The Library of Shadowcrest

October 25, 2017:

With Bucky's replacement arm almost complete, he and Jane pay Zatanna a visit at Shadowcrest to recover the brainwashing machine retrieved from Siberia, months ago. The three catch up after all the intervening events that have kept them busy.

Shadowcrest, Gotham

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine, Tony Stark, Peter Quill

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Shadowcrest is decked out and ready for Halloween.

The intervening days have seen it transformed from a stately Victorian-styled manor to a spooky haunted house. It has absolutely nothing to do with Zatanna's love for the holiday and more because Kasim, the physical manifestation of the house's will, is very meticulous in observing the American calendar and takes it upon himself to make sure that the property readily reflects the season. So when Bucky and Jane arrive, going through the wrought iron gates and up the winding driveway this is what they will see - a cluster of lit up Jack O'Lanterns framed by gnarled trees dripping with the spectres of the dead, and a small graveyard erected around the small plot in the center of the rotunda. Cobwebs made out of shredded nylon are stretched out over the front doorway's arch, and there are eerie noises everywhere - branches tapping against glass, the sound of a hooting owl, rustling from curtains against which windows are kept just slightly open, for maximum effect.

Needless to say, the house is going to get so many trick or treaters this year.

When the raven-haired witch greets them at the door, she's with all dimpled smiles, giving them a hug and a peck on each cheek and easily betraying her European roots. "I think the house went a little overboard with the decorations this year," she tells them as she gestures for them to wander inside - as expected, the interior makes absolutely no sense with what they've seen on the outside - the halls too wide, the rooms too large. A grand staircase dominates the main entryway, leading to the second floor landing.

"Kasim doesn't look it, but he loves the holidays."

Kasim is an olive-skinned turbanned man with a snow-white beard that can rival Santa Claus. He bows wordlessly at the waist from the corner.

"Anyway, the library's this way, and you guys can tell me where you want me to teleport the chair."

With that, she leads the way up the steps.

"So how's everything been?"

It's been a long time since Bucky was back to Shadowcrest — prior to the trial, which feels like ages ago now — and it certainly didn't look this festive at that time. "You think she did this by hand?" Bucky wonders of Jane, as they approach.

"…No," he decides about half a second later, as they walk past the small graveyard. "Probably not." Some of this stuff is obviously magic, right?

"I hope you're ready with enough candy for all the kids that are gonna come knocking," is his greeting for Zatanna a few minutes later, as a result, accepting his hug and kiss with good grace. Hugging him is a bit of a different experience than usual: he's decidedly light on one side, his left arm still missing. A cap has been fitted over his shoulder to disguise what is left of the metal. His right arm is still there and all accounted for, at least, with the bracelet Zatanna gave him so long ago in evidence on its wrist.

She mentions the house going overboard, and Bucky nods to himself in confirmation of a private thought. As to how everything's been?

"Better, now everyone isn't trying to kill me," is his predictably dry response. "People are lucky I didn't get triggered in all those six months. It would have been their fault for interrupting the work I was doing to make myself safer."

The first thing Shadowcrest brings out of Jane Foster is swift and virulent envy, because living the sardine-can existence of New York City still bothers her even a year later: something so hard to get used to after a lifetime in the suburbs and years in the New Mexico desert.

And here it is again, back to taunt her.

Space.

Complete, utter, beautiful space, and so much of it, space to move around, space to keep things, space to look up and take in the cathedral ceilings with beseeching brown eyes. Her entire apartment could fit into a doorway of this mansion.

"Not sure," Jane answers Bucky in the moments before they are greeted. "Somehow, I can't seem to get the mental image of John up a ladder."

She lights up when Zatanna comes into sight; on her part, Jane is noticeably night-and-day with Bucky Barnes returned to her side. Still on the thin side, wearing all her months of stress outward, but no longer in possession of that cornered, hollowed-out look in her eyes, or the furious impetus that sparked blood magic amidst the movement of her fingers —

But instead a simple, every-day woman, reaching in eagerly to return Zatanna's warm hug. Even now, Jane's body — her life — steeps with the familiar crawl of blood magic, though thankfully, not of anything too recent. Not since Barnes himself had anaything to say about it.

