Demon Bear: Worst Dinner Party Ever

December 04, 2017:

Emery Papsworth comes to Alias Investigations at Jessica Jones' urging to give Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster their soul check-ups. Everything's great. Until it isn't.

Alias Investigation, Hell's Kitchen, New York

Sure, go ahead, mess it up, kinda par now.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Danny Rand

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

If Emery didn't bring food for this soul check-up, that's okay. Jessica seems to be acquiring mountains of cake. She's only worked through about a third of the German chocolate cake Emery already gave her and 1/4th of the fruit cake, which has been breakfast for days now. Then Elise Campbell sent over a bunch of Instagrammable cupcakes. Jess was really confused by the activated charcoal ones and less impressed with those than with Emery's cakes, but you know, they're around. But if Emery wanted to bring food she wouldn't say no to that either. She does, as explained, get a whole lot of food from the kindness of strangers. Edible non-takeout food.

She put on a pot of coffee as per the usual.

She is pretty relaxed, because she expects exactly zero to come of anything about this. Emery was worried, but why should she be? They all went there with Constantine, there are two weird things, the party that went after Jane was larger, it's fine. This problem is clearly some other set of people they have no idea about yet, one of which could honestly be Emery's nanny as he already said her soul is not in her body.

She expects mostly to introduce two friends to this guy who is becoming a friend, to eat, to say whew that's a relief, and to be done. It feels awkward. Bucky made it less awkward in his email. Because that's what Bucky does.

She's wearing a baggy grey hoodie over a blue tank top and ripped jeans; boots. Typical lounge around the place stuff.

Alias, it's worth noting, has acquired art too. Someone gave Jess a very nice 18 inch high statue of Athena emergent. It gives the impression of a classical statue slowly being revealed through tendrils of stone. Some parts of Athena's body are entirely entwined in organic whorls, while other parts, like her upheld sword arm and distinctive helmet are delicately rendered in full detail. The whole sculpture is the colour of polished ebony, but when the light hits it, small details are revealed. That's on the highest shelf and set well into the wall, but nicely on display.

In his many, many years on this Earth, Emery has always been a risk taker. Throw caution to the wind. Get into fights. Sass off to authority. But those have always been his own bad life decisions. It is times like this, that he curses his soft spot for people in need and his black as night but large and squishy heart for agreeing to be a sentient soul detector. He had plenty of time to talk to himself, chopping up and boiling an ungodly amount of potatoes to make a hearty, thick and creamy potato and leek soup (with extra bacon because…duh). If he wanted to talk to people about their souls, he would've become a priest. Which was an option, but…sex, drugs, and alcohol won out there.

He even eyes his phone from time to time as he make sure the fragrant brown bread loaves are rising and cooking like they should be. It would be so easy to send a text 'Sorry, went to Poland for holiday. Good luck with soul shite.'. But he cannot, because that's not what he does.

Even as he's packing everything up in the appropriate insulated carrying containers and securing the apple dumplings in their own containers, with a container of fresh whipped cream. He's not a gourmet chef, he just knows good home cooking. Even as this is taking place…and he is climbing into the driver's seat of his black charger, he has the opportunity to change his mind.

But no, Emery dressed comfortably in a pair of black jeans, black docs, light heather grey cashmere hoodie, and his hair pulled back in a neat man-bun, is at Jessica's door, holding a large blue insulated cooler/carrying container in one hand, his messenger bag resting against his hip and a stack of food containers hugged to his chest. He takes a deep breath. Then knocks, with his boot.

Jessica opens the door to admit Emery, staring at this stack of food. And then remembers who they're feeding. "See? I knew you'd do fine," she says with a smirk. "You brought just enough food. Come on in, make yourself at home." She steps back from the door to let him in.

Eventually, and promptly on time as arranged, there's a polite knock on Alias' front door. Through the plated glass come two familiar outlines: one tall shape of a man and a far smaller wisp of a woman.

In the weeks that follow her brief, but near-fatal abduction, Jane looks to have healed it all clean, no longer scratched up and raw with frostbite, and back to how she usually is: tired-eyed from too much work, but generally in good spirits.

Dressed for the chilly weather, in jeans and her bomber, looking even smaller in the shadow of its oversized, faux fur-lined hood, and cheeks flushed from the cold, Jane greets with her usual, warm smile.

"Hey," is her greeting to the opened door, with undoubtedly Jessica there. "Sorry if we're — commute's so bad. I brought something too!"

There's an entire pot in a certain Bucky Barnes's arms; it's useful to have a super soldier around for things like that. "It's — uh. I made a brisket. There's some sausage in there too. I hope it's not rude. James eats the entire world."

Burdened with 'the entire pot' in question, Bucky is a long-suffering but reasonably good-natured presence by Jane's side. It's cold, but somehow he's still dressed only in jeans and a light jacket. Super soldiers really get a lot of perks that kind of obviate the struggles mere mortals have to endure.

He's attentive to her, perhaps because of her recent ordeal, hovering close by her with frequent watchful looks checking on her condition. His eyes gentle with amusement at her complaints about the commute. "It'd have taken longer if we drove like you wanted to," he says, nudging Jane in through the door so he can get in edgewise too with the pot. He might be a super soldier, but it's still heavy and he wants to put it somewhere.

There's a nod for both Jessica and Emery alike — he seems to recognize Emery well enough, perhaps they spoke before. Jane's teasing about his nutritional needs brings him to roll his eyes, though he looks well-accustomed to the ribbing. "I have needs," he defends himself.

Jess gives Jane an appraising look and a grin, glad to see her looking better. Dryly she says, "I don't think I'm the Emily Post expert, and wouldn't get worked up if I were." Though Emery might get worked up, and probably is an Emily Post expert. Oh well.

