1046/Cosmic Strings and Stranger Things

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Cosmic Strings and Stranger Things
Date of Scene: 08 April 2020
Location: Latverian Embassy
Synopsis: Doctor Doom and Jane Foster have... a long and interesting evening, and are possibly more similar than they realized?
Cast of Characters: Victor Von Doom, Jane Foster

Victor Von Doom has posed:
It's been a few days since Jane agreed to work on the project to breach the literal gates of Hell. With SCIENCE! And well, there has been a fair amount of emails and theories sent back and forth, as well as various other ideas. Particularly regarding the idea of a Dyson swarm, briefly broached but, well, Victor never settles for one idea.

Why settle for one when you can have them ALL!

In any event, he extended an invitation for Jane to visit the Embassy once more, prior to the gala on Thursday. A purely social invite, though knowing Doom, he probably has a fair amount of business to discuss. Or at least science, which for him is a delight when talking with a respected intellect.

Jane Foster has posed:
It has indeed been a few days. A few days to suffer the wonders of work, to dig into interviews and start prowling around the realms of cutting edge science that almost bleeds into sci-fi. These days, what's fiction and what is reality swiftly start to move away from the astronomer by leaps and bounds starting to look like the difference of Newtonian physics and Einsteinian.

Emails and theories dance around. There are long stretches where no one answers that email, though the messages are traceably read and pinged. Chances are fair to partly cloudy she doesn't let Darcy or her other interns dig into the correspondence too much. That or a rather rough patch of preparations simply keep her busy.

Dare Doom think he is ignored for two or three hours? Is sleep the slayer of his conversations? Yes, well. She isn't immortal (yet). She must rest (mostly).

Nonetheless, sometimes a 3 AM message pops up and that merely is that. Why settle for one hour of sleep when you can have four ideas in the middle of the night?

Very well, it's a fine time for her to arrive. She does so at the Embassy as before, neat skirt and sweater instead of a power suit. What's the point of a power suit when the imbalance is identified and dealt with? Instead, she can muse over trouble while presenting herself and any necessary credentials. Swinging gold earrings wink at her ears; choices from a star catalogue, hammered onto disks, as seen by ancient Babylonian astronomers.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Jane is, of course, shown in immediately by the receptionist, who favors the doctor with a smile. Inside the hall, there is a rather modest table setting, as Victor is...

Wearing a suit?!?

He is, in point of fact, wearing a silver grey Armani suit, the fabric fitting his frame rather well, as he seems to have the stature of a man half his reported age. A green tie is done with a Windsor knot, a Latverian crest acting as a tie clip. His mask is still present, of course, as he gestures towards the table, "Ah, Doctor Foster, it's good to see you again." His voice seems to betray genuine relief that she did, in fact, arrive. His eyes flicker towards the earrings, and he extends a hand in greeting.

"Your birthdate, according to... Sumeria? No, of course not, Bablyonian, yes?"

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane follows her way through the Embassy. Once again, the opportunity to gawp at the art or question the architectural choices will be set aside for another day when she is not so obviously a guest. They probably expect her to be on her best behaviour, and she will do her best, then, to fulfill those expectations.

Gold at her ears, gold at her wrist, she wears less bling than the average trophy wife around this neck of Manhattan. Of course, one piece in particular is probably worth all of Latveria and most of the EU, but that's neither here nor there. The All-Weapon is biding its time, utterly unremarkable in any sense, except for those Asgardian runes written in elegant design along the continuous band. Not that it offers her any particularly helpful guidance here, other than its very existence to be worthy. Easier said than done.

Her heels click, less gunshot, more cadence tapered to a dance. The sinuous lines of shadow intersect where she and Doom overlap at a distance, darkened in that point of the Venn Diagram but so much brighter, fairer without. She touches her throat out of habit, and then inclines her head to the masked man. "And when I went to dine with the hidden heir, the weight of Versailles slipped away and the prospects of a different future for the nation unspooled at my feet," she quips, not quite answering Dumas pound for pound by any stretch of the imagination. "Doctor Doom." Von Doom? German titles are so picky. "Thank you again for being my host for the evening." Manners will be impeccable. Paying for the extra shoe shine seems worth the effort, even if she berated herself mentally for bothering in the first place. Appearances count, they always will.

His hand she drops hers into; the right, not the left, where the divine artifact remains. Not a matter of defense; she's most certainly dexter, rather than sinister. "Doctorate," she says. "A gift from my mentor."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doctor Doom smiles, his own hand unarmored for once, the fingers lean and slightly calloused, not what one would expect from a man of his reputation, or age for that matter. Again, a mystery of youth that still is retained, as he answers, "A man is bound to make for himself in this world, that fortune which heaven had refused him at birth." He lowers his head to Jane's fingers politely, then straightens.

"A worthy gift, and a most appropriate one, though... if it would not be too forward, Doctor Foster, you can call me Victor." The mask is articulate enough that the smile is easily noticed, "Dinner should be ready shortly. Did you care for anything to drink? While my aide is not here tonight, I think I can manage to retrieve whatever you'd desire." He speaks not with arrogance, but rather a simple confidence. As though in this room, he has nothing to prove.

Or perhaps, a great deal.

Jane Foster has posed:
Those fingers wrapped around hers make for a very different set of appearances, her skin fair to the point it might almost be called milky white. Nails manicured, polished to glass and French-tipped, but nothing ostentatious. Come in with giant claws that would prohibit her from so much as picking up a pen? Jane would never. "All human wisdom is summed up in these two words: wait and hope," she returns, spinning quotations of a woman reasonably well-read. Literature is of course an aspect fundamental to her education, albeit not quite so far as those students of the arts. Still, Doom is a threat in that as many other fields. She inclines her head and stoops from the waist a little, practicing that curtsy again that will carry her respectably far into the world.

"They bring good memories and important messages. Though it is work, an act of love sits at the root of all those actions. Love for the stars, and all that represents," she explains. Her smile lifts, a warmth kindled in cinnabar eyes. "I was fortunate for a champion who remembered the field is about more than questions." She waits on him to move, acutely aware of almost every gesture with a sharpness not normally attained. But maybe it's nerves, maybe it is a heightened acuity for the risk present. "I insist, then, if you are Victor, I am Jane. Otherwise, we will spend the whole evening exchanging terms worthy of a comedy of manners." The risk of that breaks out another smile in spite of herself.

"A drink? Would it be forward of me to ask to sample something Latverian? A surprise, however you like." Without risk, no reward. Jump from the edge of the horizon and reach for the moon, land among the stars. All that might be rather different dealing with an honest to goodness ambassador. Scientist. Wizard. Something.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom smiles back, genuinely pleased, "Not forward at all... Jane. And yes, I do have something that I prefer myself. One moment." He steps back towards the bar, "While Latveria is known for many things, one thing few people are aware of is our wine selection." If a mask could look amused, Doom's definitely does. "This is my personal favorite, a red. Strong, but a hint of sweet to mask some of the bitterness that you might otherwise taste." Pouring two glasses, he returns, offering one glass to Jane, then he raises his glass to hers.

"So much the worse for those who fear wine, for it is because they have some bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts." With that, he politely clinks his glass to hers, then takes a sip, as he savors the taste of the wine. "Though, yes, it is fortunate to have one as a champion, to help you learn and overcome the obstacles set before you." He mmms again, looking surprisingly contemplative.

