A Hot Night at Luke's Bar

January 10, 2018:

The Kingpin arranges to have a bomb planted in Luke's Bar. Patrons and employees scramble to survive and save lives as the whole place goes up in flames.

Luke's Bar, Harlem

Worth leaving Josie's for.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Foggy Nelson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Luke hasn't been absent, but that doesn't mean he's all together been here. He's been distracted since the holidays, often choosing to let Owen run the bar while he just sits at a post near the office and lets his mind drift a thousand miles away. Thankfully his resting thought face is brooding enough to stave off most conversations with patrons, but now and then he actually has to interact and function as part of the business. He's behind the bar now, occupying himself with washing glasses that probably didn't need to be cleaned a third time in a row, but whatever.

It's a good thing that Luke is distracted, otherwise the fact that Owen is apparently wearing guyliner would attract surely a long diatribe of endless ribbing. It's not actually eyeliner, he's just been off adventuring and hasn't figured out how in the hell to get eye black off so close to his eyes. Most of the usual patrons have just accepted that Owen always looks like he's rolled out of an alley somewhere, maybe the others just think he's very punk rock. He serves patrons behind the bar, stopping occasionally to take a sip of a pint of his own.

It didn't take long for Bart to get into the swing of things once he had more time to commit to puttering around an actual job. Some would think that the holiday season meant taking off. With no school and the crimescene more or less quiet depending on where you were, it's left Bart with more than enough time on his hands, and Max decided he'd rather have him doing normal things like a part-time job than sitting at home playing video games. Which is funny considering the young Speedster's daily commute is anything but normal. Not many people run from Alabama to New York every day.

When it's busy at the bar, he keeps the back room in tip-top shape, doing inventory on the fly, and his photographic memory has certainly had its uses. When it's slow, like today, then it's like torture since there's not much to do, but at least he's not expected to do work that isn't there, and there's only so much sweeping to be done and there's absolutely nothing in the trash because anything deposited there doesn't stay long enough to fill.

To say that a bar is the last place Azalea needed or wanted to be was probably not an exaggeration, but duty calls. Bludhaven had proven a less than fruitful, and as her contact gets up from his seat at her booth, she watches him go. More dead ends, but at least she knows that her case has no further legs in Bludhaven. Everything she needs is right here.

Her mind slips backwards, towards other dead ends littered in her complicated past.

Dressed for a night that could go the wrong way, the bottom half of her outfit is the same one she wears jumping rooftops. After all, it was only ever a pair of cargo pants and some boots. Over her costume top she has on a buttondown shirt of black, though oddly has no other coat or anything else to brace her against the hellish climate outside. With a distracted tilt of her head she slips from the booth and wanders over to the juke box, letting her gaze sink into it as she considers a way to focus her senses on things past.

The door of the bar swings open, allowing in a blast of frigid air, a quick flurry of stray snowflakes, and two cold and soggy twenty-somethings into the blessedly warm environs of the bar. "I think I'm going to try for a slow sale of this place to Foggy," says entrant Matt Murdock mock-conspiratorially as he shakes off some of the excess snow that's accumulated on forearm and shoulder. The blind attorney is decked in a knee-length charcoal gray top coat, a burgundy scarf, and his customary red spectacles and cane. Fair cheeks and the tip of his prominent nose all bear a rosy flush, and he lets out a quiet and contented sigh of relief as the warm washes over him.

"God, that'll be an expensive divorce, though," he adds wryly to his companion on the matter of a breakup with Josie's Bar as they make their way into the space. "I don't even want to think about what our tab is up to now." He sniffs once, then again, brow crinkling. Perhaps he has a cold; this time of year he'd come by it honestly.

Kinsey Sheridan is pale-faced and rose-cheeked with the cold, sweeping a slightly loose winter hat — grey — from the top of her head and combing slim fingers down through dark drifts of tress, trying to coax the static charge out of them. The snowmelt helps. "Well, maybe put it to him as…mmm, opening your relationship? You can still see the old favorite and spice things up with something new, you know."

For the moment she leaves her jacket on, stomping practical boots gently on the mat near the door before she follows Matt in, and has a glance around to account for various and increasingly-familiar personalities. When she's here with him she's usually dressed in business attire, straight off of one of her weekday shifts at Stark Tower; today it's all civilian attire, suggesting a visit exclusively for social reasons: jean leggings, a sweater, a scarf.

"I'm talking about the bar," she puts in after a moment, shooting him a look. Just in case.

Luke glances up briefly out of reflex when he hears the little bell above the door chime. On a busy night, it gets drown out by the din of conversation, but on a slower night like tonight it might as well be a klaxon. The big man manages a little bit of a smile to go along with his up nod of greeting, which is to say he banishes some of the worst shadows in his face so he doesn't scare off his lawyer and girlfriend. He reaches over to give Owen's arm a little shove, and then points in the direction of the new comer, as if Mercer could possibly miss their entrance.

Owen is out collecting glasses and is thankfully in time to stop the tragedy that is about to occur. He intercept Azalea and implores her "Please. Please do not put anything on that God forsaken infernal machine on. I will comp you a drink. Or three." He is sure to give her a very solemn look. Owen hates everything Luke has loaded the jukebox with. HATES. But before he can actually explain, he's called back to the bar to wait on others.

Catching site of the newcomers as the bell chimes, Owen has to think for a second before recalling them. The fact that Kinsey mentioned her association with Stark is filed away, in case that comes up. When Luke taps him, Owen quirks an eyebrow and reminds him "Yea. Got it. You're the slow one." He lets the dig settle for a second before turning to call out "Murdock. Kinsey. What can I get for ya?"