"Oh hey um…Jane, I have all your equipment in the trunk of my car still. I'll get it for you before you guys leave tonight."She figured on giving those two their space, rather than rushing over to drop it off; it occurs to her that for all Jane knows it's being sold out of the trunk of some thug's car, because she forgot to text that she had it.

She grins at Bucky's good natured ribbing. They both look good, and it's good to see them together and here. Jess shuts the door behind them. Mostly the coffee table, the desk, or the kitchen counter are the only options for said giant pot, but she has them all clear, minus whatever space Emery has taken up. "Oh hey, do you guys all know each other already?"

Man, she's going to have to put on a movie or something, they brought enough food for another movie night between all of them. Another movie night with far more people, probably, but maybe she'll score some leftovers.

"Ahh, Miss Jones…you look lovely as usual luv. Can ye take this for me." Emery shifts as he comes through the door to offer the container of apple dumplings, all 3 of them. Stress Cooking FTW. "And its nothin' special, just nice and warm and fillin'. Just right for a meal with a group of friends."

And in the interim between his arrival and the arrival of the others. "It looks nice in here, thank ye for havin' me." Comes the compliment before he goes full butler and is pulling out the large pot of soup and the still warm and fragrant loaves of bread and setting them out and on flat appropriate surfaces.

Its that knock at the door that has Emery murmuring softly to himself and crossing himself before he flashes a dimpled smile when the door opens and he holds up the opened breadbox. "Oh Miss Jones, its like ye know my innermost visual fantasies or ye just have the most gorgeous of friends. And the beautiful young woman has made a brisket…" Bucky gets a polite nod. This is Emery, so he just quirks an eyebrow at the 'I have needs' comment and replies smoothly in that Irish lilt. "…well obviously so does she if she's needin' extra sausage in addition to her meat."

A look to Jane, its an understanding look. "Emery Papsworth, professional Butler and certified Personal Assistant, at your service."

When clued-in to the whereabouts of her missing equipment, Jane has enough self-awareness to look sheepish. That's sure a thing she hadn't noticed. "Oh — god," she blurts, amidst pulling off her mittens, sheepishly tugging on the fabric before stuffing them into her coat pockets. "I didn't even. There's a failsafe on my machine that would have wiped it, anyway. The rest of it — haven't really been on my game to go back to… yeah." Back to portal sniffing.

Mouth pulling into a thin line, she glances down at her feet, then back up at Jessica. "Thank you, though. Wow, my life officially looks like a trash fire now. I need to keep better track of my crap. More… order. Ugh. I —"

And that's about when both Bucky and Jane are hit, full force, by Hurricane Emery.

The butler swoops in with Category 5 charm, more than enough that lifts Foster's eyebrows, colouring a little with self-consciousness as he compliments her looks and her wares. She slips a small glance up at Bucky, like — oh god, what do I do, it's so suave — before that /needs/ remark makes her colour worse than a beet.

"I — uh — what!" Jane bleats weakly. "It's just venison! I don't need — hi I'm Jane!"

Bucky opts for the kitchen counter, which looks a little sturdier to support the weight of the pot. Leaving his burden there, he's returning just as Jessica asks if they all know each other. "The gentleman and I have met before," he says, of Emery, in a very large understatement.

Returning immediately to Jane's side, he slips a hand to the small of her back comfortingly when she mutters she just needs more order in her life. "You work too hard," he says. "It'll come."

His bracing hand tightens a little as Jane is summarily swept off her feet by butler charms, though when Emery starts to go there he gets as flustered as she does. "Ah, well, that's — "

He coughs. " — not something we're gonna discuss sober. Or ever."

Jess allows Emery's compliments about her to go unacknowledged yet again, though at least today she's got brushed hair and make-up and clothes without holes, however baggy and shapeless. But the compliment about her place? She'll always take compliments about Alias. "Thanks, I cleaned," she says, which like for her is truly kind of a once-a-month event.

But theeeeen…

You know a good way to mortify one Jessica Jones? Start talking about sausage and meat and various other innuendos while discussing Bucky and Jane. That's a great way to do it. "Annnnd plates, getting," she says, turning on her heel with a 'ew' look on her face as she races to the kitchen to get various things to eat on and with. She'll just hide in here until the innuendo is done flying.

"I got a bottle of booze I can't drink," she announces from the kitchen, when she hears the rest of it. It's not going to be powerful enough, but she brings it out anyway. And it is unbroken; she got that back after she began the long process of sobering up yet again, came off her 10-day bender.

She would not have admitted to it if she'd busted in even a little, after all, no way, no how. She brings out the plates and stuff too. When she's sure it's somewhat…safe?

The Irishman's lips curve in a hint of a smile at Jane's reaction and his eyebrows raise slightly before he laughs warmly. "A pleasure to meet you Miss Jane." He studies the woman thoughtfully for a moment, even as he is starting to put servingware that came out of that food transportation cooler thing into the appropriate dishes.

There's a quick glance between Bucky and Jane before he puts the two together in his head and he makes the universal 'oh, isn't that precious' facial expression. "So there /is/ something to talk about? And here I was tinkin' it froze off somewhere in that land of snow and horrible toilet paper. Very happy for you mate." He nods towards Jane. "You are an adorable pair."

He turns as he slices into the loaf of bread, buttering it with thick creamy butter and holding it up a bit when Jessica is returning. "Thank ye kindly. Was just about to ask about that." He offers fresh bread in exchange for plates and stuff and the bottle of booze. "And the strappin' young fellow and I have met before. He single handedly ruined both foursomes and Russian women for me. He taught me the error of me ways. If I even hear Russian these days, I go into instant prayer. He was truly doin' the work of God."

