Three's Company

June 08, 2017:

Obadiah Stane and Emma Frost have a pleasant chat with a new friend.

Rooftop Restaurant

A fancy fine dining experience on a lovely rooftop where the stewards rudely spill perfectly fine chablis.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Thor, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

"…and that's how I ended up in the middle of the desert, no idea which side of the border I'm on. I don't speak the language, I'm communicating in stick figures and crude gestures not far from the cradle of civilization and I'm either about to barter for a three legged camel to carry enough supplies to get me out of the desert in two days or, maybe I'm bartering for the right to marry the bedouins daughter. I have no idea which until well after I hand over the cigars I'd completely forgotten were in my backpack from my last little fieldtrip down to Cuba. I tell you what, Emma, the eighties were far out, man."

Dinner had been served some time ago at the little outdoor, rooftop restaurant. The top floor of the Beloria Building was the main restaurant, but weather permitting, the rooftop space was a glory to behold. And tonight, it was all theirs. A private party, outside of the stewards who dutifully attended to their needs. Jovial, relaxed, the conversation had been about the party to a degree, but one thing led to another, and Obadiah couldn't help but spin a yarn or two for his captive audience.

"I sometimes wonder," he begins, as the stewards drop off a small, absolutely decadent chocolate cake, along with two small plates. "…might I have been happier marrying the Bedouin Princess? I certainly wouldn't be cleaning up a lifelong mess all around the world. That's for certain."

Obi will get to the business of serving up desert as the stewards leave the rooftop, and once again, leave the pair alone.


And she is captivated by all appearances, Emma well through nearly an entire bottle of chablis and ready with polite yet amused laughter that easily bubbles forth at the jokes and stories that are offered up as way of entertainment.

"I wouldn't be so certain," the blonde in her strapless white cocktail dress chimes in, with regards to the messes to which Obadiah alludes. "I've heard it said that marriage is fairly synonymous with a lifelong mess, if not the exact definition. You take her traveling and… well. Fate. Not so easily mocked, I suppose."


And so they talk, and laugh, and share amusing anecdotes about days gone by. Regaling his companion, Obadiah Stane effortlessly stands to serve a dish that serves as a delightful symbol of decadence and excess if only it were not so paradoxically small.

They think they're alone. But they're not. Just watch. This is the fun part. See — see when that steward walks up to politely take Emma Frost's bottle of chablis to freshen up her glass? Because it's just about when that happens…

"… when who should appear, but an unexpected but delightful dinner guest?"

The question abruptly cuts through the open air of what was once polite laughter and shared stories and nothing more. It might be the most immediate thing one might notice amiss, but not the only. The other thing — the important thing —

—is how that stream of wine has been frozen mid pour, hanging in the air as light reflects off the liquid surface as if gravity itself was conspiring to hold it back.

It's not just that. The stewards. The passing of traffic below. Even the breeze in the air. All of it is stopped. All except them. As if a single moment were suspended in molasses…

… to make a comfortable home for the young-looking man in a black, three piece suit, black hair, and strikingly green eyes and tie who was absolutely not there a second ago to suddenly just -exist- in, sitting in a third chair between Obadiah's and Emma's that also, pointedly, was not there.

Oh. And he's wearing very elegantly curved, very gold, horns on his head. It complements the ensemble nicely.

"Also, I can tell you right now, the story of you marrying the Bedouin's daughter does not end well. Something something, a parable about our base natures, and so forth." He waggles a small plate, that also wasn't there. His eyes look down to the cake. Pointedly. As if to say,

'Well?'


Certainly Obadiah knows the trials of marriage, but he might have had a whole different life if ever he had set down roots in a place far, far away. He thinks about it often. But not he does not think about it when the cake comes. You see, with Pepper's enforcement of his diet, and his most recent foray into bribing the restaurant staff at Stark Tower for ice cream ruined by mind controlling madness, he was more than ready for a dessert.

The cake is cut, and he even rises up to scoot around the table a little. It's as far as he gets as the world goes weird, his eyes narrowing as the wine stops mid-flow and his gaze ticks up to the unrecognized voice. Tension creeps down in spine in a way that might grip someone unseasoned with a visceral terror, a reaction that only a mortal could have to the laws of nature revolting all around them.

The piece of cake finds it's home in front of Emma, and as Obadiah straightens and considers his next move his hands find his hips, brushing back the gray material of his jacket for a moment. Then, he almost pointedly checks his watch. Oh, he has the scold. Loki will remember it from when he was twelve….hundred or so, and tricking Thor into the bottom of vast lakes as part of games of hide and seek. Odin's gaze, even one-eyed, was fierce, just like this.

