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In Which Mutants Plan A Future Episode Of The Captain America Show While Discussing Other Less Weighty Matters
Dramatis Personae

Flicker, Steve, Teddy


"Home -- that's complicated."


<NYC> Lower East Side

The heavy rains have come and gone and with the sun out once more some people are starting to enjoy the warm -- if muggy -- evening. The sun hasn't quite set, glinting warm and bright against the glass facade of the tall knifelike structure of the Mendel Clinic. Even now as it nears closing hours the Clinic has attracted a small cluster of protesters -- at least today they are /peacefully/ haranguing the patients who come to the country's only mutant-specialty research and care institute, pacing back and forth along the sidewalk chanting vocal steady prayers at any who come in and out of the doors.

Just next /door/ to the clinic is a patch of land, once abandoned but in recent times turned into a small and well-tended garden, broken-down packing crates repurposed into the edges of raised beds, stakes in the plots labeling the vegetables that have been planted there, a riot of color around its edges where flowers have been planted, mismatched chairs or harvested from curbs to serve as seating between the beds. There's nominally a gate, currently thrown wide open.

Flicker /had/ been sitting, earlier, but in his usual habit that hasn't lasted all that long. He's up again now, pacing restlessly with a half-finished burrito in hand. Over by the vegetable beds (dirt-covered gardening gloves abandoned), over to the open gate to peer out of it onto the sidewalk. He's dressed in his usual, khakis (they have one singular spot of dirt near his knee, which he's currently flicking sharply away), plain green polo shirt, a prosthetic arm that in his regular fashion makes not a single attempt to look /unobtrusive/ -- today it's deep mottled grey stormclouds shot through with brighter white-blue flashes of lightning.

For a moment his eyes track to the protesters down the sidewalk, sizing them up. /Deliberately/ looking away with a sharp shake of his head, a moment later. "-- I think some of them genuinely think they can /pray/ the mutie out of us."

Ted's feet hurt. Which, for him, is saying something. He's been walking around the Lower East Side for hours now, ever since he got out of prison, showing Ben's picture to shopkeepers, bartenders, cab drivers, random passers-by, hoping someone might have seen him the night he died. For the most part he's gotten insults, obscenities, and threats, which is pretty much what he expected... but, well, at least he's doing _something_.

When he was little, he used to fantasize about having super-powers. Now he _has_ them, and somehow he feels even more impotent than he did as a kid.

The protesters in front of Mendel Clinic are no different, though they add passive-aggressive prayer to the standard menu. As Ted walks away from them, he spots a familiar face... or, well, more precisely a familiar body... in the garden next door. He stops by the gate, not entering, in time to overhear Flicker's comment.

"I think they'd be just as happy if we just disappeared," he mutters. It still feels weird to think of mutants as "us", but it feels utterly ridiculous to do otherwise.

Steve remains seated for longer, still working his steady way through his -- third? forth? -- burrito. His outfit isn't /quite/ his usual -- the perfectly fitted blue jeans and combat boots, certainly, but his t-shirt today has a /graphic/ on it. The sky blue shirt is, like many of his, just a /bit/ tight across his muscular torso, and sports a grayscale print of a fierce winged wolf crushing a thick length of chain in its snarling jaws, one of its paws pinning down the broken chain. Above the graphic, in bold jagged script, are the words '107th, Howling Commandos', and below it 'Vérité sans Peur'.

Once he's dispatched his last burrito, balling its wrapper around the ones that came before, he rises to join Flicker. "As if it were some kind of spiritual sickness." This isn't a question. But then, only a touch more diffidently, "Is that -- a slur?" The set of his jaw suggests he's about to repeat the word in doubt, but thinks better of it when he spots Ted. "I'm not sure they'd actually like it if that happened." He gives a short, abortive shake of his head. "People like that? A lot of them are looking for someone to put down, someone to pity, or someone to blame." He frowns. "Though I guess they have plenty other candidates for all of the above."

Flicker has just taken another bite of burrito when Ted shows up. He almost starts talking anyway -- presses his knuckles to his mouth as if physically reminding himself to stop, chew, swallow. Wipe at the hot sauce flecked at the corner of his lips. Swipe his tongue across his teeth. "Hey you're --" He hesitates, blinks, pauses -- "Out, are you okay, are you good, did you -- were they keeping you all together, we Ion to -- I --" He stops, a sudden pink flush creeping up into his cheeks -- it throws the waxy network of scarring on half his face into sharper whiter relief. "Sorry, you don't need a million questions. I'm glad you're out."

He takes a deep breath, resting his stormcloud-painted hand up against the mesh of the fence. Peering out at the protesters. "It's a slur. You shouldn't say it. There's a lot of ways people talk about us that aren't great. If you're in doubt, mutant is usually safest."