A pause. "Okay, who wants soup and and brisket?"

A grateful, hopeful look reflects from Jane's eyes, up at Bucky, at his comforting words. A brief, unspoken thank-you.

Of course, when Emery goes there at Mach 5, leaving both astrophysicist and ex-assassin sharing that same, universal, scandalized discomfort of two people who just do not share those things, it's about as sure an icebreaker as it gets.

With Jessica running awkward interference (and probably just trying to repress this quickly away too), Jane gets back her bearings, and answers the self-proclaimed butler with a gracious, "Nice to meet you, Emery. And, uh, thank you."

So much embarrassed blushing, and with a lingering hand on Bucky's arm, finally divests herself of her coat and winter things.

As Jessica mentions a bottle of booze, whether touched or not touched, Jane angles a questioning look back into the kitchen, but says nothing. Nothing in (presumed) mixed company, and no one more than Dr. Foster appreciates privacy. And then Emery divulges into a shared history between him and James Buchanan Barnes. Or by the sound of it, the Winter Soldier.

Jane stares through all of that, looking by all appearances someone who's never been told /this/ story. "Russian women?" she asks, because really, what else is there to home in on, and she couples that with an arched glance over at Bucky.

You are an adorable pair, Emery declares. Bucky grins a little in that way men have of going 'yeah look at her, right?' "Nah," he says, amused enough to play along at least a little. "I made it through Russia in one piece." That's probably the part that really scares Jessica off.

Bucky looks uncomfortable, however, as Emery brings up the exact nature of their shared past. It was during his time as the Winter Soldier, so no surprise there. Even less surprise when he gets MORE uncomfortable as Jane shoots him a look about 'Russian women.'

"The foursomes and Russian women were all HIM," he says, a bit defensively. "I was working."

Jessica's return with the booze is a welcome distraction. "Give me the alcohol first," he says grimly, "I have a feeling I'm gonna need it."

Jessica holds the sealed bottle of whiskey out to Bucky. "It was an apology gift," she says, sort of aiming that explanation at the Barnes-Foster/Foster-Barnes pair. "Thanks, Emery." That's for the bread.

But that's all she has to say about that. She takes bread, food's going around, she's happily getting situated with everyone else. The chairs from the desk all pulled around the couch so they can sit how they wish. She takes the only rolly one, planting her feet in the spines to keep it stable while she eats. Putting a bit more personal space between her and everyone else than she normally does, but only to a small degree.

Talk of foursomes and women and all that is going to keep her just eating. Yup, just eating away, nothing to see here, soup, bread, brisket, happy camper Jess who is not, not, not gonna talk about orgies. But she is also not going to try to interrupt the lively chatter of her guests, who seem to be enjoying themselves. That part makes her happy. Bucky and Jane seem right as rain to her, just like she knew they'd be, and since she knows damn well she can't small talk she's not going to stop them from talking about whatever they like.

So far, so good. Break the ice by talking about the Winter Soldier's Dick while simultaneously high-level talking about how much of a Dick he was when you first met him. Emery nods slowly and is quick to reassure Jane. "He was incredibly well behaved, no worries dear. So prudish, it shamed me into also giving up a fun evening." It was a long hair, but he doesn't have the heart to call this woman's boyfriend/partner a woman. To her face. Because he's over it, completely. Well mostly.

Then he's fixing plates for people, glancing over to Jessica with a reassuring smile and then looking back between the two and he exhales softly.

There's no mumbo jumbo, or touching or long soul searching stares. Emery just is happy to laugh softly and shake his head as he works. "This brisket looks absolutely divine dear, you must share your recipe one day." And there is a pause, just a brief one as he looks from Bucky to Jane and then back to Bucky and then back to Jane and then lowers his eyes and butters another piece of bread. Nobody is bringing up the soul stuff and he sure as shite isn't. Yet.

"Miss Jones, isn't the brisket lovely?"

"Mm-hmm," replies Jane to Bucky's formidable back-pedalling, her head tilted, her sharp eyes discerning. Then, a moment later, she relents, giving him amnesty with a passing touch to the man's jaw, before custom bids them all to congregate for dinner.

Helping herself to one chair, she pulls up to the table, eyeing all the offered food like she's not certain what /she'll/ do with it all. There's some weight-gain on her person since the trials of Wakanda, but Jane still keeps her abject smallness in check: looks perpetually like all she eats is bird seed and berries.

Of course, Jane meets again her most dreaded nemesis: the evil compliment. Again, fair talk of her food brings her to blush, drowning in her own self-consciousness. "It's just — google search and a slow cooker. The hardest part, really, is keeping James from eating it."

Ignoring the red meat, herself, the tiny woman partakes of soup. "But, seriously — I hope you two like it. Dig in. I tried to make it really nice. This is — needed. It's a nice break. You get wrapped up in the routine."

The touch to his jaw softens Bucky's eyes. He leans into it briefly, before pulling away to meet Jessica. He takes the whiskey with an appraising look. Apology gift, she makes excuse. "It'll do," he says, pouring himself a glass.

He trails Jane over to join the others afterwards, taking a plate and otherwise holding his silence as Emery and Jane trade recipes. He rolls his eyes as Jane calls him out on eating everything before anyone else can get to it (including Jane, much of the time), but then again Jane looks like she lives on air and science, anyway.

She's not even eating anything but soup right now. James, in contrast, doesn't seem to understand any food right now except meat, judging by the configuration of his plate.

Jessica Jones is not the most subtle of people in the world. She's not. One would never get subtle signals from her. The sudden cast of Emery's eyes, the precise way he does that, though, tells her that she's getting one.