Bart pokes his head out from the back, drawn by the old-fashioned announcement of customers as the door swings open a few times. He's wearing the t-shirt he'd gotten for Christmas proudly, his dark red hooded sweatjacket tied around his waste by the arms, over his dark jeans. It's kind of an odd contrast considering everyone coming in is practically bundled up. But then the temperature in the bar is pretty cozy.

He waves at the two familiar faces- well, one since the other won't be able to see it. A quick glance is cast over towards the woman by the jukebox, which he'd once thought to be a very ancient sort of arcade box and was a little disappointed to find out it wasn't. He since knows better, although he's still not sure what Owen has against the music it has.

Sidling up around the other side of the bar where Luke is, he tilts his head at him in what's become common for asking 'so, got anything you want me to do?'

Very suddenly, a wild Owen appears, and Azalea stops in her tracks, the flat look of someone who had been in reverie just moments before, now interrupted, blossoming to meet him. But it isn't callous, Owen just happened to shift her train of thought. A train that runs backwards, in part, to who she used to be.

A twitch at the corner of her mouth, as Owen runs off. But not before she calls out. "Three? Sounds perfect. They look thirsty."

Of course she couldn't help but notice the Murdock party. She'll look to the Jukebox. Stare at it as temptation crests. To solve the mystery she's been working on, she's going to have to crawl back into her old ways, into a psyche she had wanted gone and dead. Of course, Owen's request is almost absurd since the Jukebox has an internet connection.

No, no she can't help herself. So she chooses a perfect song to honor her past, while all at once ensuring Matt and company will indeed be paying for their drinks after all.

As if walking away from an explosion without looking back, Azalea begins towards the lawyer and friends, as Tove Lo's 'Bitches' begins to play.

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6WjtKh6o6o )

When Kinsey clarifies she's talking about the bar, Matt snaps out of that distracted look he'd been wearing since he apparently caught the sniffles. "Huh?" Then his attention catches up to her words and he lets out a short laugh that, while voiceless, sees the unpadded shoulders of his topcoat shaking. "Jesus, Kinze, at first I thought you were trying to tell me something," he says in arch reproach, his expression all wry amusement.

"Hey, Owen, I'll take a Basil Hayden, straight up," the lawyer calls back when called out, even as he stretches out his strange senses to take in some more of the cozy space.

He smells a thousand types of booze, the waft of cigarette smoke — not from anyone indulging inside, but from the clinging tendrils of it people bring in with them. He smells buffalo sauce and frying animal fat, and beneath it the meticulously tended cedar-wood of the bar bench and chairs. And beneath it, he smells…

There it is again. Is someone laying down concrete? Maybe in the basement. He's not used to being unable to place a scent though, and so it nags at the back of his mind, prompting him by force of habit to sift through the assorted sounds of a very noisy bar, just in time for —

TOUCH ME LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DO AND YOU DON'T
KNOW YOUR LOVE, I DON'T $^# WITH NO GLOVE

— "Jesus," Matt mutters, winces a little. Who the hell picked that?

It's so oppresive, so blaring, that he almost misses the soft, subtle mechanical 'click' underneath the music and the din. His eyes narrow. "Wait, what was that?" he asks, as if his partner could hear. His frame tightens.

"Well. If you ever wanted to have that conversation, you know I would listen," assures the Boston transplant, winding her arm companionably over the broad shoulders of the sightless attorney. Her tone is warmly reassuring, ever-so-benevolent. It stays that way, too, when she leans in and tilts her head to add, "I might not even kill you afterward!"

She is the best girlfriend.

Hand up, she trills her chilly fingers in a wave for Owen, gently steering Matt bar-ward. He's preoccupied, she can tell. It happens, from time to time. "Mmm, surprise me? You have impeccable taste." Given how rarely she indulges in anything with an alcohol content higher than one's basic microbrew, she must be feeling 'had-the-day-off' degrees of frisky.

As the digital juke erupts with noise, she winces and glances over that way, and what — or rather, whom — she sees gives her pause, then causes her expression to close in on itself, a little thundercloud drifting across a suddenly and otherwise neutral look. "Oh, you are kidding me," she murmurs, leaning her hip into the bar.

What was that? Matt asks. She drags her eyes back. "That," she begins, entirely misunderstanding, "…is a really long story. It's…fine."

It's the way the line of his body goes tense that gives her pause, her tetchy irritation waning. Green-gold eyes lift, wandering his face. "Matt..?"

That soft question from Kinsey Sheridan is almost cinematic. That last little 'Matt?'

Before all Hell breaks loose.

It comes from the stockroom, the place where most , but not all, of the bituminous scent that smells now like tar, now like charcoal, has been wafting in and out, competing with the smells of various sorts of boozes and all the rest to make it difficult to pin down. So, to, did the ominous click.

So, too, does the fireball. It billows out like a bright flower, heat and light and noise all quickly spreading to begin shattering bottles in the front. Hungry tounges of flame begin finding wood to latch onto, to begin devouring, almost immediately.

The bell-song of shattering glass gets only a little muffled as it hits the snowy streets outside; the front windows are gone.

Hissing as steam rises up where snow once was beneath the glass, almost instantly.

Dark, billowing, blinding the smoke roars through the building, a secondary beast, reeking of carbon monoxide and seeking to sear lungs, as dangerous as the flames that are its sister.

Supports groan and creak, the bomb was not placed to do maximum structural damage or anything; this was sacrificed in favor of using the stock room to full advantage, but that doesn't mean it's not going to be a real dangerous place real quick.

And because God is Cruel, the jukebox is, at least initially, untouched. Azalea's chosen romantic selection will continue to play for just a bit more, at least until the wires melt, anyway.

