And This is How the World Ends

January 08, 2017:

A worried phone call from Peter Quill drives Zatanna Zatara to break into Dr. Jane Foster's devastated apartment, and engage in a hunt for the missing physicist. She finds more than she bargained for. As usual.

Secret Location - New York City

A nondescript apartment building in Brooklyn.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peter Quill, John Constantine, Tim Drake

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In the many days following that cursed gala, Jane Foster has all but disappeared from the world.

The police are not yet involved, and she is not declared a missing person — there are few people in her left with the consistency to check up and cause noise — but SHIELD has definitely taken notice. Their workaholic, on-contract astrophysicist — who has never made secret her polite loathing — has absconded without an email or call or last word. Packed up informally as if she is taking a week's break, locked up her apartment, and left New York City.

Her freedom of movement is not their issue. It's that the woman managed to leave her place — both bugged and put on surveillance — without a trace.

No one has heard from her since. But Peter Quill, bearing enough chutzpah to wilfully break into her empty place, has his ideas.

It doesn't take much difficulty to slip into her apartment, slip by the two agents SHIELD continually keeps posted, and find what is necessary to find the errant Dr. Foster. Her apartment is dark and untouched, bearing the signs of her quick packing and some of Quill's careless sorting, though all of her things seem to bear the marks of SHIELD, thumbing among her things, uncertain what they're looking for — certain only that, whatever it could be, it's not there.

In her bathroom are some old bandages — remnants of the possible abrasions and shallow wounds she picked up from her deadly minutes in Jotunheim. Some are lightly spotted with Jane's old, dried blood. It's enough.

The scry works. And the scry admits —

— the missing Jane Foster has not even /left/ Brooklyn.

The trail bears to an old, multi-floor apartment building, its outside littered with signs for a Spring 2017 condo resconstruction. It's abandoned and awaiting demolition in a month's time, and in the growing evening, its hundreds of glass windows bear the shared darkness of vacancy. Inside it is gutted and empty, the electricity off, all panels and lights stripped down to the wires. Glass keeps out the worst of the wintry bite of wind, though without heat, the air is brisk. Sound carries.

No power is there for the elevator. And the scry keeps saying… up.

Up the stairs. And up. And up.

Keep going up. Twenty floors up.

On that floor, there remains shut one apartment door. Inside homes the living trace of Jane Foster.

Because Jane Foster is very much alive, very much here, and very much bored. Lit by battery lanterns and candlelight, the scientist without a lab does whatever she can to keep her mind occupied. In the last few days, this is the time she hates worst — James is gone, on a supply run, or a surveillance scout, or a meeting having to do with his yet-ongoing mission, and for her own safety's sake, for his sanity's sake, she stays behind.

It helps her nerves, feeling concealed in his hideaway, but Jane thinks her mind is going apart at the seams. In the last hour she's been coming up with fifteen excuses to take her own excursion out, knows every single one of them to be a bad idea — a bad idea that will lead her back to her lab, because she can't stop thinking of it, of her notebooks, if they're being touched, or taken, and her equipment, and and and — and instead works on what little she's brought with. Seated at the empty apartment's lone table, turning her halogen lamp to try to see better down on the intracacies of her work, she assembles metal plates.

Lacking half of her tools, it's more tedious than she would like.

—-

Glass crunches underneath her feet as she surveys the damage wrought in Dr. Jane Foster's apartment.

The worrisome phone call from Peter Quill has brought her here, ice blue eyes roaming over the holes in the plaster and the ruin left behind by whatever it was that might have taken the brunette from her humble abode. Regardless of the fact that she was walking, and possibly contaminating, a crime scene, and while there is no tape, the agents guarding the place are enough to mark a specific sort of boundary outside, and one that is not enough to deter her from doing what is necessary, though /this/ time, in a remarkable display of foresight that is almost anathema to the way she simply walks through the front door most days, she decided to go through the back.

Sort of.

The picture of Jane Foster that she managed to acquire from Peter Parker earlier in the day, the physical location of the apartment, and a glimpse of the inside while she was walking past was enough for her to bend enough of reality to her whims and pop her in, the better to prevent herself from disturbing whatever surveillance elements were there outside, though she is unaware of the physicist's present affiliation with SHIELD - they probably have the entire place wiretapped and bugged and even if Zatanna knew, it's a toss-up as to whether the young woman actually cares.

She doesn't touch anything; while she /is/ interested in Jane's personal effects, they're for a different purpose other than enriching herself in any material fashion, nor does it really have anything to do with any bubbling curiosity she may harbor about the other woman in Bucky Barnes' life. What /does/ concern her is the fact that her apartment is in a state of Not Okay and she and Bucky are nowhere in sight, on the level that the very first thing Peter 'I Go Where I Want No Matter How Naked I Am' Quill has done upon seeing it is call her like a concerned citizen, and 'concerned citizen' is just about everything the infamous Star-Lord is not.

So the young woman wanders over to the bathroom, frowning at the lack of brushes she finds - the police must've taken them for evidence, and wanders over to the signs of blood that she eventually finds, pocketing a few of the spent bandages that she finds.

With the grisly business of collecting biological material done, she closes her eyes and wills herself back to Brooklyn. She's got a bit of scrying to do.

***

Oh god, why is it on the twentieth floor?

Much like the way she has scryed for Bucky Barnes before, a whirl of confusing images before the evanescent connection adheres from the blood drops to their owner, she manages to pick an address from the discarded construction signs littering the building's perimeter and the view of the building itself is enough of a marker to use her well-honed teleportation gifts. The compass she has constructed out of glass, water, and a needle seeped in coagulated bits of tiny physicist spins in the palm of her hand as expensive boots clomp up the stairs (/why doesn't this place have an elevator???/) to the very top floor where the needle insistently points at the single door at the end of the hall.

Zatanna is fastidious with her appearance, cursed with shades of vanity that rival even John's; daily runs have given her a good degree of stamina and her own athletic tone, but /twenty flights of stairs/ would push even a practiced athlete, let alone a young woman who's constantly paranoid about getting fat. So with burning calves and wobbly knee joints, she stumbles towards the door.

At least she can have seconds of Chas' cooking today whenever she gets back to the bunker.

The apartment seems quiet and she presses her ear to the door for just a moment. She hears no noise, there are no sounds and that could be worrisome too. The idea of breaking the door down and unleashing the Ninth Circle of Hell on whoever has Dr. Foster occurs to her, but this is an apartment building and she doesn't want to call any needless attention to herself.

She closes her eyes, magical senses stretching forth - she doesn't feel much, save for whatever still clings to Jane after her ordeal in the gala.

With a breath, she curls her fingers into a loose fist….and just knocks on the door.

"Pizza 73!" she calls out.

Christ, she's so bad at this.

—-

Jane Foster fumbles and nearly drops her wirecutters.

The sudden knock when there shouldn't be one jumps her, gives her a good heart attack, and strips a good year off her life, and her metalwork already forgotten, the woman jerks her head back, a wide-eyed glance turned on the closed, locked door.

