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The Falcon, the Spider, and the Steve
Dramatis Personae

Steve, Sam, Peter


Shh. Secret code-names.


<NYC> Grand Street Market - Lower East Side

<NYC> Grand Street Market - Lower East Side

This neighborhood fixture has stood at the corner of Essex and Grand for a long, long time. Though it has a name and even a proper sign which declares 'GRAND ST MARKET', to much of the neighborhood it is simply the bodega, as though there weren't 10,000 others like it throughout the City. It's open 24/7, but after midnight anyone who isn't a trusted regular has to ask for their purchases through the bulletproof glass service window. Business tends to be slow but steady most weekdays and extremely lively on Saturdays--almost as lively as the trade in community gossip at this underrated social hub.

The long counter extends back from the front door that opens onto the corner. Many of the more expensive small items, such as cigarettes, medications, and electronics, are sequestered there between the old-fashioned cash register and the late-night service window set into the outer wall. Farther along the counter, there is a food prep area that serves up coffee, soup, sandwiches, and a rotating menu of Dominican snacks. Between the end of the food service counter and the back wall, there is mounted a dry, crumbling cork board overflowing with event announcements, ads, and lost pet fliers and a slow but reliable ATM.

Beyond this, the rest of the respectably sized store is crammed with shelves and end caps and refrigerated display cases. It sells prepared foods, produce, groceries, home goods, alcohol, personal care products, toys, over-the-counter medications clothing, and a variety of Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Chinese specialty items. Interspersed with and crowding between these common household necessities are small luxuries and occasional startling whimsies. In addition to the human employees, the shop is staffed by Coquí and Sapo, the resident cats.

The day is crawling its way toward the afternoon. Grey clouds overhead occasionally let loose with a small splatter of rain-drops, with the wind intermittently picking up in bursts that are strong enough to leave pedestrians hugging themselves and searching for cover. The sudden surges are thankfully brief, and don't manage to put a damper on the distant hum of a cello that someone's playing beneath the cover of a neighboring restaurant's front canopy.

Intermittently, folks enter and exit the bodega -- a young woman and two children, hand-in-hand -- an elderly couple, swaddled in bright and colorful clothes, both wearing similarly bright face-masks -- a man with earbuds who's singing along with the lyrics of *Keep Your Family Closer*. So far, the procession has been without consequence or note.

The weather's starting to pass by, now -- the cello gets a little bolder as the wind and light rain vanish. The daughter and children exit, along with the elderly couple; the man with the ear-buds is still inside. For the first time in a few hours, the sun peeks out from behind the clouds.

Steve has just finished his sandwich and tossed the foil wrapper with unerring accuracy -- left handed! -- into the trash can on the corner. He's dressed plainly in a light heather blue t-shirt, brown leather jacket, perfectly fitted blue jeans, and black combat boots. His right hand is neatly wrapped in white gauze, binding his fingers together and preventing him from clenching it too tightly. "...so then the /Devil/, for some reason, starts helping this cop investigate crimes. He's very...dramatic, about it." His head gives a quick shake. "I'm sure there's some kind of postmodern irony I'm missing here, but I just don't see the appeal."

Sam is still working his way through a ham-egg-and-cheese croissant, wrapper folded neatly back though the sandwich itself is slightly coming apart in his hands. His brows have lifted as Steve talks; he's leaned back against a bus stop, legs crossing at the ankles. He's dressed casual as well; jeans, black leather jacket, a soft grey v-neck tee. "What can't be turned into a police procedural, huh." He licks at his lips, shakes his head. "I think the appeal was mostly that it was a popular comic book. Gotta admit, the show -- don't sound much like it, though."

"Crap, crap, crap..." Peter's words -- mumbled repeatedly under his breath -- can be heard before he appears around the corner, jogging toward the bodega. He's dressed in a loose-fitting gray hoodie, donned in response to the rain and wind earlier; already, he's getting overheated. Beneath that, dress slacks -- with a black sack-pack strapped behind him.

