jane Foster is a little, light thing in his arms. She feels bird-bone hollow, and cold like glass.

She does not feel herself, her limbs too numb, dead to the arrangement of her legs hooked over his arm, her own arms limp, dangling weight. She does not feel her own skin. She does not feel the cold anymore, and she wants to tell him that, the James Barnes she thinks she is dreaming, that it is all right, and she's not hurting. Jane does not feel much —

— until he pulls her closer and she feels warmth, heat lost off skin that metabolizes too quickly to be human; his body is a furnace and it keeps hers alive.

Don't sleep, a familiar voice begs, and Jane's eyes flutter open to watch the world blur by. So quickly to see. Her head, slung to the cradle of his shoulder, turns to slant her shallow breath along his throat. She's shifting to try to focus her gaze, to try to see —

"Ja — Jame—" whispers Jane close to his ear, her voice thin, soft, frozen. But as he runs them breakneck across the ice, toward a portal slowly closing, she calls to him, because —

— her eyes are turned up, straight up at the sky, bidding James Barnes to see.

A field of stars. No Winter Circle. No bow and belt of Orion. No constallation she can pick out and name. Stars Jane has never seen before. An alien sky.

Her face gentles with wonder.


Lights go on. Beasts go goodbye. Spider-Man blinks.

"Uh. … I saved the day? Right? I can go 'yay!' now, right?"

Awkward silence ensues.

"I'm just gonna take that as a right. That was a cool roundhouse by the way okay gotta take care of something real quick we should talk later and I can get your autograph and you can tell what your number one mixtape is NOPE nevermind that ignore me just gotta do some… hero — stuff—"

And so Spider-Man's enthusiastic gushing over Captain America comes to an end with the arachnid hero suddenly leaping towards the ceiling with some ridiculous sort of vertical lunge. Wide white lenses shutter in a blink at the prone Six. He looks at her, hand extended towards the light fixture. His head tilts.

"… wow, this looks -just- like the creation of Adam if God was a lightbulb and Adam was some weird lady fixated on lightbulbs."

And, with this astute observation out of the way, he works on tearing Six free to find a safe spot to deposit her where medics can find her.

"Don't worry about it JUST IGNORE ME" is his wise advice for the Other Peter.


"Peter! What the— you made it!" Zatanna reaches down in an effort to help Star-Lord up from his pile of booze. She can worry about Muller later, though she can't help the twinge of frustration in her gut there.

He was starting to become a huge pain in the ass.

But the name that leaves her lips reminds her of someone else. Scanning the crowd quickly, she remembers to look up and catches sight of the red-and-blue spandex guy dangling from the ceiling, cutting Six free from webbing.

"…oh thank god," she mutters under her breath.

That's one other friend accounted for, but what about…

Apprehension curdles her stomach, she looks around frantically.

Where the hell are the Waynes?!

Oh god, she thinks. They got out, right?



An absent minded "Thank you" and "sure" is given to Spider-Man by Captain America when asked about autographs and the like. Even when distracted by the state of someone close to him, he is still polite to allies. Through the gala turned war zone, Steve moves through the carnage to where Carter was dropped, checking for breathing and vitals. Once she's confirmed to be breathing, he takes a sigh of relief. After removing his jacket to rest over her, she is soon picked up and cradled in his arms…. Unaware that as he does, someone else is commanding their charge not to sleep.

After Peggy's safety is guaranteed, Rogers does look around to take in everything. "Is everyone okay? Anyone need help?" he asks to the room at large before his eyes rest on the portal. Unaware of who went in the magical due to a hyper focus on other things, the Man with ABS OF AMERICA yells toward the closing gateway between worlds as he walks toward it slowly. "Hello? Does anyone need help in there?" The voice is awkward, not really sure what to do. Despite holding Carter, the vet prepares himself for a SECOND roundhouse. Just in case something else bad comes out of it.


Jane looks up at the alien stars. She bids him to look too. And there is one moment, snatched between steps, between breaths, where James Barnes does look up.

Warmth overtakes them as they pass back through and leave that alien sky behind.

It is some time before he recovers, but still much shorter than it would take a normal man. Still carrying Jane, Bucky slowly rises, a little unsteady after so much adrenaline. He looks down at her, keeping watch on her condition, even as the Batman makes his threat, barely even listening because he knows, by necessity— he'll be back.

He walks slowly towards Zatanna. The Winter Soldier slowly reasserts as he does, like frost crawling over a windowpane, like a forty-below night sliding over the empty taiga. There is nothing threatening in his posture, however. He looks exhausted, battered, weary beyond belief.

"I seem to owe you again," he remarks, at a relatively normal volume.

He leans in. Much more quietly: "Will you bring it to John Constantine?"

Regardless of the substance of the answer, he seems to feel the danger of lingering too long… like cage bars closing in. Still holding Jane, he straightens and turns away, fading out into the chaos of the night. He chooses, as always, a quiet and obtrusive route out.

A route that happens to pass by a fern pot.


As Winter Soldier makes his way out of the portal, Captain America takes a step forward. This could be the time to confront him. The tactical side of him states that he could put down Peggy and go full out. Bring him down, bring him to SHIELD. But that doesn't sit right with Rogers for some reason and as usual, the morality within wins out and he just lets him go.

Once Bucky vanishes from sight, Steve offers an absent sniff, merely holding the unconscious woman close to him before trying to figure out what he will tell the press. Somehow, the SHIELD excuse of 'gas leak' won't cut it this time.


After a little while, Peggy - singed but breath returning to normal after a bout of Palpatine lightning and Darth Vader strangle starts to wake up in Steve's arms. There's a bit of a start, as the woman certainly remembers the fact that she was in a fight. She was trying to buy someone time, trying to distract. Hopefully it worked.

As she comes to consciousness, she realizes that she is not on the floor, she is in someone's arms. And then, moments later, realizes that she is in Captain America's arms. Her throat still feels as if it is on fire, the nerve endings all over her body on fire and in pain. Raspy, she asks, "Bucky?" She glances about realizing that she doesn't see him anywhere. "Dr. Foster?" That was part of the last part she remembers - Jane being tossed into a portal by a someone very familiar, despite the years. The memory of his face startles her again and she attempts to locate him, finding nothing. "Hanussen?" The name seemed to anger him enough to draw his fire. There's a lot of questions she has, it seems.

Then, astute woman that she is, realizes that she's still in Steve Rogers' arms and blinks. "What— happened?"


"Is she going to be okay?" is the first thing Zatanna asks Bucky, her voice quiet - private, glancing down at Jane's face while the Winter Soldier cradles her in his arms.

His next question earns him a nod, her stare following him, her expression laced with concern. It stays there, constant, present, until realization sinks into her overcrowded brain.

"…wait, /what/?"

But he melts into the crowd, as effortlessly as a ghost and before she can ask him any questions, he is already gone.

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