A woman's voice calls through. Calls for /pizza delivery/.

Blood thrumming noisily in her ears, Jane knows better. Knows better than to answer. She'd love to pretend there's some normalcy to the utter circus sideshow that's become her life, but she doesn't, and mind racing, tries to think of the instructions James left her with. Ground into her, really, over and over, should she be alone and someone corner her without him there.

Lights off. Hiding place. Gun. Message him.

She reaches to thumb off the lamp and blow out her candle, and trying to settle down her work with little more than sparse, mutted clatters of metal, Jane exchanges engineering for something else her hands are far less used to. On her table, kept deliberately out of reach because she is terrified of accidentally touching it, sits the derringer pistol given to her by the Winter Soldier. She takes it carefully in hand.

Stepping up from the chair, eyes on the door, Jane Foster does not speak. Does not answer back. Instead she backsteps, as if to recede deeper into the half-darkness of the empty, vacant apartment.

The assassin picked a studio in the abandoned, about-to-be-demolished building, with little for Jane to go to or hide in but a small, entrenched closet. She retreats to there, tiny enough to fit, pawing herself down with her free, shaking hand to pull from her jeans pocket her phone. Not her phone, really, but a burner, lent to her — and programmed in with one contact number only.

His.

Lit in the light of the screen, she one-handedly types the most panicked message she can to James Barnes:

Hekp

Then Jane forgets the phone, attention stolen back on the front door. She retreats to hide around one half-shut, folded closet door, where it steals her from sight. Her sweaty hand tightens on the gun. Don't put a finger on the trigger, Jane thinks, remembering James's words to her. Not until she has to. Please don't make her have to.

—-

There is no answer and her heart rachets upwards in her chest.

Oh god, she thinks, her palms sweating against her jeans. This is it. Someone did take her. Someone did take her and she's probably chopped to bits in the bathtub and whoever did this is out to get acid to finish the job and left her here. Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Zatanna takes a deep breath, giving her head a hard shake in an effort to dislodge the horrific images slipping through her brainstem.

Get your shit together, Zatanna. This is real life, not Breaking Bad.

She pauses there, and chokes back a slightly delirious laugh.

Oh, no. It's /much worse./

Light fingers splay over the knob, cautiously looking left and right on the hallway, not that it matters considering it was the only apartment in the entire floor and she has seen no other doors from her traverse twenty floors upwards. With her other hand rubbing insistently over the tops of her thighs, she curls the tips of her digits loosely on the metal, leaning close and breathing against it.

"Kcolnu," she commands in a whisper.

Mechanisms shift, resulting in a series of clicks - barely audible under normal circumstances but surprisingly loud to someone who is performing her /second/ act of breaking and entering today. Slowly, she turns the knob in increments, leaning her shoulder against the wooden appendage as she slips inside. Carefully, silently, she closes the door and the very first thing she wonders is whether she ought to check the bathroom first.

And the tub.

Oh, god.

The young woman moves further inside the apartment, slowly, wide, pale-blue eyes searching the contents, though she doesn't dare touch anything. It looks ordinary enough, clean and obviously lived in - there are tools, and it's empty.

But it can't be. She knows someone is here.

Despite /every urge/ that screams at her to brace herself for this, she takes quick steps towards the bathroom and jerks back the shower curtain. The lack of Jane-bits in the tub nearly has her sinking on her knees in relief, and she can freely exorcise those horrors of her imagination out of her head. But if she isn't there, where was she?

"…Dr. Foster?" she hisses, slinking back out in the hall, inching towards the other rooms. "….Dr. Foster, are you alive?"

—-

Distantly, faintly, Jane Foster hears the front door unlock. It unlocks as easily as someone carrying a key.

She shrinks back farther into the closet, willing her eyes shut for the moment it takes to center herself. Her heart knocks against her ribs. Her insides twist and clutch with adrenaline. She wants to disbelieve, wants to hide and convince herself this isn't happening — but it is. It's the worst outcome that James Barnes seemed apt to prepare her for, one Jane refused to believe could happen. His bolthole felt infallible to her. Like no one could find it.

Buffered mainly by his presence there, she knows, because /James Barnes/ is infallible, untouchable, a force of nature Jane has not witnessed in a man. But he's not here right now, and she's not sure when he will be — if he's even read her message, how far away he is, two streets away? Across the city? It's just her. Her, her wits, and the gun in her hands.

She strains to hear. She doesn't hear the door open or close — if it is, someone is doing it silently — and holds her own breath to better focus. Jane does not move, does not twitch a muscle, hiding tiny in the dark, her only vantage point what she can see of the room through the bends and gives in the partially-folded closet doors. It is dark everywhere in the apartment, and she cannot really see.

Little greets Zatanna's entrance. The apartment is near empty. Near nothing save for walls and windows. A table. A desk. On that desk, an array of gear that, in the dark, towers distinctly as military grade arms — the centerpiece of them a .50 caliber sniper weapon's system — rifle, scope, stand, that all together looks almost half the weight of Zatara herself.

At one corner of the main room is a ruffled blanket and sheet as someone's sleep space, and the emptied cans and water bottles' worth of a couple meals. A laptop, lid shut, a light flickering to acknowledge it in sleep mode. That strange metal-work lain over the table. A hot candle breathing smoke, recently snuffed out.

No Jane Foster, it seems. But someone is here.

Jane leans back as she sees, through the door, some shadow walk past her vantage. Past and away, toward the bathroom. This might be her chance. Slip out. Get out while someone's distracted. Get out, and keep running until she finds James.

Carefully, she steps free, not even realizing she's trembling, has been trembling, and almost trips against the distant, but still-quick, still-loud sound of the shower curtain ripped aside. She decides right now to take a run for it —

— stopped only at the called sound of her own name. Asking if she's alive.

Jane frowns back at the front door. For the first time, she's almost glad James isn't here, because he won't have to see what she's going to do.

She's not totally silent. She's not totally soundless. She's no assassin, no killer, no trained soldier, and Zatanna in her searching will sense, it, a presence — hear the creak of floorboards behind her —

And there is Dr. Foster, very much alive, very much here, and very much holding a drawn, faintly-shaking gun on her. "Who are you," she demands, voice a whisper.

—-

She doesn't make any sudden movements.

As young as Zatanna is, she has been on the road with her adventurous, spellslinging hero father for almost her entire life, and one of the lessons those forays into the strange and dangerous have instilled upon her is that when one has managed to sneak up on her in an unknown place full of unknown quantities and weapons, it is probably best not to do anything to usher her premature demise. The young woman keeps her hands to the sides, open and unfolded - she does not have any weapons herself, her black-clad form carrying nothing but a college sudent's bookbag wedged against her hip.

She turns around slowly to look at the diminutive physicist - taller than the average woman, she look nothing like Jane expects, ice-blue eyes fringed with dark eyeliner and skin so pale it makes the contrasts of other colors on her look all the more stark. Voluminous lengths of raven hair have been pulled back in a careless topknot, the ends spilled over one shoulder. And she is young, too young to insert herself in the dangerous business of covert operations and espionage; probably just some punk kid who decided to break in someone's new apartment.

