Reflections pt 1

June 11, 2018:

The young Avengers Kate Bishop, Tommy Shepherd and Billy Kaplan investigate rumors of Brotherhood activity in Hell's Kitchen… and find much more than they bargained for.

A Cafe in Hell's Kitchen

A seemingly abandoned cafe in Hell's Kitchen. It is very cafe-like.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: The Weevil of Hell's Kitchen


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The Brotherhood has been on the rise as of late, what with the tensions between mutant and human at an all time high. Though they have presented an increasing problem in terms of their lawlessness and their disruption of relations between the two species, they haven't really been something that was on the Avengers' docket, per se. The Avengers don't tend to get too political with their work; there's alien threats and crazed cosmic forces out there to be fought.

Young Avengers, however…

By now, it's an open secret that the Brotherhood does business in Hell's Kitchen now, as well as the more expected stomping grounds of Mutant Town, and there have been a few incidences of the peace being distinctly broken by the their chaos. There's been a watch on the neighborhood, though it's been hard to pin down exactly where the Brotherhood might be keeping its outposts, due to the fact they are by nature a guerilla group that changes such things around on the regular.

Up until tonight — when a very strong flux of energy ripples through the night air, centered around a certain unassuming cafe on the northern fringes of Hell's Kitchen. The Red Dog Kitchen Bar is like most other establishments in the area, other than being particularly known for its omelette plates… which is to say, it's not open past eleven.

It is now past midnight, and on a weekday to boot. The place should be shut down, and West 46th Street is certainly quiet enough — as quiet as Manhattan ever gets. Yet through the glass of the cafe's storefront, vague light can be seen dully glowing, coming from beneath the door that leads to the back rooms.

It's the kind of assignment that ran the very little risk of escalating - largely one focused on surveillance and the monitoring of Hell's Kitchen. While the Avengers typically have a full docket of potentially world-ending events to keep track of, its younger generation has a way to go in their training before they're called in to the world's future apocalypses on the regular.

So this is what they are doing, keeping their heads low and watching the few blocks surrounding the Red Dog Kitchen bar for any sign of terrorist activity. They aren't in a windowless van or anything - it was often more efficient to watch a place in different points, but well within reach of one another if back-up is necessary. Though with a magic user and a speedster as part of the group, 'reach' isn't too much of a concern. What they /do/ see and hear, however, is.

It's been a few hours since they've been tasked to keep watch on the place and so far, nothing too much of note has happened until the clock hits past midnight and /something/ ripples outward from the building.

Even from where she's positioned, a few hundred yards away, she can see the glimmer of light from the windows. Gloved fingers lift to the comm in her ear.

"Wiccan, looks like there's some weird activity at the Red Dog Kitchen Bar, think you can take a look? Speed, I need a lift to get closer."

With that, she steps towards the very edge of the roof she is perched on, and takes an aerial flip, doing a free-fall dozens of feet from the ground.

Billy Kaplan likes to think he's capable of taking a stand for the issues that are truly important.

He's come from a background that has found him belittled and persecuted from multiple fronts. He's spent the majority of his life thinking he doesn't belong anywhere. It's why he always wanted to be a superhero to begin with, or so he tells himself: to help people like him, who don't have anyone to look out for them. Who need helping.

And yet he never realized how little he really thought about the issues surrounding mutants until the day he saw Trask's collars firsthand. Until the day he was forced to recognize just how precarious their situation really is.

Wiccan doesn't know what he is — not really. But there's a big part of him that can empathize with the problems mutants face, day-to-day; and so it was ever since that day, the young man started throwing himself whole-heartedly into involving himself more and more in mutant affairs. It started with simple research. Now?

Now, it's progressed to him tracking mutant terrorists down like a person possessed.

He had been very, very, very extremely insistent that he, and Speed, and Kate be allowed to take point on the Brotherhood situation in Hell's Kitchen. He's not entirely sure why he cares so much. Maybe because he can relate to them and thus knows that's why he ought to try to stop them. Maybe because it's what heroes do. Maybe idle warnings about how dangerous the Brotherhood is and how he should probably just leave well enough alone and that even something seemingly simple as this is probably above his paygrade. Ask him, and he'd insist every time it absolutely is not the latter.

