Repaying An Old Debt

June 10, 2018:

Jane Foster finds herself in the surprisingly charming company of the infamous assassin, Slade Wilson.

Gotham Monorail


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Wilson Fisk, Matt Murdock, Kinsey Sheridan

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The train from Gotham to NYC should be one of those new fangled high tech high speed rail cars, the kind that whistle past in a blur while plebian civilians sit in their smog causing cars trapped in traffic and stare longingly at the only convieance that knows nothing of stop lights or construction delays. It should be one of those glistening silver bullets, all tinted glass and polished aluminum, some primary color line painted along the side to denote how awesomely modern it is. It should have comfy seats covered in some stain resistant cloth in some bland inoffensive shade like soft gray or toupe, and it should be almost silent, a cacoon of science made manifest by layers of quieting technology so as not to add undue background noise to businessmen trying to hold phone meetings.

But it is none of these things. Wayne Enterprises may have spent a large amount of money updating the Gotham city monorail line into a bastion of modernity, but the line from Gotham to NYC never seemed a priority. And so… it languished in funding hell. It's pulled by an engine car that's at least three decades out of date, not quite a coal powered monstrocity, it's diesel engines pump out a thin continual gray smoke into the sky, like a mockery of the engine of old. It's flaking green paint job is more rush then not at this point, and the globs of grease that coat the joints squeeze out in ash gray goopey wads the size of a human fist, collecting dust and debris like there was a booming futures market in it. It's passenger cars are great boxes with wold windows half painted shut from repeated half-hearted paint jobs, the glass tinted only by layers of diesel fumes and road grime, making the view of the world through them an oddly dystopian flat gray color, leeching all shades and hues from the world. The seats are stained, a few have the fluff poking out of them, orangey yellow, from where multitudes of butts have rubbed the cloth away thin enough to make holes. There's a vague smell of must and mold to the air, like an old persons home or a basement, not enough to be a worry, but enough to remind everyone who enters the cars that decay lives here and is never going away. There is no silence to be found, the swaying of the floor is countered with a loud and persistent clack-clack-clack sound of metal on metal, a sound that after awhile fades away into the background and becomes almost soothing in an odd way, like waves upon the shore.

Slade slowly lowers the man from where he was pinned to the ceiling with a shockingly large knife that seems to have appeared, almost magically, rammed through the bottom of the man's chin and up through his skull. He moves over to the window and with a bit more force then he'd have thought required, unlocks it and slowly forces it open. The sound of rushing wind outside and the physical force of it's buffeting make Slade pause to give the scenery a single glance… Then he lifts the man and bodily shoves him through the small opening one handful at a time until he simply slips free and impacts the rail tracks that pass by next to theirs, his body making a series of cracking noises upon impact. Not that the dead man will mind how mangled he'll be. Not when the next train will turn him to pudding in-Slade checks his Patek Philippe-nineteen minutes.

He cleans the large blade on a handkerchief and slides it away in it's sheath along the small of his back and then shrugs his blazer back over it. He checks his body once up and down in the mirror, looking for signs of blood or struggle, and after a quick examination, nods. Cleanly done. He cuts a rather nice figure all things considered, well over six feet tall and muscled like a hard hitting NFL saftey, 'athletic' barely describs him. His hair is neatly cut, but a touch on the longish side for him, just long enough to touch his eyes if he didn't keep is slipped back from his face in a modern style that has it's roots in the hair cuts of the 20's and 30's. His eye patch is secured over his eye, pale white, by no strap or belt that can be seen, almost as if it were a perfectly fit opaque monocle or something, though is more likely just a custom prosthetic of some kind, hiding away the ruin of his eye. It doesn't hide the scars that peek out around it's edge however, enough of them to hint that what's behind it likely isn't simply a blind eye. His goatee is trimmed perfectly, and despite the silver white hair that gives him an appearance of age, his face is oddly younger then most expect it to be, making his age hard to determine. Gray early in his forties? Or good genes and looking young for his sixties? It's impossible to tell, and the pale ice blue eye that people /can/ see is certanly no help in gaining insight. Today he's dressed in a pair of dark blue jeans, tailored to fit his frame perfectly, and a pair of boots that are fashionable but made in a militaristic combat style. There's a simple gray button down shirt under a black blazer, all of it clearly cut and sewn just for him.

Once he's done double checking, he turns and heads out into the car, seeking one Jane Foster and idly wondering if any of this is as good an idea as he thought it would be when he was woken this morning by a ringing phone.

Gotham spreads, in all its sick, gangrenous glory. A city in a perpetual state of decay.

Not that this bugs Jane Foster much; in the last year and change, she's found herself witnessing worse. Nearly, this past winter, finding her spiritually-possessed self doing the same to Manhattan.