But she knows her name.

And she looks incredibly familiar.

Her eyes fall on the shaking gun and it takes everything in her not to just slide backwards, her heart pounding wildly in her chest as adrenaline screams through her veins, white-hot pockets of it triggering her (some would say severely handicapped) survival instincts. Her stomach dips and she feels cold sweat trickle down her back - this is hardly the first time she has ever been in danger, but that doesn't mean that she has become inured to its effects. She feels it still, the rush, an absent note clinging to her brain, that she feels the most alive when she's just about to die.

Only Jane looks scared herself. That makes her feel a little better.

But not much.

"M….my name is Zatanna," she says, her voice working around a squeak. "Zatanna Zatara. Zee. I'm…" A friend? "…I know Bucky Barnes and Peter Quill. Peter he….he broke into your apartment and he told me it looked like something bad went down, so he told me. He's kind of squatting in my house and he didn't know who else to tell. I…had no idea who you were, but Peter said you came with Bucky at the New Year's GAC gala and that's when it clicked."

/Oh god, oh god she's going to think I'm insane./

"I opened the portal so Bucky could go and get you," she supplies finally, despite herself, because she is a Zatara, and they are notoriously bad at hiding their true natures; her expression makes it clear that she is /fully expecting/ an averse response. "And when Peter said you could be in trouble, I had to make sure….I'm glad you're fine."

—-

Jane Foster looks terrified.

She's a far cry from that groomed little thing that stood at James Barnes' side that gala ago, reined by the span of his left hand on the small of her back, her white gown and heels and upknotted hair traded down to something far more informal — the scientist is still so tiny, dressed in jeans and some flannel buttondown that betrays her leanness, sleeves rolled up to expose days'-old bandaging still troubling her arms. Her dark hair is let down, one lock pushed anxiously behind her ear, and her brown eyes ring with insomnia.

But she is alive. She is unharmed. She is here, safe and whole, and not butchered into pieces in someone's bathtub.

She does hold a gun, one as tiny as she is, barrel pointed forward, though visibly her finger does not touch the trigger.

Finger off the trigger at all times, James told her, unless she means to shoot.

Jane doesn't mean to shoot. She doesn't want to. Killing someone is the farthest instinct from her little body.

But she holds her ground. She aims the weapon straight, every bit of her stance and the position of her hands precise and perfect. Someone who's been taught. Someone who's been shown how. Tired of feeling like a chased, cornered animal, she decides to defend the last safe place in Brooklyn.

Lips pressed together, her soft features tensed with the firmness of someone on guard, Jane listens.

In the end, Zatanna does not even need to say all she does. Because Jane's eyes widen just to the unmistakable sound of her name. It is really hard to forget a name like /Zatanna/.

It's her. The girl James spoke of. She's so /young/.

But Jane listens on, somewhat incredulously, blinking as all those words go on and on, rambling free of the young woman who looks like she's dressed to go to her next modelling gig, not stalk around vacant apartment buildings looking for dead, reprogrammed World War Two soldiers.

"You," is all Jane says. "He… he told me about you. You… opened the bridge. And you…"

She seems to realize the gun in her hand. On a twitch, Jane lowers it, frowning at herself almost in clear shame, and without anywhere safe to place it, carefully sets it down on the ground, barrel turned away. She pauses for a moment, heart still racing, eyes still blinking, and then without any warning, any invitation —

— steps forward and tries to steal Zatanna in a tight, almost shivering hug. "Thank you," Jane murmurs.

—-

/Oh thank god/.

The surprise that Zatanna feels at the recognition on the other woman's face threatens to be overwhelmed by the sheer, potent, /intense/ relief that floods her insides, a deluge of some warm, whiskey thing that snuffs out the raging paths adrenaline has scoured over her veins and calms the frantic beating of her overtaxed heart. There's a smile - unsure, uncertain but genuinely meant, quivering up the corners of her mouth because the gun /was still there/ and—

…and Jane is putting it away now. Her knees fill with water, or jelly, and they lock slightly together to hold herself up when the weapon is finally tucked away.

"H…he did?" Bucky talked about her? The earlier warmth blossoms outward from the pit of her stomach, spreading over her chest. "Oh, well….yay! Hah hah, that's a relief, I wasn't sure if— "

Jane moves and her arms shift on instinct, and true to those severely handicapped survival instincts, they move to /make room/ for Jane instead of crossing over her like a barrier against unexpected action, like a sane person. As the smaller brunette's arms tangle around her back, the sudden onslaught leaves her breathless, wide eyes - of a blue so pale it occupies the fine line between striking and unsettling - turning down to the top of Jane's head. The embrace triggers other instincts, not all too unique to her, but characteristic of a young woman who is more often than not starved for affection and perpetually hungry for human connection.

So they fold and band around Jane, squeezing her so warmly that she nearly lifts the other woman off her heels. She tilts her head back and lets out a /laugh/, relieved, genuine - a sound that serves to effectively exorcise some of her own accumulated torments.

"This has to be one of the best things that's happened to me /all week/."

Slowly, she releases the good doctor, smiling down at her - yes, young, and recklessly open. She's grinning so widely, the rounded apples of her cheeks scare out the dimple on her left cheek.

"You're welcome, by the way. So does this…I mean, are you /alright/? Are you fine? Who shot up your apartment? Where's Bucky?" Her brows stitch in a faint furrow. "Nobody's after you, is there?"

—-

Dr. Foster, solitary and devoted to science, is not much of a hugger. Awkward, a little work-obsessed, and turned within three years of solitary sciencing into a reserved sort of loner — she's grown decidedly apart from the touchy-feelies.

Yet here she is. Minutes ago, believing she was dead, or about to die, or perhaps lured into something far worse; days ago, surrounded in torrential storm-frost and the lethal cold of an alien world, believing she would never see her home again, would die of exposure lost forever and never found, with no one ever finding her body, ever knowing what became of her; one month ago, left behind, back pressed against her front door, phone knuckled in her hands, left in the wake of a man who held her hostage to fix his cybernetic left arm, who could have shot her between the eyes and erased all memory of his passing, and she should call the police, call SHIELD, call someone, anyone, and tell them, and yet did not —

Yet here /she/ is, and this strange, incredible culmination of her life, blown past her at a velocity too fast to see, follow, or stop, and she just needs to —

— /grab on and hold something/, hold someone, just reach her arms and hug a /girl/ who somehow opened an Einstein-Rosen Bridge that saved her life, that has been helping this entire time, that feels like some invisible but intrusive force in Jane's life before she could even get a look at her face, and who has helped in ways she can't count —

— but even her hug is paltry to the CRUSHING ENTHUSIASM Zatanna returns, grabbing delightedly around Jane and squeezing hard that the scientist widens her eyes in surprise, making a small, surprised little noise when she's certain her feet are about to be pulled off the ground.