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane could stand there like a discarded doll or a statue plunked on someone's table as a decorative feature. She knows better, following Doom through the embassy at a distance of arm's reach and a step behind. Theirs is a strange duet of stars finding their place through a disturbed nebula, or perhaps a wandering planet coming into orbit of a Wolf-Rayet star instead of a main sequence G2V that she might be used to. What suits Kryptonians best has a habit of disturbing the equilibrium of regular everyday astrophysicist geniuses. "Why few? The Balkans have produced grapes since the Greeks and earlier, and certainly the Romans produced outstanding varietals, at least in high demand. Clearly people do not do their homework or consider where viticulture took off. The Eastern Empire most definitely had wine. And Venice." That bastion of roseate sunsets and ransack architecture is tacked on affectionately. While he plucks something out, she awaits the option. At least it isn't on fire, a mental note made later to consider various trade goods and transactions of the last twenty years. "Thank you," she says again, gracious, when he hands her the wine. The glass is examined, tilted this way and that, before it's time to clink them together in a salute.

Latverian she most definitely doesn't speak, but other options come to mind. "Salut," the French. "Or prost. What shall we salute to?" This before daring to drink a single sip, though the ringing resonance plays through the stem and up her fingers, down into the unsettled basin of something dark. "More is the pity not to appreciate it. The wine tells a story of its birthplace and the climes that matured it. The water holds the legends, the grape a whisper of the sun and moon, the earth giving that unique quality like a fingerprint. Something so freely overlooked by drinking too fast, and worrying about growing dizzy or a tongue loosened?" A soft shake of her head shows up, and she swirls the contents again.

Let him deign to salute or not. She eventually adds, "For paths less taken. Or Rumi: Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so let me change myself.'"

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor, of course, does provide a salute to that, "To illuminating the dark, revaling what is hidden, and discovering the worth of the world." He smiles at Jane's addition, and bows his head slightly, "Very well said, Jane."

He smiles a little, "Actually, prior to the 20th century, Latverian wines were very well-renowned. However, my homeland was taken by the Soviet Bloc at the start of the Cold War, and the wineries were left to neglect and mismanagement."

A hint of remembered anger is in his voice, as he says, "When I led the revolution and evicted our Russian oppressors, one thing I did was subsidize the vineyards, ensuring they would be productive once more. And so they were... until the more recent Civil War, again affecting them."

He looks a bit regretful, "They are recovering, but well... let us be frank. Latveria is known for the export of other things, other than wine." He shakes his head, as he's well aware of his own reputation. For better or for worse.

Jane Foster has posed:
"The worth of the world," Jane chimes in, "will always be its people." She sips her wine then, the rim touching her lips and the dark liquid flooding over it thereafter. The bracelet under her sleeve would be glittering with a clear purpose if it really had the intention of making itself known. It doesn't.

She listens to Victor while letting the mouthfeel turn from a few tannic notes into something richer, more voluble where it saturates her palate. Scent and taste engaged along with touch all surround her with a ready source of distraction. Still, she follows him. "Surprising. The Soviets would overlook productive vineyards? Where did they shift the labour to, collectivization of the farms for raising wheat and other grains?" It's probably hard to remember she was born at a time when the Berlin Wall was on its last pier and the rising masses ripped down the curtain stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, a few last holdouts carved away month by month afterward. Still, she isn't unwise. "Latveria is a conundrum, you mean to say."

She can be honest on that part. "How a nation may have such poverty and stark achievements." Ha ha, pun. Not intentional. "On the forefront of science, and yet comparatively minor until recently on the world stage compared to its neighbours. I don't think many people know much about Latveria except through the lens of you, which brings its own challenges. Do you wish to stand apart from the nation or remain its greatest spokesperson? If so, how do you manage the requirements of both?"

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor sounds a bit rueful, "To be frank, it is not easy. I thought I could actually leave rulership to my heir, someone I hand-picked and thought was worthy. He was, unfortunately, not up to the task. There is no shame in that, and I don't judge him for it." Which is, rather unusual for him, at least with his reputation.

He glances over at Jane, "If I may speak frankly... while I think Latveria's reputation is advanced through my leadership, it is clearly a two-edged sword. My reputation, for good and ill, influences my country, my people. And I love my country, and my people." He sounds like he means it, too.

"But, vigilance is required, against influences that would tear it down. From powers that style themselves greater... but are far more petty and petulant." Then he catches himself, and bows deeply towards Jane suddenly.

"My apologies, Jane. I should not trouble you with such things, when I asked you here..." A pause, then he looks a bit wry as he straightens, regarding her evenly, "I wished to have a frank discussion with you, as a fellow scientist. I have read much of your work, and I have found it fascinating in both its accuracy and veracity, but also the passion with which you hold your work. What is the saying, 'if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life?' A simplistic saying, but the sentiment rings true nonetheless."

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane tilts her head slightly, conversational yet. Nothing about her is totally relaxed, but neither is she a wooden doll pushed up against the wall and stammering for words in monosyllabic verse. "Your heir? You mean someone you appointed as your successor, or an actual heir of house and family? I am not fully up on political customs."

Admitting ignorance could be seen as a weakness, a vulnerability for a predator on the social scene to take full advantage of. Certainly in the game of politics and deeper machinations that would have given Machiavelli a terminal case of envy, Doom outstrips her entirely. The astronomer gestures with her hand as he offers truth on a platter, biased to a measure by the colours of purpose and intent. "You are checking yourself," she says softly, the words out before they can be recalled. Possibly because she means them to. "I am not the UN." Just the Midgardian seat if the Congress of Worlds is ever called, but that's not too much, is it? Not like they are summoning that right now.

"A nation conquered by a superpower, in name or in fact, has to question its identity. All the Baltic nations did, the children of the Warsaw Pact finally allowed to stand alone and certainly aware of their disadvantage in front of the cornered, savaged bear. That sound about right?" It's what she can grasp. "It's part of your country. Part of your psyche. What makes you you, and if I were to say let's keep it solely to science, we could go back to emails and you could throw the occasional proposal at me in Cyrillic." Her head tilts slightly, the small smile wry and hidden by her glass. Mostly. It's transparent of course.

So the conversation can shift; she doesn't force it back to another channel. "Our work is our passion. Different from love, sometimes, though the love is at the root of it all. What we do with our experiments, doubtful we would do to our loves. I believe my work -is- work, but it leads me to appreciate what I love most even more. Having a sense of yourself in the enormity of the universe is a way to delight in every day. To hold awe and wonder. Yes, commuting is awful and real estate costs too much in this city, but I can look among the stars and see the collective wonders of humanity laid out before me. To know I'm a smattering of stardust in this place and this time, having a conversation with Victor von Doom, and let's be honest. Of all the times you could have ever been in, would it not have been right here and right now?"

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor ahs, "Yes, I adopted a youth shortly after reclaiming Latveria, the first time. Kristoff Vernard. I had hopes for him, but while he was a brilliant scientist in his own right... he was not skilled in politics, and found himself outmaneuvered." A bit of a sigh, as he seems to regard it a personal failure that he didn't prepare Kristoff as best as he could.

Then Victor reacts to Jane's words about stardust, the echoes of Sagan's thoughts and philosophy resonating with the man as he takes a step towards his fellow scientist. Not a threatening gesture, quite the opposite as he offers her his hand, "I, for one, would also not wish to be in a different time or place, than I am right now." And he sounds absolutely sincere about that fact, as he regards Jane with a respectful gaze.

Jane Foster has posed:
Kristoff, the Latverian huntsman, he might have done a bit better marrying a Scandi snowmaiden and delivering blocks of frozen water for a living in an essential permafrosted region. Even better. "What manner of scientist? Climate, chemist, bioengineer?" Jane's inquiries are made politely, skimming around thin ice and mindful of Victor's reaction. There are social rules and political considerations to be made in the heat of the moment, especially on the embassy grounds where technically she is a guest of Latveria and the building is his sovereign territory. Erring to the side of caution, she murmurs, "I regret that didn't turn out quite as you anticipated." Nope, not talking about free elections or the democratic process.