Luke just makes a face at Owen for that comment, turning to address Bart and his stir craziness. Is it worse for Speedsters, that urge to continually do something? Maybe he'll think to ask later. If there is a later that is. He can't smell it in advance, he can't hear it. He doesn't even have the warning of being in the proximity to Matt who can, not like Cage would be able to pick up on the hints like Kinsey. No, it's not until the initial fireball that the big man has any reaction at all, and that's the gut instinct to step in front of the kid barback, presenting his back to the worst of it in that split second. After all, it's just the fumes that'll do damage. Oh yeah. The fumes.

In the midst of giving Azalea an open armed WTF face of betrayal, one he was about to change as he heard and approved her song choice, Owen is fully caught off guard by the explosion behind him. It sends him into the bar, head bouncing off of the wooden counter with a good amount of force. The blow leaves him woozy for crucial seconds as he tries to regain his footing and focus.

One razor boomerang. One flaming boomerang. The irony. Owen forces himself to mentally take stock of what he is carrying. No frosty boomerangs here. Great.

He shakes his head with a speed blur, trying to recover his senses faster. He tries to remember how many people were in the bar, and spares his coworkers only a glance before vaulting over the bar to try and get as many customers out as possible. He knows he's not the only meta working here, so he focuses on the customers.

"Closing time! *Cough* I'm kickin all yer asses out."

The little smile Azalea allows herself as she walks away from the jukebox is short lived, her gaze connecting with Kinsey's for a brief moment before light and fire light up the freckles on Azalea's face.

Those looking will see her surprise, her harrow, as she realizes a microcosm of her new existence made manifest, that she is likely to survive this. They are not.

The force of it consumes her, fire billowing over her tiny frame. Then the shockwave hits, sending her sidelong in an exaggerated cartwheel to hit the windows in time with the blowout that leaves glass shattering to the snow outside. There is a thunk, a crushing of more glass, as she hits a car and bounces off of it, flames licking at the shirt she wears over the the thin weave of armor beneath.

Seconds bleed on as she tries to gain her bearings, a hand finding the nearby car, disorientation fading as purpose rushes in to fill a place that used to only know anger, and certainly, she is angry.

Hands come to her overshirt, pulling it apart to reveal grey beneath, the remnants of her top burning into the slush behind her as she leaps back towards a destroyed window, back into fire that cannot burn her, beams that cannot crush her, and smoke that cannot choke her.

Azalea can only hope she returning to something other than a mass funeral pyre, for while she cannot burn, the fate of those that can might haunt her forever.

—-

Oh Luke, you have no idea. Normal time for everyone else is super-slow for him. That includes when fire erupts from the back, at which point Bart's lack of reaction is mostly because he's trying to parse what even happened. In the next moment Luke's shadowing him, taking the brunt as the explosion busts through to the front.

They're not supposed to use powers, but does it make a difference if no one can see you? Anyway- well, this is an emergency. Bart doesn't have to think twice about that. He moves- even if Luke might not be aware of it, and he's unaware himself that Luke might be more than what he seems. Doesn't stop the younger Speedster from trying to grab onto the man and vibrate through the bar to the other side, hopefully for better cover.

He doesn't stop there. Once he's certain his boss is out of immediate harm's way, Bart moves, weaving his way to help push people down or nudge them away from whatever's been flung by the force of the explosion, as much as he can, anyway, too fast to be tracked by the human eye.

The scent, the click. Matt realizes it all too late to warn the patrons of Luke's bar, or get himself and his girlfriend away. There's no real cheating this. Murdock has no powers of super-speed, like Bart Allen, or invulnerability, like Azalea Kingston or Luke Cage. All he has at his disposal is exactly what he has in a fight with Russian gangers or Wakandan laser panthers or aliens: a few seconds of advance awareness that death or devastation is just a few milliseconds around the corner.

That awareness comes in the form of a shift in air pressure in the room here and below, the sudden wave of impossible heat launching outward from the storeroom. Kinsey may not be able to see his brown eyes widen in quickly-dawning horror, but she can see the parting of his lips before he shouts, not just to her, but to everyone around them: "RUN!" By the time he's shouting he's already grappling with his girlfriend, attempting to vault the two of them forward as fast as he possibly can — which is nowhere near fast enough.

When the fireball comes he tries to drive them both down to the ground, his frame giving her cover.

One moment Kinsey is standing at the bar, watching Matt's face — not alarmed, just wary — and then next she feels him collide with her and then a second impact as the explosion rips through the contained space, shoving him into her again and pitching the both of them roughly to the ground. That he yelled, that there were even a handful of seconds before the explosion — those things are lost, forgotten in the suddenness with which she finds herself prone, ears not yet ringing because they're too busy hurting. Concussive force sufficient to blow out the windows has been unkind to so many of the other pieces of her that for one dazed second all she does is curl into a comma beneath Matt's larger frame, lifting her hands and grasping at the sides of her head, a dull throb from protesting grey matter. Heat and loose, lightweight debris swirl over the top of them — loose paper, fliers. There's smoke almost immediately.

Urgency reinstates itself. She struggles to turn over, reaching upward, arms winding over his shoulders. One hand slides up over the back of his head, the other down his back: she's looking for wounds. She's looking for shrapnel sticking out of his body. Finding none crushes relief through her that wants to make her boneless, an impulse they can ill afford; military training takes over. If that amount of noise and force hurt her ears, she can only imagine what it must have done to his.

"Come on baby. Get up!"

There are civilians aplenty to rescue, many of them out cold, bleeding, crying, nursing broken bones. Meanwhile, the POPS start. POP! POP! POP! WOOOSH. These are the secondary explosions, bottles of various spirits just blasting apart in the heat, adding literal fuel to the fire as they go.

Indeed, sooner or later those obvious exits? The front ones? The splash pattern is awful; Azalea leaps back through to get someone…

A piece of ceiling slams down directly behind her; a huge blaze wooshes up in its place, and abruptly that way out is blocked.