Signal recieved. She stops for a moment, spoon still stuck in her mouth, forgetting all about all the reasons why she's suddenly over-explaining having a totally unopened bottle of booze in her house. Which anyone could have, even a recovering alcoholic who has no intention of busting into it.

As she sits there with her spoon stuck in her mouth, it occurs to her that while she has never tried to lie to Bucky Barnes to know if she can or not— she's not much of a liar either, truth be told, unless she is running a pretext, which to her is much more like acting— she has definitely never successfully hid one damn thing from him. That thought just sort of rockets through her mind.

Maybe she misread the signal. She slowly pulls the spoon out and goes for another bite. Did her eyes widen? She's not sure. Did she change colors? Pale? Also not sure. She can't see her own face. She dives in for another bite, saying, "You're too modest, Jane. If I tried to Google this and slow cook it what would come out would be nothing at all like this. I'm pretty sure I'd get a brickset instead of a brisquet."

She is all too conscious about Emery's concerns, when it comes to calling 'Goose.' And…'Goose.' Apparently.

And of course there's all the worry that comes with the fact that if she's reading the signals correctly, these two people who she cares about are in deep, deep shit.

How's her tone? Is it strained? Is it too casual? Is it fine?

No idea.

Its not painful on the level of 'ow', its an aching awareness in the core of Emery's being that makes looking at Jane and Bucky feel wrong. There's no prey classification because there's nothing to hunt or harvest and that reality mocks the pieces of Samael that are constantly screaming and banging against the walls constructed in the Irishman's consciouness so that he can live a relatively 'normal' life.

"I'm sure with teh way he looks at ye darlin', you could ask Master Barnes here to fetch you the moon and he'd strap on a rocket pack and go boosting off before ye can blink." Emery replies softly to the comment about keeping James from eating something. "And that is a beautiful and rare ting."

The Irishman is quietly noting their food choices, biting his bottom lip as he bites into a slice of bread, chewing slowly as he crosses an arm over his chest, glancing over to Jessica and his lips part. Did she just…'Brickset' is now a word. "So, I hear you both had a bit of a brush wit' a horrible beastie and that's the key that links us all together here. I wanted to cook this meal for us all, to celebrate havin' survived and havin' avoided a horrible fate. I had a close friend, who wasn't so lucky, she never woke back up." A sad smile and small bow of his head. "She was…for the longest time, me only friend here in America and I've only been here a matter of months. I like to tink, that in times like this…I"m starting to make more."

"Um, well," is all Jane can stutter, briefly, shortly, at Emery's inference of how Bucky Barnes looks at her. She flushes red, looking down into her soup, swirling it embarrassedly with her spoon. Talk of James Buchanan Barnes fetching her the moon —

"He's already done that," she admits sheepishly, biting down on her bottom lip, and slipping a glance over at her boyfriend, looking at him through her quiet blushing. "I didn't even have to ask."

Glancing up, her brown eyes follow Jessica, perhaps trying to parse what little seems to cross the woman's face; all the while, Jane is friendly, curious, always searching. Nothing changed there. That is, until Emery mentions a 'beastie' and that draws back her attention to him, worry knifing in between her eyebrows.

His story seems to affect her like a punch to the gut, and the tiny woman loses her taste for the soup she was absently stirring, her arms folding in. "Oh god. I'm sorry to hear," she says quietly. "It wasn't the bear, was it? I'm so sorry. Maybe if she was more interesting, it might've favoured her a bit more."

Jane gives a wince, shoulders pulling up in half-a-shrug. "We all can't be so lucky, I guess. But hey, /we're/ all here, chowing down. And if you really want to know the brisket recipe? Secret ingredient is the cyanide."

She holds a second, then bursts into a laugh. "Naa, I'm kidding."

Bucky has little to no comment on the proceedings, though that's not really unusual. If Jessica is acting weird, he doesn't seem to notice, accepting her rambling and her tone of voice and her expression and all those things as just par for the course. She's always been a bit awkward in social situations, so it's not like this is terribly out of place.

He leans against Jane, affectionately, when she says he's already gotten her the moon without asking. That, too, is not out of the ordinary.

Emery says he hears they had a brush with a horrible beastie. Speaks of a friend he had who encountered the beast too, and never woke back up.

Bucky shakes his head, tragic. "That bear," he sighs. "It's really getting around."

Then Jane makes her little joke. Bucky smiles indulgently, leaning back with his glass of half-finished whiskey. "She really is kidding," he makes apology. Jane, what a joker. "I told her to use wolfsbane instead. Much less obvious."

"Ha ha ha yeah, super hilarious you two," Jessica says, at first for all the world like she's being sarcastic, but not alarmed.

But she puts her bowl down. Well that's enough brisquet for her. She is not the Dread Pirate Roberts. She has not spent months developing an immunity! To either fucking one!

Then with a hard burst of force, kicks her chair back, rolling straight towards the twee cupcakes. Son of a bitch, son of a bitch, son of a bitch. She is now a lot more impressed by the activated charcoal cupcakes. She flings one at Emery, hoping he'll catch it, while doublefisting the other one into her mouth. She can't even pretend she didn't hear all that talk about the bear finding souls interesting and being favored. Not to mention that laugh which…she's never heard Jane laugh that way. Not bursting into one. That's not a joke Jane would make. So if she was worried she wasn't reading the signals right? Yeah, that worry's done.

And Bucky just so cold and matter of fact. Jesus. Jesus. This is her god damn vision all over again, really.

Though some tiny part of her really, really hopes this is just some really shitty Decemberween joke or something. That they're just going to double over laughing at her frantic response. Ahahaha, sure got you, Jess!