Someone else can step in there as she sips the wine again, letting the grape infusion tingle on her tongue and glow in her veins. Soon enough there will be opportunity to fall on her face in some other way if she's outmaneuvered, and having perfectly fine pleasantries while she remains so. Chin lifted slightly, a bit of a challenge could be read in meeting a masked man eye-to-eye, but that's the assessment of someone less certain in themselves. Not that she backs away.

"Of all your experiences so far, what do you think has the most lasting impact on your work?" she asks. It's an easy leap to the idea.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor speaks with an... unusual timbre to his voice. It takes a second since... well, it's actual regret in his tone. Easily noticed, but perhaps not something one expects coming from him, "Like myself, he was proficient in many things, but his primary emphasis was computers and robotics. He loved to develop programs and use them to create solutions. A brilliant young man."

He considers that question about his experiences, "There have been so many, but I think..." He pauses, "Eighteen years ago, when I saved the lives of Susan and Valeria." A chuckle at that, "It made me realize a few things about myself, and about Ric... Reed." The fact that he isn't having an apoplexic fit by even thinking of Reed Richards is definitely unusual.

If a mask could look wry, Doom's does, as he continues, "So many presumed it was because I had some attraction to Susan, and that was... not entirely accurate. My feelings in the matter are complicated, but she was always the one of the Four that I held in the highest respect." Revealing a bit too much, perhaps, but she did ask, and when dealing with the Four... well, it's always an elephant in the room.

Jane Foster has posed:
Blotting her lips with her tongue scours away the taste of the wine, long enough for the melting impression of the dusky red before it could be refreshed again. A singular droplet hangs on the rim of the glass. She needs to put her tongue or mouth to the glass to stop it from running; still, the opportunity is one passed up while she listens. A threat to stain her fingers is a small debt to pay for good conversation.

Pale skin and blood of the Latverian soil. How devastating a comparison, but how often has the crossroads of Europe bled for the greater goals of empire, ravaged by those who gallop through the hills and plains with ambitions in their eyes? Roman legions, Soviet tanks, Austro-Hungarian or Italian armies disputing Ottoman fists. History is not kind.

Richards stains the air in a promise and a curse. Her cinnamon eyes measure what she can of that shrouded visage, a mask holding back the complexities of unspoken communication wrought in the flesh. Emotions woven throughout the flesh are limited only to the eyes, the mouth, the forbidding presence one that would entice wilder people to crack the nut of Doom; to their peril. His name is a warning; his presence a threnody to the carefully organized lives of nations and scientists, of a family blessed, of a world caught with baited breath before the schemes and unfolding origami plans. She isn't his therapist. She is compassionate, true, but she is just an astrophysicist who stood at the feet of Yggdrasil and looked up.

"A good answer, if I can say so. Saving someone's life changes everything, and gives a true reassessment of where you stand and where you are." She muses on that, eighteen years back herself in another place, a child rather than an adept of forbidden arts, helpless promises sworn to a realm listening. Nine, with the tenth sealed; nine apples on a tree of life, their qlippothic inversions barely an inkling in her eye. "My mother was a doctor," she offers gamely. "It rather coloured my outlook about that." The bracelet is the other answer, sworn by one of the great powers and a sisterhood hovering in the literal wings. Copper-shod feathers battering in the eardrums swells and fades, a gift of memory, blood rushing too fast. She glances to the wine, and then raises it again, but she well and truly forgets to sip it at all. "You aren't obligated to speak of all your inner thoughts, Do--Victor." First name basis. Another feather drops in the mind, landing light as an ember on the mindscape. "I understand American customs differ greatly from Central Europe, like our propensity to smile at everything. My German colleagues tell me we look deranged doing it. But there are places I wouldn't dream of prying. Choosing to say so, that is your choice. But it seems proper to let you know now, I don't have expectations of some kind of personal intellectual theft." Not after what SHIELD did to her. And still....

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor nods, "I speak freely with you, because... well, to be perfectly frank, it's rare to meet an individual that I can view as a peer." The fact that he views her as such, even without knowing the secrets carried by her, is unusual in itself, or perhaps not. Her work in astrophysics is very renowned, after all. He wouldn't have sought her aid in the first place, if it wasn't.

"A doctor? That is an honorable profession, indeed. My mother was... well, she was a soothsayer. A witch, truth be told, if one could avoid the negative connotations that modern culture have assigned the word. In another life, she could easily have walked the path of a doctor, I have no doubt. She was... kind." He takes a swift drink of the wine himself, then looks over at Jane, his eyes meeting hers, even as the mask conceals the rest of his face. A moment of silence, sharing a thought that perhaps best remains unspoken for now.

Then he ahems, speaking suddenly in an effort to change the subject, "Tell me, what do you think of classical music? To be honest, it seems highly unappreciated in this day and age, but I would be curious your thoughts. And..." He pauses, before continuing, "If you had a favorite piece for the piano?"

Jane Foster has posed:
Doom has the mask. Whatever it means, containing him from the world's aspersions or preventing the world from getting in, she cannot say. Nor would she deign to know. In her lifetime, he has worn it. Public figure with a very strange manner, but so it is. Aren't there celebrities of equal stature and equal peccadillos?

"I am not sure on how high a pedestal I deserve to be put. My achievements are not mine alone, which I need to remind many of. I didn't invent Newtonian physics or Einstein-Rosen bridges. They have their founders' names attached for good reason. Stepping stones to build on greater achievements, of course." She raises her glass in another toast, the safety of numbers dwindling down to two, and little else. Who knows how many shadowy presences monitor them in the embassy, just in case an unpowered mortal woman might do something to the philosopher-king of Latveria. What Richards couldn't do, Foster might? Right. Those people can war game the situation as many times over as they want, there is absolutely no situation in which she wins on that scale. Maybe it's the reason for the fearlessness. She meets his gaze, eyes wide and brown and nothing at all doe like. "To mothers. I know the world was different under the Soviet Era, restrictive in ways it isn't for us now. She likely made the best choices she could at the time, trying her best to make the most of what she had. For herself, for you."

Then acknowledging his need to flee from that island, she is caught off-guard somewhat by the next question. "Classical music? A fair sight better than a lot of the drivel streaming out there now. I find a lot of appreciation for lesser known composers. We set so many pieces to classical when talking about astronomy for a reason, and not just because Holst swept us all off our feet." She flashes a quick smile. "Some of the classical arrangements by modern artists, using sweeping epic productions, have a powerful resonance sometimes. Don't think me a debased heathen. I can appreciate a good performance of Rachmaninoff as much as Two Steps From Hell."

Jane Foster has posed:
Jane Foster adds, after a bit of a delay about her favourite piece for piano: "Rachmaninoff, Etudes-Tableaux, Opus 39, number 6. The Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, if you will. Though number five, and Opus 33, number 7, are gorgeous, dramatic, and daring." Right. Just picking the most difficult piano piece in the whole canon of western music for about two thousand years.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor says nothing at the mention of mothers, more of appreciation than trepidation though, as he does return the toast, favoring Jane with a look that might convey warmth. Though at the use of the word drivel coming from Jane's lips, Victor can't help but smile, as he apparently feels very similar about modern music. "Yes, Holst is quite enjoyable, but I can see where it might be a bit tiresome since that's what he's most famous for, particularly in your circles."

He nods, "Innovation is an important part of life, and music is no exception for that. While I do dislike some forms of modern music, there is quite a bit that I find pleasing. Particularly when looking for a rhythm that has a strong... resonance, perhaps."