The snap, hiss, and crackle of the fire ramps up its intensity, the heat and smoke does as well, as if some giant had just shoved a massive iron poker into it. Worse, the blizzard winds are cold, but not helpful. They serve to fan the flames, making matters even worse.

But hey. Great news!

The Jukebox explodes too.

Um. Ware the debris.

Luke barely has time to register that somehow he got on the other side of the bar, blinking with a, "Sweet Christmas." That comes at a painful expense of his lungs. He coughs once, registering that a fan is basically melting off the ceiling above him. It doesn't even so much as faze him when it falls, and he swats it away like fly whose wings have suddenly been clipped. It goes sailing towards the rear of his bar that's engulfed in hell, and then his arm is scooping someone up - he's not even sure who at this point - and propelling them towards the door. He grabs another patron up in the opposing arm, bearing their weight with little more effort than a grocery sack before he barrels out the vestibule. Both people are dropped on the curb outside before he's lumbering back inside with a wheezing cough and and bleary eyes as his life burns around him.

Standing in the flames and exploding bottles, Owen is still trying to take stock. No not of the liquor, but the situation. Did someone just come back in?! And Luke is now, not where he left him. That's odd. Focus Mercer.

Owen pulls off his dress shirt to wrap around his face. Hopefully to help with the smoke and flying glass. When he sees the ceiling drop and block in the front, he tries to call out "Luke! Clear the door!" But he can barely hear himself. He can't tell if it's because of the noise or if his ears are just that dysfunctional.

If the front is blocked and there is a raging inferno in the back, well Owen maybe just needs to see how fast he can run. Probably should have checked that in a non-emergency situation, but oh well. He speed bursts through the back to check the back door to the alley way, hoping it's burst out as well and that he can get Bart to help him evacuate folks out the back. If the way is clear, he's going to zip back in and find Bart and yell / mouth and gesture "BACK! DOOR!" If it's not, he's going back for Luke to try and get him to clear the front.

"Cage!" The sound rips through fire and fury, spiraling past those survivors that she helps up, those who can still move at all. "Hold the door!" If there is a door, anyway. If not, she knows the man's reputation. She'd spoken to Jess about him before. Azalea is certain he can make a door if need be.

Seems like Owen and her share more than a taste in music, but repeating the request is fortuitous, since the sound of those secondary explosions drowns out almost everything.

Meanwhile she slides past a column that cracks and bows, a hand coming to rest on Kinsey's shoulder, arresting her attention from her pain, from the ringing yet to begin, and pressing what seems little more than a black cloth into her hand, something tied into the shape of a bandanna, plucked from a pocket on her pants.

"Cover your mouth!"

Azalea only has one, and she gives it to Kinsey because she's with Matt, and for everything she owes that man beyond an apology, she knows he'd want her to have it. Then she's moving to two prone but still breathing, barely. With strength she does not often display she hoists them both by their collars and pulls them along, intent on following Luke Cage out of this mess, if he or someone else can secure an exit.

Maybe a few bleary-eyed patrons might wonder how they'd gotten outside through the front, but it's about all that Bart manages to transfer before a second round of damage begins. He skids to a halt and may as well have just appeared out of thin air for how abruptly he comes out of his zipping around. All at once he's leaping back, arms thrown in front of him as the fire that's suddenly blocking the doorway seems to grow in size. The next explosion that comes from the jukebox startles him, and a large piece goes flying right towards- and then through him before clattering against knocked over furniture.

Bart stares a bit, then whips around at Owen's shout, at Owen who's suddenly there. Nodding, the younger speedster turns and then blurs out of sight again, and it may as well look like other random patrons are vanishing from where they might be sprawled or cowering as Bart hustles them out the back way.

—-

There's a price to be paid for sensitivity. The same awareness that allowed Matt to throw himself and Kinsey out of the way of the fireball is suddenly turned from strength to Achilles Heel as Matt is hit with a sheer wall of sound every bit as potent to him as the explosion himself.

There's a stretch of uncounted time that feels long but is likely just a matter of seconds in which he feels — nothing. Nothing at all. It would be utterly terrifying to him were his brain not scrambled, bruised by his sudden landing. The first thing that penetrates the numbing fog of shock is the feeling of his own body heaving as lungs force out one cough, two. The hands — different from each other, but both familiar — on his back, on his shoulders as they search for wounds he's somehow avoided. The smell of burning booze, burning wood, burning flesh. Then slowly, sounds: glass shattering, fire licking along sinuous lines of alcohol, and —

LAY 'EM DOWN, FEEL 'EM UP
AND THEY SLIDE AWAY, SO EASY

— he pushes himself up to a sit and groans. He hears Stick's voice in his head even before he hears Kinsey's entreaty: People are cooking alive and you're flat on your pasty ass. Come on, Matty. Get the fuck up. "We've — ahhh — got to help them," he mutters to Kinsey as he tries to scramble to his feet.

—-

That god damned face fills Kinsey's vision over the hard line of one Murdock-brand shoulder, but crisis is the great social equalizer. Hazel eyes stare up at Azalea's blue, then turn down as she lifts her hand to look at whatever she was just given. She understands what it is on sight, and why she might be given something like that

But not why she might be given something like that. She couldn't have been recognized, she doesn't-

There's just no time for, or sense in, wondering about it now. She says 'thanks' but isn't sure it's heard given the shocking din as bottles begin to overheat and detonate, feeding the riot of flames in the stockroom and accelerating the countdown to the moment the bar collapses in on itself completely. Hasty fingers reach up to tie the handkerchief around her face, eyes tightened against the heat.

"Let me do it," she tells him as his weight leaves her and she curls to sit, head throbbing like a church bell, in what is becoming a long-standing tradition of her willingness to suggest things that make him want to lose his shit.

As usual, she has a reason, the merits of which are nevertheless highly debatable: "Most of me is fireproof-!"