The girl calls this hug one of this week's best things.

Finally released, looking a little shaken, but no worse for wear, Jane steps back and lets out a weak, breathless little laugh. "Might have a few broken ribs," she says easily, unable to help a quick joke to try to brighten this dark, chilly apartment, "but I'm fine. I'm — "

There's a barrage of questions. Jane blinks through them. She's used to the one machinegunning them. Not so much the receiving end. "How do you — actually, doesn't matter. I — " She stops at Zatanna's mention of Bucky, double-taking at the name. Steve used it. She means James, Jane thinks. That's right, some people call him Bucky. What a weird name. "He's out — at the moment. But he'll be back. He's fine too. He brought me here. He… shot up my apartment. Long story. He did it to help me." Nobody's after her?

Jane exhales, reaching back to rub a hand against her neck. "We're trying to figure that one out. Think so. My work, actually. Another long story." She pauses. "How did you find me? Does anyone else know? Does anyone know that you're here? Does — wait, Peter Quill was in my place?"

—-

Those large, expressive pale eyes blink at Jane's explanation - that Bucky was helping her by shooting up her apartment.

"….why is it that every solution in that man's life involves a hail of bullets?" Zatanna wonders exasperatedly.

There's a hint of an apology in her grin, sheepish and girlish, taking a step back and sliding her hands in her pockets, a pinky hooking on one of her jeans' black beltloops. "The last time I really managed to talk to him, he mentioned a woman, but I didn't know it was you until I saw the two of you at the party together. I honestly thought the worst, so I went to try and find you immediately. I think Peter was looking for his coat, he's really attached to the thing." An exhausted expression suddenly breaks over her cheery mien. "Not that anyone would /know/ considering how he likes running around /naked in my house/ at three in the morning."

That wouldn't really be surprising to Jane, would it? If anything that ought to confirm that she is talking about the same Peter Quill.

"Anyway I used some of the bandages I found in your apartment…your blood. I used it to find you by scrying - it's a kind of spell where my sixth sense rides the trail you left behind. But don't worry, nobody else knows but me. Peter told me about the apartment but I didn't tell him I was going to go looking for you. I figured with how Bucky is, everything is hush-hush anyway. I may not know much about his life /now/, but he made the fact that he's a very private person plenty clear."

There's a glance out the door, a more serious expression darkening her face.

"Though I had no idea he was more involved with my life than I thought," she confesses to Jane. "Ever since I met him, I wanted to help him, but I had no idea he was wrangled to help me, too. I didn't know he and John knew each other until just a few nights ago when he told me to deliver the book to 'John Constantine' while he was carrying you out of the party."

There's a sidelong glance at Jane, a half-smile lifting on her lips. And because this /is/ Zatanna Zatara…

"He cleans up pretty well," she teases, /without shame/. "I thought the two of you looked /really cute/ together."

—-

'Hekp.'

Bucky had no idea what it meant at first. Once he got a clear moment to look at his phone, he laboriously opened a browser to try to search the term in case it was some sort of new lingo he didn't know. The first result was 'Human Epidermal Keratinocytes, Pooled (HEKp),' which threw him off for another minute, because it sounded like something Jane would actually say.

But she wouldn't say it to /him/.

Then he stopped. He squinted. It's not hekp. It's—

When properly motivated, the Winter Soldier can haul ass. Haul ass in terms of 'crossing from Manhattan back to Brooklyn in a fraction of the time it would take anyone else constrained by traffic, the forward-back, left-right dimensions, and the need to be generally law-abiding. He skimmed rooftops, ran walls, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at a run that nearly knocked down at least a score of tourists along the way.

He only paused, once in Brooklyn, to remember to check something important. Then he was on his way again, following the vein of the BQE down to the place he's stashed Jane.

He only slows once he's scaled up to the twentieth floor, retrieving his compact pistol from his jacket and approaching silently. He gets to the opened door of the apartment and pauses— it's quiet. He waits against the wall a moment, straining his senses to hear…

Zatanna Zatara saying that he and Jane looked /really cute together/.

His expression goes flat.

There is no sound to announce his presence. No hint of him entering— he knows how to move in this safezone of his, how to disappear into its shadows. There's no warning, really, up until a voice right behind and above Zatanna's head inquires, "Did we?" in a tone drier than the Sahara Desert.

His accusing gaze moves to Jane. "You called 'hekp' over this?"

—-

He mentioned a woman? Her?

Now it is Jane Foster's turn to look momentarily pink at the corners, stunned in place, taken visibly aback. "Oh," she blurts awkwardly, "oh, well, I — naked in your house?"

How is it her life has somehow taken so many turns on so many crossroads to crystallize into this — this very moment — where Jane's curse of an overactive mind has her attempting to justify, understand, rationalize a naked Peter Quill running around the house of Zatanna, whom he obviously knows, and she knows as well, as well as James Barnes, and possibly other things she may not even be aware —

"Actually. Don't quantify that. Don't want to know. Do not. Want. To know." Jane makes the smartest decision of her life.

But she does listen keenly to Zatanna's explanation of finding their hideout — a method of scrying. Something she's never heard of, like mysticism crossed with forensic science, but by the way the woman watches and absorbs, it's transparent she's fascinated. Her mind is /starved/. And now she's just learned that it's somehow possible to track a person across New York City with no more than a passing use of old blood. She at least looks relieved to hear no one else is in the know. "Thank you. I'd… if you could keep it that way. And I mean no one else. Just you — being here. It's dangerous. We're talking like shadow government agency sniffing around dangerous. I seriously thought you were — that I was going to have to fight for. I don't know. My life. Or something."

Speaking of which. Jane remembers enough to glance back on the gun — her gun, she supposes — she left deposited on the floor. The sight of it makes her cringe. James won't be pleased if he sees that. She backtracks if just to carefully pick it up, knowing enough gun safety to be very adamant in the way she keeps the barrel pointed anywhere that isn't Zatanna Zatara. She handles the weapon with the clear inexperienced fear of someone who is certain they may just go off on their own — can't be completely trusted.

Glancing back up, slowly recovering the colour back in her face, as well as her bearings, Jane listens on. Listens on as Zatanna describes /James/ as some hingepin in her life. It stuns her to think about it. He always seemed like a ghost these past few weeks, drifting in and out of her life. "I'm glad he's had the help. I… I really am. I — kind of thought I was alone on this. I didn't — I wasn't sure I could believe anyone else would see him that way. It's… it's good to know. It's really, really good. It's a relief."

It's hope. It's a lot of hope. Testament he's not just some killer. He's /not/ what he says he is. Others think him a man too —

"Can I get you something?" Jane asks suddenly, desperate to be hospitable even while hiding out in an assassin's bunker. "We have… beans. Canned corn. And canned — John Constantine? You — oh my god. You know John Constantine too? Why does everyone know John Constantine!"

And the book. And probably the /Nazi/ after the book. And the circumstances of the gala. And John goddamn Constantine!