But the way he doggedly scans every inch of Hell's Kitchen he can immediately after being warned off probably paints a clearer picture than his words ever could.

It takes a while. A long while. But Billy is nothing if not stubborn when trying to prove himself. Floating at a rooftop somewhere in Clinton, this is not the first night he's spent in this particular slice of NYC. But it is the first time he actually finds something worthwhile in all his fishing. Cerulean energy wrapping around him, red cloak fluttering like it was alive, he senses it — that spark. That fluctuation of energy. Eyes are still gleaming a solid blue as they snap open, a faint gasp sucked into his lungs.

"There," he utters, on the tail end of Kate's words. "I see it, Hawkeye. There's something — a spike, or something. I think… yeah. I'm going in."

And, considering how he starts chanting "elsewhereelsewhereelsewhereelsewhere" until light shuttles him away, he's not really looking for a debate at the moment.

Moments later, Billy Kaplan finds himself reappearing in front of that simple, presumably abandoned cafe. A frown purses at the young hero-in-training's lips as he reaches out, pressing a gloved hand into the clear glass. He sees it. That glowing. That vague, ominous glowing.

"There's something there," he murmurs over the comms — before he has every intention of trying to make his way inside towards that back room.

"This neighbourhood suuuuuuuuuuuuucks," Speed complains, to… Honestly nobody in particular. "It's like being back in Jersey, but worse somehow. Maybe because there's actually good places nearby?" He didn't even come from a fun part of New Jersey, or even a murder clown-y part. Just regular, boring New Jersey. The urban blight, though…

"Don't they have some kinda superhero guy around here anyway? One of those bug-themed guys, right? The Weevil of Hell's Kitchen?" He tries to pay attention to things, honestly, it's just… Well, it's tough. Everything moves so slowly, no matter how fast he might scroll through a Twitter feed or a website's articles. Even worse trying to listen to someone explain current events, or watch them on television. Sometimes his brain just decides to spool up, and all he can see are slowly shifting pixels, sounds coming to him like they'd journeyed from the dawn of creation. "Not even any good restaurants out here."

Come to think of it, he sounds like he's eating. The faint sound of chewing over the comms, that distinctive muffling when someone's speaking around a mouthful of food. He's probably supposed to be watching for something in particular. He isn't, he got bored. Kate's call to action, then, is a welcome relief.

The purple-clad archer doesn't make it all the way to the ground, at least not the hard way, because about halfway to the unforgiving street her downward movement suddenly becomes horizontal, and to her perspective the world becomes a blur of motion, light and sound streaking past too quickly for a normal human brain to make any sense out of it. The streetlamps, the car headlights, all look like lines in the air.

Speed, or Tommy Shepherd if you prefer (he's not very good at the secret identity thing anyway) can protect someone he's carrying from the extreme stresses of the kind of velocities he can achieve, but he can't make them think that fast. So for him, it takes a while, the perceptual work of minutes. For Kate, she is one place and then she is another, the white-haired speedster setting her down around the corner from the Red Dog Kitchen Bar with only a slight reluctance. Once he does though he's back at eating his gyro, about a third of which remains.

There's a bit of tzatziki on the corner of his mouth.

Kiril Shterev, a Bulgarian national, and self-made businessman, made his fortune on the backs of Genoshan mutants.

For years, he developed medical advances off their abilities, and in exchange to keep stable his profit margin, he spearheaded the Magistrates' efforts to traffic more and more mutant immigration into the island nation. He brought in the warm bodies for others to work their magic: develop a better system of enslavement, imprisonment, and experimentation.

And then Genosha fell to civil war, and Shterev fled to his home country into hiding. Until Trask found him, and gave him both the incentive and forged passport to travel west.

Now here, in America, Kiril Shterev has immigrated straight into the hands of the Brotherhood.