It took some convincing not to have Bucky Barnes join her on this out-of-town day trip; he wasn't exactly thrilled to see her commute to Gotham. Work related, absolutely — a specific ion thruster prototype developed in one of its private labs, about to be sent henceforth over to Stark Indutries. Or, more specifically, her lab. This is undoubtedly the work of an assistant, if only Jane would allow any close to her work: overprotective, overcautious, over…anal. Control freak to the end; it won't get done right if she doesn't do it herself.

Her argument is that, at the moment, their home is the worse hot spot than Gotham could be, after stepping on a hornet nest named Wilson Fisk. He should stay local to keep an eye on Matt. She'll be quick, and will keep him appraised by phone.

So Jane makes her way into Gotham — barely, she's not good at public transportation, nearly boards into Metropolis — conducts her business, and… decides to make a personal call. Kinsey Sheridan has a garage here. Matt's girlfriend. Same one who nearly lost all cognitive capacity to a virus Jane programmed, and gave the artificial sentinence in Kinsey's head an extra push to become halfway autonomous.

Kinsey sent her a letter, reaching out with forgiveness. Even then, Jane stops short, a block away, too overwhelmed with guilt, askance, and frankly, cowardice, to go on. What the hell do you even say to someone you nearly killed, in the worst way possible? She chickens out.

Sending off a quick message with her arrival time to Bucky, Jane marshalls on to get the hell home.

The monorail is half-digested, regurgitated shit, but between grand, luxurious hallmarks between 'living out of a trailer in the New Mexico desert' for three years, and 'taking the F train every day', Jane feels right at home.

She's chosen seating in one of the train's rusting Cafe Cars, its torn seating separated into half-private booths, a table with seating on each side. Seated alone, she cuts a slight figure in one, dressed in dark jeans, a simple blouse, and a cropped suede coat. Her dark hair runs long past her shoulders. She sits alone in the grinding noise of the train; few people join her in the car, as no one wants to eat the slop they serve here.

Neither does Jane. But she's scored herself a cheap bottle of red wine, opened and poured into a paper cup, half-forgotten as her eyes stare, faraway, at the humidity collecting on the window. Half-heartedly, she reaches out, and with the tip of her index finger, draws out the constellation of Orion. Distantly, far away, a body hits the tracks. She keeps on doodling her star chart.

The murder that happened on this same monorail, cars away and in secret, escapes her notice. Kinsey, Matt Murdock, Wilson Fisk: they are all busy on Jane's mind.

"I thought something like this would be appropriate." Slade says, his voice that sort of rich baritone that somehow makes one think of old jazz crooners from an age long past, dead in the face of auto tune and social media. He's sitting in the chair across from her with no indication of how long he's been there. Perhaps she's more distracted then she thought? On the table in front of him is a wee glass and in it is a single daisy, it's bright natural color made somehow brighter by the gray drudgery that fills the car and the world outside the car's windows. It's not a fancy flower, but for one of it's humble ilk, it's a paragon of kind. A perfect daisy, if you will.

Slade offers a small smile, "Mind if I order a drink? You wouldn't believe how strenuous it was to find that flower. I had to jump off the train, then run along side it for almost a half a mile, wait until we hit a decent field not yet paved over by urban sprawl, then leap /back/ aboard the train after having picked it at a dead run, get to my car, clean up a little, find a tiny glass that fit it, water it, then wander the cars in a what felt like a fruitless search for a woman pretty or interesting enough to be worthy of the gift…" he reaches up to wipe nonexistent sweat from his forehead and make a 'whew' face, "Frankly, I'm parched."

Betelguese. Meissa. Bellatrix. Jane's fingernail traces the branches from star to star.

The latter star is old enough she may already be a giant star, expanding brighter and brighter, and so far away Jane could be long dead without ever knowing. A worst sort of future. Regretful. All she needs to do is fix that; finish her work and make the entirety of the cosmos transverseable. All she needs to do is fix her friends' lives before she can even get to her work.

Jane has a way of getting very distracted. Downside to a mind like hers; ridiculous tunnel vision.

Enough that she sobers to the sound of a man's voice — one that is very, very close. Jane jerks her head, shoulders tensing up, her dark eyes focusing on — a daisy.

A single flower, right there, gifted in a glass.

The woman pauses as if this has never, ever, happened before in all her life, her eyebrows flattening and knotting up, and eventually aiming a good, long look right up on the man in question. A perfect stranger, albeit a well-tailored one. Something vintage about him — familiar, not unlike a couple other men in her life. And that eyepatch.

And then that explanation. Jane sits through it, listening, looking askance, all-in-all blindsided by the moment. Then, after a pause, she laughs despite herself, more than a little flattered.