"Well," Jane replies gamely, playfully feining a happens-all-the-time seriousness, "when /don't/ houses go overboard." Because, seriously, sentient house? Is that actually a thing?

With a shy smile toward Kasim in reception of that stately bow, her attention flits back when Bucky declares the good news of no longer being killed. "Lucky is a really good word to use. But, yeah, we're both — better. A lot better than some time. How about you?"

"God, I hope so. If not, I'm going to be in terrible danger of having to eat all the leftovers." After a pause. "Maybe Peter'll help me with it." Because really, isn't that something Star-Lord would do?

People are lucky I didn't get triggered in all those six months.

"Yeah," Zatanna replies with a quiet frown. "It would have been bad for everyone all around." And John would have forced to use the switch he had placed on Bucky. "Still, I'm glad it's over." Ice-blue eyes wander towards his missing arm. "What are you going to do with…" She gestures towards the missing space.

The Touch clings to Jane like something alive; her insides tighten at the taste and feel of it, but all it does is make her wrap her arms more securely around the smaller woman. Still she says nothing - there's no censure, her empathic nature both a boon and a detriment. Had she been in Jane's position, she probably would have done the same thing, no matter how much it would have angered John.

"I'm glad to hear it," she tells the brunette softly. "The same old for me, really, still catching up on all of the schoolwork I missed. Honestly if Tim wasn't helping me out, I'd have been kicked out by now."

The stairs lead them up to the second floor landing, framed by white railings and hardwood floors tinged with the telltale smell of antiquated varnish. Down their present path, another cavernous doorway can be glimpsed; double-doors framed by towering statues of a demon and an angel, standing sentinel over the most important room in the house. The Great Zatara was a professional showman, after all - even without his physical presence, the place still emanates with strains of his power. As if sensing their approach, there is a thunderous sound, before the tall appendages swing inward.

/Everything/ in this room speaks of age - the sort that makes an object particularly rare and therefore priceless. Amidst stuffed and mounted game are comfortable couches and a large table where old tomes are strewn about as well as a few notebooks. Display cases are everywhere, full of shining, glowing objects. Above him, the mounted head of a griffin stands watch.

A golden globe stands in its own case to his right, resplendent with its corresponding plate:

Cagliostro's Astrolabe

And books. Shelves and landings and cases full of them, stretching up and up in a seemingly endless climb to the heavens. Giovanni's treasure trove of forbidden knowledge is displayed with all the sprawling grandeur expected from a magician who has spent over half a century studying and perfecting his craft. Jane's pile of borrowed books from this specific library is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond that, in the middle of the room and just before her father's inner sanctum, is the chair. A twisted metal monstrosity of circuits, moving parts and attached monitors, the sight of it has the magician's lips pressing into a thin line.

"Here it is," she tells them. "Safe and sound. One step closer, right? Do we get to take a bat to the thing once you're all done with it?"

There is a distinct change to Bucky as well, though his differences are more subtle than Jane's. His change is more in the shape of a sense of resolution… the cathartic relief of a man walking out of his cell after serving a long sentence. He is man who has accepted the wrong he has done, placed it before the world, been judged, and ultimately… promised himself to start on the road to atoning for it. Atoning — even though the choice to commit such heinous acts was not his own.

Some people say claiming responsibility for acts that objectively weren't of his volition is just a way for him to dodge admitting he was a victim. Bucky just calls it a way to feel like he's helping to undo all Hydra's work.

Perhaps lost in such thoughts, he largely holds his silence, though he does smile when Zatanna bemoans the risk of having to eat all the leftover candy. The query about the arm garners a more serious look. "Wakanda returned my previous one," he says. "Though Jane is making an entirely new one. I don't want that thing stuck back on my shoulder."

