The Rare Social Scene

April 12, 2017:

A rare dinner out with another couple has John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes and Dr. Jane Foster talk about their impending hunt for an immortal Nazi sorceror in Germany, as well as the end of the world. But they also talk about capes and dancing, and there's alcohol involved. It counts.

E&E Grill House - Manhattan - New York City

A grill house in Manhattan.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Red Robin, Captain America, Phil Coulson, Jessica Jones, Papa Midnite, Giovanni Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's generally easy to make plans with friends, but not follow through, especially with the small circle they've managed to build together within the last few months, constantly in the move and embroiled in some manner of conflict or trouble. Zatanna, however, hasn't forgotten, and while it has been a few weeks since she and Bucky had this conversation, that it would be, perhaps, about time the four of them sat down to talk about impending, important business in a more comfortable social setting, she had called Jane to ask her which day would be good for her and her soldier to meet her and John for dinner…and whatever dietary restrictions they may have.

In the end, she makes reservations at the E&E Grill House in downtown Manhattan, on West 49th Street; well-sized but decidedly unpretentious, its interior is modern and minimalist, made cozy by dark wood and crimson accents. Booths dominate the front of the house, while tables are located at the back, and further still are private rooms separated from the rest of the dining space by pale curtains. It is nothing like the last place she had gone out to dinner somewhere in New York, in the stunningly decadent confines of the exclusive Abyss Nightclub, but the smells that dominate the restaurant more than make up for it. Notes of meat dripping into aromatic wood permeate from the kitchen, the lighting within is low, set for an appropriate dinner ambience, and the space is filled with the hubbub of a hundred different conversations - all in all a typical weeknight dinner crowd in New York City.

It is quieter in the back, though their table is not set in any of the private rooms as expected; typical of the young woman, really, who thrives in the human element of the places she visits. She isn't the sort to isolate herself from the rest of civilization, given her characteristic tendency to gravitate to where there is the most life. She has elected to address privacy concerns by way of a small glass bottle that she has set in the middle of the table, with a small iridescent candle within, a method that John would find familiar, given the glass object that he has in his possession, the thing that enables him to send out aa signal to Giovanni Zatara, no matter where he is.

She is quietly conversing with John whenever Bucky and Jane arrive, grinning broadly at something he says just before her ice-blue eyes wander upwards, expression lighting up immediately when she sees them. "Jane! Bucky!" She's up in an instant; the onset of Spring has allowed her to diversify her wardrobe again, dressed in a long-sleeved, short black spring dress with a cherry blossom print crawling up from the hem and knee-high boots, hair gathered up loosely at her nape and done in careless loops. She reaches for the petite physicist first, giving her a warm hug should it be accepted, and another for Bucky in turn.

"I remember you like steak," she tells the latter with a humored look. "So does John." To Jane, she grins. "I promised Bucky I'd introduce him to eating places he's never been before, so here we are." A slightly aggrieved expression falls on her face. "Believe me it wasn't easy to find a steak place that also offers decent seafood, though just smelling the place is making me wonder whether I'm ready to move on from my vegetarian lifestyle."

—-

John's default wardrobe travels well, which is in fact one of the reasons he began to dress that way; one never knows where a professional life like his will take him with little to no warning. Button-downs and slacks open doors.

He's caught up in telling Zatanna some story or other when the rest of their party arrives. " — still a rabbit after all of this time. You'll get to meet him one of these days, but he's sensitive about his…" That's when Zatanna's eyes bounce away from the table, spotting Barnes and Foster, and he leaves that story aside to rise as well. For an ornery, cussed human being, John has excellent manners…which one assumes owes itself more to his country of origin than anything else.

He confirms that he likes steak with hands splayed palm-upward and knitted brows, an expression that reads 'obviously,' disregarding any alternative. And then he can't quite pass up the opportunity to rib Zee when she dips her toe into speculations about her diet, cocking a brow. "You should. It's been years, 'tanna, and it only took you what, a month?…to get that stuff out of your hair. After three you could barely smell it anymore."

He glances at the other two, gestures at the table. "We held off on ordering drinks in case the table wanted a bottle. I hope you appreciate what a sacrifice that was."

—-

Dietary restrictions on the part of Bucky Barnes: zero. The only actual restriction he might bring, in terms of finding an appropriate dinner spot, is the necessity of finding a place that would feed him sufficiently. Bucky was quite affronted to find that even in this time of absolute plenty— compared with the scarcity with which he grew up in the Great Depression— there are some places which seem to find it fashionable to ignore the abundance to which they have access, in favor of serving tiny fashionable plates of 'not very much at all.'

This is unlikely to be a risk at the E&E Grill House. Bucky looked it up on Yelp on the way over, because being old doesn't mean you have to be out of touch.

He's still laughing at some of the more uppity reviews when he escorts Jane in the door. Like John he's dressed in a button-down and slacks— men's fashion doesn't really change like women's fashion does— though his tip more towards the old-fashioned in cut, and he's wearing a hat which he removes on entry into the building. "What in the hell is a shallot citronette anyway?" he asks her, puzzled, as he sleeps his phone and puts it away. …okay, so he might still be out of touch on a few kinds of things.

He spies John and Zatanna a moment later, and steers Jane towards them, letting her go so Zatanna can give them both hugs in turn. "I like anything," he says, "though steak's always a safe choice." He ushers Jane in to her seat first, pulling out her chair for her, before he settles into his own. An indulgent smile crosses his features as Zatanna bubbles about introducing him to places he's never been before, his eyes flicking down to the menu set at his place.

"And you're acclimating me to twenty-first century prices also, I see," he observes. "I could pay two months' rent with this, back in the day."

He glances back up as John expounds on their great sacrifice of 'holding off on drinks.' "Well don't let us be the cause of any further suffering," he says, canting his head, amused. "Bottle. Let's do it."

—-

"It's a salad dressing," Jane's voice fills the restaurant's entranceway. Hugged along onto Bucky's elbow, no doubt offered all genteel-like since since their step up from the trains, she leans her chin on his arm to peer over and down into his lit phone. She can't help but hitch up a sharp smile. "You put it on salads. A salad is a bowl of mixed green vegetables. Were salads invented for you?"

