Demon Bear: Change of Orbit

December 11, 2017:

Demon Bear, Jane, Bucky and Dani search for powerful artifacts. They encounter Emery, Jess, Constantine and Zee. There's both winning and losing.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There are things in play with both the mortal world and the non-mortal worlds.

Items to be sought, to be found, retrieved and kept out of reach of the would-be heroes.

As such, the Bear has sent its sentries outward, into the Winter Night to find those things that sing with power. Power that could potentially be harnessed and used to hurt it.

The retrieval tonight brings Bird, Wolf and Bear into the urban jungle, Manhattan to be specific. Where the National Museum of Mathematics can be found. An odd place to find an item of power, for certain, but here it resides.

Because of that, the shadows within the building sharpen and take shape. They stand to attention and from their depths a chill air begins to permeate the first floor. Specifically the section for visiting exhibits where an aged relic sits upon a pedestal covered in clear glass. Beneath the glass box a small card reads - 'Ishango Bone. A bone tool used as an ancient tally stick.'

And while the slash marks upon the aged fibula does indeed look to be some sort of mathematical score, in reality this tool was used for divination and so, it holds power. Ancient power.

From those razor-edged shadows a woman steps through - shrouded in a bear-skin cloak, face shadowed by the 'hood' of the cloak.


It had been earlier in the evening, but not by altogether too much, when Zatanna called John to tell him she had a sudden ping on the magical signature the two magi had been tracking relentlessly, ever since the night John had woken to the shrieking siren of Zatanna in pain, and teleported to her only to find himself standing in his underwear on the side of a mountain in the snow, fighting a shadowy demon wolf.

Surprising enough, as circumstances go. More surprising still: he discovered he knows that wolf, and the little bird that was singing in its jaws, too.

He'd dropped everything the instant he got the call. 'Where is it?'

'At a museum of mathematics.'

There had been a long silence from John.

'John…? …Did you hear what I said? It's-'

'A museum of mathematics. Yeah. Yeah I heard.'

'Okay, well-'

'What in the bloody hell do you put in a museum of mathematics, first of all-'

'Well-'

'And second-'

Zatanna sighs.

'-what business does a demonic bear have in one?'

'Maybe it wants to multiply,' Chas had said, obviously eavesdropping on the conversation via speakerphone.

John had just hung up the phone without another word.

Now he's here, standing outside, waiting for Jessica Jones, because his body is fragile and he's tired of being bitten in half.


Jessica Jones shows up in her layers of leather and bulletproof clothes. Doesn't really help versus jaws but neither does it hurt. Or piercing branches. Or nightmare visions. She has run the roof road, and so when she shows up she just thumps down from the building across the street, thumping down hard. "I don't know what's more disturbing," she says dryly. "The fact that someone devoted a whole museum to mathematics or the fact that a demonic bear and our soulless friends have decided to take a tour of it."

The sarcasm is 100% pure coping mechanism at this point, she doesn't really see any much humor in any of this situation. "Do you have a plan or are we just kind of…winging this one?"


"Lo Siento, no hablo Ingles." Delivered in such a smooth accent that sounds like those who hail directly from Spain. This was the reply coming over Emery Papsworth Phone at the initial request to 'meet' Jessica somewhere. Last time he 'met' Jessica somewhere, he ended up living out a 60 something year fantasy gone horribly wrong. Horribly Wrong. Thankfully, the scraggleheaded little ninja who pays him is trying to build of a resume for Sainthood and can perform miracle healings. So he's got full range of his arm once more.

This is some can't even talk about this shit in confession because he's just now found a church where the priest doesn't cross himself the moment Emery walks into the room. This is a next level type of tug in his knowledge and skills that he didn't expect to have to think about anymore. But he does. So the leather vest that zips up over an undershirt is both light armor and home to several sheathes. 1 Knife, 2 Knife, 3 Knife, 4 Knife…each one is slid into place, some with more flourish than others before he had shrugged on a knee length leather duster, laced up a pair of boots, strapped secured another couple of sheathes to his belt and then strapped sheathed sword across his body to rest within quick draw range against his back.

When his charger pulls up across the street from a Museum for Mathematics…the Irishman has a cigarette dangling from between his lips as he slides a clip into a glock and then slides it home in a thigh holster. His hair has been pulled back and tucked into a black beanie and he stares again before sighing and exiting the car. He plucks his cigarette from between his lips to tap some ash onto the street, his other hand is wrapped around the neck of a bottle of whiskey and he takes a swig before pushing his car door shut with a booted foot.

He spots Jessica and her male companion and makes his way in that direction. Raising the bottle in a greeting and exhaling a cloud of smoke before approaching. "Dearly Beloved, we be gathered together before God, the Saints, and all teh feckin' heavenly spectators who have crowded round the telly up above to watch the opening credits of this epic shiteshow…" That Irish accent is hard to miss, even though it is more of a lilt. There is a pause as he takes in Constantine, looking him over slowly and offers the bottle of whiskey silently.


A young woman shrouded in a bearskin cloak steps out of darkness. And from the opposite end of the room, another pool of shadow yields the great black form of a wolf. He paces silently free, shedding the darkness from his fur, circling close around the glass case with its relic.

He leans close, examining it with one blue eye. Then he tests the point of one great fang on its edge. The glass creaks dangerously.

Leaning back, he sits and contemplates the thing, before his head turns… waiting for his companion to join him and presumably do something about the case.


Twisting free from that same wreath of shadow, a third figure takes shape on the monstrous wolf's shoulder: the little black bird. Still lingeringly singed at its edges — long tail and wingtips all — it moves amidst the beast's long fur, turning its head and blinking one empty, mirror eye towards their compatriot.

Feathers lift from its body, and it spreads its wings, taking brief flight from the wolf. It glides a fair distance away, taking point to watch from the other side as the woman attends to their prize.

Landing on the console of one exhibit, the bird has a moment of apparent distraction: it cranes and cocks its tiny head, staring up blinking eyes on the moving images on a nearby screen. Prism shapes for a user to sit and, with presses of buttons, shift and warp by entering changing mathematical formulae.

The bird hops among the controls, staring. It taps a button with its beak, and the image on the screen shifts.


While the Bear itself isn't within the room an echo of it seems to travel with all three.

Ice crystalizes upon the floor leading to and from the multiple shadows that the heralds appeared from.

Those frosted paw-prints pace out and around, going from one end of the room to the other, even as the temperature continues to drop steadily within the room.

It's currently cold enough that breath fogs.

Well, perhaps other people's breath fogs.

When the Wolf joins Danielle Moonstar, the black-haired woman briefly turns her dark-eyed gaze to the creature of shadow and fur. There's a small tilt of her head in acknowledge, before her gaze moves to the newest arrival - a small bird. Again acknowledgement can be seen by the vague motion of the Cheyenne's head.

It's only as the smallest of their group heads off to another console, that Danielle Moonstar pauses to momentarily stare at the antics of the feathered woman.

Then the smaller Bear shifts her attention back over to the case. A few silent footfalls forward brings Moonstar right next to the item and with a touch, icy cracks begin to appear upon the glass.


In the dark, reaches down into his pocket and retrieves two spheres of glass, corked in one end and sealed with wax. He holds them up in deft fingers as though he were performing some sort of magic trick. The objects gleam in the stark light, the contents transparent, liquid.

"Holy water is the plan. It worked. Aside from that? Not really, luv. Just a hell of a grudge." He hands her one of the little objects in question, and as the Charger rumbles up the curb waits with evident impatience for the man Jessica told him would be coming to extract himself from the vehicle. It may seem at first glance as though this rough mood of the Englishman's has something to do with the stranger's heritage — after all, the English and Irish are famously at odds — but there's no part of England friendlier with the Irish than Liverpool, where most of the residents have shamrock blood.

No, this is just John Constantine-brand bad mood, standard-issue stuff, augmented by the oh-so-fresh memory of being used like a chew toy by an oversized wolf.

He eyes the bottle of whiskey, and with grudging restraint shakes his head. "Ta, but no. After, alright mate? Now take this shite-" He pushes the bottle of holy water Emery's way, "-and let's…" He struggles to find the words, gesturing at the building. "Whatever this is going to be."

And then he's wasting no time. He stalks up the steps with his complete lack of a plan and throws the door open, fully expecting the other two to follow.

And there, in the dark, he's assaulted first by the cold, the glittering rime of ice beneath his feet as the room is plunged into bitter cold he remembers; by the smell, the reek of demonic taint; and by the sight: an enormous wolf, a tiny bird, and a woman wrapped in furs.

"Okay, Princess Mono-No-Thanks-"

JOHN YOU CAN'T SAY THAT THAT'S A JAPANESE MOVIE AND SHE'S NOT JAPANESE IT'S SUPER RACIST

"-how about we have ourselves a little chat."


Emery's Spanish act just causes Jessica to roll her eyes. "You know, Papsworth, I gave you a pass on your shit plan. Maybe you could cut me some slack on mine."

She was apologetic, but she's going to be apologetic to a point, and he's reaching it! But hey, he comes, and even if he said that bit about the opening credits, well, it's no more sarcastic than anything she says.