Soon enough, they reach it: the machine, safely still kept in the library where it was entrusted. One step closer, right? Zatanna says.

"Yeah," Bucky says. "Jane should be able to finish the re-engineering on this thing pretty quick. She was already halfway through when we got interrupted." He walks up to the chair with the air of a man bearding a lion in its den, and — as if to try to prove to himself it has no more hold on him — he reaches out to rest his right hand on one of its cold metal curves.

Will they take a bat to the thing once they're done with it?

"You two can conspire to set it on magical fire and drop it in a black hole for all I care," he says, staring down at it. "There's no positive to leaving something like this intact in the world."

"I still can't quantify why you consensually share space with Star-Dick," Jane grouses against mention of Peter Quill. "I don't want to ask how many times you're probably seen him naked by now."

But there is something absolving about Zatanna's embrace, something beyond what she can sense purely in the physical; like being told her actions were understandable, had merit by someone who understands intrinsically. By someone literally /made/ of magic.

Relaxing visibly, she follows along their hostess's guide, quiet for the duration Bucky gets Zatanna up to speed about his missing arm, and what will soon be its replacement. Bashful, she glances briefly down at her own feet mid-step. "All new arm of my creation," Jane concurs happily. "Well. Largely care of Stark Industries' lab. Not sure what the hell I would do without that place. It's really like the mecca for people like m—"

The sound dries out on her throat upon her first, real visit to Shadowcrest's library.

She goes still and silent, unable to multitask thinking, breathing, or really existing, with the way her too-big brown eyes look up and up and up to simply take in more books than she can count. Or enough that she can, because she can do that immediately, calculate the volume of this room mentally and /still/ be staggered by it, because holy shit something this beautiful just SHOULD NOT BE.

"I —" Jane bleats, still working on the motor control loss thing, spinning a slow and oblivious circle to try to see it all, looking a bit like some shuffling ballerina.

The astrophysicist cannot miss the astrolabe either, drawn irresistably — Jane, who has little care for the material in the world, who buys her furniture from Ikea, has fallen a little in love.

It's only the introduction of The Machine that inevitably draws her away, a little mournful, as the woman sobers appropriately to view that old, hated thing — the chair once used and used again to empty and rewrite Bucky Barnes's mind.

"Definitely the bat," she says gravely. "When I'm done with it, I don't ever want to see this thing again. I want it off the face of this earth. For now, though, back to my bedroom seems the best place. We cleared space. We'll get this squared away, and never worry about it again."

"I have no doubt she will." Her faith in Jane's brilliance is absolute, though whatever tension she feels alleviates some when it seems that he is doing what he can to strip every bit of HYDRA grafted on his person; symbolic in a way, of casting aside the fetters that have weighed him down for so long. "Honestly I had no idea she was nearly there when District Attorney Archer came calling."

Distaste curls her lip, remembering the dark, imposing man and the way he accosted her in the halls of the courthouse - the confrontation that would inevitably lead him to striking her name from the witness list.

Watching him rest a hand on the chair, her faint smile returns. "Don't tempt me," she says, mischief tracing over the line of her mouth. "Between me and Jane, it can happen. God only knows what'll come out of there if we try."

The physicist's remarks about Star-Lord earns her a laugh, as well as a wince. "I just started avoiding going to the kitchen every three in the morning," she confesses to Jane. "That's when he sleepwalks. And drinks all the milk in the house. While naked."

With Jane's visible awe on the library, she can't help but watch her fondly, a small smile on her features. A little cart wheels on its own into the middle of the room, sensing visitors. "Do either of you want anything to drink?" she asks, doing her best to be a good host.

"My father's worked on this collection almost all his life," she informs them. "From what he finds, what he discovers in his expeditions into the unknown. He didn't discover other worlds until he was a little older than myself, so there are some volumes here that came from them - languages I haven't even learned how to read yet." Lifting her eyes to the tops of the shelves, she continues, somewhat wistfully: "I have a long way to go, still."