The hood is down, revealing Peter's tussled locks of wild dark hair and those bright burning eyes rimmed with dark circles. He looks semi-panicked as he rushes toward the bodega, his rapid jog only slowing once he sees the two men out-front. Though he doesn't recognize either initially, he immediately presumes *why* they're here: "Hey! Um, you're here to watch the bodega, right? Sorry, I was supposed to be here an hour ago, but I got stuck with..."

The words trail off. Peter comes to a stop about five feet away from Steve and Sam. He is staring -- perhaps a bit rudely! -- at Steve. His expression looks like that of a deer caught in the headlights of an incoming semi-truck.

"If they're trying to make Lucifer sympathetic, that was not the angle to take." Steve frowns. "Well. I suppose that probably depends on their target audience." He straightens up ever so slightly at the sounds of approaching panic, dropping half into a combat stance when Peter rounds the corner and then relaxing just a touch when the young man address them. "Take it easy, fella." He glances aside at Sam, perhaps to check for any recognition on his part. "What's your name?"

"Think they been primed by -- many centuries of people tryna drum up sympathy for the devil." Sam lowers his sandwich, dark eyes riveting sharply on Peter at the rapid approach. His lips just twitch up into a small quirk of smile at the abruptly caught words; he glances between Peter and Steve, settling back against the side of the bus station. Casually unwrapping his sandwich a little further to nibble at a trailing piece of ham. "Mind your eyes, friend, they're bout to fall right out your head."

"--uh--" Peter's still staring; his eyes do, indeed, look ready to pop out of his skull. He actually takes a step back. Then, as if only just realizing he's been spoken to, his eyes flitter between Steve, Sam, then back to Steve: "B-Ben. I mean. Peter. My name's Peter," he says, and immediately he's thrusting his hand out blindly to offer to Steve. "It's very nice to meet you, uh, Sir. Captain. Or -- oh," he continues, only now catching sight of the bandages, immediately retracting his hand and taking a step back. His face burns a bright shade of scarlet: "Oh, crap, um. Sorry. That's weird. This is weird. Sorry --" The hand moves up, self-consciously scratching at the back of his own head: "--for being weird."

Steve raises his eyebrows slightly when Peter stumbles over his own name. Looks down at the hand he briefly offers. There's something slightly tense in his smile, but he doesn't look angry. "Please, call me Steve," comes out easy and calm. "It's nice to meet you, Peter. If it gives you any comfort, that was actually not the most awkward introduction I've had in the 21st century." The strain in his smile is gone. "Not even close. Are you one of Ion's fellas, then?"

"Are you -- not quite sure?" Sam polishes off the last of his sandwich. Crumples the wrapper into a palm, mouth twitching again when Peter corrects himself on his name. He tugs a napkin out of his jacket pocket, and though there really isn't any detritus from his sandwich to be found on his face he's wiping at his mouth -- wiping away the amused smile that lingers, his expression more solemn by the time he is tossing his trash away. "Don't strike me as exactly the Mongrel type, but I've had to adjust my assumptions a lot since meeting 'em."

"I... right," Peter mouths the words breathlessly. He can't seem to settle his eyes on either Steve or Sam. "Sorry, that's, uh... Ben's my, y'know..." He scratches the back of his head a bit more intensely, looking to Sam: "...*secret* name. Y'know?" The tone of this statement is such that it implies that Sam and Steve know *exactly* what Peter is talking about. He snaps his gaze back to Steve: "Oh! R-right! Ion. Yeah." There's a faint shift in his posture; not *quite* a puffing-of-the-chest, but he straightens his shoulders a bit, breaks out his best Serious Business expression, and tries very hard to look slightly taller and more intimidating. "Ion's people sent me. To help." Just a smidge lower; like this five-foot-ten bean-pole of a college-kid is the *muscle*.

"Secret name," Steve repeats blankly. "Your nom de guerre is -- Ben?" His tone isn't mocking, but perhaps equal parts confused and incredulous. "Well, I'm sure your secret's safe with us." He looks -- again, a bit odd and tense. Draws in a deep breath and lets it out slow. "I have also had to adjust...a lot of expectations, but ah..." He looks Peter up and down. "Will you be alright handling this shift alone? Or do you have a buddy on the way?"