"OK. Yeah. I need to hear this story in full. Front to end. I'll get you some water at least. And we can —" Jane begins amiably, turning on heel, but does not realize that any good Zatanna comes weaponized, especially with remarks like /looked cute together/.

She stops and chokes on her words. She glances back, stricken, red in the face — and /yelps/, seeing for the first time the sudden James Buchanan Barnes occupying spacetime at Zatanna's back. Right here. Right now. And not looking pleased.

And demanding an explanation for her hekps.

Jane pales with unhappy realization. She sent the text — and didn't send another. She forgot! She —

— looks so sad, standing there, flushed in the cheeks, holding in her both hands the derringer he gave her. "I'm so sorry, James!" she apologizes. "I meant to — I should have told you everything was OK. I got spooked. I wasn't sure — I didn't realize it was your friend. I overreacted. I'm sorry."

There's specific information Jane is deliberately withholding, namely 'said friend let herself in out of concern and scared the bejeezus out of me', but she doesn't share that part, not really having the soul to court the possibility of the Winter Soldier admonishing /a girl/. A /girl/ he somehow knows. Craftily, in her own way, she assumes the blame on her own, perhaps confident she can better disengage it.

—-

"When I found him, he was dying."

Zatanna hesitates, though at the glimpse of the pink flush on Jane's cheeks, she is endeared almost instantly. "I can tell you all about it, if you would like to hear it. If you can get me some water I can turn it into wine," she offers. "I mean, you can probably use a little bit, yeah? Me too, I think the both of us could use a breather. And I'll answer whatever questions you may have about my connection to Bucky. It's pretty bizarre actually, if I knew that it was going to turn out this way, I would have been more insistent in keeping tabs on him." She gives a side-glance towards the door. "Spy organization like SHIELD? I think there were a few members in the gala…plus there were these guys in front of your apartment and they didn't look like police."

She follows the dark-haired physicist out into the rest of the apartment, lifting her hands even as Jane tries to offer her food. "Ah, no it's alright! Really you don't have to feed me or anything, I just wanted to make sure you were fine…" Because if she wasn't fine, she suspects that Bucky Barnes would probably go on a rampage across New York and she considers it her responsibiity to prevent this from happening, though she emphatically does /not/ tell Jane this. "…and the state of your apartment was really worrisome. I— "

Jane reveals she knows John Constantine and she stops. For a moment, she stares at the physicist wordlessly.

And then, she tilts her head to look up at the ceiling, almost accusingly.

"…manipulations of Fate aside," Zatanna begins with a puzzled smile. "Everyone knows John Constantine because John Constantine gets around. Not many people are too happy to see him though, but when they do, people usually listen. It's difficult to explain, but when John shows up, it's usually a sign that something big and serious is about to happen. Daddy mentored him when he was my age, and when I was /that/ age, Daddy sent me to learn from him, so our history's…more involved than most who flitter in and out of his life. How do /you/ know him?" There's genuine curiosity there, visibly reeling still from the coincidence. "I didn't know he knew scientists. I mean, I know Ritchie but he's…unique."

She's about to say more, but this is when Bucky shows up and she spins in unison Jane to stare at the Winter Soldier. There's also a little squeak, her hand lifting to press into her chest.

"Oh, hey Bucky! I was just…Peter Quill told me about her apartment so I thought she was in trouble. I'm so sorry for barging in, I had no idea….I promise I won't tell anyone you or her are here."

Her voice trails off at that, looking between the assassin and Jane's sad expression. Rocking back on her heels, her head tilts slowly to the side, her eyes slipping to the corners.

/So this is what being a third wheel feels like./

"…so um…what would you like to know, Doctor Foster?" she wonders. "You said from front to end? Where would you like me to start?"

—-

Both women react with shock and startlement. The Winter Soldier folds his arms, unimpressed. He stands silent through Jane's apology, and her attempt to take the blame on herself and deflect it from Zatanna.

"It wasn't an overreaction," he finally says, forgiving her for making him cardio-run all this way. "Nobody ever died from being overcautious."

He shoots Zatanna a look afterwards, a look like he isn't fooled at all about what exactly happened here. He knows you did some magic, Miss Zatara. He's confirmed when she confesses to barging in despite Jane's effort to deflect, but there is no admonishment. Especially not when she assures him that she promises not to tell anyone.

He visibly relaxes afterwards. It is perhaps telling that he seems to display this much trust in Zatanna. He doesn't even keep half an eye on her when he walks over to Jane and gently reaches to relieve the gun from her hands. His own linger on hers a moment, holding, before he takes the pistol and looks at it.

"You put this on the floor, didn't you," he assesses instantly. His deft fingers eject the magazine, pull back the slide, and he has a look in. A dry look comes and goes in his eyes, and he turns to take it off to the table. Especially when Zatanna starts talking about 'from front to end' and 'where would you like to start?'

"Sounds like you were in the middle of something," he remarks, as he turns to remove himself to the table at the other end of the studio. "You dolls go ahead and go that."

Who says 'doll' anymore?

—-

Dying, she says.

No other word may well draw Jane Foster's eyes with such intensity. She looks shocked, full of questions she has no vocal power to immediately blurt at once, and… thankful. It stuns her to even imagine James Barnes in such a state — hurt? dying? he's untouchable, absolutely untouchable — but she trusts Zatanna's word. And quietly avows herself in the younger girl's debt, because it seems that if not for her…

"Water into wine?" Jane finds herself asking instead, a bit of a laugh infused in her voice. "Are you serious? You — realize the energy needed for the endothermic reaction to make that possible, right? Like. Quarter a ton of TNT? You're not going to — blow this building up, are you?"

Not that the possibility seems to less fascinate Dr. Foster.

But even passing talk of magic seems to always culminate in one direction: that of John Constantine. Jane should really know better. Should REALLY know better, because apparently a girl able to open, with help of a /book/ an Einstein-Rosen bridge to some new world, should absolutely and OBVIOUSLY know a man like that. She listens intently on the abridged version of his history with Zatanna Zatara. It sounds so uncomplicated put into so simple of words. "So magicians studying with other magicians? Like your post-doc fellowship. Interesting." Of course, the girl has questions of her own.

"I… work with him, I guess?" Jane admits, hoping to make her own answers sound as refreshingly simple. Her face softens with recognition even at mention of Ritchie Simpson. "I like Richard. Nicer than John." A lopsided smile quirks her mouth. "It was sort of a weird happening. Involved a demon. And me. And John almost dying. I saved his life. He might say otherwise, but don't listen to him. Right now, I'm sort've compiling data. Or, was. At the moment, I'm a little… without a lab."

The words are spoken gently, almost with a light sort of humour, but there's no disguising the hurt in Jane's eyes to admit it aloud. She misses her lab. She is not meant to exist apart from it. It's probably gone forever, all of her work with it — and that just. Hurts.

Thankfully, distraction comes in. Or rather, appears, it seems, out of thin air, in the form of one very unimpressed James Buchanan Barnes.

