It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (Part 1)
Roleplaying Log: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (Part 1)
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Councilman Harold Jennings hosts his first Christmas Ball since the bombings of Hell's Kitchen. The Hellraisers crash the party, and they have a new trick.

Other Characters Referenced: Many.
IC Date: December 18, 2018
IC Location: Pier 60, Chelsea Piers, NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 19 Dec 2018 17:49
Rating & Warnings: R
NPC & GM Credits: Barbara Gordon and Owen Mercer
Associated Plots

The party starts at 8 o'clock, though the doors opened closer to half-past seven. The choice venue is at the Chelsea Piers in a beautiful structure just off Pier 60. The ceilings are high, allowing for a sprawling main floor and mezzanine that stretches opposite of the entirely glass-inlay wall that overlooks the wharf. The floors are dusty grey wood, which plays nicely to the carpets of fake snow that surround the dozen or so Christmas tree displays that are scattered throughout the hall.

A fully stocked bar is the first thing that guests are greeted with, and several of the stools are already occupied by men and women dressed for a festive, formal affair. The shelves behind the bar climb toward the ceiling, featuring a rainbow display of bottles, all underlit and glowing with strange, but no less holiday cheer. The bar itself is almost a black mirror, and is constantly being seen to each time someone gets up from their seat to maintain a spot-free finish.

It's cocktail hour, and so the guests are mostly relegated to the side of the hall that features the bar, tall cocktail tables, and the stage that is empty, but look to be set for a jazz band with an upright bass, beautiful piano, and stations for the additions of horns and woodwinds. For now, a playlist of classic Christmas music is piped in through the speakers, only complimenting the pleasant ambiance.

The other half of the hall, toward the doors that lead out to the all-season terrace, are large dining tables, circular in shape and able to sit eight people quite comfortably. There are eighteen tables in all, easily and comfortably seating the nearly one-hundred fifty guests who are coming to the party.

The room is set up with Christmas cheer with warm white lights, sprawls of fake snow, and plenty of evergreens. The Councilman did not skimp, as all the trees and garlands are real, and provide a pleasant scent of spruce and cedar.

Waiters featuring spendy hor dourves dance around the room, offering puffs, rolls, and finger-foods aplenty. The Councilman has not yet made an appearance, but there are plenty of well-known guests already present — most of them familiar faces to the usual NYC social scene, as well as a number of local politicians.

* * *

Frank Castle is nobody's idea of fancy, but he does clean up pretty nice when he's trying to fit in. He's certainly not here as a guest, however, not with his creased black pants, crisp white shirt, neat black tie, shined black shoes, the white napkin over his arm, and the plate of hors d'oeurves in his right hand (crab puffs). But at least his beard is neatly trimmed and his face set in a patient, almost-polite expression dedicated for senior NCOs who have to deal with idiotic junior officers. He turns away from providing a puff of pastery for the wife of a senior police officer in the NYPD, dark eyes scanning the crowds — not so much faces, but hands, waistlines, ankles: the places where weapons might be help.

* * *

Rodrigo Santana was a delightful young man who emigrated to the States looking for opportunity. He was a student at a local university, studying engineering, even though his heart was in his extracurricular theater classes, much to the chagrin of his traditionalist parents back in El Salvador. He worked as a cater waiter to make some extra money to send back to his folks. He was cheerful, conscientious, kind. Unfortunately, his look and build bore a distinctive resemblance to a young man named Jason Todd, the Red Hood, which is why Rodrigo was currently rolled up in a blanket, stripped and tied up in the back of an unmarked van three blocks away.

Jason Todd selected Rodrigo because he was just a bit bigger than Jason, his roomy white shirt allowing room for the body armor he wore underneath it. He smuggles his weapons in slowly, under silver trays and napkin squares, until he'd squirreled away a significant number of weapons to hide in that slightly overstretched rental shirt. Jason managed to keep his temper as a bald-pated councilman almost made him drop a tray of drinks he was carrying towards a loose collection of trophy wives. He gritted his teeth and kept focused on the mission.

"I hate ing rich people," he mutters.

* * *

To some degree, Dick's been living a life of late that plays down his connection to Bruce Wayne and his fortune. Just the fact that he's working in the city, away from Gotham, helps with that. Here, the Wayne name is only one among many, alongside all the giants that dominate from the brokerages of Wall Street to the sky-scraping corporate bastions of midtown. And yet? The Wayne name is still what it is, and tonight? When he arrives, he's representing it, and brings with him all the training from hundreds of events like this he's attended throughout the years, either in Bruce's company or place.

So for just the evening he plays the wealthy ward turned wealthy partner up to the max, with all his outgoing ease and too-perfect smile. He's got the costume too, the tailored tux, the big name accessories… including what is /the/ ultimate item if you're going to boast the 'playboy' label: a supermodel on his arm.

On the way in, there's no way they don't get photographed, but that's an easy and familiar routine. Any shouted paparazzi questions about alien lovechildren are politely ignored. Once inside, he snags them drinks off a tray and then makes his way over to do some mingling, making some introductions for Kory. The first stop is probably the police contingent to schmooze with some of his bosses (oh hi Frank), and then on to glad-hand some politicians while they wait on the councilman.

* * *

Arthur CUrry was here as well! He's a King, who holds all the riches of his kingdom in his bank account. He can be at fancy smancy events like this. Dressed in a fine tuxedo with a nice black tie, he is, for the moment, alone. He takes in the scenery. One guy has a supermodel on his arm, another guy just looks fucking terrifying and anothr looks like he doesn't want to be here.

Man, Arthur feels out of place.

He sits down in one of the layabout seats and simply watches time fly by. Maybe something interesting will happen. Maybe he'll meet someone new. One can only hope.

* * *

Atli arrives from the FRP Room Hub.

* * *

Lady Elizabeth Braddock's return has been fashion magazine fodder for weeks now, and with that brings the need to capitalize. An older businessman who had known her father, a widower these days, had been delighted to add her as his date. So, Betsy has arrived, in a black, sparkling strapless number under a wrap, purple hair loose and exotic in contrast. This is just a quick social warm up for later in the week, as far as she is concerned.

Once inside, there's a glass acquired and sipping at, doing at least part of a lap amongst the mingling crowd before her escort is pulled away a few feet by a business associate. She's not in the least deterred, moving easily after he waves her on, to admire some of the Christmas trees.

* * *

The sad, crooning voice of Elvis Presley comes across the speakers, sorrowing over his blue Christmas.

* * *

"Should we arrive by the outdoor terrace?" Warren Worthington wanted to know, on the way to Chelsea Piers. "I know there's one, and I could do it. It's practically a landing pad. It'd be fun. Sneak in by air."

Alison Blaire did not share this opinion, on account of having basic sense.

Such it is that when they arrive, it is properly, by the front doors and through the security and coat checks. Being divested of his coat reveals his wings, though in the interests of the crowds and not knocking over any wine glasses, he keeps him folded so tightly that they don't stand out as much as they could. It's not exactly black tie and so he hasn't bothered, sticking with a two-piece in a very sedate shade of dark grey.

"I see they hired an event coordinator with sense," he observes, on noticing that the first thing to greet the eye upon entrance is the open bar. A blue eye turns sidelong towards Dazzler. "The Councilman is not here yet, but there are plenty of other gladhanding targets. You ready to care a whole lot about exceptionally boring things?"

* * *

Rich people are, objectively, the worst.

Indeed, it seems that the councilman's Christmas party is beset not only with a surfeit of rich people in general, but a veritable colony of Waynes in particular. Not long after Dick and Kory make their arrival, the brand new black Aston Martin belonging to Grayson's younger brother (by adoption) is driven off by a really jazzed valet. Tim watches the car drive off for a moment with a faint frown before turning to his date for the evening, offering Zatanna his arm as they head in.

In contrast, he's much less used to getting actual paparazzi attention, the cameras usually being aimed at Bruce or Dick; over the course of a few quick shots his expression goes from surprise, to confusion, to annoyance, to a not particularly convincing smile before he lets out an extremely relieved breath once inside.

"See?" he says to Zatanna, though probably the magician is a lot better suited to the lights and cameras than he is. "This is fun. Much better than getting shot at in some alley somewhere."

It's not though. Right now he'd take the gunfight.

* * *

Oh, you better bet Kori is rocking it tonight!

When she's not super-heroing, events like this are almost so commonplace as to be boring… except they could never be boring for the alien visitor who delights in everything about her life on her adopted planet. She's at ease among the glitz and glamor, boasting all the poise of royalty mixed with the vivacious energy of mainstream celebrity. Dick gets photographed, she stops and strikes poses, knowing they'll be on magazine covers in the coming week and website articles within hours, dissections of who she's wearing in every style column. As it happens, she's already forgotten the name, but that's just how it is. Her agent made an arrangement with the designer and so here she is, wearing a cascading gown of champagne gold that seems to reflect the warmth of her own skin, with both a plunging neckline and revealing slits in the skirt. Her hair is up (up up), and she has sparkling earings with many little stars.

More critically, yes, she comes with a date! Its more fodder for the gossip column that wealthy Wayne heir Richard Grayson is again dating model Kory Anders, or at least gives the appearance. It may be bigger news for some of their friends, as she looks quite radiant on Dick's arm, often squeezing onto it when he isn't leading her about. She could manage the crowd fine, of course, but she knows it suits him to feel in charge of things!

"This a wonderful party. The building is just beautiful, and look at all the decorations! It is so very festive! Oh, and look up there. Will they play the live music soon? I heard someone say Dazzler is here. Will she play? I know she is your favorite!"

* * *

Silver and gold. That's the theme around Barbara Gordon and her chosen look for the Christmas ball. The visiting Gothamite — noted in the guest list as //head librarian and notable contributor to positive community outreach — stands at the black, mirror-surface bar. The long, sheath-fit gown is soft gold silk that has sparkles with an gradient of glittering gold beads that are fade up from the bottom hem until there are just sparse dances of light at the neckline; the back of the gown swoops low, and freckled skin just peeks between the perfectly shaped waves of her long, loose red hair. Her modest accessories are silver, and they match the glittering high heeled pumps she wears.

Her fingers — nails lacquered in silver — tap gently at the tall, slender glass of tonic and lime she's ordered. No booze tonight, except for the drink she got with John before the party to make sure that he was dressed properly. She's not entirely sure how Chas does it — keeping up with John Constantine — day to day. Man deserves a metal, and perhaps a dozen more lives.

She turns casually to her date, giving him a casual look that includes a faintly amused smile. "Stop looking so miserable, Mr. Robert-Houdin." She narrows her eyes at the Magician. "You don't think that's a bit too on the nose, do you? Houdini?"

She knew Dick was going to be here, but is not expecting Tim, so while she's already noted where Grayson is, Drake goes unnoticed as of now.

* * *

Jason Todd sees Dick and his date and ducks his head, making a point to mingle back into the general crowd and aim his assignment over towards the other side of the party. Hopefully Grayson didn't see him. The last thing Jason needs is Bruce's best boy spotting him at work and making a muck out of things. Not that he exactly had a plan as of yet anyway, other than getting close to a fat scumbag or two and seeing if he could pop them like a pimple. Not exactly tactical, but he was in a bad mood (wasn't he always?), which meant somebody was going to end up bleeding sooner or later.

But for now, have some shrimp scampi, Mr. Bigshot.

* * *

Finally, Arthur spots his date, Betsy Braddock. He walks up to her from behind to try and startle her, hands moving to briefly grip her shoulder then immediately release at the same time. "Well there you are. I thought I was gonna be left alone to my own devices. Quite a scare you gave me." of course, he's just being playful and not actually being serious.

"How was the trip?" he asks, though Orin is still attempting to gauge his surroundings.

* * *

Frank glances down at the ankles, wrists, and waist of the extremely fit young man who steps up toward the police folks he just departed, then turns his attention toward the man's face for a heartbeat before he offers up the tray of crab puffs. It's Dick's companion, however, who draws him up, causing him to blink in surprise. Either that's some extreme tanning bed action, or… no, that's an alien. At least Starfire is not a demon. That tight smile gets wider, but it also gets tighter, and he shifts slightly to offer the puffs to both Dick and Kori. "Crab puffs with a spicy Mandarin sauce, sir, ma'am?" His voice is in keeping with his heavy features, a low growl that somehow manages to stay well on the right side of polite.

* * *

They are here to work, but that doesn't mean they can't make it look good.

As the flashbulbs pop off, following yet another Wayne bachelor and his token celebrity date, it appears that the latter is definitely more accustomed to this kind of attention than he is, Zatanna waving and smiling to her adoring public, her million megawatt smile borne against members of the press like a weapon of mass distraction. Not one to embarrass anyone who deigns to take her out, she is dressed for the occasion in a black evening dress with an elaborate neckline comprised of thin straps that contrast sharply with her pallor, and made out of fine material that follows the slender curves and lines of her until it pools onto the floor like liquid shadow. The fabric winks strangely now and then - wait, are those real stars?