Fortunately thanks to the efforts of the heroes, there are only a few left. A group of three young men, college age, just old enough to drink. They'd been sitting in the back shooting the shit, having a grand time, now they are in a heap together and silent, passed out under heavy stacks of flaming debris. If they survive the burns will be extensive.

A young woman who is doubled over, coughing, her eyes tearing up, she had just come out of the washrooms and now she is utterly lost.

A pair of young women who were out on a date, their hands are still clasped as they wildly seek an escape. They'd gone for the front; some of that debris sort of traps them in a corner, as tall, almost, as both of them. There is nowhere for them to go, nothing for them to do but hope and stay low and try not to breathe too much smoke, to wait for some sort of salvation.

The booze is spent at least; the angry cracks gone, but the fire continues to whip and spiral upward. The building will probably be a total loss; they are indeed running out of time. But paradoxically thanks to the direction of that wind the back hallway leading to the alley door is indeed clear for now.

But they'd best get outside soon, all of them, or even that avenue shall close…

His name is being shouted from several people as he gets back into the bar just as the easiest route dissolves behind him to a pile of flaming timber and building refuse. Cage's arm crooks over his head as a pipe bounces off his forearm. Hold the door. Hold the door. HODOR. The big man turns, assessing the damage as best he can through smoke filled eyes that are now openly weeping from the abuse they're taking. Maybe if he can wedge his shoulder beneath that longer beam and lift it he can create a hole big enough to ferry people out.

No, no, no time. He can feel the building around him want to give its final sigh. He thinks about a lot of things in those agonizing seconds, like the last shreds of Reva burning and melting into wisps of acrid char. The smile from Jessica as he wrapped them up in her Christmas gift and he made her watch a Miracle on 34th street. The satisfaction it gave him when Owen signed the papers to his future inheritance like a dunce. It's all, in the proverbial words of Cheech and Chong, up in smoke.

"Let's go." The last Luke can clear out are Kinsey and Matt and he's reaching meaningfully for both of them to usher them out the back.

One at a time. Owen tries to fight the burning in his eyes, his lungs and likely a good chunk of his body. Unlike Bart, he is very much visible. He has just enough speed to get from point A to point B, but the picking up of people, picking through debris to get to them, coughing and tripping, yea that all happens in painful real time. Owen grumbles about the young men being *$&#ing lightweights who need saving, but save them he does. He even slows his return trip down long enough to give one of the rescued girls a chin nod and a "Hey." because he can't actually process the carnage that is happening right now.

Of course the girl being a normal human being is in shock from the explosion and the horrible turn her night out has taken. She barely can register that Owen is taking time to flirt with her except to croak out a disgusted "… what?!"

Finally done with getting people that he can see out of the bar, with much of the work having been done by Bart, he belatedly remembers that Matt is blind. Yea. Way to leave the 'infirm' in an inferno Owen. He rushes back in and says "Him first." indicating Matt to Kinsey and Luke. He is going in for a shoulder carry without much consideration as to what Matt or anyone else has to say about it. Too bad it's so smokey and dark in here…

—-

It's a standard rescue job now, and nothing that Bart hasn't done before. His lean frame is deceptively capable of carrying people out, and right now he's focused only on getting those out who can't manage to do so themselves. At this point their safety is more important than anyone suddenly wondering what sort of people work in the joint.

Still, it's getting increasingly harder to see and breathe. He can hold out a little longer, and gulps of fresh air outside help as he dives back into the burning bar again, but he knows that just means that anyone else left inside will be having an even harder time. Between him and Owen they seem to have things taken care of, and he's more than relieved to see Luke emerging with Kinsey and the lawyer. As Owen goes to help them, Bart slips past to take one last look around the bar to make sure they haven't missed someone…

—-

People literally disappearing in Bart's wake does not escape Azalea's keen eye, but she cannot tell if this is friend or foe, except for the deed itself. She can only hope that whatever this Blur-Thing is, it is putting them somewhere safe.

There is a brief look backward, to ensure Kinsey is using her gift, and that Matt still had a will of cold wrought iron, if not a body to match. Then there are those who are left. Those who are hopeless.

It is daunting, to make a choice, of who lives and who dies. Her mad dash across what's left of the bar brings fire with her, but it does not burn. Embers land in her wake, and she thinks to snatch the lost girl by the arm, but then another blur whips past, gathering up people. It is all she can do to be thankful that there are others with more meaningful abilities than staying alive.

Then the roof near the front of the bar collapses onto her, crushing her into the floorboards as tons of burning slag seal her into a sudden, bituminous tomb.

—-

Kinsey, as usual, proposes a plan so fraught with danger for herself that she is sure it will drive Matt up the wall. She might be right in other circumstances, and her points truly are debatable. But in the here and now, with so many lives on the line? "Together," is all the blind man, sometimes a hero, shouts back to her over the fire's roar.

While they debate — if quickly — over how to help, others are already helping. Some mean to help them. Luke and Owen descend on the Boston girl and her blind boyfriend, and Matt grits his teeth. Faking the extent of his handicap has become second-nature over the last decade and change, but never has it galled in quite the same way. Glasses askew, eyes burning bright as the fires around them, he pulls himself up to a stand using the leverage of Luke's arm and whispers something hard for others to make out over the crackling din.

Then he turns to Kinsey and stagger-steps with unerring accuracy towards the trio of badly burned bros.

—-

In passing the big man whose dreams and achievements are all swiftly being reduced to embers and ashes around them, Kinsey extends one hand and squeezes his shoulder. She has every intention of sliding past him on the side opposite from the one Matt is on, but this is the moment that Owen chooses to slide in and hoist an arm beneath hers, to pick her up off of the ground. Physical might is simply not her strong suit, so her struggle is…ineffective.