Jane is a five-foot, one-hundred-pound wince. Her distress at worrying him, even in her own negligence, looks palpably sincere, though even at the seams there's little disguising just how /relieved/ she is to see him. A tension that's been underlying her this entire time, left alone in this empty place, with only her nerves and overactive mind to court her. He brings with him a sense of safety, and when the assassin comes close, the woman does not tense.

She watches curiously his easy tolerance — no, more than that, trust? — of Zatanna Zatara, with the surprised fascination of never /seeing/ that before, never with her eyes witnessing the Winter Soldier engage others outside her lonesome, attention only broken when he comes close to take the gun off her hands.

His hands touch hers for a moment longer than necessary. It draws up her dark eyes, and for that same moment, Jane is captivated. Then he knows she left the gun on the floor. The woman sighs noisily. "Maybe! Where else do you put these things! I'm not putting them in my pants."

But she lets him go, happy to be relieved of the weapon, glancing a little wryly after the man. He calls them both 'dolls' and Jane can't stop her crooked smiling. She gives her eyes a roll before slanting them back toward Zatanna.

"Ignore him. C'mon. I'll go get some stuff for you to serve up a few endothermic explosions." With that, she steps back into the tiny apartment's really-only-significant main room, crouching down by its sparse bedding to grab some unused water bottles. "And call me Jane. And, god, where to start. Good question. We can save the bulk of it for later. Whatever you're up for telling." She pauses, considers. "I guess I wouldn't mind starting on that book I keep hearing about. And the Nazi. And — you opening that /bridge/. And how all this ties together."

—-

'Dolls.' There's a look on the young woman's face. That too, she finds instantly endearing.

Endothermic reaction? Zatanna stares blankly at Jane. "…I don't think I got to that chapter in my Physics class yet," she offers with a grin. "But I promise I won't blow anything up. Here, let me help…"

She takes some of the scattered water bottles herself, moving towards the kitchen with Jane, giving Bucky a wave and a small smile as she passes him while he elects to do what he - or she assumes - usually does; stand vigil and make sure that everything's in order and remains as such. She can't help but wonder whether the man actually sleeps, but in passing, she mouths a few words towards him, gesturing at Jane's back as she moves:

I /like/ her!

And gives him a thumbs-up.

Mention of Jane's encounter with the demon and John dying has her furrowing her brows, but there is no surprise - just concern, of course, and overt exasperation. This must be a regular occurrence to John, but at least /this/ time, he had back-up and she already counts that as a win. "He always /almost/ dies," she grumbles, reaching out so she could turn on the faucet in the kitchen sink for Jane, lingering back while she holds the other bottles. "But I'm thankful that you were there, and that you weren't hurt! Especially since it was your first foray into the dark, to boot. Mine didn't go so well, but I was around six or seven, the year Daddy started teaching me."

Young, almost too young.

"Anyway, I'm…sorry about your lab," she offers, seeing the undisguised pain in the other woman's eyes, her first instinct driving her to try and quell it. "You're a scientist, you must be chomping at the bit to have a place to work. Magicians are the same, it's often crucial to boot. Especially if you're going to be working for John, you definitely need your own space…even by the community's standards, his methods are unorthodox. Some would say crude but…." Her voice trails off, her syllables distant, snared by some shard of memory. "…he respects the craft. So much that he doesn't use it unless it's absolutely necessary."

Whenever a bottle is filled up, she sets it on the table.

"Me, though, I use it every day," she continues. "Little things, little tricks. Nothing too overt that would cause too many ripples, because I can't help but make them if I…unload, even just a little bit, and when that happens people notice and it's safer for me these days not to attract that kind of attention." She taps her index finger on the top of the bottle. "Eniw ot retaw," she murmurs.

Clear liquid changes color, a rich red bleeding from the bottom and seeping to the top.

"The book is called the Liber Consecratus, it was compiled by a saint back in medieval times," she explains, supplying Jane with the answers she wants. "It's a collective repository of knowledge from some of the best mystics of the age and it details a lot of complex rituals. It's considered as one of the books for Necromancy, but its most important function is that it's…kind of like a compass. It details how you can find the answers to any question you want, but you need to know the right questions to ask, and how to read the passages. There's a mystical underlay….like literally reading between the lines. The weight of the book doesn't make any sense because it's in fact two books, and you can really only read the other if you're gifted. John and I basically spent hours figuring out how to read it, we finally discovered that using light in different wavelengths helps, as well as magically shifting the plates around. There's a lot of information in there."

She offers the bottle to Jane so she could sample the contents.

"The Nazi's name is Hanussen, but for a while he was walking around calling himself Gottfried Muller. According to my investigator friend, he's an independent director for INA Germany, some research and development outfit. But he…something happened to him back in World War II and now he can't die. John swears to find a way anyway, but that's his deal. So far though we have absolutely no idea why he wants the book, which is something Daddy needed for some other serious thing he's handling, which was how I got involved in the first place - he vanished in Europe four months ago and I've been trying to track him down since, only that I found out recently that he's been missing because…"

She sighs.

"…he's been cursed. I don't know what the nature of it is, but I can't be in the same space as him. He can't be near me. I'm hoping getting the book delivered to him will help."

She shakes her head. "Anyway when Hanussen threw you in the portal, I managed to get the book away from him. Magic leaves impressions, kind of like fingerprints and if a sorceror is talented enough, she could use those left over impressions to recall the last spell used. That was how I managed to reopen the….bridge….so Bucky could get you out."

—-

I'm not putting them in my pants! Jane huffs. Bucky looks momentarily alarmed, as if he thinks she might. "Yeah… don't do that. I gave you a holster for a reason." And the holster is… probably on the floor. Or under a pile of science.

But soon enough he takes the hint, and takes his leave of their conversation. Ignore him, Jane says; Bucky seems happy to be ignored. He kicks out the chair at the table and takes a seat, his practiced hands taking apart the weapon so he can make sure it's in proper working order.

He only glances up when he feels Zatanna's eyes. I like her! she mouths.

He blinks, glances back down at the weapon in his hands, but she might catch something lurking at the corners of his mouth very like a brief smirk.

—-

"Wait, you gave me a holster?" Jane asks dubiously after Bucky. As if he didn't explain said holster about three times to her already. That answers that.

Then, as if to make her own point, the woman's tunnel-vision attention turns. Jane widens her eyes with surprise. "Six or seven? I was about that age when my father was taking me up Hawksbill mountain to stargaze. You were… fighting demons."

Now that is a juxtaposition that will have her staring up at her bedroom ceiling some nights. What a world. Jane frowns absently to herself, missing entirely the way Zatanna mouths her silent aside to Bucky.

"I'll get over the lab, anyway," she says instead, with false bravado. "I'm not sure how much you know of our… situation? What concerns me more is my work. I've made labs happen in all kinds of ways. I'm adaptable. I just — it's killing me, the idea SHIELD or someone may be going through my things. Though I can't say anything's for sure. It might be fine. All I know is we have to keep up the cover, and there's far more important things at hand." Jane accents those words with a brief, secretive glance toward the Soldier, himself, busily seeing to his vast arsenal of firearms.