It melts in a moment, and and Obadiah reaches once more for the cake. "Unexpected and delightful is an interesting way of saying uninvited and…" His gaze drifts up to the most interesting headgear he's ever seen. "…horny." He carefully serves new guest a slice of cake, and that business done he levels an even gaze at Emma, it's undertone meant to signal his familiarity with enhanced individuals, that if anyone is taking the proverbial bullet here, it should probably be him.

Oh, how little he still knows about Emma Frost.

"Still, it takes a being of great power to stop the whole world for a slice of cake. What's your secret? I sure could use an alternative to bribing the kitchen crew for some clandestine ice cream." His jovial mood returns once he's leaning back and pitching the opening talks to acquire this new and interesting trick, hands resting in front of him, where his thumb brushes his watch and his gaze distractedly trails to the frozen man who was trying to pour a drink for Emma.


How little he knows, indeed. Obadiah might not know, after all, that Emma Frost is not easily surprised. There are countless reasons as to why that is, but it is supremely difficult to get the proverbial drop on her.

Which is precisely what Loki then does. And he does it with a keen sense of the theatric which, were she not trying to look as calm as her host despite a sharp instinct that does not take kindly to being silenced, she might be inclined to actually appreciate.

Despite her desire to remain entirely unaffected, however, the woman in white takes in a breath sharply, eyes narrowing in the direction of the Man Who Suddenly Is. To her credit, perhaps, the control of self is admirable as she feels her heart lurch as though to escape her chest.

….Her gaze becomes more agitated as she realizes her wine is trapped in the hands of a server who can now do nothing to rectify the great sin of her empty hand.

She also lets Obadiah do the talking.


"This really does look nice. For all their faults, humans do know their food. You should see the feast halls back at home. I don't think they understand the meaning of fine dining for anything that isn't 'greasy meat on a stick.'" The Man Who Suddenly Was lifts his shoulders in exasperation, shaking his head in turn as he draws that cake to him and politely carves a chunk of it free with a fork that, also, wasn't there moments ago, flickers of serpentine green light coiling around it before fading away.

"I heard someone mention the word 'gourmet' once, they assumed someone was declaring war on them and promptly shot the not-quite a messenger. Messy business."

And as Obadiah talks, the green-eyed liesmith leans comfortably back in his seat, which, if it looks like a throne, is clearly in your imagination, crosses one leg over the other, and comfortably starts to eat. "This is marvelous. Thank you, Obi. May I call you Obi? I know we're not friends now, but we will be shortly. Sometimes I just like to cut out the middleman. It makes things easier, don't you think, not having to deal with something obstructing — mediating, I suppose — the things you really want in life?" He taps his fork against his plate. "Delicious, by the way."

But as Obadiah raises his questions, Loki tilts his head. His brows lift, lips purse. "I honestly didn't expect you to lead off with that," he admits after a moment. "It's not a bad question, but is it really the one you want to ask?" As he talks, the green-eyed man lifts a single finger into the air, mouthing 'one moment' to Obadiah before leaning to the side. That green gaze looks to the still-silent Emma sharing a smile with her that seems almost like someone sharing a conspiratorial joke before he lifts a hand. "Terribly sorry about that, Ms. Frost," he says, as he taps a finger on the glass surface of the bottle. The wine starts to flow once more as Loki tilts the steward's hand very off-handedly, ensuring that stream of alcohol gets to the glass it needs to be.

"Just say when."

It's only then he looks back at Obadiah, head tilting at a curious angle. "So, where was — oh, right. The question. I'll answer, if you like, of course. I'm here to help, after all. But isn't the better question…"

A finger swivels through the air, to indicate all around them.

"… 'if you have this great power that you can afford to waste so frivolously, just what great things can you do for me?'"

A smile comfortably settles on the God of Mischief's lips. Friendly.


Every move a check-mate. He's been here before. The story about the desert left out all the hard parts. Like how he really got there in the first place, and how he really got out. It certainly involved a camel, but he still had his cigars when he walked out the desert, and his trip had been lighter for the many rounds of ammunition he had left in his wake.

Truth be told, he's not so much different now than he was then. Violence was ultimately his way forward. How he wish it could be right now.

Obadiah's brows lift when He Of Such Horns calls him 'Obi', and then turns to give Emma that drink she craves. Eventually, the older gentlemen's expression turns to something caught in sudden understanding, mouth opening before he gives a tilt back of his head and a slow nod forward.