She laughs at herself. She thinks she's a riot. "You should try it, though. I think they squeeze orange into it."

Pulling off a coat, it appears Dr. Foster has taken her own pains to rhyme with the atmosphere, and not look like a total slouch on the arm of her boyfriend. It might be something of a surprise, to those who've only ever seen the woman in jeans and some wrinkled t-shirt, vanity left behind between one of her countless work binges —

— but Jane can seriously clean up. She's in a spring dress of her own, the fabric and cut as delicate as she, something that's all cream whites and pale blues. Rubbing a little nervously at one of her bare shoulders, no doubt feeling slightly more exposed than she's used to, the woman follows Bucky's escort, glancing around curiously until her eyes catch Zatanna and John at their table. Her face lights up immediately.

Let go by Bucky in time to be swept into a hug, Jane absolutely, furiously accepts it, tip-toeing slightly up even in her heels to wrap her arms around the taller Zatanna and to crush the woman close. "I missed you!" she blurts over the din of the restaurant, pulling back only to get a better, more indulgent look into her face — it's good to /see/ her, real, whole, here — before letting her go to see to Bucky. Lingering, she flares a quick, greeting smile to John, real affection softening her eyes, before she's ultimately guided by a very old-fashioned boyfriend to take her seat at the table.

Jane's smile crooks tellingly; a private joke, no doubt, of her continued amusement to be living with someone so strict with his old world chivalry. It's still new to her, strange, amusing in some ways, even endearing in others. She finds herself tolerating it until the inevitable fights for the car keys.

"I'll probably join you on the seafood," she asides to Zatanna — let the boys have their steaks — before letting out a genuine laugh against John's valiant sacrifice. "I'll find a bard to sing your tale of despair and woe. I mean, bards probably exist, right? Everything else does. There's giants and elves and dwarves, so I'm hedging bets on real life dungeons and dragons."

—-

And it only took you what, a month? …to get that stuff out of your hair.

"Aaaaaand suddenly I can't eat meat again," Zatanna says to John, throwing him a look. "Are you doing this on purpose? Because I feel like you're doing this on purpose."

The crack about twenty-first century prices has the young woman groaning towards Bucky. "Don't remind me. Every time you mention one-dollar somethings, I cry a little bit on the inside. Did they still riot about sales taxes in your time?"

Jane's enthusiastic hug is returned in spades. She laughs, pulling back once she's able, grinning broad enough to show her teeth. "I missed you too!" she exclaims. "You look great, I like your dress!" She means it, despite her seeming aversion to color, preferring her blacks. But then again, she's much younger than the rest - maybe the goth thing is just a phase before she starts interjecting color back into her clothes again. Letting go of the smaller woman, she retakes her seat next to John.

"Oh good, I'm not the only one. I hear they grill a mean salmon," she suggests to Jane, letting the men figure out the alcohol situation. The physicist's crack about bards has her letting out another laugh. "Well I mean…if Thor's around, you would think. Asgard might have bards, and I can definitely attest to dungeons and dragons actually existing." She has a dragon pearl sitting in her bedroom shelf, a gift from John - presumably one can't get one of those without an actual dragon to create them. "And there's this magic nightclub here in New York that keeps an actual cockatrice in its vivarium."

She seems keen on the idea of a bottle for the table, though. "Two, I think," she says, because of course she's about to get everyone else drunk immediately. "One red, one white?"

Turning her ice-blue eyes to Bucky and Jane, she links her fingers on the table. "So what have the two of you been up to? You both ready to cross the pond with us? I figured we'll be leaving soon."

—-

Apparently the conversation about the wine already took place with one of the nearby waitstaff, who happens to be looking attentively at the greetings ongoing at the table. John catches his questioning gaze and with a couple of short gestures communicates the order for one bott — make that two bottles of wine, one red, one white, and then holds Zatanna's seat for her. Jane gets a wink for her sharp little smile, and then John drops into his seat and adopts a lazy posture within it.

Zee gets a sidelong look. "What?" He feigns innocence well, for someone who probably has very little idea of what it actually looks or feels like. Settling, he shoots Bucky a look and mouths the words 'a mean salmon," expression dry, wryness held just behind that thin veneer.

Zee asks the question of the hour, though — about everyone's readiness to go on that nazi-hunting expedition — and so he lapses into silence, lacing his hands loosely with his elbows on the arms of his chair.

—-

It's a salad dressing, Jane explains indulgently. Were salads invented for you yet?

Bucky turns the most deadpan look on Jane in the history of deadpan looks. "Of course we had salads, Jane," he replies. "We just had to go out in the backyard and handpick it for ourselves. And get there fast before the neighbors got all the dandelions."

He falls silent as she mentions they squeeze orange into it, however. What a luxurious future, where an orange can be used up just to juice up a salad dressing!

He lets Jane go presently, however, so that she and Zatanna can exchange a really adorable hug, ushering her into her seat afterwards and taking the one opposite John. Did people riot about sales tax in his time? Zatanna wants to know. Bucky's mouth quirks in half a grin. "Sales tax? Didn't have any state sales tax back in my day. There were other plenty of other things to riot about, though."

He's momentarily distracted as the waitstaff takes their orders on drinks— Bucky slips in an order for a bottle of bourbon for himself after the the wine order, presumably because he doesn't want to drain through all the wine for everyone else— and looks back in time to catch John's meaningful glance and derisive wordless commentary on 'a mean salmon.' He shakes his head in mute empathy and agreement, in the quintessential gesture for 'no accounting for taste.'

The mood sobers a bit, however, as Zatanna gets them down to business. "Ready as we'll ever be," he says. "Things have finally slowed down, for the most part." No mention of his and Jane's extracurriculars in Virginia, but then no need to mention those— nor any of Bucky's numerous other murderous side-quests.

He glances sidelong at Jane, however, a brief look that contains in it a wordless query about whether to mention what Coulson had to say about international undercurrents.