Saying that, he leads the way over towards a grand piano, which of course he has in the Embassy hall, "I had this brought out for the official opening in a few days, but..." He sits down, setting the wine glass in a safe place out of the way as he looks towards Jane. He sets himself down, and glances over at Jane, almost as if he appreciates the challenge she laid before him.

Then, he begins to play the opus she names. From memory. His fingers dance across the piano keys, moving fluidly as... well, it is from memory, so the odd misstep does occur in his playing. But like any skilled musician, he doesn't wallow on the mistakes he makes, instead making it work and playing through it, his determination shining through... even if it's just to play something that Jane, perhaps, might not have expected from him.

Jane Foster has posed:
My 'Little Red Riding Hood' is exactly what Sergei Rachmaninoff called Opus 39. No 6. in A Minor. It is a conversation between light footsteps plucked out relentlessly by the right hand twinkling across the ivory keys, answered by the deeper, darker melodies traipsing through the Russian woods. There the wolf stalks and the girl dances ahead, the leaping runs traipsing forward and then transforming into breathtaking glissades that keep the dramatic pitch to the utmost. Trying to match it on a violin would be nothing other than chaos, but in the purity of the piano are answers: stalking, hunting, leading on a merry traipse. The switchbacks of dulcet notes and careening tempos evoke whirlwinds lifting leaves or duelists circling one another for the right to strike at a pinpoint vulnerability. This is never a song to be waltzed to but an act of painstaking agility, athleticism in front of a grand piano. An exercise in madness, an exercise in precision. Allegro it is, but only in name, a punch and a whirling spin. For good reason is his work so beloved, but at least Jane has restraint. She didn't say Concerto Number 3, the whole damn thing.

No madcap Allegro con fuoco to dance around with for 33/7. Neither has she sung for Liebesleid -- Love's Sorrow -- or the infinite, exquisite beauty of his glorious Paganini-inspired stuff. So, point for not being the showoff. Or, for that matter, making Victor's hands fall off while she stands near the piano but doesn't lean on it. Gauche! Fingerprints and armprints, never!

Energetic dances ply and plunge through the cosmos in silence, but she is not witness to stars birthed or devoured, nor galactic arms turning in the revolutions of space. She doesn't hear the hiss of the background magnetic distortion left over from the universe's foundation. Only his fingers tapping across the keys, his feet on the pedals, the breath stilled and the truth of ages laid at their collective feet.

In stillness, there really is no hiding.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor plays the music with abandon, losing himself in the dark passions of the melody, fingers moving maniacally across the keys as he appreciates the challenge laid before him. And he rises to the occasion, performing the piece for Jane, seeming to enjoy the opportunity to show off a talent that... well, perhaps is not one that can be bent towards global domination.

Though, well, maybe he could sell tickets...

Gradually, Doom brings the opus to its end, glancing over towards Jane. "It has been... far too long since I have performed Rachmaninoff. The duality has always pleased me with this piece, hunter and hunted. And... well, while wearing my normal attire, it makes piano playing a bit difficult." Armor is good for many things... but playing piano, that would not be one of them.

Jane Foster has posed:
Abandon in a man defined by control is an odd, unusual state of affairs. Jane can only watch, acutely aware of the curtain which she is privileged to look behind. Domination and damnation come together, but there's another waltz for that, Stravinsky rather than Rachmaninoff. Perhaps a dash of Beethoven's fatalistic darkness in there, something from the era when he was stone deaf. But nonetheless, it's all a breathtaking sight to see.

No wonder Richards complains so much. No wonder they hate one another's guts. Polymaths are rare in life, and even Tony Stark and Stephen Strange have their limits. They don't try to be all things, they don't try to drink the ocean.

Much less the whole of Neptune, planet of seas and storms. But there it is.

Her arm crosses over her chest, palm supporting her elbow. Delicate fingers curl around the stem of the glass. It's an image of distant stars, except her gaze shines. "Rachmaninoff is the most demanding. Chopin, Lizst, Handel, I can name a lot of good composers. They deserve their accolades. But that one, those pieces, will break or define you. Next, play Duel of the Fates." She offers a sudden, bright smile.

Kidding, right?

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor pauses, then actually does something that possibly no one would expect. Namely, he laughs.

Not the gloating 'ho ho ho' one might expect of a supervillain of his reputation, nor even a sadistic sneering laugh as his nemesis is in a deathtrap of his devising. Just a laugh of actual joy and delight at Jane's request.

Catching himself after a few moments, he ahems, giving Jane a look. "As I mentioned, I am familiar with some modern works as well. Despite the obvious directing flaws, George Lucas' attempt at telling the prequels illustrates the inherent weaknesses of relying on an overextended and overtaxed system of democratic republican government, as they can be easily corrupted and turned against themselves." And well, Doom does have a god-daughter about the right age, so his knowing of Star Wars is not the most farfetched thing.

With that, he plays, with just as much passion as he threw into the prior opus, though in this case it is not /nearly/ as technically demanding. Still, it isn't that easy as it wasn't exactly designed for just a piano, his hands rapidly flying across the keys as he says, "I have always had an appreciation for the work of John Williams." At least this time, the piece is such that he can speak while performing. Rachmaninoff is much more demanding...

Jane Foster has posed:
One of the very rare implications of her in-between status, elected but not coronated, is a keen awareness for anyone about to die. That includes herself.

Nothing is showing in Jane's vision. Therefore she must be safe when the laughter begins. It doesn't immediately suggest a pit trap opening in the floor or a toss of her body into a garbage compactor. Stormtroopers are universally the poorest shots in existence, but are doombots? Are there even doombots in the complex? Secret subbasement 2F should not be named that for 'Foster' unless it's a dung--

Jane puts down the glass on the piano to pull her hair back from her neck, dragging it around to rest in a wave against her shoulder. "Let's not speak ever again of George Lucas' abilities as a director. I think he could not find chemistry with a cup of vinegar and a bowl of baking soda in front of him." Her nose wrinkles, the irony of... never mind. Padme Amidala in her worst role, a wooden actress, dealing with a romance with a 6-year-old twerp. Just no. /No/.

"There is something to be said for telling a story of origins without the need for a long treatise on the problems of economic trade in a pan-galactic empire, especially where the protectionism and rapacious merchant class never get what's coming to them, but that would be a rather weighty subject to add a boring vehicle race to. Also, add twerp. Ewan McGregor, however, cannot be faulted for trying." She nods sagely to this statement, serious as one can be. She hums along with the John Williams ode, unable to really resist the opportunity to purrr a choral note or two. No, she is not an illustrious Maria Callas, but it's decently done.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
As Doom plays, he does smile absently while Jane chimes in with the choral notes, seeming to appreciate her participation, Maria Callas or not. His fingers dance remarkably quickly, as his own thoughts of the prequels are... well, saved for once he finishes.

With that, Victor nods towards Jane, "True, Lucas' direction is... lacking, particularly in his more recent works. A pity, really, but I did make it a point to watch the films with my goddaughter. Though her assessment is remarkably similar to yours, though I dont believe she used the term 'twerp'." He chuckles, unable to help himself at that.

Victor does, however, extend a hand towards Jane, "If you had a third request, I would be more than happy to do so... however, you could also take the opportunity to sit while I played, if you wished." A simple invitation, that is never quite so simple.

Jane Foster has posed:
"I can say they at least have good music and some pretty visuals of Morocco or wherever they filmed. I won't complain for the work of Mr. Williams. He is part of the American songbook by this point," sighs Jane when the music finally comes to an end. Her almost empty glass stands where it will not fall over and shatter into razor shards if Doom knocks the piano or closes the lid, but the protective measures cannot extend much further other than disobeying gravity if it rises up to that. She smooths her hair away from one of the gilded star-pattern earrings drawing on ancient ideas of constellations, thanks to the long-ago astronomers in the Fertile Crescent. "I imagine it must have been something to sit with her and watch the films. The commentary alone, or were you both silent until the end and left to assess the take on faraway worlds?"