She looks over at the holy water. Holy water and a grudge. Okay. Well. It's something. She takes her vial of holy water, nods, says, "Better than nothing," and strides in behind and to the right of John. John's aggressive, and angry. She is quieter, her mouth tightening into a thin line. There's the bird. Is that Jane? It's probably Jane? She didn't see the bird at her apartment, just the wolf.

For once she leaves the smartass comments to others. Her heart starts pounding again; she fixes her eyes on the wolf and the bird. Cuts a glance to John. A glance to Emery. She exhales sharply. Is she in over her head? Yep. Is that normal? Yep. Is it gonna stop her? Does it ever?


That's okay, because Emery takes another swig from the bottle when he hears John's accent. Scratch That - Not Swig, its a few gulps to finish the bottle, cigarette has to be dropped and ground out under a foot as he accepts the bottle of holy water. The Irishman does not ask any questions, he can guess what the 'shite' is. Jessica gets a polite nod and a blink as he's following after John and Jessica.

Following after more people with clearly laid out lack of plans. "Actiones nostras, quaesumus Domine, aspirando praeveni et adiuvando prosequere: ut cuncta nosta oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat et per…" He starts murmuring softly in Latin as they enter that building.

"And this is how ye know teh Winter Bitch is wanderin' around wit' no soul and no pants. Its cold as his oh so frozen balls in here…" He takes in everything, gaze flicking from one 'being' to another before he (somehow he's lost the whiskey bottle during this journey) lifts a hand to wave, pushing up a pair of invisible glasses. "I'm here to talk about maths. If teh Bear has 5 souls, and te Irish Bastard has over 80 souls…how many souls do teh need to no longer be allowed to do the water sprinkler in the soul train line?"


The wolf watches intently as Moonstar's frozen touch starts to crack the glass. His head tilts a little, with the curious aspect of a dog watching a bone — except writ many times too large.

Soon enough, however, a sound hits his senses. An ear flicks, and a low growl starts deep in his chest as his head turns to the flung-open door.

The wolf rises smoothly, pacing behind the glass case on its pedestal. He is briefly lost from sight… and re-emerges in more familiar form. The Winter Soldier, dressed in black, stands idly beside Dani Moonstar, hands shoved in his pockets, head canted.

"Better?" he inquires, of Emery Papsworth.

His gaze turns passes Jessica, silent as she is, and settles on John. "You should rethink this, John," he says. "Go home. I'm not feeling real charitable after what you did."


The commotion also draws the eyes of the songbird. With a push of its open wings, the tiny animal forgets its momentary diversion, climbing back into the air as it circles ominously overhead.

Its little wraith shape, trailing with the moving, running, liquid edges of shadows at its edges, takes roost off some draping, wall-to-wall welcome banner, clipping its feet into the fabric. The bird hangs there, turning its head to fix one black eye down on the three, little twitching movements running its attention from face to face to face.

The wolf changes back to a man, and with James Barnes's face, his voice, his words — implores them all to leave.

The bird waits for an answer. It stares down lastly, and most prominently, on Jessica. It lets go a single call, wan, like a plea.


The glass shatters with a soft crackle of sound and the counting stick now finds itself free of its paltry protection.

Danielle starts to reach for it and she almost obtains it. However, before her fingers can encircle the archaic leg bone company comes a-calling.

Her first warning is from the Wolf and his growl, and then Jess, Emery and John Constantine arrive in all their glory. For Dani, those initial words from Constantine are completely ignored.

Silently now, the woman calls forth a shadow and with a twitch and an actual leap the shadow obeys. It eagerly crowds around her feet and from the black depths a bow rises upward. As she reaches for that bow her gaze moves to the Wolf, now dressed in man's form and man's clothing.

The Wolf's words don't stay her hand as it reaches back and retrieves an arrow from the quiver that sits upon her back. That arrow is nocked and brought upward, but as the Bird echoes the Wolf's plea, the Bear's hand pauses.

For that small moment before the battle begins it allows Dani enough time to focus upon Emery and seeing the man the woman's mouth twitches into something that could charitably be called a smle - a smile full of contempt.


There's a blink from John as Emery opens his mouth and a lot of Irish natter about souls spills out of it. Five and eighty souls, and Soul Train, and - what? What? He glances that way as though he means to say something, but if he ever had a plan for what that something would be, it dies an early death as the wolf…changes.

Changes into someone he knows.

All of his tidal fury from nights ago comes swirling back in like the red haze of a bloody fog, cyclonic in his chest. It binds his ribs in chains so tight that he struggles against the weight of it to breathe, needing the oxygen to fuel his pounding heart.

"Fuck you and your charity, Barnes. I am rethinkin' it. I'm rethinking everything, but most especially the bit where you told me it was safe to let you off of your leash." The shape of his mouth thins, lips caught in some movement that doesn't quite manage to resolve, the stark brilliance of blue eyes hard like a knife in the dim. "The bit where I decided I could trust you."

He'll hate himself for his next words later, knowing this is and is not Barnes and the sense in making things personal is questionable at best, but he can't help it. Few people survive him long enough to earn his friendship. Fewer still who consider him a friend are considered friends in turn.

The betrayal bleeds out of him like poison, a sharp match for the fel light in his eyes. There's wounded disbelief there, somewhere, underneath everything — what little capacity he has left to believe in the people around him still wounded and curled in on itself beneath all of the apathy he tries to bury it beneath. "You almost took her from me again. You sheared her spine in half." He'd nearly done for John, too, but the occultist would never advertise his own mortality. "You'd better fight whatever this is, Barnes. Because I will-"

But what he will isn't something he gets to say. The tinkle of glass snaps his gaze that way, and all words die. The woman reaches for a bone, hesitates long enough to nock an arrow into her bow to slay him with, and his only thought is to keep her from taking what they came for. Not the foggiest idea what it is, yet, or why it's in a museum of math of all bloody things, but his choice is swift: he whips his bottle of holy water at the case, intent on dousing the bone with the hope that it deters her.


Emery prays in Latin. Jessica Jones only believes in Something or Someone, capital S, and it's hard to know who or what to pray to for that. John can bless holy water. He clearly has prayers too. Jess just has something else, something small.

Bucky stands in the form of man again, shrouded in shadows, issuing threats.

Emery and John are both aggressive. Angry.

Her brown-eyed gaze skims past Moonstar. She doesn't know Moonstar. She has no reach there. She feels for Moonstar's plight, maybe, but only distantly. She looks down and to the side, mouth twisting unhapply.

Then? Then, she hears that wan, pleading call. She looks up again at the bird. The small thing she has is the thing she tried to do back at her apartment. She swallows. They'd already left when she'd tried this the first time.

"Alpha Lyrae," she calls softly to her friend, raising her free hand up to Jane there on the drapery, like she's inviting her to perch. It's no prayer. Or is it?

"Alpha Aquilae. Alpha Cygni."

She might have been a bad choice for this confrontation, truly. She's not sure. She doesn't have a lot of will to fight her friends. She just wants to reach them.

She's distantly aware of Moonstar's focus on Emery, distantly aware that John and Bucky seem poised to stand off. Distantly aware Moonstar is trying something, that John is flinging holy water. Maybe she should be focused on helping either or both; she is here, after all, because she is the Tank of the evening, and she knows it.

But… there's that tiny, sad bird. That's Jane. She slips the vial of holy water into her pocket. It's there if she needs it, but…

Her every instinct says fighting hasn't really done jack shit in the past, says that's just more of the same.

Her instincts led them wrong before. Or her denial. She knows it. It got her and Emery hurt. It did. She's not perfect, she makes mistakes.

But…they've been fighting, and fighting, and fighting this bear and its Avatars. John. Zee. Herself. Members of the Justice League. Members of the X-Men. Emery. Owen. Luke. Fighting has gotten none of them anywhere. Aggression, fear, anger…can it really be the solution when the bear feeds off of these things?

Jessica makes a choice. She turns fully to face the bird. She says the name of the stars, very softly, again. "Alpha Lyrae. Alpha Aquilae. Alpha Cygni." She is neither mage nor priest. No chant she says or sings or whispers or invokes should do anything at all. But she stands there, hand outstretched, ignoring everyone else now. She's just a detective. An alcoholic. A woman who is arguably extremely fucked in the head. She'd snarked when Emery tried to talk to her about hope.

But she does have it. She does. Hope. Faith that the promise she made might prove strong enough. Love for her friend.

She leaves herself wide open, and tries to fight with those, instead.


"Better? I should be askin' ye that. /You/ are the one traipsing about with no pants on just because you got your fucking hardassness upgraded." Emery shrugs helplessly. "And ye 'ave to raise your hand to ask a question, really. We are learnin' maths here." Emery replies softly, he's still looking from avatar or whatever they are and then to the next. He has drawn no weapons, yet. He does duck a bit when the bird is flying…not really wanted to know the effects of demonic bird poop.

He can feel the darkness, the bleakness, the cold, the wrongness just lingering and swirling in the air around him and it sends a shiver down his spine as Emery exhales softly. He isn't sure what's happened between Barnes and Constantine so he does ask tentatively. "…Oi, does your Patriotic Manbride know about…the two of ye or, is Blonde, Brass, and British over tere your side chick?"

