"Thank you for your service." (In the aftermath of the Met Gala explosion.)
NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Things in New York's most exclusive party are not going quite so well as planned. Most of the (artlessly or extravagantly) stylish guests have by now fled, and most of the flames are at least out, though in places the wreckage of what was the stage still smoulders; the room is still smokey, dark and wet and uncomfortable to breathe in. It swarms with EMS removing people on stretchers (or, in some cases, in bags), with police talking to distraught guests far to the sides.
Here at the center, where the blast happened, there are far fewer bodies stuck in the rubble than there had been; some shifting, some not at all. Jax is pale, kind of shaky, the air around him quivering with an odd shifting of greyish shadow that clings and roils around his skin. Still, the spiderwebbing of translucent but impossibly strong /stuff/ that is holding up the unstable rubble that still threatens to collapse on the few people left trapped is holding steady. This, despite the fact that one segment of debris has just liquified itself, sizzling quite menacingly as it does.
One segment of Jax's wall grows rapidly, expanding to protect the half-visible body beneath as the now-liquid goop runs down the side of the shielding, eating through the floor around it. "Ah --" He rubs knuckles against his eye, biting down on his lip and eying the goop uncertainly. "I guess we'll just. Have to. Hope that. Don't. Spread." (Spoiler: It's already starting to spread. Thankfully, very slowly. The floor is /probably/ not going to collapse -- any further than it's already threatening to, around them, that is. There's already veins of shimmering forcefield reinforcing the stage area in places where you can see clear through to the basement and the footing is highly shaky.) "Steve, we might want to get this person next. Careful that you don't. Get. Melted." Exhausted as he is, he doesn't seem to have much immediate suggestion for /how/ to not get melted, but at least at the moment there's only /one/ localized puddle of -- goo.
Steve has just been relieved by the overworked EMTs of his last rescuee, and is turning toward this newest horror even as Jax instincts him. "Roger," he says, voice rough from breathing smoke (and presumably the fumes that have been out-gassing from the myriad of melted synthetics). He makes his careful way to the trapped survivor, only glancing up once at the surreal sight of the slag running down the translucent forcefield. The bold red, white, and blue of Captain America's uniform is blackened and bloody, ripped or even burned through here and there, showing sooty wounds underneath.
For all that, Steve's strength has not flagged through the frantic search and rescue operation, and he now shoulders a heavy support beam, shifting it carefully to free the person trapped underneath. "Medic!" he calls out. When no one immediately comes running, he crouches down, maneuvering himself to a position where he could scoop up the survivor himself while also holding up the beam and not -- hopefully -- getting either of them melted. "Hey, pal, can you hear me? I might have to pull you out of there in just a minute." He's eyeing the expansion of the goop and the overworked first responders even as he speaks. "It'd be easier if you could hold onto me. Do you think you can do that?"
The only EMTs to look up at Steve's call are already occupied with securing a patient for transport, but one of them pulls out a shortwave radio and speaks into it for a moment before resuming their work.
The person Steve has just nominally freed from the debris is conscious, but not in any kind of shape to drag themselves out of harm's way. They open their mouth to answer but the only sound that comes out is a breathy whimper. One of their arms is badly burned where it had been pinned beneath something hot, but the other seems more or less functional, if bloody from a host of scrapes and cuts. They reach up and curl that arm around Steve's muscular torso, closing their fist tight around a handful of his filthy uniform.
Jax takes a deep breath, and then another. He eases himself down to sit on the floor, heedless of the scraps of jagged debris around him. The weight of the beam stabilizes a moment later, held suspended in place on another thin translucent ribbon of shielding to free Steve up to focus more fully on the trapped dancer. Jax closes his eye, senses stretching out to take stock of the mess again while Steve works. There's an uneasy shifting from the floor; Jax opens his eye a moment later, and the precarious straining quiets. Jax opens his mouth to start saying something, but then quiets with a cough and a small shiver. Instead, a series of bright green dotted lights blossom through the space, highlighting three separate trails that end with huge red arrows pointing down into the wreck. At one of these points the buried person's hand can be partially seen protruding from the debris; the other two are covered enough that it will take some excavation before they're visible to most /other/ people's senses. His eye closes again.