"I see. Well, I have to be honest here, you're really an impressive fellow. The cut of your suit alone is worth taking notice of. And I've never seen anyone smile that way at Emma and retain their good mood for more than a few minutes at best, so I'll assume your power is great indeed. But every time someone shows up unannounced offering to help me and do great things for me, it's usually to help themselves."

Obadiah stands here, straightening his jacket, and his saccharine smile leads the way to the few steps he takes, as if to move past the God of Tricks and Lies. "Now, if you came here looking for friends, that might be a little more understandable. But I never sit down at a table looking to make friends while holding—" he waves finger in a swirl here, indicating the frozen world beyond. "—something so very heavy over their heads."

His hand comes to rest on The Trickster's shoulder. Is he giving hims a squeeze? Is that.. a massage? His gaze rises to meet Emma's when he does so, and she will see his apology. One way or another, this isn't likely to end well.

"So I'm afraid I'll just have to say 'When'."

The hypersonic generator that Obadiah employs has been upgraded since he last used it on the foolish leaders of the Ten Rings who had betrayed him. It's stronger, more precise, but unfortunately Emma will still be in it's range. She'll just have to fend for herself. Obadiah's only hope is that this power the stranger wields requires some measure of concentration, that even if this alien creature is not frozen stiff by the vein-tightening, muscle-seizing power of his little device, he can have his time back.

Because humans are creatures of time and action - it is his only hope.


"Miss Frost," Emma corrects, ensuring that there is no confusion on the matter, when …whoever this is calls her by name. Who the hell…?

But, even before she can finish that thought, pale blue eyes catch something more disconcerting. An apology? There's confusion that flitters over the woman's elegant features, and then a sudden—if vague—realization that something is about to go horribly wrong? Is that the warning?

Oh, god. This outing is going to kill the old man. …Tony is going to kill her. Oh, damn it all to hell. She snarls, and then issues one of her psychic 'commands', urging the elder man to stay his hand so she can play hers. "Don't, Mister Stane."

Her mind stretches out again, then, the blonde sneering in Loki's direction as she searches out his mind with every intention of searching out his and, hopefully, unprotected pain receptors to set them briefly on fire.


Emma corrects, very clearly. The green-eyed man lifts his hands in abject deference. "Miss Frost, right, of course. You have that look. It's a little hard keeping track of all your honorifics, if I'm being completely honest," he lies. "Still, the point remains. Say when."

Vivid green eyes take a look up as Obadiah addresses him, brows lifting in tandem at his praise — clearly looking as pleased as the most contented cat as he lays it on.

'Well, I have to be honest here, you're really an impressive fellow.'

"Thank you."

'And I've never seen anyone smile that way at Emma and retain their good mood for more than a few minutes at best…'

"Frankly, I'm a bit surprised myself!"

'… so I'll assume your power is great indeed.'

"But that's still perhaps the truest thing said this evening."

Humble is he who wears the horns.

But…

Every time someone shows up unannounced…

"Oh, come on now, you're a business man," says the black-haired man with a slow sigh. "You ought to know by now, everyone helps themselves. But that doesn't mean they can't help someone else in the process, does it? … Or is that the kind of wisdom that requires one's name on a tower to possess…?"

Obadiah gestures towards the world itself. The green-eyed god's smile grows at his lips, slow but sure and oh-so affable. A hand rests on his shoulder. Massages; the body beneath feels like it's made of granite. Which doesn't really stop the,

"Oh, look at you — you've got the magic touch, don't you?"

that slips from his lips. No. He looks like he's quite enjoying himself.

That device comes out. The wine still yet pours. The green-eyed trickster's smile grows…

… and reaches its zenith the exact moment that prodigiously powerful mind reaches out and touches his.

The contact is brief, but enough to glimpse the orderly disorder of the man's very purposefully jumbled thoughts before his nerves are signaled towards the extreme end of the 'pain' spectrum. Green eyes widen as every nerve alights in burning agony, as if Obadiah was giving him the MASSAGE OF DEATH. He lets out a choked sound of pain, fingers twitching and digging into his chair as the world seems to blur—

—and time reasserts itself just as that black-haired man seems to… literally crumble away into so much green dust before the steward can see him.

Seconds before Emma's wine glass overfills.

Time is regained. Everything flows properly. The steward will apologize profusely.

"-Ow.-"

And a new voice comes from the opposite end of the table.

And there, sitting comfortably at the other end of their dining table, is a woman. Black hair. Green eyes. Same suit.

Same horns.

Clucking her tongue.