"Ow-…Owen, put me d-" Her protests break off into a startled sound as the roof falls in over the bar, eyes widening to see Azalea swallowed up beneath the debris. "LUKE! THE GIRL!" She points, emphatically, at the end of her arm, then sweeps her gaze back into the swiftly smoke-filled room after the silhouette of Matt's retreating back.

"God damnit Owen! Put me down!"

The shriek of sirens in the far distance indicates fire fighters on the way. By way of perception it might seem like they've drawn this out for hours; in reality their approach comes within a reasonably timely fashion. All the same, not fast enough to save anyone here.

Good thing the bar was full of hero types who go for various civilians. And or each other.

They all know what they're doing; they all know their craft. Whatever their chosen targets they find they aren't much impeded more than the fire and smoke were already impeding them. By now what they're dealing with is mostly the smoke; there's a steady burn.

Buuuut the ceiling overhead is groaning dangerously; there's a good chance it's all about to come down on their heads. This is it, their final chances to round up who they wanna round up and get the heck out of here before they find themselves dealing with a Barvalanche.

You know what Luke doesn't have time for? One more cook in the kitchen. Matt mutters something to him that irritates the already irrated Luke, and the latter of the men just gives a guiding shove to get Murdock and Kinsey moving to the exit, without his aid now. "They got it! Owen, over here." It seems the blind lawyer has somehow pointed him in the way of the pair of women while Kinsey splits his attention to Azalea. He chooses first to the pair near the door and off to the side obscured by debris, who are about to die as the worst ending ever to one of his favorite porns. But guess what he'll have to ask Matt about later? A) why he has the same butt as Daredevil - not that he noticed! and b) how the hell he knew where those women were trapped.

"We're coming!" He coughs what should be words of encouragement but sound like a sad wheeze to the pair as he bats away chairs and tables that stand in their way. "Can you get them?" He asks Owen, "BART!" He calls for more help, but he's already turning to tend to the third 'damsel' in distress, his energy waning as he starts to paw her out. The structure groans. Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus…

Unless he is physically stopped from doing so Owen is flat out ignoring Kinsey in this case. Yes, he meant to get the blind lawyer out. How he ended up with the hot girl… must be smoke inhalation or something. Honest mistake. He zips her outside and verbally chastises her with "Yer safe. Yer fuckin' welcome", with a middle finger included. Boy, what a true hero and gentleman.

He does zip back in though. He follows Luke's path towards the trapped young men. He looks at Matt and again asks "Are you sure I can't take you out first?" as loudly as he can, putting a hand on the blind lawyer's shoulder.

The spot where Azalea disappeared is a flaming, twisted mess. But once Luke has a crossbeam out of the way and a large patch of something that must have come from the roof, he will find attentive blue eyes looking up at him, and then suddenly hands clasping around the back of his neck.

She takes advantage of his awkward lean, of the steel bracing her back, and most importantly, the shaky ground Luke is standing on, slamming one foot to floorboard, another to his gut.

"Sorry about this."

Azalea heaves. She is not as strong as Luke, and if she hadn't stolen his footing he could fight her. Instead she acts purely on the instruction of one Jessica Jones. Or, alright. Not instructions. But she did mention he was nearly indestructible. He weighs a lot more than her. He is a perfect battering ram.

Azalea's anger fuels the shove of her feet, legs capable of lifting a car like this. Instead she sends Luke through the nearby wall, rolling completely over as she does it, feeling the entire building collapse in the wake of her action, she lunges for the opening and comes to a rolling stop next to the bar owner.

Sorry.

Former bar owner.

It might not be Officer and a Gentlemen, but Luke can tell it any way they like once the dust settles.

—-

Hopefully the barback doesn't startle anyone for just, you know, seeming to already be there. Because he is, not a second after Luke's shouted his name. Coughing, he moves to help with the final group in need of rescuing. Of course, if Owen's going to have a friendly chat with Matt in the middle of a burning inferno, Bart will just….grab and go with one of the wounded, then another.

He's passing Luke when Azalea breaks through, and briefly he almost stumbles as he gets caught up staring. Shaking his head, he moves for Owen and Matt. Stooping by the last of the rescuees, he shoots a look to the two. "Um, you guys getting out or what?"

Are you sure I can't take you out first? Owen asks Matt Murdock, blind attorney. Matt turns his profile to the palm at his shoulder. "Yeah, I'm sure," he says ruefully, knowing full well what it means. Then there's a whirr, a rush, and the two bros are gone on Bart Allen's wings. The stubble-jawed lawyer's head tilts upward slightly, then to the right. "There's two more," he says, without disclosing how he knows it.

And then he moves, not as fast as Bart but with an agility he never displays in his lawyer's garb or during waking hours — not away from the buckling building but deeper in — in full sight of a man he hardly knows. Because there are some things more important than secret identities, or privacy, or… you know. Memberships in the New York and New Jersey bar associations. All of which are thrust into jeopardy by his parkouring through flames and smoke like a goddamn Russian ballerina towards those two girls on a date he'd sent Cage for earlier — right before Azalea Kingston had thrown him god knows where.

He rips off his topcoat, throws it over them, and tries his best to scoop, escort them out while he feels the building buckle and start to give above them.

"You're welcome to help here if you want!" he shouts to Owen over the fury.

After the oppressive heat of the interior of the bar, the shock of New York winter cold is a relief — particularly for Kinsey, who, like most multiple amputees, has difficulty lowering her core temperature. Less limbs means less surface area for blood to cool.

You're fuckin' welcome.

There would be fire in Kinsey's verdant eyes even if they weren't reflecting the genuine article, still boiling in the blown-out front windows of the venue. It's the Irish blood, probably. It tells.

She's just opening her mouth to respond when he disappears back into the collapsing bar at speed, leaving her quip unquipped and her brows daggered down in a look of irritation out of all proportion with the offense — because she's worried. It's fuel to burn.