"Plenty of candidates, for sure," Ted agrees with the vaguely familiar-looking man in the tight T-shirt. "We didn't have a lot of mutants back home, at least not out ones, but we sure had plenty of folks like _them_. And yeah, they kept us together, some of us at least, then let us out earlier today... didn't really have anything to charge us with, I guess. I mean it's not like _we_ killed anybody," he adds darkly, then shakes his head like a wet dog, as though to clear it. "I'm Ted, by the way," he says to Flicker, waving from outside the fence. "We didn't really have a chance to exchange names before, you know, everything."

Not for the first time, it occurs to him that a lot of people now know about his giant green alter-ego. Which is especially weird because _he_ only found out about it a week ago! But, well, it is what it is.

Steve's small nod to Flicker may be in acknowledgement or gratitude. "I kind of know the feeling," he says to Ted, not-actually-leaning on the frame of the open gate, which doesn't quite look as though it would withstand his weight. "Not -- being a mutant," he adds, "just never having known any. Back home." Though, after half a beat, he adds yet again, "Also getting thrown in jail by cops who are in cahoots with fascists. I'm sorry that happened to you, and..." To Flicker and Ted both, now, "...my condolences."

"Yeah, me too. New York was a change. Are you at NYU? Where's home for you?" Flicker unhooks his fingers from the fence links. Steps forward with a quick smile, extending his (robot!) hand for a handshake. "I'm Flicker. It's good to meet you -- properly." He tips his head back, looking up at the sky with a very small wince. "I'm still glad they -- not having anything to charge you with doesn't /always/ stop them. There was a time --" He sounds just a little bit wry, "that I /really/ thought the cops were -- I don't know. On our side? Kind of sounds dumb, now. I definitely wouldn't ever have imagined all this."

Ted nods emphatic agreement with both men. "Yeah, me too. I mean... honestly, not all that long ago, either," he admits sheepishly. "I mean, y'know, I would _read_ about stuff, people getting killed by cops for no reason, but... I dunno. I didn't..." he fades out, unsure how to finish that sentence. "I guess maybe it's just not _real_ until you live it, or something. Which is kind of awful." He goes to shake Flicker's hand reflexively, then stops short, clearly put out by the robot hand... but for a moment only, before shaking it firmly. "Nice to know you. And, um... thanks for the help, yesterday. You move _fast_!"

The twitch of Steve's lip is barely noticeable. Kind of rueful. His jaw tightens for a moment, but then he only gives a firm, solemn nod to Ted's assessment of 'living it.' His pale blue eyes stray back to the demonstrators in front of the clinic, his gaze hard, before returning to the other two men, politely attentive.

Flicker seems unbothered by the hesitation, shaking Ted's hand quick and firm and then returning to lean up against the fence beside Steve. He peels back the wrapper of his burrito a little further. Shakes his head kind of regretfully. "Not fast /enough/. Jax is already planning another vigil." His eyes have skated back towards the demonstrators as well, watching sharply as a young woman hastens past them toward the doors -- relaxing only when she's met on her approach by an emerging guard in black and red who escorts her in. "Awful... maybe. I don't know. I think it's just /hard/. Not just with mutant stuff, either. Everything about our news, our schools, all of it tries really hard to keep a -- pretty one-sided picture of how we treat people. I'm not saying it's an /excuse/ but, it's pretty easy to just go through your life and not try to know. Until suddenly --" His fingers spread, uncurling toward the demonstrators.

Ted's eyes widen at the news, though it isn't really surprising... with all the gunfire, it would be more surprising if there had been no casualties. He tries to come up with something to say about that, and fails, so he just nods agreement, then looks over at Steve shyly. "Um... hi." He is clearly looking for some way to start a conversation, and having difficulty coming up with anything, finally settling on "So where's 'back home' for you? It's Vermont, for me... and, yeah, NYU," he adds, answering a question from a little while back.

Steve's jaw hardens for a moment. Relaxes again. "I kind of thought at first all the information technology would make it /easier/ to know how others live -- at least to some extent -- without living it." His fingers drum lightly against the gate post. "I guess it /could,/ but you have to work against..." He nods at Flicker. "The propaganda." To Ted, "Oh, you go to school with Desi Tessier." He blushes slightly. "I know it's a large university, but she seems to know a lot of people. Also, if you'd gotten locked up, too..." That slightly rueful smile again. "I'm from Brooklyn." A beat as his expression does something complicated but fleeting. "Circa 1942."

