Escaping Pleasantville and Other Bedtime Stories

February 11, 2018:

Though it requires time, care, and coordination retrieving one Jessica Jones from her imprisonment in a certain soulgem seems simple enough…until the unstable nature of the magic within throws Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Kitty Pryde a really big curveball.

Crest Hill, Gotham City

It's where the beautiful people live. Or at least the ultra-rich ones.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Six, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Through some means or another, several important things happened. It became apparent that Kitty Pryde's link to the soul gem would be necessary to draw Jessica Jones back out of the thing. So she was summoned to take care of that. Matt figured maybe Luke might want to know why Jessica fell off the face of the earth and to do something about that. So Matt called him. Because Matt got to be one of the first to get the news that Demon!Buckwulf and Demon!Janeburd thought tucking Jess safely into a magic gem would keep her out of their hair.

Safe, but bored, they'd been assured. Kitty, of course, knows how unstable that piece of magic really is. That might be cause for A Concern, but Jane noted she specifically designed an idyllic and boring place for Jess to spend her time. And true to her word they find themselves in a pretty little suburb that looks straight out of the 1950s.

Jessica is in front of what looks and smells like a kid's lemonade stand, drinking the stuff right out of the pitcher. A Spencer Garret type in a sweater vest who does not register on Matt's senses of smell, sound, or perioperception nevertheless can be heard.

"Miss Jones, please, watch your language," he says, around the Father Knows Best pipe in his teeth. "I assure you more punching is not necessary. Look, it's a pretty day, the town sock hop is later, you could go to the library and read something nice and wholesome…there's the roller rink…you could sunbathe."

"I am in Hell," Jess mutters.

The little girl selling the lemonaid only registers to Matt via sound as well. She wears a yellow dress and pigtails.

"That will be $4, Miss Jones."

Jess pulls her Dad's wallet out and drops a ten. "Whatever, keep the goddamn change. Look, man, you aren't real. This place is not real. I swear to God I am going to throw your fucking Cadillac at the sky next. Somewhere, there is a door or a way out or whatever, and you are going to help me find it. I will make your not-life a living Hell if I have to. I know you know, or I know you know who knows and I'm tired of playing nice. I swear if I have to hear Mrs. Addersley ask me about her curtains one more goddamn time…"

This is the good news.

But don't worry. For those of you following along in the home audience, the bad news is probably coming.

*

Into this sunny Leave it to Beaver brand of paradise stalks a figure wholly incongruous to it. He looks like a burglar more than anything else: decked all in black, from his sleek compression shirt to his utilitarian cargo pants to the mesh wrap that seems to cover the top half of his head. The thickly-stubbled bottom half of his face registers little obvious emotion, but every move he makes conveys something purposeful, hyper-alert.

That sense of vigilance is for good reason. The lack of a scent might seem a small thing to most people, but to Matt Murdock it's potentially seismic. His mishmash, impressionistic view of the world relies on a delicate equilibrium, and each of the remaining four senses is an equal partnership. Take away one Matt Murdock's sense of smell would, in the real world, be a crippling blow.

Here? Well, who knows?

As disquieting as this bland landscape is, at least they don't have to travel far across it to find what they are looking for. He'd know that voice anywhere. "Jess?" the man asks, with a lift of his chin.

*

You know what doesn't fit in the 1950's? A big black dude. Maybe in this idyllic slice of gem hell they don't also have rampant racism. Here's to hoping. Luke's sober, so that's new of late, but he doesn't look none too happy about it considering. He came out of his funk for Jessica, that'll have to be enough to fuel him for now. If only he had one of those swell Letterman's jackets. He moves like a lumbering version of Matt's shadow, sticking close to the man but not intrusively, still not entirely trusting this whole magical realm nonsense. Jess once gave him a sandwich out of her phone, and that could have been quantified as enough magical fun for him for a life time. "You're not in a poodle skirt. I was promised poodle skirts." It'll have to serve as a greeting, along with the small smile he's wearing purely for her benefit.

*

With Lockheed dutifully on her shoulder, Kitty leads the others to the soul gem. While a complicated ritual was necessary to transport people inside that same gem previously, her extended time inside of it means it's a bit simpler this time. While it certainly takes some concentration to bring along visitors - that's why Lockheed is there to help.

The dragon, who was also trapped with her, wings over and perches himself on Matt's shoulder. Kitty offers a hand to Luke. "Okay, it's going to feel like your insides are being pulled out through your belly button. And once we're in there, be careful. It's built to keep people inside."