Standing there, she barely feels her nails biting crescents into her remaining organic hand, straining her eyes to see inside of the churning madness of the bar. Looking for shadows, listening for screams, feeling the seconds tick by like heavy weights as she waits for all of them to appear. "Come on, assholes. Hurry up."

Out front, the firehoses start getting to work. There is no safe place or way for them to run out after people as far as they can see, so they focus on keeping it from spreading to other buildings and seeing if they can't clear a path. They're using the new flame-retardant gel, which at least means the stuff works fast. The scent of it, a bit minty, a bit off, drifts in as flames start squelching near the front, but the back where blind ninja, mouthy speedster and two civilians having the worst night ever is still a mess.

In the meantime, someone who is in fire gear wanders up to Luke with a cellphone that's ringing. Doo-dee-doo-dee-do-dee-dee-doo-de-doo.

"You'll want to take that, sir," the young fireman says, before he drifts back to his fellows.

Doo-dee-doo-dee-do-dee-dee-doo-de-doo.

His mask is up, it's impossible to know much more about him other than that he is male. He ought to be shooing people out of the back alley and into a space more safe, but instead, he drops off this phone.

Doo-dee-doo-dee-do-dee-dee-doo-de-doo.

Luke, the human projectile. And this time it wasn't even his idea, which makes his short lived flight all that more incredulous. He ends up in the street, arms spread akimbo and looking up through the gap in the buildings to New York's night sky. Blinking once. Twice. As Azalea tumbles up next to him. "So now we're like best friends, right?" He comments dryly to the utter stranger as his lungs heave in the fresh air. He doesn't even have the energy to lift his head and watch Luke's Bar cease to exist. Here's to hoping the approaching firetrucks don't use him as a speed bump to really cap off the evening, because right here is a good place to take a little nap. One eye actually has to crack back open to look up at the masked first responder, he should be reaching for an oxygen mask but instead it's a …phone? He clicks open the line, "Luke's Bar, for operating hours, press one…to hear a love ballad, press two, to hear Owen squeal like a pig…was he wearing guy liner?" The last to Azalea as he rests the phone on his forehead for whomever it is to state their business.

Oh shit, I'm hallucinating. Must be the fumes. I haven't done acid in like… days. Now the blind lawyer's like a ninja who just up and found and saved those chicks… well is starting to. Owen snaps out of his mental revelry to get it in gear. "Yes. Going." He takes one of the girls in certainly the weirdest handoff he's ever been a part of and books it for the door. Thankfully he catches sight of Bart as he starts to see the building coming down. He doesn't have time to make a round trip, but the Flash would. And hopefully that means that the mini Flash will as well.

Impulse. Owen mentally corrects himself that he ought to at least give Bart the dignity of his codename, considering he's picking up the slack tonight in the not letting bar patrons burn to death or get crushed by flaming debris department.

Outside Owen deposits the girl farther away than the previous patrons calling out "Com- !" He knew that he wouldn't get it out in time, trying to warn them away from the collapsing building, but he tried. He looks like shit, but his guyliner? Flawless.

"Jessica says you're good people. Why not."

This, in response to Luke's query of friendship. But then there is a man, looming. One that brings her gaze to narrow focus. When he drops the cell phone, and when Luke gives his sarcastic answer, she leans over him, leans in, one hand curling around his. Not that she could keep his hand in place if he didn't want it, but she's making it known she wants to hear.

And so she listens. Eyes close. She blocks out everything else, cascading Luke's face in silky strands of black hair. It's still a little warm from where fire licked at it, as immutable to the elements at the rest of her. Distractedly, she wipes some soot off her hand and onto Luke's shirt.

Of course the sirens make it difficult, so she focuses to block it out, and the sound of the fire, of the burning, of people asking questions and screaming. She should be chasing down that fire fighter. Beating an answer out of him.

But that's what the old her would do. The new her tries to listen before she leaps.

Outside with the last of the patrons he'd manage to gather, Bart stumbles but manages to lower the guy to the ground before he rests his hands on his knees, coughing as everything tries to catch up with him. He turns slowly as he tries to catch his breath, seeking out the last of them before breathing a sigh as Matt, Owen and the two girls manage to get out.

And then the whole building decides to give out, flames hungrily engulfing everything. He stands and stares while the firefighters go to work, only smelling slightly of smoke and maybe a smudge or two.

Come on assholes, thinks Kinsey Sheridan. Hurry up.

Never let it be said that Matthew Murdock isn't an obliging boyfriend. He emerges from the back door of the flaming building into the blizzard's fury at a runner's pace. His cane is long-since abandoned, and he's carrying a woman in his arms without pretext or apology; she's swaddled in his topcoat like an oversized infant. The building creaks and gives behind him, collapsing on itself in another burst and conflagration that sends smoke soaring upwards into the snowfall.

The disheveled, soot-faced attorney staggers through an alleyway thick with unplowed snow before setting the woman down with and letting out a choking exhale. He drops to his knees beside her and gives a full-body shiver. His head? Still ringing.

Obliging is good. Obliging saves lives.

Kinsey's, probably. By the time Bart reappears she has one arm wrapped around her middle and her other hand pressed over her mouth, elbow on wrist, eyes like beacons of worry. She's trying to account for everyone, and can't. She isn't going to be able to get any closer — the firefighters are on-scene and everything is a rush of activity and demands that people stay back, out of the way.

She feels sick. Where are they?

When the building collapses it feels like a punch to the solar plexus, and she breaks into a dead run, dark hair a banner behind her. She's no speedster, but she is quick.

Just not quick enough to avoid the grappling hands of someone in a yellow, fireproof coat. She kicks at this unfortunate human being, and misses — lucky for both of them — and then out of the corner of her eye spots a familiar silhouette, the lines of him broken up by the burden of a rescued patron. The firefighter moments ago preventing her from bulleting toward a fiery death becomes responsible for holding up her weight as she sags into him with relief — and then finds himself blinking as she straightens and pushes at him. "Go! Go get them help! God!"