"See. I knew it. Dedicated love and all. Really Precious." Ever so smooth. ever so calm as he eats bread and butter even though he keeps adding more butter as he eats more of his bread so its more butter than bread.

The Irishman just watches Jane now as she speaks, eyebrow raising slowly as she fires shots in the form of dissing the nanny. Blink Blink. He flashes a dimpled smile, one that does not meet his dark eyes which practically swirl with restraint. "Ooh, aren't ye just so adorable and fecking funny. More interesting, that's clever." He laughs softly and swivles a glance over to Jessica.

Oh yes, everything will be just fine. These are your friends. Emery is smiling softly and not saying 'i told you so'.

Cyanide is mentioned and Emery consumes the last bit of his bread with relish, even licking his fingers, nodding along to what Bucky is saying, even if he is edging towards Jessica almost protectively, scanning the room and racking his brain as he catches the charcoal cupcake.

"Wow, ye are both the shittiest poisoners. Ye use baked goods as a delivery system, or soup. Not roast meat, it takes the system longer to break that down. I do appreciate, however,the use of wolfsbane. It is a more herbaceous and less chemically taste but sadly I am on a low protein diet. I only do eggs, dairy, fish and have to minimize my contact with soulless assholes who tink they are funny or I break out in hives and murder."

A smile and soft chuckle. "But you two…absolutely heeeelarious."

When Bucky leans briefly against her, Jane turns her head, and just as briefly, nestles the point of her chin to his shoulder. Her eyes stay open, looking elsewhere.

His joke jumps a small laugh from her. She playfully slaps his closest arm, affectionate, indulgent. "You're a shit, Barnes."

Little by little, her smile widens at Jessica's remark, and her dark eyes track the way the woman leaves the table, heading to partake of dessert a little too early. Jane, for her part, neither seems rushed now worried, relaxed in her own chair, idly stirring her untouched bowl of soup with her spoon.

Her attention rivets back to Emery. He speaks, and politely, she listens, her dark eyes like mirrors. Reflecting the world back any chance it tries to look in.

"What can I say," she admits, "the bear let us keep our sense of humour. It's not as cruel as you may think. Rather generous, considering what it can do to you. Right, Jessica?" Jane calls, over her shoulder, pleasant, absent.

"But," she continues, "good call. We really are screwing with you. Poison, it — makes the meat bitter. And James has a sweet tooth."

Jane looks up at Bucky, reaching to run her thumb over his bottom lip. "You saved some room, right?"

Cold blue eyes track Jessica as she kicks her chair back and goes for the cupcakes. They slowly turn back to Emery, taking in his cool and measured response, his quips.

Bucky smiles indulgently as Jane slaps his arm, appreciative of his humor, but otherwise holds his silence obligingly for her to speak of the Bear: of its little generosities. He only speaks up in agreement once she finishes.

"Poison removes," he ruminates, in the voice Emery remembers from decades ago, which Jessica remembers from one year ago, "much of what I've always found most fun."

He tilts his gaze amusedly at her, at her last question. The answer is in his untouched plate… but he does, before moving, mindfully toss back the rest of the whiskey in his glass.

He flings it aside afterwards. The tinkle of shattering glass is a small sound soon swallowed in the warping, windy influx of shadows. The air suddenly reeks heavy of the Demon Bear's corrupt magic. Darkness peels off every corner of the place, wrapping inwards, obscuring Jane and Bucky alike.

Up until a deep rattling growl shudders the air, and something blacker than the whorling shadows lunges, with flashing fangs, in an attempt to rip Jessica open from throat to hip.

Jessica Jones stares at two of her dearest friends in horror. It's not betrayal, exactly. This is an outside force, warping their behavior; that gets a pass on that front. Indeed, she's feeling far more sick on their behalf than on her own, though she's spluttering a little from her haste to swallow the cupcake. There's a bright blue streak of icing across her face and nose, making her look a bit like she's six.

Briefly, she finds herself wondering just how much they know about the impact the bear has had on her. The fear of her own apartment, the inability to be around the people closest to her for days. The sensation of feeling like there was something shredded inside of her. The drinking, ye gods, the drinking. Her aversion to touch, even now.

It makes her want to just run right here and now. But she made a promise. This is her fault, he told her so, she was so damned sure. And she's got to honor that before she, well. Flees like a six year old, which is definitely her plan as soon as it's morally and ethically feasible to do so. "You should go, Emery," she says softly, standing up.

It isn't just for Emery's sake. For Kennis' too. And for Jane and Bucky's. He is breaking out in hives and murder. And she certainly doesn't want him seriously hurting either one of their bodies. She's probably wrongfully concerned about that, given who is standing in her apartment joking about poisoning them and eating them, but…it's still a concern.

She wipes her hand across the back of her mouth, drawing the blue away in creamy white streaks which transfer there.

She swallows, all this talk of saving room, bitter meat.

The whiskey bottle shatters, she actually jumps. Not a power leap, just a jump of fear.

Then shadows. And the wolf. "Get the hell OUT," she yells at Emery again, stumbling back. He misses her throat, but he sure gets a good big bite of her hip. Blood streams into his mouth, her flesh is on his tongue. She probably tastes a little pickled, really, she hasn't been off the sauce that long. It streams down her leg, too, darkening her jeans.

Memory assaults her. Bucky, insulted that she didn't give it her all, her everything, when he taught her. "Damn it, Buck," she snarls…

Before attempting to punch the wolf with every ounce of her own enhanced strength.

"I didn't need to celebrate this anniversary, man! This is not supposed to be a god damn annual event!"

