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V-Mail
Dramatis Personae

Lucien, Steve

2019-09-06


"Actually just friends."

Location

<NYC> Stark Tower - Midtown Manhattan


A gleaming beacon of modern architecture shining bright amidst the industry of Midtown, Stark Tower serves as headquarters to one of the largest tech corporations in the world. The offices and boardrooms of Stark Industries and any number of satellite companies, subsidiaries, and nonprofits are homed here. To the public what draws most visitors is not the business but the science -- the first two floors of the building hold an extensive museum dedicated to technological innovation. As well, guided tours three days a week are open to the public, to be shown through both the museum and, more notably, through (select parts of) the dozen floors dedicated solely to R&D.The building itself is as eye-catching inside as outside. The soaring lobby atrium extends upwards, bright and glass-walled with perpetually bustling balconies ringing each floor. All visitors must pass through the lobby security checkpoints to be signed in. The technology integrated into the building, from the interactive holographic displays that help guide visitors to their destination to the quiet AI that remembers visitors' preferences upon repeat visits to the basement arc reactor that powers the entire building, are quiet reminders of the company's dedication to innovation.

"Pew! Pew pew!" In the nearby replica cockpit of a WW2 era fighter plane, a tiny towheaded child is exuberantly pretending to fire missiles at a slightly larger child, by resemblance and irritation presumably a sibling. "Hey it's my turn! Tell her it's my turn!"

Not far off, Lucien is observing this with one forefinger tapping against his cheekbone. He would look just a touch overdressed for a museum -- elegantly tailored grey vest and slacks, salmon dress shirt -- but there's a certain casual ease of his bearing that takes the edge off of any formality. "I suppose it is to be expected, here in the belly of an arms dealer, but there's something in the conflation of technological progress with how efficiently we can kill each other that sits -- none too easily, hm?"

"It certainly doesn't sit well with me." Steve is hovering in front of a nearby display of innovative munitions from the same era, ranging from handgun bullets to mortar shells. He's a black dress shirt, the top button undone, and black slacks. "Though maybe I haven't much right to criticize, considering I'm only alive because of technological progress meant for killing people more efficiently." He turns to look at Lucien, then past him at a display case full of vintage photographs and documents. "Oh, gosh." He strides over, drawn at once to the centerpiece, a professional portrait of Howard Stark and the Howling Commandos. In it Steve wears his uniform, sans helmet, and has his arm slung around the shoulders of a shorter, dark-haired man. Stark stands on his other side, at the center of the group, grinning roguishly. "This was right before we deployed to France, winter of '44."

"We live in a complicated world. You can recognize what brought you here and yet have no love for it." Lucien drifts after Steve, his arms folding loosely over his chest as he looks down at the case. "Mm. You know, not always, but in certain moods the resemblance is striking. He looks rather --"

He stops short here, though. Looks down, more intently -- not at the picture but a letter beside it. Then the explanatory placard -- Howard Stark's work with the Strategic Scientific Reserve during the war fostered his close friendship with many of the Commandos, including Captain Steve Rogers. His eyes shift from the placard to the letter to Steve. Back to the letter. Back to the placard. One hand lifts, his fingertips touching very lightly to his lips.

Steve continues gazing at the photograph. "He told me he wanted to reverse engineer the serum, not to make more supersoldiers but for medical treatments, vaccines, and such. Given the direction he ended up taking his company after the war, though, I guess he changed his mind -- if he'd ever meant what he said at all." He gives a quick, uncertain shake of his head. Glances sidelong at Lucien when he breaks off. Takes in his expression, then follows his gaze to the neat, ornate cursive of the letter:

My Dearest Steve, My days at the barn are interminable without you, such that I can hardly bear to go on. Your letters alone sustain me, and the fervent desire for your safe return spurs me to ever greater heights of inspiration in my toil. Even so, I will not rest easy until you are returned to me, that I may task my skillful hands to sooth away the pain of these tribulations you endure. I shall gleefully perish in your sweet embrace, and cover your Adonis-like body with breathless kisses...