Of course not. It's a trick of the light, that's all. She is an illusionist.

Led inside by her best friend, she tucks in closer to his side, lowering her voice. "You know we're never seeing your car again, right?" she quips. She didn't fail to notice the excited expression on the valet's face once the keys were in his hand. "I think I see Dick and Kory." Because coming in with a red-haired supermodel with golden skin will immediately get you noticed, lifting her fingers to wave at her fellow Titans. "…oh god, are we the youngest people here?"

A waiter passes them by that looks incredibly familiar. As ice-blue eyes follow the wake of Frank "Crab Puffs" Castle, she turns to look at Tim, somewhat perplexed. "I think that guy works at Bart's bar. He makes nachos."

* * *

Dinah Lance shows up dressed like six feet of awesome in a five-something package. Her sheathe dress swishes lazily where it doesn't cling to her curves, effortlessly graceful despite the stiletto heels she wears. Combined with her high ponytail up-do, it lends her some extra height to go with a boisterously self-assertive presence.

She stands with John and Barbara, flanking the redhead's side opposite Constantine. Where Barbara went for gold and silver, like a red-ribboned Christmas gift, Dinah's dressed in deep aubergine. It's a strange contrast with her gymnast build and blue-collar roots. But, she makes it work.

Dinah waves enthusiastically at Dick when she catches his eye, balancing on the bottom rung of a barstool to get a height advantage. She points him out to Barbara, but then there's Kori— and Frank. Dinah's eyes widen, blue replacing her smokey eyeshadow, and she whistles soundlessly. "Damn, is *that* the tabloid chick?" she mutters at John and Babs. She remains balanced half on the stool's rungs, looking down at them. "Jeebus, I heard she was a model. Didn't know she's a friggin' Amazon, though," Dinah remarks.

The bartender swings by, and she flashes an electric and completely insincere smile at him. "Hi! Manhattan, please? Kentucky bourbon," she requests of him.

* * *

In response to certain suggestions about flying in, Alison Blaire had only one piece of advice to disperse, "If you mess up my hair, Worthington, they will search for years and never find your body."

In the nuclear winter of her devastated career — nearly a month of being exposed as a mutant, and losing most of her fanbase in the process — the famous Dazzler smiles as if that circling bad publicity is still news to her.

Not all armours come in iron and steel: in her case, it is a gossamer-fine white gown, with a classic cut and shaped to her body, the touch of red on her lips, and the strangely longer-than-avian white feathers that accent the yellowy fall of her hair.

It helps when the date is a built-in accessory factory.

"Don't remind me," she answers Warren with good-humour, to all that awaits — the preliminary first steps of two outed mutants toward politics. "Though I'm going to have a tell. If I say, 'that is absolutely riveting,' it's your cue to get me out of there as fast as possible."

* * *

There is… just the barest upward tick in Dick's eyebrow as Frank appears before him and Kory with the tray of crab puffs. Yes, he's caught on that there are some… unusual individuals attending the party tonight, and some of them decidedly not on the guest list. If he's noticed Jason, it's hard to say, since he plays it cool - just like he would. But when Frank just walks up to them? That's at least a little unexpected.

Still, the smile never fades from his face.

"I'll take one. Kory?" She'd never forgive him if he turned down food.

For now, he acts exactly like he should in this situation, which includes treating the help like it's barely there, and moving on as soon as they've both gotten a bite. "Is she here?!" he does snap back at the mention of Dazzler being in the building.

So let's review: face to face with one of the NYPD's most wanted, at an event full of said police and probably no shortage of corrupt officials? Barely a noticeable reaction. Mention of a certain performer? He's squealing like a schoolboy.

"Wow, I hope she does, though I think with what's been happening recently, she might not. Are you still sure you're… ok with all of this, considering?" Registration looms. "I see Tim and Zee, wanna go say hi? Oh, I think Barbara's here too, along with a dead magician." Did Dick get a copy of the guest list to review before he showed up? Of course he did.

* * *

There's a low chorus of applause from those who easily recognize the Councilman when he arrives through the terrace doors. Apparently, he had been out with several other familiar faces of varying levels of social influence around NYC. There's even a fellow that some Gothamites may recognize as… is that Natasha Maroni? It isn't exactly the best reveal that the niece of Gotham's Sal Maroni is here at the invitation of Councilman Jennings.

The Councilman — a tall, and surprisingly lanky man of greying sandy blond hair and sharp brown eyes — is laughing cheerfully with the group, and then turns to lift a friendly hand to those who greet him upon his entry.

* * *

-Not- at home among the glitz and glamour: John Constantine. Still, he polishes up alright, cutting a crisp line in a tailored classic: black and white that feels better suited, to him, to a stage show than a party. He's accented simply: a silver watch, a black-lined vest full of intricate spiralling lines of cerulean and silver. The man's characteristic scruff was shaved… at one point.

Some say it returns almost instantly. Some say… it cannot be killed. The five o'clock shadow follows the warlock like a starving puppy fed a steak. "How many seven foot redheads do -you- know?" The magician sardonically ribs in answer to Dinah's inquiry, before turning the easy smirk— a charming facade to mask -deep- discomfort at this… this… thing they're trapped in— to Babs.

"-So- on the nose you don't even get it." Constantine remarks in much the same tone, with perhaps a trace more obvious amusement. Aside from doing an odd card trick for someone they wanted information from, this is his life tonight, apparently. John /is/ drinking. He takes a god damn drink.

* * *

It is rarely a good idea to try and sneak up on Betsy. There's a tension a moment before Arthur touches her shoulder, already turning. Violet eyes look up that tiny bit into his eyes, as her older date needed her in shorter heels. "Arthur? I.. what are you doing here?" The smile is bright and warm, though, as her hand finds his to squeeze.

Her eyes will slide down over him in that tux, before climbing back up. "If this is your idea of a test run for Thursday, I approve. You clean up very nicely. I'm just surprised to see you here." Her head turns, a smile at her actual 'date', who is already neck deep in talking business. "Trip? What trip?"

* * *

…speaking of crashing a good party.

Anthony Stark is one of those people that everyone invites to their power parties. His name looks good on the list. His box is almost always checked and better yet? He almost /never/ shows up. I mean he's the owner of a company. An Avenger. Usually tapped by SHIELD. I mean the man always has a million irons in the fire so he's a safe bet. Always invited and never showing up to parties…

…which is why when a supercar powered by an ARC reactor under the hood screeched into the valet parking area people took notice. People shifted their eyes towards the man as he emerged from his car. Messages were sent to the already harried Councilman Jennings.

The poor man. Tony Stark has arrived.

Not alone either, this he's brought his own little clan. Well a clan of one. His mysterious young ward and said ward's plus one.

Jennings /really/ better have a good buffet.

A cutting edge style bespoke suit in black, shoes so polished he can see himself in them. Little cufflinks in the shape of christmas trees and a pair of sunglasses that yes, he even wears at night, Stark himself cuts a striking figure as he strolls up and through the doors. The wide slash of a grin there means he is at least pretending to enjoy himself as he glances back towards the pair with him. "I'm really glad JARVIS can get measurements and fabricate a suit on short notice. Come on you two, this'll be fun."

Fun for who exactly is the question.

"…though with this many Gothamites around the explosion protentional goes up but hey, I guess that is what makes it a party."

* * *

Despite a flurry of appearances playing civil libertarian and foil to registration advocates on the local public affairs shows and cable networks, Matt Murdock hasn't been seen in the flesh at a New York social function in some time.

But here he is, all 5'10" of him: clean-shaven, tuxedo'd and crimson-spectacled and, for once, without the svelte figure of Stark Industries' (or is it Stark Unlimited?) Kinsey Sheridan by his side.

A blind man going stag to a formal ball? It sounds like a bad joke waiting to happen. Or a disaster. Both, maybe.

Still, He makes his way through the crowd deftly enough. The round-rimmed shades and walking stick he hefts in his hand tips people into giving him a comfortable berth. He stops to ask a waiter for directions to the bar. "At your eight-o'clock," he's told, and makes a beeline for it.

"Macallen, neat," he tells the bartender while listening to the applause for the councilman.

And presumably, he's listening to a great deal else besides.

* * *

Jason Todd lifts his head as he sees the councilman's arrived, finding an excuse to set down his tray. Luckily, the rich and famous types are a bit distracted in their own right, so they don't find the waiter abandoning his duties to be particularly troublesome.

He slowly starts to shift through the crowd, getting a little bit closer bit by bit. The presence of a gangster's family should surprise him, but doesn't. THat's the way it is around all of these cities. Riddled with maggots in fancy dresses and silk ties, the lot of them. Jason feels the heat rising in his chest and he takes a moment to breathe steadily, trying to rein in the anger that serves as his fuel before it ignites prematurely.

* * *

"It's okay, I can just buy another one," Tim replies to Zatanna's quip, his expression serious for a long moment before breaking into a grin. It's a joke, see? Just… A joke that's also true.

His attention does follow Zatanna's waving at Dick and Kory, hardly a couple that was going to just blend in under most circumstances, though it's a good chance that he already noticed anyway. Or possibly that he and the other Wayne heir had coordinated. Probably not, though, right? Could you imagine? The entire talk would be Dick busting his chops about a date. And then probably trying to give him 'the talk'…

"Probably," he adds offhandedly when she asks if they were the youngest ones there - well, he did warn her - before the witch mentions recognising the waiter. "Maybe making nachos doesn't pay that great," Tim suggests, though now his attention is following Castle, who doesn't really look like your typical waiter, unless you're talking about a restaurant in the really bad parts of Gotham.

* * *

"I hope it's better than the last party you invited me to…"

Trailing Tony Stark, the young man that seems to have apparated out of nowhere for how abruptly he'd appeared as one of the billionaire's acquaintances.

It's weird having to introduce three-piece suits into his wardrobe, but at least he's learned that you can have a little fun with them instead of look like a penguin. His blazer and matching slacks are a charcoal gray, sporting maroon pinstripes. The tie fastened at the collar of his white button-up shirt is in shades of dark reds slashed with black. As has become his custom for 'dressing-up' Bart's slicked his hair back, at least as much as it would cooperate. A few auburn locks from his bangs remain stubbornly if not at least stylishly apart from the rest.

"Do they serve actual dinner at these things or is it still by appetizer?" he asks, even as he awkwardly offers an arm to his plus-one apparent (cuz that's what you're supposed to do, right?) Sure, it's fun accompanying Tony Stark to things but he felt better having another friend along.

* * *

Barbara has not really made the connection that Harry Houdini is not Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, but John's way of teasing her about it is at least met with a half-amused smirk. Then she turns toward where they spot Dick with his extremely tall date, and Barbara just waves toward him with a wry smile. Then she gestures him toward the pair of women and their surly magician.

It is only when she takes a careful glance around the elegantly dressed hall does she spot someone she… "Oh god." Her eyes drop immediately to Dinah. "Did you see him?" She does not say Frank's name aloud. She assumes that Dinah knows who she's talking about. It is in that same turn back to the bar does she notice Matt Murdock just a couple stools down. And she hesitates before she glances back to Dinah. "This is going to be one of those nights, isn't it?" Then she, rather than not acknowledging Matt at all, smiles a bit toward him. "Hey Matt."

When Tony Stark makes his appearance, heads turn toward him. But then some immediately turn back to their dates or groups to whisper about why Stark would be at Jennings party, or is this a Stark Party Crashing? Based on how Jennings cheerfully approaches Stark and offers out his hand with that bright white smile only does its job to confuse the moment. "Mr. Stark, good to see you," Jennings offers, like they are old friends. The political schmooze is strong with Harold Jennings.

* * *

Frank Castle, nacho-maker extraordinaire and Most Elig — erm, Most Wanted Widower, holds the tray for Dick and Kori to try the crab puffs and grab a second if they want, and then he's ducking aside again. No lingering, especially not with the slight shift in the young man's features, just making the best of the chance encounter. He might have been recognized, however. Grimacing a little, Frank starts on his way toward the kitchen, only to stop as another cluster of guests shows interest in his crab puffs. He lingers there while they pick out their favorites, try the dipping sauce, and collect a second one, smiling his smile as plastic as the stock of an M-16. The Councilman's arrival draws some of his attention, but then so does Jason's approach — without a tray. Even worse, the other waiter's shirt is loose, significantly looser than his own. Frank moves in Jason's direction then, looking to cut the younger man off and lean in a little close to keep his words quiet, "My shoe's killin' me… can you hold this for me?" He offers out the tray with one hand, even as his other hand drops down in an attempt to pat Jason on the back — it's inconspicuous, and a good way to check for body armor or weapons.

* * *

The original rendition of Santa Baby is up next on the playlist, following on the heels of the skating song from Charlie Brown's Christmas.

* * *

Let's hope you don't find anything actually riveting, then," is Warren's sage reply, though he is scanning the crowd as he does. He sees a considerable number of faces he recognizes, though it's the arrival of the Councilman that draws his attention. The woman accompanying him narrows his eyes briefly, though. He doesn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Gotham, and he isn't a hundred percent sure, but some family names have an infamy that goes beyond borders. Curious.