Then Jessica is speaking in Latin? That's a new thing…calling out to a friend she hopes is still there. The Butler is however focussed on the fact that nobody seems to notice that Dani…has pulled out her bow.

Trained for years, tortured for years, beaten, whipped, burnt and bled into shape to be a sword for the cause…and Emery is resorting to that which he was born with. Yes, from the moment he was pulled from his mother's nether regions and he pissed right into that nun's face, he has had a knack for either charming or irritating the shit out of the people that he meets. A power he uses mostly for good things like getting paid or getting out of citations. "That's it luv, give us a smile…" He replies to Dani, meeting her look with a quirk of his eyebrow and a flash of a dimpled smirk. "Come and give us a kiss then." He blows an air kiss, adjusting his hold on the holy water and his free hand moving to the small of his back.


The Winter Soldier registers Emery's remarks, but the meaning of them seems to pass through him like wind through the grass. Does a man with no soul laugh? Can a creature smile at humor?

Yet there are words which do seem to draw some deeper well of his attention… though he says nothing outright to John's outburst. His blue eyes have the perfect emptiness of glass. No soul behind them. No spark of the man who John Constantine called friend. There's a reason John Constantine doesn't call people friend…

Yet John Constantine speaks, and the Soldier seems to listen. At the least, he does not move nor resume his bestial shape. John rails of the folly of trusting him, of believing him when he said it was safe to remove the leash…

The Winter Soldier hesitates. Dani Moonstar moves at his side, nocking an arrow, yet he makes no hostile move. A flicker of a struggle seems to cross his expression, a line briefly appearing between his eyes as if with doubt or some small niggling of memory. It worsens when Jessica starts to speak, to say the names of those stars.

Names which Bucky and Jane have traded back and forth, many times.

You sheared her spine in half, John says. You nearly took her from me again. The Winter Soldier still makes no reply, but a tremor runs through him, as if a great tension strung suddenly through his body. He doesn't change.


The bird watches from above.

While Constantine and Barnes trade words, it pays silent witness, a turn of its head reflecting down one black eye. There is no doubt that little animal parses, understands, thinks — exists as every bit of Jane Foster left behind by the will of the demon bear.

Then its eye blinks, and in that wet lens, reflects Jessica. Reflects Jessica looking back up. Reflects Jessica's outstretched hand. Reflects Jessica's hope.

The songbird tilts its head, rearranging its tiny feet on the banner. It whistles once, the feathers lifting up from its back, its wings. Feathers seared at the ends, broken and frayed under a magician's unnatural fire.

Shadow distorts it, as if it needs extra focus, extra strength to hold together its battered shape, and for that reason the bird hesitates. The bear did not make it to be strong, and its protection — beside the wolf — is never to come close.

The last one who came close was John Constantine, and he held the songbird's life in the fist of his hand.

But as Jessica speaks those words, the bird cannot look away. It gazes down on her, fluffing up, letting go another short, confused call as its uses a pinch of its beak on fabric to rearrange its feet. The bird pauses, then lets go.

It glides down, wings open, and — holds, a foot from where she opens her hand. It holds in the air with its beating wings, curled up feet relenting, opening, as if to consider a perch.

Then the songbird pauses, convulsing in the air, and pulls back. Out of its throat wails an eery, earsplitting cry: a call, a warning, a summoning.


The holy water goes sailing and hits the artifact, the pedestal and the floor around it. Everything nearby is doused with that blessed water and a few drops splash upon the cloak that covers Dani's form. The slight hiss of that water touching the hide might be heard, or lost within the general noise around the group.

Where the water touches the shadows retreat, as does the cold, as it effectively wards what it falls.

Constantine's words are heard, as are Jess' and Emery's.

From that, the steel-tipped arrow wavers between Constantine and Emery - playing a game of back and forth between the two men.

It's only as the Wolf tenses and the Bird drops that the Bear's target solidifies.

Emery it is.

And then the Bird calls with a sound that might possibly seem far too loud for such a small body, but there it is.

Those shrill notes cascade up and around and stretch outward with greedy fingers toward the Bear and the Wolf and then onward to the shadows. The songbird's harsh warble echoes into the blackness and somewhere, on another plane of existence, a presence awakens.

Its attention goes from the spirit realm to the mortal and then it moves.

There are no foreboding footsteps, or stomps, or even roars to preface it's arrival. Instead it's a subtle shift in the energy that flows all around the six - a vibration that causes a sympathetic rattle to be picked up by floor and ceiling, shards of glass and assorted exhibits. It adds a sour tone to the cry of the Bird and before the last note is sung the Demon Bear appears.

The shadows shiver and tremble and then shift towards one another, merging and stacking upon themselves until the wall behind the Wolf and the little Bear is completely covered by darkness.

Within that blackness the glow of its eyes can be seen, then the shine of blighted ivory claws, before the Beast finally steps completely through.

Its head brushes the ceiling and when its gaze falls upon the assembled it reacts.

With a roar.

Hearing the signal that can be found within that sound the smaller Bear pulls the string of her bow tight and lets the arrow loose with a soft *twang* and *twhip* of sound.

It hurtles toward Emery.


A hero would interject.

A hero would find a way to intervene as the woman in the furs waffles between her targets, and chooses Emery. The thin glass vessel of holy water explodes on the artifact and the potency of it pushes back against the tide of vein-shattering chill that rolls off of the figures in the dim room; the effect it has could not be more clear. A hero would see that and think to himself: I have time to help protect the others.

John Constantine is not a hero.

In the shadows light winks nastily on the tip of the arrow as it nods uncertainly from one target to the next, and John's stance is ready, one shoulder forward, minimizing his profile-

But the moment the bow rises in a direction that isn't his, he lunges for the glass case and the dripping, notched bone contained therein.

As furious as he is with Barnes, as torn as that moment of flickering tension in his opposite may make him feel, his priority — above and beyond the well-being of his companions, but in fairness also above and beyond the well-being of himself — is to deny them whatever they came here for.


John Constantine is not a hero, but at the very least, he knows the daughter of one.

And said daughter can find him anywhere in the world, and across dimensions. The power of the astral link is just that unyielding.

So when the Englishman lunges for the glass case, Reality ripples outward, like a pebble thrown in a still lake; a portal opens up and Zatanna is suddenly there, skidding out of it and her obelisk in hand. Always quicker to act than think, she moves immediately the moment she espies someone in danger.

They all are, really, but her focus is on the immediate. A single word twisted backwards leaves her lips; a disc of white-blue energy encased in arcane symbols flashes in front of Emery, to get in the way of the arrow looking to pierce into him.

A NEW CHALLENGER HAS ARRIVED.


Jane warns, Jane summons, and Jessica knows whatever is coming could be bad. Truly bad. And it is. It's the Bear. The one she fears. The one who nearly broke her again.

But Jess sucks in a breath and forces herself to stay the course. At this point they could bite her, shoot her, peck her to death. They can swallow her whole, suck her back down into the dark. The bird's reaction. The fact that Bucky's not attacking yet. Her friends are in there and she has to reach them. She's too close to give up now. Her eyes are steady with determination, even as they shimmer with a few unshed tears.

Rushing the Bear, punching the Bear, it can't do anything anyway. Arrows are loosed, but Emery can take care of himself. John goes to protect the object. Jess hasn't even registered what it is. It's very, very rare for her to just go her own way in anything like this, especially with John at the helm. Magic isn't her baliwick; she usually is content to follow exactly where he leads. But right now…right now she just can't. She shakes, but she doesn't even let herself look at the Demon at all. She hasn't noticed Zatanna yet either. Focused, totally focused, on this and only this.

"Alpha Lyrae," she says, her voice firming. Gaining strength. And volume. But she never takes it to a shout. It just grows emphatic. Intense. "Vega. The brightest star in Lyra, the fifth brightest in the sky."

She looked them up when she'd gotten home from that very first talk with Jane Foster, of course she had, her insatiable curiosity and need to know requiring her to understand the three anchor points the diminutive scientist had chosen in lieu of street names. Even if she'd still have trouble picking them out, three dots in a field of pretty dots, looking like any other dots to her. But Jane could pick them out. Could point them out with ease. Could probably help her see the pictures in all those dots.

"Alpha Aquilae. Altair. The brighest star in Aquila, and the twelth brightest star in the night sky!"

Her hand remains outstretched, continues offering her slim, pale fingers as a perch. Her other is poised behind her, her her fingers splayed, almost as if she were trying to ward off something.

"Alpha Cygni! Deneb. The brightest star in the constellation of Cygnis, and the 19th brightest star in the night sky!"

There are worse hills to die on.

"Jane Foster, explorer, brilliant, kind!" She dares a glance at Bucky, though she remains in her pose. "James Buchanan Barnes, protector, teacher, full of grace!"

She returns her gaze to the bird. Soft, urgent, as urgent as her silent pleas for them to shake this off, reclaim what's theirs, and come back to them: "Two of the brightest stars in my sky."