The cafe is not a demonstratively large place. Enough that its back room combines both its cold storage and the small kitchen, the area barely large enough to hold ten.

Fortunately, right now, it comfortably holds three. Two of them wear the infamous faces of New York's Brotherhood leaders. And the third is Kiril Shterev.

Not that he takes up a lot of room. He's been welded right into the industrial range's stove. It's a macabre sight, a man sticking out from metal as if the appliance has been built around his body, unable to move his trapped limbs, and having to strain his neck to keep his face an inch from the grill.

The heat is mercifully on low.

"I do not believe you've answered my brother properly," speaks up a woman's voice, low and gentle and timeless with its patience. It belongs to the Scarlet Witch, wearing a dress as arterial-red as her namesake, her dark hair threaded with the shining beads of her headdress. Her eyes shine with scarlet light. "Surely you must know Trask's whereabouts. He asked a simple question easily within a human's competence to comply."

Shterev shakes under the strain of his contorted position, feeling the heat around his trapped arms. "P - please —" he moans.

The voices radiate through the door, just beyond that back room. Voices and — something else.

There are thin filaments of scarlet, spreading this way and that — like the trigger threads of a widow's web. They look like laser lights, when they catch a certain light, but otherwise are invisible unless concentrated on closely. A tech net to keep out intruders?

Billy would sense something else off them. No tech. No lasers. Something else — earthy and ephemeral — and each of them are bound with a single command, will wound into a hex: IF TOUCHED, ALERT.

The heat is on low. For now. And Quicksilver of the Brotherhood is famously impatient. Even more so ever since Trask sent some futuristic Sentinel to kill both him and his sister. A Sentinel which expressed abilities which, if mass-produced, could doom the mutant race.

In his mind, the matter of Trask is now at its highest urgency. High enough for them to do what they normally would not. Of course — it does not help Shterev that his life's work had already been spent in the willful enslavement of mutantkind. The Twins are notoriously intolerant of the members of Genosha's old regime, for obvious reasons.

Now, folded into the body of the industrial stove, the one-time slaver is barely able to even turn his head. He can see nothing except the silver-haired young man lingering next to the controls of the stove, one hand dallying on the dial.

"'Please' is not an answer," Quicksilver says. His accented voice is still soft, but with an edge ground onto it by his mounting anger. Where the Witch's voice is so endlessly patient, her brother's sounds like a wire strained to snap at any moment. "And you should know that I do not repeat myself more than twice. I really don't have the time. Where… is Trask?"

The Weevil of Hell's Kitchen.

"The Devil of Hell's Kitchen," Kate tells Tommy through the comms, but he isn't wrong about the lack of charm in the neighborhood. It has been a working-class pit for as long as New York has been born, but some would say that is precisely the character it needs, and would explain the individuals that have been born from its grimy womb. All this is said on her way down, where the world spins around her, a kaleidoscope of color and rushing wind before she's snatched up by Speed, hefted up before she even realizes is happening; before she knows it, she's being placed carefully on the ground. She flashes him a grateful smile.

…which fades at the bit of tzatsiki in the corner of his mouth.

A hand comes up to thumb it away from his skin. "How many times a day do you eat again?" she wonders, before picking up the pace, to rendezvous with Billy right at the storefront. And from what she knows, speedsters don't gain any weight either. Life is so unfair.

"See anything definitive?" Kate asks of Billy, a hand resting on his shoulder to signal that they're here, her voice pitched to low, barely audible whispers.

A set of lockpicks finds its way out of her hair, secured somewhere within the pockets of her violet headband. It doesn't take long for her to undo the latch, pocketing them as soon as she hears the telltale click.

To Speed, she lifts her finger to her lips, to signal silence. If they're going to break into a place, the last thing they need is to announce themselves. She can handle more mundane security measures, but if there are magical ones, those, she will leave to Billy.

"Tommy, we're… ugh. We're not here to eat dinner. Were you even looking…?"