Well, time to see how that pans out. "Shall we?" he nudges Dazzler, leading her towards the bar. "You always look a little aimless at these things without a drink in hand."

And that is how the two of them wind up wending their way towards the bar, where a certain lawyer has taken up residence. "Get what you like," he tells Alison, though there's a bit of a wait as the bartender finishes pouring some other drinks.

His eyes stray to Matt. "Mr. Murdock," he recognizes. "Admired your work on the trial." There's really only one trial he could be referring to.

* * *

Emma Frost can't really remember ever having supported the good councilman's campaign. But there are advantages to collecting connections like bottle caps. The woman comes on the arm of an elder man that some other business sorts might recognize as a member of numerous boards, one of which being Frost International's. Her dress is a slinky halter number of satin with a metallic sheen to it and nearly no back at all until it comes time to cover her posterior and sweep out into a small train, and her finely muscled back covered in a swag of numerous fine gold chains.

Does she care much about being seen on the arm of a man forty years her elder? No. No, Emma doesn't.

As they come through the front entrance, the Frost simply murmurs something into the man's ear and they move towards someone that he knows and promptly introduces her.

* * *

This is a first.

From what Raven last remembered, all she did was go to Nico to ask her about a dress. She barely finished that sentence upon noting the look on the other young goth's face. She could have sworn there was a dangerous glint in her eye.

That should have warned her. But it wasn't as bad as the moment Bart got up in her case about being stuck in her room half the time.

So here she is, dressed in black, matching made up and short black hair flipping as far as it can to be stylish. Under the simple wrap, sheer lace panels run high around her neckline and down her arms as fitted sleeves, blending into the modestly-shaped bodice that meets the flair of an asymmetrical skirt which wraps around her waist, stiffer fabric flaring in effect to allow her some freedom of movement. Her steps in low black heels are careful — graceful enough to not look awkward and not wide enough to let the skirt make the slit larger than necessary.

'Fun' isn't precisely the word she'd use for this situation, but Tony Stark is given a small, practiced smile as a means of humor. In fact, it's for both the man and his young ward; as Bart offers her an arm, she gingerly takes hold of it, doing her best to stave off the external sources of excitement around her.

Her eyes turn downward. "I wish I knew," Raven says quietly, not really feeling hungry in the least.

* * *

"Oh yes, I would love a ball of the puffed crab!" In fact, Kori takes several. Whatever is normally said of models and their diets, it apparently has no relevance to six an a half foot plus tall orange-skinned ones. After they depart from Frank's vicinity (he is given a winning smile, as she is never rude to servers!), she does glance back at him and wonder: "Is the waiter a friend of yours?"

"Yes, let us greet our friends," she then readily agrees, nearly dragging Dick along at moments when she takes over leading them through the crowd. She manages it all very well. "Zee! Timothy! You are both looking so wonderful. I love that dress!" Yeah, even wearing runway coture and top designer pieces, she can't compete with magic. Except maybe by bringing a little of her own? She may be wearing that nail polish. "This gathering is most enjoyable, do you not think? Dick is sad that Dazzler might not perform, but perhaps I can take him to get her autograph…"

He's never living down his love for working out to the mutant's tunes!

The Barbara-Constantine-Dinah gathering is noted next, in large part due to the latter person's waving, and so she begins dragging Dick that way next. Nevermind that the Councilman has appeared, she seems far more interested in seeing her friends, and making sure Dick sees his. Oh, and in getting that autograph…

* * *

Well, Arthur did always enjoy getting a good jump out of someone. Looking around once more before he looks to Betsy, he smiles to her, squeezing her hand in return and offering the woman his arm. "Well, I figure I might as well get a good test run in right? Besides, couldn't be a dick and leave you here alone, now could I?"

He does shrug though. "Oh, just a spur of the moment thing, Betsy. No trip implied." he winks at her before he looks around. "Wow…we got quite a bit of flavor here at this party now don't we? I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Too many people for my preference but…make it work, right?" he winks at Betsy.

"Oh hey, Tony Stark. Cool."

* * *

Dinah shrugs at Barbara. It's a minor, negligible gesture, barely perceptible to anyone but Barbara. But yeah. She saw Frank, and tracks him carefully until he breaks her line of sight. She shakes her head and flops onto the stool, crossing her legs at the knee and resting an elbow on the bartop while she faces John and Babs. She brightens when Dick and his date are hailed again.

On the cusp of speaking, she's interrupted by Barbara hailing the newcomer to the bar, and gives him a flickeringly intrigued once-over when Matt bellies up to the bartop and requests some fine scotch. The moment his head pans their way, she flashes him a somewhat flirty smile— clearly not keying to his disability. "Who's your friend, Barb?" she murmurs quietly, poking Barbara with a sandaled toe. "You been holding out on me?"

* * *

Jason Todd takes a step back when Frank tries to touch him, refusing to take on what he offers, "Nah, I'm good, dude," he says. He doesn't quite recognize Frank, although there's definitely something gnawing at the back of his mind at the guy's face. Something in his eyes, too. Something familiar. Maybe he sees something like it in his own eyes now and again.

Still, it probably isn't entirely unlikely that Frank can still tell the kid's packing heat, from the way he carries himself, the speed of his response. Trained reflexes. A hint of bulk near the wasteline of his shirt. "Mind your business."

* * *

Betsy chuckles up at him. "I do have a date, Arthur. But I'm here more so he didn't have to come alone. He was a friend of a my fathers." Violet eyes are bright. "But really, this was my test run, how am I supposed to wow you if you see me in my warm ups?" She will tease him, shifting to take his arm and move a bit through the crowd.

"There's a lot of people here I wouldn't necessarily choose to invite to a party of my own, there is that. But these things are sometimes interesting." She lifts her head and looks. "Indeed, Mister Stark has arrived. Have you met him?" She will casually herd Arthur towards the bar area, though she's definitely keeping herself alert.

* * *

"Yeah." John confirms the shock and awe at Frank Castle: Crab Puff Man like it's old news, noticed way before. Which of course, it may be. The warlock hasn't done a great deal of milling, preferring to nurse (yes, he's actually nursing) drinks and quietly shadow his date for the evening.

This involves a great deal of looking about, and John is great at making paranoia look natural. Some of the time. Thus, it's probable he's -not- as surprised. "I mean, that's why we're fucking here, isn't it?" The voice is dropped low for the conspiratorial whisper. Why -else- does anyone come to one of these things but the free booze, easy marks, or shit imminently hitting the fan?

It does no good to hide their insidious vigilante purposes from Matt Murdock, of course, who gets a cheerful enough raise of the glass from the magician, smile practicedly reaching his eyes— mostly. "Matt. How's your phone holding up?" John cracks wise about old stories, because he's not talking about anything -else- he's noticed in this ballroom; it's not case-relevant, is all.

* * *

Matt takes a sip of the whiskey and settles his back into the bar. It's good for him, he's found, to take up a perch at events like these. Avoids drawing attention to his negotiation of the space, and inevitably people will talk to him. See how his head turns towards the sound of his voice. "Barbara?" he says, and though it's voiced as a question, he seems sure enough of the answer to smile and lift his glass. "Nice of you to join us New Yorkers across the water."

Then he hears another voice, one that is not familiar, but expresses a familiar enough sentiment. This smile he had for Barbara tempers, comports itself to something appreciative, but appropriate for introductions at a formal event. "Oh, thanks very much," Matt says to Warren's praise of his work on the Winter Soldier trial, and his 15-30 minutes of fame. "It was a — ah, hell of a case." He puts out a hand in the general direction. Helps avoid the awkwardness.

"Constantine," Matt says with an upnod and a quick smile. "Good to see you," while thinking that this must be the strangest guestlist for a New York City political gala in the history of New York City political galas.

* * *

I can just buy another one.

"You really are a Wayne, now," Zatanna jokes in turn, turning the full force of that bright expression towards Tim. Two years have introduced her to the fact that unless given the impetus, he hardly smiles. If anything, she is heartened to see her best friend be visibly full of good cheer, for a change. Despite the fact that they're technically on the clock, she can't help but wonder what the source of his good mood was - she's going to have to ask him later.

It's definitely hard to miss an Amazonian supermodel dagging Dick Grayson along with her, and Zatanna beams at the both of them. "Still not on supermodel level," she quips to Kory, giving her a hug if she lets her. "Oh, you're wearing them!" Noticing, of course, the nailpolish gift. To Dick, she turns the same smile his way, unable to help but feel a little starstruck every time she's in the vicinity of the eldest Wayne brother. "Though you guys are definitely not getting away this time. I always wanted to do this."

Her phone is in her hand, appearing as if by magic. Tugging Tim along with her, she swipes it into camera mode and engaging in the most time-honored of Millennial traditions: A selfie. This is their toll, their tax to the magician before she even deigns to let them go and mingle with other people. A glance at the bar, because she's about ready to get a drink in her hand, her expression lights up. "I think I see Matt Murdock by the bar," she tells her group. "Why don't we— "

There's Barbara. She finds that flash of redhair, accompanied by…

…well. She has never seen John Constantine in a tux, so she doesn't recognize him at first. But she definitely recognizes the Batgirl, and the man lingering by her side couldn't be anyone else but…

He turns around to talk to Matt. Her fingers tighten faintly on Tim's sleeve.

So much for following Dick and Kory. Forcing the knot down her throat, she pivots. "You won't frown at me too hard if I get a whiskey, right?" she wonders, in an attempt to inject some levity back to her tone. "And say hi to Matt later? Wait, is that Dazzler?"

* * *

So when Kamala heard there might be some trouble going down and that YES, SHE WAS GOING TO THE BALL, she maybe got a little excited. She knew she couldn't go looking like herself — if for no other reason, Kamala Khan is 19 and has no business at this party or anywhere booze is free-flowing. So she was going to have to SHAPE CHANGE.

Luckily she's good at that. She can look like anyone she wants — sound like them, too. Which is great, except that when you're faced with the possibility of looking like literally anyone, it's impossible to choose who EXACTLY you want to look like. So. She has to look classy so she won't look out of place. She has to not look like anyone who's actually going to be there but still look like she belongs.

So at last, after morphing herself in the mirror for over an hour, here she is: long black hair with brow-length bangs, a round nose, wide-set dark eyes with epicanthal folds, and a square-ish chin with a strong jaw and cheekbones. Her build is lithe and she's wearing a little black dress, which is handy given that if she were wearing yellow she'd look a LOT more like Trini, the yellow Power Ranger, than she realizes.

So: she comes in, clutching a purse covered in rose-gold sequins, and studiously remembers that she doesn't know anyone here. So… HOW do you mingle at a party when you definitely can't talk to anyone you know? This part of the plan is beyond her planning.

* * *

Frank definitely notices the reaction from Jason, the evasion, the way his shirt bunches slightly around odd-shaped hard objects when he moves, and the look in his eyes. He stays right there for a moment, shifting his foot around unnecessarily in a shoe that fits just fine, even if the sole is slicker than he would like. His eyes flicker toward the Councilman, and then settle back on Jason, and he notes flatly, "Maybe we should talk in the kitchen." He nods in that direction, starts forward on a course that would likely run his shoulder into Jason's if the other man didn't either go in the indicated direction or get out of the way, "Looks like both of us could do with refreshing our trays."

* * *

Dick had intended to go find his way over to the receiving area where there's a bit of a crowd around the councilman, but his date has other ideas and he's not all that opposed. The political stuff can be dry, even for him. Also there's more reason now, as that question about Frank isn't answered until they're a few steps away, and d a little more quietly even then: "He's someone who's not supposed to be here, I think. Better make sure that Babs has seen him, too."

But even that will have to wait. First stop Zee and Tim! "You clean up pretty good," he teases his counterpart with a flash of a grin. "And Zee… wow. I think that pretty much covers it." The selfie ritual doesn't bother him, and there's little doubt that Kory will be into it, and so he scrunches in with the bunch of them and puts on his blue-eyed, square-chinned best. What a photogenic bunch they are.

"Yeah I think we were planning on finding Babs next," he agrees when the plan seems to be to migrate over that way. Although possibly, just as quickly, they lose a few along the way as Zatanna changes her destination. It's how party things go!

"Babs, Dinah, wow you two both look amazing. Mr. Houdin." He gives a little roll of his eyes. "Uh, I don't know if you noticed, but a certain other friend of yours looks like he's showed up, as well."

* * *

"Jennings right? Right." Stark grins at the man before looking down at the hand for a moment. "You know I don't always do that right?" A longer pause. "What the hell its Christmas." He says as he takes the man's hand. Flashes click for the photo-op before he pats the man on the shoulder. "You've got a nice spread going!" A pause again. He should do something else…

Oh yeah!

"This is Bart Allen, young ward and all." A flash of a grin as he doesn't say the 'new owner of Stark Industries' but hey it is implied. "And now, we're off to enjoy said spread on this fine night!" Again a pat on Jenning's shoulder before he starts deeper into the party.