—-
"Magic nightclubs," Jane echoes, not dubiously, but needing to repeat the words to give it all proper wonder. "Cockatrice." The more she knows.

She pauses, and glancing sidelong, makes a face. "And no sales tax. Out of the three, that sounds the least believeable to me. Seriously, no sales tax at all? I guess there really isn't much to tax on the Oregon Trail."

Settling in, the woman confirms with an adamant nod on the wine order — give her the wine, all the wine, please — pretends very conveniently that John Constantine isn't knocking salmon, because, seriously, what does he know, and instead focuses on Zatanna's questions. She considers venturing on the more honest half of what they did — they were out of town, and did, at first, go for her to show James her hometown, to then to locate his nearby surviving family. It as only after that when they decided to…

But Bucky speaks before she can, glossing well over everything. Jane lets him have the lead on that, confirming it with a patient smile. "Definitely ready. I've been keeping myself busy with a few projects, but nothing so much that will keep me away. We're all yours."

There is a pause, then, transparently, as Jane catches Bucky's glance. Her dark eyes read fluently the question couched in his expression, and she presses together her mouth, considering. First, she glances transparently around, aware of their public seating, before —

— well, Jane pauses in quiet reminder. She's in the company of two magicians and a world-renowned spy. If there was not some silent consent on privacy, no one would be here, asking serious questions that anticipate secretive answers. Certainly either between John or Zatanna, there has to be /something/ in place to keep eavesdroppers at bay. Obviously enough that she feels silly to ask out loud. Time for leaps of faith.

In the end, it's /John and Zatanna/, so Jane reaches to curl her hand over Bucky's in wordless decision. They need to know. "We, well — should disclose something that we learned. One of the higher-ups at SHIELD spoke to James about an, uh, international dialogue going on now about him. About the Winter Soldier. Apparently our government is trying to smooth over, I don't know, whatever the hell might be going on. Extradition orders. Something." Unease thins out her voice, and her hand tightens over Bucky's without her even realizing. "James was advised on ways to play along. It puts a strain on travel, at least in any sort of official capacity."

—-

John is quiet, but he looks perfectly content in that silence — more than, really, given the way pale blue eyes glitter with open humor at the banter that whips around the table. Jane's continuing inclination to poke fun at Barnes' age, everyone's astonishment at the thought of no such thing as sales tax — with which he agrees, clearly, although it's not called that in the UK.

Jane's bewildered interest earns a flash of a smile. "Yeah. Cockatrice. It's a bird." Pause. "…sort of." His smile tilts over more exclusively to one side of his mouth. "An' you can't possibly be surprised by the thought of magical nightclubs. You didn't really think magicians would stoop to letting the hoi-polloi sweat on them, did you? This may come as a surprise, luv, but most magicians are elitist pricks. Something to do with being able to bend the laws of reality on a whim, I imagine." He lets his crooked smile flourish. "Well, Not us, obviously." Meaning he and Zatanna. The smile is wide, sharp, sharkish enough to show that he's aware including himself tests the limits of that claim's inherent truth.

They're ready, they say. "Good! Well past time to put a lid on this, and after a full winter in New York I'm ready for a chance of scenery." Limbo doesn't count, apparently.

But there's somber news, too, and John's easy air tempers, his gaze growing intent, focused beneath the ghostly suggestion of knitted brows. "Extradition," he repeats, a more or less neutral word containing thin threads of incredulity. Rather than elaborate or pry, he glances at Zatanna, gestures between them. "'tanna can pop open a hole and we can pass right through, no security screenings required. Which is probably for the best, as your bloody arm would cause a scene. They nearly threw me in a gulag for for having a pair of tweezers in my pocket once."

—-

I guess there really isn't much to tax on the Oregon Trail.

The ribbing Jane gives Bucky earns Zatanna a broad grin, leaning back against her chair as she watches her and the Winter Soldier from the other side of the table, though before she can speak, the waiter returns with two bottles of wine. The obligatory round of orders begin and true to form, she asks for the grilled salmon, already reaching out for the bottle of white, unless Bucky or John reach out for it first given the demands of gentlemanly etiquette. There's a surreptitious wink at Jane.

Jane would not need to ask, really, and given that prodigious mind and the fact that she knows these two rather well, she'll eventually see that small glass bottle in the middle of the table and its iridescent candle, muting their conversations to the outside world unless allowed by Zatanna or John, hence why either of them converse with the waiter first to open the door so he can get them what they need for dinner. Otherwise, their secrets are safe here, without having to isolate themselves from the rest of the world - clearly the raven-haired witch's lingering desire to have a taste of a normal life, now and then, even when her company is hardly that, and neither are the subjects they are discussing. It's enough, to be out in the town with friends and her…

There's a glance at John sidelong. After everything else that has happened in the last few days, boyfriend barely describes him anymore.

Though the sharp smile that dominates his features causes her to roll her eyes playfully to the ceiling, though she manages to agree with him anyway: "It's true," she says solemnly enough, though there's a laugh. "I think Jane's very well aware of it now, with the way they wrote back then and still write." She had warned the physicist before pouring books into her apartment of the very thing - that magicians are an egotistical lot, and it shows with how they describe the world around them. All the pretention, the disdain.

But at Jane's quiet disclosure, her brows furrow faintly. "Either that or we take a private aircraft to ease the suffering, but teleportation is a more efficient solution. We don't have to worry about going through security for equipment, either. That doesn't really address the problem of…you know. Bucky operating there. If a camera spots him, he might get red-flagged right away." To Bucky, she adds: "It might be enough to pop a glamour on you that you can don and remove at will, and I can transfigure false identification also. It's not hard, I do it all the time." Evidenced by the fact that despite her age, she is drinking out in the open.

—-

"Jane," Bucky explains, with a specific sort of level, tolerant patience that sounds like it gets a lot of use, "I did not go on the Oregon Trail. That was at least seventy years before me."