Once inside the gem, Kitty blinks a few times. It looks very different from when she was trapped here for months. Perhaps that's the point: it is tailored to certain prisoners. It's easy to spot Jessica in the 1950s era backdrop. She's right behind Luke. "No one promised poodle skirts," she assures Jess with a wry grin and a shrug of her shoulders. "We're here to get you out of here, though. Come on. The sooner the better."

*

Familiar voices, real voices, are a great balm to one Jessica Jones. DHK's first, with her name held in question, then Luke, rambling about poodle skirts.

Which she is decidedly not wearing. She's in more or less what she always wears, out of place and out of time. In defiance of the perfection all around her she's reverted back to old ways: dirty jeans pulled on from the floor after three days of wear. It's summer here, not at all like the cold still hovering over the real world, but she stubbornly wears her leather jacket over a grey tank top that does little to flatter her. There are frays in the thing, there's a hole in the side of it.

She has not stooped back to drink, at least. But barring that, she has nevertheless stubbornly been as imperfect as possible in a place meant to convey some sort of ticky-tacky utopia. It's altogether possible she hasn't bothered to brush her hair for two days, at least. Mercifully, especially for Daredevil's nose, she has continued to bathe and use deodorant and brush her teeth and the like; there is such a thing as taking defiance too far and that would have been the line.

There's real relief on her face as she snaps her head around, setting the pitcher absently back on the girl's stand. She spins from the spectres, who don't look particularly upset.

"Boy am I glad to see you guys," she says. "And as for poodle skirts? In your dreams, Man Mountain." There's no real bite to that last, even. There is, instead, a graze of light fingers against Luke's muscular arm, her one concession to PDA in this situation. She was more demonstrative with him and all their friends at the damned Christmas party, but everything about this situation leaves her feeling too awkward, too vulnerable. She once again needs help.

She hates it.

She is and ever will be a woman who prefers to Handle Her Own Shit.

Then adrenaline spikes as relief turns to concern. She steps back from Luke, brows furrowing. "They didn't send you three here too did they?" If they're stuck here too, she's quite a bit less relieved. If they are stuck here, she has definitely failed in some sort of duty as their advance scout, the person trapped here first. And she would spare her friends just about anything.

"I haven't had any luck finding a way out."

And then, with anxiety spiraling through voice, face, physiology and body language: "I'm not sure how long I've been here. DHK, is Six…?"

Forget being unable to escape, not knowing what was happening to the people she cared about while she was stuffed in here was starting to get to her, a mix of homesickness and very real agitation. Things have been happening. She could not help. She couldn't even know what was in store. For all she knows the whole of the world is covered in demon-bear blackness, ruled over by a pair of strange gods in the form of a bird and a wolf that vaguely resemble people she once cared about a great deal, and they are four of the only people left, for altogether arcane reasons.

But then there's Kitty, both assuring her that no poodle skirts were promised and that she knows the way out, seeming altogether too cheerful for Wulfbirdpocalypses, and her anxiety is released in favor of a bright grin. "Lead the way."

*

The man in black lets Kitty lead, and lets Luke and Jess have that brief, understated reunion. He hangs back, and won't actually speak again until called on. "Six is fine," answers the Devil with the dragon on his shoulder. He offers a flicker of a smile — reassuring for all that it is brief and slight. "I won't say everything went according to plan, but in the end we got the broad strokes right. Bucky and Jane are back, and themselves again. They helped fix her." There's more to say there, says the complicated curve of his mouth — a great deal more — but they are in mixed company here.

"As for you," the masked man adds with a note of wry apology, rolling the shoulder that does not have a small, fire-breathing friend perched on its broad arc, "You've been stuck in, ah, Pleasantville here for about three weeks now. And just think: there's a whole messy, vaguely disappointing 21st Century just waiting for you."

*

If Luke has the urge to scoop Jessica up in a fierce bear hug and then throw her over his shoulder and tote her away like a romantic hero, he's doesn't act on it. Instead he just flashes her a wink when she reaches out to touch him and will save the gooey sentimentality for later.

Like when they're not in some mystical gem prison.

At least Jess has that as excuse, as opposed to Luke who's been living under a self-imposed rock. The news of Six and Bucky and Jane makes him frown even though it should bring relief. It just means he might have been needed or at least have been useful and he let his own misery stand in the way. As Kitty calls for them to get on with the getting out, he steps in behind Jessica as if to shield her from any retribution of walking away from the 50's setting might incur. Dunno, that lemonade stand kid looked shifty and Girl Scouts carry shanks.