He seems to know where he's going, aided either by innate sixth sense of things like this or micro-spydrones with bleeding edge stealth technology hovering over the crowd. He isn't going to say which.

"Come on you two…" This over his shoulder. "…there are a few people you should mee—geeze did the entire Wayne clan show up tonight? I think I saw that Drake kid around somewhere though…"

Eyes flicker round, marking Betsy at the bar. Matt and Frank having a chat. Barbara over there with the English Muffin. Emma is hard to miss. The list just goes on as he files away faces and locations for later use.

"I think there is a dinner or at least a buffet…" A pause. "…but if you're hungry after that we can stop on the way back and I'll buy you like…I don't know. Half of all the pizza you can eat." A glance back at Raven. "…that is still a lot isn't it?"

About this moment is when he would pop out of the crowd near to…lets see. Zatanna Zatara, Tim, and Kory. "If you don't bring me a whiskey too I'll hold it against you, Fishnets." he calls out with a smirk. "It is hard to call you that when you're not wearing any, but I'm sticking with it. Have you all met these two yet?" A gesture towards Bart and Raven.

* * *

Jason Todd gets a glimpse of Barbara Gordon of all people over there, too. A lot of Gotham folks around here, which stands to reason. Probably here for the same reasons he is. Frank, however, represents the problem at hand, though, the older man's shoulder checking against Jason. The younger vigilante barely restrains himself from shoving back. At least the other waiter didn't seem to be blowing any of his cover, though. Better to find out what was up now than to have it explode against his back later.

"Fine," he says, teeth gritted as he trails behind Frank, his eyes tilted down to avoid eye contact, his black hair slicked back tight to the skull.

* * *

"I promise you I absolutely will not," answers Dazzler with a brief, lopsided grin. Her free hand squeezes Warren's forearm. Lead her well through these murky waters, Ahab. "I have the absolute authority — and I will bet twenty dollars — that this will be as dull an evening as it gets."

Oh, Alison.

At least, Worthington knows well to make their first pit stop a vital one: one to infuse their dead souls with enough alcohol needed to suffer out the political schmoozing to come. She orders a champagne — something light — and waits patiently on the over-extended staff to see to her order. Some socialite also in line engages her with a quick I Know You! back-and-forth that diverts her for a minute, though amidst the babbling, something catches Alison's eye.

Emma Frost. There's a face she hasn't seen in years. A face she, just as sorely, will never forget.

What is she doing here? Other than — the obvious one would expect of the socialite resident Ice Queen.

Alison accepts her drink, half-an-eye still on Emma, as she retreats back to Warren, meeting him with a smile and a brief hand again on his arm. She is quiet a moment, not wanting to immediately intrude on his conversation with — oh! "The trial of two centuries," she fills in, surprised and awed. "I followed that. In London. Even there, it was everywhere."

Her head turns, not wanting to miss Frost — when instead, Dazzler hears her stage name, and pauses simultaneously. "Wait, is that Zatanna Zatara?"

* * *

When Tony shakes Jennings' hand, the shake is returned with a firm grip. Then he nods approvingly toward Tony's compliments, and when Bart is introduced, the man leans out a bit to smile that too-white grin for the young man behind Tony. "Nice to meet you, Bart. Welcome."

He gestures Tony out into the crowd, and continues his own mingling with the crowd.

* * *

Arthur almost looks shocked! Almost. "Well, I'd hate to interrupt that." but then he's tugged along anyway! "Well, sorry for spoiling the surprise. I just saw a party was gonna go down so…why not, right?" then he hears John Constantine drop the F-bomb and suddenly, for some reason, it makes Arthur feel more comfortable in the area of pomp and circumstance. He points at him, and gives the man a thumbs up!

YEAH!

"Lots of big, popular faces here. Not entirely sure this is my kind of gig?" he shoulda stayed unda tha sea.

* * *

Oops, definitely bad waiter etiquette to bump shoulders with another waiter. Frank doesn't look sorry, although he does look a little surprised that the younger man didn't move out of the way. The flash of anger draws a sharp breath into Frank's chest, an unconscious threat posture like a cobra spreading its hood. When Jason agrees grudgingly, Frank nods, his shoulders loosing slightly. He leads the way toward the kitchens, booting the door aside and holding it open for Jason to step through first — his shoulder-blades had been itching too much having the undoubtedly-armed man behind him through the crowd.

* * *

"Hell of a case," Warren says, deftly accepting Matt's proffered shake and compensating for any awkward angles. "And well-argued."

He's promptly distracted when the bartender finally returns long enough to pour him a few fingers of Lagavulin. Sliding the glass of ambery liquid towards himself, Warren turns around when Alison places a warning hand back on his arm. Her taps seem to indicate something.

His gaze follows hers in the direction of Emma Frost. He exchanges a significant look with Alison, before he sagely takes a bracing sip of the whisky.

* * *

Raven is fortunate there are important people here. People who make it their business to hobnob and take center stage for publicity's sake. People who act like they own the world and know what they're doing. People who genuinely care about their community and try to make it better in as many selfless gestures as possible.

But something else pierces into her chest. Intangible, yet so physically painful she could have cried out.

Instead, as Stark goes on, Raven startles, lifting her head as her own hand reflexively tightens on Bart's arm. Her eyes stay wide for a few seconds before she takes a breath, steadying her nerves and expression back into the neutral one she wears constantly.

"—What? Oh," she blinks, catching onto the last bit of Tony's food offer after the shindig. "That's…well, I'll be all right." Her tone, however, makes her sound distracted. Because she's trying to find the source of the pain…

…which is where Stark leads her and Bart to, ending up where the other young people are. And her eyes settle on Zee, studying her as the introductions are made.

* * *

Dick is there, and then she's got multiple confirmations that Frank Castle is here. She frowns, glancing slightly toward where she last saw Frank. "He's… probably just making some money tonight. He's trying to got legit." Or not, but Barbara lies a bit too easily… except Matt Murdock is here.

She sighs and starts to push up out of her stool. "I'll go check on him." She holds up a staying hand to John, letting him know he doesn't need to follow her. If Frank's here, he has her back, too. So, she steps off, departing the little group that has built up at the bar, and heads into the crowd to find Castle. She spots him — because now that she knows he's here, she seeks to find him — and starts toward the kitchens in his wake.

* * *

In silent communion, Alison similarly stiff-swigs her champagne with that same, knowing gravitas.

* * *

Dinah beams happily at Dick, and offers him a hug and a (carefully) chaste kiss to the cheek. "Hey Dick!" she says, patting his arm with a sisterly affection. Kory looks friendly, but… Dinah errs on the side of not pissing off someone who looks like she clear out a bar of rowdy Marines single-handed. "Wow, I always forget how sharp you look in a tux," she admires, grinning at him unrepentantly. The grin turns to a smile and she looks to Kory, mouthing a 'hi'.

"You must be Dick's new lady friend. Hi, I'm Dinah Lance," she says, offering Kory a politely gentle clasp of the hands. "Don't mind me any, Dick and I go way back. We're old friends," she says, waving off any concerns about being over-familiar.

* * *

Betsy will smile sidelong at Arthur as she gets to the bar. A hand to signal, before she's requesting two glasses of whiskey. Her head will turn, and violet gaze will settle on a familiar blonde head. "Warren, so nice to see you again." She will smile, and nod politely to Alison. "This is Arthur, Arthur, Warren Worthington and his lovely date Alison." Everyone knows who Dazzler is, right?

* * *

…but perhaps I can take him to get her autograph…

"Yes," Tim says immediately, when Kory makes that suggestion. "You should absolutely do that." Brotherly chops-busting is always better when it goes in more than one direction after all, right? And what better Christmas present could Dick hope for than Dazzler's dazzling signature?

Zatanna's good cheer has a way of being infectious, even though they're technically here for work more than play; it works enough of a force on Tim that he even plays along when the witch wants the four of them to take a selfie together, adding his smile to the rest. It's almost like being out on a perfectly normal night out, except that the two guys are wealthy super ninjas and the girls are, respectively, a space alien supermodel and a sorceress of vast and unfathomable power.

So, really, nothing like a perfectly normal night out.

So it goes, though.

Tim's brows lift as he follows Zatanna's attention towards the bar, where she recognises Hell's Kitchen's most famous lawyer (tied for first place with Foggy Nelson) and…

It's obvious right off that something's wrong, as Tim feels Zatanna's hand tighten on his tuxedo sleeve, his expression immediately shifting to one of concern. Especially as she abandons her plan of following Dick and Kory, and brings up booze.

"Well, I won't tell the cops if you don't—" and there's Tony Stark.

Great.

Good.

"Tony," the younger man says, slipping immediately into Timothy Wayne, Business Guy. He gives the industrialist an easy smile that's basically all Bruce, before his dark blue eyes slide past Stark towards Bart and holy crap is that Raven?!

Briefly, he considers the possibly hysterical thought of where he might hide Tony Stark's corpse.

"Well, I do know Bart, we met through a mutual friend a while back. But I'm not really familiar with his… date?" is the leading question from the young man, who lies like he was born to it. He really hopes Raven can't somehow magically detect who he is.

* * *

Akari Takahashi arrives from the FRP Room Hub.

* * *

The infamous Frost may have caught that stray thought, or feeling, as Alison and Warren will see Emma's blonde head turn just a slim margin. Just enough to set her glacier pale gaze over her shoulder, a few degrees shy of where those two mutants stand.

It's a fleeting moment, for the telepath's attention is soon back to the flow of conversation as it charts its way through something utterly corporate and taking a glass of something red in hand. Utterly corporate, but yet she manages a laugh about something. She samples the vintage she's been brought slowly, and then goes to setting it as just another element her the artful arrangement of spine and limb.

* * *

"Sure you're doing all right there, Rav-err, Rachel?" Bart asks as he glances at her. Hearing Tony mention his name he lifts his head and smiles over at Jennings like he totally knows who the man is but obviously he has to be someone important.

Letting out a bit of a sigh in relief that the man goes off without further questions, he nods at Tony even as he does his own scan of the room and all the faces. He notes a few familiar ones, some from the bar party the other week, others, well…

"Drake?" Uh-oh. Well…this'll be…iiiinteresting.

And then he sees them, a gaggle of Titans in casual but formal. Or something. It's pretty difficult to confuse Kory for anyone else. And then there's Tim and Zatanna. Well, he's walking verification for Zee and Kamala that they are in fact not the youngest at the party.

"Heeeeey…." he says, grinning all too much as Tim acknowledges him first. "Oh um…" Date? Is that the automatic assumption? He looks at Raven somewhat flustered. Is he supposed to introduce her by her name does she want to be known by her name Raven is totally a name but she said her name was Rachel—

* * *

Arthur looks to Betsy before they get to the bar. "now THIS is my kind of show. Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey. Though it might be safer for one of us to get a bottle." he laughs just a little bit before he's introduced to Alison and Warren. "Well, hi there, Warren, Alison." he doesn't seem to know who either of them are, if they are popular figures.

and he sure as hell hopes that nobody recognizes him as the Atlantean King that he is.

He does look to the conversation between Tim and Tony, and the strange…whatever happening with Frank and Jason, but for now, he's just chilling with Betsy, Warren, and Alison. "I wonder if anyone's going to be performing tonight. Like a band or whatever? No? just me? oh, okay."

* * *

He's actually not certain quite how he ended up on the guest list, being a Mteropolis Doctor, but he's sure it must have something to do with Tony Stark. Towering at just over seven muscular feet, dressed smartly in a crisp tuxedo, Chase Stevens smiles gently, trying to temper his awe, stepping into the room unsure of what direction to travel. His blue eyes manage to spy his 'mysterious benefactor' and starts heading in the direstion of Tony Stark.

* * *

A familiar voice pulls Warren's nose out of his glass. "Bets," he says, with a flare of a smile. "How the hell are you? Other than 'bored stiff from making the rounds.' I'm already fossilizing, myself."

He indicates Alison forward for the introductions, his gaze sliding towards 'Arthur' when indicated. "Pleasure," he says, offering a hand, angling a slight raised-brow glance towards Betsy afterwards that might equate to 'where'd you fish this one up?

That look distracts, for half a second, towards Emma as the woman's head turns just so. Warren… takes another drink.

* * *

Jason Todd keeps in close against Frank, tight enough that they can finally get out of the crowd of other people. IF there are any other waiters lingering nearby, Jason will urge them, aggressively, to go back out, "Am I the only one working tonight? Pick up the slack, get out there!" he snarls at a few of them, pointing to the rich and powerful outside.

He steps behind the door and just levels his gaze at Frank, "So what the fuck is your problem, grandpa?"

* * *

The unnamed-gentleman that is Warren Worthington takes and shakes Matt's hand, while his — date? — echoes him. Her voice sounds familiar enough to Matt that his head snaps and his brow crinkles in that sort of, Do I know you? sort of way.