Her lips part slightly as she has to consider the query he sets before her. "What do you like to play? Asking you to play something from La Boheme or Puccini if it does not blend with your tastes or interests. It would be asking you to speak a foreign language for my own gain and no other. Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto Number 2. Slow to the madness, thereafter. It never ceases to have some kind of reaction from me. Should you desire longing, Schumann. Sadness, Dis Irae. Happiness, Ravel's Fairy Garden. I could go on, I fear."

She takes a breath. "But I want you to play what moves /you/."

Jane Foster has posed:
And, as that comes to pass, she circles around him from behind, one step after the other carefully placed. No snapping traps here, no threat. To sit? How, where? To the left, it makes the most sense, as Jane drops onto the bench beside him as lightly as she can.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor looks up at Jane, "The visuals were impressive, there is no argument about that, but it can end up being flash without substance, which is what Valeria's astute observation was regarding the films. Or most films, rather, though I think she's become a bit more of a... teenager, in that regard." A bit of a wry expression crosses the mask at that, as Jane then joins him on the bench.

He glances over towards her, "But something /I/ enjoy. Well... this is one that I like, a melody that always makes me feel particularly happy. Though, I do warn you, it may not be precisely what you expect."

So, then he plays, and it seems a simple enough melody, something light and jaunty and full of a surprising amount of energy, and then he suddenly... sings?!?

"I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical..."

Gilbert and Sullivant might sound... strange, coming from Doom. But well, Jane did ask. And he doesn't see the need to hide this from her, like he might from others.

Jane Foster has posed:
There is, after all, a certain inherited charm to Gilbert and Sullivan, to the way they shaped European views and American designs. How they stated from one century the ideals of a nation, and bestowed the baton to the next. Jane tries not to laugh, but the shaking of her shoulders for a few moments in silence identifies the surprise and zeroes in on the source.

"Full of unexpected turns and depths, aren't you? Only fair. The spotlight on one side leaves the other in shadow for intrepid explorers to learn," she says, giving a hint of a smile lifted for that. Though when an interlude awaits, she's going to bastardize his progress and possibly mire their purpose with something else. "Which puts me in mind of..."

A Valkyrie sings. She has to; it's part of the epics and the sagas of the Norse. Jane is, however, not professional grade. Just a girl who can carry a tune for the moment and not ruin her prospects of a future ma... Life. She clears her throat, filling that silence, and then turns slightly in Doom's direction. "This puts me in mind of something."

Then, she makes her petition to an audience of one.

"Can I be real a second?
For just a millisecond?
Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?
Now I'm the model of a modern major general:
The venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all
Lining up, to put me up on a pedestal
Writing letters to relatives
Embellishing my elegance and eloquence,
But the elephant is in the room...


Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor continues playing, adjusting on the fly for Jane as she sings, and Victor answers in his own baritone, his eyes focusing on her. Perhaps seeing who she truly is, despite all their feinting and ripostes, verbal and otherwise, as he responds, changing the melody once again...

"And Goodness knows
The Wicked's lives are lonely
Goodness knows
The Wicked die alone
It just shows when you're Wicked
You're left only... on your own."

He pauses in the music, then, looking over at Jane as he isn't sure... well, even for one like Doom, or perhaps particularly for one like him... lowering the shields like this is not something he's used to.

But, he does.

Jane Foster has posed:
Digging into her repertoire of options is going to take some time, doubly because Jane has to plumb through the inappropriate content -- Spamalot, for example -- and that which has no bearing on anything (Hair, Rent, anything Age of Aquarius) to come with an appropriate return. Wicked is as wicked does, though she nudges Victor with her shoulders by leaning in towards him and striking a plaintive few chords on the piano. Aside from one faulty note that should be sharp instead of pure, she can come up with an appropriate answer.

His responsibility to carry the tune if he knows it, a piece from the last few years at most. It's a belltone required there, not the lower baritone or tenor, and sustained by a woman's plaintive chorus rather than a heap of voices mingled sweetly. For once she isn't considering the role of the Fates, but considering the swishy tune suggestive of cabarets and New Orleans, that's rather for the better.

"He is King of the scythe and the sword,
He covers the world in the color of rust;
He scrapes the sky and scars the earth,
And he comes down heavy and hard on us.

But even that hardest of hearts unhardened
Suddenly, when he saw her there
Persephone in her mother's garden,
Sun on her shoulders, wind in her hair

The smell of the flowers she held in her hand,
And the pollen that fell from her fingertips,
And suddenly Hades was only a man
With a taste of nectar upon his lips, singing..."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom has... a particular kinship for Hades, at least the classical mythology and not the cackling caricature that recent cartoons have made of him. So he does actually seem to recognize the song, and looks over at Jane, changing to play that melody... though with a bit of effort as he's not //that// familiar.

At the nudge from Jane, he looks almost startled for a moment, then relaxes and leans back slightly against her. Not too much, but enough to keep the contact as he finds it... reassuring, while he answers,

"Heavy and hard is the heart of the king
King of iron, king of steel
The heart of the king loves everything
Like the hammer loves the nail

But the heart of a man is a simple one
Small and soft, flesh and blood
And all that it loves is a woman
A woman is all that it loves."

Jane Foster has posed:
Oh, there's an ancient quality to the tale of Hades and Persephone, older by far than the crook back monster of //Hercules// and Disney's attempts to make him into a living flame. Not many of the Olympians avoided promiscuity, at least from the stories that leaked out and remained fixed in the psyche, Homer's odes and Eleusinian mysteries be damned. Scoured fragments that speak of the abduction lead to a stranger world where neither of the gods were so forlorn, save for the dance of Orpheus into the underworld and all that went with it. No polyphonic harmonies this time from her, though she hums the chorus from /Hadestown/'s most iconic song for a few beats longer. Certainly playing Hermes would be absolutely more appropriate to who she is, the fleet-footed psychopomp of the dead, but the cockiness there doesn't sit so well.

Instead, her answer is a plaintive bit of whimsy from the edge of the Depression, an old tune but one worn smooth and gold by Broadway's efforts. He might recognize it, he might not. It's sort of an unfair transition even as Jane bites her lip in thought and stares up to the space over the piano to recall the lyrics. Her toe taps out a different beat than the growling harmonics that belong to a king of the underworld, a master of wealth and gems, the great innovator of the unseen.

"Which is the right life,
The simple or the night life?
When, pray, should one rise,
At sunset or at sunrise?
Which should be upper,
My breakfast or my supper?
Which is the right life,
If the wood nymph left the park,
Would Park Avenue excite her?"

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor shifts the melody again, giving Jane a look as he continues where she left off, his baritone resonating with the words as he finds such a poem appealing to his Romani heritage.

"Would the glowworm trade her spark
For the latest Dunhill lighter?
Here's a question I would pose,
Tell me which the sweeter smell makes,
The aroma of the rose,
Or the perfume that Chanel makes?
Which land is dreamier,
Arcadia or Bohemia?
Who'll tell me the answer,
The daisy or the dancer?"

His fingers seem to be almost on autopilot right now, continuing to play on the piano as his eyes. Well, his eyes remain focused on the woman sitting next to him, as he definitely is enjoying the back and forth with the musical lyrics. The weight he carries, the burden of leading his people, for now is lifted as he's simply a young Romani once more, having an enjoyable evening with a beautiful woman.

