Cards on the Table

June 14, 2017:

Obadiah and Emma talk about how to proceed now that Obi knows Emma's secret, and a God has come calling to join their little group.

The Hellfire Club

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Loki

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's been several days since a Norse god crashed a party-planning committee., and everything got derailed.

The days pass, and Emma Frost most pointedly does not make any contact whatsoever with the other non-god at that meeting.

Eventually, however, Mister Stane will find himself in receipt of an invitation. It's a simple one: Shall we talk? 8 tonight, HFC. Emma.//

And the hours that have passed between the courier delivery of that note and now have been busy ones. Some of them have been corporate affairs. Many of them less so. And by the time the appointed hour comes, Frost has denned down in a particularly cozy room a twist or two away from the more publicly accessed rooms typically accessible to the general membership. It's intimate, only meant to host a dozen people of most, but comfortably appointed with chairs and sofas of leather and velvet, a fireplace left dark in the early summer heat, and an electric chandelier burning above. And, most importantly, a few choice decanters.

For a man whom strategy is a lifestyle, Obadiah should probably mind Loki's interference more than he does. He was not as old of soul as he had let on, and the God of Lies had promptly added a new piece to the great game he'd started playing since he watched his father disastrously prove a point about luck.

For Obi, this new piece, not on the board but balancing the whole board atop it, changed the game in ways he could not fully imagine, and it weighed heavily on him as he entered the room where Emma was holding her court.

Of course that's what she's doing. Every time he saw her, she commanded the room, and even mostly empty this one seemed like an audience chamber, and not a place to entertain. His fingers moved to his jacket, dark grey and very much like his others, but leaving his men behind at the other end of the building, it seemed as if he meant to protect himself.

From within he draws what can only be described as an amulet. Gaudy and gold and set with a brilliant, almost too-blue sapphire, a glow immediately washes over the room.

As does his scrutinizing gaze.

The sensation is an odd one, almost palpable upon the skin, as if rebounding the light might take some effort, but it does not last long. Soon Obi wraps it in a cloth bag and shoves it back inside his jacket. It immediately breaks one tension: Obadiah is well versed in what they are dealing with, it seems. Perhaps because of his new job. Perhaps, for other reason.

"You'll have to forgive me. I thought it best to make sure we were truly alone. This time."

His smile is almost sardonic, a jest at himself - why hadn't he, after all, brought the Tears of Luna to their last meeting? For a man who tries to prepare for anything, Norse Gods were apparently not on his radar.

"You mind if I make myself a drink? I have a feeling I should smooth over my nerves before we get to talking."

Emma is holding court, isn't she? Even wearing as desperately little as she is as she adheres to the club's unevenly designed dress code, she can control this. This ground, these rooms, she knows.

And Obadiah's little toy earns him an arch of an eyebrow, but little more, as she sits in one of the overstuffed arm chairs.

"Please, be my guest," she easily allows, a hand unfurling as she offers a mirthless smile. "Make two, Mister Stane, if you like. I certainly brought enough to share." To demonstrate her point, she leans a hand down to clink her fingernail against an emptied glass of her own. She chuckles, and then lifts the hand back up to its monumentally important task of casually supporting her head.

"I'm not used to being so far out of control, in such a personal way. I have men in my employ who are, no boast intended, some of the finest killers in the world. And I employ them as bodyguards. Active, but defensive measures. All useless. All part of a package from another time, when the world was not so full of people.. or not quite people.. who might literally call themselves Gods, for all that they wield. And certainly, our new friend does just that."

When Obadiah returns it is not with Scotch, two cubes of ice each, carefully placed into each glass as not to chip the ice, and let it melt to quickly. A swirl, and the sound echoes forth from the glass to punctuate the silence left in the wake of lamentation, setting her drink in front of her before he takes up a hunched position in the chair across from her. Barely more than a sip, and his gaze finds her own.

"Left to my own devices in such a scenario, certain that my only chance is to break his paradigm, his concentration, I might take a desperate measure. One that might have been profoundly unwise. But we didn't get to find out, did we Emma?"

It is not such a veiled meaning as it might be for anyone else in that situation. Anyone who might have lacked experience with Enhanced individuals might have distorted what happened as muscles seizure or some second conscience. But Obadiah did the math very quickly. Loki was disrupted, and Obi didn't do it. Certainly for Loki's attempt at playing along, it was not he who ended his own power.

Two from three can only leave one.