It's the last thing Billy finds himself saying, before he reaches those doors. Before Kate and Tommy reach him. Before the door is unlocked, the way opened, and…

He senses it before he even sees it.

Something about that light calls Billy Kaplan forward. He's not sure why; it's impulsive, the way he presses down on the handle of the cafe entrance. And it is equally instinctive, the way he just… -stops- there, as well. An ethereal twinge on the boundaries of the senses. Something that resonates with him on some basic level. Like listening to an echo.

Or the echo listening to its source—

"Hold on," murmurs Wiccan, voice cast below the pitch of a whisper as he holds a single hand up. He hears the voices, and tries to ignore the strange feeling that bubbles up inside him as he listens to those scarcely-heard words muffle their way out of the other side of that doorframe. Dark brows furrow. "I think I… there's something here. Like a laser grid, but it's…"

It's so similar, why is it so…

He looks almost lost, for a moment, before the hand that settles on Billy's shoulder shakes him out of that reverie. "—Huh? Oh, yeah. It's… some kind of security. I think I can do something about it…"

And as he speaks, he reaches out with a single hand. Blue bleeds into his eyes in a soft glow as lips part, as concentration etches onto those features.

"Undo undo undo undo undo"

And looks to touch upon that strangle bundle of branching pathways, cerulean meeting crimson as they seek to unravel those strange, unnatural security measures — hoping, at least, to obscure their presence without whoever set this up noticing. It's an inexperienced touch that might damn them — but one aided by a familiarity that Billy just can't quite place.

And honestly, that troubles him moreso, right now.

How many times a day do you eat again?

"Not enough," the youth in green and silver complains, though he also regrets that his momentary lapse in not making a mess of himself while he eats costs him precious cool points in front of Kate Bishop. Also, there were still good calories left in that tzatziki. Gone forever, now. He doesn't even have time to answer Billy's baseless and hurtful accusation that he wasn't actually looking, especially with the archer hushing him.

It's so slow, waiting around for Kate to unlock the door manually while Billy does his wizard business with whatever other security is somehow there, leaving Speed frowning as he hops lightly from foot to foot in impatience. He could just phase right through the wall but that wouldn't really help Kate (he could bring her too but that starts to get dicey and he doesn't want to turn her into hamburger) and the idea of just forging on recklessly ahead sends a faint, fearful tingle down his spine as he imagines the chewing out he'd end up getting from Bucky Barnes. Again.

Again again.

Look, he's a walking, talking discipline problem, okay??

It gets increasingly worse, though, like a six year old being forced to stay in one spot when they'd rather be out running free: The shifting from foot to foot turns into his head lolling back and staring at the sky while he huffs (quielty) in annoyance. At one point he is literally laying on the ground, rocking from side to side. These shifts take about an eyeblink: For Kate, working on the lock, it's a matter of heartbeats. The passage of instants.

For Tommy it seems like hours.

"Hurry up," he whispers. "I'm running out of impulse control."

The lock is child's play to Kate Bishop's deft hands. Nothing elaborate, nothing sophisticated: no better than for some, it seems, to hide in plain sight. Conduct business within an establishment that does not worry any more than grating over the windows and a simple deadbolt on the doors.

Another question, really, while a business would feel so bold in the middle of crumbling Hell's Kitchen — but that's another path to chase.

This one, at the moment, leads within the opening door — and gives way to a back hall that shines scarlet with dozens of those spooling red threads.

Elsewhere within the cafe, Billy turns eyes on them. Between blinks to average eyes, they glitter like light. But to his, they texture differently: they sing in a chord of energy that seems to transcend particle-wave duality: older, primordial, before energy separated with matter. Stuff of its first form, and infused with an intelligent will. A woman's voice whispers her command, and those threads obey.

That is, until Billy's power instructs them differently.

One by one, they go slack, and fade. And in that hall before Kate and Tommy, that web of scarlet disappears, with only a freeing darkness to welcome them.

Darkness, and leading closer to those voices behind closed doors.