*

There's a raised eyebrow at Jessica's arm on Luke's shoulder. It seems the phasing mutant has been too far out of the loop in the gossip world. She catches Jessica's attention, raises that eyebrow again for her benefit and then gives her a questioning look between Luke and Jess a few times. 'This is a thing?' Kitty seems to ask without needing much lip reading or body language. If it is, as subtly as she can, she gives the 'wow nice' symbol…which happens to be an okay sign. It's not exactly the most subtle, but she is behind Luke, so hopefully that'll help?

Oh, right, the matter at hand. Sure yup. That's certainly more important. Coughing, Kitty holds out a hand to Jess. Then, she sets her expression, which is warm, if worried. "Remember that parable about someone that falls into a hole? They just need a friend that's been there before to get them out."

While she doesn't know who Six is, Lockheed as remained delicately perched on Daredevil's shoulder. As soon as she grabs Jess' hand and has Luke's again in hers, she warns, "It's going to be bumpy. I'm not a mage or anything."

And with only that warning, the same disquieting and stomach churning feeling happens. They all find themselves dropped on the streets of Crest Hill, on cold, wet pavement.

*

Jess heaves another sigh of relief at Daredevil's report, backed by that tiny curve of a reassuring smile. She nods to him, her soft "Got it," saying she might want to hear what else there is to say in not-mixed company sooner rather than later. His quip about the 21st century just has her chuffing a laugh. "I'll take it," she says dryly. "Three weeks. Jesus Christ."

There's a little smirk for Luke's wink, a dip of her chin in acknowledgement. She lets him step behind her, lets him hover protectively.

And then there's Kitty. Jessica colors, tilts her head from side to side in a 'yeah, sure is' motion with a bit of a sheepish and pleased smile.

But as all hands are grasped and nauseating ways are open, this pretty much concludes the friendly and happy portion of the evening. The faux-50s came with vaguely annoying specters.

The way to Crest Hill comes with freezing rain. And something else.

Kitty, who was (is?) linked to the soul gem will feel it first, but Daredevil soon after. The crackle of ozone. The twist in the air directly in front of them. The sparking and spitting of the unstable magic. It's been opening portals to some weird ice realm for months, off and on, and now it's been reused as a prison, ways have been opened into and out of it several times. Maybe having X-Men and stompy PIs inside it stabilizes the thing.

Maybe it's just bad freaking luck. But the air splits with a massive white line, and then?

It spins wide. Space and time rip, and then something massive, white, and cold-blooded whips through it. It takes to the air above them, and lets out an earth-splitting roar of challenge. Matt can smell it. It smells like reptile and dry ice combined. Its eyes are a wicked icy blue, and it's about the size of a train car in body alone, to say nothing of the wing span and claws.

"…Was the goddamn dragon problem part of the plan, or is that just a 'we can't catch a fucking break' bonus?" Jessica asks. Almost idly. Almost, as it lands in front of them.

*

Daredevil allows himself a rueful lift at the corners of his lips when Jessica, Luke, and Kitty slip into their playful banter. Spoken or mimed, he can still see it all — regardless of his mesh headwrap and sightless eyes. This was all so much easier than he thought it might be. And look! One of his closest friends is well and truly safe, a battered Luke Cage is getting a well-deserved and much-needed win, and even Kitty Pryde isn't nearly as off-putting as she seemed when he last met her. Hell, in the moment he even has a soft spot for the goddamn baby wyrm who is currently digging its talons into his shoulder.

It's that sense of contentment that should, by now, let Matthew Murdock know that something is about to go terribly wrong. But, ever the optimist, it takes the whiff of ozone, the crack in the sky, and the landing of a full-sized dragon in front of them to convince him that his happiness might be a little premature. His jaw sets, resets. "Cage," he says grimly. "Get ready for the tank of your life."

And then, to the dragon on his shoulder. "Stick with me, buddy."

And then he bolts — not forward, towards the dragon. Not away in flight. But sideways, at a sharp diagonal.

*

If they all have learned anything by now, it's that when something seems easy it's bound to go sideways. Good thing the Fates are at least dependable in that. When Daredevil utters his name, Luke knows Shit Is About To Get Real. He's fought with the man side by side only as many times as he can count on one hand, but there is a sense of trust and respect there that when the Devil talks, the Mountain listens and his shoulders roll up and his hands fist even before the thing full manifests. "Oh hell no. Not today. NOT. TODAY." Like the giant dragon is just going to shrug and say, 'my bad' and head on home to sit on it's treasure trove of stuffed animals. As Daredevil darts off, he's shouldering forward to make sure he's a big, black shield in front of the two girls until they can sort themselves.

*

Lockheed is about to leap off Daredevil's shoulder and move back to his preferred perch: Kitty. However, all of the sudden a larger dragon appears in the sky. Lockheed's wings press against his body. He looks a lot like a cat whose territory was suddenly intruded into by a bigger cat.