With instructions set, Zatanna pops her knuckles. "Alright, Brooklyn it is. Do you want any additional protections on it? I can turn it invisible to unauthorized users." Long fingers pull the obelisk from her back pocket, still using this limiter of sorts - a pocket of stored magic in hopes that she won't have to tap into the reserves inside of her.

The portal opens up after a whispered word, an ephemeral vortex of white-blue, tearing through space and time until Jane's bedroom beckons from the other side. The heavy object starts to lift on its own accord, drifting as if ensconced in a bubble of zero gravity.

Bucky tunes out of the conversation entirely when Jane and Zatanna start to talk about naked Peter Quill. Nope. Not listening. Not happening. He's already seen naked Thor. That's enough for several lifetimes.

He only starts paying attention again once Jane goes abruptly silent. The change brings him back to alert, but soon enough he discerns there's no danger. No danger except that of losing Jane to an information coma, anyway. He watches with amusement as she spins in place to try to absorb it all.

His eyes gentle as, inevitably, she's drawn to the astrolabe.

His attention turns back on Zatanna as a familiar name comes up. Mention of Archer has Bucky hackling. Not as visibly as he could before — the steel plates of his arm would shift with an angry rustling, like the lift of a wolf's fur — but the look in his eyes is unmistakable. "I thought he was going to call you, for sure," he says. "What happened to you, with him? So much happened so quickly, I never had the chance to ask."

Zatanna's eventual suggestion of an extra protection for the machine turns his blue eyes thoughtful. He hadn't even considered such. He doesn't understand magic at all, but it truly seems it can do anything. "That sounds great," he says, with a look to Jane if she can think of any other protections to put on it. "I don't know. Something to keep it anchored so others can't move it?"

A pause. "We can probably skip the cape hex…"

Don't tempt me, warns Zatanna playfully, but Jane Foster has already slipped the magician a look like her full and undivided attention has been earned.

She looks more than game. Such is the power of Zatanna Zatara: enabling everyone she meets.

Perhaps for the benefit of all the world, the fabric of the universe and all inside it are saved by Peter Quill's three-a.m. sleepwalk and below-the-waist salute, because that mental image has Jane Foster distracted and paling. Bucky is saved from the mental image, but the scientist with the overactive mind falls in battle, KIA.

"If I ask for a drink now," she bleats feebly, "it'll be something very hard and very strong, and enough of it to wipe an hour's worth of memory." Frigging Peter Quill.

THANKFULLY AGAIN, only something as immense and unparalleled as Shadowcrest Library saves Jane from the death of a thousand mental pictures. "It's amazing," she says breathlessly of Zatanna's introduction. "It's — I've never seen anything like this. I think I could sit in here for fifty years, never leave, and be perfectly fine with it."

All that knowledge. That — and that astrolabe she looks on with indisguised love in her eyes, craning her head to try to peek at the detail past the glass case.

It's only when the reason they're here forces Jane back, does she turn her eyes, stepping back to rejoin Zatanna and Bucky both, attention now on the one hated object that occupies this room. The Machine that has no place here among these things, and near Bucky Barnes most of all. Impatience scours out her expression, a wish she could take a hammer to it and rend the technology down already. It kills her that advancement brought the world to create things like /that/. There is little as offensive.

Sobering back to seriousness — something helped /immensely/ when Bucky prickles and asks of Archer's interference in Zatanna's life: and Jane listens to that, a sudden chilliness icing her down to the soul. She wants to know too. Know if Archer tried to do anything to insult Zatanna. If the prosecutor was unforgiven by her before —

"Good idea," she relents only in agreement to Bucky's suggestions, moving a hand through her hair. "Really, nothing more than something that can hide it — John's help wards people out of our place, but you can never be sure. We sort've got the world's eyes on us now. I'm happiest with the rest of everyone knowing as little as it works and can be replicated."