So. Wrong. Emery watches Jane as she speaks, torn between grief and disgust, but only showing amusement externally.Everything was going juuuuust fiiiine. Then everything is slow motion as Bucky opens his mouth. "Oh not this motherfucker…" He recognizes that voice.

He is very sensitive to how much work Jessica did cleaning her house and Bucky's behavior is so unacceptable. Whiskey glass tossed aside and all. "Miss Jane! Please get your manbitch under control - "

And then it happens, the darkness and that smell, that familiar sensation swirling beneath his skin and the Irishman shakes his head slowly as time all catches up to what is happening for him.

There is a look to Jane and he just stares at her for a moment, seeing just a shell, husk and he gives a small, polite nod. Why? Two things are happening, one…he has to trust Jessica can avoid getting eaten to death by the Wolfen Soldier. And Two, Mr Papsworth has picked up the brisket. "Call of your manbitch or I swear to Christ almighty I will hit you in the face wit your google approved brisket, so help me God. Ye will be chirpin' the theme song from Bambi for days. End this right now,and ye both walk out of here."

While James Barnes twists and knots into moving, whorling shadow, and sheds his form for that of a monstrous wolf —

— Jane Foster remains a polite dinner guest, still seated at the table, and finally indulging herself with a spoonful of soup. As the beast tears fangs into Jessica, she takes a testing sip, and her eyebrows lift with appreciation.

"Not bad," she says, taking another mouthful. "No. This is seriously good. This could have been a nice night, but you two had to go screw with It."

Letting her empty spoon twirl inside her fingers, Jane however holds further words as the butler speaks; behind her, the wolf fights to feed, and she humours Emery's demands with a rapidly-diminishing half-interest. She lets go a protracted sigh, and the spoon drops to the table. "Oh my god. You've been following all this, right? Then you know it's not my call."

All that feigned humanity chills out of Jane's eyes. All that's left is a shell, empty of humanity, all of the soul husked out, with eyes that mirror like glass. She stares into Emery, unrelenting, unblinking. "Only It gets an end. And that comes when It decides."

Jane speaks placidly in the background, her eyes as empty as those of a taxidermy bird. She explains, lowly and gently.

The wolf, in contrast, snarls mindlessly, his growling shaking the walls, striving only to set his fangs in flesh and tear it clean from the bone. 'Not this motherfucker again' indeed. In shape he finally expresses the predatory, animal mindlessness of the Winter Soldier, a leashed beast with no purpose but to kill on command. And right now, his command is to kill these people trying to interfere with Its plan.

His fangs find some purchase, and blood pours into his mouth. The taste of it maddens him, the creature straining forward —

This isn't supposed to be a god damn annual event!

Her full-force punch socks the monstrous wolf clean in the side of his snarling jaw, and the creature FLIES apart into a formless eruption of shadows. The messy explosion of darkness bursts across the entire room, slapping down on the floors and walls, impacting the ceiling. They find the existing corners of darkness in the room and merge with them, the pieces of the creature receding into the shadows with a hiss of corrupt magic.

It's quiet, for a moment.

Then every surface — wall, ceiling, floor — starts to growl.

That end comes when It decides, Jane says. And on the tail of her words, the wolf pours suddenly out of the shadows crossing the ceiling, directly over Emery's head, fangs seeking to snap him in half.

Jessica Jones' first thought when the punch has the effect it has is fuck me, I just killed Bucky! It's almost panicked. She maybe should have…what? Let him maul her?

Jane is nattering emptily and it's the creepiest damn thing she's heard in the real world for awhile. Points to Jane.

When her fucking floor and walls and ceiling all start to growl though, she definitely revamps her statement. She whirls around in every direction, hands up, adrenaline flowing like her blood.

"Jane," she says, striving for an even tone. She fails. It shakes like a leaf. "Listen to me. I know you're in there somewhere. In the shadows or the bear or…wherever. The part of you that makes you yourself. You're in there. And as tiny as you are, you're the toughest bitch I've ever met. You give and give and give until you're nearly wasting away. So I know you can fight this. This is just someone else in your head, Jane. And I know you would never hurt me. You can name every star. You came off the worst time in your own life and wrapped your arms around me and accepted me, filthy and small as I was. You told me my unrequited love came from a beautiful place. You're loyal and kind and smarter than anyone."

She isn't even looking in the right direction when the wolf comes after Emery. She's finally settled on looking at Jane.

There isn't much time for Emery to react to things, as they are happening back to back to back. Jane doesn't transform into a mutant killer bird demon so, the brisket is dropped back in its juices and the Irishman mutters a soft, yet polite. "Thank ye kindly, luv, its a family recipe." At the mention of his soup, because he still has manners.

He only has a few second to shake off briskety hands as he listens to Jane, meeting her dark empty gaze with a dark gaze of his own, only his swirls with restrained anger and violence. Angel, only in name and vaguely in ability, rattling at the cage that keeps him contained. There's nothing to reap but there's something to sow and the imbalance is maddening.

Its the full force punch and the eruption of shadows that makes the Irishman exhales softly, looking up and around himself and he starts murmuring softly in Latin even before Jane is finished speaking, his words overlapping her own. "Actiones nostras, quaesumus Domine…" Asking for assistance before he fully understand how he's going to need it.

He's not looking up when the ceiling decides to try to eat him, he's pushing up his sleeve to make sure the skin is showing and he slides a knife from the table, flipping it around and jamming it in his thigh, he knows which nerves trigger which pain.

It's that connection he leaves open, the pain and anger and darkness pouring through a link that has yet to be as he is throwing himself to the side, hoping to avoid being completely chomped in two but leaving his arm and shoulder exposed so that his skin comes in contact with the shadowy mouth and fangs.