But he catches that brief look of consideration in her eyes. He's normally a man inclined to intense privacy for obvious reasons, but something about that look brings him to accept her inclination to open up, just a little. Just about the mundane parts. "We were down in Virginia a while, actually," he says. "Family. Hers and mine. I guess I'm a great… great-uncle." He grimaces, doing the mental math, looking at Jane. "Actually, the great-great nephews and nieces are your age. They have children. Great-great…great uncle." He sighs. "This is why I didn't wanna go find 'em right off."

John's remarks on most magicians being elitist pricks 'cause they can bend reality at whim elicits a snort of a laugh— after this long dealing with John and Zatanna's weird world of magic and the occult, Bucky has formed some obvious opinions on magicians and their egos about their power. The amusement doesn't last long, however, because after an exchanged glance Bucky and Jane decide to disclose one niggling issue brought up by Phillip Coulson. The fact that the Winter Soldier isn't so under the radar anymore internationally.

It's about that time the drinks arrive. Bucky, as expected, reaches immediately for the wine to pour for the others at the table as per their preference. His asked-for bottle of Old Forester arrives a beat later, and unless anyone else expresses interest in it, he starts in on it as Jane elucidates their particular issue. Extradition and the like.

"I do admittedly think it's best to play along," he says, with a sidelong look at Jane. "Whatever you think of Coulson, he's right about it not being a good idea to cause a scene. I'm not interested in making it harder for the President or the Cabinet or whoever the hell's trying to de-escalate my situation to… do just that. I have no doubt there's at least a dozen countries demanding extradition right now and I don't really feel like going back to a Siberian gulag."

He glances back as John and Zatanna both shrug it off, because they can just pop open portals and then magic up some false credentials— even a false face he can activate or deactivate at will. Zatanna's casual suggestion she forges shit literally all the time, in particular, draws a frown. "My work would have been a lot easier with one of you around," he grumbles, apparently feeling a little obsoleted in his professional skills. "But the arm isn't actually the issue, so much." Said arm comes to rest on the table with a solid clink. "They put arrays in it to shield it through metal detectors a long time ago."

He nods at Zatanna. "Issue is all the equipment I need. That and my face getting recognized. So you port us over, put a glamour on me, that'd be perfect."

—-

In a voice of deep, deep suffering, Bucky Barnes academically informs Jane of his failure to join the Oregon Trail. Her replying grin, spreading wider and wider across her face, is evidence enough why she'll never stop making these jokes. His reactions are /pure gold/.

Mention of magicians being elitist pricks earns an abrupt laugh out of the scientist, who self-consciously touches a hand over her mouth in quiet shame over her own noise. But Zatanna touches immediately on the source of Jane's amusement, and she nods along in reckless agreement. "Oh my god, those books! I've had to take some stupid electives in my life, like — metaphysics. By the way, NOT physics. And some stupid seminar on Yeats poems, or some crap. None of it even comes close to those books. There's one — some Snape — what did he keep calling people? Oh! 'Hillysmacker'. I checked — that is not a word. So what the hell! Who even says that!"

As conversation shifts, and James relents to tell both John and Zatanna a very carefully-manicured version of what they did in Virginia — and it's not a /lie/, per se, it's how they initially began, before one night his anger became too much — and she listens on quietly as he discusses the present-day lineage of the Barnes clan. That, in his absence, they're now into the great great generations. Her eyes soften to watch Bucky speak of it, her heart gone out for him — his sometimes difficult-to-even-conceive situation. In a moment like this, all Jane can think is to help the bittersweet sensation of it all with a bit of levity. "It'll work out," she promises, and no doubt not the first time either. "You can tell them what it was like to see tea thrown in Boston Harbour."

The drinks arrive, and old fashioned man that he is, Bucky pours Jane her asked-for glass of red wine. The first glass of many.

And especially when conversation inevitably wanders into something far more serious, and definitely in her opinion, needed to be said. If anything, she trusts both John and Zatanna, with all their abilities and all their cunning, to be able to come up with solutions.

And they do.

"Even if /Agent/ Coulson is right," she retorts Bucky, "doesn't mean I'm going to trust him. Ever. He tried to steal three years of my work just because he /could/. He is /everything/ wrong with the system and watch me not let him barter your life or freedoms away." Rankled, frowning, Jane pauses, then clarifies across the table, "He's some dickhead with SHIELD. He's a /condescending ass/." Who does have a point that she agrees with, but Jane isn't going to say that part aloud.

She christens those words with a third of her wine, drinking gratefully, looking up in turn when it's time for both magicians to react — to reply. John's reaction earns a look from Jane, especially the way he /says/ 'extradition' — her expression answers: I KNOW, RIGHT — and Zatanna's offer of glamours gentles her with undisguised affection. Already they come up with answers, just like that, answers that makes Jane's worldview reel a little with numbing possibility. Magic is incredible. "Thank you," she says. "So much. Whatever protects him."

—-

It would be very, very strange if John didn't express any interest in the bottle of bourbon Bucky receives. He does, and while drinks are sorted he quiets again, more than happy to let the others work out the finer details of their travel arrangements. It leaves him with room to knock back the bourbon — no sipping on his part yet, he's shooting straight for effect before the food has time to arrive, after which point it'll become at least twice as difficult for him to get drunk.

He sets the tumbler aside, slides the glass of wine toward him via the base of the glass until he can loosely array his fingertips over it, and like most of the others tries to wrap his head around what it would be like to realize that your family had outpaced you by generations.

…Easier for him than for some, he supposes. Aside from his sister and niece, there aren't many for him to miss.

"That'll be the easiest part of what we're going there to do," he points out, into Jane's warm gratitude. Because of course. It's John's lot in life to be the bearer of bad news.

—-

There is something about Zatanna's expression that softens and warms when Bucky mentions visiting his family and meeting Jane's, her earlier broad grin tempered with a smile. "I'm glad you were able to see them," she tells Bucky sincerely. "It must've been a very long time since you have, yeah?" She doesn't even remotely suspect that other things have been happening in Virginia, perfectly content with the fiction that he had gotten in touch with relatives whom he hadn't seen in years, met new ones and introduced his girlfriend to them, and likewise with Jane to her own family. And really, it is a relief to hear that after everything that they have suffered that they are doing well.