The claws dig deeper into Daredevil's shoulder. There's an angry cry in his ear, but he's taking orders from Daredevil, it seems.

Kity takes a deep breath when they pull out of the gem. That was not what she was expecting. She half didn't think it would work. That's, of course, something she is not about to say out loud.

Then, though, the dragon above. "You've got to be kidding me," she sighs. The Luke shield does not have to happen long. Instead, she is dashing forward, pulling a katana from her side. She moves to the side of Luke and then gives him a raised eyebrow. "Okay, fine, nothing is every easy, I get it now. Hey, mister, mind a lift up? I think I can grab a ride."

*

The dashing Daredevil is ignored, the dragon's peripheral vision is either limited or it simply does not see him as much of a threat yet.

"I've got it," Jessica tells Kitty. She grabs her under her arms and takes to the air, swooping her up and over the dragon's head. "Just point where you want the drop-off," she says dryly, and whenever Kitty tells her she'll offer that special delivery via-air service. Then she moves in to try to sock the dragon in the jaw, just taking the direct route from the sky, but he kind of bats her off like a fly with one massive white claw. Don't mind her, she's just going to slide down the side of some overpriced building in a scraped up daze now, but she's still alive.

That's Kitty and Jess… sorted?

Which leaves Luke facing this thing head on, as was, after all, probably wise; Luke tells it NOT TODAY and it decides he's a great person to try to hit with a blast of icy breath that isn't fire, but is so cold it nevertheless burns.

*

Matt Murdock rushes the dragon.

In a way, it seems like the end-point of a trajectory he's been on for nearly a year now. Russian gangsters armed with automatic weapons. Wakandan laser panthers. A gloppy, mutated giant. A spectral wolf. Since donning his mask thirteen months ago, Matt has faced them all, often head-on, with a heedless (if not truly fearless) intensity. What's a dragon, really? Jane's goddamn spell wiped away your scars. Why not win yourself a few more?

He says to himself, as he crouches just briefly to take his batons and screw them tightly together, then apart. A cord links them now, making them seem like nothing so much as some high-tech nunchaku. He swings it overhead, hurls his arm forward as he makes his breakneck sprint, the cable running in front of him as it makes to loop around one horn on the ice-dragon's brow as it is busily turning Luke Cage into an ice-cycle.

"Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!" he whispers to the wyrmling on his shoulder as he runs, leaps, and tries to use the cable to quickly scale up the dragon's shoulder.

What can you do? This is a man whose cultural literacy — including in the violent games his life now patterns — mostly stopped in the early aughts. He's gonna be a little dated.

*

Luke cants his head to look down and aside at Kitty, one brow rising to form little furrows deep into his forehead. Lately it's all 'throw or be thrown' and with a long suffering sigh he seems prepared to do it, right before Jess scoops up Kitty and sports her off like a magical sparkly pegasus. "Oh yeah. You fly now." It's sort of nonchalant, though it's another of the things they've had yet to properly address, and he's left blinking for that brief split second that the women are airborne. The wonderment draws to a cease when he thinks to look back down right into the ice-spitting maw of the dragon. "Oh shi…" Does it count as a swear word for the swear jar if he never quite finishes it?

Arm haphazardly thrown across his eyes, Luke curls his body away from the icy blast. His skin doesn't know the sting of the cold like it should, though it registers judging by his howl. Ice crystals crack away from his clothing as he straightens back up, "I swear I'm going to stab you to death with your own icicles."

*

Luckily for Matthew Murdock, and perhaps hilariously, Kitty knows and has definitely had that same battlecry. As Lockheed's claws clench into Daredevil's skin to make sure he is not dislodged as the man attempts to scale the larger dragon. The cry of attack launches him forward with a skree that sounds very much like, "SQUEAK!" A bellow of fire emits from his belly as he does just as was asked of him, he goes for the eyes. Claws start to claw for those hard to defend fleshy bits even as the fire belches forward.

Kitty, in the arms of Jessica meets a quick, "You can fly??" gasp of sudden knowledge. "Jess, we have so much to talk about." Of course, that is after this battle and after they fight a dragon. Over the scaled creature, she tugs to let her drop downward. She wants to be able to have direct access to the creature as everyone is firing at it and punching it.

As she's dropped, she tries to get a very good grip and then plunge her katana down for a grip as well as to wound it.

*

Daredevil proves his title as the man without fear as he lassos a dragon and yanks its head aside from the freezing Luke Cage. He can feel the enormous strength in the thing, but his gambit is enough to get a fancy BMW iced up instead, turning it just to the side of Luke's body so he no longer has to block and repent for his swearing sins.