First is a low, crying wail from an adult man's throat, that sound where pain and terror find their crossroads. "I don't know! I don't know where he is!" Shterev begs, his voice thickly-accented, worsening as the panic sets in. "He never spoke — it's hot! It's hot!"

Quicksilver turns up the heat. Sweat drips from the ex-Magistrate's face. His muscles cramp to hold his face away, an agony that brings tears from his eyes. They hit the grill and begin to steam.

"You branded mutants," declares the Scarlet Witch. "We read the reports. You burnt them. You thought it made them yours. Should we brand this one, brother? Let the world see who owns this cur?"

I don't know, Shterev begs. I don't know!

"Pity. I hoped this would be quick. Now we'll have to spend more time on this." Quicksilver's right hand comes to roost lightly on the side of Shterev's face. He doesn't apply any of his strength yet, does not press down, but its mere presence is worrisome enough for a man who has to hold his face up to prevent himself from being burned.

"Do you know how many mutants you sent to suffer pain worse than this?" Quicksilver wonders. "Did you ever bother to count?" He leans a little closer, as if to confide a secret. "I counted how many times humans tried to burn my sister."

Should we brand this one? the Witch asks.

"In our way," her brother decides. "If he is telling the truth about knowing nothing, then his mind is of no use to us, and seeing as he hasn't put it to any good use when left to his own devices… I want you to erase it. All of it."

Quicksilver removes his hand, as if touching the man soiled him. "Truth be told, this will hurt worse than the heat," he remarks to their captive.

"The door's open," Kate hisses to Tommy, pushing it just so in an effort to bring all the three of them inside. "But you gotta wait a minute and let Billy do his thing."

And the magician with them does do his thing. The 'laser grid' made of magic vanishes before them and Hawkeye II straightens, closing the door behind them with a click once they all file in. Easing further in, she takes careful, soundless steps down the hall towards where she hears the sound of a man's cry of pain. If that produces anything - a jolt of adrenaline, a spike of fear - it doesn't reflect on her features. She has seen enough action to develop the kind of nerves a veteran ought to have, typical of her fast-learning ways.

Inside, however, her heart is pounding and sweat collects at the shallow column of her spine. Something about this feels wrong, not just because of the cry, but the instincts she has developed over the course of her Avengering have given her enough of a hunter's insight to know when she's in the presence of large predators. There's a wordless gesture to Billy and Speed, to not just be quiet, but to be careful.

Step after step takes her further into the interior of the Red Dog Kitchen, and she lowers herself in a crouch, her back pressed to the wall as she listens.

….brand this one…?

I want you to erase it. All of it.

She unlatches a mirror from her utility belt and slips it to the end of the kitchen's doorway, to try and get a glimpse as to what's happening inside.

Fingers twitch faintly in the dim, outdoor lighting, and Billy Kaplan just cannot quite shake the strangeness that he feels in unraveling that… what? Magic? No — something else. Something primordial, like the stuff before the first second of time ticked over. It feels like unmaking his own work, reversing his own decisions.

Works and decisions he knows he has not done or made.

The frown on his lips settles persistently like sediment on the soul as his hand drops and his attention turns towards Kate and Tommy once more. The glow fades from his eyes, and he does his best to mask his troubled thoughts by focusing on the most immediate problem:

"Everything's clear," he whispers. "They shouldn't know we're here. But we need to move quickly — I think they have someone in there with them. I think they're…"

Going to do something horrible.

So as Hawkeye slips inside, Wiccan follows, casting cautious brown eyes across the dim of the lightless room around them. Fingers squeeze into fists and ease once more rhythmically as he turns his gaze towards that door that Kate peers through.

"I think they have some kind of hostage," he whispers, scarcely, towards Tommy. "Do you think you can…?"

It's debatably a good idea, to rely on Tommy Shepherd on something. But his thoughts are adrift right now with a queasy feeling he can't place, and part of him just wants to make that feeling go -away-… or find the source of it. And besides — Billy knows he's dependable, when the chips are down.

… Most of the time.

A sensible person would experience it, that sour feeling of fear, going into a dangerous and unknown situation.