"Can't say I've heard that line before," she finally answers. "That's cute. That's really cute." Jane pauses a moment, looking Slade up-and-down, weighing this stranger. Paranoia would tell her one thing, she's not exactly an unknown face, famous after the Barnes trial, and this could be anyone, anything; unfortunately, she's never been a paranoid person. "Unless you're just trying to con me of my wine. I warn you: it's crap. May wanna just jump out the train again once we go by a decent wine field." She pauses again, amused. "So who are you?"

Slade offers a warm genuine smile, "I'm disappointed in my gender but hardly surprised you've not been the target of a good line. Kids these days, all rushing about, no enjoyment for the moment or in putting in the work to make the moment memorable." he makes a gruff noise, "And they need to get off my lawn." grin. "I was not trying to con you out of your wine, I was however trying to rescue you from it, perhaps sweep you off your feet with a vintage that's poured from an actual bottle instead of what I can only presume is a juice box in the back. I fear you may have been bamboozled and someone's sold you on the Caprisun brand of wines. The new ones come with bendy straws, I hear." he pantomimes popping a straw into a caprisun juice bag like kids have done at school lunch for the better part of four decades.

After which he uses an index finger to push the vase and flower across the table to her and offer his hand afterward, "Slade," he says warmly, "Slade Wilson. A pleasure."

'Kids these days,' he says. Not getting off his lawn.

Jane's shoulders hitch with a barely-concealed laugh, and she brings one hand up to her mouth to try to temper it. Probably some sort of inside joke. "You really remind me of someone I know," she says in entertained explanation.

Little by little, the initial surprise eases out of her into something more relaxed, no doubt helped along by Slade's charming manner. It's been surprisingly long, as well, since something half-way normal has happened in Jane's life, something as normal as being hit on by some stranger while on public transportation. Nothing about it that seems particularly dangerous: funny, really.

Her smile crooks a little at his jab at her wine. "You probably got me there. I am many things, but sure as hell got the worst eye for wine. Rescue appreciated."

The proffered flower-and-vase earns an amused look, and Jane takes it. Bucky won't probably appreciate it, she thinks with mirth; well, maybe. He's never been the jealous type, and it's about as harmless as it gets. Man in the eyepatch seems about as old school as they get.

"Slade," she repeats the name, and takes his hand. Hers is as small as the rest of her. Tiny woman. Calluses on her fingertips, however; Jane isn't a well-kept lady of leisure, and works with her hands. She holds a moment of silence, perhaps reticent to give her name so soon. There's baggage with her name. Most people know it, these days. Notoreity with the trial. "I'm Dr. Foster," she finally gives up. "Or Jane."

Slade's hand has to be one of the most familiar things Jane's ever touched on a complete stranger. Callouses on the heel of the palm and the trigger finger, though less familiar there are callouses across the inside grip, high in the hand, where a craftsman may have them. There are scars on the knuckles, thick and layered, but very faded and very old, and despite his hand being able to swallow hers whole and the obvious strength in it, the handshake is gentle, almost as if he were being extra careful not to hurt her. If the scars were newer maybe, or if he were younger looking, he'd have all the ear marks of a super soldier… as it is, the scars, the one eye, the faded scars, it's clear in an instant he's ex-military. Not recently either, none of these old battle wounds have that pinkish hue that newer marks carry. They're pale silvery white, decades old. An old soldier then. Might explain the build despite his age, and the manners.

He raises his hand to summon the waiter and orders a bottle of wine with some french sounding name, and adds in an order of what turns out to be bread and soft cheese mushed with some herbs. "I used to be a wine snob." he admits, pulling a cheap paper napkin from around the silverware on the table and spreading it over his lap carefully, "But a decade or so back I made a trip to southern California and I discovered something shocking. Turns out we make /outstanding/ wine here in this country. Ever since I've only ordered French or Italian when I'm in those nations, just to be polite. "Well Dr. Foster," he uses her title and something about it sounds sincere, not condescending or mocking, "what are you a doctor of?" he glances down at her paperwork while he spread a thin layer of the cheese on the hard crunchy bread slice, "I'm guessing it's not pediatrics."

It's as she said; he's really reminding her of someone she knows.

Taking Slade's hand is startlingly familiar, enough so that Jane pauses for a beat. When she's not tunnel visioned into some disparate thought and mentally a few parsecs away, she's an astoundingly perceptive woman — has to be, to be an engineer — and her quick eyes add up the details.

Markman's calluses — near a mirror of a certain Winter Soldier — and scars, all culminating to the most prominent piece of evidence about Slade Wilson: that missing eye. There's a wistful part of Jane that begs to just tally this up to one hell of a coincidence. So, what, anyone can pleasantly meet some old, well-bred and well-kept soldier on a commute out of Gotham. Right? Isn't she allowed to have one normal thing happen in her life?