But then the couple is distracted, and so is Matt — for a host of reasons. The din of a noisy party mucks with his sensitive senses, but even so, few secrets are safe from him. He may miss meaningful glances, but hushed whispers, lies, and little codes are all more than fair game.

Is that Zatanna Zatara? the unnamed-woman that is Allison says. "Oh, Zatanna is here?" Matt says with a jerk of his head back, a fuller and more genuine smile. "This party has everyone." A sentiment silently confirmed when Arthur Curry names Allison properly. Well then.

* * *

The music dims, and the DJ — who has been rather innocuous near the stage behind his tiny station — booms his lovely, deep voice across the party through the speakers. "Hello, everyone! Welcome to tonight's festivities. Before we invite everyone to join the Councilman for dinner, I would like to introduce our host. So, please bring your hands together to welcome Third District's own Harold Jennings!"

The crowd that is about a hundred twenty-five strong at this point join in the applause as the Councilman pops onto the stage, the blue lights shining down on the unmanned jazz instruments. He's left his date — who appears to be Sal Maroni's niece! — just at the stairs of the stage, who is joining the applause. He has a kind of pep in his steps that suggests youth even if he's well on his way to sixty. He takes the microphone off its tall stand, and grins that white smile out at the crowd.

"Hello! Welcome! I'm so glad to see so many lovely, cheerful faces out there." He salutes lazily. "I won't keep you long. Some of you have been taking advantage of the bar, and these crab puffs are certainly not enough!" There's a low chuckling laughter that moves through the crowd. "Before we move to the dining room, I ask that everyone start to consider their donations for tonight. In support of the protesters outside — " A small group that had gathered to protest Jennings lack of stepping-up during increased gang violence, particularly in Hell's Kitchen. " — all donations will be going to the Youths of the Kitchen Foundation." Which no one has heard of, but a quick Google search would show it is brand new and sparse in information.

"That said," the Councilman continues, "let's eat!" Then he starts to step away from his microphone, only for the DJ to flag him helpfully and hand him a card. "Oh, hang on." He takes the card and frowns at it slightly. "Oh, apparently a freight van is blocking the venue garage exit. I'm supposed to announce that, that will be taken care of soon." Then he turns the card over, as if looking for an additional message, and finding none.

"So," Jennings turns back to the gathering. "Let's eat!" He starts to step off the stage, bouncing down the steps to take up Natasha at his arm and starts leading her to the dining room. Behind Jennings, on the now vacant stage, some stage crew starts to move out onto the stage, adjusting the instruments and checking things over for the band.

* * *

"Oh yes! Dick has spoke of you often, and nearly always kindly!" Starfire offers in her usually overly enthusiastic manner, clasping Dinah's hand and squeezing it tight, albeit not quite in that bone-breaking way even if she maybe gives away a touch that she is indeed stronger than she looks. However, it must be said that if the other woman is cautious about navigating the many-ladies situation, Kori seems utterly the opposite. "It is wonderful that he has so many friends. And you are so beautiful! You are the one who sings, yes? Will you be performing? We had hoped Dazzler might, but it seems like it will not be so." The latter spoken with sadness to equal her earlier brightness! Always highs and lows, with her.

"I would love to spend some of the catching-up time with both of you," she then continues, turning her head to include Barbara as well, somewhat eager to make contact with the famous other redheaded off-again on-again. Or at least, she attempts to, just as Barbara is being called away to deal with this 'Frank' situation. Kori still seems puzzled by this one. So much fuss for one very nice waiter with the delicious crab puffs!

Soon after that, her own attention is taken by the Councilman's ascent onto the stage. She joins in the clapping, with no less enthusiasm than ever.

* * *

Betsy gives Warren her best model-bright smile, as she picks up her glass of whiskey. "I've been out of the socializing long enough it has yet to remind me why it bored me to tears when I was younger. Maybe by the New Year I'll find it all passe again." She will let Arthur take his whiskey after he makes his handshakes.

Betsy will lift both her eyebrows at Warren at his raised one. "Arthur is a wonderful gentleman I met ages ago, who I happened into tonight when my date has been pulled away by business." She will turn to look at Jennings at his announcement. "Youths of the Kitchen? That's not one I've heard of before, making the charity rounds." She glances up at Arthur, that smile shifting. "Hungry?"

* * *

It's not every day that an invitation shows up on Akari Takahashi's desk but this is likely one that she doesn't turn down. Attired in what would be a classic black dress, sleeveless and floor length, it's also a slim fitting affair. Curious about matters in New York City, she takes in the announcement and the charity with interest. She'll have to research that later. Especially when the word 'donations' crops up. Tucking the black clutch closer against her side, she claps politely as her eyes are glancing around for any face that seems even remotely familiar - beyond the news reports.

* * *

Fishnets. Only one person really calls her that.

Tony somehow manages to stop Zatanna from embarrassing herself in front of the famous pop-culture icon, whom she tried her best to emulate in a few high school talent shows in the rare opportunity when she actually attended one in her jet-setting life. Before she could babble something about how she wanted to be Alison Blaire when she was a wee Zee, the billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist invades her space. "Hi, Tony," she greets, congratulating herself for being able to hold onto her smile. "Sure thing." She gets the attention of the bartender easily….who's already got them ready. Not because of the magician, but because the Stark mogul's tastes are well known in New York City. She offers the tumbler to Tony as her date speaks with him.

"I— " Ice-blue eyes widen when she recognizes that the two young people accompanying Tony are Bart and Raven. She barely recognizes the former, and the latter - well, her demonic blood screams her identity, picked up by someone with a very fine-tuned magical radar. But at the quiet and incisive stare the other sorceress gives her, her eyes lower to her whiskey.

But only for a moment. "I know Bart," she confirms for the industrialist, smiling warmly at him and flashing him a wink. "His uncle is a huge fan." Thus mercilessly outing the storied Max Mercury as a Zatanna groupie within Tony Stark's hearing. "Though I've not met his date. Hi, I'm Zee." Her hand extends to Raven. "This is my best friend and classmate, Timothy Drake Wayne."

See? Just your average, privileged young people, nothing to see here.

There's a speech, and Zatanna falls quiet to listen - the call to eat should catch Bart's attention immediately. However, there's a glance towards her, catching sight of a handsome face with crimson spectacles. It's….it wouldn't do good to wave, but she murmurs something under her breath, lost in the din - but something she knows the lawyer will pick up.

* * *

"Right." Constantine doesn't sound convinced by Punisher: The Banquet Waiter. The warlock glances from Dinah, Dick, and Kori to Barbara's path, to the seemingly endless well-to-do throng beyond them. Raising a hearty cheers to Arthur, the magician downs the rest of the whiskey in his glass and pauses a moment in his seat, eyeing the remains with a pensive furrow of expressive brow.

He leaves it to others to confirm Alison's query, rises smoothly, tips the bartender, and tosses a lazy salute to the others in his immediate vicinity. It's all the politesse anyone gets just this minute as John does precisely as instructed not to do and trails the redhead through the crowd towards the kitchen, plucking an appetizer off a passing tray on the way and mawing it with defiant lack of grace. The DJ, the announcements, the distraction— it's perfect timing. Almost synchronous.

It's easy to tell himself -Barbara- may trust Frank, but that guy's one twist of a screwdriver shy of losing something important— but really? /Any/ excuse to focus somewhere else just this minute is a great thing. Which means the other shoe is about to drop, doesn't it, John? If it would be any-when, it would be fucking /now/.

* * *

Don't-mind-her-she's-nobody-definitely-not Kamala narrows her eyes when she listens to Jennings's little speech. She tucks her pocketbook under her arm and claps with everyone else, but she's not SUPER thrilled. This guy just strikes her as your average slimy politician. Talking big talk, but with nothing behind it. Stepping aside, against the wall and out of the way, she pulls out her phone and starts looking up this Youths-Of-The-Kitchen nonsense. Probably just a slush fund. Okay, Kamala's not one hundred percent on what a slush fund is, but she's heard of them and they sound gross.

Her eyes flick up. Stare at Tony for a moment before glancing away. Does her boss know she's here? Definitely not. Of course not.

* * *

Frank stops just inside the door, watching the several of the other waiters scatter at Jason's snarl. Pitching his voice low, he shakes his head, "My problem? My problem's that you're carryin'. And you ain't security." For all that the lines of his waist, wrists, and ankles are clear, Frank doesn't seem particularly troubled by getting in the face of an armed man. "So do we got a problem?" Most of the mic-assisted speech from outside the kitchen washes over him, but there's something at the end, something about a van and blocking entrances, that causes the hair on the back of his neck to stand up, and his head starts to turn back toward the door despite Jason's nearness, his trigger finger starting to twitch at his side.

* * *

"I'm fine," Raven whispers to Bart, sounding the part with every even nuance in her calm. She's sort of glad he went with her other name, and she knows how hard it is to keep up aliases. So long as her attention falls elsewhere, she'll be all right.

But she knows Zatanna. She doesn't judge her, or act like she knows her for that matter, but there's a courteous nod as she meets her halfway. "Rachel," she says softly, barely audible in the murmur of the crowd. "So nice to meet you."

And her date…is oddly suspicious. Raven can reach out. Tentatively. For all she knows, it's just the Waynes and this guy Tim is the younger of the two. Bart's flustering is enough to keep her from doing so, however, but she still gives him a look. A polite and not at all suspicious look that seems to fade once things are getting underway.

* * *

Chase Stevens hmmmms as he sees Tony already has a gaggle of folks around him, including Bart. Seeing the young one just seems to make him smile. He glances about, perhaps looking to see if Pepper is about, but that just causes him to see Akari. His eyes dance along her form a moment, his body otherwise stunned to a statue, before he manages to shake it off and head in her direction. "My Lady," he says, with an exaggerated, but playful bow. "It would seem that you are without escort? May I me so kind as to offer my services for this evening?" he asks, before offering her his arm. "It's good to see another familiar face, Dr. Takahashi," he says a little more quietly and even more sincerely.

* * *

For a moment, Alison shares Zatanna's recognition — it's the magician! Always appreciative of a glitzy (and bright) stage-show, her smile creeps higher. But as Zee is intercepted —

An accent from across the pond steals Alison's eye, and her eyebrows lift with surprised, but pleased recognition as she sights Betsy Braddock.

Definitely a face from That Side of her life, the only note of privacy Alison was able to maintain amidst her otherwise public upheaval of — everything else. Still disguised is her years of work with X-Men and Excalibur both: the singer never a constant face, as her career and indecision scattered her elsewhere — but always a person who would help if called.

"Betsy," she answers. "It's been too long. Same with that brother of yours, wherever he is. You look lovely."

Alison welcomes Arthur with a gracious smile and a tip of her head — as about then, the speeches begin. She seems to listen, and applauds lightly as directed. Her eyes, however, are watching Emma Frost.

* * *

Jason Todd snorts derisively, "I ain't answering any of your questions. Unless you got a badge you're about to pull out, but I sincerely doubt it with that scruff on your face," he says. "Who you work for? Maroni? Stark? I'd say I'm not here to cause trouble, but we both know that —"

He follows Frank's gaze and frowns, his hands clenching at his sides. He's been doing this since before he could shave, he knows the look that someone gets on their face when something bad's about to go down. "Need to borrow a gun?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.

* * *

"Rachel," Stark steps in to help Bart out with a grin. "Her name is Rachel. Friend of his of course. But give the kid a break, Drake." This towards Tim. "Not used to things like this." There is a flash of a grin towards Bart and Raven before he looks back towards Tim. "You'll take good care of him on the Stark board won't you? Since I'm not going to be there anymore."

Wait what?

Again a laugh though. "Seriously? His uncle is? Oh man, I'll have to try to get him free tickets or something."

He takes the tumbler though from Zee, a bright smile on his face that is almost infectious. He's at least a distraction right. "A lot of big faces here tonight…" A pause. "…even the featherduster." A flash of a grin in Warren and Dazzler's direction.

…and yes. He knows you're there Kamala.

* * *

Dinah pauses with the rest of the room when Jennings makes his big speech, her posture a few degrees shy of 'proper', with the lazy ease of someone utterly comfortable in her own skin. The applause is joined, polite more than interested. It also cools down the pink on her cheekbones from Kory's effusive praise.

When the lights come up, she's composed into a smile once again. "I only sing around people I don't like," she says, laughing at Kory's question. "I get the *worst* stage fright when I get dragged on stage. No idea why," she admits, flickering a hand through the air. "But I'm sure I'm nowhere near as good a singer as Ms. Blaire— and she's a professional singer. There's more to concerts than just singing."

"I *like* her, Dick," Dinah tells the Wayne scion, and lightly bats his chest with the palm of her hand. "Where'd you two meet?" Questions about 'why didn't you bring her over to meet the extended exes' are left unsaid.

* * *

There's a vague flicker to Warren's own picture-perfect 'socialite' expression when Betsy flashes that smile. It looks a bit like vague regret. Most people who weren't brought up under the public eye can't tell those nuances between genuine and 'for show,' but to Warren's eye the familiar superficialities of banal socializing are as obvious as semaphores. Yet there is a reason such things get used in public: there are always eyes watching, and the armor must be up.