Lockheed's scramble towards the eyes doesn't just piss the dragon off and blind it (which it does), but also startles the crap out of it. Ferocious tiny dragon is ferocious! He did not expect any hatchling-sized anything to have that kind of courage. He smelled the little morsel, he'd thought to eat it, but no, now it's blinding the crap out of it. Blood runs in rivulets down its white, white face, staining it red.

This does present a problem for Matt. It…starts whipping its head from side to side with all of its dragony strength. That might not be fun to be attached to in just a second.

But then Kitty katanas it. It's a good thing her sword is sharp. It plunges into the scales, which are as hard as armor. But she gets in there. Blood fountains up there too.

All of this happens in mere moments, of course, which is why a dazed Jess is still on her hands and knees, trying to sort out which of the six dragons she's seeing is the right dragon. Or she's getting ready to play catcher if one of them requires it, one of the two. Maybe a little of both.

*

Matt quickly becomes a victim of his own success, as his gambit to become a delivery mechanism for a hard-to-pin down agent of fire to harry the icy behemoth pays off spectacularly — better than he'd hoped during the dozen-or-so footsteps where he'd come up with the skeleton of the plan. The little wyrmling, bless his heart, takes Daredevil's advice and goes for the eyes, where there are no protective scales or freezing maw.

Which leaves Matt holding on for dear life to his cable as the blinded, massive beast whips his powerful head this way, and that. He soars through the air with greater velocity and force than he could ever have managed on a Manhattan skyline with only his own legs and gravity to propel him. The world whips and blurs as he swings one way, then another, holding on for dear life — right until he can't.

The devil goes flying, and Jess may need to play catch after all. Better hope she sees only one of him.

*

The thing is wounded, but that means of course it's going to retaliate at those doing it bodily harm. Luke's job is to remind it that it's supposed to be focusing on /him/. The man charges directly at the beast, lowering his head like a battering ram and bearing one shoulder forward as flakes of ice continue to crackle off of him.

*

Lockheed continues to go for the eyes, just like Boo would want.

Kitty, on the other hand, on the neck, plunges her katana ever downward. With pulling it up, she then cuts toward her in a very deliberate, if haphazard way. It's not pleasant and it is not clean, but a line of blood starts to make its way across the neck of the dragon.

As she cuts, Kitty lets out a yell that is loud and primal. "For Gryffindor!" she shrieks, not even realizing what it is she is saying. This is something she will lament and be embarrassed about later. For now, she doesn't even realize what she is saying, trying to put the dragon down and save her friends.

*

Whether Jessica sees only one Daredevil, or simply picks the right one out of a sheer instinct for not letting one of her closest friends go splat, she is up like a shot. The way she catches him is not elegant. She sort of leaps behind him and snags him through the air, then is barreled down. Sure, she's strong, but what she hasn't figured out, with all this fancy flying, yet, is the impact of things like momentum and people weighing more than they look like they weigh even in burglar-gear.

Landings are still not really under control either. Bottom line she sort of breaks his fall, hitting the pavement back first and skidding with him like some sort of really demented ice skater gone awry, though they are fortunately now some distance from the dragon. She's awake, she hasn't bashed her own head in, and hopefully this will spare him any injury as well. Slowly, a 'this is a great day, no really' thumbs up rises from beneath him and to the side.

But the teamwork continues. Luke manages to knock the dragon off balance, and as he does he reveals a great weak spot. Kitty lets out her battle cry, and the sword flashes towards a newly revealed weakness, striking right towards the heart of the thing. It lets out one final shuddering roar and falls over with a thunderous boom that sets car alarms going off up and down Crest Hill, and smashes no few of the ones parked on the street. It would be good for anyone who is riding dragons or shoulder checking them or performing small, hamster-like flame-breathing roles at various parts of its face to scatter right about now, but…the portal it came from is at least closed, and the thing is definitely dead.

(Someone call Jane with this skin. She's kind of like Wade, right? She can probably do something with it).

*

Luke is pretty confident about various aspects of his abilities, like stopping bullets for instance. What he's not too sure about was absorbing arctic blasts or even less so, what would happen if a beast the size of that thing were to land on him, but he has no desire to test if he would pancake or not. As soon as the thing starts to topple, he's off at a run to get a safe distance, still somewhat reeling from the trip to and from the gem to boot. He's breathing heavily when he comes to lean against a lamppost and thinks to do a site rep of his fellow wayward travelers. "I think…my eyebrows…are frozen." Better than being burnt off entirely. Then, "Welcome home, babe." Called across to the thumbs-up sporting Jessica.

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