As much as she'd love to, she can't ignore facts slapping her across the face. She's not certain yet what this is — who he is — but it can't be as innocent as Jane would like it to be.

A certain sharpness comes to her eyes, alert now, though the woman doesn't forsake her good humour or dull her smile. No reason yet to think anything amiss.

Busying her hands, she takes the flower from the vase, spinning its stem between her fingers as Slade sees to ordering some food. "I hear you there. Almost did my masters at Stanford. Napa valley nearly, nearly swayed me. Unfortunately, it couldn't cancel out all the idiots at Stanford." She returns the flower to the vase.

And braces for him to recognize her. When Slade does not, or at least asks the polite questions of a stranger, Jane stalls for a beat. It can't be possible. Someone in this god damn world doesn't know her name? The rush of relief is palpable. Then —

"Pediatrics?" she sputters. "God no. Jesus. What do you take me for?" A smile hitches through her disbelieving laughter. "Astrophysicist."

Her paperwork seems to back it up: it's not so much in text as it is scripted with advanced mathematics. A half-finished proof involving a Lorentz reaction. Jane holds a loaded silence, pensive, before relenting, unable to be anything but honest, "You really haven't heard of me? Trial of Two Centuries? It was world news last year."

Slade grins a bit as he watches her facial ticks in what to him is super slow motion, able to pick apart every emotional and unintended reaction as it crosses her features as if each came with a big neon sign. Inwardly he finds it a little entertaining.

"Oh yes, if Stanford is known for anything it is it's proud collection of inferior minds." he quips lightly, "Honestly I wouldn't know, college was never in the cards for me, though I came out okay all things considered." he makes a show of straightening his tailored suit coat as a jape and then takes a bite of the bread and a sip of the wine.

He grins at her, "I suppose I should point out that I live in Kenya most of the year," he says, "then I could claim that I do in fact not know you and it would be believable. But alas, I do jet set a bit and so yes, I admit the name rings a bell. That said, I've never felt that it was polite to judge a person, or pretend to know them, simply because they've been on TV or made a fuss of by the press. You're a young woman with a doctorate in astrophysics, that tells me far more about you then whatever trial you've been involved in, Dr. Foster." another sip of wine, "Besides, unless I miss my guess you're working out," he glances at the paper again, "the electromagnetic force multiplyer exhibited by a very heavy event horizon. Again, I have no formal education but I /suspect/ those are calculations for relativistic Lorentz forces. Cutting edge stuff, even in the era of Richards and Stark." nonchalant sip.

Eidetic memory has been his blessing and his curse since the day the serum coursed through his veins… sue him if he didn't speed read through a few physics texts books on his way here. Man has to make an impression, right?

"Stanford breeds hacks," declares Jane Foster, with a career academic's venom. "You can tell them I said that. They can fight me."

Her smile quirks up at his tie-straightening, and she adds, far more fair, "It's not for everyone, to be perfectly honest. Lots of politics. Lots of bullshit. Redundant in all the worst ways. But it teaches you to drink, I suppose. Taught me."

Her eyebrows lift at Slade's mention of Kenya — that's exotic — though Jane still sits on the fence whether to take it at face value. You don't live with the ex-Winter Soldier without gleaning, through daily osmosis, a strong sense of over-caution. Even then, he's saying all the right things, and she really wants to appreciate someone recognizing her for her own merits rather than the hell that was forced on Bucky Barnes for most of last year.

Then he makes a split-second, novice guess at her work. Jane is quiet for a heartbeat. Then her eyebrows pop up.

"That's a… seriously good start," she allows, and she sounds impressed. Impressed, and more interested now than she was even half-a-minute ago. Leaning back in her seat — the old thing creaks — and crossing her legs, Jane considers Slade. That lingering amusement still haunts the corners of her features, from her brown eyes to the half-smile that lingers at her mouth. "Not a lot of people can parse that. Barely anyone, even. And, by the way, they'll call Richards and Stark precious after I'm finished."

Yet another arrogant scientist. That, and Jane hopes Tony is getting a long distance itch from what she just said.

"So," she continues, "when are you going to tell me what you do? And what brought you on a train out of Gotham. Please don't tell me you're some sort of mercenary." Jane says that with a laugh.

Slade offers a self deprecating smile, "That's a Lorentz equation, and while it's pretending to be basic, you dropped in the co-sign for a constant, which is generally accepted to be the speed of light in a vaccum. The only reason to use that constant in said equation, that I can think of as a layman, is the study of relativistic forces. Speed of light plus electromagnetic force equations likely equals some sort of toying with the infamous Einstein-Rosenberg bridge theories. Wormholes." he pauses and tilts his head to the side, "Of course, you could also just be balancing your check book in a new and unique way…." he shrugs, "I don't understand the science, but I know the symbols and what they mean. Impresses smart women when you run across them."