"I hope that was cathartic. That hurts, you know that? Well — I imagine you couldn't not," says the woman ever-so-flatly, before that amicable smile reasserts itself, so familiar despite such a different face wearing it, "but it's a terrible shame to waste such a good chablis. So, I guess now that we've gotten past the part of introductions where we all show how impressive we are, I'd just like to say this: My name is Loki, God of Mischief. You may have heard of me, from Norse mythology. And Wikipedia.

"And I'm a -huge- fan."


That isn't right, is it? His thumb wavers, should descend on that button. Something else happens entirely. This uninvited fellow of some strange and great origin seems to tense up and then disappear altogether. There's a blink as time rushes in and his hand - the hand with that weapon, slips into his pocket to hide it away. Instead he can only tick his mind back to that moment, to try to understand what had caused that distraction, but more importantly - why hadn't he done what he'd finished his play for some small measure of advantage?

His gaze levels at Emma, because there is really only one answer, brows lifting. Just the three of them in this little time-seize, and only two of them might want to be rid of the Trickster. When the woman appears at the other end of the table, Obadiah's gaze snaps back to her and her introduction, the one that ends with her turn at playing the compliment card.

It's a moment that hangs in the balance. He'd touched his watch well before time had come back, and the signal had been sent. Tons of angry metal were speeding this way, intent on showing Loki, Herald of Wikipedia, just how impressive he could really be. It was beyond temptation. Some small measure of sweat was showing at his brow. His hand returns from his pocket, one hand rubs down the scruff of his beard, and a hand waves off the steward and the rest of the Chessmen who, though unseen, were riled up at this unexpected visitor.

The question in his earpiece stops, and he reaches down to adjust his watch again, fighting back raw temptation born, ironically, from watching Thor use Tony Stark as a pinata. If there were any doubts from Obadiah about what kind of threats lay waiting in the world, he had none now.

He wanted to stamp them out.

Obadiah's expression relaxes as he defers to his literal higher nature, the layer of pleasant ease that exists as an overlord to his murderous core. The Iron Monger stays far away, but not to far.

"Well why didn't you just say so in the first place?" All smiles, and it isn't the kind that comes with a lie. He looks positively ecstatic, reaching out to take the bottle the steward had left behind so that he might poor their new friend Loki a drink.

"You know you'll have to forgive me for being a little rude, it's been a long week." The mirth grows in his eyes as he shakes his head, just a little, arms wide, bottle still in hand as he describes it. "Dimensional portals! Mind controllers! Avengers who don't show up! SHIELD Agents, all over my building. A complete mess. Oh, and not to mention Thor's crusade against sanity itself. I don't blame him for getting his mind taken over. Happens to the best of us." Including Obi. "But even afterwards he seemed pleased as pie to go rampaging through the lower levels of our building. I mean - wait a minute now. Loki? THE Loki? Wait, wait.. is that why you're here? To reign in your rather unstable brother? Emma, as impossible as it sounds, I think we might have a God..Goddess, as an admirer." There's a squinty skepticism there, but at least he made the connection. And oddly, did not suggest Loki was somehow a minor actor in Thor's tall tale.


The disordered contents of Loki's mind draws a rare crease to the smooth expanse between Emma's carefully shaped eyebrows, but then he's gone after she finds what she needs to deliver an accounting of her irritation and render him to dust. Her pale eyes glance warily to Stane only to find he's staring back at her. Damn it. Her jaw clenches subtly, and then she's off in her own mind, already trying to figure out how to spin this. Is there spinning this? There must be. But what if…? Did Tony…? Her head cants a degree, wondering how deep she dares go into Obadiah's brain to find out if Stark let her little secret slip. If he…

Her train of rapidly firing thoughts is again interrupted as pale wine spills all over the table and races for her lap. The blonde stands at last with a choked-back curse as the waterfall over the table's edge finds her brocade-swathed lap.

She's about to really cut loose with a blue streak, but then… Ow?

Her eyes slowly turn to the now-woman seated at the end of their table. A woman who introduces herself as a god. The telepath's head rears back unhappily and her eyes narrow suspiciously. Her suspicion doesn't abate as Obadiah expertly transitions into a soliloquy that includes very specific details that she knows nothing about.

"So I see, Mister Stane," she replies lamely once he references her. Ugh, men. So chatty.


Why didn't she say so in the first place?

"I always feel like it ruins the moment," Loki explains, pleasantly, as that drink is poured for her — him — whichever, affording a little, "What a gentleman!" once Obadiah's finished. She swirls it with the twitch of her wrist, staring at the contents with something between amusement and appreciation.

"There's a lot of power behind a name, after all."

And so, with that, the God(dess) of Lies and Mischief and sometimes Evil if the situation calls for it props elbows upon the table, one hand supporting her cheek while the other feeds her a sip of that expensive wine. "I'll say this, though — humans could use a bit stronger drinks. Maybe a bit better aged, too." Ever the critic is she.