When the beam stabilizes above him, Steve does not hesitate. "I'm /so/ sorry," he tells the injured person before slipping an arm around their shoulders, the other under their knees and lifting them out of their nest of charred splinters. He moves as quickly as he dares across the shifting floor, setting them down on one of the nearer tables. He covers the injured person with a flap of the tablecloth, looking back over his shoulder when he sees Jax sink down to the floor. Frowns more deeply. When the EMTs finally return he waves them over urgently. "You," he tells them even as he heads back toward the rubble, "come with me come with me now, and call someone else to take care of her." Gesturing at the dancer on the table. "That debris is going to start collapsing soon, and the floor, too."
Without looking to see whether he's obeyed, Steve makes a beeline for the farthest of the three survivors Jax has marked. Even in his haste, though, he clears away the debris around the buried dancer with care, teeth gritted as an exposed nail slices open his palm (his gloves were not designed for this kind of punishment and are disintegrating around his hands). Luckily there's nothing large or heavy pinning down this person -- though they are unconscious and bleeding liberally from a head wound. He scooped them up and ferries them out, returning for the last survivor while the two EMTs are still gingerly excavating the one whose hand is visible through the rubble. This last dancer is also unconscious, which is perhaps a mercy given the extent of their burns. Steve casts an anxious glance at Jax, then at the frozen-teetering wreck of beams leaning over them, as he lifts the last survivor out.
The medics do as they are bade, though Steve's assessment of the situation doesn't seem to inspire much confidence as they go to extract one of the unconventionally marked survivors. Their call on the radio is answered not by other EMS personnel, but by a small pack of police officers who had been milling about trying to look useful. A pair of them, do indeed check on the patient, but the rest go to Jax instead. "Are you Jackson Holland, Sir?"
In greeting to the cops, Jax leans forward, bracing himself against a half-collapsed table, and vomits on the floor. The ground beneath them shifts again, then calms. Jax looks up, wide-eyed, the air around him just a little darker, wiping the back of his hand across his lips. "Sorry," he says, a little raspily. "That's me. Um. I think there might be -- some of the floor collapsed. I don't know if anyone fell through -- it's a little unstable. Once those folks are out someone might need to -- to check down in the..." He trails off, pressing his knuckles to his lips briefly again. "Sorry. Do you know where they're taking Ryan?"
Steve is most of the way to relative safety with their last rescuee when Jax's reinforcement lapses and the floor starts to crumble beneath him. He just breaks into a run -- easily outpacing the collapse and bringing his charge to the table that has become yet another triage area, leaving them with the EMTs and the cops. He glances back at Jax and the other police. Frowns. Approaches them. "Officers," he says with a firm nod of greeting. "We got everyone up here, but -- yeah." He kneels down next to Jax, lays a hand on his shoulder, frown deepening. "We should get you out of here and into fresh air."
The same cop who had asked the question nods and says, "You're going to have to come with us, Mister Holland." If he was going to make any explanation, he's distracted by Steve's approach. His younger fellows are even more excited, elbowing each other and gawping at Captain America in the flesh. "That's good work there, Captain," one of them says. And another, "Thank you for your service."
Their superior clears his throat and, when they shut up, he says, "Captain Rogers, we'll ensure he receives any medical attention if he needs it." His brows soften with real concern, here, "You might want to go have the paramedics check you over, too."
Jax closes his eye, slumping into the hand Steve sets on him. His nod is robotic, heavy. "But the floor --" It's a weak protest, uncertain. "If there's people -- I think I need to. Be. Slow." It's hard to see without paying attention, the gradual untethering of some of his already barely-visible supports from where they've been laced throughout the debris. Slowly letting a thread go here and there and waiting for the ensuing shift of rubble, creak of floor, to see what he can afford to release /next/. He opens his eye again, looking up at the police blankly. "Huh? No, I'm fine. Just -- tired. I can't go yet. Do you know where they took Ryan?" A little more insistent, this time.