He offers a grin and leans back in his chair a bit, drawing the napkin up to dab at the corners of his mouth, "I like your moxy, Dr. Foster." he says, setting the napkin aside, "I even admire it a little bit, though I feel as if it's just a little bit arrogant." he holds up a hand, finger and thumb a centimeter apart, "Not the bit about Stark and Richards, they're both pretentious and honestly I hope you do show them up. Would serve the pair of them right. No, I mean arrogant because moxy in this case means a disturbing lack of understanding about the real world." he lifts the wine glass and eyes her over it's rim, "I am a security specialist and consultant, I do freelance work for the one percent of the once percent who can afford my outrageous fees. What brought me here, was a phone call I received at three twelve this morning." sip. "You really should try the bread, the cheese is shocking good on this train. I'm guessing Wayne of some of his cronies make this trip regularly and so they keep a little something stowed away just in case."

'Impresses smart women,' he says.

"Guilty as charged," returns Jane, with an approving tilt of her head. "No, you got the gist of it. But it's not so much toying with a theory. The bridge is quite real. It's advancing its application. Advancing civilization past a formality that may no longer need to be necessary. No one will ever need to travel again when they can as easily occupy multiple states."

And, with that, the nerd is encouraged to start breaking out her shop talk. At the least, Jane seems to know how to ease the technical down to a layman's prose. "Do I get to ask how you know that much about quantum physics? This is seriously a treat for me. I don't get this often from strangers."

Her smile reaches her eyes when told she has moxy, Jane softening a little, flattered — at least until the compliment comes with a catch. Like her lack of understanding about the real world.

There's truth in it. A sore one. A woman who's spent most of her life looking up to the stars rather than forward and at the world around her. Wise in many ways, painfully naive in others: Jane Foster in a nutshell. The last year and a half have been a learning experience unto itself, the world she's known and half-cared about turned on her in every way possible, but even then — the smile comes off her face. She sits up straighter, defensive. "I think I have a strong idea," she murmurs back, dry, but listens to his short introduction.

Security specialist? Maybe. It aligns with that military way about him. But, even then, that fact is nothing compared to what he shares — a certain phone call.

Jane does not try the bread. She stares straight forward, and demands, voice soft but eyes fierce, "What do you mean: a phone call?"

Slade lets a portion of his mind wander off to an interdimensional space ship that's floating somewhere off the dark side of one of Saturn's moons that only he and a handful of people know about, and only he has the keys to. He plays back all of Peabody's many many many lectures in his head at ten times speed and a small grin slips over his lips at the idea of getting Jane into an inter-Bleed Kheribum warship's engine room. He coughs delicately once into his hand to hide what was threatening to become a chuckle, "I have an adopted son who's a genius." he says after a long moment, thinking it through, "He is fascinated by interdimensional travel, wormholes, FTL drive possibilities." he waves his hand as if to say the list goes on and on. "I have retained some of what he's managed to hurl in my direction."

Sadly, he supposes, they must get to the reason he's actually here, shame. He wonders to himself what she'd give to get a look at the zero point power systems alone… and the smile threatens to creep back. Oh. Surely he can leverage this into something that will eat Barnes alive… he'll have to think on it some more, if for no other reason then because it's entertaining. "A broker of sorts called me and offered me first crack at a contract on your life." he says nonchalantly as he sips from the wine again before setting it aside, "I don't even get out of bed for less then a million and this was considerably less." he folds his hands atop the table where she can see them, "But not /so/ much considerably less that I wouldn't imagine a great many professional men will come seeking to kill you." he perks up a bit, "In fact, one of them was on the train earlier, but he departed rather suddenly so you've nothing to worry about for the immediate future." he reaches for more bread and after spreading the cheese atop it eyes her, offering her the slice, "You sure? It really is rather good."

A short answer when it comes to the zero point power systems: Jane Foster would give many, many things.

"I like your son already," Jane says affably, amused. While at the same time, trying to make some sort of mental guesstimation as to just how old Slade Wilson might be. Not that, as she's learned, that's even a reliable metric these days. Asgardian aliens-not-gods that live into the thousands. Supersoldiers who suspend cellular breakdown for long, long times. Dating a man right now who recently turned a healthy hundred-and-one.

But it's not a thought that lasts for long. The last vestige of her geniality basically goes out the window — not unlike that corpse did, many minutes ago — the moment Slade Wilson brings up a 'contract on her life.'

Jane Foster goes very still. Oh, she still listens — her mind works its best under the influence of adrenaline and the sympathetic system on overdrive — as the blood drains from her skin and her jaw locks up tight.