As Obadiah speaks, green eyes slide slowly towards the standing Emma; the Trickster sucks on her teeth and offers a mouthed apology, only to amend it with a simple, "I -did- ask you to say when," before her attention returns to Obadiah once more — right when he talks about a certain someone with a hammer that has helpfully dislocated a certain other someone's jaw on more than one occasion. "Oh, has my poor brother gone off on another one of his tears?" asks the liesmith, as if this were the most normal thing in the world. "You know once, in the old days — your old days, mind you — Thor waged glorious war with a hurricane once, believing it was stealing his thunder. His words. Want to know who the loser was?" Loki takes a leisurely sip of her wine, before gesturing somewhere far away.

"Nicaragua."

But Obadiah, it seems, has the would-be deity's interest now. Is she here to reign in her brother? "Something like that. You could say I'm supposed to be running an errand with him, but, well… sometimes I get a bit distracted. And Thor's never really been the type for patience." A mad Thor. Why didn't she think of that? Well. She did, once. It ended poorly for her.

Like most things.

It's a nagging thought she stows away for now, though, to be pursued later. After all… "I find most impossible things are wholly possible with the right push, though," continues the green-eyed trickster. "For example — I might not have ever known who you two even were, if my brother hadn't given me a helpful push into the void — another one of his little moments of poor judgment, I suppose," EDITOR'S NOTE: STORY SLIGHTLY ABRIDGED "but now here I am, and I have to say — I am very impressed with the two of you! Resourceful, intelligent, creative, and just striving to get what you deserve in life. I think the three of us have a lot in common."

Loki continues to sip their wine — despite the fact that it doesn't seem to be any emptier in the slightest every time she puts it down.

"Miss Frost is looking very frightening right now, though, so I'll cut to the chase. I'd very much like to get in on this action. You have a nice partnership going on, but I'd like to propose one simple, universal truth: triads are always better at getting things done. The Fates. God, his Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Three Amigos. The three winters before… well, you don't have to worry about that one. That's a story for another time." A smile. Bright, friendly.

"So. I was thinking… why don't we all sit down, over a nice bottle of chablis and some unnecessary sweet cake, and talk about all the things we have in common. All your troublesome problems with my dear brother. All those pesky people ruining all your fun parties. And all the interesting and - of course - great things I can do for you." Her glass lifts, almost expectantly.

"So we can figure out the best way to help each other while we help ourselves. What do you say?"


To say Obadiah is a gentlemen is probably the closest thing to the truth Loki shall approach willingly, one imagines. And so, he does what he should, now faced with an Emma Frost with clothing that is something other than immaculate: He picks up one of the big, cloth napkins on the table and hands it in her direction, even as he fully sits back down and sets the bottle of wine on the table.

Loki spins tales much better than his own, and his problems seem minor compared to the description of Thor's other escapades. And that is the problem. For far to long, Obadiah had known threats to the world were piling up. All of his work, for himself, for Hydra, all of it, had been to prevent catastrophe.

But here they were. The world on the edge.

"This feels a little closer to Three's Company. Though I'm not sure who I am in the equation." He reaches up to wince a little as he rubs a hand over his smooth head, his gaze turning to scrutiny once more as it drops to the table.

"My relationship with Ms. Frost is something developed over time. I'm sure it seems like a short time to someone who's lived through far more of it than either of us, and to someone who can control time? Well. I'm not sure our little dinners and party planning seem like much at all. But it's important to us." He looks to Emma then, as if to emphasize those words, really speaking to her, and not Loki. "But, a little drink and some cake never hurt anyone. Great endeavors often start with broken bread, and I'm certain we can find some common ground. But really, my voice isn't even half of the full vote here. When it comes to matters of business in this particular circle, Ms. Frost has the final say, and the greatest voice."

Once again his gaze shifts meaningfully, because Obadiah knows that this function, this meeting, is Hellfire Club business. Here, she is Queen. Here, she decides.


Emma takes the napkin when it is offered, her unamused expression persisting as she tries to dab the wine out of the luxurious weave of her gown. Loki did ask when, but he still is assigned blame for her imperfect state. She is listening, even as she works to restore her dignity. "I don't typically enjoy surprises," she offers, tone sour. Long gone are the melodic laughs and charming smiles.

She is a different creature now in many ways, and her razor sharp regard seeks to cut the intruder to his bones. "But I can listen." It's likely about as good as anyone's about to get from her. She reclaims her seat, and roughly sets the soaked napkin on the table.

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