Jane Foster has posed:
She snaps her fingers once. Jane is caught out in this game of songs, and he makes it so easy. Well, there's another arrow in the proverbial quiver, and that one she plucks with a sliding, low note of a sigh that trills on the air. "I feel I should get you more wine to refresh your palate," she murmurs between the bars, rubbing her throat and finding a way to proceed without much difficulty. Another notation made in her mind; electro-swing, talk about that later.

But for the moment, there's a hesitation as she plucks for the next of the chord. Swaying a little, the sinuous shift of her hips beside him becomes the lazy lilt back-and-forth up to her shoulders. Chair dancing. Bench dancing? Close enough to count for something.
"That's what I'd like to do:
see the heather--but with you.
The mist of May is in the gloamin', and all the clouds are holdin' still.
So take my hand and let's go roamin' through the heather on the hill.
The mornin' dew is blinkin' yonder. There's lazy music in the rill,
And all I want to do is wander through the heather on the hill.

"There may be other days as rich and rare.
There may be other springs as full and fair.
But they won't be the same--they'll come and go..."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor coughs a bit, murmuring, "Admittedly, I am not... used to singing quite so much myself." He sounds a bit amused, but in a good way, as he does not mind the shifting of Jane next to him as he offers, "Shall we call a truce to refill our glasses? As I must admit..." He pauses, then adds, his voice lowering just a bit.

"I... have not had occasion to feel this way in, quite some time, Jane." Perhaps a bit hasty to make that admission, but there are things you discover in a good natured dueling of songs that you might never reveal in casual conversation. He does still keep playing, but it's absent much thought, mainly as a way to supplement the discussion, even if they aren't actually singing much at the moment.

Jane Foster has posed:
"Call a truce? I hadn't even gotten to the climax." Jane sets her hands in her lap, sitting stock straight rather than indicating she might break out in a cabaret tune at any moment. Especially as the jazzy sort of cabaret they're likely to frequent is Paris circa 1922 and Sarah Bernhardt has danced her way across Europe in a scintillating performance illegal in the States. It could be. She raises her chin and bites back a ready smile, then inclines her head to the masked man, the Phantom of Latverian (is here, insiiiide my miiind-- no wait).

The words settling upon her have the habit of making her look away a little, a reflexive lowering of those warm eyes to the spot around the knees. Because piano duels may be hokey, but singing together has been a time-honored tradition of bonding, wooing, courting, and making smash hits for a very long time over the course of human history and she might just know better. Still, it's not pulling away from him in disgust. Not at all; this demonstrates a certain modesty, of sorts. A kind of one, but she's so fair that she can blush effectively without much effort. "I certainly cannot say I have done this at all in a long time. Maybe since university."

She glances at her glass, then his. "Do you want me to refill or is this another kind of duel of the fates."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor's eyes go a bit wide at Jane's declaration that the battles have only just begun, and then he actually smiles. A genuine one, as he admits, "To be frank, neither have I. It's been... a long time since I have actually let myself do this with someone. Anyone, really." He stops playing for the moment, looking curiously at Jane for a long moment.

But then, ah, the cover of a refill, yes, that's a good cloak for now. "A refill, that would be delightful, though you are, of course, my guest here. If anything, I should get that for you." Because the hospitality of the Rom is legend, and Victor always strives to live up to that ideal. Rising slowly to his feet, a bit reluctantly as he looks back at Jane.

"Pardon, I should have asked before... but, were you planning on attending the official Embassy opening? I thought an invitation was sent, but I did not recall seeing a response." He hmms, "I can make no promise of song dueling there, but... I would like to see you. There, I would like to see you there. If it is not too much of an inconvenience."

Jane Foster has posed:
A long time. Years. Years spent in toil, years spent busily twisting and turning in the wind of creation, fabrication, mysteries. She could have an easier time naming stars in the sky in Arabic than she would at all know how to proceed from here. "I enjoy it. You sing and play well. Though this begs the question if you do anything poorly. Garden?" The slightly wrinkled nose and hint of a smile almost turns coy, not at all suggestive of holding cruel intent behind a pretty smile. Slender arc softening to a genuine if restrained smile, she seeks the familiar grounds of the conversation. "I mean, nearly everyone knows my ex and admires him, fears him or still feels envy. But mostly admiration." The other elephant in the room, along with one that rhymes with Zoo. Or Pritchards.

But there, she can rise in kind to let him past, and then drop back on the bench. Her legs cross lightly at the ankle and she reaches for the ivory keys. One by one, scaling the route he already took, the soft tinkling of notes that he already played. Up up, down, down, down.

"Do you want me to come?" A question, well, if he asks. "Inconveniencing me? No."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor chuckles, "You have me there, Jane. I am a horrible gardener. Farming is not something that comes easily to me..." A bit of a shrug, "Also, Valeria tried to have me play on her Nintendo once, and it... was an experience." A bit of a rueful shrug at that, as there's at least //two// things then.

At the mention of Jane's ex, he nods, "Oh, I was aware of that, but I thought it would be rude to mention it. Honestly, who you have been with in the past matters very little to me." Which is true. Doom is probably on the short list of people who are not intimidated by certain Asgardian heroes. He pours the wine for both glasses, then comes back over, offering Jane a glass.

"And I would very much like it if you were there. Even if you decided that you didn't wish to attend /with/ me, I would think it preferable to have you there, than to not see you." With that, he raises his glass to hers, a silent salute as he then adds, "Of course, I would have to be a host, so I might be... distracted, at moments."

Jane Foster has posed:
"Gardening and farming," says Jane. She repeats this fact with a deadpan appreciation, unable to resist from laughing. "A pair of gardening gloves, trowel and spade will not be for your birthday then. It would seem that you are not successful in that endeavour, and I have a secret." Oh, yes. Terrifying. Doom with his little 6" annuals to deposit in the soil, growling anyone who questions his prowess beautifying the city. Kingpin is sure to be snickering in the background.

She brushes her fingers over her hair, pulling it off her shoulder. The slight rose in her cheeks hasn't left and the wine has nothing to do about it, either. The study of her shoes, shined as they are and gleaming, is not a safe space to pursue, so she lifts her head upward. "I don't think anyone is unaware. Nonetheless, thank you." Be thankful. Gratitude goes far; rules from parents long passed. She takes the glass and lifts it to her lips, safely not swallowing right away. Not because she would miss the toast, possibly because it requires air in her lungs.

"You think I have the audacity," another word was probably close to being selected, "to be here right now and accept an invitation, then play stranger. Or shy away from... cameras, guests, everyone else? That would be the height of rudeness, and something like a slap in the face. Why-- I would..." Her words trail off. What can she say? She struggles with that for a moment. "I wouldn't think so highly of the character for someone who pulled such a stunt. That's not really me. I could tell you to your face I wasn't comfortable with attending or politely decline. I mean, no is a complete sentence. But never so rude, never that."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor ahs, "Forgive me, Jane, I had not meant to question your character. But... I do have, a certain... reputation." He pauses, and gives Jane a curious look as he sits next to her once more.

He then raises his glass to hers, "Then a toast, a simple one this time. To the first of hopefully many remarkable evenings." With that, he clinks his glass lightly to hers, then sips.

He then gets a bit of a wry expression, "Now, I believe that there was something mentioned earlier about a truce being temporary at best?" His fingers nimbly dance across the keys of the piano, as he tilts his head in her direction...