The Irishman is watching Dani like a hawk, eyeing where she points that bow carefully, watching her deliberate and he cocks his head to the side hearing the warning/alarm from the bird. In the background, Constantine is doing something to save what Emery is guessing must be a demonic abacus of some sort…Jessica is using the power of love and talking about stars.

When the Bear starts to show up, Samael rattles the cages within Emery's mind…feeling the presence of something familiar yet twisted and wrong and it is like a burning itch that no amount of prayer can relieve. "Daaaaamn brother, it looks like all those souls are goin' straight to your arse, ye look a bit wider at the hips too…" Its that roar though, that makes Emery smirk as a hand moves to crossdraw that sword strapped across his back from his sheathe in a fluid motion. "Thank ye, /fuck/ you too." He flips the bottle of holy water to adjust the grip, preparing to throw himself into a roll out of the way.

Then there is white blue energy and symbols in front of him all of a sudden and he lowers his sword for a moment. "…what in the fresh hell…" Blink Blink.


Apparent doubt seizes up the Winter Soldier for a few crucial moments, even to the point of the Demon Bear bleeding out of the shadows. He does not immediately respond to that which currently holds him in thrall.

Yet once the creature fully manifests, and that roar echoes from wall to wall, his head turns instantly towards it. He pivots, away from John, away from Jessica and Zatanna and Emery, walking towards the Bear, flooded in the shadow that pours outwards from its hulking figure. The darkness covers him.

A wolf walks back out of the other side of those tiding shadows, footfalls silent on the floor save for the click of metal claws. Blue eyes, empty and fixed, gaze on the Bear's enemies.

John goes for the relic. The wolf charges instantly, silent, obedient. At the last moment he turns, aiming to bodily shoulder-check John with his left shoulder and throw him back away from the Bear's desired object.

Contact, should it be made, is a foul thing… steel covered over with a miasma of the Bear's corrupt magic.


As Jessica still implores the eclipsed humanity in that shadowy-black songbird —

— from the air, through the beats of its wings, the tiny animal stares back. It tilts its head, listening through its warnings, it calls, it summons — until a spoken word or two from Jessica's lips bid the bird silence. It abruptly shrieks, a high, wailing note of animal fury, and it circles back, tucking its wings to plummet and perch amidst the shadows of the demon bear.

The bird makes quiet supplication, joining briefly to those parent shadows, speaking to it in soft birdsong, those black eyes staring at those in assembly.

Zatanna joins their ranks, obelisk in hand, and the little bird crackles with noise, its voice breaking into a serrated hiss with recent memory.

It breaks away from the demon bear when it makes its charge, arrowing back for refuge among the wolf's fur, taking mantle in the safety of the great beast's back. Cowering between its shoulders, feathers lifted from its back in threat, the songbird retreats to its herald's purpose.

It begins to sing.

A soft, harrowing cry lilts from out its beak: and through those notes, the room begins to shift.

Cold before, the air goes glacial: it is a freezing stab that burns any exposed flesh, that makes breath mist, that makes the eyes want to freeze. Frost leeches along the walls and through the exhibits, moisture flash-freezing from the air in crawling, fractal shapes —

And worse, the museum begins to darken. Blood weeps from the walls. Drips from the ceiling.

Eyes begin to open up in every well of shadow, blinking to sight: animal's eyes, watchful, waiting.


The Beast's torso withers with darkness and shadows, the body both solid and insubstantial at the same time, that blackness easily eclipsing any light that shines its way.

When the Winter Soldier enters those shadows there's a moment where it contorts and shifts to show the vague profile of a wolf. That wolf then turns into a songbird, the songbird to an eagle, the eagle to a pegasus, the pegasus to horse, before finally a bear is all that remains. Those shadow effigies soon find themselves scattering, as the songbird that is Jane lands within the shadows of the Bear.

Those entreating notes are heard by the Bear and the Beast looks between Jess and the newly arrived Zatanna.

John Constantine makes a play for the artifact and he's successful, finding the artifact easily in his hands. Perhaps with that touch he might also feel the hum of innate magic that's held within it. Something deep and powerful that speaks of a shamanistic bend, something totemic, as it echoes with an old song full of drums, stamping feet, movement and energy. The soft sound of many ringing voices might likewise be heard as the past still continues to live within the artifact.

Whether he keeps a hold of that object is hard to say as the Wolf rushes at him.

Finally with the almost serpentine hiss from the Bird, the Bear's choice is made for it and in tandem now, the Bear and the Cheyenne move.

Blighted ivory claws reach outward in a slashing attack - though not for Emery. Instead this particular attack is aimed at Zatanna and as the claws move through the air the bleak notes of anti-life sings from those sharp-edged talons, something that can reap the very thing that everyone has - a soul.

For Emery and Jess, neither of them are left alone for long either.

Arrows are sought and two are pulled from the quiver that sits upon Moonstar's back. With the quickness and speed of the inhuman, the black-haired woman nocks the first arrow and fires. The second is soon loosed and both Jess and Emery will find one arrow fliying towards them.

Both heart-shots.

The shield that covered Emery is no more as the hit from that initial arrow causes that protective ward to fade.


No sooner has John closed his fingers around the old, smooth ivory of the bone amidst the shards of glass that once formed its display case than he's being careened into by the dreadfully familiar weight of the wolf's outline, massive and rank with rotted magic. It connects with his chest and punches the air out of him, knocking him aside like a rag doll into a tumble across the floor — through the broken glass, the glittering sheets of ice broken apart by splashes from the holy water he threw.

It feels alive in his hand. It feels the way a lighthouse beacon looks to a sailor at night, the only friendly landmark in a tempest. History and heritage braid together through its porous interior — voices of the lost, ghosts and guardians, the enduring spirits of a people entire. It's not just the sanctified water glistening there that makes this object holy — it's sacred on its own. Precious. Priceless, even. It belongs with people who know its nature. It deserves reverence.

What it has, instead, is John Constantine.

He rolls over, wincing, clutching the object to his body. Behind him he can hear the rip in space through which Zatanna appears, taste the signature of her magic in the air, and while that comes as a relief — she's so much more the battlefield magician than he is, there's really no comparison at all — it also redoubles his urgency. The memory of her bloody, broken body in the snow is very…very fresh.

And here, he has this…thing. This thing they can use.

''"UNLOCK IT, ZATANNA."''

Presumably that means something to the witch.


"JOHN!"

The cry rips out of her when she watches the wolf bear for him, haunches low and bodily slamming into the Englishman, sending him flying. It's too late to cushion his fall, things are moving too fast and she's already taking several steps to move for his direction when instincts clamor for her to pay attention to her blind side. She pivots sharply, ice-blue eyes widening when the dark shadow of the demon bear looms over her, soul-cleaving claws glinting within the strategically low light of the present exhibits. Her augmented sight tells her that even for a demon, it's not an ordinary thing, when anti-life pours out of its razor-sharp edges like smoke, and she can practically feel them pull at her soul.

Not again.

"DLEIHS!"

The claws slam into her hasty protection, magical sparks frying in the air, white-blue light wreathed with the faintest threads of crimson leaping on impact and shooting out in erratic, zig-zagging arcs, slamming into glass cases and forcing them to shatter. The obelisk she holds cracks under the strain, leaking power, vibrating uncontrollably between her fingers. She has yet to replace her favored apparatus with something stronger, to encase pure magic that is only growing more powerful the older the young woman gets, pulled directly from the endless cosmic well of her soul.

Lips part, baring her teeth. Zatanna digs her heel into the ground, sigils and circles already appearing around her in preparation for a devastating counterattack liable to wreak an unexpected amount of destruction when…

UNLOCK IT, ZATANNA.

She changes tacts without a thought, her eyes shifting from blue to white. Amidst the blinding maelstrom of energy that she's already generating, the part of her that is forever linked to John Constantine pulses. A single diamond mote within the tattered, battered tapestry of his soul, its mystical chains and bindings unraveling….

…nothing more than a speck. Nothing more than a drop. But in the hands of Fate's favorite son, it might as well be a distant star on the verge of fusion.

DO IT, JOHN.


"God damn it." This for the very clear realization that her attempts to get through to Jane, and through Jane, to Bucky, have failed spectacularly— if there was ever a chance it would ever work in the first place.

Jessica drops her hand, her head tilting from side to side, her mouth twisting as her brows draw down. Shit fuck damn fuck damn. Close. Not close enough. Now she's got to switch gears. Time for survival mode. She looks up just in time to see the arrow flying for her.

Moonstar's a fantastic archer; the shot flies true. Jess has no time to get out of the way, not while she's trying to process the way the game has changed so thoroughly. It's just that Jessica is swathed in a bulletproof leather jacket, a bulletproof t-shirt and a set of bulletproof undergear designed by one Jane Foster. The arrow pierces the first, maybe even the second, but there's no blood. She looks up at Moonstar, looks down at the arrow, breaks off the shaft so it's not in her way, grumbles, "Son of a bitch," and then pivots on her heel, palming the holy water. She watches the Demon Bear go for Zee, sees sparks and spellwork fly.