"And — magicians are /absolutely/ the same. That's what I've been trying to impress upon John. He wasn't easy to convince at first. It's amazing — magic is amazing. There was a time I would have dismissed it, but the more I'm learning, the more it seems governed by the same laws as science. It's just a matter of organization and translation. It's understanding the same rote concepts, but it feels like through opposing inductive versus deductive approaches." Jane rambles and rambles. She only goes quietly, and very keenly so, when Zatanna gives a quick, introductory lecture on what magic is — watching on as —

Water turns into wine.

Jane's jaw drops. "You're kidding me!" Eyes bright, helpless but to grin, she takes the water bottle and sloshes it curiously, leaning in to sniff at the contents. She balks back at the sharp smell of alcohol. She knocks back a swig —

— and chokes in surprise and delight. "Oh my god!" she blurts, almost dripping her mouthful, having to press an excited hand to her mouth to impatiently swallow it down. "That's wine! That's — that's /good/ wine! That's like, top dollar I can't even afford — James!"

Absolutely thrilled, the tiny scientist rushes over to the table to deposit it down, grinning ear-to-ear. "Try this. Have at it." Jane Foster refuses to horde that particular treasure to herself.

"That is amazing," she exclaims, dark eyes lashed back on Zatanna. "You are amazing."

The topic eventually switches to that book, the same one Jane has heard repeated mention from Bucky. The book that's been the centerpiece of his entire mission. Arms folding in polite interest, she leans back against a wall — not many places to sit — and listens. The woman stares forward, an alertness about her that suggests she's absorbing every word. She only needs to hear things once to remember, so she makes it a point to remember well. Talk of deciphering the Liber Consecratus lifts her eyebrows with interest. "Different wavelengths?" she echoes, fascinated. "Sounds a bit like wave mechanics. Like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Which is uh, means the observer effect changes fundamental properties of the particle — of the book, in this case. It's reacting to being perceived. So the act of just attempting to read it is affecting your outcome aversely. May be needing to find a way to read without reading."

Leave it to Dr. Foster to get all physics about the magic. Her gaze flattens to talk of Muller — of Hanussen. "I heard about the him not dying part. From what little I do understand, well — you can guess I'm no fan of him. And really no fan of him getting that book. So if I can help in any way, count me in. And — your father is missing?"

That stops Jane, looking stricken, cut down to some spot of her own that's — raw. Very, very raw. Not missing. Cursed. The possibility that this /girl/ could be physically removed from her own father, kept separate —

"Quantum manipulation of another dimension?" Jane theorizes. "That's what it sounds like. String harmonic manipulation. I could get into KaluzaKlein theory, but it's just a theory — I mean. I'll try to help with that too. If you want me to. It's the least I could do. With the /bridge/ you made — and we absolutely someday have to go over that together, I'm not getting it go, maybe when this is settled — but I'm absolutely in your debt."

—-

There's a laugh, and it feels /good/, when Jane expresses her excitement in water turning to wine, and she ends up /not/ blowing up the building. "It's will and memory," Zatanna says, curious as to how the physicist would explain it in the terms of her world. While John seems to have been easily dismissive, the young woman - rather due to the fact that she's impressionable, or because she's also taking Physics in the university - seems much more open-minded towards the brunette's theories. "I might have to ask either you or my friend to explain all of this to me sometime," she says with a laugh. "I'm a Physics novice…really! My friend's a lot better at it than me, I think I'd probably fail the course if he wasn't such a good tutor. But yeah, it's…yeah. I'm glad you think I'm amazing! It's about time /someone/ appreciated me!"

The last is said with a jest and she's all smiles, watching Jane trot over to the Winter Soldier to hand him a sample of the wine.

She moves, hitching herself up, perching herself on the edge of the counter and letting her fingers curl on the ends of the granite.

"Daddy taught me a long time ago that memory is magic also, and it can be a powerful one if used right. So in this one, I just used my will - belief that water will turn to wine, the memory of my favorite bottle and how it tastes, and the words to focus them. I'm not sure how to explain it in uh…science terms, but that's how I did it. Most of my education in my early life came from my father, but when I got older, he shuffled me off to learn from others - Sargon the Sorceror, Doctor Thirteen, Baron Winters… they all occupy the same plane of magic Daddy does, but a couple of years ago, he sent me to John to ground my expectations. He's good at that, I'm pretty sure you noticed. He doesn't do it delicately, but I liked that about him…he's straight with you when it comes to the risk."

The offer of her help has her grinning. "I wouldn't turn it away," she says. "I'm sure you already know it's dangerous, but considering I've spent the last few weeks trying to convince everyone I know that I can take it, I'd be being hypocritical if I discouraged someone to do the same…so game on. All this stuff is pretty big, more than one person can handle. And…"

She hesitates.

"….when my father disappeared, he got called away at the dead of night," she says, her voice softer, more far away as her eyes fix on a wall past Jane's shoulder. "I learned never to ask about them, he gets them when things are serious. Apocalyptic serious. That was four months ago and I haven't been able to see him or hear from him since. And then John shows up later after…well, I haven't seen him in months, he had to leave Daddy's employ very quickly, but I mentioned earlier that whenever he comes to someone's door, something serious is happening, yeah? I don't think it's a coincidence."

Her fingers squeeze into the stone counter.

"I'm not…big on collecting," she says finally. "Debts and all of that. I like…I have a fondness for things and people who are lost." And one doesn't need a Psychology degree to conclude as to why. "So…if you're working with John, if you can help him, that's enough for me. He doesn't have many people that he can trust, most days all he has is Chas and until most recently, me." Again. "But three people won't be enough, for the things that John tangles with when he gets involved."

—-

Bucky glances up when Jane runs over bearing a gift of wine in a water bottle. He takes it, bemused, has a sniff, then a sip.

Jane resumes talking with Zatanna before he can comment or give it back. Left with the bottle, he looks at it pensively.

By the time the women look at him again, the bottle is drained. Its rapid disappeance might have been spurred by hearing Zatanna and Jane agree to protect John in the same way he and John agreed to protect Jane and Zatanna.

Not that he shows it outwardly. Nor any effect of the wine. He just works on, grumpy.

—-

Will and memory, Jane thinks. The possibilities astound her. Magic is no more than the work of an internal process done on an eternal object?

Constantine told her it's inevitable she would court disappointment, even resentment, to realize magic and all things inherent to it may never be explained or codified by scientific law. And Jane Foster, in moments like these, can't think anything but just /how wrong/ that /dumbass/ can be. It all feels so familiar, the same but not, science fact just told in different words, in a language that is not yet parsed in some universal tongue… and what if it can? What if it is? What if it is all essentially just math, two world that, in the end, must join together?