Jane Foster has posed:
The brunette brushes her hand lightly against the back of her neck again, her glass still yet to be presented. "You have a reputation. I am not blind, nor am I gamboling ignorantly into a pasture wondering whether the wolf thinks I am particularly tasty or he's rather a shepherd dog prepared to give a solid bite to anything threatening the flock. Still, I am willing to give you a chance to make your own impression on me without the hearsay and ignominy chasing you around. Judging everyone by what others say is a fine way to never use an iota of critical thinking. To not judge for myself, whatever that is. There are some unforgivable values that, if crossed, I could not see the way to walk back to normalcy from. But as it is, I don't think you have acted like some decimating cities and lives have." She thumbs the stem of the glass, then raises her glass. "To discovery, as I said. Maybe time for a new salutation. To coming to new heights. Reaching them." Oh gods, please just swallow her up and hope she doesn't die.

A glimmery note of glasses meeting and the dissolving chime fills out the air. Wry, not wary. She inclines her head and then gives him a most serious look in return. "Indeed, I wager our conflict is not done. Embroiled in the height of lyrics, whatever is next? Pictionary? Dance offs? I dare you."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor grins, "I believe Valeria once said that I had been 'served', but I do have some skill in more classical dances." He looks over at Jane, "Though I suspect Pictionary for two would be a rather dull affair."

He lightly plays a few notes, no real melody as he just improvises, head tilting towards Jane as he continues, "Though, the thing with a dance is that it would take two. However, one thing that is true of Doom..." He says that with an ominous tone, though it still feels lighthearted, as he rises to his feet once more.

He looks to the ceiling, and simply says, "Computer, play Fruhlingsstimmen 410." Then he bows and extends his hand towards Jane, as hidden speakers begin to pipe the lively music into the room.

"May I have this dance?" Because Victor backing down from a challenge... that would be foolishness indeed.

Jane Foster has posed:
One thing in the world about cared like power: an 18-year-old godchild. Right, mark checked off. Latveria, check. Conveniently sidestepping questions about reputation, sticky note. Mind you, Jane Foster -- who is so not Darcy but channeling her or Fandral and possibly a combination of both -- has just challenged Doom to a dance-off. In his own embassy, while he is not armed. No way this could go awkwardly at all. Not a chance.

"Pictionary is not dull when you have creativity, complex words, and a snowy night. Put a fireplace in there, it becomes guaranteed fun. Trust me, being stuck in tiny houses or apartments in the middle of nowhere gives me an appreciation for these things." Her insistence is probably on par with Doom describing Valeria coercing him to play Nintendo. Does she even know the risk she's running? She ought to. "As long as you don't expect to vogue without proper chords. I will bring that Macarena or a disco dance if I have to, to win. There need to be some good things in life worth laughing about." Her dignity is still curled up in a fetal position on the floor, though she takes a proper mouthful of the wine. "One thing true of Doom," she repeats as the music starts to filter through in a spritely cadence. At least spritely enough to dance to, and not Rachmaninoff, making ballerinas weep and pianists break their hands, a case of carpal tunnel for the brain.

He offers his hand. Oh yeah? Take it. She steps in towards him, only after shedding the outer layer. Coat off, that reveals the shell of a blouse worn underneath, slit sleeves revealing the line of her arm from the shoulder to the wrist. And that bracelet.

Odin help her if he reads Asgardian. Most don't. She, of course, knows what the sigils and runes mean.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
If Victor notices the bracelet, he doesn't let on, but of course the mask does help keep an amazing poker face. Instead, he lets Jane effortlessly in a waltz, "I was not attempting to denigrate the game of Pictionary... merely that it is a game designed for multiple people, not just two."

His posture is that of a perfect gentleman, one hand holding hers, the other resting lightly on the small of her back, not forward but just guiding her through the dance as he takes the lead. Of //course// he would take the lead, but then, that's who he is.

He does give her a spin, keeping a perfect cadence in the waltz with his steps as he says, "Though, if you did do a disco dance... I would be hard pressed to top //that//." Normally Doom would never concede defeat, ever. But... well...

Worth it?

Jane Foster has posed:
"I will keep that in mind rather than have you think of me driven solely by impulse and brinkmanship. The Russians taught us that was a poor practice, and no need to have a personal Cuban missile crisis on your front porch." The game of Pictionary could be denigrated, perhaps. "Though I really should have you brave a game of Apples to Apples. Or Cards against Humanity, though that will rot your soul as much as your mind, and you'll not tolerate having Valeria play. In truth, it's really best to have those who are squarely mature adults with quick wits and guttersnipe tendencies playing." Exactly the sort of game, then, for Doom.


Not like she has a deck all ready to go for when that happens. So, as it is, the three-step slide of the dance is one she knows. Doom is a fine leader, of course, though this one makes something she can follow along with, rather than a Latverian foxtrot or some kind of whiskey-soaked variation on a rhumba that might just cause an international conflict when performed by the right or wrong parties. Likely Jane Foster, astrophysicist, is not the right sort without a Dancing with the Stars stint. And that so isn't happening. Hand in his, arm around his back, she follows by relaxing and sweeping into the turns, executing them with some degree of alacrity.

"Name your artist, and we will see how it's done," she replies.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Doom hmms, "Indeed. Well, admittedly I am not //that// familiar with disco, but let me think..." And so he does, though his steps never falter as he sweeps Jane across the dance floor in a gracious lead, spinning and then side-stepping along in the waltz as he considers the matter of party games.

"Truthfully, I do not know either of those games, though I am now somewhat intrigued... I might have to let you show these to me." Which, well, that could easily be some sort of an international incident, though Valeria is going to be //very// upset to not be included, no doubt!

Then, at the end of the waltz, Victor sweeps Jane down, dipping her easily and holding her there for an extended moment. His eyes meet hers, though he says nothing, and then he draws her back up towards him, not breaking eye contact as he then says.

"Computer, play Disco Inferno." Appropriate, if a bit on the nose perhaps, considering what they're going to attempt later...

Jane Foster has posed:
A swivel and they're facing one another in a different way, the flutter of those split sleeves giving Jane a frisson of motion where otherwise they might not be. The dance involves more than simply keeping a respectful proximity and turning in time to the music. Synchronization takes attention and listening, feeling out the beat. One-two-three, one-two-three, the waltzmeister of Vienna can count out those beats for her in another life. Tick, tick, tick, turn; sway, willowy light and don't step on a perfectly expensive shoe. No doubt the bespoke fashion for Doom's footwear cost more than most apartments.

"Then we are going to have to play one. Though I can give you an outlet of anonymity for the Cards Against Humanity if you want. All it takes is a laptop and an internet connection, though I admit that you could do it with a phone. Best to play with acquaintances, though having internet strangers is also a possibility." The words trip off the tongue as she turns her cheek to the mask, close enough she can probably tell if it's cold or warm, or something in between. If it's radioactive, she is so dead.

Down, then, and the world slips into a deep dip. Oh, and there she is, arm around his back, holding to that crisp suit and arching down as the world spins. Wine doesn't normally hit that hard. Oh, not at all.

He's not calling her on her bluff. Once they are up, she steps back and sucks in a deep breath. The Trammps. She can do this, especially with the wiggly, swaying beat. 1978, eat your heart out.

The shoes aren't right but she makes do, disengaging by stepping back and swaying her hips to give the frisson of movement. Saturday Night Fever isn't even the half of it. "Are you dancing with me, then?" she asks, giving him a glance over her shoulder. The sinuous movements of her shoulders really need another drink and a cape, but she can manage by sashaying forward in tight, swiveling steps until passing him by. Arms held up slightly echo her movements, shoulders tight and hips bumped to the boogeying boot.

Burn, baby, burn.... Disco inferno. Hands overhead, she steps in and steps out, then bounces in ways that have been essentially criminal since 1983.

Hammer those notes she will, with or without Doom. Question is, can he resist the music in the air? That makes him know there's a party somewhere?