Steve's cheeks flush red as he rapidly skims the rest of the letter, which continues in the same vein to greater or lesser degrees of elaborate drama. Then looks at the placard, turning redder still. He opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. "They --" His jaw sets hard. "That was private."

Lucien's eyes have lifted again from the letter, just studying Steve's face thoughtfully. "History would look very different if written with a proper respect for privacy." There is an extremely small twitch at the corner of his mouth as he flicks a very quick glance back to the placard. "But then, history would also look quite different if written with a proper respect for the truth of the lives it claims to represent." When he looks back up it is with a lift of an eyebrow, his tone aggressively mild. "I know the man had a bit of a reputation, but tell me, truly. Were the other Commandos really so lucky as to receive such letters?"

Steve continues glowering at the letter, only glancing back at Lucien at his sincere request. His brows wrinkle for a moment in evident confusion, but then he reads the placard again and guffaws, blushing even more fiercely. "I can't say for sure, but I never heard about it, at least." He scrubs his cheek with one hand. "I cannot fathom how the curator could have read that letter and somehow concluded that..." Here he sputters, at a loss for words. Shakes his head. "It doesn't matter. I still want it removed from the exhibit -- would even if we were both publicly...known. But I suppose making a fuss will just draw attention to it."

Lucien's hand drops to fold back into the crook of his arm. He rocks back on a heel, his fingers tracing in slow circles against the fabric of his shirt. His eyes have fixed down on the letter, and for a stretch he is silent, his gaze steady and unblinking. After some moments he curls his fingers tighter against his arm, looks back up to Steve. "The letter was clearly yours. If you wish it gone, I am quite certain we could make that happen. Might I be so presumptuous as to ask why?"

Steve's eyes drop back down to the letter. "It's private," he repeats, doggedly. But then, after a moment, his shoulders unclench. He switches smoothly to French, his accent still oddly provincial, though he's starting to acquire Quebecois word choice and cadence, "{If I'm going to come out, I want to do it on my own terms, in my own time.}" He searches Lucien's face, his own expression oddly neutral, here. "I don't want to just...drag him along by accident. That might be a risk anyway, but at least I'd want to talk to his son about it, first."

"{And very rightly you ought have that option.}" Lucien uncurls his hand, tips it out towards the placard, "{This letter has been here many years. Since quite a long while before you emerged from the ice and has been here since. I have heard nobody breathe one word of this relationship anywhere and -- believe me, Steve, I pay attention to what rumours float out there about you. Various corners of the internet are quite convinced that you are or have been romantically entangled with Ryan, with me, with our mayor, with Rosie the Riveter. There are no serious voices claiming you are queer because of a past relationship with Howard Stark, though. For better or for worse, people have an extraordinary propensity to render queer identity all but invisible, especially when --}" He looks down, now, at the photograph of Steve in his uniform, among the Commandos, "{-- it would be inconvenient.} Would you like to?" The question sounds an idle curiosity, though he is already pulling his phone from his pocket. "Speak with Tony Stark?"

Steve nods, his posture easing with Lucien's reassurance. Though his eyebrow hike up and up further at the list of his supposed paramours. "{With you? I hope that hasn't caused you any difficulties with your own publicity management. I know people are eager enough to paint you as queer.}" He gives a small twitch of a shrug. "{Funny story, though -- I was pretty good friends with Mary, the woman behind Rosie the Riveter.}" He glances at Howard's letter, the corner of his mouth tugging ruefully. "Actually just friends. We wrote a lot, too, after I left the USO." He looks back up at Lucien, eyes widening slightly. "I think I would, yes."

"{I do musical theatre on Broadway. It's quite irrelevant to my career prospects whether I am queer or not. Merely a curiosity for the papers.}" Lucien glances back to the letter, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly. "Just friends. And yet she is the one people are eager to pair you off with. Unsurprising, I suppose." He taps a quick note into his phone, saves the reminder. Pockets the phone again with a nod. Simple and sure, "I will make it happen."