That decides her. She's going to attempt a power leap that might take her directly over the Demon Bear's shadowy noggin. Where she will try to crush the holy water so that it flows directly atop the thing; at that point she'll basically try to land directly behind it.

"You know what? Winnie-Ther-Shitstain! You're an asshole! Nobody likes you!"

Love and Hope Jones Exuent Stage Left; Pissed Off Tank Jones, enter airborn.


The Shield of Magical Light Is Vanishing. The Irishman had spent the morning ironing napkins, and now he's in a fight against demonic beings and apparently now Sailor Moon has joined the party which is A-Okay with him. Somewhere in his mind, the Butler is asking himself 'What the hell is even happening right now?!'. But here now, in the present Emery makes an executive decision in his conciousness.

Its that's second arrow shot that has an unseen shimmer of being and purpose rippling through Emery, drawing black shadowy curtain in his mind and what emerges is a warrior that moves a bit faster than an average human, a flash of silver in the shadows as he raises his blade to block the arrow to his heart not a second too soon, the click against metal and the blade held defensively as his shoulder drops and he narrows his eyes at Dani.

"These six things doth the Lord hate, yeah…seven are an abomination unto him." Comes the soft lilting voice, colored with the intonations of someone who could say the phrase 'you won't surely die' and it be convincing. "Lets start with those haughty eyes, wee one…and see how far we get." Then he's moving rather quickly, graceful and light on his feet to close the distance between him and Dani.


The Wolf slams into John and sends him flying… but he doesn't dislodge the thing from the magician's grip. And while he cannot hear the interchange between Constantine and Zatanna, he doesn't need to in order to smell the imminent danger.

It is imperative he get that artifact away.

He swings around into a leap, trying to close the distance he himself created only a few moments ago. One stride, two, and then he delves into a shadow, traveling unseen, with intent to pour back out from the darkness behind John. To break the magician's back in his fangs, before he can enact whatever plan he intends.


The songbird heralds in constant, background noise — the tiny, hollowed-out creature is upset, angry, and frenetic.

It hops up from the wolf's shoulders to its head, briefly taking roost, its beak catching one of ears and nipping it like a silent entreat and bridle both. It song never pauses.

With one last push of its beak through that fur, the songbird takes wing, lifting back into the air, wings propelling it higher and higher until it's a small, errant shadow circling everyone's heads, singing the world into a worsening shape.

The museum is no longer a museum.

The walls what were once walls are now a thick, amorphous, moving black — a hundred-direction squirming as if made of a hundred leechy bodies. Pustules swell from that rippling, textured shadow, and pop heavy in oozing releases of ichor and viscera.

From those shifting, staring eyes, warp out the deformed, shifting faces of crows, crying and sneering, trying to reach out their huge, carrion-sticky beaks for those who come close enough. Black vines carry and loop and coil life around the exhibits of what was, pulsing with that same oozing ichor. They try to catch at Jessica, though she is strong enough to break them: even though doing so makes them slither free into moving black maggots.

The cold permeates. The ceiling is a swirl of shadow. The bird sings it on laboriously.

Then John speaks to Zatanna. Zatanna replies.

The songbird seems to have some idea: it holds in the air, and abruptly SHRIEKS, sending a hailing cry towards the demon bear.

For those with the astral sense, they can almost hear a voice over the bird's lament. Jane's voice, husked and misshapen, dead with no soul:

…FEED IT TO BREAKING…

…STOP…


The diseased claws rake downward against those hastily created shields. Sparks fly every which way as power bleeds off of power, the aria of anti-life denied its prey and it reaches a shrill pitch of sound - that sound co-mingling with the cry of the songbird.

Hearing the bird and that second warning causes the Bear's muzzle to crinkle, exposing sharp and jagged teeth.

Before it can do anything, however, Jessica Jone makes her leap. It takes her high above the Bear and the Bear (almost comically) looks upward at the woman. It has enough time to growl, before that sound soon changes to a howl of rage, of pain, as the holy water pours upon it. Putrid and oily smoke rises up from the Bear's head, as fur and skin burns. It shakes its head much like any wild animal would when it hurts, even as Jessica Jone lands behind it.

But the holy water won't be enough to stop it. Make it pause, perhaps, but not stop. Already it begins to pull energy from the shadows around it.

Emery seeks to close the distance between the Bear Acolyte and himself and Dani seems okay with this - especially as he evokes another holy name into this. She moves to meet him, even as fingerlings of burning pain echo sympathetically throughout her body. Once within reach, the black-haired woman brings her bow up, knowing it won't last long against a sword, and strikes as swiftly as she can. Using it as an improvised Bo, the Cheyenne intends to smack Emery's sword-hand, trying to get him to drop that weapon.

And whether that trick works or not, already magenta energy begins to coalesce around the woman's hands. Her own mutant power being called upon at this point.


There's a thing about the little sequin of pure magic bound to John's soul that he never mentioned to anyone: he can feel it in there. Less when it's locked away from him, bound up to keep him from doing exactly what he's planning to do now — because, as he told Jane, not even he is immune from the siren song of magic, and he disdains it more than most. It's easy. So easy, to lay one's hands on so much power, and cause so much suffering.

Because it's seductive. Not just the power, either — the connection. Becoming a conduit for the current of the world, almost, and doubly so when it came to him from the place, from the person, it did. He feels the bindings he asked her to place on it shredding and falling away, and it floods him like water spilled from the core of a nuclear reactor. He hasn't even begun to use it when golden light begins to splash over the blue-white glass of permafrost shrieking and howling out of the depths of the shadowy plane from which the bear, in all of its monstrous power, emerges.

It's leaking out of his eyes.

It would be too much to hope that he could evade the wolf's jaws, massive and fleet of foot as it is, and himself on hands and knees on the floor. But that's fine. This is John at his most self-destructive, his most angry.

If there's no way to fix it I'll kill him myself, he told Zatanna in the bloody aftermath of their last encounter. Foster, too.

He's a funnel for the universal magic from which all of reality is woven, and he offers that up — offers up himself, empties himself out of his own will the way he does when he travels what he so flippantly refers to as the Synchronicity highway, and asks this relic for help. To become a vessel for its purpose, temporarily. Enough to beat back the tide. Whatever it costs. Whatever it costs him. Asks, because he knows if he uses it the way he itches to use it now, there's every chance the goddamn thing will blow apart into just so many ancient shards and splinters, and it's crystal, clarion clear that they're going to need this thing.

…of course, if that doesn't work? He's just going to wind up ground to pieces in the wolf's jaws, but it's his deepest hope that the thing that is and is not his friend is about to close those fangs down on something that doesn't agree with it at all.


The world twists around her, to mold to the image of a soulless Jane, whose cry she hears from across the astral plane. A warning to the demonic entity that has her in its thrall. It takes over the walls, the floors, the very air they breathe, growing sicker as viscous shadow starts to engulf them from all directions, spilling from what used to be physical boundaries between them and the world that lies outside. Hairs prickle at the back of her neck, icewater floods her veins, because it feels as if she's being watched and picked apart in all directions and in many ways, that is precisely what is happening.

Light continues to flash when the Demon Bear claws at her shields, gritting her teeth. In the process of unlocking John, she can't perform such a delicate operation and do anything else while she's also in the defensive, but aid comes to her in the form of a leaping Jessica Jones. With holy water poured onto the Bear, the stench of something infernal sizzling under it, she grunts, lowers herself and bends her knees…and rams the shield bodily into it, crackling magical power rippling outward upon impact in an effort to send it flying….an attempt to give herself room.

And then, John is free.

She can turn her attention to something else now.

Spinning around, she points a spare set of fingers towards where the little bird sings. She doesn't want to hurt Jane. She was horrified enough when she realized that she had set her dear friend on fire. John may have resolved to killing them if necessary, if there is no choice. He won't take any pleasure in it, but he will, but she knows about Gary Lester and what that means for the Englishman and the last thing she wants to happen is for him to revisit those terrors.

But she has made promises, too. So what to do?

"ECNELIS!" she commands, aimed for the bird - an attempt to cripple it and what it does, without having to harm it.


Check. They need like goddamn SUPER SOAKER, but holy water does work. Great. First thing Jessica has seen that actually does.

But there's no time to contemplate even the brief moment of satisfaction she feels at finally having gotten some sort of lick in. Jane is calling up gross slimey maggot vines, and even if she's strong enough to snap them that's certainly going to take up all of her attention. She is briefly grossed out as the disgusting maggots slide over her skin, but it's amazing how much a person can get used to. It gives her the creepy-crawlies to be sure. She can remember them, under her skin. But this is her fourth exposure to these nightmares; she's come out the other side of the psychological trauma, and truthfully?

This is all starting to feel kind of normal. Just 100% par for the course. Pustules and bleeding walls and eyes. Yep. This is how life goes these days.

She's now on to running her mouth in a way that had been completely arrested when they'd first walked in here.

"Your decorating skills have deteriorated, Foster," she growls, as she snaps another disgusting vine-thing by virtue of simply yanking it away from its source. "I mean. They're even worse than mine these days. That's fuckin' saying something. And we're not even going to talk about your housekeeping skills. I mean look at this. Slime, maggots, crap all over the walls. Call Mr. Clean for a consult, woman, god damn."