First thing she does is the sensible thing, if strange; she touches one of her earrings. It's a simple stud, either shining from the platinum or its host circuitry; the touch uplinks the device to her active phone and transmits a cautionary, pre-recorded message to a certain supersoldier. Part of an old, well-versed protocol — can't keep him in the dark.

Jane doesn't even look down at the decadent cheese and bread. Stubborn, and now serious, she demands again, "Who?! What broker? What the hell is this?! So, what, you're an assassin, and you did me some sort of favour? Why? Who are you?"

So many questions.

Slade wipes his mouth and pulls out his phone as it dings and eyes the screen before glancing at her, "The earring." he says with a nod, "I figured it would be the necklace. Earring is a nice touch though. Signal's jammed however, has been since just before I sat down." he puts his phone back in his coat pocket, "Nice touch though. Sensible precaution. Security conscious, I approve." he eats the bread she clearly declined by her lack of interest in it, "That," he says, leaning back in his chair again, "is a lot of questions all at once."

He lets out a slow breath, "Shame. I was really enjoying our tet 'e' tet just now. You're a remarkably charming woman Dr. Foster." he eyes her for a long moment, seeming to consider things before continuing, "I've been in security work for a long time Dr., and in that time I've learned a few things. If someone is actively trying to kill you, and by that I mean willing to pay large sums of money to get it done, most people know who that person is. They may lie to themselves, or others, but deep down they know. It's never a long list. Who do you know with the money to hire? Who do you know with the connections to even offer it to professionals? Now that you've covered means, who has the motive to kill you? Who have you pissed off? And since in a hiring case opportunity isn't so important, let's go with state of mind. Who do you know, filling out the previous criteria, also possesses the cold heart required to order the murder or another person?" he eyes her, "I'm betting you know no more then two people who could conceivably fit all those boxes, and I'm betting even more money you pissed off one of them very recently." he sips the wine again, allowing her to think, "As to what broker?" he rolls his eye, "No professional would answer that and it wouldn't matter to you if I did. He's a middle man, innocent of anything really and no line back to your real problem."

He holds up fingers, ticking off questions she's asked and he's answered until he comes to the final two, "I did not do you a favour, I was repaying a debt. Many years ago Mr. Barnes inadvertently saved the life of my wife. We've had a few run ins over the years, and that debt has weighed somewhat heavily on me. I feel I have now repaid him, for that thing in Belfast. Feel free to tell him I said that, he'll know." he then grins a bit and while it's still charming and genuine, there's a hint of wickedness to the grin now and he pointedly doesn't answer her final question. After all, he /did/ give her his name already….

It's not often Jane Foster finds her tech — programmed and engineered by her own hands — meeting its match.

Her expression goes about as dry as the wine on the table. Her jaw tightens with that familiar sting of someone's dashed professional pride. He's good, she concedes, but she's annoyed. Fine. Gives her motivation to get back to the lab and proof quantum cryptography. Force them to try to jam that.

Uneasily accepting the reality that even the Winter Soldier is out of reach, she lowers her hands to the table, far more careful now than she was minutes ago, but still calm — Slade Wilson has not yet given Jane any reason she should fear for her life from him. On the contrary, he's seemed to save it, for whatever strange reason. She has no armory at her disposal than her own faith, and to hope he says what he means.

Jane listens carefully; her attention is at a razor's edge sharpness. "I like questions," is all she says back, voice flat.

But she takes in his words, considers them with a clear mind. Who wants to kill her? "So I'm large sums of money now? Fantastic. I might not look it, but there's actually quite a few people who'd probably like me dead." But to speak of someone with money at their disposal? Jane sighs gustily. "I think I have an idea."

Son of a bitch. She anticipated it, perhaps, in a could-happen way. Looks like it worked. They got Fisk's attention.

But there's one last question — the loaded question. And Jane sure as hell was not expecting it. Even though he's not here, can't even be messaged — Bucky Barnes appears to be the guest of the evening. Her eyes widen. Saved his wife?

Of course. Of course.

"Are you serious?" Jane blurts out. "No wonder you two are so — what are you, old drinking buddies? Unbelievable." And, yet, not. Running an aggravated hand through her hair, she nevertheless seems to adapt pretty quickly to the information, and even more strangely, doesn't seem to be losing much sleep over the dawning reality that someone was just murdered. "Either way, I owe you thanks. I guess."

Slade chuckles at that, and it seems sincere as it comes from somewhere deep in his belly, "Oh, no." he says with a slow shake of his head, "We were competitors for a time, he was among the better agents I faced off against on occasion." he shrugs at the memories, "If it is any consolation, had I met you before all of this happened I still would have extended you the courtesy I did today. You are a charming woman, Dr., it is a shame we've had to meet under such circumstances. Another life, another time, my son would have loved to have met you."

Competitors. Of course.