Speed just feels an increasing tension, a need to act, because he is very much not a sensible person by any stretch of the imagination. He has to do something, because doing nothing at all is intolerable. Even before his power awakened, inaction was anathema to him… Since it did, and since it was honed and trained and forced to develop faster than it would've naturally by a shady secret project, it's only gotten worse.

But that's energy for you. Energy needs to go and do, not sit still, and the speedster is nothing if not a bundle of potential, barely restrained energy. A common enough issue with young people with that particular sort of metahuman ability. It's probably a good thing he's never met Impulse.

He tries, though, you know? He creeps along with Hawkeye and Wiccan as carefully as he can, slow and silent like mice sneaking past the cat. He hates that part, though. The cat can't catch him. When Wiccan whispers to him, green eyes turn towards that face nearly identical to his own, watching him from behind his goggled visor. Whoever did a bunch of magic or whatever has a hostage. Gonna do something bad to the guy.

Well then.

In the interests of maintaining quiet, he acknowledges Billy's request with a double fingerguns.

The lean, efficient form of Speed straightens up, and he hops back and forth on the balls of his feet a couple times, and then runs right into the wall. Not in the sense of a collision, but literally through it, molecules moving between molecules, shedding through it the way normal matter goes through water.

His appearance in the kitchen, then, is like a magic trick. Suddenly, he's there in green and silver and a shock of white hair. The distinctive circled A logo of the Avengers on one shoulder of his suit, reaching for the man in peril. There were some long talks about the Avengers and their first priority being rescuing people in danger. He paid attention to some of them, briefly. What he means to do is of course to grab Shterev and keep going, until they go through the back wall (and Shterev proooooooobably doesn't turn into a meat mist) but you know, life is never that easy.


But then, out of sheer surprise, he slows down to normal speed for a terrible moment, because… Because…


Kate has a good angle. She's able to position her mirror so she can see everything transpiring in that dark, overheated back room. She can see the source of those cries of fear and pain — a man, somehow melded into the metal of the stove, struggling to keep his face away from the range. She can see the Witch standing beside him, deceptively demure with her small stature and her slip of a red dress.

Then she turns the little mirror just enough to see the last person in the room. Her mirror shows her Quicksilver staring straight at it, his blue eyes narrowed.

Of course, by this time, Speed is already in motion, because… well, it's Speed. And he announces himself loudly the entire way, because, well — it's Speed.

In response… Quicksilver moves. And unlike everyone else in Speed's world, when Quicksilver moves, he doesn't move like a snail sliding through molasses. For once, something in Tommy's perception actually moves normally, keeping right up with the younger speedster within his own frame of reference. In fact, Speed might even perceive the other man as fast.

Especially in that one dire moment when he slows back down to normal in complete shock. A moment upon which Quicksilver capitalizes, in order to reach out and literally try seize the mini-version of himself by the scruff.

"I don't like you," he declares, very succinctly, squinting at Speed in deep suspicion and mounting affront as he registers the younger man's horribly familiar features. "Wanda! What is this?!"

"Yes, brother," concedes the Scarlet Witch, taking obesiance to every one of Quicksilver's words.

She ghosts closer to his shoulder, a small, slight haunt at her brother's side, red eyes turned down on their captive. "You must brace," she warns, her gentle voice flat, unaffected, cold. "After I pull you open, I will hollow you out. A mercy, considering your crimes. There is a bliss in emptiness. Everything you are, broken and ugly, gone…"

Her eyes glow. Threads of scarlet string between her curling fingers. And then —

— Quicksilver glances back into a mirror. The Witch lifts her head, tensing, alerted similarly without even a shared word or glance, knowing as immediately as he does.

And then Speed happens. So quickly, not even she registers it — oblivious to the blurring interplay that happens, between heartbeats, among the two speedsters. There is a violent pull of wind, and then — stopped, arrested when Speed slows, as her brother duly snatches for the other, and the Scarlet Witch finds herself tilting her head.

