|Welcome to my Parlor|
|What: Angela had disappeared, Miggy calls Logan, and--something that isn't quite hilarity ensues.|
The scent begins at the toy store. Angela got out through the back door, leaving a smear of fright on the door and a trash can she stumbled into. She staggered to the street, and seemed lost and disorientated. Her scent lingered for a moment before she rushed away. She must have run into someone, with the way her trail suddenly crashes into a wall. The fear-scent intensified. Angela scrambled away, down into another alley. It is devoid of any lingering human scents. Up a fire escape, and into an apartment window. Retired cop. They struggled, she must have shaken him and made a break for it, for her scent picks up again in the hallway. She careened into the opposite door, again with that smear of fright, and ran on.
It's down several more alleys and into a blind alley, that the rumors are starting: The alley's haunted. Don't go in there! A little girl must've died horribly down that way. You can hear her crying, and the place just feels creepy.
The hardest thing about following a cooling scent with another person is dealing with the urge to get down low to the ground and track it the way God, the Devil, or whomever else made Wolverine intended. It's uncivilized; inhuman.
So instead, the mutant tracker takes his time with each new whiff of fear; his head twitches to and fro and he greedily inhales every bit of her until it's time to move on. He doesn't say much; even when they reach the cop's apartment, he ignores the man until it's time to move on.
It takes a while, but eventually, they arrive at the mouth of the haunted alley; there, Wolverine looks over his shoulder, seeking the Spider-Man of the future.
"Better be ready, kid," he informs him before taking his first steps into the alleyway. "She's /terrified/."
It hadn't taken long for Miguel to call Logan and put on the costume. Frantic searching had been fruitless, which was more irritating than anything else. All it would take was for one bad night in the city, and Angela could make half the borough shut down--so he'd made the call.
He follows along behind the mutant as best as he can, perching on a wall or standing quietly nearby when the shorter man stops and focuses himself. It's when they get to the fire escape that he starts to feel sick--but there's no blood, no one clutching their heads, nothing. Relief had flooded through him, more intense than he'd felt in a while.
And then they get to the alley. The futuristic Spider-Man narrows his eyes, the expression seen by the way the mash shifts, as he stares down into the thing. "So am I," he comments, flexing his fingers and their talons. The question of what they'll find is definitely a--troubling one. But he won't find out if they stay out here, so he squares his shoulders and starts walking into the alley a half-step behind Wolverine.
The area is the best kind haunted house. Awash with Phobia's powers, the alley goes from merely shadowed to down right creepy from one step to the next. There's no refined touch to it, no set illusion being crafted. Just a mind shoving at any other in the area. The shadows in the area darken, seem to want to solidify, dancing with the hint of the innermost horrors of those that enter the area. It's subtle to be sure, the illusions of those first few steps. An echo of a crying girl here. The scent of something just out of sight there. A fading of the sunlight, and a flicker of a shape that forever stays just out of sight, sweeping always at the edge of one's peripheral.
The further the heroes push forward the more intense the sensations, until a pair of green glowy eyes, eerily disembodied suddenly appears from the darkness. There's a rattle-snake hiss of a sound that drifts from the very shadows about them, from every direction. The sound echoes, and with each echo another pair of eyes appears. Blood-scent? The sound of a lullaby, dissonant and in a minor key, drifts through the echoing hisses. o/~ Twinkle, twinkle, little star...o/~
"Yeah, well," Wolverine mutters, "you ain't got--" He freezes when he plants his foot inside the alley and the alley seemingly responds by plunging itself into darkness. "--the luxury--kid--" He growls and rubs his head for a moment, then sets his eyes forward and trudges on. "--what the hell are we dealin' with, here? I ain't--"
He stops and suddenly turns towards a second floor apartment window behind them, nose twitching; it's wide open, but the apartment is dark. He scrambles towards it, presses his nose--his whole body right up against the brick wall. "Somethin'--" He stretches up towards the window, sniffing frantically all the while. "--someone's--somethin' ain't--rrr--" He remains against the wall for a few moments more before sharply drawing back and briskly moving towards her scent. After a couple of steps, he's jogging; after a few more, he's broken into a full blown sprint. He has her scent. That's all that matters. Find her. Find the blood. Ignore the screams. Tune out--
--is that a child--?