Jane's words on Agent Coulson has the young magician frowning visibly. "He what?" she wonders out loud, looking especially aghast, ever the emphatic sort; if anyone had just stomped in and took three years worth of work and study, unquantifiable personal investment, she would be furious - and probably turn whoever did it into some manner of mollusk. "I try to give SHIELD and other organizations like them a wide berth. Only when I really really have to approach them that I do." Like the time she looked for Captain America with Jess at his preferred gym in Brooklyn. But then again, that isn't surprising either - her lot are particularly jealous with their secrets, and outfits like SHIELD make it their business to discover and catalogue secrets, and use them to their advantage.

Still, even as John impresses on Jane that getting Bucky to Germany unmolested is the easy part, Zatanna smiles at her warmly, further delineating their differences especially with the two of them sitting side by side. "Anytime. I got your backs."

She draws her wine glass to her, with a grateful smile flashed to Bucky when he fills her glass with her white, electing for lighter fare this evening. "Jess and I can do a briefing when we get there about what we've learned about Steinschneider since then. A while back, Red and I managed to find an entire portfolio full of documents that he just left behind. I guess Bucky and John's interference and what happened in the centennial gala forced him to leave town in a hurry. Also we found out that the Cult of the Cold Flame guys have been tracking his movements….the guys who were using my blood to try and deliver me to Mammon. We don't know why they're suddenly against one another when it looked like they were collaborating with one another just last year, so we might not be dealing with just an immortal Nazi sorceror when we get there. We can cover all of that in Berlin, though. I just wanted to let you guys know about that because…" She glances at Bucky. "You know. You might need to bring more guns, and stuff."

There's a pause, chewing on her bottom lip. "Plus there's other things that're more local that we should probably get into once we're back from Germany." There's a glance to John at that, leaving him a choice to discuss just why he had come to the United States in the first place.

—-

"Jane," Bucky explains again, in that same long-sufferingly patient tone, "the Boston Tea Party was twice as long before my time as the Oregon Trail was. I wasn't there."

A pause, at Zatanna's earnest questions about seeing his family. "I did see my little sister," he says carefully. "Not so little, of course. But none of the rest yet. We'll see when I actually get around to meeting with them. It, I don't know… it's weird." On the one hand it isn't really— the last photographs the Barnes family would have had of Bucky would have been when he was in his mid-twenties, so he wouldn't look markedly different from the mental image of how they've all been raised to see their uncle, their great-uncle, their great-great uncle over the years… but seeing a young man in faded old photographs and seeing him in the flesh, well. Weird.

Something to consider for another time. Especially when Jane gets fired up about Agent Coulson again. "I'm not saying trust him," he says mildly. "Or SHIELD." Probably the only reason Bucky is even having dealings with SHIELD at all is because of Steve, and Steve's only reason is probably Peggy. "But we gotta take precautions."

Which John and Zatanna seem eminently unworried about. Bucky frowns a little as Jane gets earnest about 'whatever protects him'— he's not porcelain, Jane— but in lieu of saying anything, just covers it up by noticing John eyeing the bourbon, and promptly pouring the other man a glass.

He pours himself a second glass, as well, because he feels like he's going to need it for when they get down to brass tacks. He toys with it as Zatanna explains, eyes narrowing as she mentions that his and John's interference probably forced him to leave in a hurry. Good, his blue eyes wordlessly say.

"Sounds like they might've had some kinda deal that went sour when we fucked up his plans," he comments. A grin crosses his face at her mention of 'more guns.' "Well," he says, "they seem to work quite well on pompous magical asses, so I did plan to bring a lot of guns. And 'stuff.'"

The mention of 'other, more local' things has him frowning, however. His gaze tracks over to John immediately, because he remembers John saying something about coming to America for very specific reasons.

—-

"Really?" Jane asks innocently, with the purest fascination, to James Barnes's further lessons in History 101. "That was before you? Are you sure?"

This will never get old for her. Never ever.

She does go quiet thereafter as Bucky shares meeting his younger, still-surviving sister with Zatanna; Jane's eyes are soft, and her silence is encouraging. She likes him inclined to share these things, because some aspects in life are painful to hold in; John and Zatanna, when it comes down to it, she considers in their closest ring of confidence. If anyone else should hear about these things, it should be them.

At least the consensus is not to trust SHIELD. Jane, ever suspicious of authority, and possessor of a raw, rebellious heart, lets some of her nervousness go at the magicians' promise to buffer some of the risk heralding James Barnes making impromptu trips — or making impromptu kills — beyond American borders.

While John Constantine assures Bucky that more trouble awaits them beyond alerting governments of cold war assassins operating on their soil, Jane reaches across the table to cover Zatanna's hand in her own, the touch her silent reply to that 'anytime'. Let the boys be all grim; the optimistic side of tonight's dinner isn't listening!

She listens keenly as Zatanna then gets down to the grit of what's to come. Her eyes mirror a facsimile to Bucky's gruff approval to Steinschneider fleeing. Jane hasn't forgotten her own grudge. "Done and done. James can bring the guns and I can bring the 'stuff'. Speaking of, I mentioned working on projects. I'll put in some extra time, but I think I might be able to make us all bulletproof before we go. If there's any other — any kind of equipment you can think of that you'd like, I can build it."

Jane pauses pensively, hand on her wine glass. "I'll bring some things anyway." She's been busy. She's been building.

As for local things — that reminds her. "I know John and I need to go see Richard soon on that. Think there will be time before Germany?"

—-

The information about the Cult of the Cold Flame was tucked in amidst the other documents Zatanna brought back with her after her investigations with Red, but even though John's heard it already once before, it still manages to tug the corners of his mouth downward, souring his expression in a very subtle way. He glances at her sidelong, and in a gesture more openly affectionate than some might anticipate from a man guarded about virtually everything in his life, reaches to put a hand on her knee under the table. They all have their grudges in the aftermath of the last few months — Steinschneider, Hydra — and John's list includes the Cult, and whoever…or whatever…he saw impersonating Giovanni Zatara.