The voice on the other end of the line is a gravelly, seething bass. There is no response to the quips, to speculations on Owen's guyliner. There is certainly no request to hear a love ballad.

Instead:

"Mr. Cage. Or…should I say…Mr. Lucas?"

The words are spoken in even, professional tones. In the background of the call, A. Corelli's Violin Sonate No. 9 in A Major drifts softly across the line in gentle counterpoint, as if to provide a soundtrack for NYFD's efforts to put out the blaze a few short feet away.

"You destroyed that which is mine; therefore, I destroy that which is yours. And now we are even."

The Sonate reaches a gentle key change.

"Think twice between unbalancing those delicate scales again. You have so little in this world. It really would be a shame for you to lose anything else. Or anyone. Give my regards to Pop."

Seconds later the line goes dead; seconds after that there's a screeching sound from the phone as all the data on it abruptly erases, leaving a useless plastic brick in its wake. The whole thing happens quickly, too quickly for any kind of trace, even the impressive sorts Kinsey Sheridan can execute when given just enough time.

—-

Luke has little energy to even raise an eyebrow at the mention of Jessica from Azalea, much less to shake off a hand hold or huff hair out of his face as she intrudes on listening in to the phone call. His lungs are still begging for that sweet sweet fresh air which will literally breathe life back into his muscles. Cage is vulnerable in very few places, the major one being his mucus membranes or his respiratory system. And both are very tired of the abuse. That doesn't meant that Luke can't feel the electric shock that voice causes as it courses through him, the man suddenly jolting upright even if that means he flicks off Azalea like a flea. "What did you just say to me, mother…" The line goes dead and Luke's voice chokes out with it.

It has to be said that Azalea is the best flea. She gets dislodged and barely fights the motion, tumbling away to come to rest against a curb. Instead, she is staring into distant, whirling lights. Processing a force that seeks to test a recently made pact.

"That fat fuck."

Then she's up, regarding Luke for a long moment, sucking on breath and emotion both. She lets him alone in the snow, to cool off. To process it, and the she turns to trudge towards the rest of the survivors, her face smeared with soot here and there, her costume streaked with all the signs you'd expect from being in a fire, but she is notably unharmed.

Eventually, she'll end up very near Matt and Kinsey, her gaze sweeping over the patrons she had mentally ticked off in her head as being in peril. It is almost to much to bear to see that they got so many, if not all of them.

"Was anyone left inside?"

It sounds like she's asking Kinsey, because she's looking right at her, but that question is for someone she can't ask directly.

Having no idea what sort of strange phone call that his boss had just received as a parting shot in wake of the fire, Bart finally just sits where he is, watching everything else going on. He's mostly caught his breath by then, but the rest of him is exhausted, and it still feels a little surreal watching the bar burning. He can barely recognize it now, twisted by flames as it's become.

It's only with a passing firefighter's urging that he gets up to move out of the way, herded over where others have been gathered to be checked over and kept from where they might get trampled or caught up by firehoses.

Firefighters have a perimeter around the flaming wreckage, but it's to keep people — like Kinsey — from going IN, not to prevent people from coming out. And so when a bespectacled, soot-stained attorney stumbles raggedly past them they barely pay him any mind. He's already searching out a voice he'd heard shouting, 'GO!' just moments passed. "Kinsey," he says, worlds of emotion — relief foremost among them — in those two syllables.

Azalea is coming by them then, making vague reference to a 'fat fuck,' and said relief evaporates in a very different conflagration. His whole frame contracts with the realization, and he stops mid-step enroute to his reunion. It was Fisk, Matt realizes, remembering vividly the large, awkward man ordering drinks at the bar. His jaw juts, and the dark-stained features behind those glasses contorts with fury; his mouth parts for a scream that never comes.

"I -" he manages softly, tightly, struggling visibly with the words "- I heard they got all of them."

As soon as Matt is clear, Kinsey impatiently snatches the improvised mask away from her face to close in on him. He stops part of the way there — she doesn't, leaned into clothes that reek of fire to hug, tightly, around his shoulders, where the steel cable tension of a dreadful realization has locked him in place.

It's not that she doesn't realize.

She's just afraid — very suddenly, for the first time, now that she has a moment to consider what's just happened — that they're being watched.

"I know. I know, I know. I heard it." Whispered, close to his ear. Silence, for some moments, and then: "…Poor Luke." She directs the ferocity of her gaze over his shoulder, watching the battle with the flames rage on behind him, Azalea's loaned bandana still clutched in one hand.

When the dark-haired girl addresses her, or seems to, she extends that hand outward, holding the cloth up to be taken. The other arm remains where it is, wound tight, as though she felt she might have to hold Murdock physically in place.

Not that she could, even if she wanted to.

Luke's world is spinning, and nothing more oxygen or his bracing hands to each side can prevent. He's on his feet, stumbling with the emotional as well as physical turmoil, and blinking at all the bright flashing lights and fancy gel that's being sprayed on the shell of his business. His home. It's all blurring together. He should check on the others that were in his bar. He should check on his employees. It's the right thing to do. Even if he's a zombie through the motions. He'll even give a wooden statement to the authorities about a possible gas leak. And then, and only then, he'll go check on Pop. From a distance.

Clear blue eyes shift to the offered cloth, and then her gaze darts between those gathered, and back to Luke. Luke, who she worries for most of all right now. A man who had to wear a target on his back. "Keep it. And both of you go get some oxygen."

Her voice lowers, but Matt will hear: 'I'll be in touch'

Then she's gone, slipping between vehicles, a new, urgent mission on her mind.

She needs a fucking shower.

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