Hopefully Zee's timely spell will serve for that Mr. Clean consult. Or at least mean that one Jessica Jones gets an assist in turn, one that lets her do something other than dance with Jane's Coils o' Ick.


Up until now, there have been hints and flashes of Emery's training. A gun here, a hand-to-hand application of self-defense there, a bite somewhere. But when he looks at Dani, he is seeing more than a soulless being. He also sees and feels shadows of his past and glimpses potential future.

Flashback to…Dark Hair, Dark Eyes, Tan Skin. He's seen this story play out before. Hands soaked in blood, eyes filled with tears, long curls matted with matter and a plea for death because reality is too harsh. The body count was too high, the memories too fresh and although the fault was not her own. Finding pieces of the woman for days.

Flash forward to…Dark hair, Dark Eyes, Tan Skin. Cradled in his arms, nursed with bottle, grown into a pretty little girl. Yellow brick road of her future all paved with gold. Unless she sheds blood and takes a life and becomes like him.

Both reflections he sees in the young woman before him, and it is why he's allowed the darkness within him to choose the radio station. "A lying tongue. Hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations. Feet that be swift in running to mischief." Strike of the bow is parried swiftly by and upward swing of that sword. "A false witness that speaketh lies." He's freed his right hand from that bottle of holy water, dropping it to the floor. It only takes a milisecond of recognized weakness, a small opening and it is that hand that darts out quick as a snake to grab her by the throat as he meets her gaze. "And he that soweth discord among brethen." Is whispered softly, intimately even. Its a list of crimes that make the abomination list, all together its a freakin' hail Mary of Condemnation. He's not speaking to Dani, but to he who has her trapped in this way.

He has done it many many times before, that hand begins to squeeze, tightly. Skin of his palm seeking purchase against the skin of her throat and even as he squeezes, his eyes glow ever so faintly in the room of shadows and nightmares but stay focussed on Dani's. His ability reaching out to form that link, that connection. Seeking and waiting for the moment it can pounce and draw in. Grip tightening, and tightening.


John Constantine opens himself as a conduit, offering himself as a sacrifice to fuel the relic's purpose. It trembles in his grasp, gone suddenly searing, alive with power, and the relic pours through him as — light and heat. They pour out of the man, creating of him a miniature sun, banishing shadow and burning away cold.

The wolf's fangs stop inches from John. With a howl of pain he reels back from the burn of that aura, the creature cringing back in search of shadows that no longer exist. Everywhere the light touches, it scours away the deteriorated landscape around them, the bleeding carrion walls sloughing away to reveal the ordinary mundane appearance of the museum beneath.

Jessica and Emery attack Moonstar. They attack the great Bear. The wolf should stop them both, but between him and them is John Constantine, an impassable storm of light.

He looks, instead, for the bird. The bird which Zatanna tries to silence, but not to hurt. His eyes search for hers. He must see something in them, because one of his ears suddenly flicks.

The wolf starts to move. He struggles, as if against a high wind, staggering before the pain the light causes him, but his determination is greater than the burns searing his flesh. He steps closer, trembling, makes a last surging leap…

…and his jaws close on John Constantine. But those fangs don't pierce. They don't rend. They do not hurt, even though the agony of the light against his flesh makes the wolf whine a whimpering note through its shut teeth.

They only grasp down firmly. Firmly enough for the monstrous creature to yank the magician up, and fling him and his devastating corona of light and blazing heat straight towards the center of the Demon Bear.


That spell snuffs the song out of the bird's throat.

It goes silent, and startled by it, wavers in its flight — forced into an emergency landing atop one of the museum's warping displays.

The silencing works — it stays the shifting, changing room from worsening further, and the veins go silent and the crows docile, bowing their deformed heads and staring from a hundred black mirror eyes.

The songbird opens and closes its beak, trying and failing to speak — Zatanna's magic warring against the extension of the bear — reduced to rubbing its beak against its perch —

— and crippling further, as those attacks turn on the empty Danielle Moonstar, turn on the Demon Bear. The bird shudders voicelessly, shaking its head, opening its singed wings, and ducking low. From across the room, it meets the glance of the wolf.

The wolf's ear flicks. The bird's eye flickers.

It looks down on all in assembly: the magicians, the wolf racing to one of them, Moonstar in her close encounter with Emery, and Jessica —

The songbird opens its wings and aims for the latter. It blurs toward the woman — but does not attack, does not strike, instead aim to circle around her, still silent, begging attention. It wings away, crests again around Zatanna, then switches course.

The wolf aims to deliver John Constantine straight into the bear.

The songbird strikes from the other side, suddenly and fearlessly, at the demon bear's face. It has no natural weapons, no size, no strength: only the fierce vindictiveness of an angry creature, trying to curl its feet into fur and stab its peak into one eye.


It all seems to be going right - until it's not. Where shadows, Bird, Wolf and Bears, all work in concert - until they don't.

That silent communion between the Wolf and the Bird is nearly lost in the noise of the battle, but something within Danielle Moonstar causes her to turn. To see-sense the look and ear-flick that passes between the two. It starts an understanding of what's going on, that miscalculations that were made. That understanding comes too late. Much too late.

The psionic energies coalesce in her hand and a psychic shiv is born. That jagged weapon is readied to be thrown, specifically at the Bird, but before that attack can be sent on its way Dani's attention is pulled away.

To Emery first.

His sword easily bats the bow aside, bringing her eyes back to the man known as Samael - retaliation held within her gaze, but once more she's too late. She has enough time to see his hand snap outward for her neck before his grip encircles her neck.

The Cheyenne meets Emery's glowing gaze and a rictus of a smile is given then, a flash of those white teeth seen, as her free hand snaps up and captures Emery's wrist. Pressure can be felt from her fingers, mirroring what's around her throat, as she moves to crush the bones in his wrists. Thankfully, that bone-breaking grip never comes, not when the scenario changes again; for the second time.

John Constantine and the conflagration that he currently plays host to reaches the Bear. That sizzling corona lashes at the shadows that make up the corrupted animal. It eats into that darkness, burning it away to reveal blackened fur and jutting bones. The touch evokes a visceral response from the shadows as they shriek in pain. The Bear itself likewise reacts and HOWLS a broken sound.

For Dani it's no different. Its pain echoes sympathetically throughout the link she has with the Bear. The agony is enough to create the tiniest of tears within that bond.

A schism, which allows a doorway to open for Emery to enter into the world of Bear and Avatar. A threadbare silver ribbon unravels from Dani and twists over and into the Bear. It ends within the shadows, between bone and fur, darkness and corruption.

Withering in its own pain the Bear has very little defense against the feather-shrouded Jane Foster. She finds it easy enough to alight to its face, to find purchase in that tattered fur, and to target one of its wildly glowing eyes. Emotions flares within that demented gaze of the Bear, as it feels the negligible weight of the Bird. Surprise, madness, anger and rage. Then that beak darts downward and sharp pain flares within the nearest eye.

Dissension trembles within the bonds held within the Bear's grasp.


Words can barely touch the reality of what it is to be a corridor through which forces like these pass — not just magic, not just Zatanna's magic, but the magic invested in the relic by a people who have their own tradition, distinct and unique, and utterly unfamiliar to the British-born occultist. It's one thing to know about a thing academically; it's another entirely to open himself up to letting it run riot through him, feeding off of the core of his own power. Like touching the heart of someone else's dream.

Golden light crackles and coruscates over his body, leaks out of his eyes to puddle molten on the floor before gradually evaporating, energy thick and viscous. He makes no effort to stand or escape what he believes his fate will be, caught up in the crushing jaws of the wolf. He waits, every nerve alive to the blinding pain he expects…

…and it doesn't come.

He begins to stir. Not because he has thoughts of escaping that fate — he's not cognizant of much now, emptied out the way he is — but because his offer to the magic contained in the relic was the contents of himself. His magic, his power, his connection with fate, even. It feeds hungrily on those things, but not just those things. On the bit of Zatanna he contains, too, and that? Was not meant to be part of the deal.

Before he can do anything about it, though, he's plucked from the floor so gently that at first he doesn't understand what's happening, and from the maw of this whining, crying, suffering wolf, flung across the room, into the depths of the thing that cracked his scarred and battle-torn psyche wide open in the bitter cold of snowy woods.

His own visceral reaction to being engulfed in the sick corruption of the bear only serves to fuel the violence of its unmaking through the energies that pour out through him.


It howls. It can feel pain, and if it can do so, it can be destroyed.

Blinding fury fountains up inside of her chest when she watches John Constantine hurled across the way, golden glory engulfed by thick, viscous miasma from the Elsewhere as it attempts to drown him as quickly as he could destroy it. But she isn't worried. Not anymore - even if she doesn't assist him actively, there's a part of her inside of him that will fuel everything he needs to do. A single speck of light woven inside the battered curtains of him is enough. More than enough.