"'course. Right. Not a bad choice for a codename, honestly. Not gonna call attention to itself, that's for sure." Sam pulls himself upright, regarding Peter with a slow nod as the young man's expression turns Serious. "Well. I'm sure they'd only trust their folk to the safest of hands. You, uh, are gonna have a partner on this shift though, yeah? Not good practice for any of us being out here alone."

"I always work alone." This is Peter's Batman voice. Suddenly, his Serious look is split wide-open with a crooked smile. "Nah, I mean... someone's coming soon, I'm sure. I think they're just running late." He leans back against the bodega's railing, arms folded over his chest, trying his best to project the aura of being Just-One-of-the-Guys. "I'm fine, though. I can handle myself. I can sense danger. Feel it. Like... a Danger-Tingle." The smile cracks. His arms slide down from his chest. "That, uh... It's... that sounded cooler in my head."

Steve's brows wrinkle faintly at Sam's commentary on the name. "Huh. Good point. Not that I've any stones to throw, in any case. Some poor overworked USO fella came up with mine banging out a script on a chainsmoking all-nighter." His smile is warm, here, his posture relaxing to complement Peter's (yes, you're just one of the guys here). "So you can't be ambushed, for one -- and I'm sure there's all manner of other applications I wouldn't think of off-hand." He glances sideways at Peter. "That sounds ah...pretty cool, in my book."

"Wait, you mean that literally?" Sam's brows hike up. His eyes flick to Steve, then Peter. His quiet, huh, sounds genuinely impressed. "That's gotta come real handy. Especially working jobs like this." The small quirk of his mouth is just a little crooked. "Sure can think of a few times I would've liked a -- danger-tingle." He slides his hands into his pockets, glances up at the overcast sky. "Alright, then. Ben. Sounds like you got this handled. Thanks for the relief."

Peter re-inflates in response Steve's posture, picking up on it subconsciously; the brief flicker of embarrassment at his invention of the term 'Danger-Tingle' starts to evaporate. Its deathblow comes when Sam mentions how it would be *handy*. "Oh, man, you've got no idea what else I can --"

Something hard flickers over Peter's expression. Something *legitimately* hard. His expression relaxes... but in a sort of hollowed out, tired way: "Ignore me, I'm babbling. Sorry. And yeah, I've got this. Oh, right -- I didn't catch your name." To Sam, as Peter takes up his post by the railing.

Then, to Steve -- a little lower, almost apologetically. Like he was confessing a secret: "I, uh... I read your comics, when I was a teenager. I liked them. I didn't know you were real, back then. Uh, sorry... about that. I liked the one where you punch Hitler," he finally admits.

"Sure do appreciate it," Steve nods his agreement with Sam. Studies Peter for a moment, "You alright there, pal?" His eyebrows lift slowly. "I didn't know people still read those. Well, now, of course, since I came back -- but before?" His expression does something complicated as he straightens up. "No need to apologize. Those comics were fun, even if I didn't always like the words they put in my mouth. If you ever want me to sign one, you know folks who can put us in touch."

"I didn't give it. It's Sam -- in my civilian life." Sam hesitates a moment, studying Peter's expression before leaning in to offer, voice dropped quieter: "Don't go spreading it around, but between us here, you can call me Falcon."

"Oh --" Peter's eyebrows spring up a little at the mention of actually getting one of those comic-books signed. He looks unsure of how to respond -- but then, Sam proceeds to relinquish his secret name. Ladies and gentlemen, we have lift-off; the eyebrows are well on their way to the stratosphere. "-- oh," he says, and he quietly -- nods. Falcon. Yes. Secret name. Have no fear; he'll take it to the grave.

Steve claps Peter on the shoulder gently. "Well, take care, friend -- and take care of our guy in there, yeah?" Despite the implicit question, he doesn't look in any doubt of this. He waves casually and turns to leave, but then stops. Looks back. "Oh, and you know what?" Tips his head up, his smile warm. "I liked the one where I punched Hitler, too."