As always, seeing Zatanna use her magic to open a portal — open a bridge — brings that same look from Jane. A bit of longing, a long of envy, and a lot of awe. And with that, the quiet, resolved hope some day she will do the same, and entirely because of her science — her mind.

Jane's undisguised fascination of Cagliostro's artifact earns her a grin. "Well, you don't have to be a stranger," she teases her. "You can visit as much as you like. So long as I'm in the house, anyone can access the library. I think I only found out that Cagliostro was an ancestor like…two, maybe three years ago when I asked Daddy about the family tree. Did you want to borrow Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks also? I think we have the translated binders. I let Red borrow them and I think he kept them for three months. Just don't let the Vatican know we have them."

With the talk turning to the district attorney, she frowns visibly.

"He tried to tell me that it was for my own good not to be a hostile witness and testify against you," Zatanna says bluntly, ice-blue eyes darkening at the thought of it. "Tried to threaten me with other charges, obstruction of justice, paint me as an accomplice just because I gave you a record player for your birthday and try to make it look like I was offering gifts to an enemy of the state. When he dragged my father's name into it, I lost it. I told him if he wanted to make a federal case out of your generation's version of a Zumba, he can go right ahead."

She exhales a breath. "Matt intervened before I lost it completely though. Either way, it was a blessing in disguise." Her eyes lower to the floor. "My temper can get the best of me and if I did anything at all to damage Matt's case because I couldn't control it, I don't know if I would have ever been able to forgive myelf."

With the talk about the chair, she nods, spreading her fingers out with her free hand, blue-white sigils etching into the metal and careful not to place them anywhere that looks absolutely sensitive. "I'm going to place these away from….uh…what looks important." She doesn't want to ruin all of Jane's work either, she still needs the apparatus, and she wouldn't forgive herself, either, if she broke it now.

The image of the chair flickers, but holds steady once the application of her runes are done. With deft control, and a tap from her obelisk, the heavy chair starts crossing the bridge, and into Jane's room, magic causing waves and ripples through the room; like static, it raises hairs and draws goosebumps, but it isn't long until she's able to situate it in the space alotted to it, and hidden away from prying eyes.

"No capes," she assures the two, dusting her hands.

"Don't talk about Leonardo da Vinci with her," comes Bucky's grumpy contribution from somewhere over near the machine. "She'll start asking me if I took tea with him personally, and she won't shut up."

In the main, however, he remains silent as the women indulge Jane's fascination with the library of Shadowcrest. Well, other than necessary commentary. She could stay here for fifty years and be perfectly fine, she declares. "I wouldn't be fine. I'd starve to death," he objects.

Any semblance of humor drips away, however, at mention of two topics: David Archer, and the Machine. The first Zatanna expands on with a frown, and Bucky listens in silence as Zatanna describes the various tactics the man tried. "Yeah, he liked threatening people with that," he says, plainly unimpressed. "Cooperate or you'll get thrown to the wolves too."

A pause. "The hell is a Zumba?"

He subsides, however, to let Zatanna concentrate as she moves the machine. There's quite a lot that looks important in the room, but Bucky previously cleared away a corner where it can be safely placed, free of books, papers, servers, and various stray guns.

It only takes 'Leonard da Vinci' to take the blood out of Jane Foster's face. Her arms drop uselessly at her sides. Dumbfounded. Simply dumbfounded.

" — Yep," she blurts out, simple as that. Yep, she would borrow those. Yep, she would have in her mind the /knowledge of the world's greatest inventor./ "Doesn't — even need to be translated. I'd learn the language in a /day/ to read that. Vatican can /try/ — I'd fight bad-hair Tom Hanks with my bare /hands/." Bucky probably won't get that reference. Jane forgets that part. Because holy shit. Ho. Lee. Shit.

It's a sledgehammer of a gift, enough that she doesn't even hear Bucky Barnes's complaining until it eventually filters into the narrowed sieve of her attention. "What are you — oh for the love of God, James. You can microwave a hot pocket."