Zatanna turns her full attention to the Bear, now, observing as the little bird suddenly goes for its eyes. There's a brief flicker of confusion in her eyes, but she's not about to let Jane's act go to waste. As the bird moves to peck at its eyes, she swivels her free hand forward, to point towards the demonic creature's center mass.

"Nrub," she hisses.

Magical flames erupt, emanating from the creature's belly, eating its way upwards in immolating white-blue tongues.


It's worth noting that the flight of the Nightmare Nightengale (or…whatever kind of bird it is, Jess wouldn't know a nightengale from a cardnial from a finch) around Jessica's head did not produce any kind of defensive measure. Mostly because Jess would honestly sooner let Jane peck her eyes out than lift a hand against the little bird. Bitch at her, yes. Tear her nightmares apart, indubitably. But strike her? Never. So when the bird begs her attention, Jessica tilts her head up, goes still. Then?

Then Jane is apparently back, at least for a moment, because she's moving to attack the bear.

A fierce grin spreads over the features of one Jessica Jones.

Hot damn. That's more like it.

She goes barelling in that same direction like she's gonna try to deliver a right hook, left cross combination to the bear's back, right at full strength, in a way that would most likely result in the broken back of any normal bear. Figuring that while Jane is plucking out eyes and John is doing his magical nimbus of nuclear death routine courtesy of a Bucky-throw, while Emery is chokin' away and as Zatanna tells the bear to burn baby burn, she might as well do her part too.


There is usually a light at the end of the tunnel, the gift that Samael was blessed and cursed with pushing a person towards the light and simultaneously pulling the light towards the individual at the speed of a train…but as he lets his fingers squeeze, gaze locked with the Cheyenne's. He feels that hand tightening around his wrist and it just makes him start to squeeze harder.

And then that doorway is opened and the man who was given the same moniker as the Angel of Death, the core of his being reaching out to find the link, the tether and start tugging and pulling, extending a shimmery blue bond to yarn over and pull the silver thread through. That hand around her throat is used to attempt to draw her closer, so his breath if he was breathing could be felt against her skin. From a far it might look like he's going in for a kiss, his lips parting and hovering inches away from her own. Its the moment he makes that link though, that a faint white-blue light flows from him in the exhale of a breath.

Usually, there is no thread to tug on or pull back because its all in a singular body and he extends his ability in a way he's never done before. There's a slight tremble that goes through Emery's body, that glow in his eyes intensifying as his breathing quickens. Pulling, coaxing that silver thread back in, the strain of keeping the process controlled.


Light cannons into the Bear, and it HOWLS in pain.

The wolf's head turns, glowing blue eyes tracking the Bear as its writhes in pain and fury. As the bird twists down to add its attack to the creature's eye. As Emery pulls on that little silver thread, and attempts to reclaim and reunite it with Danielle Moonstar.

Slowly, his fangs bare.

The light spearing out in all directions from John Constantine still seems to burn the wolf, but there is a determination now to his demeanor that was not there before. The creature lopes forward, gaining speed, long legs eating the distance, as he charges the Bear dead-on, driving for its massive side…

…and aiming to sink his fangs deep into the Demon Bear's shadow-writhing torso.

A violent jerk of his head seeks to RIP the Bear's side clean open. Shadows pour out in lieu of blood, shadows that rain down over the wolf's head and shoulders, winding about him as he continues to tear and pull the wound wider and wider, biting off massive pieces of what passes for the thing's flesh.


That little bird — no bigger than a palm — tilts back its head and shrieks in bloody victory as it pares deep into the bear's face. Its feet hook in, and its wings flare wide, holding its gleaning body steady as its beak twists in and drinks the gouting shadow from the bear's eye.

The songbird cranes its head and reaches in, and with a fierce, twitching jerk, holds in its beak that massicated eye, and swallows it down.

It lets go as the others follow suit — as John is /flung/ like a molotov straight into the shadows, as Zatanna stokes the outside of the bear's body in her crucible fire, as Jessica uses her furious strength to /hold/ the monster still, as Emery bridles close the ursa minor herald — little bear feeling the pain of her maker —

As the wolf devours and takes into itself corrupt, ichor-black shadow flesh —

As the bird lands, still so tiny, and wet with the bear's demonic blood. It looks up, and warps, shadow wisping free from its body until it is Jane, crouched, mantled, as melting shadow hangs like black feathers off her arms and threads away into nothing.

The world begins to warp back around them, losing that nightmarish graft and back into the walls and normalcy of the museum. And tiny Foster half-kneeled among it, her skin pale from weeks of no sun, her dark eyes pitch. White hot rage opens up every inch of her face.

Jane's eyes are first on that bear. "You're mine," she spits.


Light and heat. Magic, fire, strength, beak and teeth.

The multitude of assaults fall upon the Beast and its form trembles, shudders. It bleeds, it cries and yowls with the harshness of it all. That the smallest of its heralds is the cruelest.

John Constantine floats within the darkness that burns around him. And while it burns there's still enough shadows left that he soon finds himself being pushed out. Regurgitated back into the mortal world.

Danielle Moonstar continues to find herself captured by Emery's hand. The two so close, but still upon opposite sides of the metaphysical divide. An echo of the Bear's own tremble can be felt within her body before suddenly the bond between Bear and woman shatters. It causes the Cheyenne's knees to give way and the woman to sag downward, eyes rolling upward as the bird devours the Bear's eye.

The delicate balance of coaxing a soul from the shadow-lands of the Demon Bear is difficult, but soon the thread that Emery pulls is freed from the Monster's torso. Danielle Moonstar's soul shines like a star against the blackness of space, before its tugged back where it belongs. The bear-skin cloak and hood that wraps around head, shoulders and upper body blackens and turns dry. Disintegrating into grainy and gritty dust.

For the Bear its form shrinks, as shadows are lost, bonds broken and a singular soul taken away.

Then Jane Foster appears, her anger for all to see, her rage burning bright. When her eyes find the Bear's singular-one it offers a cough of s snarl, a crinkle of muzzle, a token of its own anger as it strives for control, but tonight it finds its power over her is lost. Those words of hers are spoken and they enwrap the creature to her will, binding it, and all the corrupted beast can do is offer a wan sound of despondency.


John may temporarily be a beacon of purity and the very antithesis of the bear's essence, but it has a price, as these things always do — and it doesn't defend him entirely from the ill effects. The energy itself may be immune to the bear's corruption, but John is not; it nauseates and sickens him, breaking his thoughts apart across debris from the traumas it stirred up the first time he plunged into its icy shadow.

It's a relief when it disgorges him. Spits him out, bodily, into a pile on the floor. The searing brilliance of the bone is beginning to wane, not because it's losing its strength or because the fight is over but because he is actively pushing back against it by necessity: there's only so much of his own reserves he can give, and the little mote of Zatanna's soul isn't for sale. Not even for this reason; not even for these people. Not by him. Not ever.

It will be moments yet before conscious thought snaps back into his skull like a rubber band released from tension, and during those moments he's vulnerable. It falls to the others to finish what they've started.

They'd probably have to cut his hand off to extract that bone, though.


When Jane regains her true form, Zatanna turns her eyes to her, guilt and relief on her features. But with the white-hot rage etching over the delicate lines of her face, she eases back, and turns around so she could move towards where she has last seen John. As far as she is concerned, the moment the physicist has claimed her kill, she doesn't have it in her to deny her and leaves her to it.

Corruption releases John Constantine, discards him upon the ground. The sick sensation of his own supplication to the ill effects he's received from being exposed to the creature's everything has her moving for him in an urgent pace, though at seeing him whole, her own relief rips through their tether like a silver bullet. She takes a knee, and as he flounders for more conscious thoughts, she reaches down in an attempt to push him up in a seated position from behind.

There's a glance at the bone, but she doesn't pry it off him. Instead, she throws up a barrier just in case, switching from offense to defense at the drop of a hat. But given the way the bear shrivels up under the combined attacks, the fight appears over…

…for now.


Jessica Jones is pretty excited about the fact that things are happening when she hits this bear. She had no idea that was possible; she'd believed it might fly into shadows the way Bucky did in her apartment, or something equally irritating.

Against people she hardly ever lets loose. Holding back huge portions of what she can do, because she's afraid, deep down, of what she can do to others, afraid she'll miscalculate and harm someone who doesn't deserve it. It took quite a bit for Bucky to get her to stop doing it with him, but it's still a factor with most others.

But with a monster?

She can let loose. She can unleash everything inside her. All the frustration, fury, and fear she's been feeling, all the helplessness. She can channel it all into her fists, into her feet, and not give a damn about giving a damn. It's liberating in the extreme.

All of which is a truly long-winded way of sayin'…yeah. Jessica Jones is just going to keep right on trying to beat the everloving shit out of this bear.


On a different plain of reality…trapped behind the glass wall that is Emery's State of Being Awake, there's a bevy of pale drawn whisp, a congregation of victims/targets of days gone by. The residue left behind from previous missions to reap forming angry brain ghosts with an endless supply of torture instruments. They are all alert, watching and waiting for a new arrival in their merry band of horrors.