He holds his peace, though, at least until Jane begins to discuss equipment. "Bulletproof is good. I like bulletproof," he says, speaking up for the first time in some time. "Something for tracking one another would be a good idea. There are ways we could do it, but they'll be prepared for sorcery, right? They're probably not up to date on the latest and greatest in super-genius-and-spy technology. It's better if you handle that end." His smirk is tight. "Don't know about you, but there've been too many instances of one or several of us going missing lately for my comfort."

He brings his glass of wine up for an unhurried sip, flicks a look Zatanna's way, and then meets Bucky's silently inquiring look. Jane puts in her question, and he glances that way, too, and nods once. "Yeah. We should."

Which deserves clarification: "It's local, though not exclusively local. It's happening everywhere, near as I — and my old mate, Ritchie Simpson — can tell." He drills his fingertips on the table once after setting his glass aside. "There's a typical degree of supernatural interference you get used to expecting when you're aware of that kind of thing, and you spend your time tracking it, the way Ritchie does. In the last year, the averages have shifted. All sorts of things have been happening that shouldn't have been able to happen, or at least not the way they have, or as easily as they did. It's…" Momentarily, he looks at a loss. "Inexplicable, thus far. We're looking into it, but we've a long way to go. It's why I came to New York in the first place. I've a lot of contacts here. I needed to muster the troops. Just…" Another rueful, wry look. "Got a little sidetracked." He gives Zee's knee a small squeeze. "Any rate, once this Berlin business is sorted, that's where my focus is going to be. Foster's been good enough to agree to help Ritchie analyze his data. It's too much now for just him to manage." There's a glint of amusement in his eyes, then. "Thought he was going to ask for her autograph the first time they met."

—-

"Bulletproof sounds good," Zatanna confirms, her fingers lacing through Jane's and giving them a warm squeeze. She gives her an answering smile, meant to convey that brief flicker of solidarity. This isn't the first time she's wondered about the parallels running among the four of them, and now that they're actually sitting down together to talk, it is hard not to notice.

There's a hint of curiosity when Jane mentions her 'stuff', though she has her doubts that she'd be able to understand the fruits of the other woman's aptitude with technology until she actually sees what they are. That thought doesn't manage to linger, however, when the warmth of John's hand covers her knee; the responding gesture is almost instinct, the way her free hand drops underneath the tablecloth to fold over his knuckles, to slip fingertips in the niches between surprisingly elegant digits. There's a turn of her head to look at him, though what she manages to find there has her leaning in to press her lips lightly, and briefly, on his cheek.

"Spidey gave me a tracker, but since he's not coming, I can leave that here and use whatever you come up with, Jane," she says, the squeeze on her knee returned with a sweep of her thumb over the back of his palm.

"With luck the situation in Berlin'll be resolved quickly so we can get back here just as fast and look further into whatever else is going on. It's getting pervasive enough that parts of the community are getting antsy, which means a few will start nosing in eventually." Her expression darkens at the thought of it; they don't know much, but considering how the things they do know are shaping up, it's inevitable that said community will eventually be taking sides, and what will already be a small pool of people they can trust will become even smaller.

—-

"I'm very sure," Bucky says, with the most long-suffering air.

But then comes one reason Bucky puts up with Jane and her antics: stuff and things. And being bulletproof. Bucky grins indulgently as everyone reacts quite favorably to that idea. "You envision us coming up against a lot of mages with guns?" he asks. "I thought you people were too good for that kinda stuff. I guess it'll be good against magic comparable to getting shot, though?" He frowns, remembering those fireballs.

John says it'd be a good idea to have something for tracking and communicating, as well. "I'm sure we can work something up there," he says. "Jane can make up the gear. I can keep our movements and activities in general clandestine without the need for bringing magic into it. They'll be sniffing for that."

Honestly, if he were working alone— and if he didn't suspect their presence would turn explosive sooner rather than later— Bucky wouldn't even need the assistance of glamours to avoid cameras or pass undetected. When he wants to, the Winter Soldier can absolutely disappear, dodging surveillance so completely that his very existence becomes little more than unsubstantiated rumor.

But then John and Zatanna get down to the heart of the matter. Namely, that dealing with this mess in Berlin is only the beginning. There's something happening everywhere, something inexplicable but ominous. Bucky frowns. "More world-ending shit, I figure," he says. "It's always world-ending shit with magic, I notice."

Whatever it is, it won't go unnoticed, and the rest of the community will come nosing in, Zatanna says. "I'm not really keen on the rest of your community," he says bluntly. He's transparently thinking about Papa Midnite, and that one owed favor. "All my encounters have been kinda negative."

—-

The eager response to being bulletproof is more than Jane expects; some part of her was even anticipating polite laughter and a very patient explanation that magicians don't need to worry about /those things/. But it seems they do, and very much so, and perhaps Dr. Foster will have more than one use after all. And then even that joke about Ritchie Simpson wanting her autograph. She smiles a bit shyly around her sip of red wine.

"Yeah," she says in confirmation to Bucky. "If they're anticipating you two to go whole hog where magic is concerned, and can somehow… track or sense its use, then they'll be in for a surprise. Unless some of your community prides themselves on electrical engineering degrees. It won't be difficult to build basic things: frequency scanners, signal scramblers, circuit breakers. Trackers are the easiest. I've already made one of those for James's ease of mind."

Leave it to the ex-assassin to want his own Find My iJane app.

Already pensive, no doubt lost in her own mental tally of what she needs to start on — tonight, she needs to binge work at Stark's, get her armor finalized: untested for straight shot? what was the last calibre James tested? — and comes back only at mention of more 'world-ending shit'. Jane listens on, equally fascinated and askance, to hear about Whatever is Happening riling the magic community in the worst way. And James suggests he's not keen on that community at all.

She turns a glance on him, picking up exactly on what is left unsaid. Or who is left unsaid. It's not a topic Jane wants to merit thought about, not here, not now: the talk of owed favours. "Whatever it is," she says instead. "We're all going to handle it. We're going to handle this one. We're going to handle whatever the hell it is after. Weirdest superhero team ever, but I dig it."

—-

'I thought you people were too good for that kinda stuff,' says Bucky.