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor smiles at the mention of playing anonymously, "That... would be preferable, for a start I think. I suspect the uproar over my playing a game like that would be almost as bad as trying to take over New York for some reason." Mostly joking, really. Though when her cheek touches the mask... it's surprisingly warm, about the right temperature as a person might be from the electronics. No radiation there!

Though, then Jane decides to call out Doom, once she begins to sway to the disco beat. And, well, no one /is/ around, except for her...

So he joins her. It's not a conventional 'disco dance' by any means, but the beat can be moved to, and he takes his lessons as a child dancing among the Romani to heart. Applying such steps to the frentic beat of the music as he moves with Jane, his hands raised high as he moves gracefully... if not full of disco experience.

Not exactly an 'in' thing in 70s Latveria, apparently.

Jane Foster has posed:
When the song runs out, as it eventually will, Jane is already well in motion. She sways her hips and strikes out that bit, showing off slightly fancier footwork. The epitome of cool isn't slithering through the dance, it's flowing like an ever-changing water current, sliding sinuous or shimmying, a twisting, oscillating movement. They may not be an episode of Soul Train -- she's just too young and he would have been awfully small to sit and watch the contraband channels on Latverian television. Nonetheless, the music is dangerously addictive for moving.

"Let It Whip or You Should Be Dancing," she recommends, slinking around the baby grand with steps that sort of work. Did her parents dance this way? Who knows, but the rhythm is in her blood, and damn if she plans to lose to /him/. Especially because the slippery saunter required to achieve cool in this is undeniably a group dance. She holds her hands to Doom, palms up, fingers curled into her palms as she pulls one arm back, then the other, a come hither motion. Forget Travolta, other rules apply.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor releases the jacket with flair, letting it fall over the edge of the piano bench as he says, "Computer, play You Should be Dancing, then Let It Whip." He looks at Jane's slinking across the dance floor with... well, there's a lot of reactions going through his mind right now.

And well, he moves after Jane when she beckons, willingly following the Disco Queen of Midgard as his own moves are fluid, like a hunting cat perhaps. Stalking one that might loosely be considered 'prey' as he circles around her, continuing those Romani-esque steps, translated into a disco beat.

Jane Foster has posed:
"Does computer have a name, or is that too personal?" Maybe getting fast and loose with the dancing has an effect. Well, it does in the sense that the fanning effect of her sleeves keeps her vaguely cool and the wine is burning off faster than she thought. Room for more! Maybe. Maybe not. So too that glimpse of humour, of humanity, where otherwise there might be an imposing figurehead masquerading as a person, hits some notes. Things are going very interestingly indeed. Swimmingly, if the disco crowd is happy.

She switches up routines, unable to sustain an ongoing high tempo. First, the shoes have to go. Heels aren't meant for this, even appreciable ones. She hasn't even got stocking feet, a blessing for grip, as she whipsnaps her head from side to side and whatever hopes the braid had of staying in place now becomes a cloud of burnt umber swirling around her face. Hoop earrings dance as she lifts her wrist and keeps guiding him back, hunter and hunted, until hitting the wall.

No retreat is possible from there, a misjudging of distance or some other foible. The girl utters a surprised sound and draws breath swiftly, shallow, lifting her burning eyes to determine just where they are at. Close, closing, far? If the latter, she rolls off her hip and makes shimmying down the line. But likely, being as it is from Roma traditions, there is far less escape, far less room.


Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor spins as well, keeping the pace and stalking close. He's not as fluid as she is, though his own shoes are discarded, the green silk tie loosely hanging around his collar now in a haphazard fashion.

And then, she's against the wall, an error in judgment on spatial distance. He could let her go, but then... if he did, would he really be Doom?

His hands quickly rest against the wall, preventing escape as he moves towards her, his body lightly pressed against hers as the music gradually fades, his voice a whisper...

"Checkmate." He doesn't move further, though... well, there is a problem. That problem being the mask, as he hesitates... that last significant wall, that protection, still there. Though here, does it prop him up, or does it hold him back?

Jane Foster has posed:
That last song slinks. The first, with the brothers Gibb, is all about sauntering, machismo perhaps on overdrive, but full of delight and energetic bombast. Not the second, not at all. It sleekly prowls in like a hunting cat on a glittering ripple of noise. A click of the synthesizers and down it buzzes, something under the blood. Back, forth, the coiled snap of strength strikes the pauses in the erstwhile, sinuous chord. Not for nothing is it good for staccato steps and deep dips, showing off while on the town.

"Paint the town red," she replies with a show of underlying courage that rarely if ever will desert her. Jane is only human. Then again, so are most of them. Oh, he could be Doom and let her free, but the game is on a deadly tangent. One misstep, and then what?

The last notes fade out, stalking off into the shadows, and she still has a bit of motion fading away like embers on the breeze. Smoke will carry up a different serpentine path even when the flame is pinched out. Those wide brown eyes trace his, forbidden by steel and more, so much taller than she is. The expression shows herself back; it reveals a polished lustre, but still rose-cheeked, pupils dark, and her breathing too quick, too fast to just be playing. She -was- dancing.

The niggling detail is a problem, but she has one ace up the sleeve. Or maybe it's a three of diamonds, but who knows the difference. The dagger-point of expectation is already skewering them equally, and she pushes herself onto that unknown precipice. "It seems to be." Purely agreeable. She starts to catch her lower lip between her teeth, halting herself. What's the safe course? Not quite worth finding. A flow of her breath curls on the shining feature. It might leave no impression. Does the tip of her nose to his jaw? Only one way to know.

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor pauses for a long moment, looking at Jane, meeting her gaze with his own as he is but a man, despite all his pretense and knowledge. One hand reaches up, lightly stroking her hair as he almost seems to look through her. Weighing her in his eyes, as he has that barrier. That protection from a world that hates and fears him, not without reason.

The moisture of her breath clings to his mask, condensation there as he murmurs, "I..." A pause, as he struggles with the notion, though it would be so easy to just take off the mask for her. For Jane.

But is that who Doom really is? Who /is/ Doom? Is he just the mask, or is he more than that. His eyes waver a bit, and he whispers, "The people that have seen me unmasked... are few." There's an actual layer of something Doom has rarely expressed there, something that he might level an entire nation to keep someone from seeing.

Something that he actually shows to Jane. Something that he fears.

Jane Foster has posed:
She is certainly only herself, nothing special. Jane Foster, doctor, Nobel Laureate, famously on the right side of history and ethics, and doing this thing.

Future reality stone host. Most definitely not a future reality TV host. And while part of her psyche is shouting insistently in Darcy's voice, it's drowned out. She can't maintain eye contact and hold her position, dancing cheek to almost cheek if she stands on tiptoe, and he stoops, and Victor is just Victor. Except for the metal wall. Terrified, audacious, wondrous, and just simply there, she nods a little. The slip of flesh on bare metal is tangible, a faint drag. Fear, oh, that incarnadine flood in the veins.

Her lips would normally graze his earlobe, if it were reachable, but height and his attire stop that somewhat. "I dare you."

A beat. To brave the impossible? Good way to get smacked. If she gets the words out after gathering breath, another wispy tendril of sound reaches him, supposing there's no backhand involved. "To cuddle. On a couch."

Victor Von Doom has posed:
Victor pauses, a soft gasp emitting as she dares him... and then she finishes her sentence. At which point he slides an arm around her waist, holding her close as he whispers, "Nothing... would please me more." The metal of his mask is slightly cooler than his skin, as he leads Jane towards a couch in a side room of the Embassy.

Much cuddling shall undoubtedly ensue. As Doom might not be ready to unmask himself for her... yet, the fact that she accepted it was not unnoticed. Nor was it unappreciated.