…'It' has plans, and he wants 'It' to remember that he also could have plans, right now, the plan is to make sure the Wolf…feels pain. Even as he's shouting. "LIGHTS, JONES!"

The beast fissures into countless spreading shadows, its body unravelling, drafted into every slant of darkness, every well of shadow.

Jane does not move. She sits lady-like at the table, with all the graces of an appreciative guest, her dark eyes focused on a constant bead: straight on Emery. The bear despises him. So does its heralds.

So great is that loathing, that for the longest time she does not even seem to hear Jessica's quick, fierce words. They move into and through Foster, reaching to find some anchor-point in her emptied-out body: but there seems none left — nothing good, nothing human — that this bear did not rip free from her flesh.

She opens her lips to say her own thing —

— but Jessica is still reaching, speaking of a Jane Foster who gives and wastes away, and annoyance flickers over her expression. Her mouth twitches at one corner, jaw tightening. She breathes in deeply, as if to center herself again, but then to name every star —

Jane suddenly rises, kicking the chair away and turning, all to fix Jessica with a direct stare. Her eyes flinch back-and-forth, reading, searching. But one thing appears to be changed: she's also listening.

"I — " she begins dangerously, but somewhere in the syllable, her voice catches. "I — don't." Her hands open and close. "I don't — I don't — Jessica. This world isn't enough. The world It walks — bring that world here, make It weak. It feeds. Make It empt—"

The wolf reforms and goes for Emery, and that explosive movement breaks Jane's focus and stops her words. Emery's shout knots her up, surprised, not sure what to expect —

In the background, Jessica entreats Jane. The real one, not the shadow that stands before her.

And for a few moments, Jane replies.

But she is cut off when the wolf descends, jaws seeking Emery. With the swiftness of decades of training, the Irishman rolls to the side.

But not without giving the wolf a little parting gift.

The creature's flashing fangs close down, finding shoulder and arm… and PAIN rips through him as agony transfers through that touch. The monstrous thing howls and spasms away, crashing to his side across the floor, and briefly the twisting shadows curled about its left leg lapse. Silver gleams between all the slithering darkness.

Its incapacitation is short-lived. The Winter Soldier was bred on seven decades of pain. He struggles back to his feet soon enough, snarling, and lunges clear for Jane, snatching her up in his jaws as if to cut her off from further speech. One last baleful glance from those blue eyes is cast backwards, before the creature twists into the shadows.

He vanishes away seamlessly, with his cargo, before the darkness can be chased away with light.

LIGHT JONES!

She has no idea what Emery is trying to get her to do.

But…her friend stands there.

It doesn't matter.

Jane stands. Jessica takes a few swift steps forward. She intends to wrap her arms around Jane Foster. But before she can…

The wolf leaps. Takes Jane. Takes them back to the bear. Takes them back to the darkness. She sees that glint of silver leg. One small hope that maybe he got a little bit reached too. Tears flow down her cheeks. She's not even ashamed of them.

She yells, bellows, as if they can hear her. Maybe, just maybe they can. Maybe she can make her voice pursue them into the dark. "JANE! Alpha Lyrae! Alpha Aquilae! Alpha Cygni! Do you hear me?"

She stumbles; the pain in her hip reminding her it's there.

"Damn it! Damn it!"

She turns and punches the punching bag on its stand. It rips off its chain, barrels against the wall, makes a dent, falls.

Thankfully, Emery still has his arm. His eyes flash slightly, that faint glow when the Wolf of Shadows bites down and his awareness of his being and his own nerves spells out for him exactly what is being pierced and severed. Its an agony that he doesn't feel until the contact is broken and he collapses, falling over onto his side and gasping softly for air.

The Irishman rolls over onto his back, glancing over at his shoulder and arm and then turns to meet the Wolf's gaze, if only for a moment. His eyes dead on the surface, but the memories of the new pain being recorded and inscribed upon his soul for future reference and he lifts his good hand to raise 2 fingers in a classic V…the British equiv of flipping the bird.

Then he's collapsing fully back and exhaling a rush of air. So, the lights didn't come on but the dinner guests are fleeing. He glances over at Jessica from where he lays on the floor, watching her quietly have her breakdown and then he spiderwalks the fingers on his good hand towards a fallen piece of brown bread, taking a shaky bite mostly to have something to bite down on. He'll be okay, he's just going to lay here and chew on his bread as he bleeds and takes deep breaths.

"Miss Jones. I liked the chocolate friend with the stripper abs better. I mean, if I 'ave to rate your friends from 'eyecandy' to 'temporary arseholes'." He just needs to make sure that's clear, as he eats his bread. He doesn't however say 'I told you so'.

Jessica's face shuts down as Emery makes his comment. There are still red streaks on her cheeks and a red rim around her eyes, but it just shuts down, cutting off emotions like she's turning off a faucet.

She stares at him for a long moment. Slowly she takes in his injuries.

Does an internal barometer check. She still feels slightly odd about touching anyone at all, but something in attempting to get to Jane broke that spell. She just feels mildly icky, not afraid or completely covered in filth. Dude's eating bread off the floor. He can maybe handle it. It's not even real filth, it just feels like it. Without a word she goes to get her first aid kit. Thumps it beside him.

"Sorry," she says.

Shorthand for yes, you were right.

"Gimmie your arm."

She'll try to make it right, at least.

Her eyes turn shifty, guilty. "Sorry," she says again. "I should have…I don't know. Hid you in a closet and had dinner or something and had you tell me after."