"Christ no," John says, lips quirked. "Some of the fusty geezers, maybe. Pensioners a few centuries old who like to yell at tube turnstyles and think crushed velvet's still a good look. Midnite carries a big bloody shotgun, last I checked, and a pair of handguns as well, and who knows what bloody else. Because know what's better than magic, or guns? Magic guns, mate." There's a pause, then a shrug, brow cocked as he reaches for his glass of wine. "Magicians are pricks," he reiterates, in case his opinion were not somehow sufficiently beaten into everyone this evening.

He nods his agreement about the uses of tech versus magic, though. "Better to keep a low profile. Better by long shot. Steinschneider will be jumpy."

He does have the decency to look rueful — and grim — as everyone expresses the anticipated degree of excitement about 'yet another apocalypse scenario.' "Yeah, world-ending. Possibly. I watched a member of the Heavenly Host get dissolved by the antithesis of reality, so it'll be full of brand new experiences for all of us, I'm sure." His eyes lid very slightly as he's kissed on the cheek, a gesture that momentarily gentles him, though he takes it very much in stride, wry by the time he adds: "An' I object to being lumped in with the capes and tights crew. I'm not a bloody superhero, Foster."

—-

The mention of Midnite's magic guns has Zatanna frowning visibly. "Still got a bone to pick with that guy," she mutters under her breath, looking momentarily petulant.

The mention of the angel getting eaten by Primordial Darkness - dissolving, really - has her falling quiet again, taking a hefty swallow of her wine, frowning visibly at it. The words are there, but she chooses not to taint the dinner with describing it, for now. Instead, she smirks faintly at John's not-all-that-unexpected remark about the capes and tights crew. "What?" she wonders, all saccharine innocence, nudging his shoulder with her own. "I think you'd look adorable in a cape."

There's a sheepish grin towards Bucky about the members of their community. "Not all of them are bad. Just most of them could be utter wankers." The last laced with an exaggerated accent that sounds more cockney than properly British. "But yeah that's the plan for the most part. Go to Germany, finish the Steinschneider business, come home, deal with this, and then maybe hit the karaoke bar after so John can pay up what he owes me."

It's saying something that despite the emotional turmoil in the last few weeks, she has not forgotten their bet.

—-

They'll be in for a surprise if they're expecting pure magic, Jane asserts. Bucky smiles at her side, and it's not really a very nice smile. "I'm pretty sure magicians, while ready for you two, will have no goddamned clue how I operate. That'll be an advantage, for sure."

His expression turns more indulgent, however, when Jane says she's already made a tracker for herself for his ease of mind. Indulgent and decidedly exasperated, as if the tracker came about because of multiple incidents where 'Find my iJane' would have been very useful indeed… and as if, since then, the tracker has more often than not shown an inclination to wander over towards Hell's Kitchen unsupervised.

The humor leaves his expression as John and Zatanna elaborate on the extremity of the situation. Namely, an angel getting dissolved by anti-reality. Bucky slowly scrubs a hand over his face, exhaling a sigh. "Here I thought I could comfortably settle into my life as a lapsed Protestant, knowing God must not exist after all I've seen," he mumbles, "and here you two come with talk about angels and Hell and shit."

He lowers his hand back to the table and catches up his glass, finishing his drink. "Enough to make me want some magic guns of my own," he says.

Amusement crosses his features again, however, at Jane's talk of superhero teams and John's furious denial of such. "She's got a point," he says, of Zatanna's comment. "We could get you a cape. Put a big J on it, a Union Jack, the works."

He doesn't push his luck there TOO hard, though, letting the conversation turn back to more serious matters. Zatanna's summary brings him to smile. No clue what karaoke is, but— "I'll take you kids dancing after, is what," he says. "Been teaching Jane, she likes it."

Something else occurs to him, however, something that sobers his eyes. "We do have a favor to ask before we all leave, though. Those wards that we had up around Jane's apartment. Prop 'em back up again? There's been some shifty fucker floating around, think he's magical in some way."

—-

Not one usually for staring, and especially in the semi-awkward realm of public displays of affection, but in this case, Jane Foster… just cannot resist. She's a scientist, a student of all natural phenomena, and she can logically group the relationship of John Constantine and Zatanna Zatara under that definition. Today is, in all honesty, the first time she's actually been able to witness the couple together, the way they speak to each other and interact, and all the subtle nuances of their glances and touches. And it's all so… endearing, and she's endeared just to sneak peeks of it, particularly taken by the way John Constantine softens by that kiss to his cheek.

Jane thought she'd never see the day. She smiles to herself, flushed a little in the cheeks, eyes turned politely down, instead indulging in her wine rather than becoming that creepy person who stares too much. It's just really, really sweet.

She listens along to the conversation, mages and magic guns, only losing a bit of that softness from her face at mention of Papa Midnite with his apparent shotgun and other assorted weapons. Again, not wanting to think too long about him, Jane goes pensively quiet, not contributing, and waiting for that topic to pass by. Switched instead to dissolving angels — Jane looks understanbly shocked at that one — and John Constantine donning a cape.

"Third the nomination on the cape," Jane says, happy to make it worse. "Get you a signal and everything. They'll shine a giant picture of a cigarette into the sky."

She finishes her wine with a crooked smile. It only mollifies at Bucky's mention of teaching her dancing — Jane glances down at her lap, smiling with a bit of shyness, probably enough confirmation that she particularly enjoys that. Thank you Zatanna for those records.

Only the more serious topic of the wards brings back up her eyes. Jane looks more than hopeful for this to happen. "Think you could? Something that… keeps people out? Unless we let them?"

—-

"He's on the bloody list," John murmurs, of Zatanna's own sotto remark concerning Papa Midnite. A complicated issue, to say the least, but the houngan of the Northeast is gravely mistaken if he believes there won't be hell to pay — literally — for what he did, not only to John and Zatanna, but now to Jane, as well.