There's certainly enough events between now and then to achieve that level of oversaturation," he observes. The explanation about where she and Arthur met is taken in without comment — for now — because Jennings is speaking now, and Warren's attention reroutes. "No," he says, frowning. "I've never heard of such a charity either." And he would know.

As if sensing someone talking about him, he suddenly looks around in time to catch Tony grinning at him. "Ugh," he says. "Stark is here. Stark never shows up."

He leans back towards Alison. "I think I see a pair who really want to meet you," he nudges Alison, glancing in the direction of Kory and Dick. "Or so the body language implies. I swear I heard your name. Perhaps after this speech is over."

* * *

Frank shakes his head at the request for a badge, and again at the accusations of employment, "Naw." And then he's being offered a gun by the guy he was worried about causing a scene. Surprise flickers in his dark eyes, and then they narrow in suspicion, the tension ratchetting up in his shoulders, and then he nods, "Yeah." They're mostly out of sight from the rest of the kitchen there by the door, but Frank twists slightly so that his frame blocks any passing of weaponry from anyone coming out of the kitchen at an inopportune time.

* * *

The crowd applauds, and Emma sets her soft fingertips to the side of her wristband for a gentle tapping sound very close to clapping without actually necessitating the surrender of her wine glass. It's a short-lived moment in time anyway, and then she listens about crab puffs, a new charity to vie for her portfolio, and then the van of course. She then feels, again, the need to turn her attention away from her escort for the evening.

When Frost settles her gaze more fully in Dazzler's direction, there's one of her Cheshire smiles on full display. An eyebrow pricks upward. 'Yes, yes,' that single flick of eyebrow says without even needing to project her thoughts. 'I know you're here. Happy now?'

* * *

To date, the little frictions of this party aren't much more than you'd expect at any gathering of powerful people. It's static, background noise. Matt Murdock can pick up bits of it when he focuses, but there's relatively little that truly catches his attention. Perhaps there's a slight, appreciative smile when he he hears a whispered greeting from across the room, in a tone so soft only he could make it out.

But all that changes when a tense conversation erupts between the very familiar voice of Frank Castle and the entirely unfamiliar voice of Jason Todd. Firearms get mentioned, and that's Matt's cue to excuse himself — even if it means passing on greetings with someone in his immediate orbit that his college-student-self would have beaten several dozen people to a pulp to meet. Matt's eyes narrow behind his red-tinted shades and he pushes himself to a rise. He flickers a smile in the general direction of Warren and Allison and begins to make his way through the crowd — not to Jason and Frank, but an exit. It's his same deliberative gait that he shows to the world most times… but there may be an extra clip in it now.

* * *

"Alison. I've heard Brian's around, but I haven't seen him yet." Her brother had been understanding enough to give her space to recover herself, to do her own thing, after Betsy's own.. need for privacy. Her smile is toothpaste ad perfect. She will salute Warren and Alison both with her glass of whiskey as the blondes head away.

She will look up at Arthur. "I have met Stark before. Would you like to see if he remembers me, so I can try to introduce you?" He seems comfortable enough, all considered. Curiouser and curiouser.

* * *

The crowd starts to move for the dining tables, chatting easily with each other. None the wiser to the movement on the stage, near the entrances, as new waiting staff and stagehands emerge. They don't quite fit but then again — Jason Todd and Frank Castle are here incognito. They are diverse — small, large — each dressed in total black. On the stage, a rather wiry, short man heads to adjust the microphone stand, and three more other stagehands step out toward the instruments. One of them is lifting a heavy black box, and setting it on the floor.

It's all in the peripherals. One moment, it looks like men and women in black all moving out into their places, perhaps to prepare for the transition to dinner, to prepare for the live music. Then, a next glance, and there are demons in their place. Their faces are skulls that are inhuman in appearance — horns, fierce maws, and slacked jaws, and black abysses beneath with the vague shadows of human features. The skulls have been stripped to their minimal bones, and some are carved.

Some bear the rib cages of the same enoch species, bearing them like body armor. The one on the stage — short, compact, but skull one of the largest — steps up to the microphone, and his voice is a rasp that murmurs through the speaker system:

"This time… this time…" His teeth smiles shadowy through the maw of the skull. His voice has a sing-song edge that is dark, and creepy. "Making Christmas, making Christmas, la-la-la."

And suddenly, these threats make themselves all the more clear as the first of the guests nearest the doors are seized, and weapons — mostly melee in varying degrees of lethality, but there's a few handguns and rifle-weapons making their appearance, too — come to bear.

And now the screaming and panic begins.

* * *

"Heya Zatanna," Bart greets, smiling almost sheepishly.

Their exchange of greetings is momentarily paused as the councilman takes the stage to dispense with greetings and such. He brightens at the suggestion to partake of the food. Clearly this is the main reason to go to any party, right?

Maybe in a moment. A very long moment by speedster standards.

When Tony subtly drops the implications of what the future holds for the Stark name Bart grins as he seems to be trying not to meet Tim's eyes and at the same time watch for reactions from his friends. A-a-awkward…

It's when another song comes up, the first few words- the melody unmistakable, that draws Bart's attention back towards the stage. Oh hey he knows where this song's from… but something about it is really off about this. He frowns.

And then the screams begin, and he whips around to look towards the doors. "That's…not part of the entertainment, right?"

* * *

Arthur looks to Betsy with a bit of a laugh. "Well…I like to think I don't live in mud thank you sir." Arthur talks back to Warren, though does appreciate Betsy defending him. Man, rich people… though, a speech seems to be happening and thus he looks up to see who's speaking. then he looks to Alison and gives her a smile. "nice to meet you, Alison." then it's back to Emma!

Then people are screaming and there are guns. "Shit. Get down! now!" he says to Alison, Betsy, and Warren. Clearly not knowing whom he was talking to and It's at this moment that Arthur quickly springs to action during the panic! moving to his trench coat and pulling out that golden Trident, befitting of his rule. "This was definitely a bad idea, why did I have to come to one of these things…" he mutters to himself under his breath as he moves into action!

* * *

"Rachel," Tim repeats, as if he'd never heard her name before. Because he's a complete stranger! "Well it's a pleasure to meet you, Rachel. Like Zee said, I'm Tim. Usually, Tim Drake. At stuff like this, it's Tim Wayne." The Drake name had a bit of weight around Gotham, at least, but compared to the Wayne one it was a pebble beside a planet. There's no beating the clout that came with that identity - which was, of course, exactly why he used it. He'd use every tool, every weapon he had available, when it came to the Work.

Well, you know, except for a certain broad category of weapons.

"And yeah, Tony, there's been all sorts of rumours. Half the board's expecting you to hop on the next plane to somewhere with no extradition treaty to the US. And to think, after you went and became Mister Registration. I heard support for similar initiatives across the country went up because of that."

But, there's the speech. A speech so full of red flags it might as well be marching on Berlin. 'Freight van blocking the garage exit' that will be taken care of soon. Too obvious. Amateur hour.

"Tony, you brought one of those tin cans with you, right?" Tim wonders, about two whole seconds before everything goes aggressively pear-shaped.

* * *

Hm? What? That's pretty much Akari's reaction to Chase, bowing and being polite and formal doesn't allow her much opportunity to turn down the arm offered. "Dr. Stevens. I suppose an escort would be suitable, but it wasn't on the invitation. On the other hand…" Looking around the room at the other party goers with escorts, there's a bit of resignation in her sigh. "The addition may have been removed from my invitation. Do you by any chance know who might have submitted our names," she asks the taller doctor, placing one hand on the proffered arm before… insanity begins.

"This… is not part of the usual festivities." Akari knows enough about the States that demons and Christmas do not mix.

* * *

Being on the periphery as she is, not talking to anyone else as she is, Kamala's actually in an ideal place to keep an eye on what's going on. She doesn't know what's important, so she's looking at everything.

Which is why when she sees the first… thing… she freezes, looking back around to see if that's what she really saw.

And then there's another one. And another one. And —

Kamala's skin goes cold. The thing is, there's other folks here who might be better at handling THAT KIND OF THING than Ms. Marvel. Oh, she's definitely going to be pitching in, but she has no idea what she's looking at and she doesn't know Constantine from Adam and Zatanna's more reliable anyway

Why is it so crowded in here?! Who even wants to be at this dumb party for dumb rich people? She's trying to dodge out of people's way, make her way to Zatanna, but there's always someone with a tray, some mingling group of people, some jerk who's right where she needs to be.

"ZEE!"

The unfamiliar girl finally just shouts for her teammate, hopping up to get her head above the others. "Things!"

* * *

As the party suddenly slips very sideways, instinct calls on Chase to slip an arm around Akari's waist and pull her a little closer to him, putting her in more of his shadow. "No, Doctor, this is definitely NOT a part of the usual festivities," he says calmly while alert eyes dart here and there, trying to take full assessment of the situation. "You may want to get down, unless you can handle yourself in a fight?" he asks, his arm careful not to let her free if she chooses yet at the same time ready to pull her further in and be a human shield as necessary.

* * *

Jason Todd isn't waiting for Frank to respond, the chaos outside telling him that it's time for action. Maybe not the mess he planned to make, but there's no reason to look a gift riot in the mouth. He unfolds the compacted helmet of his armor, snapping it on around his head and sheathing his face in crimson. He tears his shirt, revealing the black body armor with the bloody bat emblem stretched across his chest.

He pulls a .45 from the small of his back and tosses it Frank's way, "Playtime," he says, and there's no denying the thrill in his voice as he backs out of the kitchen and goes looking for something to hit.

* * *

Where did they meet? That's a hard one to answer. Not because it's not a memorable moment or in any way ambiguous, but it's hard to talk about alien slavers and kiss-based language transfers in general company. So Dick supplies Dinah with what he thinks is a fairly decent bit of hero code:

"Uh… we met at work? I'll tell you more about it later, if you want. Or Kori can."

And that's about as far as the friendly chit-chat goes. They're in the midst of getting something to drink, maybe, while they're there at the bar, chatting more with Dinah, or even looking around to try and pick out Dazzler for that elusive autograph. Maybe his bat-senses briefly ping back off Warren mentioning him. It's going to happen, it's going to happen!

And then everything goes terribly, terribly wrong. It looks like the autograph will have to wait.

As much as their conversation was interrupted, it is probably meaningful what Dick does manage to tell Dinah about Kori before all hell breaks loose (semi literally), since it makes him look like far less of a dick (get it) boyfriend /not/ rushing to his date's protection. If anything, it's probablyh a miracle if Starfire doesn't push HIM under cover, considering who the big gun is in their relationship. "Kori, get to the councilman."

Out of costume, his own reaction is… modulated. First things first, he aims for clearing the civilians, vaulting the bar and tackling the guy pouring him a drink. "I'm NYPD, stay down," he warns, while fishing in his tux. Being who he is, naturally there are a couple of birdarangs and other gadgets, even in his formalwear, but he's gotta be careful. Behind the bar, he darts forward using it as cover, and then vaults it a second time to tackle the nearest of the skull-faced individuals.

* * *

It's times like this Raven wishes she's been more aware of whatever has been going on. It's times like this she decides to shut out as much of the party as she could to keep herself sane. But the moment she does so, it is all suddenly thrown into chaos.

Nothing feels right. Disregarding the 'lovely' musical number, the goth's empathic abilities are overwhelmed and shot to hell the second everything turns upside-down. She draws away from Bart to free him up, to give herself some room while half of the population is screaming their heads off. At the same time, she can feel the protective circle of collected minds — those who have seen it all and play out different strategies to deal with the threat. She pulls the wrap taut to give her another measure of security, violet eyes darting up and about as she tries to keep her wits about her.

* * *

She feels it before she sees what's happening, the turn of human emotion seizing Emma Frost by the gut and knocking that smug smile off of her face. Whatever harassment was in progress? Abandoned.

So sad, that.

As panic seizes the room, the woman has no intention of being trampled. Or allowing her board member to be trampled. And so it is that the psychic subtly uses her abilities to have anyone trying to get by her push a little further out. Seriously, who in their right mind would let a panicked mob near their Valantino Garavani pumps? Not this woman. Instead, she starts looking for an exit to get through with the older man beside her.

* * *

Catching the pistol, Frank immediately checks the safety and pulls back the slide to see if there's a round in the pipe. Safety first, after all. Something tugs at his memory as Jason pulls on a red hood, but then there are screams from deeper into the kitchen as well, and Frank gives Jason a nod, "Pick your targets." There's no glee in his voice, not like the other man, but there's definitely an unmistakable energy. At the sound of a scream from the kitchens, Frank turns in that direction, yanking his tie looser and pulling up a black kerchief over his nose and mouth. There may not be cameras right here, but there are definitely cameras elsewhere in the building. He heads for the kitchen, leading with his left shoulder, the pistol in a close, active grip in front of his chest.

* * *

ZEE!

The call of her name has Zatanna whipping around, her pale stare finding Kamala in the crowd as she yells that things are happening.