"I'll say an extra prayer for them both…dun worry Miss Jones." Emery pushes himself up with his good arm, hissing softly and idly cracking his neck. "And ye have no reason to apologize. The tiny one was creepy and teh big one wit' the cheeks tried to eat us both, but small blessings. They didn't eat the apple dumplings." He wiggles a bit and tugs a hankie from a pocket, its not bloody yet and offers it to Jessica even as she's checking his arm.

"Dun mourn for the body that yet walks the earth, and dun mourn for the soul that has not yet departed this plane. Instead let your fury build from the fires of righteous indignation, and next time ye get a chance to face that bear? Channel all that anger and emotion into your might wee fist and rip its demonic bollocks off."

He does allow his arm to be taken though, waiting until he feels her hand touch his arm and then he concentrates. He's already pain but he's used to a fuckton of pain so the moment she makes contact with his skin, he allows a shallow but lingering link to form…an attempt to alleviate that pain she's feeling from being bitten. By her good friend. Even if its temporary.

Jessica gives Emery a long look. "I was reaching her, Emery. I refuse to just write them off." She dabs at his wounds, doing her best. "I don't think my wee fist and my anger's gonna cut it. That thing thrives on darkness, hate, fear. So we can't go feeding it more darkness, hate, or fear. I mean you were trying to tell me something like that the other day right? Facing nightmares or…whatever you said. But. I think I'd have gotten to her. I think that's why the bear recalled them, why Bucky took them away. I think she was listening."

She then realizes something is happening. She blinks down at her hip. Blinks up at Emery. She remembers that comment about taking pain. Does it hurt him any? Is he taking pain or removing pain? Unsure, she says: "I got you hurt, man."

He might notice her pain tolerance is pretty good. It hurts, sure, but she has fought on through worse, and so the way it feels for Jessica Jones to get a big bloody bite taken out of her hip is not necessarily what many would be experiencing.

"I didn't say write them off. They are not beyond savin' or anyting. Granted, the last time I met Mister Barnes he tried to kill me wit' a car door so at least this time his attempt on me life had a bit more of a personal touch." Emery murmurs distractedly and he nods slowly. "Aye, but righteous indignation comes from a pure place. A place of love and light. So, if ye love them. That's what ye gotta cling to when ye face this beastie again."

Then he's exhaling softly, breaking that link because he's assessed nobody is going into shock. He indeed feels his own and even the muted pain that Jessica feels but he acts almost reflexively, pulling his gift back in…keeping a faint feeler out there just in case but not concentrating on actively taking on two people's pain.

He almost snorts into his next laugh, shaking his head. "Ah, no. Pretty sure that was still Mister Barnes. Yep. Pretty sure he dropped down from the ceiling like a rabid and genetically confused bat and chomped down on me. All you did is make a call." There's an almost sad smile. "Sometimes I forget. How young people are."

He is however, mentally going over what Jane said…she dropped hints to a question he never got to ask Dani. And they run in a repeat in his head.

She does love them, but last time she said so Bucky made a weird face and called her 'extra', so it feels a bit weird to confirm it now, to Emery. So, she doesn't.

Instead, she quirks a smile as he says it was Mister Barnes the Big Bad Wolf who got him hurt. It's a half of one, but still a bit there. "As for these encounters, I mean. That just means you have a bad knack for meeting him when he's not himself, is all. When he's himself, well."

She exhales. You two, she mentally addresses Bucky and Jane, Have just. The shittiest friggin' luck.

But Emery says this thing about being young, and she gives him a quizzical look. "Did I say something naive?" Which would be maybe a bit weird for her, but not outside the realm of possibility. What Jane said just made so little sense to Jessica that she's not even trying to parse it. By now she's on to 'disinfect wound like whoa, because it is a wolf bite.'

Not himself. Emery will take her word for that because he's met Russian Bucky. Smoking Bucky. And now Wolf Bucky. He just nods slowly and holds still so that Jessica can disinfect his arm. Then he's quiet as he considers how to respond to that. "Not naive but…I have been alive for over a century. I tend to not assume but go ahead annd prepare meself for the worse case of scenarios, so as not to be surprised if tings turn out to be shitty. I keep me joy in this nice little bucket of the tings and people I love and trust is a five letter word for 'potential fucking' and not in the good way. It takes someone young…and still not as jaded as they think they are, to hear that somebody's soul might be missing and still be hopeful that its still there."

The Irishman exhales a soft chuckle. "So thank ye. For remindin' me." There's a wistful smile. "Reminding me, what Hope looks like."

Jessica Jones stares at Emery as he says all this.

Finally she scowls at him— right around the time he says that about 'not as jaded as she thinks she is'— as she starts wrapping the gauze around his arm. "Jesus. You're gonna give me diabetes, Papsworth," she grumbles. "And I've already been bitten damn near in the ass tonight."

She exhales sharply. "I just made them a promise is all. That's all. And I don't give up on my friends. You make me sound like…like…"

Her hands flail helplessly. And then she glowers. She remembers the moniker he gave her for one thing. "Like Snow Goddamn White."

She jabs a finger at him as she reaches for the tape. "If a fucking happy bluebird lands on my head it had damn sure better offer to do the housekeeping, or I'm holding you accountable."

"…well, I've seen Hunky, we just almost got killed by Murdery. Ye owe me 5 more dwarves." Emery drawls softly. "Then we'll see about the domestic song birds." He winks and then closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. "When ye finish up, let get ye patched up and we'll see about gettin' this place cleaned up." A pause. "Then I'm sitting Danny and Kennis down in front of a Disney marathon and sleepin' so I can recover and heal." He takes another deep breath. "And we are meetin' Satan of the Subway or whatever that other one's name for mebbe brunch. Dinner's apparently too intense." And then he falls quiet. He really, really, reeaaaally is getting too old for this shite.

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