He winces at the couple opposite them in playful criticism of Zatanna's god-awful British accent, and again more genuinely as she mentions karaoke, electing to drain his glass of wine and pretend he didn't hear her say that. "No," he agrees, with Bucky. "They're a paranoid bunch and they set wards, usually, but I don't expect they'll be good at, I don't know, shaking a tail or…whatever you clandestine types call it." It has already been well-established — too well-established, if one asked John — that John Constantine is not particularly gifted at any kind of stealthing around in pressure situations.

No comment on the matter of dying angels, but that kind of thing pales in comparison to the betrayals that suddenly stack up against him as the entire table agrees that he ought to take up wearing a cape, and their suggestions, very specific suggestions, for what should go on that cape, are —

His expression shifts ever-so-subtly, the sort of look someone would wear in polite company if they'd just gotten a whiff of a fart and didn't want to let on that they had, out of politeness, only the fart was apocalyptically bad and their deliberate veneer of polite neutrality were cracking under the weight of such a meaty, rotten fug. "'Strewth," he says, the word dry as the desert sands.

Of course, then they're asking him for a favor, and nobody seems to see the folly of doing those two things in succession, so he brightens again. "'Course. Easy-peasy."

—-

He's on the bloody list.

And how. The way Zatanna's ice-blue eyes narrow and the small smirk that curls on her lips do not promise anything pleasant. Hell had been exactly what was promised, the two months they've spent there, and the fact that Midnite just managed to ruin the one and only date night she's ever had in her life that didn't involve bottles of vodka and Chinese takeout boxes at the beginning of the last summer, had only been exacerbated by the promise he managed to extract from Jane. Her mind backtracks to that discussion about Cedella, giving the man a glance sideways at that. He had hinted at something, but there hadn't been time to ask any questions. Either way, one thing was clear - whatever they decide to do, it's imperative that they mask John's involvement.

There's an appreciative laugh when everyone decides to pile onto the cape suggestion, and John's signature trademark of sheer dismay. "A few more of these and I can magic one out of this here tablecloth so none of you don't have to wait," she says, wiggling her glass of wine in emphasis.

The suggestion of Bucky taking them all dancing has her perking up a little. "That sounds great," she says eagerly, all aglow with youthful enthusiasm at the idea of going out in the town and doing something other than their usual apocalyptic scenarios and getting shot with guns and magic. "Don't let his cool facade fool you guys, John's not adverse to getting on the floor."

There's a glance towards Jane at her beau's hint that she had been taking lessons, knowing precisely what had prompted them. There's a grin flashed in her direction. "I can't wait to see it," she tells her gamely. "I bet Bucky can toss you up pretty high."

Talk about the wards has her retaking her wine glass again, because she, too, sees absolutely nothing wrong with this plan. Then again, is that surprising? One side of the table is squarely taken up by Team Bad Decisions.

—-

John and Zatanna's vehemence about Papa Midnite puts a brief but warm smile on Bucky's features. He knows in large part it's because of what the man did to them personally, but he can also see the rage they both have over what he did to Jane, and that earns his endearment and approval.

Much as Zatanna's gift, a short while ago, did. She shoots Bucky a knowing look, as regards the dancing; he tosses back a wink in answer. Those records came in real handy, the wordless gesture says. "John dancing?" he inquires, with a sideglance shot at the man in question. "This I'm curious to see."

His smile graduates into a laugh when Jane talks about summoning Constantine with cigarette-signals beamed into the sky. Zatanna offers to magic up the tablecloth right then in there. "Now let's not go too far. I have to ask John a favor and I'd prefer to be off the shitlist before I do," he says, with a quelling gesture.

The favor, as it happens, turns out to be an inquiry about restoring the wards. Bucky doesn't know much about Grymalkin, but he knows enough to be distrustful. Not that it's a high bar to clear, getting Bucky to distrust you. He distrusts everything. John agrees readily enough, citing it as easy-peasy. "Great," Bucky says. "Maybe after this."

He vastly underestimates the effect drink can have on the casting of magic.

—-

As before, talk of Papa Midnite keeps Jane Foster quiet, subdued, and a little uncomfortable around the edges, taking pains instead to refill her wine glass rather than join in. Her entire coping mechanism for /that/ entire thing is probably just to think about it as little as humanly possible, which makes it all the more difficult to hear that terrifying houngan mentioned out loud. She drinks it medicatingly away.

Fortunately, when the topic realights to something like 'John Constantine dancing, possibly in front of other people, with her watching', Jane brightens again, her expression dominated by an encouraging smile. Count two people curious to see.

Then Zatanna is eager to see /her/ dance, and Jane loses a little of her composure, looking momentarily deer-in-headlights — oh god, god no, she's not going to somehow survive everything pointed their way for the gift of people wanting her be clumsy on a dance floor — and then offers to magic up tablecloths.

She slips a glance to see how well John might be taking the teasing. It looks to be going as well as Jane feared. She bites her lip and covers her mouth with one hand, because if he sees her smiling to Zatanna's jokes, there might not be any going back from that, and maybe he'll just curse her apartment instead and make her laundry haunted. She doesn't want panty ghosts.

"Thank you, John," she says graciously, sincere with innocent, raw relief when he agrees to help. BECAUSE JANE DOESN'T KNOW BETTER.

—-

The look John has for Zatanna when she offers to magic up a cape is so poignantly betrayed that it's almost believable, though of course he cannot possibly be surprised.

His sniffily indignant, brittle facade in the wake of the teasing remains, absolutely deadpan, as he arches both brows. "We still take pains to learn how to dance across the pond, unlike you American savages, with your 'twerking' and your 'crumping' and whatever the bloody hell else. And," he points out, reaching for the bottle once Jane's done with it to empty the remainder into his glass, "It was a fine excuse for getting cozy with girls, wasn't it? I had my priorities straight as a lad."

He nurses several sips from the glass, then sweeps blue eyes from Jane to Bucky and back again. His gaze twinkles. "'Course. That's just the kind of mates we are, innit?"

—-

"It's the children who are savages with all the twerking and crumping," Bucky says, indignant, because things cannot be allowed to end on this insult. "Dancing has gone downhill! Back in my day people danced properly…"

Etc. Etc.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License