"Home -- that's complicated." Flicker sucks his cheek inward, gnawing briefly on the inside. "Utah, once. I'm at NYU, too. Med school. Been in the city long enough that it's starting to feel like home is here, I guess. Are you going back there? For the summer? I don't know what Vermont's like. I've only been camping there. The semester's ending, will they be --" Flicker shakes his head. Then rolls it to the side, his expression softening as he watches Steve. One side of his mouth twitching slightly with the other man's answer. "Complicated," he says again, quietly. "There's part of me that would /like/ to think Steve's perspective on all this is just wildly different but the longer we're friends the more it sounds like we've just been fighting the same fight for. How long now?"

"No, I'm staying here for the summer," Ted explains. "Looking for a summer job, actually. And yes, I know Desi," he agrees, "though I only just met her a few days ago. She and her brother Lucien found my wallet after, I, um," he runs his hand through his hair nervously, shuffles his feet aimlessly, "lost it. But yeah, we got to know each other better in, um," hair, shuffle, "well, yeah, in prison."

He blinks a few times in quick succession when Steve drops his bombshell, then stares in sudden delighted recognition. "Nineteen forty--? Holy shit! You're _him_, aren't you! The, the guy they unfroze from World War II, the, I read about you... Roger? No that's not right... Steve! Steve Rogers! Holy shit!" He's pretty much shouting with fanboy excitement at this point, and several passersby stare at him before quickly moving away.

"Don't think I can rightly count the seventy years I spent on ice as 'fighting.' Before that?" Steve gives a small, helpless shrug. "Only about a decade, really. But I do think you're right. It is the same fight, more or less." He manages to weather Ted's shouting with an only slightly embarrassed smile. "I /am/ that guy. And I'm sorry, I hadn't meant to ah..." His head shakes again. "Turn this into the Captain America show. But even if the mutant stuff really is /brand/ new to me, I promise you're in good company figuring out about fascists the hard way." His smile to Ted is quick, friendly, encouraging. "/Generations/ and generations of good company."

"I met some of my best friends in prison," Flicker says with a very small smile. "Proud mutant tradition." He pauses to polish off the rest of his burrito through Ted's burst of excitement, hiding his own smile behind the half torn wrapper as he eats. "I looked up the old reels," he admits freely, "Didn't the Captain America show have more singing and dancing in it? I feel cheated."

"No, _I'm_ sorry, Ca-- Steve," Ted replies, considerably more quietly, chagrined by his outburst. "I didn't mean to... I mean, you must be tired of that reaction, huh?" He _really_ wants to ask for a song-and-dance number, or at least the man's autograph, but stifles the impulse. He returns the smile, instead. Not that it's difficult: Steve seems like an easy man to like. After a moment he remembers why he's here in the first place, and pulls his phone out of his pocket, showing a picture of Ben Wells, the mutant whose death the previous evening's vigil had been for. "Oh! I, um... so, I've been asking around if anyone saw Ben before he, before he died." He feels a little presumptuous asking them; probably they knew Ben better than he did. But he realized a while ago that the only way he could psych himself up to ask _anyone_ was by asking _everyone_ and, well, here he was. "You guys didn't, did you?"

"The girls did the actual singing and dancing," Steve admits with a very slight dip of his head, running his hand over the back of his neck. "I mostly just talked, lifted things, and punched Hitler." To Ted, with a shake of his head, "Don't worry about it, /that's/ a proud show business tradition." He actually does look closely at the photograph, eyes unfocusing briefly before he shakes his head. "I'm afraid I'd never met him, or Ms. Wallace." He leans on the 'Ms.', slightly heavy on the 'z' sound, as if it were unfamiliar to him.

Flicker crumples the wrapper of his burrito, taking aim at a trash can just on the corner. The very small unfurling of his hand barely looks like a /toss/ at all but the paper and foil ball is bumping against the lip of the can a moment later anyway, toppling down inside. He nudges his shoulder lightly against Steve's. "Next time we're punching fascists," his hands join as though in a totally! earnest! supplication, "just one song?"

His smile fades when Ted brings out the phone, eyes lingering on the picture just a moment before he looks away. "Not since the weekend. I'd see him pretty regularly when he'd come by --" He nods towards the adjacent clinic. "You asked around around Evolve? He was down there a bunch. The baristas know everyone."

"Not yet," Ted admits. No doubt a competent investigator would have sat down with a map of the neighborhood first and worked out which places it was best to visit in what order, rather than simply wandering the streets at random asking whoever was around the way he was doing. But, well, no better time than the present, right? "Siri create note ask around Evolve," he tells his phone, putting it away after the confirming -ding-. "Thanks. I'm... kind of new to this." He ducks his head apologetically, as though trying to take up less space through posture alone, which is kind of ridiculous given that his build approximates Steve's. "That's a mutant-owned coffee shop, right?" He's heard about it a few times in the last couple of days, but knows basically nothing about it beyond that it exists.