Jane would roll her eyes if she were not more compelled to good manners. At least that with a seasoned and very dangerous assassin. "Better agents?" at least she deigns to question, with all the skepticism of a very loyal girlfriend. "He's one of the best."

She holds a beat of silent, however, to Slade's compliment, though it's not so much taciturn as it is shrewd. Trying to weigh how much, if any of it, she should take to heart. After all, in another permutation of things, it could have been a higher amount of money offered on her life to entice her, and he might have been the one here to murder her. Might be one of those 'business, not personal' types, but keeping her life is very personal to her.

In the end, however, she seems to relent. "You can call me Jane," she says, demeanour softening just a bit. "And me to have met him."

Slade grins over the rim of his wine glass again, "Yes, yes he is /one/ of the best." the emphasis put on the word 'one' makes it sound like he has a ranking system in his head and if asked, he could tell her /exactly/ where he would place Barnes in the world ranking system of mercenary badasses. He sets the wine glass down, "I appreciate the offer Dr., but as I've recently shared with another impressive woman I know, I think I'll stick with regular use of your title instead, if you don't mind."

Slade settles into his seat and fixes Jane with an intent stare as if he were peeling back every secret she'd ever had and laying all of her mysteries bare, "We live in a world, even in this day and age, where women are considered somehow less then. I understand that voicing this aloud is considered a 'progressive' perspective these days, but I assure you it is not. Among my instructors in times long past were two women that I would willing pit against the greatest soldiers the world can produce today, and in any arena of soldierly skill I would bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that they would come out the more dangerous. You, Dr. Foster, are attractive and young, two things that work against you in the realm of honest judgement by your peers and the world at large. I do not care how pretty you are, other then to say it does make lengthy conversations a trifle more enjoyable to have. I care about what you've accomplished and what it says about you. Doctor is not a title easily gained. It takes dedication, sacrifice, hard work, discipline, all things I admire and find increasingly lacking in young people today, and as such I will continue to use your title when we speak, not to remind you of what you've done or to sound pretentious, but because such accomplishments should be aired to the rest of the world so that other young people might look upon you and see what could be, the road less traveled, and perhaps aspire to similar heights."

'One of the best.'

"If not the best," Jane replies quickly, smoothly, in her voice a bit of flip declaration, a bit of challenge, and a lot of pride. Ever the devoted significant other to one of the world's most fearsome assassins.

At least her smile has returned, if a little wry, and she finally — finally — sees to pouring her own glass of the superior wine. If it's for certain she isn't going to die today, on this train, and she cannot even contact Bucky to properly warn him — then with her tied hands, she's going to drink.

But if anything, she's an idealist, able to take faith in the strangest places and in the strangest people — the Winter Soldier, for one — Jane extends the olive branch of her first name. And then listens on, a little surprised, when Slade fails to accept.

His explanation holds her in silence, wine in hand, that same smile still haunting her mouth. "For a moment, I thought you were about to mansplain feminism to me," she says, unable to hide the amusement from her voice. "But that's an interesting way to put it. I certainly won't argue with you. I'm proud of my title. I'm proud of my name, too. I usually lean to the latter — the informal — because any other way usually gets the educated strangers trying to challenge me. But thank you for the kind compliment."

Her smile widens, goes a bit crooked. "It's not every day I'm respected by someone who just as easily could have assassinated me today."

Slade shakes his head, "I don't know what mansplaining is." he says simply, "Other than one more invented nonsense word to add to a language already butchered by a propensity for lazy etymological study and poor vocabulary skills." he offers her a genuine smile, "Oh don't be silly. It would have been much easier to kill you then compliment you. Some things just come natural to old soldiers, others are carefully cultivated behaviors." he winks (blinks?) and raises his wrist again to check the watch resting upon it.

"Discipline is a skill this generation has by and large ignored in favor of instant gratification and the mindless pursuit of trying to never ever experience a moment of boredom. When I see it in others, I call it out and recognize it as it should be. The fact that you've taken your education and /done/ something with it only makes you more impressive." he lets his sleeve fall back over his watch, "Barnes had best watch his step, if he fails to keep a grip upon you I may be tempted to wait in the wings and sweep you off your feet."

"As I've told James many times," Jane answers — she calls Barnes by his given name — in helpful Janesplaining, "mansplaining is pretty much identical to 'how everyone talked in the 1940s." Her smile quirks sharp. "Pretty much all the millennial words these days are absolutely insane, but that one's a favourite of mine."

Even playful talk about killing her is still a hard pill to swallow, but safe to say — and maybe a bit to her dismay — she's finding herself getting used to it. Life is weird. "Well, then a toast to you taking the difficult option," Jane tries to joke, and calcifies it with a sip of her own wine.