And they do.

Much like any other civilian, she dives into the floor, though she is presently not intending to sit this one out. The comset she is wearing, hidden in one of her earrings, is activated by a brush of her thumb against it, dispatching a quiet word through the Titans secure line.

"Miss M, try to get to me," she whispers under her breath.

Tucked under the bar, ice-blue eyes squeeze shut. Does it make her a bad person that she's somehow relieved mayhem exploded as expected? Quiet whispered backwards words part her lips….

…and the first thing she does is switch her phone to videorecording mode, and then magically disable the cameras in the room, largely to prevent anyone from going back through the footage to review any superheroing that might occur.

* * *

"Then the job calls," says the Dazzler to Warren, in those few dwindling moments before everything goes to hell. "Lead me on."

She bids farewell with her own appreciative smile, head turned already — ever the constant tug of celebrity, having to be on-call for the fans. Especially now — when the Dazzler's fans are a dying breed, with most of them already in exodus from the singer who lied about being a mutant, or the mutant who didn't have the bravery to stand up for the cause. A lot of awkwardness.

Finding her own best smile, her attention turns to — she swears she may be able to place Dick Grayson, but Kori is definitely recognizable — who cannot possibly forget a model like that?

Crossing closer, the Dazzler is en route, looking as identical to any one of her album covers. NOW IS YOUR MOMENT, DICK GRAYSON! "Hi, I'm —"

And then It All Happens.

Shocked, Alison's attention veers on Warren, and under the herald of gunshots — she's already past focus. She's glowing, lit up with an aural halo of white light, already rich with the charge from the music, from the microphone, from — the screams. "Warren," she says. They have nothing to hide, so best stay public.

Light ignites from her closing fists, and she reacts fast — a targetted flashbang to try to burn those weapons from some of those mens' hands.

* * *

Warren experiences a crisis as the event goes, very suddenly, pear-shaped. The crisis is that he hasn't yet finished his scotch.

In the end, it would be a crime to leave it, so he just throws it back in exactly the way he told Alison not to, and pushes the glass aside. He does not, in fact, get down when asked, though he does seem rather surprised when Betsy's date suddenly pulls a trident out of his coat.

"Why do I end up having to do this in a suit at least fifty percent of the time," Warren asks. But the tone of Alison's voice catches his eye; he glances at her, nods imperceptibly, and lets his wings open to test the air. His gaze sweeps the room.

The one on stage has a mic… and is talking pretty loudly. Angel shoots Dazzler a glance, even as he cracks out a wing to bat away one of the demonic-looking creatures sneaking up behind her. "Time for your solo?"

* * *

It's only been a matter of seconds since the so-called demons make their appearance. The violence erupts in those few seconds, and a tux-suited man goes flying across one of the tables in a disruptive cascade of silverware, glasses, and gold chargers. He lands heavily on the ground with shattered glass cutting deep into his cheek. This is just a snapshot, as some guests are being hauled off into the neighboring room and more of the demon-wearing gangers break solidly into the crowd.

To disregard the half a dozen bodies already on the ground would be a mistake. Those who have worked the streets of Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea lately would know one clear thing: these guys do not believe in the whole leave survivors to tell stories of warnings. Who needs that when you have the modern media at your fingertips?

Three waiters are dropped in quick work, and four of the Hellraisers are charging toward the bar, only for one to be tackled by Grayson. There's a waiting tray — spilling its bussed glasses and cocktail plates onto the floor — sandwiched between the two, and the skull-faced individual flings its skull forward, attempting to give Dick a solid head-butt.

The bones these guys are wearing? They are harder than steel, and that's clear by the first impact. But, it is starting to become clear that these guys can be affected by the same things that impact humans. The flashbangs at the weapons drop those who Dazzler targets, but it also makes her a target. One drops his head and charges her, horns and all.

* * *

Barbara Gordon is closer to Frank now than she is to the stalking figure of John. She also didn't notice her magician tail until chaos breaks out. Then she does the only thing that makes sense: she kicks off her heels, throwing them toward a wall, and bolts after Frank. Her dress is being given some quick changes, too. That hair-tie that was hiding in her bracelets? She takes that off and knots up her skirts to get the hemline up, because she's not about to trip on her skirts.

She manages to duck the incoming homemade mace from one of the Hellraisers — nails beat through a wooden bat instead taking out a huge rake of the wall and door before she tumbles out into the gallery, and out of sight.

* * *

Get to Zatanna? Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Kamala ducks down under a table, taking just half a moment to shake herself and take a deep breath before sprinting low out from under it. Pretty Vietnamese girl went under. Ms. Marvel comes out. Luckily there's no cameras to see it. Kamala's not USED to doing the subtle thing, at least not like this. Should have masqueraded as a bug. A light fixture. Something.

With a roll and a tumble, she makes it to where she saw Zee. "Sorry," she mutters. About not having used the damn comlink to do this. Distracted.

* * *

John's first reaction when armed men bust through the exits, start grabbing socialites, and take the stage? He mouths a hearty, "/Cocksucker/." Shaking his head, the warlock backs out of the way of the various lines of flight and sight and tucks himself around a corner on his way to the kitchens.

There, Constantine digs in his pocket for a hefty keychain filled with a wide variety of blessed baubles and holy symbols; yell at him for cultural appropriation later, alright? Because right now, the Hellblazer has the sign of a long-forgotten tribal sun god from pre-Judaic Israel and he's chanting out an appropriately ancient mantra in an adjacent forgotten language— one of infernal bindings and the relentless strength of the gods or sommat; appropriately dramatic.

The upswing is: those harder-than-steel, menacing-as-hell, stupid-as-shit armor pieces? They start to get heavy. -Really- heavy. Sweeping out from the murmuring magician, chunks of demon are rootbound one by one.

* * *

"We need to get out of here," Akari says, raising her voice high enough to be heard as everyone else runs around. Some with purpose and some like them - trying to get out in one piece. Unharmed. And being in a floor length dress is not the wisest thing. Then again, who would have thought an attack would have happened here of all places??

"And you're hardly in a position to deal with those," Akari says, peering up at Chase and then the demons who are running ragshod over everything and everyone with a finger pointing in the direction of the creatures of the evening.

* * *

Psylocke moves instead of ducking. "Oh Arthur, I'm not that sort of girl." She will move, her hands coming up together, and letting the purple energy flow to form a katana. She will move towards the demon charging Dazzler, that psi-katana moving to swipe right through him, intent on disrupting his neuro-pathways and drop him to unconsciousness. There should be someone left alive to question, right? She will use telekinesis to try and shove him out of the way along the floor and up against the wall, before she will spin, and look for another.

* * *

"Eh less outside the country and more across the river," A smirk at that from Stark. "And yeah, it did…but…" A shrug slightly. "…was the best option of a host of bad ones so…you know me. I make life interesting." A flash of a grin. "But hopefully I can reverse that support but…"

…but then…everything starts to happen.

A singer. Creepy backup figures. Stark quirks an eyebrow. "JARVIS, not part of the the attraction I take it?"

"No, sir."

"See, kids." There is a teasing grin as he angles a look towards Zee and Tim. "Gothamites show up, everything explodes."

One of the bonuses of being outed and registered as a hero is the fact that modulation doesn't have to actually happen.

"No, Bart. This isn't part of the entertainment."

Cufflinks come off, one tossed towards Zee. The other towards Rachel. "Shields, hit the pin on the back." And yes, they are shields. Hard light and shaped like Captain America's shield. Because Stark does things like that.

And even as Tim asks there is a smirk on his face. "Kid, I don't leave home without one…" As tech-armor plates begin to slide out from under his suit, sliding down over the top of his hands, up his neck. Nano-tech unfolding across his form as he looks up. "Anyone know what the hell these things are?" He calls out as he raises the palms of his /new/ suit. There is a high pitched whine for just a moment before micromunitions erupt from the cuffs of the 'suit' to spiral towards the hands of several of the figures. Trying to get them to drop those weapons, or at least scatter shots away from the crowd.

And he'll start step towards the front, putting himself and his armor inbetween people and guns is kinda what he does.

* * *

Woah…that's fucking scary.

But, with a loud hoot and hollar, Arthur Curry, now revealed to be King Orin of Atlantis, leaps off the bar to try and tackle down one of the hellraisers and stab it in the chest with his Trident of Poseidon. "Let's see if you can feel pain!"

See? SEE?! this is Arthur's kind of party. Fight night!

* * *

"I would be happy to tell you the story!" It is a fond memory for Koriand'r, after all, the day she came to Earth and the day they met being one and the same. But that retelling of more joyful times will have to wait.

It is certainly notable that her first reaction to the sudden mayhem is not to scream or panic, and as her date goes diving over the bar, she instead stands straighter. A glance is given toward Dinah, perhaps curious of Dick's little code-talk, but she doesn't wait beyond that. Turning, she starts striding through the crowd, moving swiftly, and quite readily shoving aside anyone panicked in her way. Then something comes in over the Titans headset - in her case, incorporated into her earrings. "I read. Thank you."

And with that? She flies.

Maybe stories will be told by party guests of the sailing supermodel, but in truth, Starfire's concern for her own privacy, her flimsy secret identity and the fame that has come with it? These things are not worth innocent lives. With orders from Dick - from Nightwing, her once team-leader - she goes into action, sailing above and beyond the chaos that breaks out on the floor. She ignores it, save for taking evasive action at any of the gang members who try to shoot at her, and sailing directly to land near the Councilman and his security entourage, her gown fluttering as she settles.

Of course even she is not so clueless as to realize this itself may be a little worryinf for them, so she lands with a hands-up 'I come in peace' demeanor. "Councilman, I have been told… by police Detective Grayson to help escort you to safety. Do you have an exit route? If not, I can remove you by air."

If she needs to convince them of what side she's on, that moment may come when one of the gang members comes to near, and she twirls to deliver a blow that is powerful enough to send him flying across the room.

* * *

Bart casts a look towards Zee and gives her a nod. Raven's stepped back but he lets her have her space as she gives him his. With everyone's attention elsewhere it'll at least be easy to do things. He twists the gold ring with the Flash insignia about his finger, considering if he should slip into something more appropriate for a smackdown. But if no one can see him anyway then that works too, right?

Even without Tim calling shots, it seems clear enough to the speedster that they've got to do something. People are hurt- worse even, by the looks of things. That simply won't stand.

"Didn't think so, Mister Stark," he says. All but vanishing from where he'd been standing by Tony and the others, Bart makes way for the gunmen as they open fire. They can't hit what they can't shoot- especially if their bullets don't find their targets!

* * *

Jason Todd isn't working to defend anybody. He's hunting, full-on the offensive, pistol in his right hand. He evades the hard helms, aiming for necks and shoulders when available, kneecaps when not. Iron Man is here so he supposes he should be concerned about sticking his neck out in front of the super-duper crowd. It would probably be more prudent for him to just withdraw.

But fuck that.

"C'mon, you horny goats, come at me, come get some!" he snarls, the voice distorter in his armor's helmet making his voice crackly and harsh and more than a little loud as he rears back and just kicks one of the threats right in the sternum.

* * *

It's only scant minutes after a sharp-eyed philanthropist in her fifties thoughtfully, courageously dragged a poor blind lawyer by the arm in her flight through the exit doors that the Devil of Hell's Kitchen appears.

Chalk it up to lessons learned: there is always a nontrival chance whatever party Matt Murdock is going to that it will be crashed by some manner of horror.

The devil-suited man kicks open one of the bolted shut doors, escrima sticks bared in both tight-knuckled hands. "They're a gang! Wearing demon bones!" the devil-suited man shouts in his thick gravel-voice, loud enough for Zatanna Zatara to hear, if such a thing is at all useful to her with her strange magic. Or useful to anyone else, for that matter.

That shout is enough to draw the attention of three of the demon-gussied gang. It's devils vs. Daredevil, and the latter's lip curls with something between a snarl and outright relish. He runs, he leaps, a whirling dervish of spinning batons and feet. See a knife meet air instead of his ducking head, and see his escrima stick find one of the gangmembers unprotected elbows with a crunch, a scream.

* * *

Chase Stevens shakes his head to Akari. "I'm in a better position than you think," he notes as he tightens his arm around her waist and pulls her close to a sheltering table. "Stay down. I'll fend them off until we can find an escape route," he says…

As one of those Hellraisers comes right at him with a mace. Lightning fast reflexes has him dodging the mace attack, but more than that, he delivers a punch to the demon's gut that throws him back several feet easy. Unfortunately, it also leaves Chase shaking his fist in pain, as he connected with armor. "Damn it all!!" he says, flexing a hand that looks broken, but slowly seems to be working better over time.

The Hellraiser has the wind knocked out of him, but it isn't long before he's back on his feet to charge at Chase once again. Glancing over at Tony, he grumbles. "That's just what I need, a —"

Swiftly and with the sound of unsheathing metal, a nanite-infused suit of armor envelops Chase. It takes on the appearance of white steel plate with gold or bronze edging, something a bit more old school than Iron Man. It leaves both the Hellraiser AND the Doctor stunned.