As those green eyes become visible in the darkness, he lurches towards - and /through/ - a pile of trash cans, stumbles, and catches himself with a hand against the wall. After taking a second to collect himself, he locks onto those green eyes with a glare, teeth bared.
"What. Did you /do/?"
It's like they fell into one of those fairy tales Miguel's mother used to read to him as a child. He always hated those stories, where the fantasy world ended up being dark, twisted, and malevolent. Where the rules never made any sense. He /really/ hated that shit.
And then the illusions start in earnest. Oh, joy. Teeth grit behind the mask, and it's all he can do to remember that none of this is real, that it's just Angela--but his head still whips up at the sound of the crying girl. No--no, just an /illusion. Just--just what Angela does when she's hurt and scared and cornered. That's what he tells himself--but he should have known that it would never be that simple.
Another pair of eyes, white--these accompanied by a large, evil maw filled with spikes for teeth. The figure solidifies even more--and that's when Spider-Man loses it.
The white spider emblem on the chest, the arms curling around the body in random directions--the last of Spider-Man's self-control flickers and he leaps to the nearest wall, using it to push off and lunge at Venom--only to smack face-first into a brick wall and land on the ground in a heap. With a disoriented grunt, he pulls off his mask so the blood streaming from his nose won't collect and choke him. That'd be just /perfect/.
"Enough, Angela," he says as he gets to his feet, his voice pleading more than anything else. He has to close his eyes to keep from seeing Venom, but--gods help him, he can /hear/ the drool splatter on the ground...
The child is in the middle of the nightmare, curled into a ball on her side. There's blood splattered about her. Just a few drops. Much of it is in her hair, on her face, from her nose, her torn skirt. She's breathing, the echo of the rattle-hisses in time to the lift of her small ribs. She's blindfolded, gagged with black shadowy duct tape wrapped far too many times around her head to be anything close to comfortable. She's tucked into a cardboard box, as dumped there and forgotten.
The green eyes in front of Wolverine dance, rattling a laugh at him. A body seems to grow about the disembodied eyes. Clawed sort of fingers curl tauntingly away from the child. "What do you think I did, animal," the eyes hiss at Logan, voice dark, twisted.
The spittle drops from Venom's maw, and it can be felt by Miguel to ooze down his leg, his knee. Venom's hot breath on his mask. "She can't hear you," Venom taunts the would be hero.
The blood smells real enough; in this ever-shifting hellscape of unsettling sounds and smells that vanish as suddenly as they appear, even Wolverine - who has been around more than his share of the stuff - is having a hard time certain of that. His eyes twitch towards the girl once or twice, just to be safe; there's no time to check on her, if she's there at all. No time to get her somewhere safe.
If she's still conscious - if she was ever really conscious to begin with - Phobia may well make a hypocrite of him before the day is done.
As the rest of Phobia comes into view, he snarls, lunges, and thrusts his arm into the darkness to grab at her arm, hair, throat--anything. Her question was rhetorical; his reply will be utterly, brutally direct, if he has his way.
The black-suited hero starts to tremble, lips pulling back as he grits his teeth and bares his fangs in the process. Not fair. Not fair that a thing like Venom--Kron--is allowed to live while someone like Dana doesn't. That's not a fair or just world, in any possible way. He grips the wall, fingers digging into the brick as he tries to ignore what he knows can't be real--Kron is a dimension over and a century in the future. But then, so is Dana. Unless this is another of Goblin's tricks--or the girl. Unless /she/ was one of Goblin's tricks, as well...
Yanking his hand out of the wall, Spider-Man plants his fist right through Venom's face--only to feel brick shatter beneath his knuckles. It makes him somewhere between confused and enraged, and the next time Venom emerges from the darkness, he's in the air, flying feet first--only to meet another wall. He gets buried halfway through, grunting darkly as he struggles to get free of Venom's grip--or is it the brick wall?
At Logan's touch, Phobia uncoils into a thick acrid smoke. Her laughter rattles about his mind as the smoke swirls about him, reforming behind him. "That didn't answer the question," Phobia hisses at Wolverine. "What do you fear the most? Tell me. Your secret is safe with me."
It's Venom's to be sure. The pebbles of the brick walls turning into hot spittle and landing on Miguel's body. "Squirm little spider. You're too late." Venom laughs, that hiss-rattle to his voice.
The girl in the box shutters faintly.