She drinks very sparingly — probably has to, considering her size, and really probably has to, when in murderous, if not exceptionally polite, company — but this vintage raises her eyebrows. She likes it.

Her eyes follow the way Slade checks his watch, though Jane makes no remark about it. The further compliment seems to entertain her. "Believe me," she promises, "I take discipline to a whole new level. It's getting me into trouble, these days. Well, as you already know. But I'm happy to impress you. The fact you've been competition to James and are still alive — that must speak well to your own talents."

And he warns that Barnes better hold onto her tight. Jane goes quiet a moment, honetly surprised, because it really isn't often she's on the receiving end of a line like that. She lets go a touch of a self-conscious laugh, not exactly seasoned with this sort of attention. "Well," she says, "no sweeping necessary. He's an exceptional man, and he's made me very happy."

Slade's smile remains on his lips as she continues to talk her boyfriend up, he has a few flash backs to his run in with Peggy only a few months back. He supposes it's not their fault really. They're not in the life, they don't know when a better model was dropped on the market. The improvements that have been made, the greater experience that's been had. Subjectively they're all still kids after all. "Yes well, if one were to take the easy way out every time one would become complacent and that's a road that leads no where I wish to go." he pushes himself to his feet, "That said, it is about time for me to go. If Barnes is not at the station waiting for you I imagine he'll have, at the very least, set out a way for him to know when you've arrived. I think seeing you in my company may send the wrong message and might react… poorly."

He straightens his coat where it rests on his shoulder, "Please, enjoy the wine and the daisy, they seem to suit you somehow, sweet and light but deceptively complex." he picks up a small bag that's resting in the aisle next to him, a messenger style bag, and tosses the strap over his head, "You should see to your enemies quickly Dr. Foster, I rather like you and I'd hate to think of the damage Barnes would do if anything were to happen to you. For a stoic he tends to take tragedy… personally."

Mid-drink of her wine, Jane exhales a breath of suppressed laughter to hear of 'the Winter Soldier reacting poorly.'

"Oh, he'll kill you," she says, ever a direct woman — straight to the point. She sounds like she believes it too.

Setting down her wine and twining her fingers, Jane remains seated as Slade stands, her dark eyes watchful, following his movement. Perhaps trying to mentally calculate when she'll first be able to use her signal-jammed phone. Perhaps also curious, as she usually is about these things: not every day is she in the company of assassins, especially contemporaries of the boyfriend. He would have faced off when James believed himself to be an entirely different man, with an entirely different personality — though one that still lives, in its way, in him still. Remarkable to consider the ramifications.

Her smile nonetheless curves wider to be called sweet and complex. "Thank you. I guess I should hope that business will never let us cross paths, Slade Wilson."

At the well-wishing to her health, and for Bucky Barnes's sake, Jane… is somewhat silent, a distance coming briefly to her eyes. It seems that worry is something she's thought about — what path would take the ex-Winter Soldier if she were gone.

"Luckily for us all," she tries to make light, "I have no plans to go anywhere for quite a long time. It was nice to meet you."

Slade shoulders the bag and nods, "Oh, I'm sure he'd try." the older man says amicably, his tone amused. "I'll see you around Dr. Foster, do me the favor of remaining alive. If the dollar amount on you contract continues to rise I fear you'll begin to see an entirely different kind of assassin then the one that was awaiting you here today. Maybe send an apology bouquet? Something with fruit in it?" his grin suggests he would never expect such a thing from her, but there's no harm in making the joke. "Au revoir."

He turns to go, walking down the aisle and pausing only when he reaches the doorway to the next car. He raises his hand so she can see the teeny key fob like device in his hand, and presses a button before moving on. Nothing overt happens, so it wasn't a bomb or anything, perhaps it was the jamming device he was using… Only one way to tell.

"I'll take care of it," Jane answers, equally blunt and equally vague, her eyes on Slade. Though she smiles to the joke about fruit baskets, couched in her dark irises is anything but humour.

She has an idea of who is behind it. And she will surely send something.

"Take care," she answers, with a lowering of her lashes, and through them she watches Mr. Wilson's exeunt — the motion of the key fob and all. Jane tenses at that, unsure around the edges — he hasn't killed her, but it doesn't mean she trusts him — but her bracing is all for naught when nothing happens.

Though she has an idea, immediately, what that means. Her eyes follow the man until he has left her train car and receded out of sight.

Then, left to her lonesome, Jane Foster loses all pretense of her conversational calmness, digging through her handbag for her phone. It's a strange thing, not quite looking like today's disseminated smart phones: something rebuilt, painstakingly, and improved, by her hands.

She foregoes text messaging and makes a call to a certain someone. Relief closes her eyes when it goes through.

The first words Jane blurts out, into the receiver, are: "Are you sitting?"

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