"No," Emma replies, her voice soft as she stretches her hand out once more to pluck up the liquid offering laid in front of her. Her pale eyes consider it for a very long and unhurried moment, yet debating the wisdom of indulging in what is most certainly not her first drink of the evening.

Then those kohl-lined eyes close as she sets the crystal tumbler to her lips and sets the debate to rest.

"I suppose we didn't."

When those eyes again open, even though the warm filter of her drinking, they are not warm. They are assessing. Wary, even. "So," she drawls, continuing, "I am going to venture a guess that you've a very solid working theory as to why we did not. And, furthermore, I am going to confess my disappointment. that a few cards slipped the hand, out of turn. It can ruin the whole of a good game when that happens."

The long look he gives her as she confesses disappointment will tell her all she needs to know about Obadiah Stane, a man who was just subjected to mind control by an agent from another dimension. A man cautious enough to call in whatever favors he might have to procure an object that might reveal Loki, if he or she were around. A man who does not leave things to chance.

For him, card games are a sour sport, even if they are not entirely chance. And yet, for all this caution and disdain for what might happen out of his control, suspecting what he suspects, he still came.

"Oh.. well. That." He gives a little nod, acknowledging the dance they've played at since Obadiah decided he wanted a hand in planning this party, and hinting at wanting more. "I choose to see it as an enhancer myself. Knowing something sensitive about someone can do all sorts of things to the demeanor. Even just suspecting. But it lets the guard down, forces it, perhaps. It's not like you'd ever tell me, right? But you can see now I'm here, anyway. And I can see you didn't have me shot and killed the moment I walked in the door. So here we are." His glass tilts back, and he finishes off his drink with a slow nod, and then the glass finds the table so that he might sit back and fuss with his jacket again, his brows lifting and a certain mirth creeping into his features.

"I kept thinking, the whole way over.. if not for Loki. If not Loki, I might have had a real shot in this place. If not for Loki, I might have thrown the best party you'd ever seen. If not for Loki, Emma might call me a friend. But you know, if not for Loki, you'd never see how I could really be trusted. You'd never know if I favored knowledge as a lever, to push and pull, or a doorstop, to open new avenues previously off limits. I won't pretend to know the extent of your secret, except to know you value discretion. Since I am someone who wishes the whole world full of Enhanced individuals out there would use a little more of it, you can rest assured I have no interest in ruining yours. In fact, I rather think our game isn't ruined. I think, with this new fellow at our beck and call, it may just move to another level altogether."

Emma's eyes narrow, and the silence that follows Obadiah's thorough survey of the situation borders on awkward. She drinks again, deepening the claret arc of her lipstick on the cup's rim.

A"If not for Loki," she quips, her nose crinkling with distaste, "My dress might have been spared a terrible fate."

Lifting her cup up a little bit, she tilts it back and forth to seemingly watch the light as it plays off of the cuts of glass. Her brain, however, is occupied elsewhere, stretching out to feel the mind so nearby. "But you've experience with telepaths, I think. Or our ilk. The fact that you showed up tells me that I either don't scare you, or that I do… That it's just a matter of how much."

Then, after just a breath more, a subtle look of disbelief. "Really? Stark really didn't tell you about me?"

As the awkward silence builds, a single finger reaches up to scratch at some spot on his scruffy beard, and then once behind his ear. Of course, Emma's quip buries all of that in mere moments, and he can't help but laugh a little.

He doesn't address how much he might be afraid of her, because what she says next sucks him in. It's her question that draws genuine shock to his features, and he leans forward with obvious exasperation. "Wait a minute now. Just.. hold up a second. Tony knew? This whole time?!" His hand sweeps down over his face and he shakes his head. Clearly, there's both amazement and frustration, and he rises from his seat to pace. "I thought we were a team, he and I." His hands raise out to his sides and then smack back to his legs with a shake of his head. Finally, his hands rest on his hips, sweeping back his jacket. "Though maybe this is just a sign that while I'm circling my twilight years he's decided to finally grow up. Hard to know if I should be mad at him for not telling me, or proud of him for keeping a secret. Heavens knows he's isn't great at that."

A sour thought occurs to Obi, and Emma will almost be able to taste it across the telekinetic gap between them. /Oh my. What if he told OTHER people, though? What if he just FORGOT to tell me, and he's mentioned it all over town?!/

There's a subtle wince, and he decides immediately he'll have to have a talk with Tony, make sure he's become this new and responsible person. Yeah. Right.