Those strong fingers around that neck maintain the contact while Samael continues supernaturally inhale to pull that soul back from whence it is not supposed to be. Its a strain and during this link, this newly forged bond he feels something…a familiar something, something he can relate to. Love of a Daughter. That's what allows him to hold on, feeling the push as he pulls…from two souls that ask him in his own way for this one favor. To use his gift, to free a soul taken before its time and its a humbling and terrifying proposal. The strain causing a single tear to run down his cheek, tinged with pink from the strain of it all. And he whispers softly. "I've got her…"

When that bond shatters, Samael feels is right away, the tension is relieved and his grip around her throat loosens and he's quickly dropping the sword with a clatter so both arms can come around and catch the poor girl as she collapses, lowering her down slowly to the floor as he sinks to his knees almost cradling her.

The Shadows in his mind are drawn closed slowly on the darkness that lies within, Samael's final bow is to look upon the Bear as it is being beaten up. Upon their first meeting…Emery threatened to do something very specific. It included reaching up its demonic arse and ripping certain souls free. Samael just smiles slowly and kicks the sword that clattered to the ground in Jane's general direction before retreating back in the recesses of Emery's mind.

Emery is left holding Dani in his arms, brushing a few strands of hair out of her face and rocking ever so slightly. "Now there's the pretty soul I remember…" Is murmured softly.


In the end, nothing pulls the Wolf from the Bear's side save the sound of Jane's voice.

A growl escapes him as he backs up and out of the creature's ravaged side. Shadow drips from his fangs, his muzzle washed in what passes for the Bear's blood up to his flaring blue eyes.

You're mine, Jane hisses.

The Wolf circles back around her. Where the Bear loses mass, one of its souls torn away from it, the Wolf seems to gain, standing taller than before in the returning mundanity of the museum.

Steel claws clack against the floor as he comes to a stand behind Jane's comparatively tiny figure, drowning her in his shadow as he hovers in obvious guard.


"That's right, you fucker," Jane whispers, her voice thinned through the points of her teeth. Her eyes reflect the way the demon bear withers and falls away, held down, burned out, seared through, and devoured. "No one is getting in our heads again."

In the denouement of it, the cold broken, the museum returned to normal, the tiny woman pulls herself back to her feet. Her eyes cross between everyone: Zatanna and Jessica, John where he heaps, Emery holding Danielle Moonstar in his arms. Finally, she looks up as the wolf comes to mantle her in his shadow. James Barnes, who has not yet been freed from his own form. Who is much larger now than he once was.

"You all did it," she speaks roughly, lowly, with tired relief. "You all came. I knew you would."

Zatanna will breathe it in on the air; John, too, when the world comes back to his addled mind.

The demon bear is gone, but not dead. Its powerful, old magic bathes the room electric, dark and corrupt, coursing through the black wolf'd consumption. Coursing through Jane Foster.

Emery would sense it: only one soul retrieved today. Only one soul freed from the demon bear's void.

Jane Foster and James Barnes remain empty. Empty as her black eyes, wide and cold as infinite space.

"I mean — I solved that probability for each of you long ago, but still, thank you. Unfortunately, I also solved low as shit probability that any of you would help us with what needs to be done next, so… we don't need you anymore."


That vague rocking motion is felt by Dani Moonstar, but really it's Emery's murmured words that cause the woman to regain some sense.

Her brown eyes open and for a minute the woman stares up at him. Her expression flickers all over the place - confusion, happiness, anger, anguish, but when Jane Foster speaks what it settles upon is guilt. Horror.

While she may not understand all of what just happened, there was enough between the avatars and the bear and herself that Dani has an inkling. That the woman and the man before them all are still under the thrall of the soulless.

She moves to sit up, to regain her feet, but her movements are spastic, uncoordinated, as body and soul try to work in concert once more.

Eventually though and perhaps with Emery's help, Deni Moonstar finds herself back on her feet. Her expression tight, her gaze bleak, even as she looks at Emery, Jess, Zatanna and Constantine and then finally the great Wolf and Jane Foster. "What's next?" Croaks the woman, her question while hoarse still quite understandable, "Because you know we'll be there to stop you."

"Simple as that."

A promise to her voice in her gaze and that promise pulls forth a thrum of sympathetic energy from the quiver upon her back. Where a sacred object sits, bundled and protected against the cold and shadows.


It's not dead.

She can taste it in the air, as certain as the beats of her heart. Its magic permeates everything around her, much like oil slick, burning through the wolf and Jane Foster's human shell. Her augmented eyesight watches the threads of it flicker around each thing and person that it has touched, though a single glaring fact is evident to her once she's finished with her quiet magical scrutiny.

Their souls are missing. Zatanna's lips press into a grim line as she keeps her place by John. She doesn't address Jane, not because she doesn't have the words, but without that spark, she isn't Jane.

Dani Moonstar speaks up from Emery's position. It swings her attention towards the Cheyenne, brows knitting slightly. She is a new face…and so was Emery, really. Who were these people?

But the woman poses a legitimate question and she holds her tongue so she can hear the answer to it. Her fingers reach downward, to take the bone out of John's hand and takes it into her safekeeping.


Suddenly there's nothing left to beat the shit out of, just old shadows and magic. Jessica stops, the haze of fury clearing from her eyes, from her face. She looks momentarily confused, holding up a fist as if to see whether there's any shadow ick clinging to it.

Jane declares nobody will ever get in their heads again, and she shoots the other woman a grim, firm look. Good. Good. It was, after all, in part, the shared bond of having people in one's head that had her standing there trying to call out to them rather than having any real will to fight until the Bear himself showed.

But then Jane is going on about probabilities, saying they've done it.

"Wait. What? What have we done? What's the next bit? How do you need help with the next bit?"

Steadfastly, because that's how she is, Jessica says, perhaps quite unwisely given she doesn't even know what needs to be done: "Of course I'll help with the next bit, just tell me what you need me to do."

Oh, the newly restored Moonstar is saying 'stop them.'

"Wait? What? Stop— you guys aren't— I mean this is the next bit to fix you two right? That's the next bit? Not some sort of…"

A darted glance to Moonstar, and then back. "Not some sort of craptacular Demon Bear Master Plan of Suck bit right?"

Well, she can't sense magic and she can't sense souls, so what the Hell does she know anyway? Bucky and Jane did a Heel Face Turn and kicked the bear's ass, so Jessica assumes they're not segueying into a villian speech here. She can see for herself, though, that Bucky remains quite…wolfie. With nothing enlightening coming from the two mages…well, now she's confused.


Through out all of this, Emery has to focus his attention of the resouled Cheyenne. He does notice that Soulless Jane and Soulless Bucky are still a thing even as he is blinking and helping Dani to her feet. "Easy now luv…" A hand extended to steady her and an arm offered for support.

"Alright Miss Jane dearest, ye have the look of a rabid yet calculating chipmunk about ye so I'ma need a rain check on whatever the plan ye have to rain down terror and nuts. And as I am sure ye hold both the wolf's testicles and his heart in yet dainty hands….I am sure that meetin' is going to be as fun as receiving a prostate exam from a blind carpenter with three inches of callouses. So, take care and have a blessed evening." Emery replies ever so smoothly after Dani and Jessica have said their pieces.

The Irishman swoons slightly on his feet, his body worn from a supernatural and a tad unsteady due to the rdirection that has taken place. But despite his faint and occasional shivers, he is a solid column of support.

There is a very long pause before he turns to make sure he is still supporting Dani with an arm and declares. " Okay, Jazz Hands, Sailor Venus, Miss Jones…In five minutes I am ordering 15 large pizzas and finding the nearest liqour store and just buying every bottle on the first two shelves I find because…like fuck Math. If ye have no soul and you want to come eat, I reserve the right to mace you in teh face if you intefere with this plan." And he turns back to Dani. "Lets get you safe and warm and fed and comfortable…ye must be exhausted from all that proxy being a little arsehold, come now…lets get out of here before somebody summons a demonic calculator…l"


Jane speaks. And behind her, the Wolf seems to smile, his jaws parting and fangs showing in a canine grin.

People speak, and confusion hangs heavily in the air. The Wolf offers no clarification. There are few hints that James Barnes is even in there, beyond the clear cold predator's intelligence in those blue eyes.

An intelligence that aims immediately on Moonstar, as she declares her intention to stop them, and something thrums with responsive power on her back.

His eyes narrow.

With a low growl, he leans down beside Jane, offering a way up his shoulder to his back. A clear prompt that they should be away from here, and soon…


Jane laughs. An honest, genuine laugh to Emery's sharp, sassy words. She likes to laugh. Didn't she say the bear let her keep her sense of humour? Or did she take that back by force?

"Whatever you need to do," she says, that or whatever's left of the woman, turning with little remaining fanfare to ascend up the back of the stooped wolf, taking throne atop its shoulders.

Some grand villains stay to execute long, drawling speeches or linger to sip leisurely on their own megalomanic fanfare.

Empty of her soul, Jane has no taste for that. To the point, simple, parsimonious equations favour the complex.

Jessica's last question earns a turn of Jane's black eyes. "We are fixed. Time for everything else to catch up."

A smile climbs the corners of her mouth.

They are gone in shadow.

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