Her lips part, but she says nothing. Stunned, to say the least. Her Witch's sight traces the shape of his soul, disturbed by it in a way she cannot yet say, and then she remembers —

There is a wall separating the back room from the cafe's front dining room, made of brick — sturdy, solid.

There was a wall. Scarlet suddenly envelops it in a crackle of false light, and the brick seems to loosen, and then — simply disentegrates, dusting away atom by atom, blowing free to force a sudden introduction between the Avengers and the Brotherhood.

The Scarlet Witch outstretches her arms in that same gesture, red wreathing her hands up to her wrists, circulating and coiling like a living pulse. She does not stand tall, but she stands prominant at Quicksilver's side, darkly beautiful, and very unimpressed. And she says: "My brother asked a question."

Blue eyes widen, recognizing the faces in her mirror. She had expected some minor trouble, but not this, trapped in cramped quarters with the likes of the Brotherhood's leadership: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.


The expletive leaves Kate along with the burst of motion as the mirror clatters away and she's leaping in the room. The bow snaps out in her hands, unfolding to its full state, an arrow already nocked and the string pulling towards her cheek.

She is moving just as Scarlet Witch manipulates the very atoms of the thing shielding them to nothing, vanishing in a puff of dust. It leaves her with nothing to hide behind, nevermind that she was already moving out of cover. Still, it would have been good to have, should things go south.

Their objective for the time being was to save the defector, but with Quicksilver coming face-to-face with Tommy Shepherd, and looking extremely baffled, it is only now that she sees what has slowed both speedsters.

"Easy, now," she breathes, to the Maximoff twins. "We didn't intend to pick a fight."

But the resemblance…

"…this has to be a coincidence," she murmurs.

My brother asked a question.

"Well, I don't know the answer," she replies with her typical blunt, straightforward way. "Speed is an Avenger. Your confusion's just as intense as mine."

And if they're all confused now, wait until they see Billy.

Something's wrong.

Speed should have been out by now. Speed should have been out -and- probably have stolen something to eat from the cafe by now. But there's none of the expected glib commentary as the white-haired young Avenger blitzes through walls like they might as well not even exist. There's just silence. Silence that lasts barely seconds —

But Billy knows, by Speed's perspective, 'barely seconds' is enough to start worrying.

"Hawkeye? What's going on in the —"

And that is exactly when the wall ceases to exist. He can feel the fluctuation of reality around him even when he can't explain what it is or how he knows. Like someone tugging on the loose thread of a blanket you never knew was on you until that shift of fabric. Molecule by molecule, atom by atom, the wall is disassembled until there is nothing left to divide or obscure Billy and the battle-ready Kate — from —

Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Leaders of the Brotherhood. Brown eyes widen instantly, and for a moment, Billy Kaplan is left looking stunned in a way that perfectly mirrors Tommy Shepherd's expression, if for diferent reasons. He knows these two. He's read all about them. How dangerous they are. How infamous their father is. The things they've done — This is bad. This is very, very bad. He's read about them! On supervillain wikis!! He should be terrified right now!

So why does that still fail to explain the queasy feeling in his gut?

And for a rare moment, Billy Kaplan feels that strong twinge of self-doubt that mixes so profoundly with that resurgent ache of familiarity he can't place the second he sees that ebb of crimson at the Scarlet Witch's beck and call. Billy hesitates. A thousand questions race through his mind. The questions, Kate's responses, they all feel muted by hundreds of feet of impassable distance as everything shrinks down to one tiny point: Pietro, gripping Tommy like one would a disobedient cat.

And Billy panics.

"Let go of him!"

Blue meets red as Wiccan lifts off the ground, the cosmic stretch of his costume seeming to glitter with life as he reaches outward. Blue-soaked hands resonate at a wavelength too similar to Wanda's. Reality twitches.

And from nothing, the air in the cafe suddenly starts to ionize as if it was just -compelled- to, lighting and electrical power shorting out in rapid succession to leave them all in the dark of the night — illuminated only by the bolt of pure lighting that discharges across the cafe for the Brotherhood leadership.