The remark bubbles up with a bit of helpless laughter. "And da Vinci wouldn't put up with you, so I doubt tea ever happened. Then again, Einstein /was/ your contemporary, and I still can't follow how you didn't stalk him across the world to talk to him for five minutes. You have ridiculous priorities."

The Zumba question sparks a half-stifled huff from her, amused; she'll let Zatanna be the bearer of that nightmare.

Talk back to David Archer, however —

Jane sobers, but her eyes are still soft, looking on Zatanna with an expression of pure sympathy. "I actually lost my shit on him," she confesses. "So no judgment here. You have better lock on your temper than I do. But you did perfect, Zee. We're lucky to have you."

She shares in Bucky's careful silence as Zatanna, with use of her magic, undertakes the surgical process of pulling the heavy Machine through that portal and Tetrising it into the little space of Jane's bedroom — free of clutter and staged to allow the appartus-chair in, but not really offering much space beyond that. And all three of them are breathlessly careful of it being accidentally broken: there's only one so far. Who knows if or when they'd ever find such a device again. It's priceless until they no longer need it.

As it settles back in — Jane looks on that with mixed feelings, hating to share her home with that thing, but eager to finish this once and for all — she lets out the breath she was holding. "As always, Zee," she says, voice flush with indulgent affection, "you are amazing."

"Come on, Bucky. You're old, but you're not that old." Zatanna pauses, and gives the man a slow squint. "…right?"

His humorous rejoinder about starving to death has her swallowing down another laugh, embarking on a very real attempt to look nonplussed. But she slinks slightly to the side in an attempt to stay out of whatever banter from the couple that results from this, concentrating, instead, on the task before her.

She says nothing else about Archer; that chapter of their lives are now closed, and she's more than content to keep moving forward with her life. "Nobody knows what a Zumba is anymore, either," she says, finally letting out a small laugh. "It's not something you need to know in modern society so long as you have a smartphone."

Jane's reaction to the name has her laughing, rubbing the back of her neck. "They're family heirlooms," she explains to Jane. "Daddy's a descendant of da Vinci, it was an accident that he discovered his notebooks one day in the attic of nonna's home when he was just a boy. It's…well, I'll let you see and read them for yourself. Hassan?"

A shadow shuffles out from one of the back stacks, a large, distorted hand wrapped in ancient bandages visible over the spines. The mummy's empty black eyes stare in between gaps from criss-crossing aged linen, head tilted in expectation of a command from the mistress of the house.

"Can you get me da Vinci's notebooks? It should be in the usual place - all of them, Bucky won't even break a sweat carrying the entire collection, I think."

The remarkably preserved, but centuries-dead thing shuffles away to do what she asks, and the magician turns to Bucky and Jane, pushing the chair the rest of the way into the portal and situating it there, bolted to the floor by sheer weight. Jane's recounting on her own lashing against Archer earns her a grin. "I'm glad to know I'm in very good company, then," she tells her simply, reaching out to squeeze the petite woman's shoulder. "I'm just glad I didn't ruin anything for anyone."

The affectionate remark that follows afterwards has the young woman's cheeks glowing pink. Most of her life, she had no one but her father to lavish that kind of selfless fondness towards her, to the point that she had been in a real danger of believing that there wouldn't be anyone else in the world who appreciated her the way he did. Moments like these make her immensely grateful, in the end, that the world has proven her wrong. She coughs afterwards, looking somewhat sheepish, rubbing the back of her neck. "I'm not, really, I'm just…" And she lets out a laugh. "Really really generous."

Hassan returns, arms laden with an entire collection of the Renaissance man's notebooks. He proceeds to hand it to Bucky - of course, a lady wouldn't carry the burden.

"Anyway, if you guys need me for anything else, really, I mean it, just give me a ring and I'll pop on by, yeah? John and I might be heading to London soon to work on the Darkness stuff, but until then I'll be here. It's just…" She takes a breath. "It's just so great to have the two of you back."

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