His hands pass through her, and Wolverine pauses for a split-second to let the resultant smoke waft into his nostrils. Snarling, he whirls around to face her, but the building being destroyed behind him - to say nothing of the fear curling off of Miguel - soon draw his eye towards the futuristic Spider's struggles with the city's architecture.
"Kid, get--get yourself together--" he forces through gritted teeth. "She's--rr--" His eyes flick between Miguel to the girl a few times, and he takes a step towards the wall to brace himself against it; his head falls into his free hand, muffling another growl. "--Lady--"
In a heartbeat, the hand his head rests in sprouts three razor sharp claws. Drawing his hand back from his face, he makes a fist and holds his claws out towards her, teeth still bared as he hisses, "--the only thing I'm afraid of right now--" Beneath his mask, his eyes twitch towards the girl; his hand trembles, just a little. "--is what I'm gonna do to you if this doesn't stop--/now/!"
"Little spider..." the future's Spider-Man repeats lowly. Kron called him a lot of things, but not that. He wasn't bright enough. He remembers cornering Venom, Public Eye speakers emitting high-frequency sound to hurt the monster. No, Kron wasn't bright enough to think of something like that. This isn't Kron.
He frees himself of the hole with a short yell, emitted as he brings his arms out and inflates his chest as far as he can. Tumbling to the ground, he spits out blood and dust, then starts coughing as he gets to his feet. "Hey, it's not--" he calls out, at the same time Wolverine calls out to /him/. Another time, another place, them both starting to come to their senses might be amusing. At least they're on the same page, now, so there's that.
"No more, Angela," he says, trying to ignore the sight of Dana and Xina held up by their throats. He closes his eyes and turns his head, focusing on finding Angela so he can put the sight of Dana's dead body out of his mind. That's what he has to force himself to focus on, getting to Angela--even if the memory of his father taking out his anger on Gabriel is clawing for his attention.
"Then do your worst," Phobia hisses at Logan, the vision of her spreading her arms wide, taunting him, daring him to kill her. It would be so easy. She's RIGHT THERE! Defenseless, and yet still sinister and threatening. The girl in the box seems hardly to be breathing.
For Miguel, the darkness lifts. It's just a dark blind end alley after all. There's someone huddled in a box, almost too big for the small space. And the shadows cover the area again, Dana lying broken on the floor at Miguel's feet.
Wolverine's eyes trail towards the girl... and then Phobia's taunts remind him that there's business to tend to; his eyes snap to the illusionist, and--
--'tend' he does, leaping for Phobia as he lets the outrage, and - yes - fear ring out in the night. He just needs to hurt her, just a little--just enough to break her concentration. A jab through her shoulder, perhaps, or a cut across her belly--enough to hurt without bleeding her out. There's a child nearby who's fighting for her life; the last thing she needs is to watch him end Angela's.
So he'll cut her just a little, to bring this nightmare to an end. For the child's sake. Everything is going red, but he has spent years fighting to master the beast within; surely, he can manage to bring one broken British woman under control before she does even more damage.
Maybe if he goes for an arm, that'll be enough.
Maybe her ribs?
Wolverine freezes when the sharp tang of blood swirling all around finally catches up to him... and that's when he notices the warm blood burbling around his claws--which are embedded in Angela's throat. "Wh--" His eyes widen, and there, beneath his hunched form is Angela--well.
/Most/ of Angela.
One of her arms is dangling from a trashcan; the other from a fire escape. Her midsection has been reduced to bloody ribbons, and sheared bones jut out through her chest in several places. Her leg rolls to a stop against the young girl's box.
"--what--" he gets out after a few seconds of stunned silence; his claws slowly slide back into their housings with a wet *shlk*.
"G--get--the girl--" he whispers as a shiver races down his spine. "The box..."
All around Wolverine, pieces of the trash cans and--well--trash he spent the last few seconds going to town on are blowing about in the wind.
Damn this all to hell. Miguel can /feel/ the presence of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, just like they were on the day he held Dana's body against him. The somber mood that had settled--until that one idiot spoke up. He has to pause as he meets Dana's lifeless eyes, and for a moment he's about to succumb to this nightmare all over again. It would be so easy to give in and damn himself to the hell he knows he so very much deserves.