"I won't make any promises, /but/," Steve says seriously, with an air of gracious relenting, "if someone gives me a cue, I'll do my best." He bows his head slightly. "Good luck with your search, Ted." His brows wrinkle very slightly, pale blue eyes studying the young man. "You don't have to tell me, but are you taking on the murder investigation? I imagine the cops aren't exactly jumping at the opportunity..."

Another quick smile crosses Flicker's face at Steve's not-promise. "I'm looking forward to it."

He pulls his eyes away from Steve -- nodding at Ted in affirmation. "Yeah. Shane was in there with you, right? He owns the place. It's kind of a community -- hub. There's almost nowhere in the city that's /for/ us, but Evolve --" Flicker hesitates, then shrugs. "Is. It can be hard enough to find places that will let us /in/, but Evolve is owned by us, run by us. They let people use the space for events so -- hang around there enough, you'll run into half of /everyone/." His brows knit, too -- though he doesn't follow onto Steve's question, he looks /very/ curious about the answer.

"If you ever need a backup dancer," Ted replies to Steve's offer, grinning broadly, "I'll... I dunno, do my best to find you one, I guess. As a stage performer I make a pretty good quarterback. And, yeah, Shane was there," he agrees. "He seems like a really good guy. " He seems a bit taken aback by both Steve's question and Flicker's response to it, and his mouth opens and closes a few times before he finally settles on "Yeah, the cops aren't doing _shit_. I mean, I'm probably not doing anything useful either, but..." he shrugs helplessly, "I mean, I have to do _something_, right?" He looks deflated for a second, then brightens up, looking at Steve with something akin to hero worship and asking both men "Do you have any advice?"

Steve nods grimly. "I heard they /saw/ all the men who did the shooting at the vigil with their own eyes, and still didn't do anything." It doesn't sound like a question, but he glances at Flicker with a slightly lifted brow for confirmation. "It's really not my place to tell you how to find justice for your friend, and even if it were, I'm...really not the kind of person who should be dispensing advice -- to anyone probably, but especially not to you." His frown deepens. "It's not just that I make /awful/ decisions, which I do. But also, I am apparently some kind of national icon, a war hero, and most of all, /human./" He holds Ted's gaze, seriously but not unkindly. "I think the best thing for you to do is find /mutant/ community members who are already working on finding justice for your dead." Finally relenting, he glances aside at Flicker again, "It may be the same fight, but not everyone fights it the same way."

"They stood back and watched," Flicker confirms quietly, "and then stepped in to protect the Purifiers." His arms have folded over his chest. He leans heavily back against the fence, still and quiet as he listens to Steve. "The cops definitely won't help us," he agrees finally. "That's kind of something we need to do for ourselves. But -- it's not something you have to do alone." He hesitates, looking for a moment like he might say more, but ultimately just shakes his head. "I have to get going. Good luck, man. I'm sure I'll see you around." He squeezes Steve's shoulder lightly in passing as he blinks briefly back into the garden to gather the remnants of lunch and gardening tools that he'd abandoned.

"Well, I wouldn't say they did _nothing_," Ted snarls, punching his open palm, nodding agreement at Flicker's explanation. Then, "Sorry, I don't mean to snap at you, it's not your fault. I just..." he trails off, helplessly, frustrated. It takes him a while to actually listen to what Steve is saying, beyond the simple fact that he's refusing to help, but when he finally does he has to admit the guy probably has a point. Mutants _should_ be taking care of mutants. Which admittedly makes him sound more than a little like those Magneto terrorists on the news, which he is _not_ OK with, but... ah, fuck it. It's too complicated for him to think about, so he just nods. "Yeah. OK. Makes sense." At Flicker's comment he turns to face the man, considers asking him for help, but he disappears before he can find the words. "Right. See you," he says to the empty air, waving tentatively before shoving his hands back in his pockets. "Um. So. Well. It was _awesome_ meeting you," he adds, trailing off into silence.

If Steve is at all bothered by Ted's rage, it does not show outwardly. His own anger is only noticeable as a slow grind of teeth, a slight tightening of his hands on the post. He nods at Flicker distractedly -- his brows are still wrinkled -- not even attempting to follow the teleporter's rapid departure with his eyes, although he does call a "Have a good day" after him. Looking back to Ted, his frown finally fades. "Your grief and your rage are justified. You don't need to apologize for it, and may you find a channel for it that serves you." He offers Ted his hand to shake. "I wish I could have offered you more. Maybe someday I will be able to."