She listens intently to Zatanna's imparted knowledge. This is priceless to Jane. "I think we have a future of coffee dates ahead," proposes Dr. Foster. "Because I want to hear everything about it. Hell, I'll help you try to make scientific sense of it all, or do the best I can. So magic essentially has its own realm? Its own dimensional boundary?"

Then Zatanna gets into her beginnings with John Constantine. Jane tugs on a good-humoured smirk. She recalls the long, very, very long lecture he gave her in her car: pitting her to the choice of being drawn into his work or having an convenient last chance to escape the certain danger of his orbit. "Yeah, he is pretty much that about the risk. Still, I'm having a hard time imagining you working with him. He's so… eh. And you're so… not eh."

She handwaves eloquently. You get the gist.

"And I've heard more than enough when it comes to warnings of danger," Jane replies, with a touch of a smile, her voice warm. Her eyes meander towards Bucky of their own volition. She takes in him, there at the table, empty water-turned-wine bottle beside him. Her gaze creases. He did not just empty that entire thing. "Some things are worth danger." She looks back on Zatanna. "But, seriously, I mean it. Any friend of James is a friend of mine. You're ever in need of help, I've got your back."

The tiny woman pulls straight from her lean, rubbing a bit unsurely at the small of her back. "And, yeah, apocalypse. I've heard… bits about that. From John. He didn't exactly use that word, but they were along those lines. Like 'big' and 'not good.' Either way, it seems to have him spooked. Once I get back to my lab, get back to my servers, I'll be able to pull my weight on this. I'm not even sure what it is he's looking for."

Either way, it seems obvious: Dr. Foster is more than eager to be a part of this. More than eager to lend her strange, scientific aptitude to a fight that seems to be contained in transcendent natural law. But instead of phrasing this as a debt, Zatanna poses it more as — a reciprocation of caring. Of friendship. And asks Jane, in her own way, to keep an eye on John Constantine.

Jane looks at the younger girl, head slightly tilted, eyeing her in a new light. Even for semi-awkward tunnel-vision scientists, her feminine intuition has been triggered. This sounds like caring that goes far, far past friendship. Far, far past some magician's tutelege. How old is she? Twenty? Early twenties at the most? How old is he? Thirties? Got to be thirties. Thirty-five? And definitely been around: she totally saw a poster of him /singing in a punk band/.

Are they —?

"I'll keep an eye on the smartass," Jane promises.

—-

"And I've got yours," Zatanna tells Jane with a smile. "Any friend of Bucky's and John's is a friend of mine, also. As for coffee dates…."

The raven-haired magician laughs. "Well, you're a scientist, right? Experimentation and data collecting,? We should just bring the coffee and find someplace to work, if that's something you're interested in doing. I can be your guinea pig and I can explain as much as I can, and you can….I don't know. Put instruments on me and stuff, whatever you like. To tell you the truth, I don't…." She shifts, looking slightly uncomfortable. "There are things about me I don't know myself. Daddy refuses to tell me anything and I know there's something, otherwise I wouldn't be attracting this much attention from people I'd rather /not/ attract. So maybe you can unravel my mysteries too. It'd be fun!" Really?! "And productive!"

And this is how the world ends.

As realization dawns on the Winter Soldier that /even more mistakes are being made right now/, Zatara's daughter laughs, rubbing the back of her neck in a self-conscious fashion. "Well of course I'm not ehh, I'm a lot prettier than he is," she quips gamely. "John's an acquired taste, but he's extremely competent. I was only his student for two years but I learned a lot, even caused me to make some life choices I wouldn't have made otherwise."

Like the time she followed him to the Gorgon Club, which prompted her to quit meat and cheese /forever/.

At the tilted head and the inquisitive look, her voice trails off and the young woman can't help but stare sidelong at the refrigerator. Female intuition is what it is, and she has a few guesses as to what that expression is probing. She wonders if she should just address it and answer the question in those large, dark eyes.

They are. And they aren't.

They are most /definitely aren't/ in a couple of ways, the remembrance of which makes her unconsciously crush the water bottle in her grip, remembering the screaming letter she sent her father. As she inwardly sobs at the state of her poor loins, she ends up grinning at Jane instead.

"We can talk about any potential apocalypses later as that's probably going to be a little bit involved," she offers freely. "John and I devised a way to maybe give all of us more direction on what's coming, but he's yet to test it. We'll definitely need to talk about it at length, once you're free again. Anyway, I should probably get going. Here…" She offers a white card to Jane, unsure as to whether or not she's got a phone while they're hiding out, but at least it's something:

Zatanna Zatara
Mistress of Magic, Princess of Prestidigitation

And a phone number.

"….I do stage shows also, but I don't use real magic in those. Anyway that's how you can reach me if you ever need anything. Anything at all, so please don't hesitate to call me, okay?"

She hops off the counter at that.

—-

And so the pact is sealed, and thus is formed: the Fellowship of the Ridiculous Dumb Men.

Though it seems not to stop there, as Zatanna "Good Ideas" Zatara comes up with an additional proposal, one that has Dr. Foster all eyes and ears. "Something I'm interested in doing? Is that how you phrased it? You just propositioned me with the, what, possibility to do free rein /testing/ of you and your inherent magical ability? Like no boundaries? No borders? Pure research? Pure /study/ and /manipulation of variables/, and you ask me if I'm interested in doing it?!"

Jane has the pride or vanity or self-consciousness enough to look somewhat offended. "Of COURSE I'm interested! You have no idea what you're /offering/, and I promise — no, I offer to you as /graven fact/ that I'll answer some of your questions. Once I get back to my lab — once everything's straightened out —" and she refers to James, his /life/, and her new vow to help him reclaim it, " — we'll be in touch."

But with chat of John Constantine, Jane certainly — gets her own ideas. Dubious ideas, but ideas nonetheless. Something to think about for later —

— as Zatanna crushes a water bottle in her own dark frustration.

"Definite raincheck on the apocalypses. Apocalyptcii? Whatever. I'm not even down with the word in a single form," Jane babbles, pressing a light smile to her face. It's difficult to think so far in the future when her current life is being lived out of an abandoned, vacant apartment, care of an amnesiac, possibly ex-assassin worried about her safety and well-being. But she tries. "I'll definitely stay in touch."

The younger girl extends a card. Curious, Jane steps forward to accept it, eyebrows raised as she reads the text. It quirks up the corners of her mouth. It's cute. "Stage shows? For real? With the bow ties and rabbits?" She pockets the card, making a mental note to text Zatanna later tonight, if just to share her phone number. The more colleagues, the better — though she's certainly amassing a strange share of them.

With that, Jane lingers to hover near the table, still full of guns and a metal-armed soldier among it, perhaps developing her habit to want to stay close, her eyes turning a gentle, pensive glance down on James before they shine back up on Zatanna — her newest friend, she supposes. "I understand," she says to her mention of leaving. "Thanks for stopping by, and — uh, sorry for the weird… greeting I gave you." With the gun and all. "I really appreciate you wanting to check up. And I'm really glad I got to meet you."

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