Steve's eyes widen as he glances back toward the floor -- perhaps, absent obviously visible forcefields, he has only just now fully connected the continued floor's integrity with Jax's powers. "/He's/ holding up the floor, but I don't think he can do it much longer," he translates hastily even as he shifts his arm to brace under Jax's shoulder, letting the other man lean against him. "Hold on, please," he says in Jax's ear, low and urgent. Then barks at the cop in charge, "Radio and ask if the firemen have checked below. Tell them it's collapsing imminently."
The cops all just look at each other for what probably seems like a subjective eternity, but at last the superior makes a call on his radio and repeats Steve's words more or less verbatim. This done, he hesitates before telling Steve, with an almost embarrassed expression. "We are placing Mister Holland under arrest." But then he glances dubiously at the floor as it collapses in fortuitously short stages. "I don't know where they're taking him, but we have people with him to keep him safe."
Jax just continues to look at the officers blankly. The rest of his network of forcefields, thankfully, stay in place, the slow deconstruction halted by the utter bemusement that has currently overcome him. He blinks, passes a hand across his face. Stares a moment longer. "I can't go yet," he finally says again, flat and toneless. "Did you not... hear."
Steve opens his mouth and closes it again. Then opens it again. "/He/ is holding it up, with his um...mutant powers. If you take him away, he can't do that anymore and the rest of this floor will collapse all at once. You don't want that."
The leader of the cops looks both perplexed and suspicious. "Look, I'm not sure we have any good reason to believe him. That sounds like stalling, and this man is potentially very dangerous." But none of them are moving to /take/ Jax anywhere, either. Finally, the man's radio crackles and informs him the lower floor has been cleared, and that the FDNY thinks they should evacuate above, as well -- that the fact the floor hadn't collapsed seemed "structurally impossible". He looks at Jax dubiously. "Let's get out of here before the floor gives out."
"Yeah, I might. Very dangerously pass out on you." Jax leans a little more heavily against Steve, exhaling a relieved sigh at the crackling voice from the radio. His arm curls around Steve, weight settling against the taller man as he struggles shakily to his feet. "Y'all really should go first, I ain't sure how well I can --" Only /now/ does he frown, looking up with a gradually dawning confusion. "... I'm being /arrested/?"
Steve braces Jax up easily and does not withdraw his support when the other man gains his feet. "Go on," he tells the cops firmly. Then, to Jax, "I can walk with you if that helps, but I'm not sure if I'm just making it worse by being...heavy."
The cops don't need to be told a third time. They beat a hasty retreat, but linger just outside the exit. One of them has the handcuffs ready for Jax. "Jackson Holland, you are under arrest on suspicion of causing the explosion."
"You ain't heavy," Jax assures Steve, "I mean you're helping. I mean..." He just shakes his head, leaning into Steve's support and letting the other man escort him out without bothering to explain further. Behind them, the floor creaks, shakes, crumbles further, the crackling and thudding audible as they head out into the cleaner night air.
Jax draws a deep breath of the (comparatively) less contaminated air outside -- but immediately catches it, an audible hitch. Against Steve's side he shudders; the swirl of shadow that has been clinging to him shudders along with him. "That was /Ryan/, are --" he catches himself sharply, biting back the rest of his words with a /click/ of teeth. With a concerted effort he pulls himself upright, lips compressed into a thin line as he holds his hands out for the cuffs.
Steve's jaw works, the grind of his teeth slow and furious. When he speaks, the anger is somewhat contained, "This man contained the explosion -- I was there. Without him, me and half the quality would have been on fire, and then he about killed himself keeping us and the injured safe during the rescue effort. What possible grounds could you have for accusing him?" He is looming a little threateningly over the cop who's putting the cuffs on Jax. "This is a gross miscarriage of justice."
The cop with the cuffs looks superbly uncomfortable, but his supervisor seems largely impervious to Steve's displeasure. "We're not at liberty to discuss details of an ongoing investigation with you, Cap," he says. Then turns to read Jax his rights.