Then Wolverine's voice rings out, and Miguel's brain spends a few seconds catching up on what it missed. Fighting--a trash can? These are nothing but illusions, created by a mind in pain. That's what he has to focus on--else he risks losing another life he could have prevented. And Goblin appears over his shoulder, dressed in the funeral attire Dana's sister wore, to point out just how skilled he really is at saving people. But--it's an illusion, he has to tell himself, even as cold sweat runs down his spine. That one thought makes him grit his teeth again, makes him clamp down on himself as tightly as possible. Just illusions, that's it; just illusions, that's it; just illusions...
He walks forward, eyes narrowed, mentally chanting the mantra to himself that might just help keep what shreds of sanity he has left--and his foot hits the cardboard box. THWACK. The box Wolverine mentioned? He has to hope so. Miguel starts ripping it open along the top, keeping his eyes narrowed and focused on his work, not the way Venom perches on the wall behind him, dangling two lifeless bodies by their throats.
Green eyes reform before Wolverine. A sickly sweet smile is given to him. "You missed /me/," Phobia says to him with an audible sort of pout. Angela's dead, right? But Phobia remains? To Logan's mind, Phobia laughs again, feeling the air with the scent of her own blood.
Under Miguel's claws the box stands little chance. It tears open easily to reveal a frightened little girl, perhaps eight at the most, in a boarding school uniform. It's black with green piping. Very House Slytherin. Her eyes are taped. Her mouth is taped. Her hands taped at the wrist and held to her face. her ankles taped together so she can't run. She's quivering, the breath rattling from her bloody nose in time to Phobia's rattling laughter... Venom's rattling laughter. "Couldn't save that one either could you? Failure," Venom taunts Miguel, the illusion thick around the girl so that Miguel can all but smell Venom's foul breath on his neck.
Her laughter sends more shivers through Wolverine's body, and her blood stings his nose. His breaths quicken, and he slowly slides his eyes from Angela's lifeless gaze to the green embers before him.
"N--no--" he murmurs. "I--" He freezes, then sniffs. His brow furrows; he sniffs again. There's blood /everywhere/, but the smell... it's losing that distinctive hint of metal. He slowly slides his eyes back down to where he's clutching--
--half a loaf of bread? He sniffs again; is that /yeast/? He quickly looks at the alley scattered about the alley; it still stinks, but the smells are rather more varied than they ought to be.
"Get her some help," he gruffly orders through his clenched teeth. He then sits back on his heels, his eyes shut and he tries to ignore the rotting garbage and the fading scent of blood--to focus on /her/.
"And you," he growls to Phobia as he lowers his head. "I'm done playin' this game tonight, girl; smartest thing for you to do right now is /stop/."
...this had /better/ be another illusion, Miguel thinks to himself as he looks down at the child. Hurting a child like this would be too far across the line--not after everything else. Still, in case it's /not/ an illusion, he crouches next to the girl, noting her odd outfit but stuffing it in the back of his head--it's not like someone who runs around in black pajamas with a red skull on them can really be mindful of fashion--and slices the bonds on her limbs with his talons, leaving only the tape on her head.
"This won't hurt," he half-grunts as he leans forward a little, trying to ignore the way the drool from Venom splatters on the ground. It's just his sweat, and he /knows/ it. That's all, nothing more, just...
He snorts softly and sits back on his heels, rubbing his face and trying to clear his head. That's what these things feed on--the mind. A soft sigh, then he opens his eyes again and starts working the tape from the girl's eyes, while looking at her neck and "zooming in" to see her pulse--and get the cannibalistic Vulture, crouched on a Dumpster and chowing down on some hunk of meat with only a partly-intact Dana on the ground before him, out of his field of vision while he's at it.
Tape? What tape? There is no tape on the girl's body. Miguel's claws slice through shadows. In the moment of clarity, it's not a little girl, it's Phobia, fully powered up, curled up into a ball, quivering. But then the girls is back, and Miguel works to get the pantyhose that had tangled about Angela's face somewhere during her pell-mell run through the streets off her face. The girl's pulse is quick, sped by fear and adrenaline, and starting to flicker dangerously. Nearly two full days of constant power use, and sudden exerting so much so quickly is draining the psychic.
Around Wolverine, further from the true Phobia, the illusions weaken as Angela's area of effect shrinks as she getting some clearer air into her system. The shadows seem to right themselves, the blood scent fading to Angela's fear-scent in a heartbeat, the laughter dying away to nothing but the soft sound of Angela's ragged, frightened breathing.