Finally, he does broach the subject of his experience with mind benders, and it's his turn to bare a little of his soul. "Back in the 90's, I had a run in with someone who passed himself off as a mind reader in Argentina. A street performer. I'd hired him as a guide, because a local I knew from some of my business in the area said he could talk his way past any checkpoint. I had no idea how real it was until I saw it first hand. Back then it was a little different than it is now. I'd not seen the sheer number or variety of people like you and Tony and, well. It was more than startling. But I knew that if he existed, then others must too. I didn't have the confidence then that I do now. I might have tried to hire him. Maybe use him as an asset. Lord knows I wanted to. But I was terrified. Instead I payed him to train me. Little tricks and tips to know when someone is rooting around, or taking over. Measure that can slip past commands. We had a situation at Stark Tower recently where it came in handy."

Maybe Emma had heard of people playing songs in their head to distract mindreaders. But in hindsight, it might be clear - Obi's vision of his daughter was a mental warning sign that someone was in his head. His son? A warning someone was going deeper, for his secrets. But he still had no power to keep anyone out.

Even now, Obadiah Stane was completely at the mercy of Emma Frost. Afraid or not, he walked into this place knowing that.

Did Tony know the whole time? The lift of Emma's eyebrows and small smile wordlessly cry, 'Surprise!'

Her defense of him is a gentle one. "I've asked him not to. But, well…" She shrugs mildly, her face contorting into another expression that can only be read as a four word sentence. But it's Tony Stark.

As Obadiah explains everything in the way that only he can, in a compelling weave of words, the blonde sets aside her drink and listens raptly. She does finally place the triggers as one set by another psychic, but that's not what keeps her attention. As Stane paces, she cradles her head back in her hand. "So, Mister Stane, facer of gods and braver of telepaths. , I set before you a choice. If you are entirely serious about pursuing more here—knowing what you know already, I would like to make an introduction or two. Not tonight, but soon. If you would rather think about it, I don't see the harm. We can continue planning our party and charitable endeavors and remain friends."

'We can continue planning our party and charitable endeavors and remain friends.'

The words strike him not as a blow, but a balm. All the things he thought were far and away in jeopardy, are in fact the least of two great options.

She does not need to read his mind to see how relieved he is.

Again, he finds his seat, and with a little nod, and a happy glimmer in his eye, the psychic breach is alight with the joy of an old man who might yet still get a chance to make a difference.

"I accept, with one caveat. We face Gods together. Your plan put us on a path mind almost certainly would not have, and it is for the better. This Loki… if ever I thought the world was filling up with threats that had to be contained or corralled, this is not one I ever thought I needed to brave, and certainly not alone. But yes. Yes indeed, I'd like to engage in introductions. And if those meetings are what I think they are, and you and your associates approve, I hope I can share a few more of my own secrets, and maybe just reach a more than a few common goals."

Emma's mind might be whirring with possibilities, were it not occupied with other considerations. The introductions to make. The ramifications of one more body with far too much ability to upturn her world.

And then, of course, there's the separate world-upheaving revelation that Tony Stark can actually keep a secret.

The world is, indeed, full of many wonders.

"I can't make any promises just yet," she tells Obadiah, the turn of her smile acknowledging the painful truth that even here her power is not absolute, "But I should think that they would very much like to hear what you might have to say. They are rather in the world-changing business."

There's a nod of understanding. He's certain it'll be a group decision, but also certain he can meet or exceed expectations. His pitch is already wound up. In the meantime, he goes to fix them each another drink, and when he returns, it isn't new business that's on his mind. He reaches back into his jacket, sets a small device on the table in between both of their drinks, and beams a brilliant smile.

"Let me show you what your party is going to look like."

The holographic display comes to life, showing Emma a view of the Stark Expo's environmental dome with stunning detail, with nothing left out. It is the kind of planning, down to the blade of grass, that can almost account for every terrible thing that might happen.

Almost.

He'll go through it all, give her hours to drink away the frustration of that ruined dress, and he'll lose his jacket somewhere along the way, spinning the plans like he might one of his tales from the old days. All the while he gives her the opportunity to literally write in changes, using her finger on that holographic light.

It's a purposeful change to a night that might have been awkward, tense, and perhaps disastrous. Instead, he hopes his distraction, while fruitful, is the first in many steps to proving he is worthy of The Hellfire Club's inner circle.

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