Compelled by a power that echoes back on Wanda Maximoff like looking in a funhouse mirror of possibilities.

Honestly there's not a lot of scruff to grab, the suit is just about skintight. Probably to reduce drag or something.

But what slack there is gets caught by the Son of Magneto, and behind his goggled visor Speed's eyes go wide, because these people are probably extremely bad news. At least neither of them seems like they're about to explode, though. It took a whole day for his accelerated metabolism to heal the burns on his hand after that mission. Soon, his brow furrows as he stares back at Quicksilver, who if he knows his stuff is gonna go off on some villain rant about…

I don't like you, the other speedster says simply. Declaratively. Handing down an immediate judgement.

"Rude, guy," is Speed's response. "First you steal my look and now you're talkin' shit? Listen, grampa, I've got like… Captain America and the Hulk and like… Wonder Man all coming for backup so you better let go before—"

The wall stops being a thing. Hawkeye is there, with her bow and her cool confidence and she's trying to talk the situation down. Wiccan is there, and even without anything resembling a magical awareness Speed can feel it as the other young man's words make reality itself start to bend and warp, which would probably be a good time to try and get clear and not talk more shit.

"Uh oh Hermione," he says towards the Scarlet Witch, with a nasty little smile that comes out of the absolute conviction that while Billy Kaplan is a huge goddamn dork nerd, he can open a can of magical whoopass with the best of them. "Now you're in trouble."

Then the lights go out, flooding the whole building in a thick, inky darkness. The kind of darkness that has a real weight to it. Right up until it's split apart by the brilliant flash of a lightning bolt streaking away from Wiccan and towards the Maximoffs, and also unfortunately this means Speed. Even in the dark, Speed was reaching, though. Trying to get a hand out, to get a hand on Shterev, to transmit force, acceleration. It's not really an exact process, but the idea is to impart momentum on the currently at-rest form of the hostage, to send him hurtling away from Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and instead towards Hawkeye.

Probably, he should've put the effort into saving himself instead.

Then Wiccan's lightning turns the dark into a blinding light.

Fortunately for Speed, Quicksilver isn't really into big villain rants. Probably for the same reason Speed hates hearing them — big sprawling rants just take up so much time, and Quicksilver is by nature a rather rapidly decisive person.

He certainly very rapidly comes to the conclusion that he doesn't like this little dickbag. How dare this kid look like him!

"Steal YOUR look?" Quicksilver repeats, deeply incredulous. "I've never even heard of you, you little monster, and I really don't care who your copycat ass has coming for backup because I guarantee you, they'll be way too slow to catch me — "

The wall stops existing. Quicksilver looks a little smug, because he knows what that means; his sister is pissed off, and he always likes watching his twin go to town on some people who are harshing their groove. My brother asked a question, she declares, and said brother turns the most imperious of stares upon the trio. Clearly his demanding nature has been enabled all his life by his sister forcing people to immediately humor his whims.

Of course, the kids don't want to cooperate. Hawkeye, level-headed as ever, tries to somehow bring the situation of 'unexpectedly running straight into the Brotherhood's leaders' under control, but Quicksilver doesn't look very impressed. He looks even less impressed when the word 'Avenger' comes up. He even rolls his eyes. He starts to say something…

…and Billy panics to see his twin snared in Quicksilver's grasp. The lights go out entirely as Wiccan draws power, plunging them all into darkness… and Speed uses that split-second opportunity to slap a hand onto the unfortunate Shterev and dislodge him from his prison the hard way. The man definitely doesn't come loose entirely intact, if his shriek of pain is any indication, but at least he isn't torn in half, and he still seems pretty alive — if unhappy — as he hurtles towards Kate.

But you know who's even unhappier?

"For people who didn't intend to pick a fight…" Quicksilver replies, four points of hex-light glittering in the dark as his eyes flare red to match his twin's, "…you certainly got yourselves one fast."

Blue lightning leaps towards all three of them, as if to punctuate the statement.


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