When the smell of blood up an disappears, Wolverine's eyes snap open.and he /runs/ to Miguel and Angela; as soon as he's there, his hand shoots out towards her, only to stop a few inches away from her arm.
"Hn--" He stares at his hand for a moment then slowly pulls it back to himself. "--alright." He lets out a low grunt and closes his eyes. "Got her; how you holdin' up, kid?"
A flicker, and for a moment Miguel is back, crouched on the support beam that held up Uptown, watching a wingless Vulture plummet the miles downward. That's the reality, not the one crouched on the Dumpster. And Goblin is back on the other side of the trans-dimensional wormhole--not here.
Gritting his teeth again, Miguel stares at the empty Dumpster, but Logan's voice brings him back to the present. Back to what passes for reality.
"I'm--fine," he mutters, lying through his teeth, not doing a very good job of it, and not giving a shit about either. He wipes some sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, then goes back to clearing Angela's face. "Thanks," he says quietly, a slight turn of the head toward Wolverine.
Wolverine's hand goes from a bit grimy to gore-covered and back again as it passes that illusion threshold. The addition of his into the area once more, makes the illusions rising just around Phobia to intensify a moment before they weaken further and finally flicker to almost nothing, just a faint green black smoke seeming to drift from Phobia, and a raspy rattle hiss to her cough as the last bit of tape frees itself as a shredded pair of black nylons from Phobia's face, fluttering limply - spent - in Miguel's hands.
"Yeah. Shook me up a little, but she's just a kid. No problem."
Logan could shower for a week and he'd still remember the way Angela's blood slowly congealed along his hand and wrist as he stared into her lifeless eyes.
"You gotta get her outta here; the cops--" His grimy hand twitches a little before he notices and stills it with a frown; he opens his eyes and tips his chin towards her. "--no tellin' what could happen." There's a beat as he glances towards the shredded trash cans, and then he returns his attention to Miguel and Angela. "You did good, kid," he quietly adds.
"Yeah," is all Miguel says to that; he wants to believe he'd done well, but Angela shouldn't have been in this situation in the first place. With a grunt, he goes to take Angela in his arms, getting her settled before he gets to his feet again. He looks around for a beat, trying to decide how much of this dirty alley is remnants of Angel's worse half, and how much is reality. There's his mask, lying on the ground where he'd dropped it. Too bad that doesn't necessarily mean very much.
"Wish I could have done better," he says, not quite looking at Logan, but in his direction. "Maybe this wouldn't have happened. Not that I know what the hell 'this' /is/. And--I'll tell you when I find out." He couldn't tell Logan anything but the truth--she was there one minute, and was gone the next, which was /not/ a good thing.
The alley is a mess. There is nothing here, save the remnants of days old trash that was never picked up by frightened waste workers. Even the rats have fled. All that remains is refuse and roaches. Phobia, half coherent, opens her eyes. They fail to glow fully, the inhuman appearance of her powers fading away slowly. "You're here," she breathes at the familiar face, head turning toward Wolverine. "You're both...?" She looks confused, not at all sure why anyone would do this. Her voice is hoarse from lack of water, food, and rest.
"You--" His eyes flick around to all the rotting food he threw all over the alley in his frenzy, then settle on Miguel. "--that can't happen again, you understand?" His voice is raw and weary; the urge to snatch Angela and shake her until she's fixed is strong, and that frustration is present in his voice too. He glances down at Angela, then shakes his head and starts heading towards the street.
"You think about that little girl, the next time you lose her," he growls. "Take her back; make sure she rests. You're gonna see me again soon."
"You know where we are," says Miguel with a nod, and there's something about the shorter man--he's been at this longer than he seems to have been. It makes Miggy confident that Logan knows that comment was an invitation, acceptance, and agreement, all in one.
Hefting Angela so she's mostly held by his right arm, he takes the few steps to crouch and retrieve his mask, pulling it over his head one-handed. As he gets it situated on his face, he says, "Thanks again. I mean it." He's not a man who offers thanks very often--that much can be heard in the way the sounds are odd to make, when strung together like that.
Angela looks at Wolverine, brows pulling together at his promised threat. She nods her head in silence, before she lays her head on Miguel's shoulder. She swallows roughly, listening to the two talk over her. Her eyes close. Not alone anymore.