"— a suit of armor?!?"

* * *

The weight of demon bones redoubles around those bearing the ugly pieces of harvested, scavenged demon. It doesn't impact each of the Hellraisers, but it spares enough of the guests. Some stagger, some peel the bones free of them to reveal their absolute humanity. Some — those crazies who are invested, dedicated, and lost in absolution? — they use John's own spell against those around them. Heaviness means greater damage, and one slams his weighted head into the Magician before he can get much further into his infernal chanting. There's horns there, John.

When Jason Todd asks one to come at them, it's actually from behind that one of them obliges, trying to take the Red Hood out at the waist.

In the center of the chaos is Councilman Jennings, and the man is cowering behind his guards when Starfire arrives, and he blinks up at the amazonian woman with an almost bewildered, owlish expression. "I knew I should have done something, knew I should have." He's babbling a bit, and his guard is the one who responds to Starfire. "You clear it, we escort. We're not letting the Councilman out of our sight!" He gestures to the opposite end of the room, toward the first set of exit doors that lead onto the terrace. They are being guarded by some of those demon-headed fools.

* * *

"Kid," Stark's voice rings over a little com system to Bart. "I don't have to tell you that you need to not be seen. And try to keep it all contained, don't think they need their guns do you? They could put an eye out. I'll do what I can to give people cover."

A smirk can be heard in that voice.

"I'm going to owe you two so much pizza."

I mean Bart's already gone from his view. So he'll just have to roll with this. As usual. That is what makes it fun.

* * *

Emma Frost has absolutely no desire to be here once the fighting begins. Negative amounts of desire, really. And so the woman cuts a path towards the terrace. Her stiletto stride is long and sure, her gown's small train pulled up into her hand as she goes, and she has every intention of going out through the side door there. Of course, if she can't will people out of her way with her mental suggestions? That's fine. Because there are plenty of chairs up against the glass wall, and she has no problems whatsoever with sending one of those chairs through. This is, after all, what most rational mortals would call an emergency, right? Right.

* * *

Dick gets four for the price of one, it turns out, which suits him alright: he can handle himself in a brawl. Someone even brought him a weapon! On the ground with one of the Hellraisers, he nabs the fallen tray and holds it up for the one headbutting at him, immitating a Matador with a bull. The good thing is that the reckless charge hits it square on. The /worrisome/ thing is the way the guy's skull imprints itself into the serving platter, pushing a vague likeness of that horned visage through the thin metal.

Still, it's good enough a result for Grayson, leaving his opponent blind and disoriented, struggling with getting free of the tray as Nightwing kips back up onto his feet. He gives the still-grounded figure a swift kick while it's 'down,' and then rounds on the others nearby. In an open brawl, he's not afraid to show off at least a little bit, since his status on the force can explain away the training… mostly.

But then again, watching his date sail across the room fearlessly, he knows he can do a little more.

So even as he weaves between the remaining gang members, ducking, blocking, sweeping one, striking another, he spots one more distant raising a firearm, not at him, but at some other bystander, and whips a birdarang from inside his jacket pocket across the room to disarm the weapon. It's lightning fast, enough to be missed in the chaos, but still.

* * *

The upside to all the mayhem and chaos is that people's attention is turned in the direction of the bad guys, more or less. Zatanna deactivates the surveillance, and the Dazzler starts… you know, dazzling people like a human flashbang. Stark puts on his 'tin can' - concerns about just how Iron Man is gearing himself will have to wait for later - which leaves even less prying eyes about as he does what Avengers do, and wades into the very thick of things. So…

"Zee, there's still a lot of eyes here and I'm in a tux. Think you could help me out with something more appropriate?"

As close as she is, Raven might well notice that 'Tim Wayne' is one of those not panicking. Actually, he's barely even agitated at all.

* * *

"Already on it, Mister Stark," Bart chirps over the comm.

Metal jingles like off-key sleigh bells as bullets are sprinkled unceremoniously across the floor like a magical wake from a….bullet fairy. Clips are likewise emptied without even being slotted into firearms. And sometimes said firearms might be wrested away as though vanishing in thin air.

* * *

Breathe. Focus on what's important. This is what Raven tells herself, steeling her heart and mind in time to hear Zatanna's voice over the comms. A good confirmation to do what the Titans need to do, even if some other people are already getting into the ballroom blitz.

Shields, hit the pin on the back. In catching Tony's cufflink, Raven's wrap droops from one hand before dropping into a sad pile by her feet altogether. "Thanks," she manages to say in quick response, her posture straightening as she turns it on. "I'll use it for the time being…"

With Bart taking on some of those bullets, the daughter of darkness summons her own magic. Her cloak appears out of thin air, spiraling in shadow as it rests over her head and shoulders. Her eyes then glow white as she reopens them, now concentrating on the baddies in demon bones.

…Of course, she can't help but notice Tim's cool aura amid everything and how distinctive it is to a certain Titan's demeanor. But that is a note to pin for later. Hands go up, sideswiping the demon-bones within range with darkness.

Some of that dark energy also goes around Tim Drake as partial cover, but that can all be coincidence. Dark barriers are a thing that happens.

* * *

Armor?? Alright. It seems that someone was keeping secrets close to their vest. Akari not being one of them, dutifully hiding under the table to reconnoiter the situation. Chase can be bait. She has no problem with that, one bit. "Well, don't stand there fighting the entire time! They seem to be coming relentlessly and we might lose our place here if we stay too long." Door. Door. Going further into the fray isn't wise. The edges? Ah! That might work as she crawls to the other side of the table, pausing long enough tug the hem of her dress to knee length. Hinderance that.

* * *

Catching the cufflink, Zatanna stares at Tony as he flies off. "…money really is the world's best superpower," she mutters under her breath. Turning to Kamala now that she's huddled by her, she passes her the small, innocuous looking thing. "Tony says it's a shield," she whispers. "And I disabled the eyes in the room. You should be able to go all out and if people say it was you, they can't prove it." Her camera lifts from her hand, as if on its own accord, flying towards the ceilings and getting a panoramic view of the action.

See, this is what happens when you spend so much time with people like private investigators, world-renowned assassins, super-powered lawyers and people trained by the Bat: one learns to collect information even while the action is happening. Doubtless, Dick and Tim will probably want to review what happened later. She may not be a detective, but experience has taught her how to think a few steps ahead.

She hears Matt Murdock, her eyes quickly gravitating towards that direction. "I hear you, D.D.," she says, acknowledging it, and despite her low tones, she is aware that he can hear her despite it. "But it's not magic. It's something else. If they were, a friend of mine in this party would know."

At Tim's request, she nods, closing her eyes and whispering a word. Around her vicinity, things suddenly grow dark - so pitch-black it's as if a blackout had just occurred on her side of the room. And just in time, because she's rather unaware of danger approaching too close for comfort until Dick Grayson, Bludhaven P.D., tackles a few people behind the bar.

Good. Because it's time for a costume change.

In the cover of magically-concocted darkness that only looks like a blackout, she helps Tim and Kamala into their fighting clothes with a spell, and shrouds Raven's own transformation.

* * *

What's that they said about Ginger Rogers? Everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

Dinah's about a half a beat behind Dick's stunningly fast reaction. When he goes for the options in his jacket and belt, Dinah makes do like Dinah does— she improvises, breaking instantly into fast, aggressive motion. So much for the dress, though. Seams rip and explode, exposing her bare legs and giving her much more freedom of motion. Fast reflexes gauge where Dick's vision is obscured and she advances forward to give Dick room to get his feet under him.

Her shoes stay on, thank you— broken glass in the feet suck. Dinah seizes a bottle of wine and hurls it a gunman. With her other hand, she grabs a wet dishtowel and lunges for an upraised sidearm as the muzzle tracks into the crowd.

She gets in close and ducks under the demon's reach. The towel whips around the forearm like a snapping snake. Something very John Wick-y happens, she strips the gun from the attacker's hands and catches it out of the air. She hits him four times while she's in close, brutally dislocating a collarbone, kneecap, and pistol-whipping him with the handgun. The weapon's stripped in half with a practiced motion, and tossed in different directions.

"Right behind you!" she calls to Dick, trying to move to get back-to-back with him. "Barb!" Dinah's voice is a clarion that cuts through the melee, meant for the redhead's ears to help locate her allies in the fight.

* * *

Jason Todd gets speared from behind, grunting as the helmet hits his armor. Luckily, its weight works against it, Constantine's spell letting Jason wrench it free of his attacker. He rolls with the impact, his body armor taking the worst of the brunt, but still probably getting a few bruises on his ribcage. Wouldn't be the first set.

He latches onto the ganger's arm, twisting it for leverage and pushing himself up to stand, yanking until he hears the pop of tendons as he dislocates the arm, then twisting again and stomping to bring his boot down on the back of the guy's neck.

* * *

The charging gangster draws Warren's attention, but Betsy is there swiftly, psionic katana flashing. He nods briefly, before his gaze tracks back up. "Be right back," he tells her and Alison.

Angel's spread wings curve slightly, splayed primaries feeling the stifled indoor currents, before he launches into the air with a flurry of feathers. He has an easier time parsing situations from above, and his eyes are quick to pick out where Starfire is already moving to intercept and escort the Councilman out.

There are other guests still milling around in a panic, however. Warren turns sharply in the air, dips low enough to snare a chair by its back, and flies straight towards the glass walls leading out to the outdoor terrace. Have his bird instincts finally taken over?? Is he going to fly straight into a glass window??

At the last moment, he releases the chair with intent to break it through one of the high glass panes, creating an exit. He turns afterwards and arcs back down. People are already handling the Councilman, and while he's keeping an eye on that, he's also concerned about the average people still trying to flee. Catching up a stumbling guest in passing, he turns in the air to fly her out through the exit he's made.

* * *

"Yes of course, please follow closely and stay behind me." Kori's voice is oddly serene amidst this chaos, and still firm. This is not Kory anders the quirky, space-headed model speaking any more, but Koriand'r of Tamaran, the Okaaran-trained and veteran battle princess.

There is a simple, graceful, and yet stunning brutality to how she then begins to cross the room, wading through the crowd toward the exit on the far side. Civilians are urged to move around behind them and follow the course she is clearing, while the gang members who approach are met with sudden violence. The slits in her dress let her move, and indeed she moves like an Amazon. She has practiced with them too, and defeated most of /their/ warriors, save one. So the men with the skulls come at her with their melee weapons, and leave with broken bones. She is not holding back on her great strength, although her blows are not aimed at vital regions, merely to disarm, shatter, toss them from her path.

But there are a lot of them, and the progress is slow, particularly as they begin to flank the group she is protecting. Offensively, she is a powerhouse, but she is only one woman, and is forced to spin backward as several approach the councilman and his guards from behind, giving more a chance to close in the other direction.

But she knows she is not alone. The next is spoken aloud, directed both at the Titans comm and anyone close enough to catch it: "We are being surrounded here. Get any remaining civilians clear of the far doors, and I will make a /hole/."

* * *

Luckily for Kamala, it doesn't take much for her to change. She has her Ms. Marvel duds on under the socialite-lady disguise. Better, because it wasn't an illusion, the cameras never saw it! NICE.

"Not magic?" she says. "…Okay. Encouraging! Sorta."

One-two-three-break. Little Ms. Marvel bursts out from her hiding place with Tim and Zee, growing larger and larger as she does so. It involves barging people aside, but two big fists reach out to start grabbing highly naughty people. One of them grabs the first guy to rush her; the other snatches at one of the fellows on the stage. Whatever they were planning, she intends to disrupt it with a +15 Grapple check. With advantage.

* * *

What is strange — almost to be noted — these men and women do not seem at all perturbed by the influences of magic, by the sight of masked vigilantes, by the presence of the weird. Maybe wearing demon bones makes for an interesting change of reality, or it could be something else… something else that might be worth thinking over when the brain isn't too distracted with not taking a makeshift shiv to the ribs which is what Dinah is about to experience.

There's now five — then six — and then seven — men taking to the stage that had been meant for the jazz band. They are all bearing the largest of the skulls, bearing their unaltered weight. The one at the front of the group by the microphone starts to smile a slow smile, barely seen behind his mask. "Alright, boys… let's up the ante." He cracks his knuckles, pops his neck, and then steps back behind the other six.

Something happens then… those who have been around Bruce Banner might actually recognize the physical change. They get larger — a foot, two feet in height — and broader. Muscles get heavier, thicker, and their skin takes on a sickly hue like gray clay. The bones that are fitted around their bodies actually seem to fit tighter, more snuggly, and some even look to be graffing into the abnormal skin.

Their inhumanity — their transhumanity — is obvious then, but it is punctuated by a loud, resonate roar that makes the windows of the hall shake. The six barrel down, and one clips into the bar, and literally takes out that section of the bartop and stools in a scatter of debris.

Those with the right instinct may choose the fly over the fight, but at what cost?

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